‘Banks told to re-verify and retrieve these payments if found to be erroneous’
The input subsidy that the State government paid to a farmer, Venkatamma, has been debited to one Vincent Rajkumar’s account. This is one of the nearly 40,000 suspected erroneous payments in the first-ever Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) disbursal of input subsides — given as part of drought relief — to around 18 lakh farmers in the State, this year.
While the State government that opted for AEPS — billed as the best platform for fool-proof direct benefit transfer — has streamlined subsidy payments integrating it with Bhoomi platform, this may also have resulted in payments of input subsidy to wrong beneficiaries, depriving deserving farmers of their rightful subsidies in these 40,000 cases.
“Suspected erroneous transactions may seem small, since they account for just over 2% of the total transactions. But 40,000 is a huge number. We have now written to the banks asking them to re-verify and retrieve these payments if found to be erroneous,” said Rajeev Chawla, Additional Chief Secretary, e-governance, Karnataka. He was speaking at a south zone workshop on ‘Aadhaar Enabled Applications’, here.
The State government developed a software, Parihara, for the purpose and a special tool to reconcile Kannada names on Bhoomi platform and Aadhaar database.
However, this could not prevent the suspected erroneous transactions. “These are due to errors in seeding of Aadhaar data with the bank accounts of the beneficiaries at the banker’s end,” Mr. Chawla said.
M.V.S. Rami Reddy, Deputy Director-General, UIDAI, Hyderabad, said 40,000 suspected erroneous transactions were a cause for concern and the matter would be taken up by the head office. He expressed concern over the gaps at the banker’s end in the AEPS process.
“As per the standard operating procedure, bankers while they seed Aadhaar data with bank accounts have to cross-verify both the databases. Some of them are lax about doing this, leading to errors,” he said, and added that the good thing was that these erroneous transactions could be easily tracked down.
Another area where the bankers are accused of laxity is in updating the Aadhaar-seeded bank account data to the National Payments Corporation of India. “We have asked them to update it once in three days, but in many banks, there is a time lag of over two to three weeks,” Mr. Reddy said.
Despite these suspected erroneous transactions, deploying AEPS for disbursal of input subsidy to farmers has brought about a sea change to the whole process in the State. Earlier, the waiting time for farmers was around 12 to 15 months, which has now come down to a single day, officials said. “There was no accountability in the selection of farmers for input subsidy and also no verification of his/her landholdings. With Bhoomi and Aadhaar being linked, over 10 lakh landholdings have been linked to Aadhaar of the landowners, bringing in accountability,” Mr. Chawla said.http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/40000-erroneous-payments-in-aadhaar-linked-subsidy-disbursal-in-karnataka/article18282979.ece
(Illustration: C R Sasikumar)Of the three issues relating to Muslim personal law in India — triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy — coming up soon for hearing before a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, the first is an easy-to-pluck low-hanging fruit. Muslims who are hoping for a verdict that declares these practices not only unconstitutional but also “un-Quranic” confidently cite unambiguous verses from the holy scripture on the issue of triple talaq and even nikah halala.
But on the issue of polygamy, they dither in taking a head-on stand against the ulema’s centuries-old, male-centred interpretation of the Quranic injunction.
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan’s affidavit in support of Shayara Bano’s petition, for example, seeks the declaration of triple talaq and nikah halala as un-Quranic, but is silent on the polygamy issue. Numerous articles penned in recent months by Muslims for the print media have also remained focused on triple talaq (instant divorce). The odd comment piece on polygamy by a Muslim has, if anything, sought to justify the practice among Muslims through a dubious reference to the plight of Hindu “mistresses” who are “denied the right that a second wife enjoys among Muslims”.
Even the late Bohra reformist, Islamic scholar and a tireless champion for gender justice, Asghar Ali Engineer, remained opposed to a total ban on polygamy since the Quran permits it under certain conditions. Over 20 Muslim majority countries have outlawed triple talaq in recent years. Many have also imposed strict court-supervised conditions before a husband takes a second wife. But most have yet to take the final step: Monogamy.
The ulema’s theological defence of polygamy hangs on a single verse of the Quran which reads: “And if you fear that you may not be just to the orphans, then you may marry whom you please of the women: Two, and three, and four. But if you fear you will not be fair, then only one, or what your right hand possesses (slaves)” (4:3).
The patriarchs of Islam forget to remind their flock of two other relevant verses of the Quran which read: “You will not be able to treat all women equally even if you wish to do so” (4:129), or, “Allah has not made for any man two hearts” (33.4). It has been left to women (some men too) scholars of Islam such as Amina Wadud, Asma Barlas and others to point out that the continued justification of polygamy is not a Quranic licence but a convenient male construct.
In her book Quran and Women: Reading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective, Wadud points to the verse preceding 4.3 to argue that both verses are specifically about the treatment of orphans, justice to orphans. Wadud challenges the ulema’s blinkered notion of “treating all women equally”.
“In fact, as far as they are concerned, the only measurement of justice between wives is material: Can a man equally support more than one wife? This is an extension of the archaic idea of marriages of subjugation, because (this criteria of) fairness is not based on quality of time, equality in terms of affection, or on spiritual, moral and intellectual support.”
As relevant is the context of the revelation of these verses. The male members in the then-miniscule Muslim population which was counted in hundreds was seriously decimated in the battle of Uhud. This created a major gender imbalance and the very survival of Islam’s followers was at stake. Wadud, among others, systematically demolishes the common justifications in support of polygamy of which there is neither mention, nor sanction in the Quran.
First, there is the financial argument. Since women are financially dependent on men, those who can afford it may marry more than one wife. This is not an argument based on the Quran. Besides, it is no longer true in today’s world that only men engage in paid work.
Two, the argument regarding women’s inability to bear children. This too finds no mention in the Quran. Moreover, with the advance of medical science, it is easy to establish whether infertility has to do with the husband or wife. Also, in today’s world, there are multiple options — adoption being only one of them — for a couple to raise children even if the wife is not able to conceive.
Three, the argument that men have a stronger sexual drive than women. This not only lacks Quranic sanction but, as Wadud argues, it is un-Quranic. “It is clear that the Quran does not stress a high, civilised level for women while leaving men to interact with others at the basest level”.
Four, it is pointed out that the Prophet himself had multiple wives. In a paper titled, ‘There are Worse Things Than Being Alone: Polygamy in Islam, Past, Present and Future’, Heather Johnson makes two points. One, all but one of Mohammad’s wives was a widow. “From all accounts his marriages were inspired not by lust or greed but rather by compassion and diplomatic design. Each of his wives came from a different clan or tribe, his marriages to each was a political alliance.”
Two, Johnson quotes verse 33.50 of the Quran to point out that certain permissions were specifically, “Only for thee (Prophet) and not for the believers (at large)”. In the mid-1990s, two judges from a division bench of the Dhaka High Court had ruled that in the modern context, the only possible interpretation of the Quranic injunction on marriage was monogamy.
It is another matter that in the changed political dispensation in Bangladesh a few days later, the Supreme Court had quashed the high court order. Whether our Constitution Bench should limit itself to the constitutional validity of triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy, or whether it should also examine them in the light of Quranic teachings, as some petitioners have pleaded, may be a debatable question.
The point, however, remains that there are today Islamic scholars, women and men, who consider the current-day practice of polygamy as un-Quranic, in letter and in spirit.
The writer is Convener, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy and Co-editor, Sabrang India
The villages in the desert of Rajasthan are notorious for child brides but groups of girls are now banding together to defy and upturn a long held tradition to assure a new and better future for themselves
Suman was just six when her father died in 2006. Brought up by her mother, she grew up in a desert village in Bikaner where child marriage was the norm rather than the exception. But winds of change were blowing through Jaisalsar village and a different future unfolded for Suman.
