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Archives for : September2018

From the Salon to the Studio- The Impact of Technology

An extract from Jalsa

Vidya Shah

 

Jalsa is a book on the journey of women performers in India from the salon to the studio. It gives insight into the beginning of the interface of technology and entertainment.

The following is an excerpt from the chapter  “The Impact of Technology” of the book.


The Impact of Technology

When recording technology was first brought to India in the early years of the twentieth century, it was welcomed with a similar admixture of fascination and distrust as was the telegraph a few decades ago. Some in the artiste fraternity were charmed by the magical prospects of this western novelty while others were suspicious of its ‘unworldly’ prowess.

Afraid of losing their singing talent many Gharanedars chose not to lend their voices to the records. Some also feared the vulgar publicizing of their artistic endeavours to sections they disapproved of. For instance, Ziauddin Khan, uncle of Ustad Nasir Aminuddin Dagar did not commit to recording because he would not profane his art by making it available to “any common courtesan” who could afford to buy a record.

Those that accepted the technology had to mould their singing to the demands of this new medium. Perhaps the greatest challenge for the early recording artists was the provision of 3 minute rule. A recording disc could only carry 3 minutes of music. The limit imposed was rather unusual for the singers who were used to performing in courts and Mehfils where anything but time would have been a constraint. Practiced in the improvisation and spontaneity of the classical tradition, the pioneering artists soon found ways to bring the aura of Mehfils into the drawing rooms of the commonplace audience. In her recording of Raag Gandhari, Gauhar Jan, the first artist to record commercially, begins the rhythmic composition at a faster tempo, perhaps being over- conscious of the time – factor, but cleverly slows down to suit the composition and the time- frame. Zohra Bai Agrewali (1868 -1913) the fabulous Khayal singer became greatly admired among the artists and connoisseurs alike for her perfect renditions in the 3 minute format.

With the arrival of double sided 78 rpm discs many vocalists and instrumentalists further improvised to record the non- rhythmic alap on one side and the rhythmic part on the other. A convention that continued into the cassette culture towards the end of twentieth century.

The atmosphere of Mehfils was recreated in the studios as people were brought in to exclaim admirations during the recording. More importantly, as musical pieces turned into packaged commodities, the selection of genres became as much a matter of popular appeal as of the ease of adapting a genre to the 3 minute rule. The first half of the 20th century saw a series of semi- classical and light classical genres being marketed under Hindustani Classical titles and regional genres like KajriChaiti, and Thumri became a rage within the recording circles. It has been observed that the more traditional forms like Dhrupad and Dhamar made only a negligible portion of the recorded repertoire.

An interesting practice that was born out of the constraints of production was the singers having to announce their names at the end of recording. Since the records were initially sent to Hanover, Germany for pressing this ensured that the names of the artists were not mixed. This also addressed probably the problem of piracy. These announcements however disappeared when GTL opened its first factory in Sealdah, Kolkata. The locals working there called it the Baja Khana.

The early recording contraptions also put significant limitations on “who or what” was being recorded. Having to sing into the horn of the phonographs, the vocalists were bound to limit their natural head movements. For the instrumentalists though the ordeal was different it was as nonetheless as severe. Barring a few instruments like Shehnai or the clarinet, it was almost impossible to position the phonograph for recording a range of Hindustani instruments.

The early forties see a shift in the outlook of the artists towards recording. Being recorded began to be considered the most prestigious thing that could happen to a performer. By the 1940s and 1950s opportunities and openings to record for commercial companies and the radio were universally sought after, even though the format which recording studios demanded of musicians was strange and inhospitable. The physical placing of percussion and other accompaniment naturally gave precedence to the requirements of electronics rather than to the accustomed rapport between the musicians, which is the life of any performance. It was a daunting experience if not an ordeal for a singer to sit far away from his Tabla and Sarangi and still be able to warm up, as in a live concert. But this was one uncomfortable artistic situation most of them resigned themselves to in the hope of larger audiences and immortality. In any case, from being something new- fangled that was resisted on principle, recording became the new status symbol and introduced a shift in the traditional attitudes to classical music.

The gramophone transformed listening habits as it normalized the repetition of listening. The records became the new- found sources of inspirations for the next generation of musicians. Their first lessons came engraved on the grooves of the 78 rpm discs and the attendance of live performances followed. Listening and copying somebody’s style emerged as new form of education. Later both the composition and style of an artist were looked back from earlier recordings of the maestros of the Gharana or tradition they represented. As preservation became instated through gramophone records, the idea of ephemerality espoused earlier by the Mehfils was pushed to the front by the very technologies that would appear to have eliminated it. So, the live concerts once again became important because of their temporal experience and momentariness.


 

Vidya Shah is a singer, musician, social activist and writer.

This is an extract from Jalsa published by Tulika Books, 2016. Republis

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Gujarat Govt’s ‘High-powered’ Plan to Bail out Adani, Tata, Essar’s Stranded Power Projects

Draft report proposes that “the burden of hardships” be borne by all stakeholders – developers, lending banks, and consumers.
Gujarat Govt’s ‘High-powered’ Plan

A draft report prepared by a high-powered committee appointed by the government of Gujarat has come up with a plan to rescue stranded power projects in the state run by the Adani, Essar and Tata groups. While there have been news reports indicating what the report may recommend, Newsclick has obtained a draft copy of the entire report, which we are placing in the public domain. The three-member committee comprising former Supreme Court judge Justice R K Agrawal, former Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India S S Mundra and former Chairperson of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), Pramod Deo, was set up by the Gujarat government on July 3, 2018 to find solutions for the three thermal power plants located in the state that were in financial dire straits.

The three power plants, all of which use coal imported from Indonesia as fuel, have been floundering due to a rise in the prices of Indonesian coal. Having sought and failed to obtain a tariff revision to cover the cost – which the Supreme Court ruled out in a judgment in April 2017 – the power plants had reduced electricity generation significantly, causing a power crisis in the state of Gujarat and elsewhere.

According to a version of the high-powered committee’s report running into 110 pages, marked “privileged & confidential” and as a “work in progress draft,” a package of measures has been proposed wherein “the burden of hardships will have to be borne by all the stakeholders” – that is,  the developers, the lending banks, and consumers. The burden borne by the developers will include all losses incurred by them so far, which will not be compensated to them.

Significantly, earlier offers by Adani and Tata to sell the power plants to the Gujarat government will no longer be relevant – the companies will continue to hold the assets. The lending banks will be expected to reduce their debt burden on the projects to the tune of more than ₹9,000 crore. This would be despite the fact that one of the three projects (set up by the Essar group) is already considered a non-performing asset (NPA), while the two others are considered “stressed” assets by the banks due to their inability to service their debts. Meanwhile, going forward, the consumers of power are expected to bear the increased cost of Indonesian coal with the costs on fuel incurred by the developers being “passed through” to them up in the form of higher tariffs, upto a stipulated limit.

