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Archives for : June2018

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate asks UK Govt to Free Julian Assange!


Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire called on UK government to free Julian Assange and end their cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which amounts to torture, as defined by international law. She said,

“I know of no other country where an asylee  is held with no sunlight, no exercise, no visitors, no computer, no phone calls, yet all this is happening in the heart of London at the Ecuadorian Embassy to an innocent man, Julian Assange, now in his 8th year of illegal and  arbitrary detention by the United Kingdom government. “

We are here this evening to stand in solidarity with our friend Julian Assange, Editor in Chief, of WikiLeaks.   Because of WikiLeaks reporting of acts during US/NATO’s illegal wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., and its highlighting of corruption by USA/CIA and corporate power, and continuing his fight in disclosing the links between the great private corporations and government agencies, Julian Assange has been threatened by high profile USA citizens, and a Grand Jury has been set up in American to try Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, for their publications.

For this, he is being persecuted and deprived of his right to liberty, human rights, etc. Six years ago Julian Assange, aware of these extradition plans of America,  sought asylum in the  Ecuadorian Embassy,  in London, where he remains today.  (He is now in his 8th year of Arbitrary Detention in the U.K.)    Although Mr. Assange’s conditions were already harsh, having no sunlight or outdoor exercise since June 2012, his situation has gotten worse since March 2018 when the Ecuadorian Government (after a visit by UK/USA officials to Ecuador) imposed conditions that are like indefinite confinement.

He is prevented from having visitors, receiving telephone calls, no internet, emails, or other electronic communications.  He is unable to speak to his lawyers except in person and his   physical health, according to doctors, continues to deteriorate. Julian Assange is unable to walk outside the Ecuadorian embassy, as he has been told by UK government, he will be arrested by the British Metropolitan Police.  He has asked UK Gov. to give assurances he will not be   handed over to American Security for extradition to America, to face a grand Jury, where he could be tortured and face life imprisonment, but UK government, refuse to give him assurance of this.    A UN working group on Arbitrary detention has deemed this an arbitrary deprivation of his liberty and a grave human rights abuse which should be ended immediately, and for which, according to this UN Group on Arbitrary detention, he ought to be compensated by Britain and Sweden.

We should all be  deeply concerned at attacks by Governments, on ’truth’ tellers and ‚’whistle-blowers’ as this is a  danger posed to our democracy, security and good Governance when ‚whistle-blowers’ are thus persecuted.  These matters of removal of basic rights of speech, information, liberty, persecution and silencing of journalists, etc., are of fundamental importance to all of us who believe in a free and democratic society.

We have a duty to ensure Mr. Assange, an Australian citizen, is treated no less favourably than UK citizens detained for similar ofences.  British citizens enjoy the protection of the UK Human Rights Act l998 and the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantee their right to freedom of expression.  This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, received and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’ and to do so, without interference by public authority’ ;  He also has a right to be presumed innocent; and a right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

We have all a responsibility as Governments and as concerned Citizens to ensure that Mr. Assange’s treatment by UK Authorities accords to these standards.  As Julian Assange is an Australian Citizen and they have a responsibility to see their Citizens are protected and Rights upheld, we call upon the Australian Government to work for Julian’s Freedom and safe return to Australia.   Also we call upon the UK Government to do the utmost to restore Julian Assange’s human rights and the free and lawful operation of WikiLeaks.  Specifically, we ask UK government to:

  1. Ensure Julian Assange is guaranteed full and timely access to all necessary medical and dental care;
  2. Request and defend his right to receive information and impart information freely without interference by any public authority;
  3. Defend Mr. Assange at home and abroad and object to threats levelled against Mr. Assange by high-profile US citizens and others;
  4. Strongly oppose and refuse, any application to have Mr. Assange extradited to the United States where it is unlikely he would receive a fair trial;
  5. Facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner;
  6. Compensate him for his arbitrary detention (also the Swedish government should compensate him for his arbitrary detention).

I would like to make a special appeal to the American President Donald Trump and his Government, to close down this Grand Jury which has been established to try Julian Assange and WikiLeaks based on their publications, and confirm the US Government will not extradite him to America, but recognize that he too, (as any American Citizen, ) has a right to have his rights protected under law.

This impasse could be resolved through Mediation between Ecuadorian Embassy and the UK Government.  A text which includes a confirmation that Julian Assange will not be extradited to America and his Civil and Political Rights will be upheld by all Parties, would mean Freedom for Julian Assange.  The case of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is deeply important to not only journalists, media, etc., but is of fundamental importance to a free and democratic society for us all.

We owe Julian Assange our deepest thanks for his courage and being prepared to tell the truth even at risk of his own liberty and life.  We can all, especially the media, and Governments, refuse to  be silent in face of such injustice and persecution of a man whose only crime was telling the truth to stop the wars and save lives.  We can refuse to be silent and thus complicit in the face of injustice and work together until Julian Assange can return in safety and freedom to be with his family in Australia, or whatever country he chooses as a free citizen of the world.