“My mother stood behind me,” says Suman, now 17 years old. “The doors could have closed otherwise,” she said, pointing to an end of education, ill health and thwarted potential she would have suffered as an individual if she were given away as a child bride. “I want to study, which wouldn’t happen if I married at the age of 6 or 14 years,” she told VillageSquare.in. Suman secured first division in her 10th class examination. This year, she has appeared for the 12th boards.
Although India enacted the stringent Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2006, it was followed mostly in the breach in many parts of India. In Rajasthan, the rate of child marriage remains a horrendous 65%, way above the national average. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS, 2015-16) shows 33.4% of women in Bikaner district between 20- 24 years were married before they were 18. Maternal death between 15-19 years is as high as 16.7%. In the rough terrain of Rajasthan’s desert districts of Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Barmer, child marriages have been part of the lifestyle for centuries.
The sands have shifted
Although the overall scenario in the state needs much improvement, some interventions on the ground have now helped in a social transformation in parts of rural Rajasthan society. The people of Jaisalsar village, in Sridungargarh administrative block of Bikaner district, resolved they would not marry off any underage girl. The last child marriage took place here in 2014. The results are already visible. Girls’ enrolment in secondary classes and colleges has increased. A majority of the villagers are involved in farming and very few migrate to cities of Rajasthan, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or other parts of the country for better options of livelihood.
The children of Jaisalsar take a pledge to oppose child marriage. (Photo by Tarun Kanti Bose)
At village’s anganwadi (day care) center, girls and mothers had gathered around Santosh Kanwar, who is doing her Master’s in Political Science and leading the girls groups. “Those girls who were married at an early age were denied the opportunity to grow. I think child marriage challenges the basic right of child brides to education, health, protection and development,” Kanwar told VillageSquare.in. “The girls are forced into it a lot more in comparison to their male counterparts and impacts girls with more intensity. In Rajasthan’s desert districts girls belonging to the poor strata are more likely to be married early than the girls whose parents are from a financially stronger background.”
Sitting close to Santosh, ebullient Babita pointed out, “I have seen girls, even many of my cousins who were married before the age of 18, had little say about whether or when they should be pregnant. Compared to other age groups, these girls who were married had both the lowest use of contraception and the highest levels of unmet need for family planning. Child brides are not fully mature to be a mother and they have a high chance to being abused.”
Girls take a lead
In her efforts to oppose child marriage, Suman was joined by Renu, a final year student of B.A. Arts. “Girls groups like Ekta (Unity) and Jagriti (Awakening) were formed in the village to build up awareness and drum up support for stopping child marriage in the village. The meetings of our groups are held once in a month to orient the girls’ on the issue of health, nutrition, education and child marriage. Parents were persuaded to enroll their daughters in the schools. But still, a few among them still tried to get their daughters married at the age between 8 and 10 years, and then we adopted non-violent protest to stop the parents. On the face of continuous protests, the parents had to relent.”
The campaign van roams the desert, spreading awareness on child marriage. (Photo by Tarun Kanti Bose)
In Jaisalsar, villagers were sensitized with the help of respected elders and opinion leaders. URMUL Trust, an NGO based in Bikaner, helped, encouraging girls not to drop out of school. The girls groups and gram panchayat functionaries worked with school management committees to ensure girls drop rates fell. Girls groups came together at the Balika Manch (Young Girls’ Association) to work as pressure groups.
“Each day our motivation level increased. I persuaded 22 girls to get readmission in the school,” says Suman. “In our village, whenever a girl child is born, our girls groups rejoice it by playing on a plate with a spoon (thali bajana).”
Support of the village council
“In the aftermath of taking pledge publically (in 2014), panchayat officials were involved in eliminating the malaise from the village and there has been no child marriage since 2014,” Surinder Sharma, a retired government school teacher, told VillageSquare.in. “Their support to the girls groups and total involvement had increased their accountability.”
Confirming the panchayat’s role, Shobhita Rajagopal, Jaipur-based sociologist and Associate Professor, Institute of Development Studies, told VillageSquare.in: “Ownership by a panchayat is a sustainable model since panchayats are constitutional bodies. The child marriage free panchayat model essentially works on public recognition as a positive incentive.”
The campaign to make a village child marriage free is a continuous process. The panchayat has a campaign van with boards displaying slogans calling for an end to child marriage that travels through rural areas with a troupe of musicians, singers, singers and puppet performers. At Jaisalsar Government Secondary School, Nathu Khan’s mellifluous voice voices the sensibilities of students and youths.
The movement to end child marriages is spreading through desert areas. The campaign is running successfully in 177 villages of Bikaner, Jodhpur, Barmer and Jaisalmer districts. Some 49 villages have got rid of the practice.
The UK parliament has passed a law that could put web users at risk of hacking and blackmail.
The Digital Economy Bill (DEBill) will require that porn sites verify the age of their users in order to prevent under 18s from viewing pornography. Despite concerns that this will leave porn users vulnerable to hacks and security risks, the Government has failed to amend the Bill so that privacy is written into the legislation. Instead, Codes of Practice will place the responsibility for protecting people’s privacy with porn sites not the companies supplying age verification technology.
Open Rights Group , Executive Director Jim Killock said:
“Age verification is an accident waiting to happen. Despite repeated warnings, parliament has failed to listen to concerns about the privacy and security of people who want to watch legal adult content.
“As we saw with the Ashley Madison leaks, the hacking of private information about people’s sex lives, has huge repercussions for those involved. The UK government has failed to take responsibility for its proposals and placed the responsibility for people’s privacy into the hands of porn companies.”
The Bill will also enable the creation of a censorship regime as the BBFC will be given powers to force ISPs to block legitimate websites without any judicial process. These powers were added to the Bill, when it became apparent that foreign porn sites could not be compelled to apply age verification. During parliamentary scrutiny, they were extended to include other content, not just pornography, raising further concerns about the threat to free speech.
Killock added: “These new powers will put in place a vast system of censorship which could be applied to tens of thousands of adult websites. The BBFC will be under pressure to censor more and more legal content. This is a serious assault on free speech in the UK.”
Almost 25,000 ORG supporters signed a petition calling for the Government to reject plans for blocking legal pornography.
Activist and writer Bela Bhatia who has helped women file FIRs against police personnel for rape and investigated into many instances of fake encounters and other human rights violations speaks to Hardnews about her life in Bastar and how the police in collusion with the vigilante groups are out to drive writers, journalists and lawyers out of the Maoists heartland
Shalini Sharma Delhi
Bela Bhatia cuts a tall, solitary figure with a warmingly generous smile on her face. Her hair is parted neatly in the middle and looks brighter and whiter than the sun. She’s carrying two backpacks—one of which is mounted on her back and the other is hung on one of her shoulders. As we make our way to a coffee shop, she tells me that she just met her school friends from Begusarai, where she was born, after a gap of 40 years. And then she goes on to joke about how Kanhaiya Kumar, a former president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union and a leader of All India Students Federation put Begusarai on the world map. Kumar rose to prominence after he was charged with sedition for allegedly raising anti-India slogans in a student rally.
Bhatia has been a regular visitor to Bastar over the last decade and lives and works there on an independent basis since January 2015.
She has for long been labelled public enemy number one in Chhattisgarh because her activism has caused the state security forces and the government to lose face multiple times and they want her out of there. It started in October 2015. At the time, Bhatia was living in Jagdalpur. “My landlord all of a sudden asked me to vacate the house in one week. It was unexpected because I had a contract until December and we had been living together amicably,” the activist says. The reason given was that they had problems with her pet dog, Somari. This came as a surprise since the landlady was fond of Somari and used to often feed her and take care of her. Until then no other activist had been asked by their landlords to leave suddenly therefore Bhatia did not think of this incident as part of a pattern and moved out as soon as she could. Four months later, journalist Malini Subramaniam and lawyers Isha Khandelwal and Shalini Gera were forced to leave after pressure was built on their landlords. It was then that pressure on Bhatia and her landlord mounted once again in her new location in Parpa village. Connecting the dots, she began to wonder whether her Jagdalpur landlord had also acted under police pressure. He was a tailor who owned a shop that sewed police and CRPF uniforms. Also, she had spent most of her time in 2015 investigating cases of fake encounters with Soni Sori, an Adivasi school teacher who was tortured and sexually assaulted by the Chhattisgarh police. It must be noted that Sori used to visit Bhatia at her home sometimes.
