Rss

  • stumble
  • youtube
  • linkedin

Archives for : March2018

India – Privacy, profit and control #Aadhaar

 

 

by- Usha Ramanathan

Is privacy dead? These are strange times when this is treated as a reasonable inquiry. Or even as rhetorical, not needing any serious response: of course, it is dead. Let it be laid to rest, and let the ambitions of control, commerce and profit be pursued unhindered. The conversation about privacy has been deliberately turned on its head.

 

About half a decade ago, as technologies were developed that could make huge profits out of personal data, and when state and corporate control of people began to emerge as clear political and commercial possibilities, we began to get asked: why do you want a right to privacy? Why would you ask for privacy if you have done no wrong? Corollary: if you have done wrong, why should you be allowed to hide? The real question, however, was: why did we have guilt thrust on us if we asserted the right to privacy? Who was it that wanted the privacy right to disappear?

 

In 2013, Edward Snowden gave us a graphic narrative. What he introduced us to was a surveillance state that was collecting large amounts of personal information about anyone they could get their metaphorical hands on. A secret court, with secret hearings, issuing secret orders authorising the collection of information about whole populations from whatever source they could tap.

Even before Snowden warned us that the state was trying to erase the right to privacy and we needed to beware, the UID project had already begun to roll out another narrative. A project that was launched as intending to provide those in poverty with a means of identifying themselves to the state so that they could get their entitlements soon became something entirely different. Three words that were used to describe the project spoke volumes: unique, ubiquitous, universal. Initially, we were led to think that each of us would acquire a unique identity through the project. It took a few years for it to become plain that it was not about a unique identity at all-for the biometrics on which such identity was based had been untested and is, in fact, failing with remarkable frequency in the field; it was about being identified by ‘user’ and ‘requiring’ agencies. The UID is a number attached to a biometric; but the biometrics often do not work. What is left is a number, which we are asked to seed in every database, facilitating profiling, tracking, labelling, tagging. Soon, it was not voluntary any more. Consent became irrelevant. And, from being marketed as an enabler for inclusion, it soon began to exclude those not on the database, those whose biometrics would not work, those without mobile phones, and those who refused to submit to the bullying and threats. By the time the Aadhaar Act was passed as a Money Bill in 2016, the focus had shifted from the citizen to the resident to the customer-hence e-KYC, with ‘C’ being customer. Companies-and Khosla Labs is one such-have joined the litigation asking that nothing be changed in either the law or the project as it is now, or else their businesses will fold up! Their business is all about our personally identifiable information.

 

This being the project, it is no wonder that the government declared in the Supreme Court, through the Attorney General, that the people of this country do not have a right to privacy. In August 2017, a bench of nine judges unanimously declared that privacy is not just a fundamental right but that the right to dignity, life and personal liberty would all be set at nought without the right to privacy. The UIDAI stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the problems with the project.

This project started off as an identity project; quickly morphed into an ‘identification’ project through the seeding of numbers in multiple databases; prodded the technology community to see its potential as ‘an identity platform on which many apps may be built’; and, very recently, has been projected as being a ‘universal infrastructure’ with ‘universal access’. It should cause no surprise that Google, WhatsApp, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook have all become eager to collect the UID number.

The universe of the UID has been expanding amidst coercion and threats. Demonetisation pushed the cashless agenda. Cashless is, of course, not just cashless, but also promoted as being paperless, ‘presenceless’, with e-sign, e-KYC, digital locker and a ‘consent architecture’, all of which ride on the UID infrastructure. The National Payment Corporation of India, and its product, the UPI or Unified Payment Interface, is based on the UID number. GSTN, the Goods and Services Tax Network, which is a private company handling all governmental data generated through the GST regime, has the UID number embedded with every GST return filed; and the prime minister has said that he wants them to create algorithms that will profile those in the MSME sector, and he will decide how to use that information. A medical insurance plan launched by the government has Nandan Nilekani working with a committee to leverage the UID number in the infrastructure that is being installed.

In the meantime, Nilekani, who has been leading from the front in gaining ubiquity for the UID project, GSTN, NPCI, cashless, vehicle tracking systems and more, has made another ambition clear. He calls it ‘trickle up’. Simply stated, most people in this country do not have wealth that they can spend in the market. They do, however, have what business wants, and that is data, about themselves-personal information. Services, including credit, will be provided only to those who leave digital footprints, and who will render themselves visible to technology controllers and agencies. The personal information will trickle up and create business and profits for those who gather this information and make products and services that they will then put in the market.

There is a striking similarity between this imagination and the social credit system that is in place in China. The social credit system uses digital presence, activity and inactivity to assess how acceptable or otherwise each individual is. Who your friends are, what their habits and propensities are, how they speak of the government and what they think is funny, whether they are rebellious or complaisant; and all that they garner will determine their rating. That will decide what they will be allowed to do, including the class of travel by train. Those who have little or no activity on the networks that allow them to be tracked and profiled will not escape the net; they will simply fall outside it, disentitling them from most of civil life.

It is this rampant takeover of all our information, and the collaboration between the state and business interests, that is raising the pitch about the possible end of privacy.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have kindly presented us with another view of privacy invasions. It is now plain that privacy policies do not say much, and are understood even less. When there is a breach of privacy, we may not even know it, nor understand its implications. In this case, Facebook provides the platform on which we park our information, and Cambridge Analytica uses it to manipulate people, for a price. This is not about privacy. This is about business without ethics, and without boundaries.

 

In these strange times, governments and businesses see the potential for control, and profit, in denying the right to privacy even as a constitutional court likens privacy to liberty, dignity and autonomy. People stand somewhere in between, unsure how to defend themselves from the allegation that interest in privacy is a sign of guilt.

Related posts

India – It’s not just religion, it’s also caste

In addressing the ‘Muslim question’, left-liberals have been extremely hesitant in acknowledging the Ashraf-Pasmanda divide.

What one needs to stress is that there can be no majorities (Hinduness) without minorities (Muslimness) and the mutual conflicts between them eventually end in accommodations that exclude the subordinated castes. (Illustration: CR Sasikumar)

Several prominent left-liberal scholars have stretched their necks out on the so-called “Muslim question” in the last few days. What is perhaps striking is not the minutiae of the debate but rather the broad consensus across ideological positions on the “terms” in which the debate is supposedly being conducted. I will argue that the “Muslim question” shares a constitutive relationship with the repressed “caste question” within Indian Islam, and the left-liberals have been extremely hesitant in acknowledging this.

Let us recall how the modernising colonial state eventually settled on religion as the overarching identity to manage the irreducible socio-cultural diversity in the Subcontinent through strategic repression of competing markers — caste, class, gender, language, region, sect and so on. In particular, caste approximates the closest to distribution of material and symbolic power. Once this is conceded, it becomes easier to appreciate how the high-caste elite across religions, a micro-minority in number, found it useful to access the evolving democratic game as religious majorities or minorities in order to offset their numerical deficit. In a way, the notions of “Hinduness” or “Muslimness” were systematically arrived at through repression of the cultural life-worlds of a large number of subordinated caste communities (Indian Muslims have about 700 caste groups).

Yet the reordering of thousands of caste communities into overarching religious blocs is an impossible operation. Apart from incessant ideological work through faith-based organisations, restorative violence in the form of riots, pogroms or lynching was periodically resorted to in order to force consent on the notion of religion as the key mode of identification. According to B R Ambedkar, “A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot”. Inter-faith violence, rather than a passionate and spontaneous outburst, emerges chiefly as a calculated mechanism to consolidate contending Hindu and Muslim nationalisms and simultaneously disciplining the subordinated castes.

Let me trace the construction of high-caste Muslim (Ashraf) hegemony over Muslim politics and the continuous challenges posed to it by internal caste others. In the pre-Independence phase, the Ashraf dominated Muslim politics through the strategic construction of the discourse of Muslim backwardness and the policy of separate electorates in collusion with colonial authorities. Indeed, in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh), the then epicentre of the demand for Pakistan, Muslims were grossly over-represented in public services (Omar Khalidi informs us that in 1939, the representation of Muslims in the UP Civil Services averaged about 30 per cent though their population was 15 per cent). The terms of engagement with power for the Ashraf was not adequate representation according to democratic norms but the parity of Muslims with Hindus based on the erstwhile status of the former as a ruling class. Hamid Dalwai in Muslim Politics in India (1968) remarks that “the idea was to secure a fifty per cent share of power for Muslims. When this attempt failed, the Muslims demanded an independent sovereign state of their own”.

