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Archives for : May2018

Free Software Movement voices concern over security of Aadhaar enrolment software

HYDERABAD, MAY 7

The Free Software Movement of India (FSMI) has expressed serious concerns on the safety of users’ Aadhaar data. The association has written a letter to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on YouTube videos that demonstrate methods to bypass security layers in Aadhaar enrolment.

“There are WhatsApp messages circulating about a patched version of the Enrolment Client Management Platform (ECMP) software being used for offline Aadhaar enrolment. This can potentially be used to bypass geo-location and biometrics, and also change the mapping between the personal data of Aadhaar holders and their biometric data,” the FSMI has said in the letter.

It sought to know what steps the UIDAI is taking to make the Aadhaar system safe, as the security problems seemed to emanate from inherent design flaws in Aadhaar’s client server architecture. “These videos claim that new Aadhaar enrolments can be made without any verification and that personal information pertaining to existing Aadhaar numbers can be changed bypassing any security checks, including OTPs (one-time passwords) and biometric verification.

“If this is true, then it is a matter of serious concern as it endangers the sanctity of the entire Aadhaar database. We would like to know whether UIDAI has examined these claims, and if there is any merit to claims regarding the security of the Aadhaar enrolment software being compromised,” the FSMI said.

The association wondered what steps the UIDAI was taking to verify the validity of data already uploaded by private players to the Aadhaar database

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Why farmers in this Kerala village pray for peace with Pakistan

Having seen fluctuations in the export of betel leaf to Pakistan over the years, Malappuram betel farmers in northern Kerala remain hopeful of overcoming the present impasse and resuming a profitable trade

Betel leaf farmer Krishnan of Tirur continues to cultivate it in spite of falling exports. (Photo by K. Rajendran)

Betel leaf farmer Krishnan of Tirur continues to cultivate it in spite of falling exports. (Photo by K. Rajendran)

With temperatures soaring, farmers in India pray for summer showers. However, in Tirur administrative block of Malappuram district in northern Kerala, around 12,000 farmers are also praying, not for rain but for peaceful relations between India and Pakistan.

Even as Pakistan troops shelled mortars across the Line of Control in the first week of April, 70-year-old Krishnan T. of Ozhur Village prayed for peace and for the firing to cease. “Only if peace prevails we can feed our families by selling the betel leaves we grow,” Krishnan, one of the oldest betel leaf farmers, told VillageSquare.in.

Export of betel leaves from Tirur to Pakistan is the reason for betel farmers’ desire for peaceful relationship between the two neighbors. Tirur is about 3,000 km away from India’s border with Pakistan. However, livelihoods of hundreds of farmers who have been dependent solely on betel farming depend on Pakistan’s political barometer.

Paan prosperity

For farmers in Ozhur, Thanallur, Chembra, Mori and Payyapuram villages in Tirur taluk, the betel leaf variety, popularly known as Tirur Lanka paan, meant prosperity. But circumstances have changed and what the farmers saw as their pride before 2016 see it as a burden now.

Before independence, at least one container was set apart for the betel leaf cargo in the goods trains that stopped at Tirur railway station. It reached markets in Karachi and Lahore through connecting trains at Chennai, Delhi and Lahore.

A farm in Ozhur village with vines of Tirur Lanka paan. (Photo by K. Rajendran)

A farm in Ozhur village with vines of Tirur Lanka paan. (Photo by K. Rajendran)

Tirur paan cargo crossed the border in flights later. During 1989-90, when V. P. Singh was India’s prime minister, Tirur paan fetched farmers and traders very good returns.

Krishnan recalled direct flight between the countries for cargo service too. “In those days, Rs 70 for a bundle of 100 betel leaves was a huge amount,” he said.

Pakistan’s appetite

Tirur farmers cultivate two varieties of betel leaves, namely Lanka paan and Nadan, the latter meaning, local variety. “We grew Lanka variety for exporting to Pakistan and Nadan for selling within India,” Krishnan told VillageSquare.in.

Pakistanis preferred Lanka paan’s pungent taste, bigger size and flavor. With export of betel leaves appearing promising, many farmers in Tirur took to cultivating Lanka paan.

Anecdotes about Lanka paan abound in Tirur. One is about Indian soldiers making significant advances in the 1965 war, after throwing packs of Tirur Lanka paan for the Pakistan troops. The bolder one is of Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanting to annex Tirur instead of Bangladesh, to ensure a steady supply of Lanka paan. While the Muslims of Tirur decided to stay with India, Nehru assured Jinnah of uninterrupted supply of Tirur’s betel leaves!

“They may be myths, but it connected people over religion and language,” 70-year-old Muthu Koya told VillageSquare.in.

Downward trend

“Even during the wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999, paan trade was not affected,” Mohammed P., a betel leaf farmer at Puthanathanni, told VillageSquare.in. Though farmers were apprehensive during regime changes and tensions in bilateral relations, they were able to sail through the ups and downs.

In 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Pakistani counterpart on his birthday to greet him, the farmers believed that their produce would fetch record prices. But with many irritants cropping up and the standoff between the countries deepening, cross-border trade suffered.

Tirur’s paan was the biggest sufferer, when on 21June, 2016, Pakistan government imposed a 140% import tax for betel leaf. Affected Pakistani importers found a solution by importing betel leaf from Sri Lanka, the flavor of the paan being similar to that of the Tirur paan.

The price of Tirur Lanka paan plummeted from Rs 70 per bundle to Rs 29 a bundle. “With this amount, we can’t meet our farming expenses,” said Mohammed.

Paan bazaar sans paan

The historic paan bazaar in Tirur stands totally changed. A thriving business hub of betel leaf trade just two year ago, when hundreds of farmers and traders gathered, the market hardly shows signs of any activity.

Other commercial establishments have replaced the paan trade centers in Tirur. “From 80, the number of betel leaf traders has come down to 20 in a short span,” Eani Haji, president of Betel Merchant Association, told VillageSquare.in.

Trader Aghilesh packing betel leaves to send to new markets. (Photo by K. Rajendran)

Trader Aghilesh packing betel leaves to send to new markets. (Photo by K. Rajendran)

Aghilesh is one among the remaining traders. His motto is to carry on the tradition. According to him, now one cannot depend solely on betel leaf trade for livelihood. He has other businesses as well. “I couldn’t abandon the betel leaf trade that my father had proudly operated for many decades,” he told VillageSquare.in.

In May 2016, a month before Pakistan introduced the new tax, Tirur traded 6 tons of paan every weekday. “Trade and the price have declined by half,’ said Aghilesh.