Speech Delivered at the British Embassy in Dublin, Ireland on 19 Jun 2018

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Is Madras HC in contempt of SC ?- Aadhaar a must to attend medical counselling #WTFnews

To ensure T.N. candidates benefited under State quota

The Madras High Court on Friday ordered that students who had applied for admission to MBBS and BDS courses in government medical and dental colleges, as well as in government seats at private colleges, should compulsorily produce their Aadhaar cards at the time of counselling scheduled to be held next month.

Justice N. Kirubakaran passed the interim order on a batch of writ petitions filed last year by candidates who complained that many students from the State could not gain admission to colleges here because natives of other States garnered a considerable number of seats by making false claims of being residents of Tamil Nadu.

The petitioners had claimed that as many as 1,269 students from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry were in possession of dual nativity certificates and they had had applied for medical counselling in their native States as well as in Tamil Nadu though the State quota seats were meant only for the natives of a particular State.

Original copy

After directing Assistant Solicitor General G. Karthikeyan to verify whether the petitioners’ claim was true, the judge ordered that production of original Aadhar card along with a photocopy must be made mandatory for the counselling to be held next month for admission to medical courses for the academic year 2018-19.

The judge also recorded the submissions made by many lawyers, present in the court hall at the time of hearing of the case on Friday, that production of Aadhaar card at the time of medical counselling had been mandatory in many other States. Hence, Tamil Nadu should also follow suit and insist on Aadhaar, he held.

“To confirm that the genuine State candidates are benefited under the State quota, it is appropriate to make the production of Aadhar card and a photocopy of the same compulsory at the time of counseling. By the said method, the students from other States could be prevented from getting the benefit under the State quota,” the interim order read.

The judge went on to direct the Selection Committee, directorate of medical education to inform all applicants about the court order, within two days, on production of Aadhaar through short messaging service, newspaper publications and by hosting information on websites www. and www.tnmedicalselection. org

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Sushma Swaraj trolled over passport row: Abuse abominable but don’t let it distract from tough queries govt must answer

Sushma Swaraj has been subjected to some vile and abominable insults from abusive handles on the Lucknow passport officer controversy. Swaraj, who handles the external affairs portfolio in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, is a hugely popular minister. And rightly so. During her four-year tenure, she has completely changed the perception about her ministry: Removed the snobbery, inefficiency and brought it closer to people. She has led by example when it comes to using social media for governance. Indians around the world believe that no matter the difficulty they are in, help is just a tweet away.

Having returned from a seven-day tour of Europe, the minister ran into a controversy over the transfer of a Lucknow passport official who allegedly “harassed” an “inter-faith” couple over renewal of their passport. Swaraj received stinging criticism from a section of the Twitterverse over her ministry’s handling of the affair. She claimed she was unaware of the details but on a sarcastic note, proceeded to highlight some of the loathsome abuses thrown at her.

Some of the tweets (which she later deleted) were personal in nature and terribly abusive. Some even referred to a kidney replacement surgery which the minister underwent in 2016. No condemnation is strong enough for such depravity. No one should suffer such degenerate behaviour that may have a ruinous effect on one’s life. One hopes and believes that the minister is strong enough to take it in her stride. The incident is a sad reflection of the way abuse, threats and bullying have come to dominate the discourse on social media and shrank the space for civilised debate.

File image of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. AP

File image of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. AP

Yet, reclaiming this space is of vital importance. As much as the abuse directed at the minister must be condemned with all the strength at our command, it should not distract from the larger issue. The government has seemingly goofed up in its handling of the issue and must be held (politely but firmly) accountable. The dominant media narrative holds that a couple from Noida was allegedly harassed by a passport official, and when the media brought this to light, the “inter-faith” couple received their passports and the “bigoted” official received his just desserts.

However, on closer scrutiny, this narrative appears to be riddled with holes and the external affairs ministry’s decision to take prompt penal action against Vikas Mishra, the official, raises more questions than answers and reeks of serious judgmental lapses. To recall, reports emerged that a passport official in Lucknow apparently asked Tanvi Seth, who is married to one Anas Siddiqui, to change her name during renewal of her passport and had even asked her husband to “convert”. “I was told my passport cannot be made because I have married a Muslim and did not change my name. I asked what I should do now. So I was told to change my name in all documents,” Seth was quoted, as saying in a NDTV report.

The officer apparently spoke to her in a “very humiliating manner”. She also said that “a lot of people were staring at me because that officer was very loud. I was in tears,” according to the report. Her husband Anas told News18: “My wife’s turn came before me and as soon as she reached counter C5, an officer named Vikas Mishra started to go through her documents. When he read the spouse’s name as Mohd Anas Siddiqui, he started shouting at her and said that she should not have married me. My wife broke into tears, after which Mr Mishra said that she should get all the documents corrected with a changed name.”