The writer and activist started to figure more prominently on the radar of the vigilante groups after she filed an FIR (on behalf of the investigating team and victims) against security forces into a case of gang rape of three tribal women in Peddagelur village and sexual assault of around fifteen other women in adjoining villages in November 2015, assisted in filing the FIR in another case of gang rape by security forces of around thirteen tribal women in Bellamlendra village in January 2016, and accompanied an NHRC team more recently in January this year to record pending statements in the above cases.
Soon after lodging of the first FIR, a mob including members of the Naxali Peedit Sangharsh Samiti, persons who were victims of Maoist violence, shouted slogans against her, calling her a Maoist sympathizer in Bijapur. In January 2016, the same group organised a public rally in which effigies of Soni Sori, Bela Bhatia and Arundhati Roy were burnt. The group also called for barring Sori’s and Bhatia’s entry into Bijapur.
The police first came to the village where the academic had rented a room in the third week of February and many times after that. They started harassing her landlord who is a Gond tribal. Apart from calling him to the thana, the police also visited him at his workplace. “He remained steady despite the harassment, cooperated with their questions and supplied the necessary documents,” remarks Bhatia. “In the third week of March, the Samajik Ekta Manch and Mahila Ekta Manch organised a rally in the village, tried to incite the villagers against me, and asked my landlady to evict me. They distributed a pamphlet which had my photo and where I had been called a Maoist dalal (agent) in the village and nearby areas, putting my life at risk,” she said.
Other small instances of threat and intimidation continued, for instance, letters complaining against her written allegedly by Parpa villagers were sent to the SP of Bastar. The villagers later denied writing the letter. In the Lalkaar rally organised by AGNI in September, Bhatia’s mobile was snatched and in October, her effigy was burnt along with that of five other activists by police personnel in all the major towns of Bastar. Slogans had grown more aggressive—from “joote maro saalon ko (beat them up with shoes)” to “goli maro saalon ko (shoot them down).”
On January 22, when Bhatia returned after accompanying an NHRC team, two masked men knocked at the main entrance of the house in the middle of the night at 1.30 am. They identified themselves and asked the landlord to come with them to the nearby road. Sensing trouble, Bhatia, her landlord and his family shut the door and remained huddled inside the house. They could hear a lot of men who had gathered outside. “I think the idea was to attack us,” Bhatia says. “They had come in a vehicle and motor cycles but for whatever reason, they did not act that night and left after an hour or so.”
In the afternoon of January 23, a second attack took place within a span of 35 hours. Around 30 people arrived in a vehicle and on motorbikes and threatened to burn down Bhatia’s house and kill her dog if she did not vacate the house and leave Bastar immediately. The police arrived half-an-hour later but could not control the belligerent mob. The mob made the activist and her landlady sign a statement that the former would leave within 24 hours. The next day the news had made its way to the national media and had created quite a furore. After the official intervention that followed, Bhatia thinks she could have stayed on, but chose to leave the village. She has now moved to an alternative accommodation provided to her, upon her request, by the district authorities in Jagdalpur.
“There are fake encounters, sexual violence against women, arbitrary arrests and use of draconian laws like UAPA and CSPSA. Of course, the government says that they are also providing development to the tribals, however, is it the kind of development that people want, especially when there is no hold on the mining related industrial projects which are being pushed through without the knowledge of the people?”
In a low voice, the academic says that with what is happening all over the country to people who dare to say anything that makes the government look bad, there is little space for opinions that are not acceptable to the majority. In Bastar, you are either a Maoist sympathiser or an anti-Maoist, there is no middle ground. She explains that among the vigilante groups active in the region, there are different types of people. There are some who indulge in it for the money and contracts that come their way, and there are others who are Adivasis and victims of Maoist violence and belong to poor families. Since most of them have had to leave their villages and have relocated to towns, they are under police protection and the police uses them as and when it deems fit. Since the notorious Inspector-General of Police S.R.P Kalluri, who cuts a controversial figure in the region and has been accused of human rights violations, attacking civil liberties and sponsoring vigilante groups in the past, has been transferred, does she see anything changing? Bhatia says that days after Kalluri was moved, AGNI, a vigilante group he was supporting first dissolved itself. However, following a closed-door meeting in Jagdalpur that Kalluri attended in early April and addressed around 40-50 people there, AGNI’s revival was made public. The press was not allowed at the meeting.
“Countering Maoism by intensive militarism with scant respect for the rule of law is wrong and counter-productive. Violence in the areas has increased manifold and Maoist areas have expanded,” notes Bhatia. She points out that the mistrust between villagers and the government arises because the government doesn’t operate within the legal framework. “There are fake encounters, sexual violence against women, arbitrary arrests and use of draconian laws like UAPA and CSPSA. Of course, the government says that they are also providing development to the tribals, however, is it the kind of development that people want, especially when there is no hold on the mining related industrial projects which are being pushed through without the knowledge of the people?” asks Bhatia. She also adds that the Naxalites, who started out with an idea to make things right, need to also make an assessment of their movement: what have been the gains and what have been the ill-effects of their practice on the ground? “On the ground, a lot of problem is created due to the scant respect that Maoists have for those who disagree with them. There is no room for dissent in their politics. If you claim dissent as a right for yourself, you should also grant it to others. There is an increase in the killing of individuals on suspicion of being police informers as well as those who become victims of IED blasts. All such killings become a cause for reaction in society,” Bhatia says.
The activist believes that the war is only impacting the poor Adivasis living in villages. “Jagdalpur is not impacted by the war, even though the war is less than 100 km away. You will see malls, multiplexes and a thriving real estate business in towns. Rarely are such local capitalists and their associates in other places at the receiving end of Maoist violence,” Bhatia notes. She adds that it is unfair for anyone, the Maoists or the government, to expect Adivasis to bear the burden of the “revolutionary war” or the counter-insurgency operations. “As long as there are great inequalities in our polity and economy, violence will break out. It may be under the banner of Maoism or any other name. However justified a war may seem to some, we should not lose sight of the collateral damage that inevitably results in the death of innocent people, large-scale displacement, years of incarceration, and the unspeakable scars on the psyche of individuals, community and society. We need to ask ourselves if we can accept that. The only other way is to fight the unjust ways of the government and the police through nonviolent struggle waged through open and democratic means.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, ADB has come up as the third largest source of financial investment, after the World Bank and Govt. of Japan. India is a founding member of ADB. From a mere total lending of $3 billion inits first decade (1966-76), ADB has grown to$123 billion dollars lending institution in the last decade.These lending were used to make mega projects across the countries, including India, resulting in serious loss of livelihood, displacement, irreversible damage caused to water, forest, land and community life wrought by its very concept of development and irresponsible and opaque investment.
The ADB actively propagated three main achievements in its 2015 Report:
(ii) an infant born in Asia today, shall live 25 years longer compared with the person born in 1960, and
(iii) in 2016 there would be a record loan of 8.3 billion in the private sector.
Furthermore, the Report claimed that the carbon emission in this area has been reduced to the half of the emission in the world.
The mid-term Survey of Strategy 2015 and 2020 of the ADB has however admitted that the Asia and Pacific region have been facing increasing inequalities in income and access to socio-economic opportunities. Increasing investment in infrastructural projects has failed in providing social security to the marginalized sections which includes labourers and women.