Limited options

Betel leaf farmers and traders of Tirur are exploring alternate markets. For Tirur Lanka paan, Utter Pradesh is the only alternative market. But they face stiff competition from Ranivellore betel leaf from Tamil Nadu and Deshi betel leaf from West Bengal.

Officials in the Ministry of Commerce were reluctant to talk about the issue. Though Pakistan’s trade policy has affected 12,000 betel leaf farmers and traders, it has not affected large-scale traders of other commodities such as cement.

Krishnan’s son Dineshan, has turned to plucking coconuts for a living. “Though it’s a tedious job, I can earn more money than from betel leaf farming,” he told VillageSquare.in.

Having overcome three wars and many impasses, Krishnan and other farmers remain hopeful that their prayers for peaceful relations with Pakistan would be answered and Tirur’s betel leaf will regain its position across the border.

K. Rajendran is a journalist based in Kerala.

Why farmers in this Kerala village pray for peace with Pakistan

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India -Corporate takeover or ‘tackling Naxalism?’ Adivasis losing sovereignty over their natural resources

jharkhand-tribals-movement-759

National Alliance of People’s Movements statement on recent encounters: 

The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) unequivocally condemns the recent series of killings of Adivasis by the CRPF and C-60 elite anti-Naxal force of the Indian State in the name of ‘encounters’ at Gadchiroli (Maharashtra) and Bijapur (Chhattisgarh). Various news reports have revealed that at least 39 people, including 19 women were killed on 22nd – 23rd, April at Gadchiroli and 8 people, including 6 women were killed on 27th April at Bijapur. Some of those killed and/or have gone missing are, reportedly minors.

Barely a month ago, Telangana’s elite anti-Naxal force Greyhounds gunned down 10 suspected Maoists, including 6 women. Estimates point that in the past four months alone, the toll of alleged Maoist killings has risen to 108. Killings of this scale, which should have shocked and shaken the ‘collective conscience’ of this nation, unfortunately, does not even make evoke the necessary outrage, what with the State ever-ready to package these as deaths as necessary, rather inevitable, for safeguarding ‘national interests’!

Numerous civil liberties groups have already raised disturbing questions about the circumstances of these ‘encounters’, the unilateral nature of the attack and deaths, the ‘unpreparedness’ of the ‘maoists’ who had reportedly camped nearby for a wedding party, disproportionality of the use of force with Under Barrel Grenade Launchers (UBGL) bound to cause excessive causalities, more bodies fished out vis-à-vis arms recovered. Followed by the ruthlessness and scale of the attack, what left us dumbfounded was the ‘celebration’ of these killings by certain jawans!

Encounter killings both in the ‘maoist-infested’ regions as well as in certain other states have crept into the state policy in an unannounced way and are being brutally employed to shut down dissenting voices and people. Uttar Pradesh shines brightly on this front with over 1,000 encounter killings to its credit in the past one year!

While encounter killings in the Adivasi-populated, geopolitical terrain of the Central and Eastern India have a different and larger context in some ways, it is important to also note that at least since 2014, concerned of the increasing number of such unaccounted and unaccountable encounters, the Supreme Court laid down elaborate guidelines to be followed while inquiring into encounter deaths and directed that these guidelines shall serve as law of the land under Article 141 of the Constitution.

This set of 16 guidelines includes recording of ‘tip-off’ of any criminal activity, registration of FIR and prompt forwarding of FIR, diary entries, panchnamas, sketch, etc. to the competent court, independent investigation by CID or a police officer above the rank of officer leading the team that indulged in encounter, magisterial inquiry under Sec 176 Cr.P.C, furnishing all information to NHRC / SHRC, expeditions trial, six-monthly report by DGPs of all states to NHRC on encounter killings / police firings, compensation to family of deceased; legal, medical services as required, disciplinary action against concerned officers, refraining from glorification and grant of gallantry awards without establishment of facts, option for family to approach sessions judge in case of questions about the impartiality of inquiry. However, one finds that in a large number of instances, meticulous compliance with even these minimum guidelines is not ensured.

What is worrisome for any democratic, peace-loving citizen of this country is that these heavily forested areas inhabited by countless Adivasi communities come under the protected Schedule V status of the Constitution. These areas are supposed to be administered and governed by Governors of these regions along with consultation by Tribal Advisory Committees constituted with three-fourth members from Scheduled Tribes. The Governors are directly answerable to the President of India regarding the political situation of these areas

. However, what we have been witnessing is an absolute police-raj and paramilitary-raj in these areas in the name of ‘eliminating naxalism’, backed by state-impunity, at the behest of corporate interests. India’s anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism laws like Section 121 of IPC and UAPA are implemented with a heavy hand whereas talk, let alone implementation, of Schedule V, Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996; Forest Rights Act, 2006; Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989 is nowhere to be seen in government parlance or policy of these adivasis areas.

Recently, numerous Adivasi villages of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh erected stone memorials with the Schedule 5 tenets inscribed on them to assert their special status as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. These assertions were suppressed again by heavy police action and made infamous as the Pathalgadi incident by jingoistic media.  What makes it doubly disturbing is that these forests are homes to Adivasis rich in mineral reserves, forest produce, endangered species of flora and fauna and have been the favorite target of neo-liberal multinational corporations. Adivasi communities living in these areas since centuries have already faced the brunt of colonial oppression and forest mafia and continue to live on the margins, fighting an unequal battle against predatory onslaughts on their autonomy and survival. Various fact-finding missions have time and again established that many Adivasi men and even women are routinely picked up, detained, arrested for months-on, tortured, without legal aid. Adivasi women and at times even young boys are subject to worse forms of sexual violence and rapes.  In the specific context of Gadchiroli, the mass ‘encounter’ also needs to be seen as a counter-strategy by the State to delegitimize the mass uprising by Adivasis against mining by companies in the Surjagarh Hill area.

It is indeed unfortunate that the Indian government is choosing to establish the Rule of Law in these areas only through brute force and not by active political and social intervention. This mindset also reflects the bias and prejudice through which the ‘adivasi’ subject has been viewed historically. Equally condemnable is the violence, jailing, fabricated cases on democratic activists who are asserting the legal and human rights of Adivasis in the region. One is not unmindful of or condoning the violence by Maoists in previous instances such as Sukma, Burkapal, Chintalnar etc. leading to casualties of many jawans. However, the ‘welfare State’, as it claims to be, has an ethical and constitutional duty and is also more privileged in terms of the impunity and enormous power it enjoys to reach out for a meaningful and lasting political dialogue for peace in the region.

