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Archives for : May2018

India -Forest fires increased by 125 per cent in last two years

Madhya Pradesh recorded most forest fires than any other state in 2017

Most of the forest fires between 2003 and 2016 have occurred in open forests. Credit: Wikimedia
Most of the forest fires between 2003 and 2016 have occurred in open forests. Credit: Wikimedia

India, which saw a 46 per cent increase in the number of forest fires in the last 16 years (2003-17), witnessed a 125 per cent spike (from 15,937 to 35,888) in such fires in just two years (2015 to 2017).In 2017, the maximum number of forest fires were reported in Madhya Pradesh (4,781) followed by Odisha (4,416) and Chhattisgarh (4,373).

Source: Global Forest Watch

In fact, 23 out of 33 states and union territories reported an increase in forest fires. In Punjab, such incidents of fire increased sevenfold followed by Haryana and Rajasthan which saw four and three times a jump in numbers.

As much as 64.29 per cent of the Recorded Forest Area (RFA) is prone to fires, said the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2015 published by the Forest Survey of India. Out of these, the fire prone areas that fall under heavy fire incidence class are 2.4 per cent, moderate class are 7.49 per cent and mild are 54.4 per cent.

Open forests are more prone

Most of the forest fires between 2003 and 2016 have occurred in open forests followed by moderately dense forests.

Source: State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017

Scheme revised, but funds continue to remain under utilised

India loses around Rs 550 crore every year owing to damages caused by forest fires. As the number of incidents showed a rising trend, the Intensification of Forest Management Scheme was revised and replaced as Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme in December 2017. However, in the last two years, nearly 46-65 per cent of the money allocated under the forest management schemes was not released.

Besides this, the budget to fight forest fires has been reduced by 14-72 per cent in 13 states in 2017, shows the State of India’s Environment report.

Green Tribunal intervenes and demands national forest policy by the end of April

Meanwhile, in August 2017, the National Green Tribunal had asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to evolve a national policy to prevent and control forest fires. The green tribunal had also asked the state governments to prepare and implement a forest fire management plan for effective prevention and control of forest fires and submit the first draft of these policies by November 2017. But no progress has been made so far and on April 14, 2018, the principal bench of the NGT directed the MoEF to finalise a national policy on forest fires within two weeks

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India- #Aadhaar a Self Certified ID

Aadhaar — A Self Certified ID

Public availability of cracked Enrollment software makes Aadhaar information equivalent to a Self Certified ID

The biggest question that the Asia Times news story raises about the compromised enrollment software is — Why UIDAI cannot fix it? This post answers this question and the implication of this compromise.

The Offline Problem

The Enrollment Client Multi-Platform (ECMP) software is a JAVA client software available for public download and installation. Instead of a fully online model (Like a Software as a Service hosted only on, the client model was chosen because of the lack of reliable internet connectivity in most parts of rural india.

The ECMP software can be used to enroll people in a remote location without the need for internet connectivity. It generates enrollment packets, which are then uploaded to the CIDR for De-duplication. Until that happens, the enrollment packets are stored in the laptop in which the enrollment software is installed.

This design, which optimizes for enrollment, however is a security loophole that has been exploited differently for quite a while and the Asia Times story, above, is only a logical progression of a trend.

Can a client be truly tamper proof?

The steps required to convert any laptop connected with hardware kits the into a fully functional authorized enrollment station are listed below:

  1. Publicly available registrar code and enrollment agency code (Page 7, Prerequisites)
  2. Importing publicly available Master dataRegistrar dataUser credentialsand Name dictionaries (Page 34–36, Database Management) for various registrars (Samar InfotechAISect Ltd.)
  3. Registering the enrollment station (Page 39, Client Identity and UIDAI FAQ Question #10).
  4. Mandatory registration of both operators and supervisors through their bio-metric identifiers (Step 9, Page 17, Setting up an enrollment center)

Step 4 will only succeed if their Aadhaar ID is associated with the enrollment agency and if their bio-metrics matches with the one stored in the CIDR.

So in effect, the only thing that stands between a valid enrollment station and an illegal one, is the bio-metrics of the operator/supervisor.

The first set of attempts to hijack the ECMP software hence were based on forging the fingerprints via artificial molds (Source).

While these are primitive, a better form of exploit emerged over time. The cracking of the enrollment software itself.

Thick Clients are reversable and patchable.

Analyzing the ECMP software is quite simple and can be accomplished by the following steps:

  1. Download the Official software from any of the public locations (AISECT).
  2. Install it on any windows laptop.
  3. Reverse the Java libraries present in C:\UID Authority of India\Aadhaar Enrolment Client\lib\*.jar, using standard tools like Java Disassembler.

A few things stand out

  • There is no obfuscation. (Face Palm #1)
  • There is code to detect tampering of the software, but the programming in that module is quite poor, and can be tampered/bypassed very easily.
  • All security checks are concentrated in one single module, which also ships with instructions on how to rebuild that module, thus making it very patch friendly. (Multiple repeated face palms)

It is a well known axiom in software engineering that in a client — server architecture, the client can never be trusted to be tamper-proof. However the above defects makes it very easy to tamper the enrollment software and create multiple versions, which patch and bypass various security checks.

