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Archives for : February2018

World’s biggest health scheme will come into operation after Modi is voted out

Union Budget 2018: Modicare May Only Take Off In FY20, Says Finance Secretary Adhia

In his Union Budget Speech on Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described it as the “world’s largest government funded health care programme”. In a few hours it acquired the popular label of Modicare.

“We will launch a flagship National Health Protection Scheme to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage upto Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation,”said Jaitley in his speech.

He also promised adequate funds for the smooth implementation of the programme. But the budget papers revealed that just Rs 2,000 crore had been allocated towards this new mission.

In an interview with BloombergQuint, Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia explained that it will take several months to operationalise the scheme and the bulk of the expenditure will have to be made FY19-20 onwards.

While the national health insurance scheme is an ambitious effort to provide better health coverage across India, you have backed it by just Rs 2,000 crore. Why is that?

It is because the scheme has to be operationalised. The contours of this scheme have to be worked out by the health ministry along with the state governments.

After that, the entire process of empanelment of hospitals needs to be worked out. We  will have to go for an insurance model in which price discovery will have to be done for a premium amount. So, we have to decide the hospitals’ qualification criteria, for the insurance companies to bid. Price discovery will happen after that. Hence, it will take 6-8 months for this scheme to be operationalised. This is our expectation. So, for the remaining months the amount has been provided.

Actual estimates are there with NITI Aayog and they will give you a better idea of total expenditure. They expect that when such a large group of people are insured, the premium rates come down very significantly. So, you can’t calculate the premium based on a single Mediclaim policy for each family and eventually replicate it for the entire country as a large group is being covered here.

In group insurance, the premium amount comes very low. They would have done some calculation, but it will depend on whatever is the price discovery in the insurance sector. Whatever it comes to, the government is committed to funding it.

 

On social media government flyers suggest it’s a medical reimbursement scheme. It’s more likely a scheme which will take over the premium burden of health insurance for 10 crore families in the country – right?

That’s a fair way. Price discovery will necessarily have to happen like that. But after that, instead of giving it to insurance companies some states may prefer to roll it out in a trust model. Both these models are available. There are some states which have their medical insurance schemes, which is a trust model. While in other states it is in an insurance model also.

Will states be sharing the cost of this as the roll out expands over time?

I presume, since it is a centrally sponsored scheme, it will be 60:40.

So, the Rs 2000 crore provides just for the start of the scheme and not for anything substantive in the scheme. The major expenditure of this scheme will fall in the next financial year ie: 2019-20?

Yes, in the next year.

https://www.bloombergquint.com/union-budget-2018/2018/02/02/union-budget-2018-modicare-may-only-take-off-in-fy20-says-finance-secretary-adhia

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India- Richest companies have the lowest tax liability #Achchedin

They milk tax breaks in ways that smaller firms can’t, paying only 23.9% tax on average

India’s most profitable companies paid 23.9 per cent tax on an average on their profits for financial year 2016-17, about 10.7 percentage points lower than the statutory rate of 34.6 per cent, helped by a wide range of concessions and incentives, the latest Budget documents show.

These companies, 335 in all, may see little change to their tax liability if the corporate tax was cut to 25 per cent and all concessions withdrawn immediately. Each of these 335 companies had reported profits before tax of 500 crore or more for the 2016-17 financial year. In comparison, companies with profits less than 500 crore paid about 29 per cent tax, as did those with profit less than 1 crore, an analysis by the Revenue Department found.

Small cos at a ‘disadvantage’

Ths smallest companies rarely manage to take advantage of various tax incentives and concessions that the law permits, and therefore bear higher tax liability. The pattern of tax incidence for companies of different sizes was not very different for the previous years.

The Revenue Department analysis is based on tax returns filed until November 30, 2017 by about 6.01 lakh companies on incomes earned in 2016-17. Returns for financial year 2016-17 are filed in 2017-18 and more companies may file their returns before the end of the current fiscal year.

Historical data showed that the effective tax rate was higher in 2015-16. That year, most profitable companies paid 25.9 per cent tax on the profits, while the smallest companies, or those with profits of less than 1 crore, paid 30 per cent. Additionally, the difference between the effective tax paid by the companies with the largest and smallest profits widened in 2016-17 after narrowing in 2015-16. The difference was 5.5 percentage points in 2016-17 compared to 4.4 percentage points in the previous year. In the two years prior to that, it was well over 6 percentage points.

Significantly, the richest companies also account for a disproportionately large share of the total income, profits and tax liability of corporate India.

For instance, in the financial year 2016-17, the 335 richest companies accounted for 61.2 per cent of the share of profits before taxes reported by the 6.01 lakh companies, 50.2 per cent of the total income and 54.4 per cent of the share in corporate tax liability.

The same data analysed differently showed that over 70 per cent of the companies filing returns paid less than 30 per cent as taxes on their profits for 2016-17. About 17 per cent paid 30-33 per cent tax on their profits and a little over 6 per cent paid more than 33 per cent.

The 1.4 lakh companies that paid taxes at the rate of 30 per cent or more accounted for 36.6 per cent of the share of profits of the 6.01 lakh companies, about 59.8 per cent of their total income and 54.4 per cent of their tax liability.

Further, as manufacturing sector companies are usually the beneficiaries of various tax incentives given by the government, their effective tax rate, at 24.7 per cent, was 4 percentage points lower than the effective rate for service sector companies.

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/budget/richest-companies-have-the-lowest-tax-liability/article22651264.ece?utm_source=email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Newsletter

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Racism is creeping back into mainstream science #StopEugenics

‘Scientific’ eugenics is on the rise, and grabbing a foothold in respected journals. The claim that these theories are a credible part of a general discussion should worry us all

In the fallout from Toby Young’s resignation from the Office for Students this month, it emerged that University College London has been unwittingly hosting an annual conference attended by race scientists and eugenicists for the past few years. This might have come as a shock to many people. But it is only the latest instalment in the rise of “scientific” racism within academia.