We condemn tactics by the state-police-corporate nexus of branding all Adivasi resistance as ‘Left Wing Extremism’ in order to use brute force as seen in the case of Niyamgiri. The very survival of our democracy depends on our environmental and ecological heritage along with participation by Adivasi cultures that have inhabited these natural reserves in harmony and sustenance for centuries.. No amount of war and neo-liberal scramble for natural resources will guarantee our survival in the future where more than profits we need clean air, water, food and life of dignity for all communities. Only by allowing autonomy in Adivasi areas through Gram Sabhas as enshrined by the Constitution can be a way towards peace in these areas.

We demand that the directives issued by the Apex Court in PUCL vs the State of Maharashtra be fully implemented in all cases of ‘encounter-killings’ including in the recent Gadchiroli and Bijapur ‘encounters’. Given the scale and circumstances of these killings, a high-level, independent judicial probe is warranted.

We call upon the Indian government to fundamentally reflect upon its policy of military suppression of Adivasis and Adivasi resistance in the forests of Central and Eastern India and reach out with a meaningful political dialogue, stopping all forms of violence, including searches, raids, arrest, rapes, and harassment of Adivasis and activists.

We urge Governors of the states of Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to live to up to their constitutional mandate and intervene in territories that are under their care and supervision in consultation with Tribal Advisory Committees and the President of India and ensure full implementation of all legislation that safeguard interests of adivasis.

We appeal to the National Human Rights Commission to take immediate notice of the relentless state repression on Adivasis and prevent human rights abuses by security forces in Schedule V areas.

Endorsed by: 

  • Medha Patkar, Narmada BachaoAndolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
  • Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh, MazdoorKisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, NAPM
  • Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan; Lingraj Azad, Samajwadi Jan Parishad & Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM Odisha
  • Sunilam, Adv. AradhnaBhargava, KisanSangharshSamiti, Rajkumar Sinha, Bargi Baandh Visthapit evam Prabhavit Sangh, NAPM, Madhya Pradesh
  • Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh VyavasayaVruthidarula Union-APVVU, Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI and NAPM,MeeraSanghamitra, Rajesh Serupally, NAPM Telangana – Andhra Pradesh
  • Dr Binayak Sen, Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); GautamBandopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha; KaladasDahariya, RELAA, NAPM Chhattisgarh
  • Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan 
  • Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party;Richa Singh, Sangatin;ArundhatiDhuru, Manesh Gupta, NAPM, Uttar Pradesh 
  • Gabriele Dietrich, Penn UrimayIyakkam, Madurai;Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation; Arul Doss, NAPM Tamilnadu 
  • Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union; Maj Gen (Retd) S.G.Vombatkere, NAPM, Karnataka 
  • Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan, Prof. Kusumam Joseph, NAPM, Kerala
  • Anand Mazgaonkar, Swati Desai, Krishnakant, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, NAPM Gujarat 
  • VimalBhai, Matu Jan sangathan; Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand 
  • Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-MoolnivasiAstivtva Raksha Samiti; Basant Kumar Hetamsaria and Ashok Verma, NAPM Jharkhand
  • Samar Bagchi, Amitava Mitra, NAPM West Bengal
  • Suniti SR, SuhasKolhekar, Prasad Bagwe, &Bilal Khan, GharBachaoGharBanaoAndolan, Mumbai NAPMMaharashtra 
  • Anjali Bharadwaj, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), NAPM
  • Faisal Khan, KhudaiKhidmatgar; J S Walia, NAPM Haryana
  • Guruwant Singh, NAPM Punjab
  • Kamayani Swami, AshishRanjan, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan; MahendraYadav, KosiNavnirmanManch; Sister Dorothy, Ujjawal Chaubey, NAPM Bihar
  • Bhupender Singh Rawat, Jan SangharshVahini; Sunita Rani, Domestic Workers Union;Rajendra Ravi, Nanhu Prasad, Madhuresh Kumar, Amit Kumar, Himshi Singh, Uma, NAPM, Delhi

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India tops the Pollution level- here is why

Most of the country is often breathing a toxic combination of pollutants, ranging from dust to smoke from cooking fuel.

New Delhi, India, under heavy smog on November 14, 2017.
 Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

A new report from the World Health Organization, drawing on measurements and calculations as of 2016 from air monitoring stations in 4,300 cities, shows that air pollution is a global problem. A whopping nine in 10 people on Earth breathe highly polluted air, and more than 80 percent of urban dwellers have to endure outdoor pollution that exceeds health standards, according to the WHO’s World Global Ambient Air Quality Database.

But there are certain places on the planet where the air is now consistently, epically terrible.

For instance, India. When you look at the database’s ranking of particulate pollution in cities, 11 of the 12 cities with the highest levels are located there. Kanpur, India, population 3 million, tops the list with a yearly average of 319 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5, the most hazardous particle commonly measured. (Bamenda, Cameroon, is the one city outside of India in the top 12.)

Cities with the highest small particulate measurements in the world

Country City PM2.5 (µg/m³)
India Kanpur 173
India Faridabad 172
India Varanasi 151
India Gaya 149
India Patna 144
India Delhi 143
India Lucknow 138
Cameroon Bamenda 132
India Agra 131
India Muzaffarpur 120
India Srinagar 113
India Gurgaon 113

World Health Organization

There are a variety of air pollutants that can impact health — nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone, among them. But the database classifies air pollution in two ways: by PM2.5, particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, and by PM 10, particles that are 10 microns in diameter. The smaller PM2.5 particles from sources like open flames and diesel exhaust can linger in the air longer and penetrate deeper into the lungs than larger particles, which is why they’re the bigger concern for health officials and a high-priority target for reduction.

Technically, the WHO doesn’t treat its data as a ranking but rather a measurement of where risks are. But it’s clear from the report that India is one of the riskiest countries in the world to breathe, up there with Bangladesh and Georgia. When it comes to comparing PM10 measurements of the world’s largest cities, India’s capital Delhi comes in with an annual average of 292, ahead of Cairo (284), Dhaka (147), Mumbai (104), and Beijing (92), the Washington Post noted.

But few parts of India are immune to the often toxic combination of pollution from sources ranging from vehicles to the burning of coal and wood for cooking, dust storms, or forest fires. India’s hills and mountains also act as basins that trap toxic air over vast swaths of the country, sometimes making the air too dangerous to breathe. Just check out this map:

A map of air pollution in India on May 7, 2018.
 Berkeley Earth

Poverty and air pollution go hand in hand

Though you can find unhealthy air in pretty much any country, the worst pollution these days is accumulating in developing countries with growing populations. The highest-ranking city from an OECD country in the PM2.5 list is Hobart, Australia, coming in at 206.

“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, in a statement.

Cookstoves, heating fuel, and kerosene lighting are all common sources of pollution in big cities in developing countries. Poor governance is also a major factor in pollution since lax enforcement of standards for car exhausts, crop burning, or dust from construction sites leads to more particulates in the air.

