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Archives for : May2018

Jean Drèze-Aadhaar-Enabled Savings Are Nothing But Government-Sponsored Propaganda

  On Social-Welfare Programmes Under The NDA Government



The economist Jean Drèze’s book, Sense and Solidarity, published in late 2017, deals with the impact of Aadhaar on social-welfare programmes, such as the National Food Security Act and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, among other things. Drèze was a member of the United Progressive Alliance government’s advisory council, which designed the NFSA and MGNREGS. He co-authored some of the essays in this book with colleagues and activist friends, including his wife, Bela Bhatia. Drèze spoke to Sagar, a web reporter at The Caravan, about the National Democratic Alliance government’s indifference towards social-welfare programmes, many of which have seen the exclusion of genuine beneficiaries due to the mandatory requirement of an Aadhaar number.

Sagar: You have suggested in the book that in the framing of a public policy, empathy and interaction with the oppressed is as important as statistical evidence. Does the government share that approach to public policy?
Jean Drèze: What I have written is that experience is as important as evidence, and that one useful role of experience is to help us re-examine our values. Our values are often influenced by our interests, or the interests of the class or caste or social group we identify with. For policy-makers, that would usually mean a privileged group. Spending time with underprivileged people can help to see things from their point of view. To illustrate, India’s public distribution system tends to be disparaged as a wasteful freebie in the business media, but poor people often see it as a lifeline. That is not, in itself, a vindication of the public distribution system, but it is certainly a useful insight.

Coming to your question, the government’s approach to public policy seems to me to pay little attention to the lives of the underprivileged. Critical decisions are mostly taken behind closed doors in the Prime Minister’s Office or finance ministry, where the poor are just numbers on a computer screen. Demonetisation is a prime example of the dangers of this approach. To this day, the government claims against all reason that the operation was a success, based, for instance, on statistics related to digital payments and tax compliance. The fact that millions of poor people were pushed to the wall for weeks if not months after demonetisation does not seem to matter at all. In the recent debate that accompanied the first anniversary of demonetisation, one even sensed a kind of Darwinian outlook that celebrates the survival of the fittest.

S: You recount incidents of extreme hunger and starvation during 2001 in villages of Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. What had led to such a situation there, and have the government’s health and food schemes reached those places yet?
JD: These incidents were partly due to chronic poverty, aggravated by widespread drought. But they were also made possible by a virtual absence of any sort of public support for vulnerable households. Instead, the government was busy accumulating huge food stocks at that time, well in excess of official buffer norms. This reduced the effective food supply and heightened food prices, even as people were struggling to survive. Far from helping, public policy contributed to starving the poor.

This has certainly changed to a significant extent, with the creation or expansion of social programmes such as the public distribution system, school meals, social security pensions and the MGNREGS. These programmes do reach far and wide, and there is considerable evidence that they make a difference. Of course, there are plenty of shortcomings and irregularities. But at least some foundations have been laid for a possible social security system.

S: The prime minister once scoffed at MGNREGS in Parliament and said he will not abolish it and keep it going so that he can trumpet the failure of the UPA government, which introduced the scheme. Do you think there is a deliberate attempt from the NDA government to weaken schemes such as the MGNREGS?
The prime minister spoke in jest on this subject, and while the remark was in bad taste, we should not read too much in it. However, there are many other signs that the NDA government is not interested in social policy. The main priority seems to be to save money. Social schemes have been retained, because rolling them back would be politically risky, but they have been left to languish. With the partial exception of Swacch Bharat Mission, there have been no significant initiatives in the field of social policy during the last four years.

Sometimes, the fixation with saving money is truly deplorable. Consider for instance maternity entitlements—all pregnant women have been entitled to cash benefits of Rs 6,000 per child since 2013, under the National Food Security Act. After brazenly ignoring this for three years, the NDA government finally made a modest provision for maternity entitlements in last year’s Union Budget and notified a new scheme for pregnant women, the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana. In the same stroke, however, it discontinued an earlier scheme, the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, taking back with one hand most of what it was giving with the other. Further, maternity benefits under this new scheme are restricted to one child per woman, and reduced to Rs 5,000 instead of Rs 6,000. In short, the government is making a pretence of accepting its responsibilities under the food security act, but actually diluting women’s entitlements at every step. This is not only unfair and illegal, but also very short-sighted considering the importance of maternal health for the well-being and future of Indian children, not to speak of women themselves. Maternity benefits are not very costly and could go a long way, but this is of no interest to the NDA leadership.