Further in the report, he was quoted, as saying: “…Then the passport officer asked her to go to the APO office and that he is sending her file to the APO. Mr Mishra then called me and started humiliating me. He said that I will have to convert to Hinduism else my marriage won’t be accepted…” Tanvi, who along with her husband is employed at a multinational firm, then tagged Sushma Swaraj in a series of tweets and related her ordeal, also describing how renewal of their passports have been “put on hold”.

Amid a media furore — Stamped by bigotry: Passport officer asks Muslim man to convert to Hinduism, MEA promises actionPassport Officer Shames A Hindu-Muslim Couple, Rejects Application, And Tells Husband To Convert To Hinduism; Passport Officer Rejects Hindu-Muslim Couple’s Application, Asks Man to Convert to Hinduism  — the MEA intervened. Mishra was summarily transferred, served with a show cause notice and asked to apologise. Regional passport officer told media that “necessary action” will be taken against the official. The couple’s passports were renewed.

The passport officer in the eye of the storm, however, had an entirely different story to tell. He claimed that the lady had a different name in her ‘nikahnama’ (Islamic marriage contract) as against the other documents furnished by her, and as a procedural measure he had asked her to endorse it. “She was showing nikahnama that had her name as ‘Shazia Anas’ but had said on documents that she has not changed her name. Why did she not endorse this on paper? I asked her to endorse her ‘nikah’ name, but she said she did not want to do that, which is when I sent her to the higher official,” Mishra was quoted, as saying by The Times of India in another report. He also denied ever saying that “it is a duty for a woman to get her name changed after marriage” or telling the husband he should “convert to Hinduism”.

A point needs to be mentioned here. Passport application or renewal forms issued by the passport office require details that include a disclosure whether the applicant has been known by any other name (aliases).

Passport application form. Image courtesy: Government of India

Passport application form. Image courtesy: Government of India

Mishra insisted that Tanvi produced her nikahnama (which is a legal document) as proof while applying for passport renewal but refused to place the name ‘Shadia Anas’ on record during the renewal procedure.

If documents furnished during passport application or renewal throw up a name mismatch then it is the duty of the passport officer to point out the anomalies and seek an explanation. This procedural measure has been put in place to ensure that passport — which is a legal document — cannot be obtained through fraudulent means. In fact, if the officer in charge fails to do these verifications then he is liable to be charged for dereliction of duty. The passport officer claimed that he was abiding by the rules and the husband-wife duo were “misrepresenting facts”. He also claimed that the couple threatened him of “bitter consequences” if he refused to comply with their demands.

The couple alleged Mishra “shouted” at them and asked Anas to convert. Mishra has denied the charges. An eyewitness who was present during Wednesday’s incident disagreed with the couple’s version of events.

Another story by ABP News quotes Kuldeep Singh, the eyewitness, as saying: “The officer was only talking about the documents. He was trying to say that there was some problems with the documents. The lady was not in agreement with the officer and she was talking loudly…”

In between, Singh, who came forward as the eyewitness to the passport controversy, told India Today he was kidnapped at gunpoint, sedated and somehow managed to escape. The report says he was kidnapped on Saturday afternoon by three people and fainted after being sedated in the car. “When I regained consciousness I saw the kidnappers having tea at a shop somewhere. Somehow I managed to flee from the car and went straight to a nearby police post with the help of locals. Later on I found out I was in Lakhimpur Kheri district… I am getting a case filed at Jankiupuram police station,” he was quoted, as saying.

The curious chain of claims and counter-claims demand a thorough investigation. This is where the government must answer several questions. When such contrarian claims have emerged, why did the ministry of external affairs jump the gun in transferring Mishra and slapping a show cause notice on him before conducting a thorough investigation?

If, after an inquiry, it is found that Siddiqui and Seth were lying, how would the ministry justify its move to punish an official who was doing his duty? Also, in light of so many conflicting versions, why was the couple’s passports so hastily renewed? Will media outrage now be established as a new norm for passport issuance? Doesn’t this set a dangerous precedent on a very sensitive issue that also involves national security?

Swaraj’s actions must also be held to equal scrutiny. As the minister in-charge of external affairs portfolio, the final responsibility rests at her door. By publicly highlighting some rotten abuses from the lowest common denominator, she is positioning herself as the victim and trying to deflect attention from the unanswered questions and judgmental lapses that may have occurred at the ministry’s decision-making level. The abuses are a huge, unsolved problem but these cannot be held as the touchstone for all criticisms coming her way: Some of which is legitimate, civil and fair.

Swaraj has also unwittingly made it easier for her political rivals to score a few brownie points. Congress hasn’t wasted the opportunity. The minister has successfully refocused the debate in such a way that all unanswered questions on the controversy will now be swept under the carpet.