The 1946 elections, dubbed the consensus on Pakistan, and in which the Muslim League won handsomely, was marked by a restricted electorate wherein mostly the propertied and educated Ashraf classes got to vote. The vote of subordinated Muslim caste groups was not even put to the test. In fact, subordinated caste Muslim organisations like the All India Momin Conference, led by the charismatic Abdul Qaiyum Ansari, were actively contesting the Muslim League and two-nation theory in alliance with the Congress. After the Partition tragedy, the postcolonial state dominated by the Congress party, curiously preferred to work with the remaining Ashraf sections (the “sarkari Musalmans”) as interlocutors for Muslims and continued to give them substantive state privileges. This unstated policy eventually resulted in the overrepresentation of high-caste Muslims (who constitute only about 15 per cent of the Muslim population) in power structures at the expense of subordinated castes. At another level, the subordinated Muslim castes were overrepresented in catalogues of victims of communal or Islamophobic violence. Since the 1990s, the Pasmanda movement — the movement of Dalit, Backward and Adivasi Muslims — has again reactivated the intra-Muslim caste antagonism by contesting Ashraf hegemony over Muslim politics in north India.

While the left-liberals at times do note that Hindu and Muslim nationalisms share a symbiotic relationship, they seldom take cognisance of the constitutive role of caste in this conflict. Caste, in general, has been a blind spot for left-liberals; more so in the case of Indian Islam. The moment one inserts caste into the “Muslim question”, the terms of the debate change. Most of the issues raised by the majoritarian Right like the appeasement of Muslims, their portrayal as fifth columnists, Muslim communalism, instant triple divorce, reservations, AMU, Babri Mosque, Urdu, etc. lose their impact once the role of Ashraf interests comes to the fore. Sans the caste category, left-liberal bickering on the decline of “Muslimness” does not go beyond formal rhetoric. Once the conflation of Muslim politics with Ashraf interests is clear, it is not be difficult to see why the Pasmanda sections may not indulge in mourning the so-called demise of Muslimness but rather see this moment as a rupture pregnant with multiple democratic possibilities.

What one needs to stress is that there can be no majorities (Hinduness) without minorities (Muslimness) and the mutual conflicts between them eventually end in accommodations that exclude the subordinated castes. That is why the Pasmanda ideologues have advocated a counter-hegemonic solidarity of subordinated castes across religions. Ideally, the left-liberals would have revisited their closures with respect to the caste question within Indian Islam if they were serious about contesting toxic majoritarianism. One recalls here Dalwai’s collapsing of the distinction between “nationalist” and “communalist” Muslims, or Ambedkar’s conflation of the categories of “priestly” and “secular” Brahmins in explaining the role of social classes in politics. “Muslim communalists in India and Indian communists have always remained strange, but inseparable, bedfellows,” is what Dalwai wrote in the 1960s. Whether the recent debate has done anything to dispel this impression is a moot question.

Ideas Series: The Minority Space

Ramchandra Guha-Harsh Mander debate about the invisibility of Muslims and reforms within continues

Related posts

Anandi Gopal Joshi: The Inspiring Story Of India’s First Female Doctor

Anandi Gopal Joshi is the first woman of Indian origin to graduate with a degree in medicine in the US. She became an inspiration to generations of women to pursue their further education.

Anandi Gopal Joshi: The Inspiring Story Of India's First Female Doctor

Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first Indian-origin woman with a degree in medicine from the US

NEW DELHI:  Anandi Gopal Joshi, considered by some as India‘s first female doctor, was one of the earliest female physicians in India. Anandi Gopal Joshi, who also goes by the names ‘Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi’ and ‘Anandibai Joshi’, celebrates her 153rd birthday today. Anandi Gopal Joshi was born in Kalyan in present day Maharashtra‘s Thane district on March 31, 1865. At the time of her birth, present day Maharashtra was called Bombay Presidency. Anandi Joshi was originally named ‘Yamuna‘, and kept that name till her marriage, after which, her husband – Gopalrao Joshi – gave her the name ‘Anandi’.

Anandi Gopal Joshi‘s family had been landlords for many years during the British Raj, but due to excessive taxes by the British, as well as losses that had accumulated over the years, her family underwent a troublesome financial period when Yanuma (Anandi Gopal Joshi) was still very young. As was custom during the mid-nineteenth century, Yamuna (Anandi Gopal Joshi) was pressured to marry at a very young age – nine. She married Gopalrao Joshi, a widower who was nearly 30 years old at the time. He was a postal clerk in the same town where Yamuna (Anandi Gopal Joshi) used to live.

Though he had married a child, a criminal offence in today’s day and age but not considered so in the mid-nineteenth century, Gopalrao Joshi was a strong supporter of women’s education. Since this was considered unusual for the time, he was considered a progressive thinker.

Anandi Gopal Joshi was fourteen when she first became a mother, but her baby died in ten days due to lack of medical care and facilities. Facing such immense trauma and sadness at fourteen, she decided to do something about healthcare in India. She told her husband that she was determined to become a doctor – a physician. He supported her decision and backed her entirely to study medicine.

Anandi’s husband wrote a letter to an American missionary requesting if Anandi Joshi could pursue her education in the United States. He even inquired about a suitable job for himself so that he could accompany her. But in 1883, when Gopalrao Joshi was transferred to Serampore in present day West Bengal (Bengal province at the time), he decided and convinced Anandi to go to the United States by herself. He told her to set an example for all other women in India to pursue their higher education.

Anandi Gopal Joshi applied to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and was granted admission. She traveled to from Calcutta (present day Kolkata) to New York by ship. She began her medical training at the age of nineteen. While in America, her health, which was already not a hundred per cent from her days in India, further deteriorated due to the cold weather and unfamiliar diet. She even went on to suffer tuberculosis or TB. Despite all that, she stayed motivated to complete her MD in medicine. Her journey had been so inspiring that she got much publicity in the Indian press, and on her graduation, the then Queen of England, Empress of India, Queen Victoria sent her a congratulatory message. She had become the first woman of Indian origin to study and graduate with a degree in medicine in the United States. Anandi Gopal Joshi went on to inspire generations of women to pursue their higher education.

When she returned to India in 1886, she received a grand welcome, and was appointed as the physician-in-charge at the Albert Edward Hospital in the then princely state of Kohlapur (in present day Maharashtra).

On February 26, 1887, just over a month before her 22nd birthday, Anandi Gopal Joshi died of tuberculosis or TB. Her dream of opening her own medical college for women was left unfulfilled. Her death made headlines across India and the entire nation mourned her passing. As a mark of respect, her ashes were placed in a cemetery in Poughkeepsie in New York.

1COMMENTS

In her honour, the Institute for Research and Documentation in Social Sciences or IRDS, an NGO from Lucknow, still awards the ‘Anandibai Joshi Award for Medicine’ in honour of her early contributions to the cause of advancing medical science in India. Even the Government of Maharashtra established a fellowship in Anandi Gopal Joshi’s name.

Today, on her 153rd birth anniversary, Google dedicated the day’s ‘Google Doodle‘ in Anandi Gopal Joshi’s honour.

Related posts

PostCard News founder Mahesh Vikram Hegde in jail for spreading fake news

DECCAN CHRONICLE.

He had tweeted that a Jain monk was attacked by a Muslim youth.

Jain monk Upadhyaya Mayank Sagar

 Jain monk Upadhyaya Mayank Sagar

BengaluruThe Central Crime Branch (CCB) sleuths have arrested the co-founder and editor of an online right-wing leaning web portal ‘PostCard News’ Mahesh Vikram Hegde for allegedly spreading “fake” news with an intention to instigate “communal unrest” on Twitter.  One of Hegde’s twitter followers is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Hegde’s arrest was made after he tweeted a photo of Jain monk Upadhyaya Mayank Sagar Ji Maharaj with a caption “Very sad news, yesterday in Karnataka Jain muni attacked by Muslim youth. No one is safe in Siddaramaiah’s Karnataka.”

 

Mahesh Vikram HegdeMahesh Vikram Hegde

Later, he tweeted the same content on the PostCard News handle. Police acted after a c omplaint was filed against him at Sanjay Nagar police station by a member of the Congress’ KPCC.

The post on the Jain monk turned out to be fake after an Alt News expose found that the photo was taken from an online Jain news portal, Ahimsa Kranti.
“We have found that the Upadhyaya Mayank Sagar Ji Maharaj was recently injured in an accident. He sustained minor injuries. But, Mr. Hedge has misused the photo on social media platform calling it an attack,” police said.