S: This government has shifted to Aadhaar-based transfers for schemes such as old-age pensions and MGNREGS, and claimed that the new system is saving crores of public money. What’s your view?
JD: Most of the recent claims about Aadhaar-enabled savings are nothing but government-sponsored propaganda. Ministries and state governments are under pressure to report figures of Aadhaar-enabled savings, and some faithfully toe the line. One recent example is the Jharkhand government’s startling claim, on 11 September 2017, that it had cancelled more than 11 lakh fake ration cards with the help of Aadhaar. Firstly, the figure is wrong, and was indeed retracted later. Second, most of the cancelled cards are not fake cards at all. Some of them were ordinary ration cards that had been cancelled in the routine process of updating the lists. For instance, when a joint household splits, the old card is often cancelled in favour of separate cards for the new households. In other cases, cards were cancelled because the cardholders had failed to link their ration card with Aadhaar, for no fault of their own. This is the worst type of so-called Aadhaar-enabled savings, where eligible people are bumped off the lists and then the savings are credited to Aadhaar.

S: Last year, Baba Ramdev was lobbying to win a contract worth Rs 700 crore to supply packaged food under the midday-meal scheme to schools in Uttar Pradesh. How would this affect the scheme and children who are beneficiaries?
JD: This sounds like a replay of the infamous hijacking of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in Uttar Pradesh by Ponty Chadha. Even as most other states were moving away from ready-to-eat mixtures to cooked food for children in the age group of three to six years, Uttar Pradesh continued to give them a useless mixture called panjiri. This panjiri did nothing for child nutrition, but it meant a hugely lucrative contract for the winning supplier. In this case, the winner was Ponty Chadha, a notorious gangster-businessman close to Mayawati, who also had the monopoly of liquor licenses in Uttar Pradesh at one time. Baba Ramdev is the new Ponty Chadha. Replacing cooked midday meals in UP schools, if it happens, will be disastrous for children but it will be another business coup for Ramdev.

S: There have been reports of caste conflicts in the implementation of the midday-meal scheme because upper-caste families did not allow their children to dine with Dalit children and refused to let them eat food prepared by Dalit cooks. How will the packaged food system negotiate with this caste conflict? Will it get worse or better?
JD: What needs attention here is not just caste conflict, but also the positive value of midday meals as a way of combating caste prejudice. It may be true that replacing cooked food with packaged food would ease caste tensions around midday meals, since upper-caste parents who object to their child eating wholesome food cooked by a Dalit woman may not object to them eating biscuits or potato chips. In the process, however, an opportunity will be missed to challenge these prejudices and impart more egalitarian values to children. When children learn to sit together and share a meal irrespective of caste, the caste system takes a healthy blow.

S: Recently, the government also made Aadhaar compulsory for children to avail the benefits of the midday-meal programme. How will it affect the coverage?
Hopefully, this will not affect the coverage of midday meals because school teachers will be sensible enough not to deprive any child of food for lack of Aadhaar. But it will cause a lot inconvenience and waste of time, for no purpose. If midday-meal registers are inflated, by adding the names of pupils who are actually absent, linking children’s names with Aadhaar will not help unless it is combined with biometric authentication for every meal. Daily biometric authentication is bound to create the sort of chaos we have already seen in the public distribution system. It would also reduce coverage, and exclude many children for no fault of their own. Quite likely, the real purpose of making Aadhaar compulsory for midday meals is to force children to enrol. This is one example, among others, of the coercive and invasive nature of Aadhaar.

S: In September last year, hundreds of MGNREGS workers were on dharna for five days in Delhi to protest against delays in wage payments and other infringements of their rights. What does the protest indicate?
JD: The protest was mainly about the stagnation of real wages under MGNREGS, delays in wage payments, and the denial of compensation for delayed payments. Almost ten years have passed since bank payments of MGNREGS wages were introduced. Yet the system is still unequal to the task of paying wages within 15 days, as prescribed under the act. Sometimes wages are even lost in transit due to technical glitches in the Aadhaar-based payment system. Wages are also held up for other reasons from time to time—in Jharkhand, for instance, wages were held up for months last year because a few districts had not submitted their social audit reports to the central government. In one district, apparently, the report was delayed because the district coordinator was on paternity leave. In these and other ways, MGNREGS workers are constantly held hostage to lack of funds, centre-state disputes, and technical hurdles. Aside from being a grave injustice, this threatens to undermine the entire programme. If people have worked, they must be paid without delay.