The Firstpost

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BJP MP  Passes Sexist Comment on Sapna Chowdhury, Calls Her ‘Thumkewali’

BJP MP Ashwini Kumar Chopra Passes Sexist Comment on Sapna Chowdhury, Calls Her ‘Thumkewali’

BJP MP Ashwini Chopra Passed a Sexist Comment on Sapna Chowdhury,

New Delhi, June 25: Karnal BJP MP Ashwini Kumar Chopra passed a sexist comment on Haryanvi singer, dancer Sapna Chaudhary and called her ‘thumkewali’. According to a report on Times Now, while talking to media Chopra said, “Congress fights poll or does thumka?”

As quoted in an ANI report, on being asked about if Sapna Choudhary might campaign for Congress, he said, “Congress mein thumke lagane wale jo hain woh hi thumke lagayenge, yeh unko dekhna hai ki thumke lagane hain ya chunaav jeetna hai.”



Congress mein thumke lagane wale jo hain woh hi thumke lagayenge, yeh unko dekhna hai ki thumke lagane hain ya chunaav jeetna hai: Ashwini Kumar Chopra, BJP MP from Karnal when asked about Haryanvi singer and dancer Sapna Choudhary might campaign for Congress. (24.06.18)

Reportedly, Sapna Chaudhary was in Delhi to meet Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on Friday. However, as the party leader was not there the meeting was rescheduled. She had expressed her willingness to work for the Congress but had ruled out joining the party.

Sapna Chowdhury shot to fame post her controversial song with castiest remark in 20116, and she even tried to commit suicide because she was depressed after two cases were registered against her.  Chowdhury becake a popular face after her entry into Bigg Boss 11.

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Gorakhpur- Minor brought to BRD hospital on pretext of job, gang-raped #Vaw

A 15-year-old girl from Balrampur was allegedly gang-raped by three men after she was taken to BRD Medical College

A protestor stands with a placard during a protest against two recently reported rape cases as they gather near the parliament in New Delhi.
A protestor stands with a placard during a protest against two recently reported rape cases as they gather near the parliament in New Delhi.(AP File Photo)

A 15-year-old girl from Balrampur was allegedly gang-raped by three men after she was taken to BRD Medical College by a woman on the pretext of facilitating a nursing job for her on Saturday evening, police said.

While the girl alleged involvement of four people, including a woman, police registered a case against two persons.

Station house officer, Gulharia, Gulab Yadav said a case had been registered against two persons, identified as Afroz and Sonali, under sections 376 (rape), 504 (insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 506 (criminal intimidation), 419 (cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating) and 511 (offences punishable with life or other imprisonments).

“An FIR has been lodged on the complaint of the victim who has been sent for medical examination. Efforts are on to nab the absconding accused,” he said.

He said the girl was a student of class 9 at a school in Balrampur and belonged to a poor family.

She was looking for a job and met Sonali at Balrmapur bus station about 10 days ago.

A police officer familiar with the incident said Sonali called the girl to Gorakhpur promising a nurse’s job for her at BRD medical college.

When she reached Gorakhpur on Saturday afternoon, Sonali received her at the railway station and took her to medical college, he added.

Talking to media persons, the girl said Sonali introduced her to three men at the medical college who she claimed were also there for job.

She said later in the evening, Sonali asked her to go with Afroz to charge her mobile phone at the burn ward.

She said Afroz took her to the terrace of the burn ward and raped her. Later, the other two men also raped her, she added


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BJP leader threatens Kashmiri journalists, draws flak

BJP leader Lal Singh addresses a press conference in Jammu on June 22, 2018.BJP leader Lal Singh addresses a press conference in Jammu on June 22, 2018.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Senior BJP leader Chaudhary Lal Singh on Saturday evoked sharp reactions from journalist groups and political parties for his remarks warning Kashmir-based journalists to “mend ways” over the reporting of the Kathua rape and murder,while referring to the assassination of Rising Kashmir Editor Shujaat Bukhari.

“Kashmiri journalists should draw a line on the journalism they do. Do they have to face [something] like what happened to Basharat [referring to Shujaat Bukhari], so that such a situation emerges. So mend your ways and draw a line, so that this brotherhood remains intact and there is progress,” Mr. Singh said in an interview on Friday.

Mr. Singh was dropped from the Mehbooba Mufti Cabinet earlier this year for his rally and speech made in Kathua to those who supporting the accused in the rape and murder case of an eight-year-old in Kathua. His younger brother also faced an FIR for using “foul language against Ms. Mufti in a public rally”.

Several political parties and journalists’ bodies sought action against the BJP leader for the “threatening” remarks.

“Journalists in Kashmir just got threatened by a MLA. It seems Shujaat’s death is now a tool for goons to use to threaten other journalists,” said National Conference vice-president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Call for arrest

NC spokesman Junaid Mattoo asked the police to lodge an FIR against the BJP leader.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a former ally of the BJP, urged Governor N.N. Vohra “to immediately book and arrest Mr. Singh for his derogatory remarks”.