Researchers with extreme views on race number relatively few but, having languished on the margins of their fields for many years, they are now managing to push their ideas into the mainstream, including into respectable scientific journals.

Over the past year I have been investigating this tight, well-connected cabal of people, who nowadays call themselves “race realists”, reflecting their view that the scientific evidence is on their side. Their work is routinely published by Mankind Quarterly, a marginal journal operating since the 1960s, when it was founded by a group of scientists disgruntled with the fact that mainstream journals were unwilling to publish their controversial ideas.

Its earliest editions argued against desegregation in the United States, and warned that inter-racial conflict was the byproduct of natural selection. Many of its writers became sources for the notorious 1994 book The Bell Curve, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, which drew links between race and IQ scores. More recent contributors to the journal include Jared Taylor, founder of the white nationalist magazine, American Renaissance.

Mankind Quarterly’s editor-in-chief, Gerhard Meisenberg, told me last month that there were likely to be biological differences in intelligence between racial groups, which he believes will eventually be discovered by genetics. He referred to “low-IQ countries”, including Pakistan. Meisenberg, a professor at the Ross University School of Medicine, based in Dominica, says: “The question of whether there are genetic ability differences between people in different countries is perhaps the most fundamental question in development economics.”

Views such as this, unsupported by evidence, generally receive little to no attention from within the everyday scientific community. What is worrying, though, is that people such as Meisenberg and Mankind Quarterly’s assistant editor, Richard Lynn, have managed to penetrate more mainstream scientific circles.

Lynn sits on the editorial advisory board of Personality and Individual Differences, produced by Elsevier – one of the world’s largest scientific publishers, whose titles include the highly respected journals the Lancet and Cell. Among his papers was The Intelligence of American Jews (2004), arguing that “Jews have a higher average level of verbal intelligence than non-Jewish whites”.

Both Meisenberg and Lynn also serve on the editorial board of Intelligence, a psychology journal also published by Elsevier. Meisenberg has authored at least eight articles for it over the years, including one in 2010 on the average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans, and another in 2013 on the relationship between “national intelligence” and economic success.

While journals are free to publish whatever they deem worthy, subject to peer review, the choice of who to appoint to an editorial board is important because these members help shape its policy and scope. According to Elsevier’s own guidance for editors, they “should be appointed from key research institutes”. Lynn is listed on Intelligence’s board with no affiliation whatsoever.

The editor-in-chief of Intelligence is Richard J Haier, an emeritus professor in the medical school at the University of California, Irvine. When I asked him how he felt about having Mankind Quarterly editors on the board of his journal, he told me, “I consulted several people about this. I decided that it’s better to deal with these things with sunlight and by inclusion.” He continued: “The area of the relationship between intelligence and group differences is probably the most incendiary area in the whole of psychology. And some of the people who work in that area have said incendiary things … I have read some quotes, indirect quotes, that disturb me, but throwing people off an editorial board for expressing an opinion really kind of puts us in a dicey area. I prefer to let the papers and the data speak for themselves.”

Haier also told me that he had defended the late Arthur Jensen, a professor of educational psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who in 1969 mooted in the Harvard Educational Review that gaps in intelligence test results between black and white students might be down to genetics. It remains one of the most controversial papers published in psychology. “Scientific intelligence research has laboured under this cloud for 50 years, and it is my stated goal as editor to help bring intelligence research back into the mainstream,” he added.

An Elsevier spokesperson says editorial board members are not involved in making decisions about which articles will be published: “Their role is focused on reflecting the academic debate that takes place within the communities’ domain that the journal serves.” The implication is that the kind of papers written by Meisenberg and Lynn must be a part of mainstream discussion.

But the steady creep of extreme views from the fringes of academia to the everyday should worry us all. Academic freedom is an honourable ideal, and one worth defending, because we trust that the system works. Through careful checks and peer review, only the most reliable, well-evidenced ideas, and most trustworthy researchers, should pass through.

But in practice the system does fail. Poor papers do get published, weak research can pass through the net, and people’s prejudices can sometimes taint the process. This is what those at the disreputable edges of academia are counting on.

The scientific community needs to be more vigilant. The system broke down over eugenics research in the early 20th century, with catastrophic consequences. We have to ensure this never happens again.

 Angela Saini is the author of Inferior, and is researching a book on science and race to be published in 2019

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/22/eugenics-racism-mainstream-science?CMP=share_btn_link

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Don’t fall for online-only love. It’s not the giddy real thing

A fifth of 11- to 16-year-olds would be happy to have a web-only relationship. But for adults, real life is where the magic starts

How do we love now? With the help, and hindrance, of technology. In many ways, those who are looking for romantic relationships in 2018 could not be doing so at a more auspicious time. I’ve lost count of the number of new dating apps and sites, but there seems to be one for every new relationship that blooms under their auspices.

It’s estimated that one in five of us are meeting our partners online. The internet, for all its faults, has allowed us to redefine modern romance. We no longer have to pick from a finite pool of people who live within our postcode, or try to find further common ground with people who share our views on office temperatures (although, arguably, this isn’t a bad way to find a mate). When we go online, we can connect with anyone, and compatibility comes from shared hobbies, interests and passions, instead of boring old geography.

However, some relationships start through a screen and simply stay there – and an increasing number of young people would prefer to have a relationship that was conducted entirely online. According to a study from the charity Internet Matters, 20% of 11- to 16-year-olds say they would be happy to have an online-only relationship with someone they would never meet. Of those who are already in relationships, 10% say they “speak” online exclusively.

I can understand how an entirely virtual relationship would be enormously appealing to teenagers. During puberty, when your body suddenly seems new and strange, and your feelings are intense and unpredictable, you’re extremely vulnerable. Love is thrilling, but distressingly complex. When you keep it online, some of the messiness is contained. When you curate and share the most perfect version of yourself possible, you limit the risk of rejection – and I suspect that if the online relationship doesn’t work out, it’s a bit easier to recover and move on if you’re not missing that person’s real-life presence. Love can cause problems: the internet has brought us something approaching a solution.