S: You write that whoever thinks the Kashmir problem is due to lack of development is severely deluded. Could you explain why it is not a problem of development?
JD: Kashmir is actually a prosperous state compared with most Indian states. That is obvious to any visitor, and also evident from statistical data. For instance, official poverty estimates based on National Sample Survey data suggest that poverty rates in Jammu and Kashmir are among the lowest in India. Jammu and Kashmir’s social indicators are also quite good: better, for instance, than those of Gujarat, almost across the board, despite Gujarat being regarded by some as a model. Kashmir does have a serious unemployment problem, aggravated by years of conflict, but living standards there are relatively good. So, lack of development is a very misleading explanation for the Kashmir conflict. This explanation is part of a larger discourse aimed at denying or obfuscating the real reasons for the deep alienation of the Kashmiri people from India.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

“Aadhaar-enabled savings are nothing but government-sponsored propaganda”: Jean Drèze on social-welfare programmes under the NDA government

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India – #DeathPenalty for Rape – 16 year old raped and set ablaze #Vaw

 This case is an example death penalty  will never be a deterrent for Rape. The death penalty in fact further endangers the life of the survivor as the severity of the punishment then becomes an incentive to end the survivors life.The death penalty in fact further endangers the life of the survivor as the severity of the punishment then becomes an incentive to end the survivors life.The Justice Verma Committee set up in 2013 in response to the Nirbhaya case made strong recommendations against the death penalty, calling it “a regressive step in the field of sentencing and reformation.” Despite that, the Centre chose to exclude this recommendation in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013. Even with regards to POCSO, the problem really is one of lack of conviction and not one of the severity of punishment meted out. Instead of working on effective implementation of the existing act, the BJP has hurriedly pushed forward the ordinance without consulting with people working on child rights and cases of child sexual abuse. By talking about death, the government has conveniently shifted attention from the legislators who have supported and perpetrated these crimes. Instead, by pandering to popular sentiment orchestrated by the media, they seek to gain political mileage from such heinous acts of violence. Masqueraded as concern about growing sexual violence against children, what the amendment actually does is perpetuate the hyper-masculine regime of the BJP – where justice in cases of sexual violence becomes an act of revenge in a sense, with the “honour” of India’s children and women being avenged by the tough manhood of the nation.There is need for all citizens to take up gender sensitization, as a mission to address the rapid growth of sexual violence in the country. We need to provide support to victims and survivors of violence.   

Sagar (MP), May 11 (PTI) A 16-year-old girl died after she was allegedly raped and set ablaze in a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district, triggering a sharp reaction from the opposition Congress.

MP teen dies after being raped and set afire

Sagar (MP), May 11 (PTI) A 16-year-old girl died after she was allegedly raped and set ablaze in a village in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district, triggering a sharp reaction from the opposition Congress.

The incident took place last evening in Jujharpur village, which falls under Khurai assembly constituency, police said.

The constituency is represented by state Home Minister Bhupendra Singh, who blamed pornography and “perversity” for such incidents.

State Congress chief Kamal Nath described it as a brutal incident and said “the head of the state”, a reference to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, was busy with national politics and the Karnataka elections.

Giving details of the incident, police said Ravi Chadhar, 28, a resident of Jujharpur village, allegedly entered the girl’s house when she was alone and sexually assaulted her.

Chadhar, who has been arrested, allegedly poured kerosene on her and set her afire when she threatened to tell her father about what had happened, said Kamal Singh Thakur, in-charge of the Bandri police station near here.

She died immediately, Thakur said.

He added that the tragedy was noticed by her younger brother who was playing outside and saw smoke billowing from the house.

“Her parents were in Bandri (around 25 km from Sagar) to attend a function. Her younger brother was playing near the house. The girl’s brother told us that he rushed back home when he saw smoke from the house. He also told us he saw the accused standing near their house,” the officer said.

Slamming the BJP, Kamal Nath said one more innocent life had become a victim of rape “…Such incidents are shameful for the state,” he said on Twitter.

“Incidents of rape and farmer suicides are on the rise in Madhya Pradesh and the head of the state is busy campaigning in Karnataka and national politics,” he added. The home minister announced financial help of Rs 2 lakh to the family members and assured them of all possible help.

“I am leaving for the residence of the girl… Perversity in society is responsible for the rise in such incidents across the country. To an extent, porn sites are responsible for such incidents. We have shut down 21 such sites and also written to the Centre to take action in this regard,” Singh said.

Singh added that the state government had enacted tough laws to award death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years of age and fast tracking the investigation and trial for such rape cases.

Chadhar has been booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).