The committee expects that this will be possible after appropriately amending the power purchase agreements (PPAs) governing the sale of electricity from these power plants to state government companies that distribute electricity (discoms) in five states to permit changes in tariffs, despite the Supreme Court having earlier rejected the same proposal of revising tariffs as impermissible under the current contracts. The committee holds (correctly, it seems) that the Supreme Court was merely interpreting the terms of the existing PPAs and that its judgement doesn’t prevent the parties to the contracts – the discoms and the power generators – from mutually amending the PPAs. However, this flies in the face of a crucial aspect of the apex court’s reasoning, which is that it was the low tariffs quoted by the power generators in the first place that enabled them to win the contracts from the discoms. Instead, the committee in effect holds the view that these power plants are “too big to fail” and thus deserve to be “salvaged.”

THE BACKGROUND

The three power plants put together supply roughly 45% of Gujarat’s total electricity demand and also supply power to four other states – Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Punjab.

Tata Power, through its subsidiary Coastal Gujarat Power Limited (CGPL), runs a 4,150 megawatt (MW) capacity Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) located in Mundra on the coast of Gujarat. The plant supplies power to Gujarat (1,805 MW), Maharashtra (760 MW), Haryana (380 MW), Punjab (475 MW) and Rajasthan (380 MW). Adani Power, runs a similar plant of 4,620 MW generating capacity inside the special economic zone that the group owns in Mundra. This plant supplies 2,000 MW to Gujarat and 1,424 MW to Haryana. The Essar group controlled by Ruia family, through Essar Power Gujarat Limited (EPGL) runs a 1,200 MW capacity power plant in Salaya in Gujarat, and supplies 1,000 MW to the state. Electricity supplied by CGPL and Adani Power collectively account for 22% of Haryana’s total power demand.

All three power plants were built on the expectation that they would use coal imported from Indonesia. At the time, these power plants were being set up in the early- to mid-2000s, this coal was cheaper than domestically-sourced coal. As a result, not only did these companies set up power plants using imported coal in coastal areas, they also entered the coal mining space in Indonesia in order to integrate their supply chain. Tata Power, through its subsidiaries, holds a 30% equity stake in PT Kaltim Prima Coal, an Indonesian coal mining company. Similarly, the Adani group holds an equity stake in the Bunyu mines in Indonesia through its subsidiaries. These mines supply coal to the companies’ respective thermal power plants in India.

These arrangements were all disrupted in September 2010 when the Indonesian government decided to benchmark the price of its coal to international market levels. This resulted in a rise in the cost of coal for these power plants which affected their economic and financial calculations. The companies immediately sought relief from the electricity regulators – Adani Power and the Tata group approached the CERC while Essar approached the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission. They requested that the tariff that they were charging be adjusted to accommodate the increased cost of the Indonesian coal arguing that the “change in law” and the force majeure (act of god) provisions of their PPAs with the discoms should apply.

The CERC in orders dated April 2, 2013 and April 15, 2013 granted the companies relief. While it did not accept that the Indonesian regulations constituted either a “change in law” or force majeure, it nevertheless held that it had the jurisdiction to recommend tariff changes to compensate the companies. The CERC instructed that a committee be set up to calculate how much compensation was due to the concerned companies. Accordingly, the Deepak Parekh committee was set up and its report was submitted in August 2013. The report recommended a package of “compensatory tariff” measures to be awarded to the companies and paid for by the discoms. These recommendations were accepted by the CERC in its order dated February 21, 2014.

The discoms and consumer protection groups (including NGOs such as Energy Watchdog and Prayas [Energy Group]) appealed this CERC order at the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL). At the tribunal, the companies won yet again. APTEL decided through an order passed on April 7, 2016 that the force majeure clause did apply and granted the companies relief accordingly. It instructed the CERC to calculate compensation under the terms of its order, and the CERC released its new calculations on December 6, 2016.

All this came to a head at the Supreme Court. The discoms and the consumer watchdogs appealed the APTEL’s order and within a year, on April 11, 2017, the court ruled against the companies, setting aside the APTEL’s judgement and the CERC’s subsequent tariff revisions. A crucial leg of the Supreme Court’s logic was that since the companies’ had knowingly assumed the risk of a change in the cost of coal when bidding to supply power to the discoms, and had won their bids on the basis of low tariff rates that they had quoted, a revision of tariffs after the fact would vitiate the entire process of competitive bidding. At the time, one of these authors of this article had described the judgement as having raised the ‘bar’ for India’s power sector.

A GROWING CRISIS

Soon thereafter, reports started coming out about the great distress that these power plants were facing. According to the Financial Express, Essar stopped supplying power from its plant on December 15, 2017 and Adani Power stopped supplying electricity on January 20, this year. Both did so without notifying the Gujarat discom and the Gujarat electricity regulator against the terms of their PPAs. The Tata group plant kept operating, and ran up a loss of ₹1,700 crore in the past financial year. To cover up the shortfall in supply, the Gujarat discom was forced to buy from electricity exchanges at a much higher rate in order to prevent a power crisis in the state. Reportsbegan to emerge suggesting that the companies were looking at thousands of crores in write-downs. Seeking to reduce the stress that these projects were causing to their balance sheets, the companies even wrote to the Gujarat government offering to sell a majority stake in their power plants to the government for a token amount of ₹1, provided, of course, that they would be freed of their debt burden.

Meanwhile, another hazard appeared on the horizon for the companies. On Feburary 12, this year, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a circular giving banks a six-month deadline to identify NPAs on their books and initiate resolution proceedings, failing which the banks would be obliged to approach the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and initiate bankruptcy proceedings against the NPA holders. With these power plants having run into such financial trouble, they were at risk of turning into NPAs and facing the NCLT hammer. Indeed, subsequently, the Essar power plant was declared an NPA. Once such proceedings start, the promoter loses control of the assets in question.

Further light was shone on the subject of power sector NPAs and stressed assets by a reportprepared by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy in March 2018 which described the issues plaguing 34 stressed power assets worth more than ₹1.74 lakh crore.

The RBI’s six month deadline expired last month in August 2018. In a rear-guard action, however, power companies managed to earn a reprieve from the bankruptcy process mandated by the RBI’s circular. A group of power generators approached the Allahabad High Court seeking a stay on the RBI circular and when the high court failed to grant them one, they approached the Supreme Court. On September 11, the Supreme Court partially granted their wish, ordering that until it completes its hearings, the status quo be maintained – that is, the banks couldn’t drag the power producers to the NCLT.

THE GOVERNMENT’S RESCUE ACT

It was in these climes of distress that the Union government stepped in to find a way to rescue the power producers. Immediately after the Supreme Court judgement, the companies began knocking on every possible door seeking a solution to their problem. These efforts included the aforementioned offer to sell the power plants to the government. Solutions were sought by the discoms as well, seeing that the power companies were beginning to cut off power supply.

According to the draft report of high-powered committee (HPC), the government of Gujarat referred the matter to the Union government and on June 20, 2017, the Ministry of Power held a meeting of lenders, developers and officials of the five procuring states to discuss options to resolve the issue. At this meeting, a working group comprising members representing the procuring states and the lending banks was set up, with the State Bank of India (SBI) acting as the convenor. This working group prepared a final report which was circulated by the SBI on January 10, 2018.

Additionally, the SBI also requested the formation of a HPC to review the working group’s report and recommend solutions. The Gujarat government approached the centre once again on the basis of this report in February 2018 and in April 2018, received the permission of the central government to take the lead on finding a solution, as it was the biggest procurer of power from the three power plants. Accordingly, the Gujarat government constituted the HPC in June 2018.