“Keeping in view Mr. Singh’s continuous rants against the people of Kashmir and trying to stoke the communal passions in the State, it is highly unfortunate that elements like him are allowed to roam freely,” said PDP general secretary Mansoor Hussain Sohrawardy.

Meanwhile, the Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG), a body of Valley-based editors, termed the remarks “criminal”. “The KEG reserves the right to lodge a police case against the lawmaker who, earlier as well, named a number of reporters for his fall from grace in wake of the Kathua probe, now in a trial stage. The Congress-turned-BJP politician has seemingly talked on Kashmir media from a point of strength and possible information about the recent killing in Srinagar,” said the KEG statement.

The Kashmir Working Journalists Association and the J&K Press Association, also condemned Mr. Singh’s remarks.

“The bullying statement made against Kashmiri journalists is unwarranted and condemnable,” the KWJA spokesman said.

The Hindu

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Sonam Kapoor’s in-laws spend millions on wedding but get their own workers assaulted

(Arya Sharma)

Through the last three months, as popular Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor was preparing for her marriage with industrialist Anand Ahuja, workers of the latter’s garment factory were nursing their wounds.

In April, at least 15 workers of the Unit 8 factory of Shahi Exports Pvt Ltd in Bengaluru were reportedly abused, thrashed and threatened with murder allegedly at the behest of the management.



All the workers reportedly did were demand better drinking water, transportation and higher wages.

Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a United States-based labour rights monitoring organisation, probed the incident and has released a detailed report ( on the same.

After speaking to a large number of workers as well as representatives of the management, the WRC has concluded in its report that the management did engage “in a campaign of vicious repression and retaliation against workers’ exercise of fundamental labor rights”.



Shahi, India’s largest garment manufacturer, is a family-owned business. Anand Ahuja, its founder’s eldest son, is among the group’s top executives.

The company supplies to top brands like Columbia Sportswear, Benetton, H&M, American Eagle, Decathlon, Gap, Zara, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Puma, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Tesco, Uniqlo, and Walmart.

Apart from the Bengaluru factory, the company has 50 other production facilities in India. It makes over Rs 5,500 crore in annual revenue but pays its 3,000-strong labour-force at the Bengaluru unit estimated average wages of roughly Rs 42 per hour only.



According to the WRC report, the atrocities commited by representatives of the management included “physical beatings, death threats, gender, caste, and religion-based abuse, threats of mass termination and the expulsion from the factory of 15 worker activists”.

The report has documented in great detail the abuse and the role played therein by Shahi managers and supervisors:

  • Called a male worker (whose mother also works at the factory) a “son of a whore,” threatened to send goons to his house to kill his family, and then led and directed his beating
  • Told a female worker, “It won’t be a sin if people kill you and get rid of you”, “you should be shot and disposed of”. “no one will miss you,” and then directed other workers to “kill her,” leading to her being beaten, nearly strangled, and hospitalised overnight.
  • Stated about another female worker, “These whores are trying to close the factory. Beat her and kill her,” before this worker was also beaten, had her clothes torn, and was robbed.
  • Told a male worker, “Your caste is only fit to clean bathrooms. How dare you ask for an increase in wages?” before leading other employees in beating and robbing him.
  • Said of another female worker before she was beaten, “Her caste is meant to burn dead people and that is what she should be doing. Beat her and throw her out.” 

Exposing the particularly anti-labour approach of the company, the report has also alleged that earlier this year, Shahi had successfully lobbied with the government of Karnataka to cancel a scheduled increase in the state’s minimum wage for workers in the garment sector.



The local police, reportedly investigating the incident but were yet to complete it. WRC claimed that police officials were present in the factory on the day of the assault at the company’s request but took no action.

WRC also claimed that Shahi suppressed media coverage of the violence at the factory. According to the report, the English daily Deccan Herald reportedly published an article on the incident on 5 April. However, on 7 April, the newspaper removed the said article from its website and published another article, quoting the Shahi management’s claim that inter-employee conflict caused the violence.

WRC has alleged the newspaper reportedly published this piece as a result of pressure from Shahi. The journalists who filed the original report testimonied to WRC for the original report.


Even as the police case languishes, WRC has noted that Shahi has agreed to take back the workers who were injured in the violence. However, the company has done nothing to ensure workers’ “safe return to the factory and fundamental right of freedom of association”.

The company has also offered “reinstatement with back pay to 12 workers who were suspended by the factory after the violence, including the 10 workers who were physically assaulted”. However, three other employees have not been offered a clear reinstatement and back-pay offer.

Significantly, none of the company employees accused of verbal abuse and ordering physical assault have faced any disciplinary action. Only a few have been transferred to other units, which is hardly a disciplinary move, while most of them are still working at the Unit 8 factory.

WRC also claimed that Shahi refused to commit to recognise the workers’ union.

Interestingly, the report has also exposed the duplicitous role of the big brands that are Shahi’s customers. None of them have pressured Shahi’s management to take action against the accused and recognise the assaulted workers’ rights, even as they claim to stand by these principles in their own internal policies.