Some countries like China are making progress. Cities in China have moved down in the rankings, and the government is seeking reforms to keep pollution in check as dirty air has become an increasingly volatile public concern.

Governing air pollution has proved to be much trickier in India.

Indian school children wearing pollution masks hold placards as they participate in a march to raise awareness of air pollution levels in New Delhi on November 15, 2017.
Indian schoolchildren wearing pollution masks hold placards as they participate in a march to raise awareness of air pollution levels in New Delhi on November 15, 2017.
 Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images

Why India’s air is so bad

Delhi, India’s capital region, home to nearly 19 million people, is notorious for choking air that is now turning the iconic white marble walls of the Taj Mahal green.

The city faced a major air quality crisis late last year as the literally off-the-charts pollutionforced flight cancellations, caused traffic accidents, closed schools, and sparked protests. One minister described Delhi as a “gas chamber,” and the city declared a public health emergency.

Dozens of other Indian cities are dealing with severe pollution too, but many of the particulates that blanket the metro regions originate in rural areas, and rural areas are just as badly affected by poor air, if not more so. In 2015, about 75 percent of deaths linked to air pollution in India, some 1.1 million people, occurred in rural areas.

Two-thirds of India’s population still lives outside of cities, and 80 percent of these households rely on biomass like wood and dung for cooking and heating. Agricultural practices like burning crop stubble also remain widespread.

This smoke can then waft over major cities such as Chennai and Mumbai, where it commingles with traffic exhaust, factory emissions, and construction dust. It can also get trapped by inland by features like hills and mountains, leaving few areas in the country where Indians can breathe easy.

“This region is land-locked — pollution cannot dissipate quickly — and does not have the advantage of the coast like Mumbai or Chennai,” Anumita Roy Chowdhury, head of the air pollution and clean transportation program at the Delhi-based advocacy organization Center for Science and Environment, told the Indian Express. “Also, a lot of the smaller cities have poor waste management, there is a lot of burning, solid fuel use, they are moving from non-motorised to motorised transport. Chulhas [cookstoves], we know, contribute to 25 percent outdoor pollution in India.”

The other major cause of India’s pollution problem is politics. Kirk Smith, a professor of global environmental health at the University of California Berkeley, observed that there are anti-pollution laws in India but they aren’t enforced well, so while major cities can ban pollution sources like brick kilns from within their boundaries, they can’t stop exhaust from blowing over from the perimeter.

Controlling this kind of pollution requires coordinating across city and provincial boundaries over a geographic basin, but rural politicians and urban politicos in India have vastly different constituencies, making it difficult for urbanites to convince farmers to use less polluting practices or for rural people to ask city dwellers to drive less.

“Outdoor air pollution is pretty much a governance problem,” said Smith.

He also noted that the WHO’s list of most polluted cities should be viewed with caution. Pollution can vary drastically over small areas, and many of the cities on the list are reporting data from just one air quality monitor, which may not be representative of the true picture of pollution in the city.

As for India’s sudden rise in the rankings, a big factor is that pollution in many of these cities is being measured and reported for the first time, meaning the problem may have always been there but hadn’t drawn the same level of attention.

With more measurements and reporting, India’s pollution problems will likely appear worse before they get better. But gathering this information is nonetheless vital for the counteroffensive against poor air quality.

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India – Supreme Court Justice K M Joseph Hazir Ho!

So, Congress finally withdrew the Supreme Court petition challenging Rajya Sabha Chairman Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu’s rejection of an impeachment motion against Chief Justice Dipak Misra on Tuesday. Now comes the critical issue that will test the independence of the judiciary in this country: the appointment of K M Joseph to the Supreme Court. GoI has blocked his name on the broad grounds that such an appointment is contrary to the law laid down for the Supreme Court. Let’s examine whether this contention is right.

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s assertion that the blocking of Joseph’s appointment was not because the latter, as chief justice of Uttarakhand, had overturned the imposition of President’s rule by the central government in 2016 strains credulity. Joseph is a reputable judge, having put in almost four years as a chief justice.

He was recommended by the collegium on January 10. GoI sat on the file till April 26, asking the Supreme Court to reconsider, because Kerala — Joseph was appointed to the Kerala High Court in 2004 — is ‘adequately represented’ in the apex court. It also stated that a judge from the scheduled caste-scheduled tribe (SC-ST) community needed to be appointed, and that Joseph’s ‘all India seniority’ rank is 42. Implicit in this explanation was that he would otherwise be a worthy appointment.

The reasons stated by Prasad are factors to be taken into account, not reasons for non-appointment. This would be abundantly clear from a cumulative reading of the Supreme Court judgment of 1982, 1993, 1998 (a presidential reference) and 2016. For our present purposes, the 1998 reference judgment is important.

But first, regarding the opinion that Joseph is not ‘senior enough’. Can junior puisne judges (not chief justices) of a high court be appointed to the Supreme Court? From 1947 to 1992, high court puisne judges to the federal court or Supreme Court were almost 50% of the appointments to the apex court. Later, this dipped when in 1993, the Supreme Court’s Appointments Judgment made the apex court the initiator and ultimate arbiter on high court and Supreme Court appointments. But even after 1993, puisne hight court judges were appointed on merit.

The presidential reference of 1998 states that it is for judges of the collegium to judge the “comparative worth” based on “best information”, irrespective of whether the “prospective appointee’s high court has been transferred to the high court as… puisne judges… or Chief Justice”. The tests of “merit” and “outstanding merit” can only be judged by the collegium…”. And merit is the “predominant consideration”, not the government.

There is no doubt that ‘inter se seniority’ in the high court or ‘all India seniority’ has to be given “due weight” as a factor to be considered. But no more than as a factor. The law minister’s argument that the 41 before Joseph in ‘all India seniority’ will have priority over him is absurd. Even now, there are judges of less seniority than others who were appointed by this government.

 

As for Kerala being ‘over-represented’, Justice Kurian Joseph will be retiring soon. More than one judge have come from some states, and then none from some. At present, there are two judges from Karnataka. One ex-CJI recalls the emphasis on region, and not necessarily state.

The argument to make an SC-ST appointment is once again a factor, after merit has been considered. Judges have been appointed on merit and background. It is nobody’s case that SC-STs and OBCs be excluded. But soon there will be over six vacancies in the Supreme Court. Let us not confuse issues.

So, what we are left with is a farce. GoI can’t dictate who should be judges. That would be the death of the Constitution and of the rule of law. To point to Congress’s mistakes in pursuing the matter — and there were many — is now irrelevant. The independence of the judiciary cannot be bargained by GoI, which has been, on all counts, wrong on facts and law.