THE RESCUE PACKAGE

The HPC met company officials, discom and state government officials, bank representatives and consumer representative groups, and sought their views and suggestions on how to proceed. Additionally, it took into account data analysis that suggested that despite the increase in cost of Indonesian coal, electricity generated at these power plants remained a cheaper option for the procurer states than other alternatives. Having taken all these views into account, the HPC’s draft report has laid out its recommendations.

The recommendations are based on the principle of “balancing of equities,” whereby the “pain” is “shared by all stakeholders.” Thus the “variable” component of the electricity tariff paid by the procurers, and ultimately power consumers, will increase to accommodate the increased cost of coal. The report states directly that “the fuel cost risk will be mostly borne by the procurers and eventually the end consumers.” This increased tariff is not without limit: the HPC has put a cap on  the cost of coal that can be passed on to the customer at $120 per metric tonne of coal – any amount higher than this will be borne by the developer. This increase in tariff will be offset by a “sacrifice by lenders” of a projected amount of ₹9,215 crore, which will be used to discount the “fixed charge” component of the power tariff by 20 paise per unit or kilowatt hour. (Electricity tariffs are composed of two components – “fixed” and “variable” charges – the first based on the costs incurred in setting up the power plant, and the second based on the costs of fuel which fluctuate.)

The developers, according to the HPC draft report, will bear their share of the pain as the losses that they have incurred on these power plants so far will not be compensated. The HPC suggests that its recommendations be implemented from October 1, 2018, and that no retrospective changes to tariff or “compensatory tariff” can be entertained. However, interestingly, the HPC did not even go into the question of take-over of these power plants by the Gujarat government – a solution that the companies themselves had offered the government prior to this rescue act.

The “bonafide on the part of the developers to continue with the projects” were apparently demonstrated to the HPC by the fact that they have already incurred higher losses than the damages that they would have had to pay if they chose to break the contracts. Neither does the HPC go into the fact that two of the three companies had indeed violated the terms of their PPAs by cutting off power supplies. On the possibility of a resolution through the insolvency process at the NCLT, the report throughout appears to consider it a priority to prevent this eventuality – that is, to “save” the companies from being dragged down the NCLT route.

If the high-powered committee’s final recommendations are comparable to this draft, its recommendations are clear – namely that state governments led by the Gujarat government should change their policies to “bail out” three of the biggest power plants in the country set up by the Adani, Essar and Tata groups. When finalised, will the committee’s recommendations be accepted? And if and when this happens, will such moves go unchallenged?

Time alone can provide answers to these questions.

https://www.newsclick.in/exclusive-gujarat-govts-high-powered-plan-bail-out-adani-tata-essars-stranded-power-projects

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Karnataka police joins dots between Gauri Lankesh and Kalburgi murders

The CID has sought warrants after preliminary investigations and an SIT report in the Gauri Lankesh case revealed that these two are allegedly linked to the Kalburgi murder plot.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |

Karnataka police joins dots between Gauri Lankesh and Kalburgi murders

The CID has moved a court in Dharwad for custody of Ganesh Miskin, 27, and Amit Baddi, 28, residents of Hubbali city, neighbouring Dharwad, who are currently lodged in a jail in Bengaluru.The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Karnataka police has identified two youths arrested for the shooting of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru last year as the first suspects in the August 30, 2015 shooting of Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi in Dharwad.

The CID has moved a court in Dharwad for custody of Ganesh Miskin, 27, and Amit Baddi, 28, residents of Hubbali city, neighbouring Dharwad, who are currently lodged in a jail in Bengaluru after being arrested by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for their alleged involvement in the Lankesh murder.

The CID has sought warrants after preliminary investigations and an SIT report in the Lankesh case revealed that these two are allegedly linked to the Kalburgi murder plot.

Miskin, who was involved in a business of making incense sticks, was arrested in July by the Karnataka SIT probing the Lankesh murder after investigations revealed that he was the rider of a motorcycle that transported the shooter to the journalist’s house for the murder on September 5, 2017.

 

Baddi, Miskin’s friend and a small-time goldsmith, was arrested after the SIT probe revealed that he allegedly helped the killers get away in a car after killing Lankesh. Both Miskin and Baddi have a criminal record for alleged involvement in communal violence in Hubbali.

Soon after Lankesh’s murder, the SIT received a ballistics report from the Karnataka Forensic Science Laboratory stating that the journalist and Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi were killed with the same 7.65-mm pistol in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

Gauri Lankesh, Gauri Lankesh murder, Gun used in Lankesh murder, M M Kalburgi, Lankesh Kalburgi, Lankesh Kalburgi murder, Lankesh Kalburgi murder similarities, gauri lankesh shot, kalburgi shotMM Kalburgi was shot dead at his residence in Dharwad by an unidentified gunman (File photo)After making arrests in the Lankesh case, the SIT, during the interrogation of suspects, found cause to believe that some of the arrested suspects — especially Miskin, Baddi and Amol Kale, 37, a former convenor of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti — were aware of the details of the execution of Kalburgi’s murder at the doorstep of his home.

 

The SIT probe found that Miskin was roped in by Amol Kale, a key leader of a covert Hindutva group — allegedly linked to killings and “subversive activities” in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa since 2013 — to spy on Kalburgi prior to the murder.

Both Miskin and Baddi were trained in the use of guns by the covert group and its chief arms trainer Rajesh Bangera, 50, who has also been arrested, the SIT investigations revealed.

The CID is likely to obtain the custody of the two youths from Hubbali on September 15 to conduct further investigation in the case to identify the killers of the Kannada writer and scholar. Since being handed the investigation of the Kalburgi murder in September 2015, the CID has not taken any suspects into custody for questioning regarding their involvement in the murder of the scholar.

The seizure of a cache of 16 guns from members of the covert Hindutva group following arrests in Maharashtra raised hopes of the SIT and the CID of finding the gun that was used by the group to carry out the murders of Lankesh and Kalburgi.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka SIT has accused two more persons arrested by the Maharashtra ATS last month for involvement in a right wing Hindutva terrorism plot in Maharashtra of involvement in the Lankesh murder case.

The SIT has named Sharad Kalaskar, 25, a lathe machine operator and an alleged shooter in the August 20, 2013 murder of Maharashtra rationalist Narendra Dabholkar as accused number 15 in the Lankesh murder and Shrikant Pangarkar, 42, a former Shiv Sena corporator from Maharashtra and a founding member of the covert Hindutva group as accused number 16.

The SIT has sought warrants from the principal sessions judge in Bengaluru for custody of Kalaskar and Pangarkar who are currently being held by agencies investigating cases in Maharashtra.

The SIT’s investigations have revealed that Kalaskar was in Bengaluru on the day of the murder of Gauri Lankesh and that a motorcycle used for executing the murder was probably brought to the city by the youth. Sources said the probe has found that Pangarkar participated in meetings held by members of the group to carry out the Lankesh murder.

Kalaskar and Pangarkar are among three persons arrested recently by the Maharashtra ATS on charges of terrorism who have been named by the Karnataka SIT in the Lankesh case.

The SIT named Sudhanva Gondhalekar, 39, a resident of Satara in Maharashtra, who is associated with radical Hindutva groups as accused number 14 in the Lankesh murder case last week. Gondhalekar, arrested on August 10 by the Maharashtra ATS for plotting terrorist attacks in the state, is now in the custody of the Karnataka SIT, for investigation of his role in the Lankesh murder.