Dating apps on a phone
 ‘Love is thrilling, but distressingly complex. When you keep it online, some of the messiness is contained.’ Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Still, perhaps I’m being sentimental, but I find this news desperately sad. Getting to know someone should be a giddy, joyful exercise. It’s hard to truly know anyone before you’re in a room with them, because our online selves are so curated and limited. I’m all for using the best version of yourself to get someone’s attention – we share the flattering, filtered photo, we talk about the way we participate in sports and culture, we don’t always document the fact that we spend an inordinate amount of time eating Domino’s pizza in our pants.

Yet love is what happens when everything that is initially concealed is slowly revealed. To be secure in love is to know that your partner accepts your flaws, and maybe even finds them appealing. I don’t think you can feel happy or relaxed with a partner when you know they only accept the perfect version of “you”, especially while you’re in the dark about the secrets they might be keeping beyond the screen.

The idea that the virtual world is better and easier to inhabit than the physical one is scarily seductive. Living in the real world comes with considerable risks, but the rewards are enormous too. We know that human touch is good for us, and spending too much time online exacerbates anxiety. When I was at school in the mid-1990s, sex education focused on pain, not pleasure. Sex was seen as frightening, and could lead to unwanted pregnancy and STIs. I wonder if we’ve focused so much on protecting children that we have made all relationships seem terrifying. We have done generations a disservice by neglecting to talk to them about the emotional growth and fulfilment that a positive relationship can bring.

To progress, we need to acknowledge that the internet plays an enormous part in the way we meet people, and its role is growing. When it comes to safety and conduct, we’re keen to warn children away. We tell them to be wary of predators, and to know that they can never be sure who they’re talking to. This is sage advice, but perhaps it’s time to tell them how to recognise the good people who use the internet – and give them the skills and confidence to be prepared when they’re adults to take that relationship offline.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/22/fall-for-online-only-love-giddy-real-thing-real-life-magic?CMP=share_btn_link

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Gujarat bleeds biometrics, UIDAI says Aadhaar biometrics secure

By  

 

Babubhai Boriwal (53) and Sampatlal Shah (61), owners of “Pandit Deendayal grahak bhandar” shops under Gujarat’s Annapurna Yojana PDS, were arrested by the Crime Branch in Surat. They were using an illegal software that accessed leaked biometric data in order to acquire coupons in the name of different PDS beneficiaries to procure inexpensive rations through the PDS system for sale on the open market.

News reports claim that the investigation and arrests were done after district officials had earlier filed complaints against eight other shops after receiving complaints about PDS supplies being procured in the name of beneficiaries without their knowledge.

Crime Branch Inspector BN Dave said that fair price shops were supposed to use an application called E-FPS, provided by the government, with a databank of beneficiaries fed into it. He added, “As part of this, fair price shop owners were given a username and password to access the biometric data bank of beneficiaries to create an electronic record of beneficiaries availing subsidised grains from their shops.” “The beneficiary had to provide his finger print, details of his ration card and UID (Aadhaar) numbers to match the data fed into the computer. This would generate a slip on the basis of which he was given subsidised ration every month,” Dave said.The arrested duo, he said, used a duplicate software and obtained a data bank of beneficiaries from an unknown source.

“They used this data bank to create an electronic record every month to show that beneficiaries had obtained subsidised foodgrains when in reality they had not,” he said. Dave said that investigations were underway to find out the source of the fake software as well as the biometric data. Earlier, eight separate FIRs were lodged against as many fair price shop owners in the city following an investigation carried out by the district administration after some beneficiaries complained. The matter was then handed over to the Crime Branch. Police said that the two had been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including section 406, 409 (criminal breach of trust), 467, 468, 471 (forgery), as well as sections of the Information Technology Act and the Essential Commodities Act.

A Gujarati newspaper Sandesh had broken news of a widespread scam in Gujarat’s Annapurna Yojana PDS alleging that a cracked version of the E-FPS software that was provided to fair-price shop owners had “leaked” the biometric data of 1.27 crore card holders. The report stated that the software was widely available for Rs. 15,000 and had resulted in a massive scam in the PDS.

Given that the Aadhaar number is also required to be provided to the PDS system, this also results in a neat database of fingerprints that would work with Aadhaar, and any failures would be more likely to be due the frequent failures of Aadhaar validation accidentally protecting the Aadhaar holder by denying the hackers, as it denies legitimate holders, rather than the system being secure.

The UIDAI has persisted in its absurd and ongoing denial that any breach short of biometrics being acquired from the Aadhaar database is not a security risk.

This is not a breach of Aadhaar security. According to news report itself Surat police too has confirmed this. It appears a case of local collection of biometrics by the state PDS department, not biometric collection by UIDAI or Authentication by Aadhaar system.

Even though the source of the biometrics leak is the PDS and not Aadhaar, one fails to see how this is not a huge security breach for Aadhaar, as the person would have the same fingers and thus same fingerprints when accessing Aadhaar as well. The UIDAI’s apparent lack of caution about persisting with this insecure method of authentication against mounting evidence of risks is a matter of concern. Biometric data is not really secret and it cannot be changed if breached. If it can be used to authenticate Aadhaar, the source of the data is irrelevant, as the system is vulnerable to it anyway.

Several researchers and alert citizens have pointed out over and over that even without a system leak such as this one, biometrics can be very easy to steal or spoof. Government mandated linking of Aadhaar for a growing list of entities creates even more such additional databases that can be vulnerable to hacking, right from biometric attendance systems in offices (where the accounts department has your Aadhaar numbers) linked to your employee identification which is linked with your biometrics to provide access to any Aadhaar enrolment agent who slides plastic film over the fingerprint sensor used for taking Aadhaar impressions. The government expansion of Aadhaar without regard to safety has ensured multiple methods of easy access to Aadhaar biometrics without the need to hack the main Aadhaar biometric data. There is no way of ensuring the security of such systems.