PostCard News has received sustained flak for spreading fake news and hatred posts against minorities and Dalits and complaints were filed against the portal in the past in this regard.

Mr. Hegde was booked under sections 153A (attempt to promote enmity between religious groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage senti ments) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

Soon after Hegde’s arrest, support started to pour in for him from BJP. Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha was first to tweet in his support. He tweeted “Today morning Coward Congress Govt (Karnataka) arrested @mvmeet Mahesh Vikram Hegde under unconnected IT act 66, that too by using CCB! Shame on you @INCKarnataka.”

However, contrary to his claim, Hegde was not booked under any IT act but under various sections of IPC. Soon after, hashtag #ReleaseMaheshHegde was trending on many groups that support the BJP.

https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/310318/postcard-news-founder-in-jail-for-spreading-fake-news.html

Related posts

The Imam Who Saved Not Just Asansol, But Perhaps India From Burning

“My son has lived his life, do not bring sorrow to other homes.”


 NEW DELHI/ASANSOL: Imam Imadadul Rashidi’s voice was matter of fact when contacted by The Citizen, as if what he had done was what any one would do. Asansol was in the grip of violence threatened by a tornado as the Muslims started gathering to retaliate against the violence triggered by Ram Navami processions. Why? Because the Imam’s 16 year old son had been brutally beaten to death by a communal mob, and the news of the incident had spread like wildfire across the town.

The crowds gathered, with now the police and the state government aware of their own helplessness, when the Imam addressed a congregation of thousands at the funeral prayers of his son Sibtullah Rashidi who had just appeared for teh Class X Board examinations. With his son’s body lying before him, the Imam pleaded for peace in a short address that had the entire crowd in tears, with all then dispersing for their respective homes.

As he told The Citizen this morning, all he said was, “my child has lived the life that Allah ordained for him. Now please ensure that no one else’s child is killed, that there is peace and amity. If you love him, and me, do not turn to violence, but keep peace.”

Asked how difficult a statement this was Imam Rashidi said quietly, “ no it was not, it was clear to me that my child had died, there was nothing we could do about that, and it was thus my duty to ensure no other child died, no house was torched, no family bereaved.” He said he was responding to the anger in “my” Asansol, where people were bent on taking revenge. “I knew I had to stop this, I knew this was necessary for harmony in my shahr (town) and in my country” he said.

“I knew my child has lived the life Allah had marked for him, I pleaded with the people not to kill anyone else’s child, “ he said. The Imam made it clear to the congregation that “if you do not listen to me I will leave Asansol and go away.” He said he was firm about that, as he could not bear the thought of more violence and bloodshed.

The Imam said that he told the people exactly what he believed. “Islam is a religion of peace and amity, it does not preach violence and revenge,” he said. Asked what he would like to convey to the country where communal harmony is currently under stress, he said, “ I would only say please do all you can to ensure there is peace and unity. And no one is able to break that.”

Local Asansol Councillor Nasim Ansari said that he had attended the prayers like everyone else. There was not a dry eye after the Imam spoke for “maybe just seven or eight minutes”. He said they could see the anger being replaced by deep sorrow as the congregation dispersed and all made their way peacefully home.

Ansari told The Citizen that the Imam spoke in measured tones but from the heart. His words “tore through the anger” and diffused it. He said that there was deep worry across the administration and the state as the Muslims reacted to the brutal death of young Rashidi, and a realisation that the storm if it burst would not be controlled easily. The Chief Minister had replaced police officers in the district, bringing back those who enjoyed a better rapport with the people at large. Even so the murder of the Imam’s teenage son seemed to be a turning point, with the Muslims after four long years, prepared to face the consequences of retaliatory violence.

As Ansari said, “I cannot even begin to say what might have happened across India had it not been for the Imam.” Subsequently, he said, “we have been able to go back to restoring peace, returning cattle, and speaking to both communities.” Ansari himself was under fire even as he was speaking to this reporter, for his mediation efforts but as he said “these are just a handful of lumpens, we have them in all communities but the situation now is dramatically improved.” He fought the local polls as an Independent but has subsequently joined the Trinamool Congress.

The Imam’s son, as per verified reports, was taken away by the mob in Rail Par area of Asansol. His elder son alerted the family who tried to get police help. The delay on the part of the police to act, as has become customary in all such incidents now across India, led to the brutal bludgeoning of the young boy who was killed on the spot by the instigated mob. Fake news, videos, rumours were being spread through out Asansol to “provoke” the majority community to react with violence, as per the local administration.

Asansol has a MP from the Bharatiya Janata Party Babul Supriyo who is currently warring with the state government for not allowing him free access to his constituency. The last communal violence in Asansol was in 1991-92, after which it has been peaceful until the last few years when efforts to stoke communal fires succeeded in thsi Ram Nevamil celebrations with weapons, and provocative slogans. The violence has continued unabated, and the area remains tense.

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/2/13412/The-Imam-Who-Saved-Not-Just-Asansol-But-Perhaps-India-From-Burning

Related posts

Dr. S P Udayakumar on nuclear accident in Three Miles Island , USA

We interviewed Dr. S P Udayakumar, leader of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy(PMANE) who is spearheading the anti-nuclear agitation in Koodankulam, about his personal reminiscense of the nuclear accident in Three Miles Island in United states in 1979, its impact on the nuclear debate and the ongoing problems with the Koodankulam nuclear power project.

What is your personal memory about the Three Miles Island ?

To be honest, I did not hear about this accident that took place in Pennsylvania state in the United States in March 1979. I was an undergraduate student then and did not follow the nuclear issues around the world. Only after the Chernobyl accident and the announcement of the Koodankulam nuclear power project did I read about the TMI accident. When I went to the United States for higher studies, I came to know a lot more about the TMI accident. My American grandparents, Grandma Enid Keen and Grandpa Bob Keen used to tell me a lot about this accident as they were living in Harrisburg, PA during that time. Harrisburg was very close to the TMI site. They explained to me how much they suffered during and after the TMI accident. They fled Harrisburg along with their children and settled in some other part of the US.

Like everywhere else in the world, the TMI nuclear power plant owners and the operators assured the governmental authorities and the general public that “everything was under control.” A little later the state government acknowledged that the issue was a lot more complex. They closed down the schools, urged the people to stay indoors and asked the farmers to keep their cattle under cover. Then they decided to evacuate pregnant women and infants who were living in the five-mile radius of the TMI plants. Eventually, the authorities expanded the evacuation zone to a 20-mile radius. Most of the evacuees and the residents around the TMI plants were seriously dissatisfied with the government and the company.

How did the Indian nuclear establishment react after TMI?

I have no idea about this. But we all know that the nuclear departments all over the world have the same abrasive mentality, dismissive attitude, evasive language, selfish behaviour, and total disregard for the safety and security of ‘ordinary citizens.’ For instance, when the Fukushima accident took place, the Indian DAE chief Sreekumar Banerjee claimed that it was just a small chemical explosion and not a nuclear meltdown. The nuclear-wallahs all over the world are overbearing, overconfident and over-protective of their interests.

Did it open any debate on nuclear safety in India, or did that start later only after Chernobyl?

Even after Chernobyl there was hardly any national debate on nuclear safety in India. The Chernobyl accident took place in April 1986 and in about a few months, the Rajiv Gandhi government announced the Koodankulam nuclear power project with Russian collaboration. Would anyone with a modicum of safety concerns and people’s security announce a major nuclear power project right after the Chernobyl disaster? Most of the political parties and leaders in India are afraid of taking a stand on this “national security” issue and many of them are too ignorant to discuss about the nuclear issues. They are all preoccupied with national pride, superpower status, scientific and technological development and so forth. Even after the India-US nuclear deal there was hardly any debate in this country on nuclear issue. It was only after the anti-Koodankulam struggle, did India sit up and took a good look at the nuclear issue.

In Kanyakumari, there were anti-nuclear mobilisations in the late 90s. Did activists and experts make reference to TMI then?

Of course, both TMI and Chernobyl accidents were evoked in those struggles but the references were rather vague and murky for everyone. Only after the Fukushima accident did people everywhere watch all the nuclear devastations on their TV screens. Things became a lot clearer for them.

Nuclear accidents are not rare incidents anymore. What are the key concerns about accidents and safety that must become part of the public discourse?

Radiation leak and radiation exposure are the two major immediate concerns in any nuclear accident. Our people should take disaster preparedness and management into their hands as we cannot rely on corrupt and inefficient officials and politicos. They want to hide things and keep everything under their control but we are for transparency, accountability and popular participation.