He is alleged to have been spotted in the vicinity of the journalist’s home on the day of her murder and is alleged to have retrieved the guns used by the killers from a location on the outskirts of Bengaluru where it was kept for nearly 10 days after the murder.

Indian Express

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Theatre of Absurd: Modi and the Dawoodi Bohra Pontiff

Irfan Engineer

 The invite by the High priest of Dawoodi Bohras, a Shia Muslim sub-sect, to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address their religious congregation on 14th September 2018 on the occasion of Muharram, and that the PM should accept the invite can only be described as theatre of absurd. Prime Minister Modi is leader of right wing Hindu supremacist party which thrives on the ideology that Muslims are foreigners in “their land” and whose right place is either Pakistan or kabrastan (cemetery).

Muharram is period of grief for Muslims to remember martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Imam Hussain preferred to uphold the principles of Islam and refused to give oath of allegiance to a tyrant Caliph of Umayyad Dynasty – Yazid. Yazid commanded a powerful and well equipped army of over a thousand whereas Imam Hussein’s 72 followers included women and children, youngest of them was six month old Ali Asghar. To refuse oath of allegiance was tantamount to embracing death. For the Dawoodi Bohra Pontiff to invite the Prime Minister who headed the Gujarat Government in the year 2002 when Muslims including members of the Dawoodi Bohra community were massacred is against the spirit of Muharram and martyrdom of Imam Hussain. As the then Chief Minister he provided justification to the anti-Muslim pogrom. He said it was reaction to burning 58 kar sevaks in S-8 compartment in Godhara on 27th February 2002. Imam Hussain defended the principles of Islam – humanity even at the cost of his life and had the courage to names the tyrant on his face. Whereas, the then Modi Government had allowed post mortem of the 58 charred bodies to be carried out in public view in the railway yard and then the bodies were handed over not to their relatives for last rites but to belligerent members of Hindu supremacist organisations seeking revenge for the deaths. The bodies were then taken in procession from Godhra to Ahmedabad. Humanity was buried during those days of riots and Modi was certainly on the wrong side of the history.

Why did the Bohra Pontiff invite PM Modi?

The Bohra Pontiff’s financial empire runs into hundreds of billions of dollars. His extended large family lives luxurious life. The luxuries that entire family enjoys would shame any medieval king and give the richest families in the world run for their money. The only source of income is ‘taxes’ levied by the Pontiff’s establishment known as “kothaar” and zealously collected through coercive means. The ‘taxes’ include zakat, sila, fitra, nazar muqam, haqqun nafs, shabil, etc. collectively called as wajebat. Middle class individual families can be coerced to contribute couple of lakhs of rupees annually while some do escape paying a few thousand after a great deal of argument and persuasion.

Three consequences visit if the taxes levied by kothar are not paid – obstruction to entry inside mosques and various religious shrines maintained by kothar; obstruction or holding back or even refusal to solemnize a marriage within the family and finally refuse access to burial when there is death within the family. Besides, a Bohra has to seek permission or razaa of the kothar for many other activities – organization of religious ceremonies and life cycle rituals from birth to death. For all such ceremonies, the priest would ask for green card which is issued to all those who have paid up their wajebat. This writer was also asked for green card on death of his mother. When I told the priest that I hadn’t paid any taxes at all, I was refused access to burial grounds of Bohra community. Those who question any practice of the kothar or ask for accounts or those who do not act according to the religious edicts issued by the kothar are socially boycotted. The edicts can include whom to vote for and which newspapers  and magazines not to read and even certain employment that must not be undertaken – e.g. jobs in Bombay Mercantile cooperative Bank. Since Bohras are a tightly knit inward looking community with little or no socialization with non-Bohras, social boycott practically means civil death. In certain cases, the goons of kothar have even resorted to violence and rioting. There were 6 attempts on life of Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer. His house and office were completely destroyed on 13th February 2000. This writer was also beaten up for attending a reformist Conference in Mumbai in the year 1981. The women in Udaipur were molested inside Galiakot Shrine in presence of the Pontiff and Pontiff’s goons beat up people inside a mosque in Udaipur.

Nathwani Commission appointed by Jayprakash Narayan to look into atrocities committed by kothar and violations of human rights of Bohras by kothar described the kothar as “state within a state”. All these violations have been challenged by the reform movement within the Bohra Community. They have drawn attention of the Governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, as well as Central Government towards violations of various laws by the kothar.

This massive empire can function like a state within a state only in violation of human rights and various laws of the country. In order to sustain this empire, the Pontiff and his establishment require protection and patronage of the state. To obtain the patronage of the state, the Pontiff’s establishment contributes generously to the ruling party and even promises votes. The contributions are so generous that even those who are ideologically inclined towards reform movement and sympathise with their cause find it difficult to resist offers. Reformists approached Morarji Desai, when he was PM with Nathwani Commission Report (appointed by Jayprakash Narayan). In spite of expressing sympathy, the Janata Party Govt. did nothing. Similarly Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi Govt. did nothing. The Reformists had high hopes from Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Govt. as they did not depend on Muslim votes. Moreover, Vajpayee’s Govt. could be relied on to take on their ideological and political opponents – Muslim fundamentalism and forces that promote separatist and exclusivist Muslim identity. However, Vajpayee also expressed his inability to take any steps when reformists met him. Bal Thackeray rarely stepped out of his home but he went to the Pontiff’s palatial residence in Malabar Hill, Mumbai to be felicitated and that too after communal riots in Mumbai in 1992-93. The Pontiff was appeasing the tiger to keep off his empire and so much for the tiger’s patriotism and ideology. The tempting contributions are from the hard earned money of the Bohras.

The Pontiff spends this huge amount from hard earned money of Bohras not protect their interest, but to protect the interests of the kohtar. Bohras having larger proportion of business than other communities was adversely affected by demonetization of GST. For a common Bohra, BJP would be her last electoral choice given its anti-minority rhetoric and communal violence, but also the discriminatory exclusion of minority in governance by the BJP and its economic policies that favour big business over the small and medium enterprises.

The Pontiff must have expended huge political capital to get the Prime minister to address the event his establishment organized. The Pontiff sends members of the community for all public events of Modi. He sent Bohras in Madison Square event of Narendra Modi.

When Prime Minister of the country associates with the Pontiff, message goes down to the bureaucracy not to investigate any violation. The pontiff reaffirms his authority over the community and to members of the community he appears invincible and the only option left for them either submit to the Pontiff’s whims and edicts or pay a heavy price for disobeying – social boycott and civil death being practically cut off from all relatives and friends; at times even face violence as this writer and Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer and many others did. Most do not have nerves of steel as Dr. Engineer did have on account of his social commitment and belief in truth and Allah. The practical businessman prefers to ‘buy peace’. Some other successful Bohra business families buy status and social recognition by contributing huge amounts as wajebat.

Why Modi praised the Bohra Community?

Hindutva always branded Muslim identity and culture as foreign to Indian culture, having separatist mindset and stigmatized the community as terrorists and inimical to Hindu culture. The moderates among them called for forceful integration of Muslims within Hindu fold and culture and to obliterate all vestiges of Muslim culture. The extremists among them called for their physical elimination from the Indian soil – either by physically eliminating them or forcing them to emigrate to other Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan.