While the official celebrations of 50 years will happen in Yokohama city, Japan from May 4-7, people’s movements and other civil society organisations in India have decided to hold over 50 actions of protest in different parts of the country, challenging the narrative of ADB about the successes of their lending and highlighting the enormous damage the lending has caused to people and environment.
ADB is only one of the many international financial institutions (IFIs) promoting a distorted development model. The World Bank, its private sector arm International Finance Corporation, the newly formed Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and New Development Bank are other multilateral development banks investing in India. Apart from that bilateral institutions like Exim banks and foreign private banks invest in projects here.
The 50+ actions during the occasion of ADB’s 50 years is an opportunity to highlight the unsustainable model of lending by these undemocratic institutions. Further, the lack of transparency and accountability of them and the immunity that they enjoy in every country they invest are issues these 50+ actions are raising.
While Peoples’ Forum Against ADB, a platform of people’s movements and civil society organisations working on the impacts of international financing, is the one coordinating these 50+ events, the actions are organised by local organisations in a manner which is relevant to them, to highlight their struggles / issues and seek transparency and accountability from IFIs.
Apart from their investments these institutions have influenced to make changes policies of the government. Privatization of commons and public services are now beyond the reach of the public and regulation by democratic institutions have been weakened. In many states basic facilities like water and electricity have been privatized, and in this ADB and other IFIs have major contribution.
Whether it is ADB/World Bank or any public sector bank of the country,all financial institutions run on public money directly or indirectly. It is hard earned money of the public which has been invested in the banks or insurance companies.The banks have in turn loaned lakhs of crores rupees of public funds to mainly private companies, at cheap interest rates, which is basically money of the public being utilized for the devastating the people themselves.
Friends,we have to demand accountability from these institutions for their irresponsible and opaque investments of our money. The 50th year of ADB is an opportune moment to spread the struggle against financial institutions, international banks and the neo-liberal economic development model in general, all of which have failed the people completely.
During the 39th Annual Meeting of ADB in the year 2006 at Hyderabad, more than 100 trade unions, NGOs, social movements came together and a parallel Summit was organised to oppose ADB’s policies. The collective effort progressed with the formation of People’s Forum Against ADB which includes many member organisations from India and other Asian countries.
May 1-7, 2017
This year, the protest actions are spread across the country against the increasing imprints of ADB’s inequitable and unjust development model. The actions planned at different places has overwhelmingly reached over 100 which were planned initially at 50 places, some planned by NAPM friends and comrades. The support and enthusiasm that is still prevalent among the people of the country resisting the attacks of financial institutions on their life and livelihood along with other issues will only motivate us to strengthen this struggle. We need to stand by them and show our solidarity.
We believe more friends of NAPM will participate and plan this kind of protest actions and strengthen the spirit of our other comrades. Hence let us raise our voice against the increasing attack on our fundamental rights and repression supported by these financial institutions. Let us participate in the resistance at local, regional, state and national level campaigns. Share your message of resistance on Facebook and Twitter through photos and videos and let’s make IFIs accountable.
(New York) – Indian authorities should promptly investigate and prosecute self-appointed “cow protectors” who have committed brutal attacks against Muslims and Dalits over rumors that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef, Human Rights Watch said today. Instead of taking prompt legal action against the vigilantes, many linked to extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the police, too often, have filed complaints against the assault victims, their relatives, and associates under laws banning cow slaughter.
Many Hindus consider the cow to be a holy animal, and slaughter is forbidden in most parts of Hindu-majority India. Since May 2015, a violent vigilante campaign against beef consumption has led to the killing of at least 10 Muslims, including a 12-year-old boy, in seven separate incidents of mob violence. In July 2016, in Gujarat, vigilantes stripped four Dalit men, tied them to a car, and beat them with sticks and belts over suspicions of cow slaughter. In a number of cases, the attackers have also robbed their victims of cash and cellphones, and damaged their property.
“Self-appointed ‘cow protectors’ driven by irresponsible populism are killing people and terrorizing minority communities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “The government should condemn this violence and take prompt action against those responsible for these attacks or face allegations of complicity.”
In one recent case, on April 21, 2017, in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir state, a mob brutally attacked five members of a nomad cattle-herding family, including a 9-year-old girl, on suspicion that they were taking their cows for slaughter. A video posted on social media showed a group of men chanting slogans commonly used by BJP supporters, breaking down the family’s shelter, beating an elderly man with rods and sticks even as women begged for mercy, and finally setting the shelter on fire. Several policemen can be seen in the video while the mob carries out the attack, but they appeared to be outnumbered and stay back when the mob pushes them back. Police have arrested 11 people for the assault.
On April 22, in New Delhi, purported animal rights activists allegedly belonging to People for Animals, which is led by a BJP official, beat up three men in a truck for transporting buffaloes. Initially, the police failed to arrest anyone for the assault or investigate the role of People for Animals, which denied involvement in the attack. Instead, the police arrested the three victims under a law preventing cruelty to animals after the injured victims were taken to a hospital. The men were released on bail a day later. Two days after the incident, the police arrested a Delhi resident who claimed to be a member of People for Animals. The police were informed of the incident by another member of People for Animals who was allegedly part of a “raid team” that regularly stops vehicles to see whether they contain cattle. People for Animals, which started as an animal rights group, said that since 2014 it has shut down some of its city units, including in Delhi, due to allegations of vigilantism and extortion against its members.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he was chief minister of Gujarat state and during the 2014 national election campaign, repeatedly called for the protection of cows, raising the specter of a “pink revolution” by the previous government that he claimed had endangered cows and other cattle to export meat. BJP leaders have attempted to portray the majority Hindu population as victims, whipping up fear of Muslim men who they say kidnap, rape, or lure Hindu women into relationships as part of a plot to make India into a Muslim-majority country. In the period leading up to the Uttar Pradesh state elections in 2017, a BJP lawmaker, Yogi Adityanath, the current chief minister, raised fears of a Hindu exodus in western Uttar Pradesh, which has the largest concentration of Muslims in the state.
Since the BJP came to power in May 2014, extremist Hindu groups supporting Modi and his party have led vigilante mob attacks across the country to enforce “nationalism.” Senior BJP leaders, including elected officials and leaders of various groups who claim to promote Hindu rights, have instigated hate crimes. Self-appointed cow protectors are increasingly conducting raids and attacks, claiming the police don’t take adequate action against those slaughtering cows. There have been numerous incidents in which they have allegedly assaulted, harassed, threatened, and extorted money from Muslims and Dalits. Dalits, so-called “untouchables,” are equally vulnerable as they traditionally carry out jobs to dispose of cattle carcasses and skin them for commercial purposes.
Among the largest cow protection networks is the Bharatiya Gau Raksha Dal (“India Cow Protection Group”), an umbrella organization registered in 2012. Its leader, Pawan Pandit, told Human Rights Watch that the network is affiliated with about 50 groups across the country and that their 10,000 volunteers have a presence in nearly every state. “Now the entire India is a cow protection group because people are angered by such cruelty to animals,” Pandit said, adding that even the BJP government was not strong enough on cow protection. He denied allegations of violence by his members, saying those were spontaneous acts by local residents angered by the ill-treatment and slaughter of cows.
“The mild admonitions from BJP leaders when Muslims and Dalits are lynched over cows sends a message that the BJP supports this violence,” Ganguly said. “Instead of a government that took office on the promise of universal development, it now appears to be one unwilling to protect those most vulnerable.”
Recent ‘Cow Protection’ Cases and Concerns
Government Silence and Denial
On April 1, 2017, a mob in the northwestern state of Rajasthan brutally assaulted a 55-year-old dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan, and four others with sticks and belts. Khan died two days later from his injuries. Three of the six accused have been arrested. The state’s BJP-led government did not condemn the killing, and its minister for parliamentary affairs denied that the attack occurred. Rajasthan’s home minister sought to defend the so-called cow protectors by blaming the victims: “People know cow trafficking is illegal, but they do it. Gau bhakts [Cow worshippers] try to stop them. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s a crime to take the law in their hands.”