The Supreme Court collegium should return Joseph’s appointment to GoI. That would be constitutionally final. The real fear of the government is that Joseph, once appointed, will remain a Supreme Court judge till June 16, 2023. GoI does not want such an independent judge there for the next five years.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/jobs/renewable-energy-jobs-surge-above-10-million-agency/articleshow/64079878.cms

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India – Funding crime but claiming immune to judicial process #WTFnews

The IFC-funded power project is destroying livelihood of fishermen in Gujarat, but the funding agency is hiding behind an immunity law

Fishermen fear losing their livelihood due to depleting fish stocks. Credit: Nevil Zaveri / Flickr
Fishermen fear losing their livelihood due to depleting fish stocks. Credit: Nevil Zaveri / Flickr

An organisation of international repute funds a power project which had detrimental impact on local community’s livelihood. The funding agency overlooks several reports highlighting facts related to adverse impacts. People facing devastating consequences fails to convince the organisation and subsequently, reach to a court where the funding agency says it is immune to any judicial process, so no case stands against it.No, this is not fiction. World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and fishermen from Gujarat, home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are at loggerheads over the issue since 2011. The IFC provided a $450-million loan in 2007 to enable Tata Mundra power plant to be built.

The case filed by the fishermen from Mundra in Kutch district is holding IFC accountable for financing a project which will destroy their livelihood. Not surprisingly, IFC has claimed that it is immune to any judicial process in any court and hence, there is no case. This is despite IFC’s own accountability mechanism criticising it for its role in the project.

Following the complaint of the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS), the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) in 2013, had concluded that IFC had failed to ensure the project met the applicable environmental and social standards necessary for IFC projects. It found that despite predicting the type of harm the project could cause, as well as identifying the issues that would most likely lead to that harm, the IFC failed to take necessary steps to protect local communities and the environment.

The IFC rejected the CAO’s finding. Later in 2015, the CAO again released a report and confirmed that the IFC had still not taken meaningful steps to address identified failings. It also observed that IFC had failed to remedy the harms that had already been caused by the plant, and did not fulfil its obligations.

Many other national and international groups have registered their protest against this project. In November 2013, several Indian civil society organisations signed on to a letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and condemned IFC’s response to CAO’s findings. Following that, another group of 27 civil society organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and International Rivers, wrote to World Bank, highlighting their concern. But nothing happened.

The IFC was not ready to look at the concerns raised time and again. Getting no solution, the community went to the court.  Now the dispute has reached Federal Court in Washington DC which is supposed to take decision on May 10.

The IFC’s claim that it is immune to any judicial process, especially when it funds a project harming community, is also being challenged. It is believed that this is the first time anywhere in the world that a case against World Bank or any such multilateral development bank has come up, and particularly, to the level of Supreme Court.

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/funding-crime-but-claiming-immune-to-judicial-process-60456

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Rainbows for Humanity: “Accept Our Existence Or Expect Resistance.” #LGBTQ

 

A visibility campaign by Nazariya, a grassroots LGBT-straight


 NEW DELHIConnaught Place was recently host to “Rainbows for Humanity”, a visibility campaign organized by Nazariya, an alliance formed by youth belonging to both the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender+ (LGBT+) and straight communities.

The event started at noon at Rajiv Chowk where supporters gathered and walked through the Connaught Place area. Slogans like “I am gay, that’s okay,” “We’re here, we’re queer” resonated throughout the march. The event also promoted inclusion of the SC/ST/OBC community as, according to organisers and protesters, they face double the oppression.

The event focused on making the LGBT+ community heard and spoke up against the harassment and discrimination the community has been subjected to. With the absence of laws regarding protection of the rights of the community and the existence of laws like Section 377 which criminalizes ‘sex against the order of nature’, events such as these take on added relevance.

Organiser Rishi Raj said,“My parents did not accept me at first. It took them four years to accept me. Acceptance is always slow and gradual and you have to educate people around you. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re educating people about the LGBT+ community. We are here to make people aware that we’re here, we’re queer and we are the same as you. We are not second class citizens and we deserve the same rights as everyone else.”

The program was mainly attended by students belonging to the community. Talking about her experience, one such student who wished to remain anonymous said, “I always thought that I was straight until I started having feelings for a friend and eventually, I realized I liked girls. My friends were perfectly fine with it. My school was also okay with all of this, so it was easy for me to come out and accept it.”

Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, also talked about her experience and the need for such events. “I never paid too much attention to what it was. I just knew I liked girls always but it never made me uncomfortable, until I came out to a friend and the friendship ended. It wasn’t too difficult coming out after that. Although, I have had people avoid me and suddenly stop talking to me after getting to know. I think that is why we need such events, not only to make the community feel more validated about their feelings but also, to make others realize that we can’t choose who we get attracted to. We love who we love. This isn’t something we can control. If we could choose, then why would we choose something that we know might leave us as outcasts in the society?”

In addition to rainbow placards and slogans, the Ashmita Theatre Group performed a ‘nukkad natak’, highlighting the harassment, the discrimination and the isolation the people from the community have to face. It started off with satire, where they acted out the discrimination faced by different members of the community. They included all of the sexualities and tried to make a point regarding the society’s ignorance towards the LGBT+ community.

There were also hard-hitting one act plays which addressed issues like physical and sexual abuse that the members face in order to “correct” their behaviour, the regressive practice of young people being taken to ‘godmen’ and ‘sadhus’ in order to “cure” their sexuality and everyday bullying and isolation they face from their friends, family and society as a whole.

(Pictured here: One of the members of the Ashmita Theatre Group performing a ‘nukkad natak’ P.C: Ananya Biswal)

The street play ended with a statement by one of the members of the theatre group, saying, “It’s not just about sexual relationships. It’s about protecting our identity. It is not a lifestyle choice. You cannot change your sexuality for other people like you can change your lifestyle choices. It is about our self-respect.”

Pamphlets in English and Hindi were distributed to people in the Cannaught Place. The pamphlet called for the wider population to address the issues that the community faces and encouraged them to speak up against any sort of discrimination or harassment they see happening around them. It also mentioned the different sexualities that existed in the “LGBTQIA+” community.

The atmosphere was one of not just resistance and resilience but also of unity and harmony. This showed when a minor disturbance involving a policeman occurred, which was dealt peacefully by both the supporters and the policeman himself.

The need for such events, especially with practices like “conversion therapy” and “corrective rape” still in place, is even more urgent now. There is also a need for sensitization and speaking out against the injustice happening to people belonging to and identifying with the LGB TQIA+ community, as reiterated in the pamphlets and the slogans.