Koodankulam has been dysfunctional for the past 2 years, despite the official claims and repeated shut-downs and trips. What do you think are the immediate and continued risks?

The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) is steeped in corruption, collusion and deception. The DAE has got substandard equipment from Russian companies and done a lot of mistakes in the project’s design, erection and operation. They are in very bad condition. No decent democratic country would run these discredited plants at all. The NPCIL is ill prepared to deal with the spent-fuel and the nuclear wastes from the KKNPP. When the Poovulagin Nanbargal case against the KKNPP came up in the Supreme Court, the NPCIL asked for five years time to construct an ‘Away from Reactor’ (AFR) facility for keeping the spent-fuel and the ‘Deep Geological Repository’ (DGR) for safekeeping the high-level nuclear wastes. Now the same NPCIL has filed another affidavit seeking five more years to construct the above-mentioned facilities as they do not have the expertise.

Next year would be 40 years of Three Miles Island accident. The US itself is forgetting the lessons and Trump has opened up subsidies for new plants. Japan is also re-starting nuclear plants after Fukushima. Are we headed for a nuclear renaissance as the industry claims?

No, there is no nuclear renaissance anywhere, not even in India. The Indian authorities hope to produce 14,600 MW nuclear power by 2024. In the next six years, they will not achieve even one third of this output. You will certainly agree with that prediction if you see their track record. In 2016 alone, the wind power output in India grew by 16%, solar power by 30% but nuclear power output grew only by a meagre 1.4%. The global trend is also very similar to this.

Interview with S P Udayakumar: on the anniversary of nuclear accident in Three Miles Island

Related posts

10 more questions raised over Judge Loya’s death

Another Caravan investigation wonders how employees of the VIP guest house at Nagpur remained completely ignorant about the illness and subsequent death of guest judge BH Loya in November, 2014

Even as the Supreme Court is yet to decide on an independent inquiry into the mysterious death of CBI Special Judge BH Loya in 2014, fresh questions have been raised by yet another investigation carried out by The Caravan, which first questioned the circumstances of the death in November last year.

The judge was hearing the discharge petition filed by BJP national president Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. While Shah never appeared before the court, Judge Loya had reprimanded his counsel and demanded his presence on the next date of hearing.

However, Judge Loya ostensibly died of a heart attack he suffered while staying in the VIP guesthouse Ravi Bhavan in Nagpur. Following the exposure in Caravan, four judges in their statement claimed that the judge had died of natural causes and that there was nothing fishy or controversial about it.

The judge’s relatives, however, had voiced their doubt and claimed that the judge was under pressure to discharge the BJP national president. They had also claimed that the judge had been offered ₹100 Crore and a flat in Mumbai.

In the latest investigation carried out by the magazine, its reporter interviewed as many as 17 current and former employees who were posted in Ravi Bhavan when judge Loya died. All of them claimed to have learnt of the judge’s death in the last few months after the story first brobroke in Caravan

These are the questions raised by the investigation:

  1. All the 17 employees were intrigued that they never received a whiff about the death of a guest till reports started coming out in newspapers late in 2017.
  2. They agreed that had the judge complained of uneasiness and had he been taken out of the guesthouse to a hospital, they would have known.
  3. They claimed that if a guest felt uneasy, he would make a call to the Reception. But no call was received at the reception from either judge Loya or any other judge.
  4. It is unlikely that the Receptionist, the night guard and the phone operator besides others on the night shift would not have come to know of a guest being taken to the hospital.
  5. The employees claimed that they would normally take 10-15 minutes to organise an ambulance and rush guests fallen ill to the hospital, if necessary. But the judges claimed that they called up judge Barde posted at Nagpur and living in another part of Nagpur to pick up another judge Rathi and then reach the guesthouse to take judge Loya to hospital.
  6. On November 30, there were a number of suites which were vacant and there was certainly no need for three judges to stay in suite number 10, as the judges claimed.
  7. Suite no. 10 on the first floor of Ravi Bhavan is close to the Reception, the only staircase and the phone operator. There was no way they could have missed a car drawing up, judge Loya and other judges climb down the stairs and the car driving away.
  8. Contrary to the claim of the judges, Ravi Bhavan, the employees maintained, had no system of supplying additional mattresses. Each suite in any case had two beds, they said.
  9. During the session of the legislature, if additional crockery, mattresses etc. were required, a store by the name of Seva Kunj would supply them to the guesthouse.
  10. The Caravan reporter asked the Chief Engineer and the Superintending Engineer in charge of the guesthouse if they had known of judge Loya being driven out to the hospital. They pleaded ignorance.

 

Death Of Judge Loya: Testimonies Of 17 Current And Former Ravi Bhawan Employees Raise Troubling Questions About Statements Of Four Judges

By NIKITA SAXENA | IN CARAVAN 

Further investigation by The Caravan into the events that transpired on the final night of the judge BH Loya’s life has raised troubling concerns regarding statements submitted by four judges who claim to have been with him in the hours before he died, on the night intervening 30 November and 1 December 2014. The Caravan spoke to 17 current and former employees of Ravi Bhawan, the government-run VIP guest house where Loya is said to have stayed in Nagpur. None of these employees—all of whom save one were working at Ravi Bhawan in November 2014—had any inkling at that time that a guest staying at the guest house had, as the judges stated, become grievously unwell, been taken to a hospital early in the morning, and subsequently died. Most of these employees learnt of Loya’s death three years later, in November 2017, when The Caravan’s story regarding the suspicious circumstances surrounding Loya’s death broke, leading to news coverage of his demise and, consequently, an inquiry by Maharashtra’s State Intelligence Department, or SID.

Soon after The Caravan broke the story of Loya’s mysterious death, the four judges—Shrikant Kulkarni and SM Modak, who said they travelled to Nagpur from Mumbai with Loya, and VC Barde and Roopesh Rathi, who were serving in Nagpur at the time—submitted signed statements to Sanjay Barve, the commissioner of Maharashtra’s SID. These statements formed the primary lines of defence for the state of Maharashtra in the Supreme Court, where it argued that Loya’s death was natural. Mukul Rohatgi, the former attorney general of India, who is representing the state of Maharashtra in the matter, declared that he was “saddened and shocked” that the counsel for petitioners seeking an independent inquiry into Loya’s death had raised doubts about these testimonies. Dushyant Dave, a lawyer for one of the petitioners, insisted before the court that the four judges were mere witnesses in this matter, and should file their submissions as affidavits and be cross-examined, under Supreme Court Rules.

According to the statements the judges submitted to the SID, Loya first started complaining of chest pain to Modak and Kulkarni, both of whom said they were with him at Ravi Bhawan, at around 4 am. Barde stated that Kulkarni called him, informed him of Loya’s condition, and asked him to come to Ravi Bhawan along with Rathi. According to Rathi, Barde arrived in his car to pick Rathi up from his quarters. Both judges then went to Ravi Bhawan in Barde’s car. When they arrived, “Judge Loya was attending natures call,” Rathi wrote in his statement. “There after he came down and told that he is having heartburn & having ache in his heart and requested for help.” Subsequently, the judges stated, they accompanied Loya to Dande Hospital, and then further to Meditrina hospital, where he is said to have been declared dead.

I tracked down 17 current and former employees of Ravi Bhawan who managed the day-to-day affairs of the guest house—everything from administration, reception and room service, to engineering work and miscellaneous other duties—to their current locations in different parts of Maharashtra. I met 15 of the 17 individually the first time I interviewed them. I went back several times to many of them with additional queries. To protect the identities of these individuals, The Caravan has chosen to identify them by their place in the order in which the first meetings with them took place. These employees’ accounts call into question numerous details described in the judges’ statements.

*

It is unlikely that the frenzied activity the judges described in their statements was a quiet affair. The deterioration of Loya’s health, the call Kulkarni placed to Barde, the subsequent arrival of Barde and Rathi in the car, the conversation between the judges when Loya came “down,” and the eventual departure of the judges with the ailing Loya for Dande hospital—all would have likely caused a significant amount of noise, if not a downright commotion.

Yet, according to the 17 current and former employees of Ravi Bhawan, none of the staff members who were on duty that night—from reception, to room service and miscellaneous duties—realised that a guest had been taken to the hospital early in the morning on 1 December 2014. “We didn’t even know that one of the judges staying at our premises at that time had died. We only found out when the papers started writing about it [in 2017] and the inquiry began,” the third employee I met told me. Fifteen of the 17 current and former employees told me that they learned of Loya’s death the same way. The remaining two were not even aware that a guest had died until I interviewed them.