Chronology of Security checks and their exploits

  • 2009 — The first few versions of ECMP Software did not even encrypt enrollment packets nor did it have GPS for tracking the enrollment locations. (Source)
  • 2012 — The software shipped with GPS modules and introduced encryption of data packets for the first time with 1024 bit RSA Keys. (Version 2.2).
  • April 2012 — The ILF&S scam happened because the enrollment software allowed anyone to use their own fingerprint to become an Aadhaar operator using a vulnerability (Source).

The system has a flaw. When an agent provides wrong authorisation fingerprint, it rejects on two occasions, but at the third instance it automatically takes the default authorisation print and completes the enrollment process,

  • Feb, 8 2016 — First sightings of unauthorized Aadhaar enrollment centers, possibly using a cracked ECMP software (Source)
  • May 2016 — Version shipped with IRIS authentication for the operators, since artificial fingerprints have become mainstream.
  • May 2017 — UIDAI releases Version which contains code to detect tampering of the enrollment software.
  • August 2017 — UP Aadhaar hack case, which reported that IRIS authentication has been bypassed. (See FIR copies here).
  • Feb 2018 — IRIS authentication still remains bypassed, GPS has been bypassed, but Artificial fingerprints are in use (Chandigarh FIR)
  • April 2018 — GPS and Fingerprint checks bypassed (Asia Times story)


The implication of the above is quite clear — The quality of demographic data in the Aadhaar database (CIDR) is whatever the enrollment operators want them to be and residents can directly influence the operators, by paying them a bribe.

The only defense had always been bio-metric de-duplication, but as the UP Aadhaar case indicated, bio-metrics can be injected by operators.



Finally, we are where we started. Those who want multiple Aadhaar numbers, can always get it and those who don’t want will be content with their only Aadhaar number. Further, even if one has only one Aadhaar number, the demographic information can be whatever one want them to be.

In short — Aadhaar is world’s largest self-certified ID and is only as trustworthy as the individual’s social status and trust-worthiness and it took billions of dollars of tax-payer money for the UIDAI to recognize it.

View story at

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CIA document- RSS attempted to assassinate General Cariappa

See the CIA document on the RSS plot against General Cariappa

A CIA declassified document states that attempt had been made to assassinate General Cariappa, Commander-in-Chief of Indian Army, in 1950. Will PM Modi speak on the RSS plot against General Cariappa?

Documents declassified in 2009 by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spoke of a plot by the RSS to foment dissension in the Indian Army. The sensational declassified document is dated June 12, 1950. Presumably sent by the Central Intelligence Agency’s man in New Delhi, it reported that an attempt had been made to assassinate General Cariappa, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army while on an inspection tour of ‘East Punjab’.

Pointing out that General Cariappa was a ‘South Indian’, it goes on to say that the RSS was “capitalising on the North-South split”.

The document does not explain what the objective of the RSS was and why. But the RSS was banned by the Government on February 4, 1948, days after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The assassin, Nathuram Godse, had left the RSS to work for the Hindu Mahasabha, a fraternal organisation if not an affiliate.

The CIA document

The CIA document

The issue has come out of the closet following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s blatant attempt in Karnataka to make the Indian Army a political and electoral issue and accuse the first PM Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress of ill-treating General Cariappa and General Thimayya, both hailing from Karnataka.

While addressing an election rally, Prime Minister Modi said that Nehru and his Defence Minister Krishna Menon had repeatedly insulted General Thimayya during and after the 1948 operation against Pakistan.

Military historians were, however, quick to point out that General Thimayya was a personal favourite of Nehru, was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 1954 and that Nehru had sent him to Korea to head the UN peacekeeping force there.

What is more, General Thimayya was made the army chief by Nehru after superseding two officers senior to him. He was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 1954 when he was a Lt. General and before he became the army chief.

The Prime Minister made another faux pas by claiming that during the Sino-Indian conflict, General Cariappa was ill-treated by the then Government.

General Cariappa was actually made the Army Chief by Nehru in 1949 and was sent as High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand after his retirement in 1953.

Krishna Menon became the defence minister in 1957 and General Thimayya was persuaded to withdraw his resignation by Nehru in 1959. General Thimayya continued as the Army Chief till 1961 and retired before the Chinese aggression in 1962.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gross attempt to stoke partisan feelings through a false narrative shocked army veterans. Describing it as unfortunate, several veterans wondered if Prime Minister will also be blamed by rivals for superseding General Bakshi and General Hariz to make General Bipin Rawat the current army chief.

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The Nowhere People: Rohingyas in India


A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants.

Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in the world at three million — have found shelter across vast swathes of Asia including in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh alone, who now face the onset of the monsoon season in flimsy shelters.

“As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis.” –Dr. Ranjan Biswas

Demographers note that the Rohingyas’ displacement, while on a particularly dramatic scale, is illustrative of a larger global trend. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the world is witnessing the highest level of displacement on record with 22.5 million refugees, over half of them under 18, languishing in different parts of the world in search of a normal life.

Often referred to as the boat people – because they journey in packed boats to escape their homeland — around 40,000 Rohingyas have trickled into India over the past three years to cities like New Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Jammu where their population is the largest. Some had settled in the Kalindi Kunj camp that was set up in 2012 by a non-profit on a 150-odd square metre plot that it owns.