The reckless linking of Aadhaar with everything has contributed additional risk as well. The PDS system, even if hacked, would have limited damage to the stolen rations alone if it had operated independently. With another biometric access number conveniently provided with the hacked data, the Aadhaar holders of the leaked accounts continue to be at additional risk of other breaches related with Aadhaar, including theft of money from bank accounts, money laundering or other illegal activities being conducted in their name and more.

The UIDAI has denied this repeatedly.

The biometrics stolen from outside Aadhaar system as it has reportedly happened in Surat case will not put anyone at risk because Aadhaar biometrics authentication happens only in live mode in presence of an authorized person. 1/2

Replay of stolen biometrics is no different from forging somebody’s signature. The law will deal with such case in the same manner. 2/2

This, of course, is a lie, as the other scam from Gujarat shows easily.

Aadhaar vulnerabilities are also making senior officers authorized to update Aadhaar data by the UIDAI, targets for identity theft, as shown in another scam from Gujarat, where the fingerprint data of nationalized bank officer Prashant Morvadiya was sold to Hiren Prajapati, 26 and Prashant Pradhan, 20, and they used it to illegally update Aadhaar details. Contrary to UIDAI’s claim that Aadhaar authentication happens only in live mode and thus can’t be spoofed, we have here evidence that not only could it be spoofed, it was easy enough to replicate that you could turn a senior officer’s fingerprint into a Rs. 6,000 product that could be used illegally.

Please note, the people who actually sold the cracked version of the E-FPS software, as well as Prashant Morvadiya’s biometric data, like the people who sold the software to bypass UIDAI biometric checks in the Kanpur scam, are still at large. The list of vulnerabilities grows and kingpins remain at large.

The UIDAI continues to live in denial, claiming that as long as Aadhaar biometrics are not breached, Aadhaar is secure.

Gujarat bleeds biometrics, UIDAI says Aadhaar biometrics secure

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SC – Women born before 2005 too have right to ancestral assets #WomenRights

 

Amit Anand Choudhary

HIGHLIGHTS

  • A SC bench said the amended Hindu Succession Act stipulated that a daughter would be a “coparcener” since birth, and have the same rights and liabilities as a son.
  • A coparcener is the one who shares equally in inheritance of an undivided property.

NEW DELHI: Daughters got equal rights to ancestral property when the Centre amended the Hindu Succession Act in 2005, and the Supreme Court made it clear on Friday that the law applied to all women, including those born before the year.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said the amended law stipulated that a daughter would be a “coparcener” (one who shares equally in inheritance of an undivided property) since birth, and have the same rights and liabilities as a son.

It said her share in ancestral property could not be denied on the ground that she was born before the law was passed, and the law was applicable in all property disputes filed before 2005 and pending when the law was framed.

“The law relating to a joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara law has undergone unprecedented changes. The said changes have been brought forward to address the growing need to merit equal treatment to the nearest female relatives, namely daughters,” the bench said.

It added that the law was amended to give daughters equal status to sons’ in property matters. “These changes have been sought… on the touchstone of equality, thus seeking to remove the perceived disability and prejudice to which a daughter was subjected,” the bench said.

The court passed the order on a plea filed by two sisters seeking share in their late father’s property. Their brothers had refused to give them their share, forcing them to take legal recourse in 2002.

The trial court dismissed their plea in 2007 and said they were not entitled to any share as they were born before 2005. Their appeal was rejected by the high court and they finally approached the apex court.

Agreeing with their plea, the SC set aside the HC order and said the year of birth was not a criterion to decide whether a woman was covered under the amended law.

“…This amendment now confers upon the daughter of the coparcener as well the status of coparcener in her own right in the same manner as the son and gives same rights and liabilities in the coparcener properties…,” the bench said.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/women-born-before-2005-too-have-right-to-ancestral-assets-says-supreme-court/articleshow/62762536.cms

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Gujarat – First-person account of working with Bajrang Dal

Moyukh Chatterjee

The Ordinary Life of Hindu Supremacy

The author presents a personal, first-person, account of his experience of working with Bajrang Dal in Ahmedabad. He attempts to throw light on the everyday lives of the Bajrang Dal boys, especially in the context of increased reportage on right-wing vigilante groups and their attacks on minorities across India. In this three-part article, he argues that there is more to these groups than violence. In certain parts of India like Gujarat, these groups and activists are embedded in the everyday life of the neighbourhood, where they often act as problem solvers and intermediaries.

I

In the middle of a long meandering walk in Ahmedabad on a cool February evening in 2010, we stopped before a mosque. “Just look at it now. You should have seen it when my boys and I burnt it down in 2002,” said Kunal. I looked up and saw a large pale green mosque covered in decorative lights. Eight years on, there were no signs of the destruction. But I stood in front of the mosque and tried to imagine the assault. It was hard to conjure the scene of a mob burning a mosque in the middle of a busy street packed with street vendors selling bangles, vegetables, and sweets.

Kunal, from Bajrang Dal  and a long-time resident of Madhavpura, tells me that they had a surprise visitor during the attack.

“As we were breaking the lock of the mosque, the Police Inspector’s (PI) jeep came by and we all ran away. But he stopped his jeep near the mosque and shouted keep doing what you’re doing.” 

The news and election cycles make men like Kunal flicker in and out of our lives, making it easy to dismiss them as part of the fringe. But what do these men do when the burning, looting, and stabbing is over? We conveniently look the other way when the riot is over, when the lynching is done, and when the elections are lost or won. For us, the fringe becomes visible only during moments of “exceptional” violence—lynchings, vigilante attacks, moral policing, and massacres. But the fringe is also a world view—Hindu supremacy—that resonates with the fears of common people, fuels the masculine fantasies of young men, becomes a tool to access the state, and a pragmatic mode to gain influence in the neighbourhood.