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India – Walmart Gobbles up Flipkart as Modi Bows the Knee before US Imperialism

Statement by CPI (ML)
The gobbling up of Flipkart, the Indian online retailer and the much trumpeted Indian e-commerce “start up business” by Wlamart, the biggest American MNC and world’s largest retailer by spending $ 16 billion once again exposes the hollowness of Modi’s flagship projects like “Make in India”, “Start-up India”, etc.
As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi himself was in the forefront of vehemently opposing the Manmohan government’s liberal approach to the Indian entry of foreign retailers. When it offered certain concessions for foreign single-brand retailers, in a booklet brought out on FDI, Modi at that time called it a “betrayal” and even characterized the Manmohan regime as “government of foreigners”. But once ascended to the throne, without any qualm, and in the most duplicitous manner, he has allowed free entry of foreign single-brand retail through the automatic route. Ironically, when the UPA government allowed FDI in single brand retail with an “outsourcing clause” (requirement of 30 percent local sourcing), Modi who always speaks of patriotism from rooftops has gone to the extent of even doing away with the restrictive provision for 30 percent sourcing from Indian local players–a provision which he himself initially has incorporated as an essential component of his star program ‘Make in India’.
Now, among other neoliberal moves, it is this policy shift by the Modi regime which is going to destroy the productive base of the Indian economy that has enabled Walmart to enter Indian retail market through this backdoor deal which is also the world’s biggest e-commerce deal. Unless the government pursues a pro-national economic perspective and installs special provisions for protecting domestic businesses and local producers, in a globalized atmosphere it is natural on the part of Flipkart like enterprises easily succumbing to the predatory competitive tactics pursued by global giants like Walmart, Amazon, Alibaba, etc.
In the specific case of Walmart, in spite of being the biggest MNC in the world with an annual turnover of around $500 billion, it is finding it difficult to compete with its Chinese counterpart Alibaba on account of several product regulations brought out by Chinese imperialism to protect its market. Though Walmart started its Chinese operations in 1996, two years before the founding of Alibaba, recently Walmart has forced even to pay huge fines for violating Chinese regulations. Still China continues to be the largest procurement source for Walmart—the latter procures almost two-thirds of its products from China due to its lowest wage rate. Walmart is also facing problems to sell the Chinese brands in the US on account of Trump’s economic nationalist and protectionist policies against China. Now Walmart is eagerly searching for overcoming its underperformance in USA and China (while China allows Walmart to procure low-priced goods, selling them in China is not easy) by capturing other markets. In this context, recent policy liberalizations announced by Modi regime pertaining to FDI in retail have opened up new avenues for Walmart. What we are going to witness in the coming days is a flooding of the Indian market with cheap Chinese products.
What is in store now is a biggest attack on small manufacturers, millions of retailers and above all the vast majority of workers who are already condemned to live without any job and avenues of subsistence. Though RSS-affiliated SJM has come forward opposing the move, it is not yet bold enough to point out the fact that Modi is openly violating the poll promise of the BJP in the 2014 general election.
Once Walmart, world’s biggest MNC with its notorious tactics of “dumping” and cut-throat competition enters the retail scene, and that too in a context of local sourcing no more mandatory, the trend now is towards devastation of around 50 million unorganized retailers together with hundreds of thousands of tiny, small and medium enterprises and sky-rocketing of joblessness in the country. Over the last several years, successive governments have been denying permission to Walmart. While China is becoming inhospitable to Walmart, Modi government is laying red carpet for it to India with an estimated $ 1.3 trillion e-commerce market in five years. What is occurring is not a mere lack of political vision, but a heinous betrayal of country’s national interest.

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Are cows more sacred than women in India?

By Sayan Chatterjee

Art and activism have gone hand in hand in challenging established norms around gender representation in politics, religion, sexuality and the workplace using various mediums and platforms. Twenty-four-year-old photographer Sujatro Ghosh has done just that through his ‘Cow Mask project’ to address the issue of women’s safety in India.

Ghosh’s project, shot entirely on a mobile phone, features women wearing cow masks while posing at iconic  landmarks across the country. A Jamia Millia Islamia alumnus, Ghosh started his photo series at India Gate in New Delhi. I recently met him at a forum on gender empowerment and had a chance to talk to him about his project and perspectives on the millennial Indian woman.

Sujatro Ghosh is a 24-year-old photographer and the brains behind the Cow Mask project. Credit: Sujatro Ghosh.

Tell us how you conceptualised the Cow Mask project? 