The camp’s occupants worked as daily wage labourers or were employed with private companies. A few even ran kirana (grocery) kiosks near the camp. Most of these refugees had landed in Delhi after failed stints in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh or Jammu (a northern Indian city), where they were repeatedly targeted by radical Hindu groups.

Nurudddin, 56, who lost all his belongings and papers in the Kalindi Kunj fire, told IPS that he has been living like a vagabond since he fled Myanmar with his wife and four children in 2016. “We left Myanmar to go to Bangladesh but we faced a lot of hardships there too. I couldn’t get a job, there was no proper food or accommodation. We arrived in Delhi last year with a lot of hope but so far things haven’t been going too well here either,” said the frail man with a grey beard.

Following the Kalindi Kunj fire, and public complaints about the government’s neglect of Rohingya camps, the Supreme Court intervened. On April 9, the apex court asked the Centre to file a comprehensive status report in four weeks on the civic amenities at two Rohingya camps in Delhi and Haryana, following allegations that basic facilities like drinking water and toilets were missing from these settlements.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Rohingyas told the court that the refugees were being subjected to discrimination with regard to basic amenities. However, this was refuted by Additional Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta who, appearing for the Centre said there was no discrimination against the Rohingyas. The court will again take up the matter on May 9.

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The Rohingya issue entered mainstream public discourse last August when the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party government abruptly asked the country’s 29 states to identify illegal immigrants for deportation –  including, the guidance said, Rohingya Muslims who had fled Myanmar.

“As per available estimates there are around 40,000 Rohingyas living illegally in the country,” India’s junior home minister Kiren Rijiju then told Parliament: “The government has issued detailed instructions for deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Rohingyas.”

In its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre claimed that Rohingya refugees posed a “serious national security threat” and that their deportation was in the “larger interest” of the country. It also asked the court to “decline its interference” in the matter.

The Centre’s decision to deport the Rohingyas attracted domestic as well as global opprobrium. “It is both unprecedented and impractical,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told “It is unprecedented because India has never been unwelcoming of refugees, let alone conducting such mass deportation,” she said. “And I would call it impractical because where would they [the Indian government] send these people? They have no passports and the Myanmar government is not going to accept them as legitimate citizens.”

Some critics also pointed out that the Rohingyas were being targeted by the ruling Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party government because they were Muslims, an allegation the Centre has refuted.

Parallels have also been drawn with refugees from other countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have comfortably made India their home over the years. However, to keep a strict vigil against the Rohingyas’ influx, the Indian government has specially stationed 6,000 soldiers on the India-Bangladesh border.

Activists say that despite thousands of refugees and asylum seekers (204,600 in 2011 as per the Central government) already living in India, refugees’ rights are a grey area. An overarching feeling is that refugees pose a security threat and create demographic imbalances. A domestic legal framework to extend basic rights to refugees is also missing.

Since the government’s crackdown, Rohingya groups have been lobbying to thwart their deportation to their native land. In a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India titled Mohammed Salimullah vs Union of India (Writ Petition no. 793 of 2017), they have demanded that they be allowed to stay on in India.

However, the government has contented that the plea of the petitioner is untenable, on grounds that India is not a signatory to the UN Convention of 1951. The convention relates to the status of refugees, and the Protocol of 1967, under the principle of non-refoulement. This principle states that refugees will not be deported to a country where they face threat of persecution. The matter is now in the Supreme Court of India which is saddled with the onerous task of balancing national security with the human rights of the refugees.

However, as Shubha Goswami, a senior advocate with the High Court points out, while India may not have signed the refugee convention, it is still co-signatory to many other important international conventions like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the principle of non-refoulement, and it is legally binding that India provide for the Rohingyas.

There’s growing public opinion as well that the government should embrace and empower these hapless people.

“Rather than resent their presence, India should accept the Rohingyas as it has other migrants,” elaborates Dr. Ranjan Biswas, ex-professor sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis which will usher in peace and stability in the region.

The Nowhere People: Rohingyas in India

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India – Two teenagers gang raped one commits suicide #Vaw

NEW DELHI: Two teenagers have been gang raped in separate incidents in India in the past four days, highlighting a rape epidemic that shows no sign of abating despite tougher penalties introduced last month.

Police said they had not made any arrests in either case.

 One of the victims was a 16-year-old girl who killed herself Monday afternoon after she was abducted and raped by eight men a day earlier in the Nuh district of the Indian state of Haryana, the Times of India reported.

The girl was grabbed while she was home alone, according to the news outlet.

The men, from the same village, showed up on two bikes and in a car and forced the girl to a desolate road around midnight Sunday, the report said. Following the attack, they left her outside her home.

A cousin found her outside later and the girl’s father filed a complaint with police. Sources told the Times, however, that the suspects come from “influential families” and tried to get the girl’s father to drop the case, leading to a fight.

On Monday afternoon, the girl’s family found her dead inside their home.

“We are blaming ourselves for leaving her alone. We want the accused to be given the death penalty,” the girl’s father told the Times of India.

No arrests have been made in the attack, but a police official vowed “our teams are on the job to nab the accused,” according to the report.

“The accused are absconding but they will be put behind the bars at the earliest,” inspector Jaibhan Tyagi said.

On Tuesday, a 19-year-old woman was raped by five men, including the driver of an autorickshaw she hailed in another district of the same state.