Has Modi then changed while he was showering praises on the Bohra community and calling them honest traders, praising Imam Husssain’s teachings as the ones that upheld peace and justice. The PM praised the Pontiff for inculcating the values of peace, goodwill (sadbhav), satyagrah (sic) and patriotism (sic) within the community. He further tried to endear himself by saying that he felt part of the community and that family, and his doors were open for their family members as well. We do not think so that Modi has changed his views, he has only caliberated a bit to suit his purpose in election year – both the Madhya Pradesh state elections as well as general election which will be there in less than a year.

Those who are practical within the Hindu supremacist fold know that it is impossible to eliminate 172 million strong community according to the last census. They propose two alternatives – divide the community along sectarian lines and deal with them in parcels and force them to assimilate. Hindu supremacists have been trying to leverage Shia sect against Sunni Muslims as a part of their divisive politics. Shias e.g. are claiming that Babri Masjid land is a Shia Waqf property and they are ready to settle the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute by allowing construction of Ram Temple on the land. Other important RSS leaders like Rajiv Malhotra are demanding that RSS should encourage Muslims to indigenise and RSS would have no problems with indigenized Muslims praying to Allah and observing other religious rituals. By indigenization Malhotra means ‘de-Arabization’ of Muslims and virtually propounds accepting Hindu Supremacy. Malhotra’s solution is not different from Golwalkar’s solution of relegating foreign religions to second class citizenship. Malhotra propounds that ‘nationalized’ Muslims should severe all relations with religio-cultural centres of Islam. Their sources of knowledge should be the pitrubhoomi (fatherland). Bohra community and the Pontiff fits the description and requirements of Hindutva and is therefore called patriotic.

Dawoodi Bohra community’s head quarters are now in Mumbai for centuries and overwhelming majority of them are Gujarati speaking. The Pontiff’s sermons are also in Gujarati albeit with some sprinkling of Arabic words. The family Modi is referring to in his address refers to their Gujaratiness. Locating patriotism in small Gujarati speaking Shia Muslim community rather than in all citizens of the country is inherently problematic. It implies that non-Bohra and non-Gujarati Muslim communities are problematic, foreign, Arabised and therefore less patriotic. Modi sailed through three elections in Gujarat by invoking Gujarati asmita (dignity or pride).

The frame of reference still privileges communities over individuals and locates values like honesty, goodwill towards fellow human beings, satyagrah (sic) and patriotism (sic) within community. Accident of birth in a community shapes and determines every individuals. The Constitution on the other hand knows only its citizens and privileges citizens with fundamental rights of equality, liberty and dignity, and guarantees protection of these rights. The only group Constitution recognizes are those that are educationally and socially backward, oppressed and discriminated for affirmative action and minority groups to protect their cultural rights.

The Urdu speaking or Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Assamese, and other Indian language speaking Muslim may be different than Gujarati speaking Muslims but are not any less patriotic, indigenized Muslim than Bohras and  Shias. This artificial attempt to divide the communities along sectarian lines will have more serious complications. Urdu is not Muslim language, it is Indian language an draws from local culture. No Muslim in India is Arabised. On the other hand all kinds of foreign cultures, including Western, Arabic and Persian have influenced not only Muslims, but also Hindus and all other communities. Ghazals are written in many Indian languages, including Gujarati. Many English, Arabic and Persian words have been part of Indian language vocabularies and would the language poorer without them.

Bohra women, Pontiff and Modi

On the Triple Talaq issue, the Modi govt. claimed to be championing the cause of Muslim women. Modi castigated the Congress for appeasing only Muslim men. The Bohra Pontiff discourages education of Bohra women, compels women to be wear purdah and in order to promote separate identity, has banned black coloured veils. He discourages Bohra women to undertake employment or earn their livelihood. In one video he is heard advising the men to throw out their women if they do not listen to them! The Pontiff has also personally defended  FGM practiced in the community in a video without naming it.

How can a Prime Minister attend religious function of such a leader when his own slogan is beti bachao beti padhao? Is the PM’s claim of championing the cause of Muslim women mere rhetoric? It is evident that Hindutva does not respect any principles except one – Supremacy of upper caste and create an authoritarian cultural state that would defend the privileges of upper caste. Rest can be compromised.Theatre of Absurd: Modi and the Dawoodi Bohra Pontiff

Irfan Engineer

 The invite by the High priest of Dawoodi Bohras, a Shia Muslim sub-sect, to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address their religious congregation on 14th September 2018 on the occasion of Muharram, and that the PM should accept the invite can only be described as theatre of absurd. Prime Minister Modi is leader of right wing Hindu supremacist party which thrives on the ideology that Muslims are foreigners in “their land” and whose right place is either Pakistan or kabrastan (cemetery).

Muharram is period of grief for Muslims to remember martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Imam Hussain preferred to uphold the principles of Islam and refused to give oath of allegiance to a tyrant Caliph of Umayyad Dynasty – Yazid. Yazid commanded a powerful and well equipped army of over a thousand whereas Imam Hussein’s 72 followers included women and children, youngest of them was six month old Ali Asghar. To refuse oath of allegiance was tantamount to embracing death. For the Dawoodi Bohra Pontiff to invite the Prime Minister who headed the Gujarat Government in the year 2002 when Muslims including members of the Dawoodi Bohra community were massacred is against the spirit of Muharram and martyrdom of Imam Hussain. As the then Chief Minister he provided justification to the anti-Muslim pogrom. He said it was reaction to burning 58 kar sevaks in S-8 compartment in Godhara on 27th February 2002. Imam Hussain defended the principles of Islam – humanity even at the cost of his life and had the courage to names the tyrant on his face. Whereas, the then Modi Government had allowed post mortem of the 58 charred bodies to be carried out in public view in the railway yard and then the bodies were handed over not to their relatives for last rites but to belligerent members of Hindu supremacist organisations seeking revenge for the deaths. The bodies were then taken in procession from Godhra to Ahmedabad. Humanity was buried during those days of riots and Modi was certainly on the wrong side of the history.

Why did the Bohra Pontiff invite PM Modi?

The Bohra Pontiff’s financial empire runs into hundreds of billions of dollars. His extended large family lives luxurious life. The luxuries that entire family enjoys would shame any medieval king and give the richest families in the world run for their money. The only source of income is ‘taxes’ levied by the Pontiff’s establishment known as “kothaar” and zealously collected through coercive means. The ‘taxes’ include zakat, sila, fitra, nazar muqam, haqqun nafs, shabil, etc. collectively called as wajebat. Middle class individual families can be coerced to contribute couple of lakhs of rupees annually while some do escape paying a few thousand after a great deal of argument and persuasion.