Instead of filing a complaint against the attackers, the police first registered a complaint against Khan and the other victims under the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995, for exporting cattle and showing cruelty to the animals, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The police waited two hours before filing a complaint against the unidentified mob. Khan’s son alleged that the police filed the case against the family even though they had receipts showing that they purchased the cattle legitimately in Rajasthan. Mohammed Yusuf, the brother of one of those injured in the attack, told Human Rights Watch that the attackers also stole 35,000 rupees (US$540) his brother was carrying, his cellphone, and three cows worth 75,000 rupees (US$1,150). He no longer wants to be part of the dairy business. “We have decided that we are not going to have anything more to do with cattle,” he said. “If we can’t keep milk cows, if we now need permission to drink milk, why should we keep cows?”
On April 23, several former civil service officers wrote to the state’s chief minister demanding that all the accused members of the mob be immediately arrested, saying that failure to take prompt action would be a “mockery of good governance, causing minorities to lose faith in the government’s ability to protect their rights.” Two days later, the chief minister finally broke her silence and said, “such activities won’t be tolerated in Rajasthan.”
States Prompting Cow Protections
Even as BJP leaders failed to condemn attacks on Muslims and other minorities, they have announced new policies for cow welfare and made strong statements about the need to protect cows. Their policies and statements have facilitated abuses by cow protection groups in BJP-ruled states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.
In March 2017, the Gujarat government made slaughtering a cow punishable by life in prison. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP chief minister said, “We will hang those who kill cows.” In 2016, the Haryana government decided to give licenses to some cow protection groups to help the police keep a check on alleged cow smuggling. Group members are often seen patrolling the streets, especially highways, at night, stopping vehicles, checking them for cattle, intimidating drivers, and reacting with violence if they find cows. These vigilantes have also physically assaulted legitimate cattle transporters even when they are transporting other animals, such as buffaloes.
There have been reports in the media of cow protectors allegedly assaulting Muslim men and women in trains and railway stations in Madhya Pradesh, stripping and beating Dalit men in Gujarat, force feeding cow dung and urine to two men in Haryana, raiding a Muslim hotel in Jaipur, aiding police in checking roadside food stalls and restaurants for beef in Haryana ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid, and an alleged gang rape and murder in Haryana of people the attackers claimed were eating beef at home.
The Haryana government has set up a 24-hour helpline for citizens to report cow slaughter and smuggling and appointed police task forces to respond to the complaints. Rajasthan’s government has had a dedicated department for ensuring the welfare of cows since 2013. In April 2017, the state government imposed additional taxes for “conservation and propagation of cow and its progeny.”
Soon after the BJP appointed Adityanath, a Hindu cleric, as chief minister of India’s largest state of Uttar Pradesh in March, he cracked down on slaughterhouses and meat shops, mostly run by Muslims. He contended that he was shutting down illegal establishments, but the businesses said they were forced to close without notice or due process. Cow protectors and members of an extremist Hindu group, Hindu Yuva Vahini, founded by Adityanath in 2002, aided the police in some of these operations.
Several members of the group, including Adityanath, face criminal charges for inciting violence, attempt to murder, rioting, carrying deadly weapons, and promoting enmity between two religious groups. The group has used violence, threats, and intimidation to shut down meat businesses, news reports say. But the state’s deputy chief minister and BJP state party president told Reuters that members of Adityanath’s organization were acting as responsible citizens and rejected allegations that they were acting “as a parallel administration.”
The authorities have largely ignored the young men roaming streets and beating up Muslims and Dalits in the name of protecting cows, and have targeted instead the peaceful critics of such actions. At least seven people – including a poet, a filmmaker, and a student – have been booked on criminal charges for criticizing Adityanath on social media. The charges range from hurting the religious sentiments of a community to promoting enmity between groups.
On April 22, members of the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, groups affiliated with the BJP, attacked two police stations in Uttar Pradesh to protest the arrest of their colleagues for allegedly beating up and robbing a Muslim man. The police said that the men, from Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, threw stones at the police stations, beat up a policeman, set fire to his motorcycle, and took his service revolver. A senior police officer told the media that men from Hindu Yuva Vahini were also part of the mob that attacked the stations.
Inadequate Response to Killings over Cows
Prior to Pehlu Khan’s murder on April 1, at least nine other people were fatally beaten or lynched by Hindu mobs over suspicions that they were trading or killing cows for beef.
Rajasthan, May 2015
Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, 60, who ran a meat shop in Birloka village in Nagaur district, was beaten brutally by a mob with sticks and iron rods on May 30, 2015. He died the following day. The mob also vandalized his home and shop. Two years after the incident, the police have filed murder charges against three accused in the attack, while six are yet to be arrested. The case is pending in court.
Uttar Pradesh, August 2015
A mob beat to death three men suspected of being cattle thieves – Anaf, Arif, and Nazim – in the Kaimrala village of Dadri town on August 2, 2015. The mob also set their truck on fire after they found two buffaloes in it. A farmer who witnessed the incident told Frontlinemagazine that the police arrived after the men were already dead. He said, “When a cow is killed, passions get ignited and these things can happen.”
The police filed a case against the dead men for theft, trespass, and attempted murder, alleging that they opened fire first. The superintendent of police did not respond to questions from Human Rights Watch about whether there was any case against the villagers for killing the men.
Uttar Pradesh, September 2015
On September 28, 2015, a mob in Bishara village in Dadri town beat to death Mohammad Akhlaq, 50, with bricks and critically injured his 22-year-old son. The attack came after an announcement at a nearby Hindu temple that Akhlaq had slaughtered a calf. The police arrested six people but also seized the meat from Akhlaq’s home and sent it for a forensic exam to determine whether it was beef. The villagers protested the arrests by damaging vehicles, including a police van, and setting a motorcycle on fire.
The Uttar Pradesh government, then led by the Samajwadi party, announced compensation of 10 lakh rupees (US$15,500) to Akhlaq’s family and the chief minister ordered district officials and police to provide full protection to his family. However, a senior BJP leader and minister in the central government called Akhlaq’s killing an “accident.”
Another BJP legislator from the state, Sangeet Som, already facing charges for allegedly inciting communal riots, visited Dadri following Akhlaq’s killing to show solidarity with the accused, one of whom is the son of a local BJP leader. Som did not condemn Akhlaq’s murder and instead criticized the state government for not taking legal action against Akhlaq’s family. In Haryana, the neighboring state, the chief minister, from BJP, called Akhlaq’s killing a “simple misunderstanding” and said, “Muslims can continue to live in this country, but they will have to give up eating beef.”
In December 2015, the Uttar Pradesh police filed charges against 18 people. Nearly a score of hearings have been held since then, but there has been little progress in the case. Meanwhile, Akhlaq’s family relocated to Delhi because of concerns for their safety.
Jammu and Kashmir, October 2015
On October 9, 2015, a right-wing Hindu mob in Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir allegedly threw gasoline bombs at a truck driven by Zahid Bhat, an 18-year-old trucker, because they suspected him – wrongly – of transporting beef. He died of his injuries at a hospital 10 days later. Two others traveling with him were also injured. Bhat was found to be transporting coal in his truck.
His death led to violent clashes between protesters and security forces in a south Kashmir village where he had lived. The state’s chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of the People’s Democratic Party, condemned the killing and announced compensation but the family refused to accept any money, saying they wanted justice.
Five people were arrested for murder, rioting, conspiracy, and use of explosives.