To quote Nazariya from one of their Instagram post after the event, “Accept our existence or expect resistance.”

(Cover Photo: Pictured here: Nazariya members with the Nazariya banner. Photo Credit: Ananya Biswal)

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/7/13748/Rainbows-for-Humanity-Accept-Our-Existence-Or-Expect-ResistanceANANYA BISWAL, TANYA RANJAN & NIKITA MOHAPATRA |

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Martin Sheen joins investors call on Dowdupont to reveal true costs of Bhopal Gas Disaster

On, April 25, 2018, Chicago – , stockholders in DowDuPont cast their final votes on three shareholder resolutions[1] addressing the company’s continuing liability for the Bhopal chemical disaster. The resolutions describe increasing shareholder concern that management is mishandling the ongoing Bhopal controversy and call on DowDuPont to disclose the cost of this controversy upon the company’s reputation, finances, and its ability to invest in expanding Asian markets.

“The Bhopal disaster is far from over – its impacts spread across multiple generations. Through no fault of their own, thousands of extremely poor families are left to struggle with lifelong illnesses,” says Martin Sheen, who in 2014 starred in a movie based on events leading up to the original gas tragedy. “It beggars belief that even now, in 2018, DowDuPont managers continue to hide from their responsibilities as business leaders, and as human beings.”

The 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal – known colloquially as the Hiroshima of the chemical industry – has claimed 25,000 lives to date and injured over 500,000. “Survivors suffer chronic long-term illnesses that outstrip the most dire predictions,” says Satinath Sarangi, Managing trustee of the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal. “Recent studies find genetic damage is increasing[2], with incidences of cancer at ten times national rates within some groups[3]. Second and third generations are blighted by birth and developmental disorders[4].”

Dow Chemical – which completed a merger of equals with DuPont Nemours last year – inherited liability for Bhopal when it acquired Union Carbide in 2001[5]. It has since become a named party in civil, criminal and environmental actions in India.[6] “Dow Chemical senior executives purport to be committed to environmental sustainability yet they are ignoring the need for effective remedy of the Bhopal disaster,” remarked Austin Wilson of As You Sow, a non-profit shareholder advocacy organization, which filed a resolution requesting that executive pay be linked with sustainability. “A financial incentive for sustainability and corporate responsibility is necessary to ensure the company’s long-term success.”

Simon Billenness, President of CSR Strategy Group, says, “It’s clear that Dow’s disregard for the essential rights and dignity of Bhopal survivors has caused serious damage to its reputation, affecting growth prospects in India and beyond. Shareholders are therefore sending management a strong message that Bhopal can no longer be hidden away.”

India insists that a 1989 $470 million settlement with Union Carbide was based on death and injury figures “far removed from reality” and has filed a $1 billion civil case against Dow Chemical to cure what it terms a “gross miscarriage of justice”. Potential damages for criminal charges and for environmental contamination unrelated to the disaster remain pending. “Union Carbide is officially a ‘fugitive from justice’ for refusing to attend a manslaughter trial in India. Owner Dow Chemical has flouted at least five summons in the same criminal proceedings[7],” says Bhopal survivor Rashida Bi, a former winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. “Dow publicises its help providing clean water to Flint, Michigan[8], even as it chooses to allow toxic wastes dumped around its factory to contaminate drinking wells in 42 of our communities[9]. For these reasons we will continue to prevent DowDuPont from making any substantial investment in India[10].”

“Despite a clear fiduciary duty, Dow and DuPont management failed to inform shareowners that the merged company would assume the legal and reputational legacy of the Bhopal chemical disaster,” says Bruce Herbert of Investor Voice, filer of a third Bhopal resolution on behalf of beneficial owners of common stock. “Though India’s economy grows between 7-9% each year, DowDuPont are effectively being excluded from investing there.”­­­

Contact:

Tim Edwards, Bhopal Medical Appeal. +44 (0)7748 508852

[email protected]

NOTES

[1] The resolutions are listed from p.77 of the 2018 DowDuPont proxy statement: http://s21.q4cdn.com/813101928/files/doc_downloads/DowDuPont-2018-Proxy-Statement.pdf[2] A recent medical study found an increase in chromosomal aberrations within those exposed to gas over three decades: https://www.firstpost.com/tech/news-analysis/dna-damage-continues-in-methyl-isocyanate-exposed-bhopal-study-4246037.html[3] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/Gas-hit-more-prone-to-cancer-says-study/articleshow/54002570.cms[4] A 2003 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association [JAMA] and carried out by the Sambhavna Trust Clinic showed growth retardation among children conceived by parents exposed to Union Carbide’s toxic gases: https://www.bhopal.net/tag/journal-of-the-american-medical-association/[5] In a 2008 note, the Indian Law Ministry concluded that, “irrespective of the manner in which UCC has merged or has been acquired… if there is any legal liability, it would have to be borne by Dow…”: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/bhopal-gas-tragedy-dow-liable-for-clean-up-says-law-ministry-420840[6] A book by Amnesty International details the health and environmental impacts of the gas leak and ongoing contamination as well as related legal proceedings. See Chapter III of Injustice Incorporated: Corporate Abuses and the Human Right to Remedy (2014), Amnesty International Index: POL 30/001/2014, available at: www.amnesty.org/fr/library/info/POL30/001/2014/en (Injustice Incorporated).[7] On January 13 2017, an Indian court issued a fifth summons to Dow Chemical. The company has not yet made an appearance in the case: http://www.livelaw.in/magistrate-summons-dow-chemicals-bhopal-gas-disaster-criminal-case-email/[8] Dow helps address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan: https://www.icis.com/resources/news/2016/03/24/9981964/dow-chemical-helps-in-us-flint-water-crisis/[9] On March 8 2018, a division bench of Supreme Court judges asked the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) to arrange a safe, piped water supply to five further communities impacted by toxic contamination of the groundwater they use as their primary supply.This brings the number of affected colonies acknowledged by the SC to 27 while the Bhopal Group for Information & Action (BGIA), a member of the monitoring committee appointed by the Supreme Court, states that 42 colonies are affected: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/dumped-toxic-waste-from-defunct-carbide-plant-affects-20-more-areas/articleshow/63243525.cms

The contaminated water results from toxic chemicals leaching into the groundwater from chemical waste abandoned by Dow subsidiary Union Carbide. Detailed contamination briefing: http://bhopal.org/water-contamination-briefing/

[10] A leaked State department cable reveals that Dow management have been unable to pursue a $5 billion investment programme in India due to Bhopal legacy issues: https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09MUMBAI265_a.html

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Tamil Nadu Officials Made Up A Report To Aid Illegal Sand-Mining #WTFnews

Prepared in four days, report concluded “no illegal mining” was taking place along Tamil Nadu‘s coast.