Kunal is short and stocky with a barrel chest, bulging biceps, small ears, and a floppy haircut. Most evenings, he sits outside his house on a cot with “his boys.” On Sunday mornings, they go together to a municipal gymnasium and attend cock fights. They are all members of the Bajrang Dal. Raj is a night shift security guard, Ajay sells religious photos outside courts, Sanjay sells fried snacks on a cart, and Jai, the most educated, is 22 years old and is student of accountancy.

To show me how he joined the Bajrang Dal, Kunal pulls out an old coverless photo album from underneath his mattress. It has colour photographs of many young men joining the Dal. We flip through pictures of men striking identical faux aggressive poses till we find a young Kunal. Irrespective of their built, they all strike the same pose—holding up shining trishuls in their hands, and a bright orange Bajrang Dal sash hanging loosely across their shoulders. In the background, there is a small temple and a map of Mother India on a tiger. Standing next to the men, a local Bajrang Dal leader smiles broadly at the camera like a principal distributing prizes to his best students.

Kunal strikes that same pose as soon as anyone approaches him; he stands very straight, stuffs both his hands in the pockets of his trousers, and thrusts his chest out. You can spot his house from the street because it is the only one with a red trident and Jai Shri Ram painted on it. And then you notice the dusty cot on which his parents sit all day, the broken windows of his dark, sunless one-room shack, and the ragged clothes of his neighbours. He says he is a Rajput from Rajasthan unlike his Dalit neighbours, whom he finds filthy.

“They are low caste, so when they call us for weddings, we don’t go. Forget about eating with them, we don’t even drink water in their house.” 

Since 2010, I have been visiting Kunal and his boys in Ahmedabad to understand men who roam the streets to protect Hindu women from Muslim men, raid Muslim neighbourhoods to seize cows, vandalise cinema halls to protest movies like “My Name is Khan.” They are, of course, the foot soldiers, not the top command; the small fry who burn the mosque, not the big sahibs who make sure that the police do not disturb them. In 2002, my attempts to meet these Hindu activists in Gujarat were largely unsuccessful. When I walked across from a Muslim relief camp to the Hindu neighbourhood next to it, the streets were empty, and all I saw was a freshly painted wall with the message: “The Pride of 5 Crore Gujaratis, Narendra Modi.” Walking down the empty streets in the afternoon, I felt a hundred eyes on me as I desperately tried to find someone to talk to. Then a man beckoned me from his balcony with a wave.

“No one here will talk to you. Go back to Pakistan.” 

So, when a friend introduced me to Kunal, I was surprised to meet an affable young man who tries to help his neighbours. Barely literate, with no stable job, Kunal is passionate about rescuing Hindu women from Muslim men and saving cows from Muslim butchers, but it is the idea of seva (service) that he finds attractive.

“They (Muslims) collect together and talk about their dharma. Why can’t we talk like that too? Why can’t we collect together and be strong? If any Hindu is hurt, I am very saddened, so I act. I try to help my neighbours people as much as possible. If I can’t help them then I talk to some people above me.” 

One evening, a Hindu couple approaches him after their neighbours (also Hindus) file a police report against them. There is some dispute over a staircase and the neighbours have gone to the police. After listening to couple, Kunal accompanies them to the local police chowki, and helps them file a counter case against their neighbours. Kunal’s brother and I wait outside the small one-room chowki. Through the open door I see Kunal enter and shake hands with the policemen, seat the couple in front of a desk, and stand behind them. They are out in 10 minutes. He tells them, “we will pull them out of their [the neighbours] house if they make trouble.”

II

“The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal are different from the Sangh (RSS),” says former VHP leader Chandanbhai.

“The Sangh is not known to fight or send boys to begin a scuffle. They concentrate on laying the roots with physical exercises and patriotic songs.”

Swaying his grandson in his arms, Chandanbhai says that things have cooled down.

“It seems that the top leaders don’t want any activity from the Bajrang Dal and VHP. For several months now there have been no incidents, meetings and orders.”

Organisations like Bajrang Dal cycle through hot and cool phases. Elections are typically hot. And we often only hear about them when they pass through a hot phase.

But from the perspective of young men like Kunal, there is more to these Hindutva organisations than a cynical electoral strategy to polarise voters along religious lines and win elections. That is true and important, but it does not capture what these organisations do for them. In a life that promises no prospect of a stable job, or any kind of social and economic mobility, these organisations give many young men a chance to be part of something bigger and grander than their precarious everyday lives. It gives them influence with powerful state officials and institutions like the police. It gives them feelings of “manly” strength and power. It gives them something to rescue and something to destroy.

Ask Kunal what he does for a living and he tries to change the subject. “I buy and sell cloth. I buy cloth wholesale, give it to small vendors, and take a percent of the profits.” One day when he is away, his brother tells me something quite different. “He (Kunal) walks around neighbourhoods selling hosiery items. You know ladies’ stuff…” When Kunal asks for my cellphone number, he cannot type it himself because he is barely literate. With no formal education or skills, he has no prospect of securing a white-collar job or a traditional factory job, and belongs to the large and precarious informal sector in Ahmedabad. His father had moved to Gujarat from Rajasthan to work in Omex Mills, but the mills too closed down long ago. In Ahmedabad—where everyone has finer clothes, smarter phones, and better paying jobs—Kunal and his boys are proud of saving Hinduism from effete Hindus and treacherous Muslims.

“There is no Muslim in this neighbourhood who doesn’t know that we are from the VHP. We are kattar.” 

Kattar (fanatic) here is not an insult, but a badge of distinction.

They build this reputation by intimidating anyone who comes in the way of their projects. When a Hindu neighbour protests against the building of a temple next to his house and threatens to call the police, Kunal collects his boys and gives him a thrashing. When the municipal corporation tries to remove an illegal temple to widen the street, they protest against it. The police arrive and take them to the station and let them go with a tip:

“Rebuild the temple, but do it at night.” 

They build a bigger and grander temple on the widened road.