Three consequences visit if the taxes levied by kothar are not paid – obstruction to entry inside mosques and various religious shrines maintained by kothar; obstruction or holding back or even refusal to solemnize a marriage within the family and finally refuse access to burial when there is death within the family. Besides, a Bohra has to seek permission or razaa of the kothar for many other activities – organization of religious ceremonies and life cycle rituals from birth to death. For all such ceremonies, the priest would ask for green card which is issued to all those who have paid up their wajebat. This writer was also asked for green card on death of his mother. When I told the priest that I hadn’t paid any taxes at all, I was refused access to burial grounds of Bohra community. Those who question any practice of the kothar or ask for accounts or those who do not act according to the religious edicts issued by the kothar are socially boycotted. The edicts can include whom to vote for and which newspapers  and magazines not to read and even certain employment that must not be undertaken – e.g. jobs in Bombay Mercantile cooperative Bank. Since Bohras are a tightly knit inward looking community with little or no socialization with non-Bohras, social boycott practically means civil death. In certain cases, the goons of kothar have even resorted to violence and rioting. There were 6 attempts on life of Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer. His house and office were completely destroyed on 13th February 2000. This writer was also beaten up for attending a reformist Conference in Mumbai in the year 1981. The women in Udaipur were molested inside Galiakot Shrine in presence of the Pontiff and Pontiff’s goons beat up people inside a mosque in Udaipur.

Nathwani Commission appointed by Jayprakash Narayan to look into atrocities committed by kothar and violations of human rights of Bohras by kothar described the kothar as “state within a state”. All these violations have been challenged by the reform movement within the Bohra Community. They have drawn attention of the Governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, as well as Central Government towards violations of various laws by the kothar.

This massive empire can function like a state within a state only in violation of human rights and various laws of the country. In order to sustain this empire, the Pontiff and his establishment require protection and patronage of the state. To obtain the patronage of the state, the Pontiff’s establishment contributes generously to the ruling party and even promises votes. The contributions are so generous that even those who are ideologically inclined towards reform movement and sympathise with their cause find it difficult to resist offers. Reformists approached Morarji Desai, when he was PM with Nathwani Commission Report (appointed by Jayprakash Narayan). In spite of expressing sympathy, the Janata Party Govt. did nothing. Similarly Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi Govt. did nothing. The Reformists had high hopes from Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Govt. as they did not depend on Muslim votes. Moreover, Vajpayee’s Govt. could be relied on to take on their ideological and political opponents – Muslim fundamentalism and forces that promote separatist and exclusivist Muslim identity. However, Vajpayee also expressed his inability to take any steps when reformists met him. Bal Thackeray rarely stepped out of his home but he went to the Pontiff’s palatial residence in Malabar Hill, Mumbai to be felicitated and that too after communal riots in Mumbai in 1992-93. The Pontiff was appeasing the tiger to keep off his empire and so much for the tiger’s patriotism and ideology. The tempting contributions are from the hard earned money of the Bohras.

The Pontiff spends this huge amount from hard earned money of Bohras not protect their interest, but to protect the interests of the kohtar. Bohras having larger proportion of business than other communities was adversely affected by demonetization of GST. For a common Bohra, BJP would be her last electoral choice given its anti-minority rhetoric and communal violence, but also the discriminatory exclusion of minority in governance by the BJP and its economic policies that favour big business over the small and medium enterprises.

The Pontiff must have expended huge political capital to get the Prime minister to address the event his establishment organized. The Pontiff sends members of the community for all public events of Modi. He sent Bohras in Madison Square event of Narendra Modi.

When Prime Minister of the country associates with the Pontiff, message goes down to the bureaucracy not to investigate any violation. The pontiff reaffirms his authority over the community and to members of the community he appears invincible and the only option left for them either submit to the Pontiff’s whims and edicts or pay a heavy price for disobeying – social boycott and civil death being practically cut off from all relatives and friends; at times even face violence as this writer and Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer and many others did. Most do not have nerves of steel as Dr. Engineer did have on account of his social commitment and belief in truth and Allah. The practical businessman prefers to ‘buy peace’. Some other successful Bohra business families buy status and social recognition by contributing huge amounts as wajebat.

Why Modi praised the Bohra Community?

Hindutva always branded Muslim identity and culture as foreign to Indian culture, having separatist mindset and stigmatized the community as terrorists and inimical to Hindu culture. The moderates among them called for forceful integration of Muslims within Hindu fold and culture and to obliterate all vestiges of Muslim culture. The extremists among them called for their physical elimination from the Indian soil – either by physically eliminating them or forcing them to emigrate to other Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan.

Has Modi then changed while he was showering praises on the Bohra community and calling them honest traders, praising Imam Husssain’s teachings as the ones that upheld peace and justice. The PM praised the Pontiff for inculcating the values of peace, goodwill (sadbhav), satyagrah (sic) and patriotism (sic) within the community. He further tried to endear himself by saying that he felt part of the community and that family, and his doors were open for their family members as well. We do not think so that Modi has changed his views, he has only caliberated a bit to suit his purpose in election year – both the Madhya Pradesh state elections as well as general election which will be there in less than a year.

Those who are practical within the Hindu supremacist fold know that it is impossible to eliminate 172 million strong community according to the last census. They propose two alternatives – divide the community along sectarian lines and deal with them in parcels and force them to assimilate. Hindu supremacists have been trying to leverage Shia sect against Sunni Muslims as a part of their divisive politics. Shias e.g. are claiming that Babri Masjid land is a Shia Waqf property and they are ready to settle the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute by allowing construction of Ram Temple on the land. Other important RSS leaders like Rajiv Malhotra are demanding that RSS should encourage Muslims to indigenise and RSS would have no problems with indigenized Muslims praying to Allah and observing other religious rituals. By indigenization Malhotra means ‘de-Arabization’ of Muslims and virtually propounds accepting Hindu Supremacy. Malhotra’s solution is not different from Golwalkar’s solution of relegating foreign religions to second class citizenship. Malhotra propounds that ‘nationalized’ Muslims should severe all relations with religio-cultural centres of Islam. Their sources of knowledge should be the pitrubhoomi (fatherland). Bohra community and the Pontiff fits the description and requirements of Hindutva and is therefore called patriotic.

Dawoodi Bohra community’s head quarters are now in Mumbai for centuries and overwhelming majority of them are Gujarati speaking. The Pontiff’s sermons are also in Gujarati albeit with some sprinkling of Arabic words. The family Modi is referring to in his address refers to their Gujaratiness. Locating patriotism in small Gujarati speaking Shia Muslim community rather than in all citizens of the country is inherently problematic. It implies that non-Bohra and non-Gujarati Muslim communities are problematic, foreign, Arabised and therefore less patriotic. Modi sailed through three elections in Gujarat by invoking Gujarati asmita (dignity or pride).

The frame of reference still privileges communities over individuals and locates values like honesty, goodwill towards fellow human beings, satyagrah (sic) and patriotism (sic) within community. Accident of birth in a community shapes and determines every individuals. The Constitution on the other hand knows only its citizens and privileges citizens with fundamental rights of equality, liberty and dignity, and guarantees protection of these rights. The only group Constitution recognizes are those that are educationally and socially backward, oppressed and discriminated for affirmative action and minority groups to protect their cultural rights.

The Urdu speaking or Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Assamese, and other Indian language speaking Muslim may be different than Gujarati speaking Muslims but are not any less patriotic, indigenized Muslim than Bohras and  Shias. This artificial attempt to divide the communities along sectarian lines will have more serious complications. Urdu is not Muslim language, it is Indian language an draws from local culture. No Muslim in India is Arabised. On the other hand all kinds of foreign cultures, including Western, Arabic and Persian have influenced not only Muslims, but also Hindus and all other communities. Ghazals are written in many Indian languages, including Gujarati. Many English, Arabic and Persian words have been part of Indian language vocabularies and would the language poorer without them.