A 19-year-old woman was allegedly gang-raped by an auto-rickshaw driver, who gave her a lift, and four other men in Bhondsi area of Gurugram on Tuesday evening, police said on Thursday.

The Gururgram police on Thursday arrested the auto-rickshaw driver, who was identified as Akash Kumar, 22. The auto-rickshaw used in crime was also recovered from him.

Raids are being conducted for the arrest of remaining four accused, the police said.

The woman told the police that around 8pm she was waiting for a bus to Aligarh at Sohna bus stand when the auto-rickshaw driver asked her where she wanted to go.

According to the victim, the driver told her the bus to Aligarh had left and that she could take a train from Gurugram, while offering her a lift. She agreed to take the lift.

After a few minutes, the driver took a turn towards Raisina Stone Crushing Zone and did not stop despite her protests.

“The accused stopped the vehicle at a secluded spot where there were a lot of bushes and four other persons were waiting there. The accused caught hold of me and they took turns to rape me. When I tried to fight them off, they pinned down my hands and legs,” the victim told the police in her statement.

Police said that when the victim fell unconscious, the driver poured some water on her face. They also threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the rape.

The woman reached the Sohna police station after seeking help from few locals.The woman also told the police the name of one of the men they were calling out during the assault.

A case was registered at Bhondsi police station after the woman lodged a complaint on Wednesday. The number of crime against women in Gurugram has been rising. Last year, the police filed 135 cases of rape up from 131 in 2016.


Gurugram, on the southwest outskirts of New Delhi, is a rapidly expanding satellite town, where scores of international companies have set up offices due to its role as an industrial, financial and technology hub.

Media reports said the 16-year-old girl was abducted from her home when she was alone and raped by men from her village. The victim hanged herself on Monday and the police has registered a case of rape, kidnapping and abetment of suicide though the perpetrators had not been caught.

The incidents come less than a month after India approved the death penalty for the rape of girls younger than 12, and increased the prison term for the rape of older girls and women following nationwide disgustover a particularly gruesome rape and murder of a Muslim girl in Jammu & Kashmir state.

Registered cases of sexual violence have been steadily rising despite the national outrage that followed the fatal gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in 2012.

Amid the wave of anger at that time, the government promised to speed up rape trials, introduce harsher penalties, including the death sentence in extreme cases, and introduced a law against stalking.

But statistics show that since 2012, reported rape cases climbed 60 per cent to about 40,000 in 2016, with child rape accounting for about 40 per cent of them.

(Reporting by Malini Menon Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Robert Birsel)


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West Bengal- Goats and poultry help tribal women turnaround impoverished lives

Poverty-stricken women in the semi-arid regions of West Bengal and Jharkhand, used to subsisting on meager incomes, have defied huge odds and transformed their lives by rearing goats and poultry

Gautam Sarkar,Birbhum, West Bengal

Tribal women in Birbhum have found an alternative source of earning by rearing goats. (Photo by Tagore Society for Rural Development)

Tribal women in Birbhum have found an alternative source of earning by rearing goats. (Photo by Tagore Society for Rural Development)

Nityanagar, a remote village in Birbhum district of West Bengal, appears far removed from the rest of the world. The closest medical shop is 7km away. People living in the 40-odd houses are tribals. None of them have ever owned agricultural land or anything of worth, but their shacks.

A few years ago, many of the villagers used to migrate for at least three months, to labor in the fields or in the brick kilns of neighboring districts. The children accompanied their parents, so as to get proper food.

Poor living conditions and underpayments did not deter them. It was their only option. Back in their village, when they ran out of money, they subsisted the rest of the year with one meal a day, and sometimes, nothing at all. But since five years, their lives have been getting better.

Women like Swantana, Bashini and Sushila would say that all it takes to overcome such impoverishment are assets like goats and chickens that were worth Rs 7,000 in 2013. They are part of a self-help group (SHG) movement of 1,200 women. They have transformed their lives around through concerted efforts.

Poverty in the past

The women shuddered to think of their not-so-distant past. Food used to be the same everyday — watery rice with leafy vegetables collected from the forest. Anything else was an indulgence they could not afford with their meager income.

“With no work in the village, we used to walk 15 km to Khoyrasole forest to collect saalleaves,” Bashini told“We made single-use saal leaf plates and sold them for a pittance.” The women used to leave by six in the morning, packing a little rice and return after 12 hours.

“We used to make grass brooms that took days to dry,” said Swantana. The effort earned them Rs 5 per broom. As everyone made brooms, they did not have a say on the price. After working for about 12 hours, they hardly earned Rs 10 a day. The men, who hardly worked, took the wife’s hard-earned money and spent on country liquors such as mahuaor haria.

“Our children could never taste dry rice; it was always watery,” Sushila told“We could not even give them food every day.” Often the women went without food, giving the children whatever they had.

Glimmer of hope

“When I first visited the area many years ago, I saw boys and girls as old as 12 and 13 years going about stark naked, because they didn’t have extra clothes,” Dipankar Roy, director of Tagore Society for Rural Development(TSRD), told of the women in Nityanagar had just one sari. After bathing, they would wear one half of it while holding the other half in the air to dry. Men went about in loincloths.