 

A joint-inspection team from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and various departments of Tamil Nadu, including the mining department, prepared a report in four days to allegedly exonerate the state’s powerful sand-mining lobby, HuffPost India has found.

HuffPost India’s investigations reveal this “Joint Inspection Report” was an effort to derail a high-stakes state government investigation into illegal beach sand-mining cartels.

The sand-mining companies obtained this report via the Right to Information Act and used it to contradict the government’s stance in the Madras High Court.

The report’s conclusions were so surprising, that the amicus curiae ­– a court-appointed lawyer overseeing the case – questioned if officials had played “a collusive role to ensure that the mining companies escape liability for the innumerable illegalities committed by them.”

(Disclosure: This report also attacked this reporter for writing about illegal sand-mining on Tamil Nadu’s coasts. At the time of press, this reporter is fighting two defamation cases filed by a mining companyA detailed explanation may be found here.)

When Tamil Nadu’s then Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa learnt of this errant report, she suspended eight government officials, including a former Chief Secretary of the state.

“There is a huge nexus and it is able to transcend parties and professionals”

Five senior officials told HuffPost India that this report led to the resignation of the Tamil Nadu advocate general A.L. Somayaji.

The following account, pieced together from over a dozen interviews and hundreds of pages of court records, illustrates how one arm of the government was used against the other, making it almost impossible for vulnerable mining-affected communities to get justice.

Of the eight suspended officials: K Gnanadesikan, former Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu, has been reinstated as Industries Secretary and charges against him have been dropped. Atul Anand, then Commissioner of Geology and Mining, is now Commissioner for Social Security Schemes, but remains under investigation.

HuffPost India has been unable to establish the outcome of the remaining six inquiries.

A ninth official, C.V. Sankar, secretary for Industry at the time, was also involved in the preparation of this repor and signed off on its conclusions. Sankar escaped censure as he had retired by the time the Chief Minister’s office took action against the officials.

“There is a huge nexus and it is able to transcend parties and professionals,” said R Sridhar, Managing Trustee, Environics Trust who was formerly employed with the Atomic Minerals Division of the Government of India. “I have a hunch that they either are operating to extract something from the miner or responding to some court proceedings where officers are trying to save their skins.”

SANDHYA RAVISHANKAR
Beach sand-mining along the coast of Tamil Nadu

A Tale of Two Reports

In August 2013, the Collector of Tuticorin, Ashish Kumar, raided sand quarries in his district on the suspicion that some of the quarries were operating without licenses. He was transferred 8 hours after the raid, prompting an outcry in the media.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa stopped all sand mining on Tamil Nadu’s beaches and constituted a special team, led by Revenue Secretary Gangandeep Singh Bedi, to produce a report on illegal sand extraction in five districts. His report would come to be known as the “Bedi Report”.

At first, Bedi moved fast – producing an initial report on mining in Tuticorn in a month. Yet, as the scope of his inquiry widened to sand-mining across the state, mining companies opposed his appointment, accusing him of bias in an affidavit filed before the court.

A single-judge bench of the High Court ordered that Bedi be replaced, only for the order to be stayed by a superior bench.

So thick was the red-tape around Bedi’s report that even the state government’s lawyers were seemingly unclear about its status.

But even as Bedi toiled over his investigation, a section of the bureaucracy was working to undermine his efforts by producing a report that would directly contradict his eventual conclusions.

On 22 July 2016, when the court-appointed amicus curiae, asked for a copy of the report, the court was told “the report of Mr. Gagandeep Singh Bedi’s special team is stated to be non-existent at present.”

When Somayaji, the state’s advocate general, stepped down from his position in August 2016, his successor R. Muthukumaraswamy told the court that the Bedi report did in fact exist. The Bedi report was submitted in a sealed envelope to the Madras High Court sooner after.

Excerpts of the Bedi report, quoted in court documents, accessed by HuffPost India, reveal explosive details: 575 acres of land were illegally mined and 90 lakh crore (90 trillion) metric tonnes of beach sand were illegally mined. Bedi did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

But even as Bedi toiled over his investigation, a section of the bureaucracy was working to undermine his efforts by producing a report that would directly contradict his eventual conclusions.

This controversial report was called the “Joint Inspection Report”.

The Joint Inspection Report

On 1 February 2015, this reporter wrote an article in the Economic Times on the effects of sand-mining on Tamil Nadu’s coastline. The companies named in the article responded by suing the publication and this journalist for defamation. The cases are currently pending in the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court.

The conclusions of the Bedi report were not public at the time, but the mining lobby expected him to come down heavily on their operations.

This reporter’s story became a starting point for a parallel inquiry, written by a different set of government officials, to undermine Bedi.

On 25 February 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEF), New Delhi issued a letter to the Director of their regional office in Chennai, C. Kaliyaperumal, as well as to the Principal Conservator of Forests, KS Reddy, to inspect and verify the allegations made by this reporter in her news article in the Economic Times.

Speaking of how one wing of the government effectively ambushed the other, a senior official closely connected with the case conceded that “mistakes were made.”

Kaliyaperumal wrote to the Commissioner of Geology and Mining, Atul Anand, the State Coastal Zone Management Authority, who acted with alacrity.

A month later on April 27 2015, Anand’s team readied a 17-page report which clearly contradicted the findings of the Bedi report. The team took only four out of an appointed six days to come to its conclusions, and the team signed off on the Joint Inspection Report on the last day of their inspection.

The Joint Inspection Report concluded that there was no illegal mining in the districts visited by the team, and quoted extensively from www.beachminerals.org – the website of the Beach Minerals Producers Association that represents the interests of sand-miners – to suggest that this reporter was motivated by a personal enmity with the mining lobby.

Joint Inspection Report into Sand-Mining in Tamil Nadu

 

This Joint Inspection Report, which exonerated the mining lobby, was shared with the Secretary for Industry C.V. Sankar, who initialled it, and sent to Gnanadesikan for his “kind perusal”, who scrawled “This file may be closed as for future reference”, and signed off.

SCREEN SHOT OF DOCUMENT SUBMITTED TO MADRAS HIGH COURT
A filing noting indicating senior Tamil Nadu officials used the now discredited Joint Inspection Report to stymie an inquiry into illegal beach mining.

Soon after, the mining lobby quietly filed a Right to Information request and obtained a copy of this report.

Gnanadesikan declined to respond to a questionnaire sent by HuffPost India, Sankar declined to comment when HuffPost India approached him. Atul Anand’s office refused to share his official email address with HuffPost India or provide time for an appointment.