Bohra women, Pontiff and Modi

On the Triple Talaq issue, the Modi govt. claimed to be championing the cause of Muslim women. Modi castigated the Congress for appeasing only Muslim men. The Bohra Pontiff discourages education of Bohra women, compels women to be wear purdah and in order to promote separate identity, has banned black coloured veils. He discourages Bohra women to undertake employment or earn their livelihood. In one video he is heard advising the men to throw out their women if they do not listen to them! The Pontiff has also personally defended  FGM practiced in the community in a video without naming it.

How can a Prime Minister attend religious function of such a leader when his own slogan is beti bachao beti padhao? Is the PM’s claim of championing the cause of Muslim women mere rhetoric? It is evident that Hindutva does not respect any principles except one – Supremacy of upper caste and create an authoritarian cultural state that would defend the privileges of upper caste. Rest can be compromised.

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India – Airline can’t leave behind flyers with boarding passes

Kalpana and Swadesh Debbarma and their two minor children were booked on an Indigo Airlines flight from Kolkata to Agartala. They were issued boarding passes, but the flight took off without them.

They approached the airline with a written complaint, but it was not accepted, and the staff even allegedly forcibly took away their boarding passes. Their pleas to put them on some other flight are said to have gone unheeded. The family was compelled to book a hotel room and also spend on food till they could arrange money to buy fresh tickets. After two days, they finally travelled back to Agartala.

Due to this, the couple, both of whom are engineers with the Tripura government, could not attend office for two days, resulting in loss of salary.

The family approached the District Forum. The airlines contested the case, contending the family did not reach the boarding gate 25 minutes prior to flight departure so it was considered as ‘Gate No Show’ and the boarding passes were cancelled in accordance with the conditions of carriage. The airline stated that it had offered to accommodate the family on the next flight subject to availability of seats and payment of reaccommodation fees, but its offer was turned down. It denied liability to refund the fare.

The Forum allowed the complaint. Both sides appealed. The one filed by the airline was dismissed while Debbarma’s appeal was allowed by the Tripura State Commission. It ordered the airlines to refund ticket charges of Rs.16,432, reimburse Rs10,000 for hotel accommodation, and also awarded Rs10,000 toward compensation and Rs5,000 toward costs.

Indigo then filed a revision. The National Commission questioned the airlines if there was any evidence to show the boarding passes were cancelled as the family could not be located despite several announcements. The airline was unable to produce any proof. The Commission observed that once a passenger checks in, movement is restricted to a very limited area, so it is beyond comprehension why a passenger would not report at the gate despite announcements. The Commission further questioned why the airline, which takes a passenger’s contact details, had not attempted to telephonically contact the family. The airlines had no explanation to offer.

The Commission deprecated the attitude of the airline in snatching away the boarding passes and indicted it for failing to reduce the inconvenience to the family with two minor children. It also castigated the airline for filing a revision even though a meagre amount of Rs20,000 had been awarded as compensation.

Accordingly, by its order of September 12, 2018 delivered by the bench of justice RK Agrawal and M Shreesha, the National Commission dismissed Indigo’s revision.

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Mumbai – E-shopper loses ₹11k after sharing Aadhaar data

Sr Citizen Says Fraudster Had Info Of His Purchases On Fashion Site

Mumbai:

A senior citizen who had e-shopped from a fashion portal last month did not think twice before parting with money when he got a call purportedly from a company representative with a tempting offer. He also gave away his Aadhaar details and OTP only to find out later that he had been duped of Rs 11,000. A cheating case has been registered at MIDC police station.

The sexagenarian is a Bandra resident. On Saturday, he was at his son’s office in Andheri when he got a call. “The caller said he was a representative of Jabong. He was aware of an Adidas shoe purchase that I had made from the e-commerce portal with details of the date of shopping and amount. I had no reason to not trust him. He then made an offer that if I made a fresh purchase of Rs 11,000 from the fashion portal, I’d get an expensive gift. I asked him to send me details. He texted me a list of five expensive products of which I could choose one gift,” the senior citizen said. He selected an iPhone7 from the portal and sent a screenshot of the product to the caller.

“I got a call again and was told to pay for my fresh purchase only through the digital wallet, PayTM. The caller said I would get a 40% cashback if I did so. I paid Rs 11,000 but there was no cashback. For an hour thereafter, the caller kept me on phone. My Aadhaar number was sought to send me the iPhone7. I shared it and also the OTP I got on phone,” the senior citizen said.

The phone calls wouldn’t cease until evening. “The caller wanted me to pay Rs 10,000 more as GST on the iPhone7. This time, I got in touch with the customer care on phone. But the executive said no such offer existed. When I asked how the conman procured details of my purchase on Jabong, the executive said their system might have been hacked,” the senior citizen said.

He complained to PayTM and demanded a refund. In an email, PayTM said the money transfer was approved as Aadhaar and OTP details were shared. The money had gone to an Allahabad Bank account in Bengal and could not be refunded.

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Two women from Europe, northeast groped on train #Vaw

Mumbai:

Two women students of a prestigious Mumbai research institution, one a European and the other from a northeastern state, were recently groped in the general compartment of a local train. They even caught a pervert with his trousers down, but none of their male co-passengers came to their aid. One of the students later told TOI that their distinctive appearance makes them vulnerable to such attacks.

Both are traumatized. One took to social media on Saturday and narrated the train ordeal, tagging the railway ministry. Last Tuesday, the two women—the European is 28 and the northeastern student is 22—and a classmate, who is from Delhi, were returning from a field assignment. They set out from Rabale station on a trans-harbour local for Vashi between 5pm and 6pm. At Vashi, they changed trains and got onto a CSMT local for Govandi. “It’s our first year in Mumbai and we are not well-versed in train travel. My European classmate and I don’t speak Hindi. When the train halted, we got onto the compartment in front of us. We realised later that it was a general compartment and not reserved for women,” said the northeast student.

The compartment was crowded as it was peak hour in the evening. “After a while, I felt something rubbing against my back. Instinctively, I moved forward but within minutes, it was rubbing against my back again. I looked at the commuter standing next to me and he had an expression of horror on his face. I immediately turned around and saw a man with his trousers down. I was shocked beyond words and yelled at him in English,” said the northeast student. “None of the male passengers said a thing. There was an unknown woman in the coach who spoke to the pervert in Hindi. He said he would get off the train at Govandi, but we doubt he did that. I clicked a photo of him on my phone.”

After the students got off the train, the European national said she too had been groped shortly after she entered the compartment. “We believe that since the two of us look different from local women, it makes us more vulnerable. We were deeply disturbed after the incident and complained to our college. On the suggestion of college authorities, we will approach the GRP to press charges. I will hand over the photograph of the pervert to the cops,” she said.

Clinical psychologist Narendra Kinger said foreign nationals are more vulnerable to sexual assault as it’s perceived that they are less likely to approach the authorities. “This emboldens a would-be culprit who believes he can get away easily,” he said.