“Managers at India’s biggest garment producer assaulted and threatened to kill nearly a dozen workers, because they asked for a raise. And what consequences does this supplier face from customers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Benetton, Columbia, Gap, and H&M? None. Two months later, the same vicious managers are still in charge and the factory is still enjoying the uninterrupted patronage of these brands,” WRC Executive Director Scott Nova said in a statement.

Nova noted that all of these leading brands have policies “supposedly prohibiting physical and verbal abuse of workers and protecting the right to unionise”. However, the fact that they are refusing to demand their supplier to follow similar practices shows that they do not take their commitment to human rights seriously, Nova added.

Catch News reached out to Shahi’s management for comments but was yet to get a response.

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 43 years since Emergency: A look back at HR Khanna, the judge who stood up to Indira Gandhi

Editor’s note: On this day, 43 years ago, then prime minister Indira Gandhi declared Emergency in India. This lasted two years and saw unprecedented curbs put on Freedom of Speech and other freedoms across India. To mark the occasion, we are republishing an article originally published on 3 July, 2012 to look back at Justice HR Khanna — a man who stood up to the Emergency and the prime minister herself.

‘So clean a man that he makes angels look disheveled and dirty’ – Khushwant Singh about Justice HR Khanna.

The third of July, 2012 marks the 100th birthday of late Hon’ble Justice Hans Raj Khanna, the lone dissenter in ADM Jabalpur case. I would say that Justice Khanna is one of the bravest and fearless Judges the Indian Supreme Court has ever seen.

The New York Times on 30 April, 1976 wrote an editorial about the case which has become locus classicus now:

If India ever finds its way back to the freedom and democracy that were proud hallmarks of its first eighteen years as an independent nation, someone will surely erect a monument to Justice HR Khanna of the Supreme Court. It was Justice Khanna who spoke out fearlessly and eloquently for freedom this week in dissenting from the Court’s decision upholding the right of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Government to imprison political opponents at will and without court hearings… The submission of an independent judiciary to absolutist government is virtually the last step in the destruction of a democratic society; and the Indian Supreme Court’s decision appears close to utter surrender.

Image courtesy: Bar and Bench

Though Justice Khanna is often remembered for the dissent in ADM Jabalpur case, his deciding vote in the Keshavananda Bharathi case which asserted the fundamental dignity and freedom of the individual also might have cost him the chair of Chief Justice of India (CJI). Justice Khanna’s decision was very crucial in the seven-six decision of the Keshavananda Bharathi case. Of all the judges who had decided against the government’s position in that case, he was the only one who had not yet retired when the time came to be appointed the CJI. Based on the seniority norm, prevalent in Supreme Court, Justice Khanna was to be appointed as the CJI. However, on 28 January, 1977 Justice MH Beg, who decided in favour of the government was appointed instead.

In his autobiography Neither Roses Nor Thorns, Justice Khanna has revealed that he knew that his dissenting judgement in the ADM Jabalpur case had cost him the chair of CJI. Without submitting to the majority, the lone crusader of democracy upheld the dignity of the Court during the testing times.

George H Gadbois, has noted in his book Judges of the Supreme Court of India that when the Janata government came to power after the Emergency they asked Justice Khanna to head the Maruti Commission of Inquiry and he declined. This was particularly due to the fact that he might have to deal with Mrs Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi, and that because he had been denied the post of CJI by Mrs Gandhi, some sections of the public might not have confidence in his objectivity. Gadbois also noted that, later when Justice Khanna became the Chairman of the Eighth Law Commission, he served in this capacity without salary so as to underline his independence from the government. Also, Justice Khanna’s qualms about holding the post in the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs made him resign from the post, three days after the swearing in of the new ministry.

All these instances are a reflection of the great virtues Justice Khanna held during his life and an indication of a finest class of professional.

Justice Khanna’s words in his book Making of India’s  Constitution, is a constant reminder to the people of this nation. He said:

If the Indian constitution is our heritage bequeathed to us by our founding fathers, no less are we, the people of India, the trustees and custodians of the values which pulsate within its provisions! A constitution is not a parchment of paper, it is a way of life and has to be lived up to. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and in the final analysis, its only keepers are the people. Imbecility of men, history teaches us, always invites the impudence of power.

Justice Khanna died at the age of ninety-five on 25 February, 2008 during his sleep. I am not sure if there would be another Justice Khanna in the Supreme Court of India!

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Aadhaar for banking is in contempt of the orders of the SC’

Dr Anupam Saraph an expert in governance, informatics and strategic planning, speaks out against the interests involved in linking bank accounts to Aadhaar despite an apex court stay against it

The Department of Financial Services under the Ministry of Finance which supervises the banking sector is aware of the problems faced by citizens who cannot avail of services because they are being denied access to their accounts due to the Finacle software used by banks. This program makes it essential for customers to share Aadhaar numbers before their applications can be processed despite a Supreme Court order staying this as a requirement in banking operations. A recent article in the website Moneylife detailed the woes of customers being denied access. Infosys, which developed and installed Finacle, a core banking software, says it upgraded it last year and sorted out all problems. But obviously all is not well.