Though the situation is not so bad today, it has not improved much. People still subsist on an income of Rs 12 per adult per day, while the national criterion for poverty is Rs 26.

In 2012, TSRD started a project called Step-Up, with the support of European Union, to help women from the poorest households earn with work they were familiar with.

TSRD trained 1,200 women from the arid zones of Rajnagar administrative block of Birbhum in West Bengal, besides Kundahit block of Dumka districtand Raniswar block of Jamtara districtin Jharkhand. While women in other places took up weaving, stitching, handicraft or agriculture, the 15 women selected from Nityanagar opted to rear goats and chickens.

Opposition from men

The women finally got rid of their apprehensions, after lengthy meetings for months. But when the men learnt that the women would not only be the recipients of the aid but they would only handle the finances, they vehemently opposed. The situation was almost the same in all the villages.

As customs prohibited women from talking to men outside their families, they could not convince them. But they could foresee an opportunity through the new ideas; they could visualize their children going to school. So each woman parleyed with her husband. It took them almost a year to convince the men.

A meeting of a women’s self-help group. (Photo by Tagore Society for Rural Development)

A meeting of a women’s self-help group. (Photo by Tagore Society for Rural Development)

“Men did not understand and feared losing the reins,” Swantana told new development threatened longstanding customs and financial decision-making. The men went to every length to foil the women’s plans.

They got together, vilified, and physically prevented their wives from attending meetings, besides threatening TSRD coordinators. Local politicians questioned the intentions behind involving women in money matters.

But the women stood firm in their resolve through all confrontations. They grouped themselves into SHGs and finally brought home their assets – a couple of goats, some chicks and some ducklings.

Women on their own

Gone are the days when they were desperate to be hired as labor. Five years after starting their SHGs, the situation is different. The goats and poultry have grown exponentially.

The two goats that each woman received have become a herd of 15 or so. The women have built bigger pens and coops. Now they have added cows to their herd, bought from their earnings.

They sell milk, eggs and poultry regularly and goats when the animals mature. The women, hardly literate, manage the finances accurately. They have mastered the art of negotiation with the traders. They need not go to the marketanymore; the buyers come to them.

TSRD has trained some women in para-veterinary work to ensure the health of livestock and poultry. They now know about medication, vaccines and vitamins, and can administer injections.

Financial freedom

Each SHG has a savings account; everyone deposits Rs 100 every month. They try to save in their individual accounts also.

The Nityanagar account has crossed Rs 1 lakh. Members take loans from the account for business or emergency and return it in a stipulated time with a 10% interest. If someone fails, the group comes to the woman’s aid.

This has freed them from the clutches of moneylenders, who at times of crisis used to charge interest as high as 50%. If they could not pay on time, the moneylenders, usually big landholders, forced the women to work for free.

“We kept paying, yet the debt never seemed to end,” said Sushila. With their own deposit in the bank, they have broken the vicious cycle of debt. They take care of their needs with their own money.

Roy said that the present aggregated balance of all the SHGs of 1,200 women has crossed Rs 25 lakh. “They can now employ a manager if they wish to,” he told

The transformation

The children now go to school and private tuitions too. Previously the families could not afford to buy even a bar of soap, let alone educate their children. “Now our children get to eat eggs and drink milk regularly,” Sushila told“It was unthinkable before.”

Bashini does not want to think of the disconsolate past. They do not go to the forest anymore. “We no longer collect wild leaves to cook, because we eat proper meals,” she said.

The women now fulfill the financial needs of their husbands too. “I bought my husband a motorcycle,” said Swantana shyly.

The men now help take care of the children, animals and poultry. They even cook when their wives are away, attending meetings. “Now that we understand our women’s work, we support them,” Sushila’s husband Chandi Kora, seated in his hut that now has a kitchen and a toilet, told

The women too make decisions nowadays and the men comply. “We were a scared lot earlier, but now we have gained confidence and belief in our strength,” said Swantana.

Gautam Sarkar is a documentary scriptwriter and filmmaker. He makes films on social and rural themes.

Goats and poultry help tribal women turnaround impoverished lives

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Eminent Filmmakers explain why they boycotted the National Film Awards Ceremony

Sreelakshmi | Courtesy: Indian Cultural Forum

The 65th National Awards ceremony held on 3 May 2018 at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi raised some eyebrows when 66 artists and filmmakers walked out of the hall, boycotting the award function.  Information and Broadcasting Minister, Smriti Irani, who was there to present the award, was greeted by a largely empty hall, whose absence was made even more apparent by the nameplates of the absent award recipients that marked their seats. The award recipients boycotted the award after they were told at the last-minute that President Ram Nath Kovind would only present the award to 11 recipients out of a total of 140. Those who did receive the awards from the President included Boney Kapoor, who received the award on behalf of his late wife, Sridevi; Akshay Khanna, who received it on behalf of his father, the late Vinod Khanna; and the Bengali actor Riddhi Sen.

This is the first time in history that a serving President has not been available to present the award. The group who staged the walk-out had written a letter the day before, addressed to Chaitanya Prasad, Additional Director General, Director of Film Festival, they wrote, “It feels like a breach of trust, when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol fails to inform us of such a vital aspect of the ceremony with(sic) a prior notice. It seems unfortunate that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy.” In response, the Rashtrapati Bhavan attempted to justify the change by issuing a statement that said, “The President attends the award functions and convocation maximum for one hour.”