When a Muslim family buys a house adjoining his neighbourhood, Kunal feels it is “too dangerous.” He asks his neighbours to throw trash into the balcony to impede the new owner’s efforts to renovate it.

“Some of the neighbourhood women even burned some of their clothes hanging out to dry. When they (Muslims) tried to oppose us, I called the police and told them to come here quickly before a riot begins.” 

For Kunal and his boys, the police are a malleable force that can be molded to fit their agenda of Hindu supremacy. This happens through persuasion and appeals to policemen to help protect shared Hindu interests or through connections with politicians. When a Hindu man protested against the building of an illegal temple next to his house, it was a Muslim policeman, according to Kunal, who asked the man, “What kind of Hindu are you?” What happens when the police don’t intervene in their favour? “We phone our leaders at Mahalaxmi (the Bajrang Dal office in Ahmedabad) and make them speak to the police.” Under “ideal” conditions, as in 2002, the state falls in line. But their work goes on.

Looking at 22-year-old Jai, quiet and bespectacled, it is hard to imagine him stealing into a slaughterhouse in the middle of the night with two friends and a camera.  Later, they send the footage to the local Member of the Legislative Assembly and the police commissioner. Standing back, his mouth swollen with red betel juice, Jai smiles when the boys show me signs of his other life: a thick, long brown lathi (stick) is tucked away discreetly on the side of his motorbike. He is a member of a civil defence committee.

“Two weeks ago, we saved a dozen calves from the Muslim neighbourhood opposite us. For us, the cow is like a mother, but for them she’s a meal. Have you seen a printing press? They have a blade that slices paper into two halves. They have automatic machines where the blade comes down and simply chops the head off. Then the carcass is cleaned up. If you see it, it will give you goosebumps.”

Before Bakrid, the boys make a gang and forcibly enter Muslim neighbourhoods to save calves. But they are not alone.

“During the raid, we kept calling the police control number.”
“But such rescue missions must be dangerous?”
“Of course, but we have police protection. The police support us because they know we are from the Dal and do this work.”

But the police also use Kunal. One evening, as Kunal and I sit on the cot outside his house admiring his new Samsung phone, I see two men arrive on a motorbike across the street and gesture towards us. Kunal hands me his phone and walks across to meet them. When the men leave, Kunal apologises.

“Plain clothes policemen. They help us a lot, so I make sure I chat with them.” 

Kunal’s Muslim neighbours have bigger and better houses.

“We have thatched roofs and they have towers [multi-storied apartments]. When there is violence, they throw rocks and petrol bombs, but our stones don’t reach them.” 

I peer into the buildings in the distance and my eyes settle on a distant tube light-lit room. I can see the outline of a person. I hear a thin voice next to me say “We are surrounded by Muslims.” It’s an old woman bent double on a walking stick looking up at me. She leaves without saying anything else. We continue our evening walk weaving in and out of tiny one-room houses. Kunal greets everyone with a loud “Jai Shri Ram!” People call us inside their homes to have a meal. A gang of small boys follow us around chanting his name. We stop at his aunt’s house and she wants to talk about the government houses that have been promised to slum dwellers who are displaced by the Sabarmati Riverfront. She waves an affidavit at him as we leave. “I will talk to Barot about it,” says Kunal.

III

Kunal, Jai, and I are “tripling” (three riders on a motorbike) down Ellis Bridge in Ahmedabad. Jai is weaving in and out of traffic at full speed. Kunal sits behind me nudging Jai to drive faster and catch up with a motorbike ahead of us. “Just look at her straddling the bike,” he points with his chin at a burqa-clad woman riding pillion on the bike. We catch up with them at a red light. Kunal stares at the woman and the shiny blue sports bike. When they roar past us, he nudges Jai to follow them. At some point, they get tired of following the woman and turn back to go home.

One day I notice Kunal is wearing a tight black t-shirt with Lajja Bachao (Protect Honour) in blue letters at the back and Nagrik Raksha Sangathan (Citizen’s Protection Committee) on the front. He says it is “an old organisation that works to protect women and their honour.” The t-shirt reminds him of a funny story.

“Recently I saw a boy and a girl traveling in an autorickshaw and the boy had his arm wrapped around the girl. I had my tika on the forehead and I stopped them.

What’s your name?

Who are you?

I am from the VHP. What’s your name?

Trilochna.

Okay. And what’s your name?

Farooq.

Farooq, what are you doing with her?

She’s my friend.

Okay. Is this how you sit with your friend? With your arm around her? Is this the way you sit with your sister?

And then I thrashed him nicely. A crowd gathered and all the girls fled on their scooties.”

Kunal’s world is a peculiar mix of fear and fantasy. Kunal tells his boys to trap Muslim women. “Make them love you and then make them Hindu.” I ask him how that will happen and that his plan is like a scene from a bad Hindi movie.

“If while walking you spot a Muslim girl, you should give her the look so that she falls in love and then you make her Hindu. Understand?”

It would be a mistake to treat Kunal and his boys as an exceptional aspect of Hindu nationalism or even Indian politics. These men are part of a growing network of Hindu right-wing organisations that are trying to lay the groundwork to make Hindu supremacy mainstream. But violence alone is not enough to spread the word, recruit new supporters, enter new neighbourhoods, and win sympathisers. Their work often involves the most ordinary things, like helping a neighbour.

In February 2016, I was sitting and chatting with Kunal on the cot outside his house when a man wandered in looking for him. Kunal did not know the man. The man needed help. His house shared a wall with a neighbourhood mosque. The mosque authorities raised the height of the wall without the man’s consent and in the process, even cut a part of his tin roof. “I have a mud wall. What if it collapses when I am inside?”