I have been working with women rights and several civil society organisations for many years now. My sensitivity towards this issue which, therefore, is not recent, gave birth to the the project, specifically after the rise of the right wing in India. As a result, the number of cow vigilante groups have been on the rise, leading to some attacks on minorities.

The concept behind this project is to visually illustrate the dichotomy behind our misplaced priorities where the chances of delivering (almost immediate) justice to a cow who is harmed is higher by several degrees than to a woman who has been raped, molested, or been subjected to domestic violence. The idea has been to create awareness through photographing women in public and private spaces wearing the mask of a cow, thereby raising a quite literal question, “Are cows safer than women in this country?”

The context in which the cow mask has been set is in tune with the current socio-political scenario in India, but my fight against the patriarchal society has been a long one. But the project definitely speaks for women worldwide and not just India. And that’s evident now with the project’s global exposure and acceptance.

Why was Delhi your first location?

I chose Delhi for the first photograph because the city was the hub of the debate. But soon I realised that it is more of a private issue for every woman. I have now started photographing them in their private space as well.

The Cow Mask project in New Delhi, India. Credit: Sujatro Ghosh.

Your project was born around the central theme of raising public awareness. Do you believe that photography can be a tool of protest? 

Art as a tool of change is quite powerful and I have been a witness to the impact of my project. So, yes, I do believe photography can be a very effective means to address issues. I believe it plays a big role in forming opinions, educating us about truth and transforming mindsets. When art reflects the times we live in, bringing about such positive changes in people through art is definitely possible.

Is there a link between the subjects photographed and the places where you take the pictures?

Yes, There is a link between the subjects and the locations we choose to photograph. When I started photographing the women, I photographed them according to the places where they wanted to get photographed. Those were usually the places where they felt unsafe and where they faced daily incidents.

Do you think the issue of Indian women’s rights is a matter that should affect women worldwide? 

The contexts in which Indian women’s rights or the Indian feminist movement are set are completely different to that of their counterparts in the West or to any other country for that matter. For instance, the suffragists and the suffragettes began their fight for justice with the issue of voting rights for women. But we never really had to fight for our voting rights, we already had it. Similarly, the fight to abolition sati before and during the independence movement or for the law to criminalise dowry after independence are matters concerning the Indian State specifically.

I do not see how it it is possible to universalise feminist struggles when the struggles for certain women’s rights are set in contexts specific to practices of particular nations. Having said that, I also find it necessary to state that any feminist struggle or movement in any country across the world inherently carries within themselves the burden of fighting against a patriarchal system that systemically affects all of us. Fighting against patriarchy and it’s ill-effects, which may be of contexts specific to countries or societies, may therefore be the larger universal struggle uniting feminists [women and men of various nationalities, religions and skin colour] the world over.

What do you think are the cultural, political and religious reasons that at times influence the unequal treatment of women in India?

In India, the cultural, the religious and the political are closely mixed, often flowing in and out of one another. Each one in turn affects the other two. One of the major contributors to women being unequal in the Indian scenario is the Brahminical caste system, thoroughly religious by nature, which has been in practice for centuries. The right to receive education has been the sole right of only upper caste Hindu males for thousands of years. Even though laws have now been put into place [to abolition the caste system and to ensure everyone has a right to education], the repercussions of age-old practices still affects us all.

Many social problems often stem from cultural practices such as dowry, child marriage, or giving women no choice in their education and career. Practising dowry, in turn, led to the rise in female infanticide. The domesticated role of the woman was born through the interpretation of religious texts.

Such beliefs eventually led to political issues where women weren’t adequately represented in public offices and in parliament. The biggest example would be how The Women’s Reservation Bill, which proposed a 33.3% reservation for women at each level of legislative decisionmaking, has still not been passed into a law, despite being introduced in parliament two decades ago. Perhaps political parties fear that many male leaders will have no chance of being elected if the reservation comes into effect. This is direct effect of patriarchal attitudes that are still largely existent in society.

The Cow Mask project in Kolkata, West Bengal. Credit: Sujatro Ghosh.

The Indian parliament is considering introducing the death penalty for those who torture animals, however, no changes have been made to the justice system to advocate for stronger punishments against those who commit crimes against women. What are your thoughts? 

Bills [Cow Protection Bill, 2017 by Subhramaniam Swamy] have been pushed which talk of providing the death penalty for those who slaughter cows. In my opinion, while I find this outrageous, I don’t believe capital punishment can be the solution to any crime committed against any living being. After all, how many will you kill? We need to work on fixing people’s mindsets and mentalities towards each other to bring about any change. I’m also not aware of any political group which has proposed any additional measures of justice for women against whom violence has been committed.