It should not forgotten that one of the reasons why the national award is considered prestigious and important for the winners is because the award is given by the President of India and not by a cabinet minister.

The Indian Cultural Forum spoke to multiple filmmakers about their decision to boycott of the 65th Nationl Award Ceremony. Here is what they had to say:

 Aneez K Mappila , Director, The Slave Genesis :

“The 65th National Film Award winners, including myself, have boycotted the function because this is an unprecedented situation. This has never happened before in the last 65 years, where the President refuses to present the award.  This is part of a larger political agenda to bypass the President’s power so that the country is under the control of a certain political party.  Some of us have decided to take a stand. We refuse to receive the award from a BJP Minister, and boycott the award distribution ceremony.”

Meghnath, Filmmaker:

“They are breaking a 65 year old tradition. We are not commercial filmmakers. They could have told us in advanced, then we would not have come here. The President should present us the award. That is our right. It is a tradition that the President gives the award. Its one his duties. It takes years to make a film. And it takes a minute for the President to present the award.”

Teenaa Kaur, Director, When the Sun Didn’t Rise :

“It is very important for us to protest. But we are not boycotting the award itself. In the letter we received, it was mentioned that the President of India will give away the award. If the President was not available, they should have mentioned it before hand that a Cabinet Minister will be presenting the awards on behalf of the President. There’s discrepancy in what the letter stated and what actually happened. We are very unhappy with this decision. We are not a union; we are a group of independent film makers who have been working in this field for years. Now, we have decided to boycott the award function.”

Read the full draft of the letter here:


The petition calling for skipping the ceremony was signed by over 60 winners, including Nagraj Manjule (Best Direction, Pavasacha Nibandha, Marathi); KJ Yesudas (Best Male Payback Singer for the song “Poi Maranja Kalam” from the Malayalam film Vaswasapoorvam Mansoor; and Jayaraj (Best Director for the Malayalam film Bhayanakam). However, all three accepted their awards on Thursday evening from the President who was flanked by Irani and Rathore.

The awardees learnt of the change in the schedule and felicitators on Wednesday afternoon during rehearsals for the event, and conveyed their grievance to Irani who, said a source, assured them that she would convey them to Rashtrapati Bhavan and would get back once she heard from the President’s office. Later in the evening, the source said that all the awardees were verbally asked to be present at Vigyan Bhavan by 3:15 pm on Thursday. The source added that the final decision to skip the ceremony was taken after there was no official word from the I & B minister.

The President’s press secretary Ashok Malik said in a statement: “The President attends all award functions and convocations for a maximum of one hour. This has been the protocol since he took office (August 2017). It was conveyed to Information and Broadcasting Ministry several weeks ago and the ministry knew this all along. Rashtrapati Bhavan is surprised by the 11th hour questions that have been raised.”

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Mumbai – 50,000 farmers protest bullet train, expressway

Mohana Mahesh

Rural dissent: Farmers at a public meeting at Dahanu beach after a long march from Sagar Naka to Para Naka on Thursday.

Rural dissent: Farmers at a public meeting at Dahanu beach after a long march from Sagar Naka to Para Naka on Thursday.
Rural dissent: Farmers at a public meeting at Dahanu beach after a long march from Sagar Naka to Para Naka on Thursday.

Upset by loss of livelihoods, unfulfilled promises
Mumbai: The 1.5 kilometres from Sagar Naka to Paar Naka in Dahanu was a river of red on Thursday. More than 50,000 farmers from over 60 villages in the Thane-Palghar district in red caps and sari, waving red flags, protested against the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train and the Mumbai-Vadodara expressway and the loss of over 1000 acres of agricultural land and houses. The rally was followed by a public meeting at Dahanu beach.

Addressing the protesters, Ashok Dhawale, president of the All India Kisan Sabha, said that the projects would do no good to the villagers. Calling the government’s move an act of ‘privatisation,’ he said, “There was no point in the freedom fighters struggling for the country’s independence if its citizens were to live according to the overseas companies one day.”

Lahani Dauda, member of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said that despite raising concerns about their survival, the government has ‘threatened’ the farmers with clearing the areas by forcing them out. Barkya Mangat, secretary of the CPI(M), Palghar district, said, “The farmers are agitated over the government’s inability to fulfil their needs.”

Mariam Dhawale, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association said, “Many policies have not yet been implemented.”

Amongst slogans criticising the BJP and RSS, the AIKS said they will not allow the government to carry on with the projects, and CPI(M) leaders pledged to defeat the BJP in the upcoming Palghar district by-election.

A ‘Doodh Andolan’ was also conducted in Nashik on Thursday to voice concern about low prices of milk and other products. The agitations followed one in Nashik 10 days ago.

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A pattern of impunity: on the SC/ST Act

G. Sampath

Image result for sc st act
The problem with the SC/ST Act is the failure of the criminal justice system to recognise its own casteist biases
For India’s Dalits and Adivasis, May 1 this year was a ‘May Day’ in more ways than one. It was May Day, the day to commemorate the labour movement (the vast majority of them do belong to the working classes), and also ‘mayday’ in the maritime sense, an occasion to broadcast their distress over a life-threatening emergency.