Kunal was quick to point out that this was a situation where he must intervene because “a poor Hindu is being harassed by Muslims.” The man quietly nodded in agreement. “I will talk to them and if they don’t understand, we will file a complaint with the police.” The man turned around and walked back to his house, next to the same mosque that was burned down in 2002.

http://www.epw.in/engage/article/ordinary-life-hindu-supremacy

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India – Unique ID is not Unique, does not certify anything says UIDAI in a #RTI reply #WTFnews #AadhaarFail

By- Anupam Saraph
 
In yet another shocking admission the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) admitted, in response to a RTI query, that it does not certify the identity, address, date of birth, resident status or existence of any individual or any Aadhaar number. The UIDAI has in a previous RTI had responded making it evident that it cannot identify anyone.
 
The admission that the UIDAI does not certify anything is a blow to every organisation and process that relies on the UIDAI for certifying the identity, address, date of birth, resident status or existence of any individual. It is now evident that not only is nothing identified, nothing is certified by the UIDAI.
 
The UIDAI also admitted that the biometric data of an individual does not pull up a unique record. This is an admission that the biometrics does not uniquely identify any person. This completely demolishes the myth of providing an unique identity to Indians.
 
The UIDAI has no idea about the identification documents used to assign an Aadhaar number to enrolment packets submitted by the enrolment agencies. This has damning repercussions for the genuineness of the entire Aadhaar database. In a previous RTI the UIDAI had admitted that the Aadhaar database or the processes of reduplication had never been subject to verification or audit. Now an admission that even the data about the documents submitted for enrolment are not known to the UIDAI. Private agencies were paid for each enrolment packet they submitted. Private agencies also benefit by being able to use ghost identities that they may have created to claim subsidies, park black money, do benami transactions, and launder money
 
The RTI replies call to question the very basis of using the Aadhaar as a means to identify anyone, to use it to establish age, resident status, address or even existence of a person. It calls to question the use of Aadhaar in governance and financial systems.
 
The UIDAI has refused information about the enrolment operators and supervisors registered with the UIDAI. Only 20 registrar’s 8 State Governments and 12 PSUs had hired enrolment agencies who hired these operators. The 20 Registrars put together do not have a geographical reach to the 707 districts, 600,000 villages and 5,000 towns and cities of India. With the information of enrolment operators being withheld, the entire enrolment process to create the worlds largest biometric database is called to question.
 
The Supreme Court of India is hearing more than 22 PILs challenging the use of Aadhaar. The RTI replies make it evident that two successive governments have been taken for a complete ride by private interests controlling the Aadhaar ecosystem. The entire Aadhaar database is not worth the cost of the media used to store it and is the biggest technology scam since the invention of computers. It possesses the biggest risk to national security as every database in the country capable of identifying the citizens and beneficiaries is being replaced or destroyed by the Aadhaar database. Linking, seeding or using Aadhaar to construct or replace existing databases will make it impossible to protect the country’s economic, social, security and governance processes as they fail to identify threats, frauds, corruption, money laundering, and cyber war.
Read RTI reply here 4(4)573302017-E&U copy

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India – Tribal development scheme reduced to tokenism

Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana was introduced in 2014 for the overall development of tribal communities


                    On December, 12, 2016, the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Jaswantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor told the Lok Sabha that Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana will only retain a token sum of Rs 1 crore.Credit: Vikas/CSE
 On December, 12, 2016, the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Jaswantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor told the Lok Sabha that Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana will only retain a token sum of Rs 1 crore.Credit: Vikas/CSE

Three years after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) introduced Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana (VKY), a new scheme for the overall development of tribal communities, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) has cut back the entire fund allocated to states.

While in 2014 the scheme was implemented in 10 states with Rs 100 crore allocated to each state, in 2015-16, it was implemented in 21 states with an allocation for Rs 200 crore to each state.

However, in 2016-17, the allocation to VKY was slashed. On December12, 2016, the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Jaswantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor told the Lok Sabha that the scheme will only retain a token sum of Rs 1 crore.

“In 2016-17, no budgetary allocation was made as VKY objectives are being met from the Tribal Sub Plan funds available under the various schemes of the central government and state government. A token provision of Rs 1 crore only was made,” he said.

But data shows that even the amount released for the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) has been slashed. Data shows that funds released by the Centre towards TSP were reduced by 10 per cent from 2013 to 2017.

Year Funds released under SCA to TSP (in lakh)
2013-14 1,05,000
2014-15 1,03,999
2015-16 1,13,217
2016-17 93,599
Source: Rajya Sabha

Schemes under education also took a steep hit. For instance, funds for hostels for Scheduled Tribe students were reduced by 94 per cent. Funds for pre-matric scholarships for ST students in IXth and Xth standard saw a drop of more than 75 per cent.

Schemes under education also took a hit. For instance, funds for hostels for Scheduled Tribe students were reduced by 94 per cent. Funds for pre-matric scholarships for ST students in IXth and Xth standard saw a drop of more than 75 per cent. Scheme Funds in lakhs 
2013-14
Funds in lakhs 
2016-17
Hostels for ST Boys and Girls 10,105 595
Ashram schools in Tribal Sub-Plan 7,217 No funds released
Scheme of Pre-Matric scholarship for ST students studying in classes IX & X 21,943 5,211
National Overseas scholarship 68 0
National Fellowship and Scholarship for Higher Education for ST students 950 504
Source: Lok Sabha

Funds also decreased for the economic development of tribals, who are in the lowest rung of the economic ladder. About 45 per cent of them live Below Poverty Line in rural areas and 24 per cent in urban areas. Funds for Skill Development and Vocational Training (income generation) were slashed by more than 50 per cent in the last four budgets.

Year Fund released for Skill Development and Vocational Training (income generation) (in lakhs)
2014-15 37,296
2015-16 27,946
2016-17 20,229
2017-18 16,456 (Funds approved)

This is when the Union Budget 2017-18 document shows an overall increase in the allocation made to the tribal affairs ministry from Rs 4,826 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 5,329 crore in 2017-18.