How have people in India reacted to your project?

[The project] has already gained its initial momentum and has managed to effectively challenge the status quo of the current socio-political situation in the country. Students, youngsters and women who have dealt with violence and rape, the concerned elderly, civil society organisations, as well as organisations working for women trafficking have expressed their sentiments and support for this cause.At the same time, political and religious extremists and fundamentalists have been upset over their beliefs being threatened through art. Responses from across the globe, both positive and negative, have managed to fuel the need to continue with the endeavour and create significant impact in the lives of the people.

Going forward, what future do you see for the project?

The overwhelming response and feedback has egged me on to expand the project in various other locations across the country. The idea behind the second phase of ‘The Cow Mask Project’ is to generate an active discourse across various sections of the masses of the need to deliver justice to women and ensure safety and security in all spaces and at all times through powerful imaging and photography.

In addition, it is also important that what began as a personal venture now ought to transfer hands and become a full-fledged people’s project through women’s participation and collaboration at several levels. Therefore, written documentation of the entire journey is a major component of the second phase. It will seek to give voices to the oppressed and the marginalised, to narrate stories of those who have been delayed justice for the crimes committed against them through the magnetic interplay of words and images. From the tribal woman to the adolescent slum dweller in a metropolitan, from a small town homemaker to the urban businesswoman, each and every voice is of vital importance and needs to be expressed, heard, documented and studied.

Sayan Chatterjee is a Delhi-based publicist who also contributes to print and online publications.

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India diverts 10 million hectares of productive agri-lands, replaces them with barren lands for cultivation #WTFnews

Point of No Agri-returns Part 7:

Government report terms this as the ‘often overlooked’ aspect of the agrarian crisis in the country

                    Credit: Flickr
 Credit: Flickr

As the reports of the Committee on Doubling farmers’ Income—a flagship promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has, of late, defined his electoral narrative—start piling up, assessing the country’s agriculture sector, the crisis gets deeper.

In its seventh report, the Committee has found a systemic change in land use that has been hurting farmers’ income. According to this report, India has been diverting large tracts of productiveagricultural lands for other purposes like making way for new townships and to accommodate expanding settlements besides being given for industrial purposes.

This is a known story. But what the report finds disturbing is that more and more barren and uncultivable lands are being brought under farming. This has impacted the farmers’ productivity, income security and also viability of cultivation.

Since 1970-71, the area under non-agriculture has increased by 10 million hectares (mha).  This, the report suggests, is basically of productive agricultural lands being diverted for other uses.  On the other hand during the same period (1971-2011-12), lands under the barren and uncultivated category have declined from 28.16 mha to 17.23 mha. It is more than a million hectares.

The report argues that given India’s net-cultivated area remaining the same, this indicates farmers are now more dependent on barren and uncultivable lands for survival. “The often overlooked fact behind the almost stagnant net-cultivated area is a significant diversion of prime agricultural lands for non-agricultural purposes and the simultaneous induction of barren and uncultivable lands. An apparent logic behind this statement is that the expansion of cities and towns and other developmental/infrastructural activities often take place in prime agricultural lands around cities/townships,” says the report.

India’s net-cultivated areas remain stagnant at around 140 mha since 1970. But lands under non-agricultural purposes have gone up from 19.66 mha in 1970 to 26.19 in 2011-12. In the decade of 2000-2010 alone, India has added close to 3 mha in this category.

Source: Report Of the Committee On Doubling Farmers' Income  Volume 7
Source: Report Of the Committee On Doubling Farmers’ Income Volume 7

On the other hand, lands under the barren and uncultivated category, has come down from 28.16 mha in 1971 to 17.23 mha in 2012. In the decade of 2000-2010, it saw a dip from 18 to 17.23 mha.In both the above categories, land use changes have followed complimentary trends.

More importantly, this tract of new lands is going to decide India’s self-sufficiency in food production. Most of these lands are rain-fed. The government’s ambition of doubling farmers’ income faces a big challenge here. “As new lands inducted to croplands are extremely poor in terms of fertility status and overall health, a careful monitoring and management is obviously needed to make them productive and economically remunerative,” says the report.

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Viral: Fake news of Pakistan flag waved at Congress rally #KarnatakaElections2018

A video is currently going viral on social media platforms and particularly on WhatsApp. The video is of a Congress party rally in North Belgaum in Karnataka, and it has been claimed that the flag of Pakistan was waved at the rally. This message is also circulating in the form of an image of the flag which has been taken from the video.