Dalit and Adivasi rights organisations observed May 1 as ‘National Resistance Day’. The immediate trigger was the Supreme Court order of March 20 on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (hereafter SC/ST Act). Protest meetings held across the country had three demands for the government: neutralise the Supreme Court order through an ordinance that would reinstate both the SC/ST Act and the SC/ST Amendment Act, 2015, in their original form; include both these laws in the Ninth Schedule to protect them from judicial review; and release all the Dalits arrested on April 2 when a ‘Bharat Bandh’ was observed to protest this Supreme Court order.

The Mahajan case

A lot has already been written on why the Supreme Court order is prejudicial to the cause of justice for victims of caste atrocities. But the underlying case that triggered the controversial judgment hasn’t received enough attention. It might be instructive to briefly consider the facts of this case, Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. the State of Maharashtra.


The dispute arose in 2007, when Bhaskar Gaikwad, a storekeeper in a government college in Karad, Maharashtra, wrote to the State government highlighting alleged illegalities committed by Satish Bhise, the college principal. Mr. Gaikwad is from the Scheduled Caste (SC) community, Mr. Bhise is a non-SC person.

In April 2008, Mr. Gaikwad stated in his annual confidential report (ACR) that he had brought to light certain irregularities in the procurement of materials for the college. When Mr. Gaikwad’s reporting officer, Kishor Burade (also a non-SC person), saw it, he allegedly entered false information in the ACR about Mr. Gaikwad’s performance as well as some casteist remarks about his character. Mr. Bhise, too, allegedly made mala fide comments against Mr. Gaikwad in the ACR.

When Mr. Gaikwad became aware of these remarks in his ACR, he filed a first information report (FIR) against Mr. Bhise and Mr. Burade under the sections of the SC/ST Act that penalise a non-SC person for giving a public servant false information that could harm a SC person. Since the accused were Class I officers, the police applied for sanction to prosecute them.

Subhash K. Mahajan, who was then the Director-in-charge, Technical Education, Maharashtra, wrote to the investigating officer denying sanction for prosecution, even though he did not have the authority to make that call.


Following Mr. Mahajan’s refusal to grant sanction for prosecution, the police in 2011 filed a C-Summary report on the case, which means that the case is “neither true nor false”. Mr. Gaikwad claims that he was not informed of this fact by either the police or the courts for more than four years, even though they were required by law to do so.

When he finally found out about the C-summary report in early 2016, he filed another FIR, this time against Mr. Mahajan, charging him with knowingly shielding persons accused of a crime against an SC person. This too is an offence that attracts the provisions of the SC/ST Act.

In August 2016, the defendant (Subhash Mahajan) approached the Bombay High Court asking for the FIR to be quashed on the grounds that the charges against him were false and frivolous. The High Court not only refused to quash the case but also ruled that “there are sufficient safeguards in the Act itself which guarantee protection against frivolous and false prosecution”.

The defendant then filed an appeal against this decision in the Supreme Court. The apex court, instead of concerning itself solely with the merits of Mr. Mahajan’s appeal, dramatically expanded the ambit of the case, noting, “The question which has arisen in the course of consideration of this matter is whether any unilateral allegation of mala fide can be ground to prosecute officers who dealt with the matter in official capacity and if such allegation is falsely made what is protection available against such abuse.”

In the name of protecting innocent non-SC persons from being victimised by false complaints under the SC/ST Act, it laid down three guidelines that nullify key provisions of this law: it removed the bar on grant of anticipatory bail; even though the Mahajan case only concerns public servants, it ruled that where the accused is a non-public servant, the police may make an arrest only after approval by a senior superintendent of police; and it held that before registering an FIR, the police may conduct a preliminary inquiry to ascertain the veracity of the complaint.

Setback for SC/STs

Taken together, the three changes neatly reverse the original mandate of the SC/ST Act: instead of immediately registering an FIR and investigating the accused, the police would now immediately doubt the Dalit and investigate her complaint for veracity, and what’s more, they are required to do so by law.


One might assume that special guidelines to curb false allegations would be sparked by a case where false allegations have been proven. But that is not quite the case here. The apex court’s judgment does not engage exhaustively with the allegations made by the original complainant, Mr. Gaikwad, against the defendants, Mr. Bhise, Mr. Burade and Mr. Mahajan.

In fact, Mr. Gaikwad has presented three fresh applications to the Supreme Court: one to prosecute Mr. Mahajan “for filing a forged English translation of the original Marathi FIR”; one seeking recall of the March 20 order on several grounds, “including fraud on the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India by not filing the full text of the FIR”; and one “seeking calling of original records from the Hon’ble Bombay High Court”. These applications were tagged and listed along with the Central government’s review petition.

By far the most disturbing aspect of the court’s order is the idea that poor conviction rates and high acquittal rates suggest a high number of false cases. Can we apply this logic, say, to the acquittals of all the accused in the Kilvenmani massacre (Tamil Nadu, 1968, 44 Dalits killed), Tsunduru massacre (Andhra Pradesh, 1991, eight Dalits killed), Bathani Tola massacre (Bihar, 1996, 21 Dalits killed), Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre (Bihar, 1997, 58 Dalits killed), Shankarbigha massacre (Bihar, 1999, 23 Dalits killed), to mention just a few of the most infamous instances of mass acquittals? Do these acquittals mean that the cases against the accused were false? Or do they suggest a pattern of bona fide impunity for crimes against the Scheduled Castes?