The increased allocation is solely because of the increase in  revenue expenditure, which neither creates assets nor reduces liabilities. It involves salaries of employees and pension. The revenue expenditure increased from Rs 4,766 in 2016-17 to Rs 5,269 in 2017-18. The capital expenditure (that creates assets and reduces liabilities,mostly involving building infrastructure, expenditure on development plans) during the same time period remained stagnant at Rs 60 crore, less than in 2014-15 (Rs 70 crore).

Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojna focuses on:

Employment, education, economic development of tribal areas, health, housing
safe drinking water for all at doorstep, irrigation facilities suited to the terrain, all-weather roads with connectivity to the nearby town/ cities, universal availability of electricity, urban development, institutional mechanism for implementation, promotion and conservation of tribal cultural heritage, promotion of sports, security.

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/budget-2018-nda-s-tribal-development-scheme-reduced-to-tokenism-59537

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Why is India’s wealth inequality growing so rapidly?

An Oxfam report released on the eve of the World Economic Forum at Davos underscores the dramatic increase in wealth inequality in India in recent years. In 2017 alone, the top 1 percent of the population owned 73 percent of the addition to wealth that occurred. A year ago, the top 1 percent owned 58 percent of the stock of wealth. Thus its share, already phenomenal, is still increasing.

Of course, estimates of wealth, and hence its distribution, are highly problematic, but the dramatic growth of economic inequality in India is confirmed by authors using other data sources. French economists Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel (pdf) for instance have argued, using tax data, that income inequality in India today is higher than any time since 1922 when income tax was first introduced. Hence, Oxfam’s estimates have to be taken seriously.

And even if one quibbles about the exact extent of inequality, its direction and rapidity of movement are unmistakable.

Commentators on the Oxfam report have tended to infer from it that the rich have disproportionately cornered the “benefits of liberalisation”. This is a rather incorrect reading of what happened.

“Liberalisation” itself is responsible for the growth in inequality, as is clear from the fact that it is not just India, but the world as a whole, that is witnessing growing wealth inequality.

The share of the world’s wealth that the top 1 percent held as a whole was 50 percent (pdf) before 2017 (compared to 58 percent in India); the share they had in adding to world wealth in 2017 was 82 percent (compared to 73 percent in India).

Growing wealth inequality is an inherent feature of neo-liberal capitalism.

India-specific factors, in short, have operated on a general trend that is common for all, and this trend has to do with the pursuit of neo-liberal economic policies. Growing wealth inequality is an inherent feature of neo-liberal capitalism.

Neo-liberal policies aggravate wealth inequality in several ways. First, they widen income inequality. Since the ratio of income that is “saved” (for adding to wealth) is higher for the upper-income groups, a rise in income inequality raises both the overall savings ratio in the economy and also the degree of concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich.

Income inequality, in turn, grows for a structural reason. Neo-liberal policies entail a withdrawal of state support from peasant agriculture and petty production in general. This undermines those sectors, forcing peasants to migrate to the cities in search of jobs. At the same time, these policies remove all restrictions on the rate of technological-cum-structural change, so labour productivity rises rapidly making employment growth insufficient to absorb even the natural growth of the workforce, let alone the distressed peasant migrants.

This creates slack in the labour market, which keeps the wage-rate low even as labour productivity increases. Since the ratio of wage-rate to labour productivity is nothing else but the share of wages, this share decreases, and the share of those who live on the surplus (i.e. non-wage income), typically the rich and the professional classes, increases. A rise in income, and hence wealth inequality is thus embedded in the structure of neo-liberal capitalism.

Secondly, quite apart from its effect on the labour market, the out-migration of peasants and petty producers is typically associated with a loss of assets by them. For example, when leaving for the city, labour migrants would abandon their houses or their land or be forced to sell them at low prices. What is more, sometimes their assets are simply expropriated to facilitate industrial or “infrastructure” projects (roads, dams, factories, etc.) which invariably have a real estate component to them. This contributes directly to greater concentration of wealth.

Thirdly, the privatisation of essential services like education and healthcare makes them effectively more expensive for the lower income groups. Hence they have to spend more from their already meagre income on these services and are unable to save and add to their wealth to the same extent as before. This also contributes to growing wealth inequality.

Fourthly, a neo-liberal regime typically entails handing out tax concessions and tax rebates to big corporations for ushering in “faster growth”. The obverse of this is the constraint on public spending on education and health and withdrawal of state support to peasant agriculture that was noted above. Such tax concessions to corporations, not to mention tax evasion and non-repayment of loans to public sector banks, promote wealth inequality.

Finally the asset market bubbles, which characterise neo-liberal regimes and contribute to their dynamism, increase the value of wealth at the top and boost wealth concentration. A stock-market surge for instance can create billionaires overnight. Some have argued that since such bubble-based wealth, which will disappear when the bubble bursts, exaggerates wealth concentration, the available estimates of wealth inequality need not cause concern.

Governments, however, not only try to prevent such bursts but take steps to ensure that the capital gains made through such bubbles do not just remain fictitious but are converted into real assets. They do so by incessantly throwing new assets on the market, through the privatisation of natural resources like water and air, and the sale of public sector assets like “spectrum”. The estimated wealth inequality, therefore, is not just fictitious but is quite real.

Each of these mechanisms has operated in India, which has witnessed an agrarian crisis, a growing privatisation of essential services, a prolonged stock market boom and rampant tax concessions to the corporate rich. Growth in wealth inequality in such circumstances is inevitable; the other side of this coin is mass peasant suicides, growing hunger, and burgeoning unemployment. Governments pursuing neo-liberalism cannot even use taxes to counter growing wealth inequality, apprehensive that the country would lose its appeal as an investment destination; they are in a bind within this regime.

Such inequality, however, threatens not only Indian democracy but the implicit social contract, enshrined in its constitution, upon which modern India is founded.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/india-wealth-inequality-growing-rapidly-180125084201143.html?utm_source=Al+Jazeera+English+Newsletter+%7C+Weekly&utm_campaign=f613db858a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_08_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e427298a68-f613db858a-225690605

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