“Normally, if there is an incident as big as this, the people on the night shift would talk about it with the people who come in the morning, but none of us had any idea that this had happened,” the second employee I met said. The first employee I met said, “He had a heart attack in Ravi Bhawan? This is the first time I am hearing about it.” He added that he was in the habit of maintaining a diary, in which he would note down almost every minor occurrence that took place at the guest house during his tenure. The first employee said that if a judge suffered a heart attack at Ravi Bhawan, was taken to a hospital in the early hours of the morning, and then died, he would have remembered.

“These things can’t remain hidden,” the second employee said. “Even when high-profile people staying at the guest house got drunk and got girls into Ravi Bhawan late at night, we would hear through the grapevine what had happened … how can it be that we would not know if a judge had been rushed to the hospital at four in the morning and then died?”

The fifth employee I met said that the secrecy that appears to have surrounded Loya’s alleged departure from Ravi Bhawan that morning is “not normal.” “But what can we do—we don’t know what happened only. Then again, this case itself does not seem to be normal.”

The Caravan noted in an earlier story that though the judges told Loya’s family members after this death that he stayed with them in Ravi Bhawan, the occupancy register at the guest house does not contain Loya’s name in entries from the time he is said to have stayed there. According to the occupancy register for the days in question, Suite 10 of the guest house was occupied by Kulkarni. In his statement, Modak, referring to Kulkarni, Loya and himself, notes that they “slept in one room.” This would mean that Loya, along with Modak and Kulkarni, was staying in Suite 10.

Suite 10 is located in Building Number 1 of the Ravi Bhawan compound, as is the reception. The reception is situated on the ground floor of the building, while Suite 10 is on the first. To the left of the reception, at the end of a corridor about 40 steps long, is a staircase that leads to Suite 10 on the first floor. This staircase, which is 20 steps high, is the closest exit from Suite 10 onto the ground floor.

Given how close the suite is to the reception, it is highly unlikely that any activity within or around it would go unnoticed by those serving on night duty. According to the employees, with the possible exception of the night guard and the phone operator, most of the staff members serving on night duty—from 10 pm to 6 am, as per the duty chart for November 2014—collect at the reception during their shift. The staff members often rest for a while towards the end of the shift. Some sleep on a mattress under the reception counter, some in the adjoining room—where, in 2014, the phone operator used to sit—and some on the sofas or on the floor in the reception area.

Though the doors to the Ravi Bhawan reception area are usually shut at night according to most employees, these have large glass panels. The room also has four large sets of windows directly above the sofas, overlooking the road from the main entry gate to the reception, which any vehicle entering or exiting the guest house would likely take.

“There is no question of sleeping too heavily, [when most of us are on the night shift] we are barely able to get sleep,” said the twelfth employee. The fifth employee said, “Lete rehte hai, neend toh aati nahi, kyunki duty rehti hai toh pressure rehta hai.” (We just lie down, we can hardly fall asleep, since there is the constant pressure of being on duty.)

Further, according to the third employee, even slight disturbances were enough to jolt those resting awake. “Even if there was a spark because of faulty wires, we would come to know,” he said. He recalled an incident in which a few guests at Ravi Bhawan had gotten stuck in the elevator in a building located behind the one housing the reception, at around 1 am. The guests set off the alarm in the elevator, which the employees heard. “We immediately went and got an electrician and got them out,” the third employee said. Late one night in 2017, he added, a cow became entangled with a few wires in the adjoining compound and was consequently killed. The employees learnt of this incident early next morning. “Guest house mein kuch bhi hota hai—aag lagti hai, koi bimaar hota hai—sabse pehle toh humein hi khabar lagti hai na.” (Whatever happens in the guest house, whether it’s a fire or someone falling ill, we are the first ones to know.)

The third employee said that he could not believe that any staff members who were asleep in the reception area would not have stirred awake when the judges were departing. “Gaadi aate hue dikh hi jaati hai tab.” (You end up seeing a car when it is coming at that time.)

“It is absolutely quiet [that late at night], even if there is the slightest commotion, the person at the counter is going to go forward to see what is happening, why are people rushing, where are they going,” the thirteenth employee I met said. “Ajeeb baat hai, gaadi aati hai, upar se bande ko leke jaa rahi hai, aur kisi ko pata hi nahi chalta hai. Bohot hi ajeeb baat hai.” (It is strange, a car comes, takes a person from a room upstairs, and no one gets to know. It is very strange.)

The closest exit from Suite 10 to the ground floor is a staircase to the left when exiting the room, at one end of the corridor.

On an evening earlier this month, at about 7.30 pm, when I was sitting on a sofa on the left side of the reception, a bus arrived and stopped on the road in front of the staircase leading to Suite 10. Despite the darkness, every member of the group that alighted from the vehicle was clearly visible. It became particularly hard, then, to imagine a cluster of judges moving about in far quieter circumstances—Barde and Rathi arriving in the car, the judges waiting while Loya attended “nature’s call” and “came down,” proceeding to converse with their ailing colleague as Rathi described, and leaving the premises—all having gone unnoticed.

Seeking a response to what the testimonies of the 17 employees had revealed, I spoke to Ulhas Debadwar, the chief engineer of the Public Works Department in Nagpur—the highest ranking official in Nagpur responsible for the management of Ravi Bhawan. Debadwar said he could not comment on the issue as he had “no idea” what happened at the guest house. He recommended that I speak to a junior official. PD Naoghare, the superintending engineer of the Public Works Department in Nagpur, who reports to Debadwar, told me that he did not know anything about the matter either. He requested that I speak to those at the guest house for the details that I wanted.

“No matter who you ask in Ravi Bhawan, no one will be able to tell you what happened … I don’t think this incident happened here at all,” the tenth employee I met told me. The thirteenth employee said, “Golmaal hi hai poora, direct kuch bhi nahi bata paa rahe.” (It is all very convoluted, we are not able to ascertain anything directly.) The ninth employee I met said, “All of Ravi Bhawan didn’t even know that something like this had taken place here till a few months ago, it’s just that now you people [from the media] are coming and asking so we are finding out what is being said about what supposedly happened here.” He continued, “I don’t even know for sure that Loya stayed here, it is you who are saying that he stayed here.”

Only one of the 17 employees recalled seeing Loya at all in Ravi Bhawan. The second employee said that during the day on 30 November, he saw Loya in one of the rooms while he was there as part of his duties at the guest house. No other employee recalled seeing Loya at any other time of the day or the night at Ravi Bhawan.

Several Ravi Bhawan employees I spoke to seemed perplexed by the fact that, despite the clear urgency of the situation Loya, Modak and Kulkarni found themselves in, not a single call appeared to have been made to the reception. “Helping the guest, at whatever time of the day or night, is our duty,” the seventh employee said. “But how will we know if they don’t reach out to us for help?”

The secrecy with which the judges apparently managed to take Loya to the hospital is made even more alarming when one stops to consider Kulkarni’s decision to call Barde and Rathi from some other part of the city and to wait for their arrival, instead of seeking immediate help either via the reception or by calling for an ambulance directly.

“Basically, what happens here is that, even for the slightest thing, the first call usually goes to the counter … Every room has an intercom,” the thirteenth employee told me. “But nothing like that happened in this case.”

The thirteenth employee explained what he expected would happen in the situation of a medical emergency. If a guest at Ravi Bhawan were to fall ill, he said, they could call the reception. The staff members would contact the person in-charge of the guest house. This person would make the necessary arrangements for either an ambulance or medical help to reach Ravi Bhawan. “Everything can be managed in 10-15 minutes,” thirteenth employee told me. “But here, he [Loya] was in a position of a heart attack, and still they did not call to inform or seek help … How do I believe this?”

Most employees I spoke to said that they had never witnessed a medical emergency similar to the one described by the judges during their tenures at Ravi Bhawan. When I pressed them on what they expected the hypothetical course of action in a situation such as this would be, they echoed the thirteenth employee: there was no procedure set in stone to their knowledge, but they said that their first recourse, if they were contacted, would be to reach out to the higher-ups or to call a hospital.

During our conversation, the fifth employee remarked that it was very abnormal for three people to be staying in a single suite at Ravi Bhawan, when empty suites were available in the guest house on 30 November 2014. He explained that all the suites in the guest house have two beds, and that, under ordinary circumstances, Ravi Bhawan itself does not offer any provisions for guests to request an extra mattress. “Zyaada se zyaada, itne senior hai, bade log hai, toh kya hota hai ki ek room mein nahi rehna chahte hai” (Most often, if the guests are so senior and high-up, then they prefer not to stay in the same room), the fifth employee told me. “They have to arrange for it personally if they really want to.” Why the three judges would have gone to such lengths as to arrange a mattress personally is not clear.