Social psychiatrist Harish Shetty said women who are younger are more vulnerable to attacks like these. “There are a lot of hoodlums on trains who are looking for such opportunities. Safety of women on trains is a serious concern,” he said.

https://epaper.timesgroup.com/Olive/ODN/TimesOfIndia/#

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Women farmers suffer due to unequal land rights

Although they are often the actual cultivators, the lack of land rights among women farmers in Odisha has resulted in chronic distress because they are unable to get government loans or compensation over crop loss

Since most women in rural Odisha do not have titles over land, they are provided no compensation by the government against crop loss (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

Since most women in rural Odisha do not have titles over land, they are provided no compensation by the government against crop loss (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

Since her husband migrated out of Odisha for work, it fell upon Remati Majhi (25) of Dhamnaguda village in Nuapada district to cultivate rice in the fields owned by her husband. But she could neither avail any government loan nor insure the crop because she didn’t have title over the land. So, she had no option but to arrange the required resources through private moneylenders.

To the misfortune of farmers, a severe draught in Odisha resulted in almost complete loss of kharif (monsoon) crop in 2015. The loss forced nearly 140 indebted farmers across the state to commit suicide. Remati was one of those unfortunate farmers.

“As there was complete crop loss and she had borrowed money from private sources to fulfill farm needs, she might have committed suicide, fearing pressure from the moneylenders for repayment of the loans,” Umashankar Majhi, Remati’s husband, told VillageSquare.in.

However, because she didn’t have title over the land she cultivated, the local administration didn’t record Remati’s case as a case of farmer suicide. As per norms of the Odisha government, anybody not having title over the land is officially not counted as a farmer and cannot claim benefits of security coverage or financial assistance schemes intended for welfare of state’s food growers.

Unequal landholdings

Despite this, small and marginal farmers have no option but to grow crops in the fields of medium and large landholders because of the inequitable nature of land distribution in the state.

According to the Odisha government’s report on the status of agriculture, per capita availability of cultivated land in the state has declined from 0.39 hectares in 1950-51 to 0.13 ha in recent times.

Out of total 46.67 lakh operational holdings in the state, marginal and smallholdings account for 72.17% and 19.68%, respectively, according to the 2010-11 agriculture census of India. The total cultivable area in Odisha is 48.52 lakh hectares, out of which 33.68 lakh marginal holdings cover 19.22 lakh ha, and 14.98 lakh ha go to 9.19 lakh smallholdings. The remaining 14.32 lakh ha come under 3.81 lakh medium and large holdings. The latter, with a number of only 6,000, holds 1.32 lakh hectares of land.

Of the total, 1.42 lakh marginal and smallholdings covering 1.05 lakh ha and 11,000 medium holdings covering 39,000 ha belong to women.

In such a land distribution scenario where most of the medium and large landowners happen to be absentee farmers, their land is usually cultivated by marginal and small farmers, who rent the land on conditions of sharing the harvest or against a fixed volume of crop to be grown.

Even though leasing out agricultural land is banned in Odisha, with a few exceptions, farmers continue to do it unofficially with the hope that agriculture on more land would bring them more harvest and make the activity economically viable.

Sharecroppers at risk

“Things go well when the harvest is good. But, with calamities like droughts and floods, a good harvest has remained only in the aspirations of farmers, which has never been realized, at least during the last decade or so,” Sanjay Tiwari, convener of Nuapada-based Krushak Shakti Sangathan that raises issues faced by the farmers, told VillageSquare.in.

In the view of Himanshu Banchhor (40) of Durkamunda village in Nuapada district, “The share cropper or tenant farmer is always at risk.”

Women farmers of Khasbahal are upset because they farm without benefits of any government scheme (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

Women farmers of Khasbahal are upset because they farm without benefits of any government scheme (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

“When a marginal farmer like me takes land owned by others for agriculture, I know it well that I don’t have title over it to claim benefits of government facilities like loans, input subsidy or crop insurance,” he said. “I need to meet all expenses through private loans with higher rate of interest and the commitment for timely repayment even in an adverse situation.”

In case of severe crop loss, tenant farmers face strong pressure from moneylenders for repayment of loans, whereas the government pays compensation money against crop loss to the landowners, who in fact do nothing on the field. Placed as a loser from both ends, many of the tenant farmers finally sacrifice their lives. This has been the case in most cases of farmer suicide in the state since 2014.

No bill for sharecroppers soon

Explaining the objectives and reasons of the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act 2016, the NITI Aayog envisaged it as an “Act to permit and facilitate leasing of agricultural land, to improve agricultural efficiency and equity, access to land by the landless and semi-landless poor, occupational diversity and for accelerated rural growth and transformation; provide recognition to farmers cultivating agricultural land on lease for enabling them to access loans through credit institutions, insurance, disaster relief and other support services provided by Government, while protecting fully the land rights of the owners; and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

Under pressure from farmers’ organizations and in response to the NITI Aayog’s recommendation, the Odisha government, in November 2017, announced that actual cultivators, including sharecroppers, would be paid agriculture input subsidy and compensation against crop loss.

Since absentee ownership of agricultural land is illegal in the state, identification of sharecroppers remained a challenge for the government because the landowners may not come forward to declare their tenant farmers.

So, in order to make the system of leasing out of farmland legal, the existing Land Reform Act needs to be amended, which doesn’t seem to happen soon, after the recent statement of Odisha’s revenue minister which said that “legislation for sharecroppers being a sensitive issue, it needs to be finalized keeping in mind the rights of landlords and sharecroppers.”

“Government will deal with it cautiously,” the minister added.

Women face the brunt

In any case, women are the most to suffer, said Ahalya Patel (50) of Khasbahal village in Khariar administrative block.

As most of the male members of Khasbahal migrate outside as laborers, many women of the village look after agriculture.

“Due to the patriarchal land title system, we are not considered farmers even while growing crops in our family owned fields because our name doesn’t feature in the title papers. We are unable to claim our rights and avail any benefit of government policies because of having no title,” she told VillageSquare.in. “The title remains an issue for women throughout the life, on different occasions.”

The issue, however, is not an isolated one limited to Odisha. In India, more than 70% of women work in the agriculture sector. The percentage is even higher when confined to rural India. Involved as farmers and agricultural laborers, women contribute significantly to food production in the country.

Despite the fact that women represent about half of the global population, produce the majority of global food supply, and perform 60% to 80% of the agricultural work in developing countries, women own less than 20% of land worldwide, according to the World Bank.

Shockingly, women are generally excluded from official data because most do not have title to land. “A woman is not classed as a farmer. She is a farmer’s wife, and her suicide is not included in the figures,” Graham Peebles, Director of the Create Trust noted in his piece Indian Farmers Trapped and Desperate, expressing concern over the miseries women farmers encounter.

Need for social action

Land transfer in India occurs mostly through inheritance and women face severe discrimination from their families in this respect. Several studies show that families are most likely to deny the married daughters, widows and unmarried women their land share. This results in abysmally poor land ownership of women in India varying between 9% and 13%, according to an Oxfam policy brief.

“The issue needs political attention and action in order to bring changes in existing policies to safeguard the rights and interests of women in agriculture sector,” said Vidhya Das of Odisha based non-profit Agragamee, who was an advisor to Supreme Court Commission for Right to Food.

In order to give equal right to women on the land, as Das urged, “Society has to change the mindset towards women and members in a family should come forward to protect the rights of its women folks.”

Basudev Mahapatra is a journalist based in Bhubaneswar. 

Village Square

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