In the video, it can be seen that a green coloured flag is being waved amidst a crowd. It is being claimed in social media posts and WhatsApp forwards that the flag in the video is the Pakistani flag.


The above video has been shared more than 350 times.

This may seem like a modest number, but the video is being uploaded and posted by many individual users rather than being shared in large numbers from a single page or group of pages.

Viral: Fake news of Pakistan flag waved at Congress rally in Karnataka

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India – Inclusive Karnataka Election -2018 ? #Disability

Here’s what to expect :

1) Barricading will not block your access by vehicle to drop off point close to booth

2) Each booth has signage indicating priority queue for voters with disabilities & senior citizens

3) Keep an eye out for a wheelchair volunteer – 1/4 polling stations have wheelchair facility.

4) A 1:12 gradient ramp with handrails should facilitate your entry and level-free passage inside the station.

5) Show your voter id card or a photo ID like passport, PAN / Aadhaar card for verification

6) Get inked.

7) If you are an English Braille user, ask for a copy of the dummy ballot paper with the order of candidates listed
on the EVM. Memorise your preferred candidate’s number. The number after the last candidate is the NOTA
(none of the above) option.

8) Braille numbers are embossed to the right of the voting button, on same line as the written text. Wait for the audiovisual feedback after pressing the button to confirm your vote has been cast.

9) If you’d like to vote with a companion’s assistance they will need to fill a declaration (under section 49N of the Conduct of Elections Rules) and you will be required to sign / fingerprint the polling booth official’s 14A book.

Your companion will also be allowed to vote immediately after you.

10) Fill the form at to tell us how your voting experience was.

Booth-capturing‘ pictures of good / bad amenities? WhatsApp +919003021773, share on social media with hashtag  #Votability, Tweet @Disabilitylndia or email [email protected]


Let us know whaich booths were inaccessible


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Kokila Ambani Hospital fined Rs 175 cr, but here is what minister wants

Kokila Ambani Hospital fined Rs 175 cr, but here is what minister wants

The BJP-led state government is tight-lipped about its decision on fining the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Andheri (West) with Rs 175 crore for commercially exploiting the 14-acre plot given by the state solely for hospital purpose.

The BJP-led state government is tight-lipped about its decision on fining the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Andheri (West) with Rs 175 crore for commercially exploiting the 14-acre plot given by the state solely for hospital purpose. The hospital management has allegedly misused the plot by running a gift shop, spa, beauty salon, food court and offices of the Reliance Group.

Sources from the State Revenue Department said, “The minister (Chandrakant Patil) wants to either waive off the total Rs 175 crore fine or decide to give major relief to Ambani,” said a source from the revenue department, privy to the probe.

Last year, the revenue department had passed an order against the Malti Vasant Trust that runs the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital. Anil and Tina Ambani are trustees of the Trust.

The source added that Patil was about to take a decision favouring the Ambanis, but has kept it on hold as it could put a blot on the clean image of the BJP government. “Hence, the minister (Patil) is very cautious about this particular file even though he has orders from the BJP high command in Delhi to give a breather to Ambani,” the source said.

When contacted, State Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil told DNA that he is not aware of this particular file. “I will reply on it only when I check the details,” Patil said. When contacted on Wednesday, Janhavi Bellare, spokesperson of Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital refused to comment on the issue.

It may be recalled that DNA was first to report on the government’s decision to slap a fine of Rs 175 crore on the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital for commercially exploiting the 14-acre plot.

The hospital allegedly also changed the trustees without the consent of the government. The Revenue Department had allotted the 14-acre plot to the Trust on a 30-year lease at a token rate of Rs 1 per year in 2009. As per the 2008 Ready Reckoner rate, the total value of the land was Rs 233 crore.

By Sudhir Suryawanshi, DNA India

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A Sudanese teenager killed her rapist, and Muslim women are fighting for her life #JusticeForNoura




Islam is often blamed for violence towards ‘oppressed women’. The case of Noura Hussein, who is sentenced to death, shows otherwise

Violence against women does not discriminate. One in three womenacross the globe experience physical or sexual violence in their lives, regardless of race, age or income. Intimate partner violence is the most common form, with physical violence occurring to as many as two out of three women who have ever been in an intimate partnership.

This is not news, and yet, the difference in how this violence is discussed is stark, depending on where and by whom it has been perpetrated. When the violence occurs in majority Muslim countries, pundits are quick to blame Islam itself, instead of noticing the army of Muslim women who are fighting for their rights within the faith, and defending women – and themselves – at all costs.