None of the staff members I spoke to who were working at Ravi Bhawan in November 2014, to whom I went back again with the specific questions regarding the mattresses, reported any request for additional mattresses. In response to a query about whether any requests for extra mattresses were made, the fifth employee said “nothing like this ever happened” during that period. According to most of them, had any Ravi Bhawan employee received such a request, they would ordinarily direct the guest to contact Seva Kunj, a store that offers goods on hire in Nagpur. The store has had a long-standing association with the guest house—a calendar on which the store’s name is printed greets every guest at the Ravi Bhawan reception. When the state assembly is in session, Seva Kunj’s owner said, the store usually wins the tender for supplying Ravi Bhawan with the necessary extra materials—crockery and mattresses, among other things. It is most often the shop of choice for when the guest house needs something during the other months as well, the owner told me. However, according to the store’s written records for November 2014, which I accessed, no mattress had been requested for or supplied to Ravi Bhawan on either 29 or 30 November that year.

Modak’s description of the three judges’ stay raises other questions as well. If, as Modak submitted to the SID, they all stayed in one room, and if, as the employees told me, a mattress would have to have been moved in, logic dictates that the mattress would also have to be moved out. Further, Loya’s luggage and personal effects may still have been present in the room. According to all the employees I spoke to, none of those who were on duty on 1 December had heard about the death, nor did they have any details regarding Loya’s luggage and personal effects.

The question of Loya’s personal belongings is key: The Caravan reported earlier that according to Loya’s sister, Anuradha Biyani, the family was handed the judge’s phone three days after his death. Who took out Loya’s personal belongings from Ravi Bhawan—and whether he was in fact staying there—remains unclear. That 17 current and former employees of Ravi Bhawan had no knowledge of his death until three years later, and could not recall any details regarding the chain of events the judges described, reiterates the troubling nature of the circumstances surrounding Loya’s death.

Death of Judge Loya: Testimonies of 17 Current and Former Ravi Bhawan Employees Raise Troubling Questions About Statements of Four Judges

Related posts

Videocon gets Rs 3250 cr loan from ICICI Bank, bank CEO’s husband gets sweet deal from Venugopal Dhoot

Promoter Venugopal Dhoot forms JV with Chanda Kochhar’s husband, loans Rs 64 crore, then hands him ownership of lending entity for Rs 9 lakh; ICICI Bank declares Videocon account NPA.

Written by Sandeep Singh , Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi |

Videocon gets Rs 3250-cr loan from ICICI Bank, bank CEO's husband gets sweet deal from Venugopal DhootFrom left to right: Managing Director of NuPower Deepak Kochhar, Promoter of Videocon Group Venugopal Dhoot and CEO and MD of ICICI Bank Chanda Kochhar.In December 2008, Venugopal Dhoot of the Videocon Group set up a company with Deepak Kochhar, husband of ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, and two of her relatives; then gave a Rs 64-crore loan to this company through a fully owned entity before he transferred the latter’s ownership to a trust headed by Deepak Kochhar for just Rs 9 lakh, an investigation by The Indian Express has found.

In what raises questions of propriety and conflict of interest, the transfer of the company to Deepak Kochchar happened six months after the Videocon Group got a loan of Rs 3,250 crore from ICICI Bank. Almost 86 per cent of that loan (Rs 2,810 crore) remains unpaid and Videocon account was declared an NPA in 2017.

Sources have confirmed to The Indian Express that the Dhoot-Kochhar-ICICI web of transactions is being examined by investigative agencies.

A day after The Indian Express sent a detailed questionnaire to ICICI Bank for its response to its findings, ICICI Bank issued a press release Wednesday evening saying “there is no question of any quid pro quo/nepotism/conflict of interest as is being alleged in various rumours.” It said the Board “reposes full faith” in Chanda Kochchar and added that “malicious and unfounded rumours” were being spread to “malign the Bank.”

Videocon, ICICI Bank, Dhoot, Bank NPA, ICICI Bank NPA, chanda kochhar, deepak kochhar joint venture venugopal dhoot, Videocon bank loan, bank fraudSources have confirmed to The Indian Express that the Dhoot-Kochhar-ICICI web of transactions is being examined by investigative agencies. (Click image to enlarge)The statement, however, did not address the specific query from The Indian Express on Deepak Kochchar-Venugopal Dhoot transactions or the conflict of interest.

Consider the sequence of events and transactions, as per records investigated by The Indian Express:

* In December 2008, Deepak Kochhar and Venugopal Dhoot set up NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd (NRPL). Dhoot held 50 per cent stake in the company with his family members and associates. Deepak Kochhar and Pacific Capital owned by Deepak Kochhar’s father and Chanda Kochhar’s brother’s wife held the remaining 50 per cent.

* In January 2009, Dhoot resigned as director of NuPower and transferred his 24,999 shares in the company to Kochhar for Rs 2.5 lakh.

* In March 2010, NuPower got a loan of Rs 64 crore (as fully convertible debenture) from a company called Supreme Energy Private Limited which was 99.9 per cent owned by Dhoot.

* Following a sequence of transfer of shares from Dhoot to Kochhar and then from Kochhar and his relatives’ Pacific Capital to Supreme Energy, Supreme Energy became a 94.99 per cent shareholder in NuPower by the end of March 2010. Kochhar held the remaining 4.99 per cent stake in NuPower at the time.

* In November 2010, Dhoot transferred his entire holding in Supreme Energy, to his associate Mahesh Chandra Punglia.

* Beginning September 29, 2012 to April 29, 2013, Punglia transferred his holding to Pinnacle Energy, a trust, where Deepak Kochhar was the managing trustee. The total transaction value of the complete transfer of shares from Punglia to Kochhar’s Pinnacle Energy trust: Rs 9 lakh.

In effect, Supreme Energy gave a loan of Rs 64 crore to NuPower and then got subsumed by Pinnacle Energy within three years.

ICICI Bank did not respond to queries sent by The Indian Express on these financial transactions, share transfers between Dhoot/Videocon companies and companies run by Deepak Kochhar, and on the issue of conflict of interest.

But on the issue of loan granted to Videocon Group, the bank said: “In 2012, a consortium of over 20 banks and FIs where State Bank of India was the facility agent (Lead) sanctioned facilities to the Videocon group (Videocon Industries Ltd. and 12 of its subsidiaries/ associates as co-obligors) for a debt consolidation programme and for the group’s oil and gas capital expenditure programme aggregating approximately Rs. 40,000 crore…ICICI Bank sanctioned its share of facilities aggregating approximately Rs 3250 crore which was less than 10% of the total consortium facility in April 2012.”

It further said “The current outstanding against this loan is Rs 2810 crore and total current exposure to Videocon group is Rs 2849 crore…The Videocon group account has been classified as an NPA during 2017.”

When contacted, Venugopal Dhoot said, “On January 15, 2009, I resigned as a director of NuPower Renewables and Supreme Energy Private Ltd and sold at par the 24,996 shares of NuPower and 9,990 shares of Supreme Energy held by me, thereby relinquishing my right, title and interests in the said shares, giving up control and management of Supreme Energy and completely disassociating myself from both the Companies all on the same day, as I got too busy with my other larger business like oil & gas, telecommunication, etc.”

NuPower stated the same in its response to the email sent by The Indian Express.

However, Registrar of Companies filings of Supreme Energy show that Dhoot owned it until October 2010 and then transferred his share holding to Punglia in November 2010.

Nupower also said that it has no concern or connection with ICICI Bank’s lending to companies owned by Venugopal Dhoot.

On the question of conflict of interest, a spokesperson for NuPower said: “There is no conflict of interest whatsoever and the above transactions have nothing to do with any loans processed by ICICI Bank. Pinnacle Energy trust and Supreme Energy have no business relationship with ICICI Bank.”

As of March 2017, for which latest RoC records are available, Deepak Kochhar held an aggregate of 43.4 per cent in NuPower both as direct holding and through Supreme Energy and Pinnacle Energy.

The remaining holding is with Mauritius-based DH Renewables. As of March 31, 2016, Kochhar along with Supreme Energy and Pinnacle Energy held 96.23 per cent.

While the company came into existence in December 2008, it announced net losses in last six financial years. In the six years from FY’12 to FY’17, the accumulated losses for NuPower amounted to Rs 78 crore. In FY’17 it posted a loss of Rs 14.3 crore.