Himachal Pradesh, October 2015
A Hindu mob at Sarahan, a village near Simla, allegedly beat to death Noman, 22, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, on October 14, 2015, over suspicions that he was smuggling cows. The mob also beat up four other occupants of the truck. Police immediately arrested the four occupants, booking them under laws banning cow slaughter and preventing cruelty to animals.
Later, police also registered a case of murder and said they would investigate whether members of Hindu militant group Bajrang Dal were behind the attack.
Jharkhand, March 2016
A Muslim cattle trader, Mohammed Mazlum Ansari, 35, and a 12-year-old boy, Mohammed Imteyaz Khan, were found hanging from a tree in Jharkhand on March 18, 2016. Their hands were tied behind their backs and their bodies bore signs of mistreatment. The police arrested eight men, including a couple linked to a local cow protection group. The case is still pending in court.
Ansari’s brother, who runs a small shop in the village, told Human Rights Watch he had already spent 200,000 rupees (US$3,100) on the case and was determined to see it to the end but was not hopeful. “I don’t think we will receive justice,” he said. “The government is theirs. They are rich, they are powerful, the police is also theirs.”
What can MHWs do in rural areas? Gender inequities in developing societies mean that men play a dominant, decision-making role in reproductive health. MHWs can make a difference by educating men about maternal health issues and guiding their decisions, said the study. They can also complement the efforts of female health workers in delivering health services in remote areas and at late hours.
However, this may prove to be difficult in India. There are no MHWs in 48% of health sub-centres in Indian villages; and overall, there is a 65% shortage of MHWs in public health centres, according to the Rural Health Statistics 2016.
It is clear India has to improve its maternal-health services. The government scheme to reduce maternal mortality rate, Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), has helped push up institutional deliveries by 15% over the decade ending 2014, according to this 2016 report by Brookings India, a think tank. But as IndiaSpendreported in February 2017, JSY is often not delivering quality care to the country’s poorest women.
This lack of access could explain why India accounted for close to a fifth of 303,000 maternal deaths and 26% of the neonatal deaths globally, as IndiaSpend reported in September 2016. MHWs can help improve the coverage of maternal and newborn child health services delivered by the formal health care system, and improve home-based management of these services.
To research the role MHWs could play, the study recruited and trained men to complement the work of female health workers. An IndiaSpend analysis of the findings of the study and other data reveals three reasons why MHWs were effective in improving the quality of maternal and newborn child health services:
1. Female health workers struggle with mobility, security issues
In rural India, sub-centres are the ‘first port of call’ for accessing health care. Ideally, sub-centres in remote and hilly areas should be manned by at least two auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs), one male multipurpose worker, one pharmacist and one AYUSH doctor or community health officer. There was an increase of 5% in sub-centres from 2005-15, IndiaSpendreported in February 2016.
Each ANM is assisted by four to five Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers who are responsible for delivering health services to the village population but they face some obvious challenges at work given prevailing gender norms.
Night deliveries: The study interviewed women who spoke about the risks associated with night deliveries when villages are far from health facilities and there is a lack of ready transportation. In such cases, female health workers (FHWs) are often unable to help pregnant women reach a hospital. MHWs, on the other hand, can facilitate pregnant women’s access to health services, especially during night, as observed during the study.
Communication gap with husbands: The reach of FHWs to men in local communities is limited due to gendered norms and other factors, according to the study. MHWs can bridge the communication gap with husbands and educate them about various aspects of reproductive health.
An estimated 22% of sub-centres are short of ANMs and in 30% of India’s districts, sub-centres with ANMs serve double the patients they are meant to, IndiaSpend reported in September 2016. MHWs can help the system deal with these shortages.
2. MHWs can convince men about the need for better maternal care
The subordinate position of women in Indian society has been acknowledged as a fundamental constraint to women’s access to reproductive health services. Women tend to have less access to household resources.
Nearly 80% of women in India said they had to seek permission from a family member to visit a health centre. Of these, 80% said they needed permission from their husbands, 79.89% from a senior male family member, and 79.94% from a senior female family member, according to the 2012 Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS) survey, IndiaSpendreported in February 2017.
However, regional variations exist. As many as 94% of women reported needing permission to visit a health centre in Jharkhand, the highest in any state, while only 4.76% of women in Mizoram said they needed to ask family members, the lowest.
Given this social structure, MHWs can convince husbands–who have poor knowledge on the do’s and don’ts during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period–about the importance of providing antenatal care and health services during pregnancies.
India’s RMNCH+A (Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent) health strategy–formulated in 2013–recognised the central role of men in women’s reproductive health and includes guidelines for training of health workers to provide husbands of pregnant women with the relevant information.
Interventions to promote the involvement of men during pregnancy, childbirth and after birth have been strongly recommended by the World Health Organization in its 2015 report on recommendations on health promotion interventions for maternal and newborn health.
3. Complementing the work of female health workers
Coverage of maternal health services in west Odisha’s Keonjhar district, where the study was focussed, improved due to increased MHW engagement. The male health workers arranged transport and accompanied pregnant women to distant health facilities in emergencies and, according to the ASHA workers interviewed in the study, also sometimes climbed hills to reach distressed households in different settlements.
At the time of deliveries, the gendered division of labour was apparent, researchers found. MHWs handled tasks outside of the delivery room–keeping track of the family’s personal items, obtaining medicines, and in cases where a blood transfusion was necessary, obtaining donated blood.
One ASHA worker who was interviewed during the study said: “He [MHA] cannot enter in the delivery room. He brings the medicine which is required and all things he [the health professional] tells; he [MHA] tells the husbands (sic). I can convince the mothers but not the husbands.”
Male health workers have made a difference in other developing nations
Health initiatives that are shouldered by both male and female health workers have worked well in other countries. There is a significant need to scale up men’s participation in maternal health and provide them with the sufficient information to help them make decisions and support their partner’s decisions concerning family health, wrote Olena Ivanova, a maternal health expert at the International Centre for Reproductive Health, Belgium, in this blog in February 2015.
“More rigorous evaluations of male involvement initiatives, attention to vulnerable and disadvantaged families, acknowledgement of heterogeneity of fathers’ groups, revision of policies and laws and closer collaboration between different sectors are needed in order to strive for better maternal and newborn health outcomes and well-being,” she added.
Evidence from Rwanda, among the few countries to pair male and female health workers, indicates that the approach could work in settings where it is not safe or socially acceptable for women to travel alone. And educating pregnant women and their male partners leads to better maternal health behaviour than educating women alone, according to this 2006 study in urban Nepal.
However, it is important to tread cautiously, said the study.
To reinforce these successes, as the study showed, MHWs should operate in ways that do not contribute to widening gender inequalities in favour of men.
(Saha is an MA Gender and Development student at Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.)
On 21 April 2017, when Justice AK Sikri headed Bench of Supreme Court heard two cases Writ Petition (Civil) 277 of 2017 by Major General (Retd) Sudhir Vombatkere and Bezwada Wilson, leader of Safai Karamachari Andolan besides another petition filed by CPI leader Binoy Viswam related to violation of rights due to amendments in the Aadhaar Act, 2016 through Finance Act, 2017 enacted as a Money Bill, the questions he asked Attorney General gave a sense of deja vu.
Some four years ago, the then Chief Justice AK Sikri headed Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bench had heard a case related to biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar and passed an order dated 19 February 2013 wherein he had noted that the petition challenging mandatory requirement of Aadhaar “raises a pure question of law”. In its order, the Bench headed by Justice Sikri observed, “In this writ petition filed as PIL, the petitioner has challenged the vires of notification issued by Union of India for making it compulsory to have UID Cards.”