Noura Hussein, a young woman from Sudan, provides an instructive and urgent example. At the age of 16, Noura was forced into a marriage by her father. She refused and escaped from her family home near Khartoum to stay with her aunt in Sennar, around 250km away. She lived there for three years, determined to finish her education, when she received word that the wedding plans had been cancelled, and she was welcome to come home.

On her return, it became apparent that she had been tricked. The wedding ceremony was underway, and Noura was duly “given” to the groom. Distraught, the 19-year-old refused to consummate the marriage for a number of days. Within the week, her husband’s tactics became increasingly aggressive. Noura’s husband raped her, with the help of relatives who pinned her down during the act.

When the husband returned the next day to repeat the crime, Noura retaliated. She stabbed her husband a number of times, ultimately killing her rapist. She thereafter returned to her family, who reportedly then disowned her and turned her over to the police.

Over a year later, on 29 April, 2018, Noura was convicted of murder. On 10 May, she was sentenced to death. His family was offered the choice of either accepting monetary compensation for the crime, or execution. They chose the latter. Now the family and community have 15 days to appeal the sentence. They are hoping to overturn the decision to execute Noura for defending herself against physical and sexual violence, and navigating an impossible situation that no young woman should ever face.

Noura’s story is perhaps not unusual in a world where intimate partner violence is rife. However, there is something about Noura’s case that is indicative of a wider truth. The majority of people involved in raising awareness about this young woman’s case are other Sudanese Muslim women. The lawyers working on the case in Washington DC are members of the Sudanese diaspora, and word of the case reached me through another Sudanese writer’s Instagram and blogposts. The majority of people fighting for Noura are women, Muslim women.

This reality flies in the face of those who claim that Muslim women are oppressed, submissive or believe in a religion that takes away their rights. It also stands in complete opposition to men who try to use a warped version of sharia to justify any part of such a situation – the forced marriage, the rape, the sentencing. The women arguing on Noura’s behalf point to both law and theology: to be wedded without consent is forbidden in Islam. Child marriage is still practiced, although women continue to fight the laws and traditions that allow it.

However, as happens so often in cases like this, the story becomes an opportunity for the airing of grievances and prejudices about Islam, through the argument of advocating for women’s rights. Islam is violent, people will say, because of how they treat their women – and look, here is an example that reinforces that argument!

Let the women who are advocates for  #JusticeForNoura be an example of how that is fundamentally incorrect. The burden on Muslim women is impossibly heavy – to defend themselves against both the ignorance of non-Muslims with an Islamophobic agenda, and the deeply patriarchal norms that exist within interpretations of sharia around the world. To paraphrase Dr Susan Carland, Muslim women forever face a catch-22. However, when the fight truly is on, as in the case of Noura, they are the first to step up to fight for each other’s rights and protection. Tell me, how is that oppression?

 Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a mechanical engineer, social advocate, and writer. Visit her website here

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Rajasthan Rape Survivor, Family Denied Haircut, Doctor, Grocery on Panchayat Order #WTFnews

The Chittorgarh rape survivor and her family allege that they have been boycotted by the village after she refused to change her statement in the court.

On Panchayat Order, Rape Survivor, Family Denied Haircut, Doctor, Grocery

The Chittorgarh woman filed a police complaint after she was allegedly raped last year.

CHITTORGARH, RAJASTHAN:  For months now, a young woman, who was allegedly raped last year, and her family in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh district have not been able to buy vegetables or get groceries from the ration shop in their village.When the young woman’s relative went to a doctor, he refused to attend to them. When a family member went for a haircut, the barber refused. The local mill refused to grind wheat for the family.

The rape survivor and her family allege that they have been boycotted and ostracized by the village after she refused to change her statement against her attacker in the court. The panchayat or village council has passed a bizarre diktat which made sure the family did not get any support from the community.

“The villagers gathered at around 11 pm and called my family. They asked me to change my statement in court and also get into an understanding with him (alleged rapist). I refused to do so,” the woman said.

chittorgarh rape survivor village ani

The woman and her family allege that they have been boycotted and ostracized by the village.

The woman filed a police complaint after she was allegedly raped by a man who gave her an intoxicant, took her videos and then threatened her.

According to her, the panchayat leaders told her parents, “Make your daughter understand. Or else you will be an outcast in this village. We’ll drive you out of this village.”

As a punishment, the family was even forced to pay fine of Rs. 11, 000, the woman alleged.

The woman’s family has given a written complaint with the police against the panchayat’s order.

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