Anand also did not respond to a questionnaire texted to the official cell-phone number attached to his office.

An officer closely connected with the case said the preparation of the Joint Inspection Report was a consequence of a misunderstanding between the bureaucracy and the state government.

“Many times we do not know what the political bosses are thinking,” he said. “We cannot fight all the time.”

Alarm Bells

Even as two factions of Tamil Nadu’s famously opaque bureaucracy produced two separate reports, court hearings into the state’s sand-mining cartels continued apace.

In July 2016, advocate general A.L. Somayaji was appearing in court for the Tamil Nadu government, when the mining-companies filed the Joint Inspection Report in court to support their stance that no illegal mining was underway.

The state was in a bind: the Joint Inspection Report prepared by a team of state and central officers exonerated the mining companies, while another report – i.e. the Bedi report – came to the opposite conclusion.

On 18 July 2016, Somayaji wrote to the Industries Department, “Last week, the Writ Petitioners who are the respondents in the Writ Appeal filed a Joint-Inspection Report dated 27/04/2015 of the officials of the Central Government and the State Government.”

Letter by former Advocate General A.L. Somayaji

The mining lobby, Somayaji continued, was using the Joint Inspection report “in support of their case that there has been no illicit mining.”

The creation of the Joint Inspection Committee, and its report, Somayaji concluded, “is not only in violation of the order of the court but also adversely interferes with the constitution and functioning of the special team constituted by the state Government to investigate into the complaints of illicit and illegal mining.”

On 24 August 2016, soon after he wrote the letter, Somayaji stepped down. When asked about his sudden resignation, Somayaji told HuffPost India, “I cannot comment on the matter as I was Advocate General at the time.”

“Or are there other possibilities that the officials and the agencies have played a collusive role to ensure that the mining companies escape liability for the innumerable illegalities committed by them?”

Speaking of how one wing of the government effectively ambushed the other, a senior official closely connected with the case conceded that “mistakes were made.”

V.Suresh, the amicus curiae appointed by the court to oversee the case, was more direct.

“Is the failure of the official agencies to enforce the law, play their officially mandated responsibilities and to ensure effective monitoring of the functioning of the mining companies, merely indicative of inefficiency and lethargy?” Suresh asked, in a 2017 status report submitted to the court.

“Or are there other possibilities that the officials and the agencies have played a collusive role to ensure that the mining companies escape liability for the innumerable illegalities committed by them?”

The Chief Minister Acts

The repercussions of the Joint Inspection Report went far beyond the court. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa demanded to know how this report exonerating the sand-mining lobby was prepared.

Files were pulled out, an official with direct knowledge of events said, and the eight officials were suspended on 28 August 2016 – former Chief Secretary K Gnanadesikan and then Commissioner of Geology and Mining Atul Anand among them.

The ninth official, Industries Secretary C.V. Sankar had retired on 31 July 2016, and so escaped censure, despite signing off on the report as well.

In court, the embarrassed state government insisted that the Joint Inspection Report was incorrect, was prepared without their permission, and that illegal sand-mining was rampant.

“It is humbly submitted that, the state Government has not granted any permission to carry out inspection,” said Vikram Kapur, Principal Secretary to the government, in a subsequent submission to the court.

Kapur said it was impossible to produce a meaningful report on illegal sand-mining on a basis of a short four-day visit, and that the Joint Inspection Report provided no evidence to support any of its claims.

The Joint Inspection Report exonerating the mining companies, Kapur concluded, was “irrelevant to the task of the inspection.”

Affidavit by Tamil Nadu Industries Secretary Vikram Kapur disputing the Joint Inspection Report

Justice, Anyone?

The ease with which a cabal of bureaucrats stymied their own government’s investigations has activists in Tamil Nadu worried.

“We are expecting ‘sand wars’ to come before the ‘water wars’,” said Probir Banerjee, and expert on coastal ecology and co-founder of PondyCAN (Pondicherry Citizen’s Action Network) who is an expert on coastal ecology.

Banerjee described the ripple effects of sand-mining as “beach-o-cide”.

“The more of healthy sandy beach you have, the more it protects us,” he said. “But policymakers are allowing sand dunes to be depleted. Nobody wants to interfere or take action because it is mafia-driven and is too dangerous to touch.”

The Chief Minister’s office and the Chief Secretary did not respond to email queries or phone calls.

Meanwhile in court, the hearings continue.

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2018/05/06/revealed-how-tamil-nadu-officials-made-up-a-report-to-aid-illegal-sand-mining_a_23428131/

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PM Modi Just Praised An Artist Who Reeks Of Bigotry, Misogyny & Communalism

Prime Minister Narendra Modi retweeted a sketch of himself drawn by a cartoonist. The artwork was inspired by Modi’s rally in Mangaluru, ahead of the state assembly elections in Karnataka.

“Lovely gesture Kshitij. Thank you. You are an extremely talented artist”, tweeted Modi.

He thanked the cartoonist, Kshitij Bajpai, who regularly posts his work on Twitter.

Kshitij Bajpai@KSHITIJartoons

@PMOIndia @narendramodi
Sir, here is a sketch I penned of yours from your Mangaluru rally. My best wishes as you work tirelessly to transform India.

However, this time the prime minister seems to be unaware of Bajpai’s previous work. If one looks at the cartoonist’s work on his Twitter timeline, one could see that he is blatantly misogynistic, unashamedly communal and transparently propagates anti-Muslim agenda.

Bajpai’s artworks reek of bigotry, hatred for women and abhorrence for Muslims. His cartoons are repugnant and discourteous, portraying political leaders, particularly of opposition parties in a loathsome, hideous and vile manner.

Take a look at some of his sketches:

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Kathua gangrape case

The Bollywood community was vocal over the monstrous rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir. In a reference to the actresses who outraged over the incident, they are referred to as prostitutes. The cartoonist tweeted the hashtags #BollywoodProstitute and #BollywoodSlut along with his cartoon on the subject.

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In another cartoon, he unambiguously targets actresses Swara Bhaskar, Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Huma Qureshi and Richa Chadda.

While rapes and sexual harassment are the key subjects of Bajpai’s works, his cartoons on these are extremely distasteful and malicious.

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In of the cartoons, a man wearing a skull cap is shown urinating on a wall with Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan written over it.

This cartoon of the Taj Mahal is an epitome of racism and bigotry.

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There are a number of other cartoons targeting leaders from the opposition. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is his favourite subject.

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PM Modi’s Twitter handle’s association with trolls and controversial pages is not new, and he has even been called out for that. It is disconcerting to see Modi lauding the cartoonist despite his nature of work.

His party has defended him saying that the prime minister believes in freedom of speech and does not unfollow anyone.

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