However, since the Executive Order of Union Territory of Chandigarh was withdrawn, the case too was disposed of on 2 March 2013 with a two-page order. In this way the attempt to make. Aadhaar mandatory, which has emerged as an act of bullying by the government agencies and turning citizens into subjects by making right to have fundamental rights conditional on biometric identification was stopped in the tracks. In a setback to efforts to bulldoze Aadhaar and related schemes, following the direction issued to the Union of India and Union Territory of Chandigarh by Punjab and Haryana High Court in the matter of Civil Writ Petition 569 of 2013 filed in the High Court against Union of India and others, the Executive Order for making UID/Aadhaar mandatory was withdrawn.
In the current case, notably, Maj Gen Vombatkere, who retired as Additional Director General Discipline and Vigilance in Army Headquarters, has prayed that the Supreme Court should declare that Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (as introduced by Section 56 of the Finance Act, 2017) as ultra vires, unconstitutional, null and void and in particular violate Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act inserted by the Finance Act, 2017, makes Aadhaar mandatory for filing Income Tax Returns (ITR).
As a consequence, Aadhaar has been made mandatory for obtaining permanent account number (PAN), continued validity of PAN and for filing of return under the Income Tax Act. He has also prayed that the Court should pass an order allowing filing of income tax return of individuals without Aadhaar number. He has also sought directions that no citizen of India be coerced to obtain an Aadhaar number and that the program under the Aadhaar Act is entirely voluntary even for assessee under the Income Tax Act, 1961. It has been contended that provision of biometrics has no reasonable relationship with the objectives of the Aadhaar Act as it ends up creating a wrongful classification among taxpayers.
While hearing the case, Justice Sikri asked the Attorney General as to how government can compel anyone to get Aadhaar when there are interim orders of the Constitution Bench.
In his reply, what Attorney General said was something, which was already stated by Ravishankar Prasad, the Minister of Law, Electronics and Information Technology, on 10 April 2017 during the Short Duration Discussion on Aadhaar in the Rajya Sabha. He said, “There is no stay by the Supreme Court. We are being governed by a mandate of the Aadhaar Act passed by the Parliament.”
He added, “I am very clear in my understanding of law that if the Parliament enacts a law and unless the Court stays the operation of that law, this law will hold the field and that is what that it holding the field.”
The minister referred to interim orders of the Supreme Court saying they were passed in 2015 and the Aadhaar Act came in 2016, assented by the President and became effective. He took the position that “My understanding of law is very clear that an interim order is only for the purposes of interim arrangement till the Parliament structures it. It is not a judgment. It has been referred to a Nine-Bench or Seven-Bench. Maybe, this law will also be considered.”
Notably, the Aadhaar Act became effective after it was notified on 12 September 2016 in Gazette of India.
It is germane to observe that the Minister feigned ignorance about the order of the Division Bench of Supreme Court dated 14 September 2016 in the matter of Writ Petition (Civil) 686 of 2016 wherein, the Court reiterated the Constitution Bench’s order dated 15 October 2015. The order reads: “We impress upon the Union of India that it shall strictly follow all the earlier orders passed by this Court commencing from 23 September 2013. 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”.
While making his submission Attorney General too seemed to suffer from selective amnesia regarding Court’s order dated 14 September 2016 passed after two days of the notification of the Aadhaar Act. It is an established constitutional norm that the last order of the Supreme Court is the law of the land.
Like the Minister, the Attorney General referred to an irrelevant order of the Supreme Court dated 6 February 2017 in Lokniti Foundation Vs Union of India case. The fact is that in its counter affidavit in the Court, the Attorney General stated that biometric Aadhaar is voluntary. This submission, which has been reproduced in the order of Chief Justice of India headed two-Judge Division Bench including Justice NV Ramana stated, “Currently Aadhaar card or biometric authentication is not mandatory for obtaining a new telephone connection.”
In its petition, Lokniti Foundation, the petitioner had prayed that “The Aadhaar Card or such other biometric identification may be made compulsory for verification of the mobile phone subscribers that can ensure 100% verification of mobile phone” but pursuant to Attorney General’s submission, it is apparent that the Bench decided to adhere to Constitution Bench’s order that keeps biometric Aadhaar Number voluntary.
Misquoting this very order, the Minister misinformed the Rajya Sabha that “there is the system of Aadhaar-enabled verification for SIM card for the user. I have got the copy of the order. The Supreme Court has approved it as a very good system, which has been incorporated.”
Notably, drawing on the same misrepresentation, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) under Ravishankar Prasad has issued a circular dated 23 March 2017 making Aadhaar mandatory “regarding 100% E-KYC based re-verification of all existing subscribers” in the name of for “Implementation of Supreme Court orders”.
It is evident that the Minister and the Attorney General will have us believe that two-Judge Bench’s order will prevail over the five-Judge Constitution Bench’s order.
The Minister’s exercise in misrepresentation was once again exposed by Jairam Ramesh in the Rajya Sabha wherein he pointed out that the Minister “did not mention that there was a Supreme Court Order after the Act was passed on 14 September, 2016” and he underlined that “he quotes selectively from the 2015 Supreme Court Orders. Nowhere in those Supreme Court Orders does it say that the Supreme Court’s Orders are contingent on Parliament passing an Act.”
Maj Gen Vombatkere have argued, “The State should ensure unhindered compliance of a person’s obligation to pay income tax. Whether or not an individual is willing to part with his or her core biometric information is completely irrelevant to the discharge of this legal obligation, which is based on an objective criterion of the total income earned by a person.”
He has submitted that, “The impugned provision violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India and is palpably arbitrary and illegal inasmuch as it creates an artificial impermissible classification between those persons who have parted with biometrics and those who have not parted with biometrics for the purpose of payment and collection of income tax.”
In the light to this submission, the Court is likely to apply the doctrine of prohibition of “unconstitutional condition” which means any stipulation imposed upon the grant of a governmental privilege that in effect requires recipient of the privilege to relinquish some constitutional right. The submission demonstrates that it is unreasonable in a special sense that Aadhaar takes away or abridges the exercise of a right protected by the Constitution.
Apparently, under some external influence, Central Government’s stance has been insincere from the every outset. The total estimated budget of the biometric Aadhaar number project has not been disclosed till date. In any case, unless total estimated budget of the project is revealed all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy.
After the trashing of Aadhaar by Lok Sabha’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance and later by Rajya Sabha, the Court too will now have the opportunity to see through the coercive and unconstitutional nature of Aadhaar number project on 26 April 2017 when the case of Major General Vombatkere and others is scheduled to be decided by the Bench headed by Justice Sikri.
Meanwhile, the original case Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012 filed by Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd.) has been clubbed with 13 more petitions seeking scrapping of Aadhaar, which requiressetting up of Constitution Bench awaits the decision of the 44th Chief Justice of India despite admitted “urgency” by 42nd Chief Justice headed Constitution Bench after 43rd Chief Justice failed to set it up during his tenure.
Citizens in general and legal fraternity in particular ought to note that from now on when Supreme Court says, “its urgent”, it means the matter can wait at least for one and a half year!
Is it the case that the decision to set up Constitution Bench will be taken after July 2017 by the 45th Chief Justice?
(The author is Member, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL). He had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing on Finance that examined and trashed the Aadhaar Bill, 2010. He is editor of www.toxicswatch.org)
MEERUT/HAPUR/BULANDSHAHR — There was a time when Yogi Adityanath made brazenly communal speeches. “If they take one Hindu girl, then Hindus will take at least 100 Muslim girls,” he had declared on one occasion. “If they kill one Hindu, then we will kill 100.” Another time, at a rally organised by the right-wing group Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) that he had founded, Adityanath shared the stage with a speaker who said that Hindus should dig out the dead bodies of Muslim women and rape them.
Cut to this week when Nagendra Singh Tomar, dressed in a crisp saffron-coloured kurta and white pants, arrived exactly on time to attend a public meeting convened to mark his elevation as the HYV state secretary. His mood darkened at the sight of unpreparedness that greeted him. A handful of young men sporting saffron bandanas and clutching garlands were loitering in the hall. When they saw Tomar, some shouted, “Long live Lord Ram! Long live Hindu Yuva Vahini!” Tomar went from looking unimpressed to furious in a matter of minutes.