Dr Anupam Saraph an expert in governance, informatics, and strategic planning has served as advisor to several national and international organisations, including UNESCO and the World Economic Forum through its Global Agenda Council for Complex Systems. He was also Information Technology Advisor to the Government of Goa. He has designed and implemented identity schemes and has in depth knowledge of what is right and wrong about biometric ID systems. He has written extensively on Aadhaar and has been a vocal critic of it being linked to banking and payment systems. Dr Saraph answers questions posed by Ajith Pillai on Finacle and explains the interests involved in linking the 12-digit Aadhaar number to bank accounts. Excerpts:

Infosys seems to suggest that the need to link Aadhaar for availing banking services has been sorted out in its new version of the Finacle software for banks? Is this true?

To reassure banks and their customers that Aadhaar is not hardcoded into Finacle, Infosys should make public a comparison of the steps of how core banking functions can be undertaken with or without Aadhaar using Finacle. Particularly, the opening of bank accounts, transacting with existing bank accounts, and the closing of accounts. Since customers usually don’t know if their bank uses Finacle, Infosys must list out the banks using the corrected version of Finacle that can follow the procedures that will not discriminate persons for want of Aadhaar.

Should banks scrap Finacle and opt for a more compatible system?

Banks should replace every software that attempts to end good banking practices, colonise its data to enable third party access, control and corrupt its operations, create un-auditable transactions and destroy core banking.

Don’t you think banks insisting customers must link their Aadhaar numbers to avail of services is in violation of Supreme Court orders?

The five-member bench of the SC on October 15, 2015 ordering “Union of India that it shall strictly follow all the earlier orders passed by this Court commencing from 23.09.2013” and “We will also make it clear that the Aadhaar card Scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this Court one way or the other” have not been overruled by any larger bench.

Further, the three-member bench passing orders on August 11, 2015 had restricted of use of the Aadhaar to “PDS Scheme and in particular for the purpose of distribution of food grains, etc. and cooking fuel, such as kerosene. The Aadhaar card may also be used for the purpose of the LPG Distribution Scheme”. This was extended to “The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Social Assistance Programme (Old Age Pensions, Widow Pensions, Disability Pensions) Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)” by the five-member bench on October 15 2015.

The five-member bench also directed that “The information about an individual obtained by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) while issuing an Aadhaar card shall not be used for any other purpose, save as above, except as may be directed by a Court for the purpose of criminal investigation.”

The use of Aadhaar for banking or any other purpose than that permitted by the Court on15 October 2015, therefore, continues to be a contempt of the orders of the Supreme Court of India.

Aadhaar is the brainchild of Nandan Nilekani

What exactly are the interests involved in Finacle pushing Aadhaar?

The spread of Aadhaar enables money laundering, corruption, illegal transactions, un-auditable transactions, creates unfair trade practices and enables monopolisation of money flows. The web of conflict of interests in pushing Aadhaar is deep and widespread. The spread of Aadhaar across India is littered with the violation of the rule of law, propriety, respect for freedom of people or enterprises, national interests, and ethical practices.

Aadhaar is the brainchild of Nandan Nilekani (co-founder of Infosys and currently non-executive chairman of the company). He was appointed Chairman of the UIDAI in January 2009. Aadhaar payments is the brainchild of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), founded in December 2008, whose founding Chairperson was N R Narayana Murthy, Co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Infosys.

(To elaborate on the complex issues involved and the moves made to pushing Aadhaar into the banking system, Dr Saraph highlighted the following):

RBI Objections Brushed Aside From The Outset

File records show that the RBI maintained that the use of the Aadhaar number was in conflict with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the Basel Standards for maintaining customer information and its own extant guidelines. It underlined that the use of Aadhaar would dilute its practices of keeping customer records. However, even when the use of Aadhaar was not permitted in banking, in January 2011, the UIDAI and NPCI signed an MoU stating that several banks were opening new bank accounts or linking existing bank accounts with Aadhaar numbers.

It further stated that these accounts would be Aadhaar Enabled Bank Accounts (AEBA). It proposed that NPCI would offer switching, clearing and settlement services or Aadhaar based financial transactions from such accounts. Pressured by the UIDAI the RBI issued a January 27, 2011 notification allowing the use of Aadhaar to open small bank accounts and specified restrictions on these bank accounts under the PMLA. But UIDAI was not satisfied and increased the pressure on RBI till finally under advise from the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, on September 28, 2011, the RBI lifted the PMLA restrictions on bank accounts opened solely with Aadhaar.

It also enabled the presence-less and paperless opening of bank accounts using eKYC or remote Aadhaar authentication. This allowed opening of bank accounts solely on production of Aadhaar numbers as the banks no longer retained account opening forms, customer acquisition documents or were required to have customers’ presence while opening bank accounts. RBI data suggests a doubling of bank accounts since the UIDAI pushed for opening bank accounts solely with Aadhaar.