The SC/ST Act and the SC/ST Amendment Act hold enormous significance for Dalits not because they have been effective in protecting them from caste injustice; not at all. If they are cherished despite their poor conviction rates and shoddy implementation, it is because their very existence is a testament to Dalit agency in a heavily casteist society, and a powerful affirmation of the community’s faith in the Indian Constitution.

The problem with this law is not its supposed misuse but the inability of India’s criminal justice system to recognise its own casteist biases. It is, after all, a matter of common sense that in a society seeped in caste, no institution can claim immunity from casteist prejudices or mindset. Sadly, the judiciary has been reluctant to acknowledge the social matrix of jurisprudence in India, which is caste.

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Chhattisgarh- Gunning for Ganapathy: Tales about Maoists

Security agencies still subscribe to the likelihood that Ganapathy is holed up in the relatively inaccessible Abujmarh area in south-western Chhattisgarh
Gadchiroli SP Abhinav Deshmukh and other top officials address a press conference regarding an encounter with Naxals near Bhamragad in Gadchiroli district on 22 April. Photo: PTI

Gadchiroli SP Abhinav Deshmukh and other top officials address a press conference regarding an encounter with Naxals near Bhamragad in Gadchiroli district on 22 April. Photo: PTI

Where is Ganapathy, leader of the people?

A couple of days after news arrived of an ambush led by special forces of Maharashtra Police having decimated two groups of Maoists in Gadchiroli, in the state’s south-eastern arc, on 22-23 April, I received a phone call from a senior journalist in Kolkata. Rumours were about, she mentioned, that the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or CPI (Maoist), whose real name is Muppala Laxmana Rao, was among the nearly 40 rebels killed.

No, I replied. That old fox, nearly 70, ancient for a life of a rebel leader in some of the most daunting jungle battle zones of central and eastern India, wasn’t among the dead. If he had indeed died, the government would have quickly gone to town. It may even have declared the Maoist rebellion dead and distributed the Rs3 crore bounty on Ganapathy.

Surely Maharashtra would have been eager enough: its government had in 2014 declared a Rs1 crore bounty leading to his death or arrest, matching the amount offered by Chhattisgarh (the remainder of the amount including several smaller bounties including one by the National Investigation Agency).

The buzz about Ganapathy being in Gadchiroli was arguably based on another buzz, radiated by many in media quick to report updates from local police or intelligence sources. This interpreted the April victories by Maharashtra Police and the large number of rebel deaths—nearly 40, though a few deaths are now suspected to be collateral damage or faked encounters—as sign of an expanding Maoist movement in Gadchiroli, perhaps even creation of a sanctuary for its leadership.

The fact is that Gadchiroli has, for close to two decades, been an active battle zone, being the western edge of what is known as the Dandakaranya region: Dandakaranya’s heart is in southern Chhattisgarh, and it is flanked to the west, south and east by Maharashtra, Telangana and Odisha. Middle-to senior level Maoist leaders and cadres meet for sit-reps and planning from time to time, and police operatives, now better trained and with better intelligence capabilities and motivation managed to spectacularly jump the Maoists. If Maoists manage a revenge-hit, here or elsewhere, then media narratives will suddenly reverse.

There has also been talk from five years ago that the Maoist leadership was strengthening a corridor that runs from Sukma in southern Chhattisgarh along contiguous districts in Odisha further north to western Jharkhand. This is more supply pipeline than sanctuary.

Security agencies still subscribe to the likelihood that Ganapathy is holed up in the relatively inaccessible Abujmarh area in south-western Chhattisgarh—largely in Narayanpur and Bijapur districts that abut Gadchiroli. Even with inroads by police and paramilitaries, this area continues to be the prime Maoist zone. Ganapathy and a loyal group of cadres are evidently hunkered down here, though not in the relatively luxurious bunkers as depicted last year by the newsmagazine Outlook, which illustrated a three-room suite with design accoutrements that Adolf Hitler may have found comfortable in his last days.

Unless Ganapathy, known to be quite ill, hasn’t taken flight like his older colleague Prashant Bose, or Kishanda, and CPI (Maoist) number two who is rumoured to have adopted a range of guises from mendicant to teacher across Jharkhand and Bihar, then Dandakaranya is where he will likely make his last stand.

The thing is, even if Ganapathy makes his stand against his stated enemies, or against illnesses he battles daily, it won’t be the end of the Maoist rebellion. Even though CPI (Maoist) is vastly reduced and under immense pressure, there is also a succession in play.

Nambala Keshav Rao, who goes by the nom de guerre of Basavraj (or Basava Raju) is 10 years younger than Ganapathy. Basava Raju, the long-time head of the CPI (Maoist)’s central military commission, the umbrella operational command, is seen as successor. Unless a comprehensive peace breaks out, the deadly game of cop-and-Maoist will continue in one form or another as it has these past 50 years.

Sudeep Chakravarti’s books include Clear.Hold.Build: Hard Lessons of Business and Human Rights in India, Red Sun and Highway 39. This column focuses on conflict situations and the convergence of businesses and human rights and runs on Thursdays.

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