“Punctuality and discipline,” he later told a packed room. “We are an army, how can any army function without them.”
Addressing a series of meetings in Hapur and Bulandshahr districts in western Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, Tomar told hundreds of young men dressed in saffron-coloured clothes that they would be expelled from the organisation if they took the law into their hands. He made it quite clear that they were to report “anything wrong” such as cow slaughter and “Love Jihad” to the authorities or to their superiors if the police did not take any action. “There is no place in this outfit for those who are undisciplined or those who break the law,” he said. “The earlier governments did not listen to us, they would turn on us. But you can trust this government.”
With Adityanath becoming the chief minister of UP, the HYV has begun to emerge from its traditional eastern UP stronghold and is extending its influence across the state. However, its leaders now have the difficult task of keeping Hindutva issues on the boil, while minimizing the vigilantism HYV is known for. Chief Minister Adityanath’s desire to appear equanimous is making HYV careful about the way it speaks of the Hindutva agenda in public.
The two days that this reporter recently spent with HYV members in western UP revealed how the organisation was using smarter language and sophisticated messengers to drive the polarisation between Hindus and other religious communities. Its efforts did not involve ranting against Christianity and Islam, but creating a more subtle ‘us’ versus ‘them’ narrative that triggers exclusion rather than confrontation. The HYV is also aiming to widen the scope of Hindutva in order to bring about massive Hindu consolidation ahead of the next general election in 2019.
At one point in his speech in Bulandshahr, Tomar said, “Hindus, Muslims and Christians, we all have the same DNA. The only difference is that we are the bravehearts and they are the cowards who converted.” Hindus, he continued, no longer had to “kill” those who threatened Hinduism, but rather defeat them by “showing unity”.
Hindus, Muslims and Christians, we all have the same DNA. The only difference is that we are the bravehearts and they are the cowards who converted.
Tomar has a task on his hands, trying to project a softer but potent Hindutva. The triumphalist atmosphere in UP after Adityanath’s elevation as the CM, lends itself to bullying and intimidation by Hindutva’s foot soldiers. Tomar had devoted all of the previous week to convincing the media that it was not HYV members who had dragged out a Muslim man from his house on suspicion of ‘Love Jihad’.
A standard response of HYV leaders in the face of any controversy is that “those men don’t belong to the HYV.” The organisation has put all new applicants in a ‘wait and watch’ list for one year.
During the course of his 12-hour journey from Meerut to the border of Aligarh district, and then back again, Tomar spoke on issues and subjects ranging from Hindutva and Hindu mythology to his wife and two children.
I spoke with him at length on two occasions over the course of two days and Tomar never tired of responding to questions. The 50-year-old attributed his indefatigability to the two decades he spent responding to students at the DN Inter College in Meerut where he taught commerce. When he reaches his college now, Tomar wears white, leaving his Saffron outfit and avatar outside.
In our conversations, Tomar chose his words carefully. Speaking of Muslims and Christians, he stuck to script, touching on Love Jihad, the “lying” missionaries who duped Hindus into converting, and Muslims who were trying to outnumber Hindus by out-procreating them.
He explained what ‘Love Jihad’ was. “There is nothing wrong in two people falling in love,” Tomar said. “Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Shahnawaz Hussain are married to Hindus. Shah Rukh Khan is married to Gauri. But if a Muslim is pretending to be Hindu in order to violate the woman and convert her to Islam, that is wrong.”
He even said that Hindus were partly to blame for Love Jihad because the practice of dowry had forced many Hindu women to throw their lot with Muslims. Muslims, he added, were doing a far better job of educating their girls than boys. And, both Christians and Muslims were better than Hindus when it came to rehabilitating women whom society was wrong to shame in the first place. “If there are things that they do better than we should adopt those practices. Hinduism is always changing and reforming. It is they who never change,” he said.
When I asked him if he was striking a somewhat muted note deliberately, he said, “Hindutva no longer has to be on the offense. But we will be reactive if Hinduism is under attack.”
Hindutva no longer has to be on the offense. But we will be reactive if Hinduism is under attack.
The schoolteacher spoke out against the lynching of Haryana dairy farmer Pehlu Khan by cow vigilantes. “These gau rakshaks are frauds,” he said. “They are in business with butchers who are competing with each other. Anyone indulging in this kind of fake gau raksha will be thrown out of the group.”
Tomar was raised on Hindutva, so to speak. He was five-years-old when his father began taking him to the local Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shakha. His mother went to jail for protesting the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi. Later, he joined Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing. He joined Adityanath’s HYV in 2005.
For Tomar, who had been unsuccessfully trying to establish an HYV presence in western UP for over a decade, it was overwhelming to see hundreds of volunteers waiting to meet him for hours in the hot sun. At each stop, he would disappear into the crowd and emerge slightly disheveled, loaded with garlands.
By the time he was heading towards Bulandshahr, at least 30 cars bearing saffron flags were accompanying him on the road. Boys with saffron scarves around their necks whizzed by in motorcycles, clearing the road.
Tomar has a daunting task ahead of him. He has to ensure that the HYV, which was founded in 2002 by Adityanath, the Hindutva hardliner, doesn’t become a political liability for Adityanath, the chief minister in 2017. He knows that the CM will not stand that a group, even one that he founded, become a source of embarrassment to him.
And it isn’t just Tomar. Many HYV leaders at the Bulandshahr event expressly forbade the use of violence. An elderly speaker told the HYV foot-soldiers that it was their job to protect “Modi and Yogi.” “Josh mein hosh mat kho dena,” he warned. (Don’t lose your mind in all the excitement.)
Josh mein hosh mat kho dena.
At least some are heeding the advice. Asked what he believed were his duties, one young HYV foot soldier said that it was protecting cows, promoting nationalism and fighting social injustice. Asked if he would ever resort to violence in the line of duty, he echoed Tomar’s sentiment, saying that there was no need for vigilantism as the “government is on our side.”
Posing for a photograph for HuffPost India along with some other HYV members, he turned to his friend and asked him to remove his sunglasses. “Don’t you know that we are a serious organisation,” he said.
A Big Project
Tomar knows that the Hindutva agenda has to be stoked constantly but he is also aware that beating the same old ‘Love Jihad’ drum wasn’t going to sustain the growing organisation. To thrive and stay politically relevant, the HYV needs to give its members more. To this end, the organisation is gearing up for a massive undertaking to eliminate caste from the Hindu community so that, in Tomar’s words, all “Hindus see themselves only as Hindus.” “Nothing will make us more powerful,” he added.
In fact, building a caste-less society was the focus of several speeches on Sunday. In one surprising instance, a particularly aggressive speaker who began with bashing ‘Love Jihad’ ended up criticizing the caste system.
First, the speaker said that Muslim religious leaders were the ones who instructed their young men to have sex with Hindus. He railed, “If you get a Brahmin girl, you will get so much. If you get a Kshatriya girl, you will get so much. If you get a Vaishya girl, you will get so much. If you get a Shudra girl, you will get so much.”
And then, the speaker began blaming the caste system for the inability of Hindus to stand up against Muslim aggression. When it was Tomar’s turn to speak, he said that for all their faults, Muslims could sit down and have a meal together without worrying about caste.
Hindus see themselves only as Hindus.
While the HYV is already organizing a gathering where people of different castes eat together, they are also thinking about launching a campaign that will ask people to drop their last names.
Alongside the attempt to portray the HYV as a social organisation and not a political one, Tomar also readily admits that the BJP will benefit from a Hindu consolidation in 2019 general election. “For too long now, other parties have divided us on the basis of caste and religion. But from now all Hindus, irrespective of caste, must be one,” he said.