 

 

Detailed responses from ICICI Bank, Venugopal Dhoot below

ICICI Bank

This refers to your email dated March 27, 2017 addressed to Ms. Kochhar and her team. I would like to clarify that the purported allegations of conflict of interest in your mail are completely baseless and unfounded. As a matter of practice, the Bank does not comment on client specific issues. However, given the various insinuations in your email, I give below the answers to you questions.

SECTION A

Question 1. In 2012, ICICI Bank has not sanctioned loans to the five companies mentioned in your mail.The factual details of the loan facilities sanctioned in April 2012 to the Videocon group are given below:

a. In 2012, a consortium of over 20 banks and FIs where State Bank of India was the facility agent (Lead) sanctioned facilities to the Videocon group (Videocon Industries Ltd. and 12 of its subsidiaries/ associates as co-obligors) for a debt consolidation programme and for the group’s oil and gas capital expenditure programme aggregating approximately Rs. 40,000 crore.

b. ICICI Bank’s current exposure to the Videocon group is part of this syndicated consortium arrangement.

c. ICICI Bank sanctioned its share of facilities aggregating approximately Rs. 3250 crore which was less than 10% of the total consortium facility (including a short term loan of Rs. 650 crore as a sub-limit) in April 2012.

d. The Information Memorandum (IM) and the initial due diligence for the financing programme was prepared by the lead arrangers namely SBI CAPS and IDBI Bank.

e. After the preparation of the IM by the lead arrangers and after the sanction of the facilities by SBI and IDBI Bank, the Credit Committee of ICICI Bank in 2012 sanctioned its share of facilities in the syndicated arrangement to the Videocon group.

f. This committee was chaired by the then Chairman of ICICI Bank and it included many independent and working Directors of the Bank. It is important to note that Ms. Kochhar was not the Chairperson of this committee.

g. The Terms and Conditions offered for these loans aresimilar to those offered by the other banks in the consortium, ruling out the possibility of any special benefit to the borrower by ICICI Bank.

h. Please note that ICICI Bank’s share of the banking sector’s exposure to the Videocon group was less than 10% while around 90% of the loans were sanctioned by other banks and FIs.

Question 2: The current outstanding against this loan is Rs. 2810 crore.

Question 3: In 2012, no loans were granted to Tuskar Overseas Inc. by ICICI Bank or any of its branches/ subsidiaries.

Question 4: There is currently no loan outstanding to Tuskar Overseas Inc. from ICICI Bank or any of its branches/ subsidiaries.

Question 5. The total current exposure to Videocon group is Rs. 2849 crore.

Question 6. The answer to this is the same as Question no. 5

Question 7. The Videocon group account has been classified as an NPA during 2017.

SECTION B:

Your other questions do not pertain to us and our clients, but given the insinuations made in your mail, I would also like to state that none of the investors of NuPower Renewables are borrowers of ICICI Bank.

SECTION C:

I would also like to inform you that the Bank has a well-structured and standardised credit approval process, which includes a well-established procedure of comprehensive credit appraisal, credit approvals and monitoring. I am mentioning the details below:

a. The Credit Risk Management Group (CRMG), which is independent of the business groups of the Bank, evaluates and assigns a credit rating to the credit proposals. A borrower’s credit rating is a vital input for the credit approval process. Every proposal for a financing facility is prepared by the relevant business unit and reviewed and rated by the CRMG before being submitted for approval to the appropriate authority.

b. The Bank’s credit approval authorization framework is laid down by the Board of Directors

c. The authorisation framework is risk based with lower rated borrowers and/or larger exposures being escalated to higher committees. The larger exposures are approved by the Credit Committee of the Board

d. The majority of Credit Committee members are independent directors of the Bank.

e. The Chairman of the Credit Committee, till as late as June 2015, was always a non-Executive Director.

f. The functioning of the Credit Committee is closely overseen by the Board of the Bank. The proceedings of the Credit Committee are presented to the Board on a periodic basis and the Board has clear supervision and control on the decisions of the Credit Committee.

Based on the above, it can be observed that there are multiple functions to appraise, rate and monitor the credit decisions at the Bank. Accordingly, it can be concluded that there are adequate checks & balances in loan appraisal, rating and approval processes within the bank, both from the control as well as from a governance perspective. Given this architecture, no individual employee, whatever may be his or her position, has the ability to influence the credit decision at the Bank.

All the details as mentioned above clearly demonstrate that there is no conflict of interest as mentioned in your mail.

We do not expect a responsible newspaper like you to lend your platform to rumours to mar the reputation of an organisation and an individual. Hence, we strongly urge you not to write or publish anything in any form of media (print/digital/social media) which projects ICICI Bank and/or its MD & CEO in poor light.

Trust this serves to clarify and dispel any misgivings you may have on the subject. I am willing to speak to you tomorrow for any further clarification.

MK Sharma

Chairman, ICICI Bank Ltd.

NuPower Renewables

At the outset we would like to say that we have no concern or connection with ICICI Bank’s lending to companies owned by Mr. Venugopal Dhoot.

The facts stated in your email are not correct. The correct facts are explained below:

Answer no 1:

Mr. V N Dhoot resigned from the board of directors of NuPower Renewables and Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd on January 15, 2009, and on the same day he sold at par his 24,996 shares of NuPower Renewables and also sold to a third party his 9,990 shares of Supreme Energy at par on account of being busy with other engagements. Hence, he gave up control of Supreme Energy and completely delinked himself from both the companies’ w.e.f. January 15, 2009. Hence Mr. Dhoot has no concern or interest with Supreme Energy beyond January 15, 2009.

Supreme Energy’s investments in fully convertible debentures (FCD) of NuPower Renewables of value Rs. 64 crores were allotted in March 2010.

At all times, Supreme Energy’s holding, on fully converted basis, taking into account the equity shares and other convertible securities held by other shareholders/investors, was never 95% in Nupower Renewables. Upon conversion of the FCD in March 2016 and conversion of convertible instruments held by other shareholders/investors, Supreme Energy’s equity shareholding was just 10.1%.

Other than the said 24,996 shares subscribed at the time of incorporation (which were subsequently sold) neither Mr Dhoot nor Videocon held any shares in NuPower Renewables.

The subscription amount of the fully convertible debentures were used towards acquisition of wind power projects.

Answer no. 2:

Pacific Capital sold 22,500 shares of NuPower Renewables to Supreme Energy in June, 2009 at par (which was at the then fair market value) since at the time of incorporation Deepak Kochhar had subscribed to shares and convertible instruments which were subsequently converted into equity shares in March 2012.

Answer no. 3:

Pinnacle Energy trust purchased the 9,990 shares of Supreme Energy at Rs. 10 per share from the then existing shareholder on 29thSeptember, 2012 being higher than the fair market value of Rs. 8.82 per share, and then it further invested Rs. 8 lacs to subscribe to 80,000 shares of Supreme Energy in April 2013 at fair market value by way of fresh investment.

At no time did the Pinnacle Energy trust along with Supreme Energy ever hold more than 50% of the share capital of NuPower Renewables (on as converted basis).

Answer no. 4:

There is no conflict of interest whatsoever and the above transactions have nothing to do with any loans processed by ICICI Bank. Pinnacle Energy and Supreme Energy have no business relationship with ICICI Bank.

Venugopal Dhoot

1. I was invited as an initial Director of NuPower Renewables formed on 24th December 2008 due to my experience in Solar Energy projects and subscribed to 24,996 shares of NuPower at par.

However, on 15th January 2009, i.e. within 20 days I resigned as a Director of NuPower Renewables and sold at par the 24,996 shares of NuPower, and completely disassociated myself from NuPower Renewables on that day, as I got too busy with my other larger business like oil & gas, telecommunication, etc.

2. Besides the 24,996 shares of NuPower held by me and sold off immediately being of value only Rs 2,49,960/-, neither Videocon nor me held any shares in NuPower. Me and my family members did not own 50% in NuPower Renewables at all ever.

3. The allegation of conflict of interest is substance less and denied.

Loans are sanctioned by Banks including ICICI Bank by a Committee of Directors before whom a detailed Project Appraisal and Risk Analysis carried out by various departments of the Bank are presented for loan sanction. Hence no individual can indulge in favouritism.

Further, our loan sanctioned by ICICI Bank in 2012 was under a consortium of several Banks led by SBI at the same terms as sanctioned by the consortium Bankers. ICICI Bank took its share of the loan in the consortium.

4. These five companies mentioned in your email, i.e. Trend Electronics Limited, Century Appliances, Kail Limited, Value Industries Limited and Evans Fraser & Company had never ever been disbursed any funds in April 2012 by ICICI Bank and they have no outstanding dues to ICICI Bank or any other banks as on date.