Interestingly in 2010 itself, before any MoU with UIDAI or the Aadhaar numbers going live, NPCI had already developed Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) which went live in November 2011. The AEPS transfers money to Aadhaar numbers instead of bank accounts.

The Push for Aadhaar Enabled Payments

In March 2012, the Nandan Nilekani-led Task Force on an Aadhaar-Enabled Unified Payment Infrastructure pushed for Aadhaar enabled payments. Replacing RBI’s NEFT (National Electronic Funds Transfer from bank to bank) to transfer funds with Aadhaar is an implicit claim that the uncertified, unverified, and unaudited Aadhaar, where no one identifies anyone nor is anyone responsible for identification, identifies the beneficiary better than the KYC process used by RBI that make the branch managers liable for fraudulent bank accounts.

Once linked with Aadhaar, bank accounts opened with the traditional KYC practices of the RBI become indistinguishable from those opened solely with Aadhaar. They also become susceptible to Aadhaar Enabled Payment Systems. The auditability of payments made through AEPS and its eerie resemblance to hawala system of money laundering has been under controversy since 2014.

Enter The Payment Banks

In October 2013, Nachiket Mor, Member of the Board of RBI and now also the country head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, floated the idea of the Payment Bank. Such Payment Banks do not have branches and are operated in a cashless, presence-less and paperless mode. Payment Bank accounts are typically opened with only Aadhaar.

In October 2017 the Airtel Payments Bank was able to create 37 lakh bank accounts based on Aadhaar data without any customer request to open those bank accounts. These accounts received 167 crores of LPG subsidy from the Consolidated Fund of India. Clearly someone benefits by replacing an auditable NEFT money transfer with an un-auditable AEPS. Furthermore, the Ministry of Finance is not able to identify who are the 52 crore beneficiaries who have since inception received Rs 246,133 crore under various schemes through direct bank transfers (DBT) using Aadhaar payments.

According to Nilekani, who continues to advise the NCPI, over Rs 95,000 crore was transferred to beneficiaries in 2017-18 using AEPS. No one has established that the recipients of the Rs 95,000 crore are real persons and genuine beneficiaries. No one has certified the delivery of benefits and subsidies from the Consolidated Fund of India to those it was meant to target.

The Interests Involved

Shrikanth Nadhmuni, former technology head of UIDAI, is on the board of HDFC Bank Ltd since September 20, 2016. He is also the Chairman of Novopay Solutions Private Limited, a company involved in the area of mobile payments and is also the Chief Executive Officer of Khosla Labs Private Limited, a company promoting Aadhaar Bridge, a set of APIs (application programming interface or a set of defined methods of communication between various software components) to access the UIDAI’s database. He is also attributed as having developed Aadhaar banking and financial protocols including MicroATM, Aadhaar Enabled Payment system and Aadhaar Payment Bridge

Both ICICI and HDFC, major players in the National Payments Corporation of India, have also been instrumental in creating the Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) for collecting government taxes. Aadhaar has been made mandatory for registration to pay GST. HDFC and ICICI have been aggressively pushing Aadhaar linkage, and causing suffering to those customers who did not, in complete violation of Supreme Court orders.

Unless traditional bank accounts are linked with Aadhaar, they don’t become indistinguishable from those opened remotely or solely with Aadhaar. Nor do they become Aadhaar enabled or able to receive or transfer money using NPCI’s AEPS. Once indistinguishable from bank accounts that have been opened with RBI’s traditional KYC practices, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to detect money laundering, corruption, illegal transactions, un-auditable transactions, creating unfair trade practices and monopolisation of money flows.

Why are these companies pushing Aadhaar aggressively in complete contempt of the existing laws, Constitutional rights of Indians as well as the orders of the Supreme Court of India?

Finacle also devised the system for GSTN which has not lived up to expectations. Isn’t it time the government weighs its options before awarding software contracts?

If the recent appointment of Ajay Pandey (Chairman of UIDAI) as the Chairman of GSTN says anything, the same network of interests that drive Aadhaar, drive the GSTN. Why would the development of GSTN’s information systems be any different? After all, like Aadhaar, it does not serve the people but different masters. Dr Subramaniam Swamy has raised serious concerns about the national security implications of Aadhaar and GSTN in Parliament and these need to be addressed.

This experience also underlines the need and importance of open source in government. The UIDAI has not placed the source code of the API (application programming interface) used to access the Aadhaar database in public domain. It even refuses to reveal under RTI who developed, maintains or owns this API. Yet strangely, Khosla Labs offers a version of this software as Aadhaar Bridge and another group of “volunteers” calling themselves iSprit offer it as “Indiastack”. Which code is being used by Infosys to build software for the GSTN? Under what licensing terms? It’s all kept out of the public domain.

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