The only funds sanctioned by ICICI Bank in April 2012 was to Videocon Industries Limited, which was a sum of Rs.1500 crore under consortium funding of 20 banks with SBI as the lead and the sanction was on the same terms and conditions of the other consortium banks. With regard to Tuskar Overseas Inc, the loan was disbursed in 2006 and there is no outstanding as on date as it was paid off in 2010. The current loan outstanding from ICICI Bank is only to Videocon Industries Limited, being only Rs.1400 crore, which is very small compared to other banks.

Part 2
Further to my email to you yesterday, I would like to state that on 15th January, 2009, I resigned as a director of NuPower Renewables and Supreme Energy Private Ltd and sold at par the 24,996 shares of NuPower and 9,990 shares of Supreme Energy held by me, thereby relinquishing my right, title and interests in the said shares, giving up control and management of Supreme Energy and completely disassociating myself from both the Companies all on the same day, as I got too busy with my other larger business like oil & gas, telecommunication, etc.

The said 9,990 shares of Supreme Energy duly sold on 15th January, 2009 were handed over to the purchaser along with transfer deed on the same day and the consideration for the same was immediately received by me from the purchaser.

Therefore I have no connect with the business of Supreme Energy nor Nupower Renewables since 15thJanuary, 2009.

As explained above the initial 24,996 shares held by me in NuPower Renewables were sold at Rs. 10 per share. Besides these shares, neither Videocon nor me held any shares in NuPower Renewables.

For all other information sought in your current email, you may kindly contact NuPower Renewables for the same.

With best regards,
V N Dhoot

Videocon gets Rs 3250 cr loan from ICICI Bank, bank CEO’s husband gets sweet deal from Venugopal Dhoot

Related posts

The Many Red Flags of Trump’s Partners in India — ‘Trump, Inc.’ Podcast

The Trump Organization has five active projects in India, a country where corruption is common in the real estate industry.

Photo of Donald Trump Jr.: Max Goldberg

Find “Trump, Inc.” wherever you get your podcasts.

President Donald Trump does not like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “It’s a horrible law,” Trump has said. The FCPA makes it a crime for U.S. companies to bribe foreign officials, or to partner with others who are clearly doing so.

Trump has argued that the law puts U.S. firms at a disadvantage. “It’s things like this that cause us to not be able to lead the world,” Trump said on CNBC in 2012. “For this country to prosecute because something took place in India is outrageous.”

Corruption in India is quite common, particularly in the real estate industry. India’s also where the Trump Organization has four projects currently under construction and another just completed, more than it has in any other foreign country. As we detailed last week on “Trump, Inc.,” Donald Trump Jr. has been closely involved in much of the work.

Listen to the Episode

This week, we’re looking at the Trump Organization’s partners in India — and red flags their work has raised. We worked with Investigative Fund reporter Anjali Kamat whose story on the Trumps’ business in India appears in the latest issue of The New Republic.

Kamat traveled to the location of each of the projects that are still under construction. Here’s what she found:

  • The project: Trump Tower Kolkata
  • What Trump Jr. has billed it as: Kolkata’s “first residential building with floor to ceiling glass.”
  • What’s there now: The foundation and a billboard
  • Partner: RDB Group
  • The red flags: Back in 2011, the RDB Group’s directors were charged with insider trading and were barred from the Indian stock market for four years. Also, the day after Trump Jr.’s visit, tax officials raided RDB’s offices over alleged “financial irregularities.” The group did not comment on the raid at the time.
  • Their response to us: None.

  • The project: A residential tower in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi
  • What Trump Jr. has billed it as: “The most prestigious address in the city
  • What’s there now: A small patch of empty land
  • Partner: M3M, which stands for “Magnificence in the Trinity of Men, Materials & Money”
  • The red flags: Tax investigators seized about $70 million of undeclared money from M3M offices in 2011. The company later paid back taxes on the money, according to the Washington Post. Last year, a forest official filed a complaint alleging the company bribed forest guards to illegally cut trees. We couldn’t find any response from M3M about the alleged bribes.
  • Their response to us: None.


  • The project: Trump Tower Mumbai
  • What the Trumps have billed it as: “The most spectacular addition to the Mumbai skyline.”
  • What’s there now: The tower is almost complete.
  • Partner: The Lodha Group
  • The red flags: Officials at multiple Indian agencies told Kamat they had been looking into allegations of money laundering, tax fraud and violations of foreign exchange regulations involving Lodha Group subsidiaries. No charges have been brought.
  • Their response to us: None. The Lodha Group has previously responded to one reported investigation, saying they were not aware of it.

Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization spoke to us for this story.

Remember, we want to hear from you. Our latest request: Do you know of lawsuits the president or his businesses have filed since he took office?

You can contact us via Signal, WhatsApp or voicemail at 347-244-2134. Here’s more about how you can contact us securel

Related posts

UIDAI CEO Gave The Supreme Court His Aadhaar Logs, Now Twitter Knows Everything About Him

Read the thread to know more about Pandey’s life.

HINDUSTAN TIMES VIA GETTY IMAGES
Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO of UIDAI.

Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO of the Universal Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency that implements India’s controversial Aadhaar project, shared his authentication logs with the Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court last week.

His aim, ostensibly, was to show how Aadhaar incorporates “privacy by design”, to quote the accompanying power-point presentation.

It wasn’t long before Aadhaar critics on Twitter poured through his logs and proved just the opposite.

Cybersecurity analyst and software developer, Anand Venkatanarayanan, revealed how just looking at six months worth of authentication data could offer clues to Pandey’s physical movements, his phone service provider, the banks where he has his accounts, and even his daily schedule.

Two failed attempts to link his ICICI bank account to his Aadhaar at midnight on Republic Day, for instance, suggests seeding bank accounts with Aadhaar is giving the UIDAI CEO sleepless nights as well.

Other gems include the fact that only one transaction in the past six months was authorised using his biometrics. The transaction, which was conducted at IDFC bank a day before the Court re-convened to discuss the Aadhaar matter, failed.

Privacy advocates have long maintained that seeding Aadhaar with other forms of identification allows for the creation of detailed databases that can be used to track citizens.

Read the thread to know more about Pandey’s life.

Anand V@iam_anandv

So everyone is citing Authentication failures on @ceo_uidai‘s authentication history, but I can understand quite a bit about his life with just that. Let us begin. 👇

Anand V@iam_anandv

He has a Vodafone phone and did not link it until last week for the court demo (OR) He just bought a new one. Given his position and status, this is most likely a Post Paid connection.

Anand V@iam_anandv

He used “UIDAI Services”. That is not an internal AUA and not a public one. So we can conclude that he was browsing the web then from the confines of his office during this time among other things.

Anand V@iam_anandv

Another “internal” AUA. With the transaction name of the AUA, it is easy to conclude that he was using a Demo Application. Hence most likely he was giving a Presentation to someone on the greatness of Aadhaar.

Anand V@iam_anandv

Another “Internal AUA” at 8 PM in the night, one after another within a minute. OK. Pandeyji had a busy day in office that day. He definitely came home late and did not reach before 9 PM.

Anand V@iam_anandv

OK. OTP linking at midnight. He definitely has 3 accounts with ICICI Bank. May be a credit card (OR) 2 bank accounts (OR) 3 bank accounts. He has linked them all on Republic day. So he was not in office but is doing it from his home. Why 3 accounts? UKC:XXX is different.

Anand V@iam_anandv

OK. OTP linking at midnight. He definitely has 3 accounts with ICICI Bank. May be a credit card (OR) 2 bank accounts (OR) 3 bank accounts. He has linked them all on Republic day. So he was not in office but is doing it from his home. Why 3 accounts? UKC:XXX is different. pic.twitter.com/RIPGA18rDl

Anand V@iam_anandv

Another “Internal Auth Service Monitoring” at Republic day at 7 PM? Hmnn, he was probably in office checking out some data centers. May be they have a special PIN based terminal for him to go in. That is one hypothesis. Let us keep that to ourselves for now. pic.twitter.com/3BnKZpfDJd

View image on Twitter

Anand V@iam_anandv

He has a Vodafone phone and did not link it until last week for the court demo (OR) He just bought a new one. Given his position and status, this is most likely a Post Paid connection.

Anand V@iam_anandv

He used “UIDAI Services”. That is not an internal AUA and not a public one. So we can conclude that he was browsing the web then from the confines of his office during this time among other things.

Related posts