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India – 2.6 million dry toilets and 13,384 manual scavengers. Do the math

#GenderAnd: The law against manual scavenging can be successfully implemented if the State accepts that the practise of manual scavenging exists.

The media has finally started to report on manual scavengers suffocating to death in sewage holes, but a story that continues to slip is the state’s blatant neglect of home and community-based manual scavenging, 95 per cent of which is done by Dalit women. Manual scavenging is a caste-based division of labour handed down over generations of women, who are bound by this oppressive system to clean dry toilets of people living in their own villages or urban neighbourhoods.

Women married into families of this caste suffer the torture, mental and physical pain of this inhuman practice. They lift and carry heavy loads of excrement in cane baskets to designated sites of disposal. In the heat of summer and during the rains, the excrement leaks on to their faces and bodies. The stench and working conditions are unbearable.  Their menfolk are expected to carry out other “polluting” tasks, including disposing of dead animals, cleaning placentas after delivery, and various funeral-related activities. Despite hundreds of testimonies of subjugation, oppression, sexual harassment and marginalisation that these women have narrated to the State, many governments continue to prolong their state of denial.

 

After the long struggle of manual scavengers and people’s movement, “The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013” was passed by the central government. The Act prohibits employment of manual scavengers, construction of insanitary latrines, and rehabilitation of manual scavengers with one-time cash assistance, scholarship for their children, and a residential plot with financial assistance for constructing a house. One of the important components of the law is identification of manual scavengers across the country through surveys. Up until October 2017, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has identified only 13,384 manual scavengers (4375 in urban and 9014 in rural) in 11 states of India. Of these, 12,640 received the one-time cash assistance (Rs 40,000) from the government and 4,643 received vocational training.

95 per cent of home and community-based manual scavenging is done by Dalit womenNow compare these dismal numbers with what the State reports on itself. According to the Census of India (2011), there are 7,94,390 dry latrines where humans clean excreta — 73 per cent of these are in rural areas whereas 27 per centare in urban areas. Apart from these, there are 13,14,652 toilets where human excreta is flushed into open drains. A total of 26 lakhs [2.6 million] dry latrines exist in the country where the practice of manual scavenging still continues.

According to Socio-Economic and Caste Census (2011) of rural India, 1,80,657 rural households surveyed were engaged in manual scavenging. Highest numbers of manual scavengers were identified in the state of Maharashtra. Madhya Pradesh was second followed by Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Karnataka, Punjab, Daman and Diu and Bihar. The same caste census reported that the states of Goa, Assam and Chandigarh had no manual scavengers. Manipur, Lakshwadeep and Himachal Pradesh had one. Delhi reported just six manual scavengers. Surveys and evidence collected by civil society organisations expose the rampant practise of manual scavenging in many of these states.

What can be said with conviction and evidence is that the Government of India, both at the state and Centre, continues to violate their constitutional responsibility of implementing the law, and only pay lip service to empowering Dalit women. The sole basis of the successful implementation of this law exists on the condition that the state accepts that the practise of manual scavenging exists and commits to the holistic rehabilitation of the community. The law depends on district collectors, municipal commissioners and taluk and panchayat chiefs to responsibly enumerate the number of manual scavengers still engaged in this inhuman practise.

This will mean, that these offices of authority will have to admit to their role in perpetuating the practise and invest in sanitation systems that are free from human interface, which by itself is a very tall order. In most cases, the mandated district vigilance committees whose job it is to oversee the economic and social rehabilitation of manual scavengers, as well as monitor registration of offences (under the Act), their investigation and prosecution, have either not been formed or are dysfunctional. When formed, they exclude experienced civil society organisations and women.

One of the important components of the law is identification of manual scavengers across the country through surveys. (Express Photo: Tashi Tobgyal)The central government recently announced its plan to conduct a fresh survey in 164 districts of India. While this is a welcome move, before embarking on this humongous exercise, it will be good to reflect and learn from the mistakes made in the last five years. First and foremost, there is a need to understand that eradication of this inhuman practise requires a change in the mindset of state officials who are responsible for its implementation. It requires a commitment to ensure that every woman and man engaged in this division of labour, not just receives a cheque of Rs 40,000, but are provided with rehabilitation that gives these families a real chance and the power to lead their lives with dignity. This includes free decent housing, relevant vocational training, financial assistance for self-employment opportunities and free education and scholarship for the children of these families. If the government is able to identify all the women and men who till this date are victims of the caste-based oppression and provide them with alternate options, it will not only be empowering them, but also making amends for its own sinful history

2.6 million dry toilets and 13,384 manual scavengers. Do the math

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The silent sufferers: on Maharashtra farmer suicides

Jyoti Shelar

“The children of farmers who killed themselves cope with acute mental trauma, but they say very little. Even worse, no one asks.” Kartik Kachre, whose father Prakash Kachre committed suicide, is seen with other children in Shantivan in Beed district of Maharashtra. Shantivan is home to 120 children who have lost either one or both of their parents to farm loan-related suicide.
“The children of farmers who killed themselves cope with acute mental trauma, but they say very little. Even worse, no one asks.” Kartik Kachre, whose father Prakash Kachre committed suicide, is seen with other children in Shantivan in Beed district of Maharashtra. Shantivan is home to 120 children who have lost either one or both of their parents to farm loan-related suicide. | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

Ground Zero
The children of the farmers who committed suicide do not receive the support or counselling they need to recover from the resulting mental trauma. Jyoti Shelar visits the villages in Maharashtra worst affected by farmer suicide and reports on these minors’ struggle to get their lives back on track
“Every time I open the door, I see my father’s body,” says 14-year-old Nikita Surwase, pointing at the iron shaft on the ceiling.

In May 2014, Nikita’s father, Ashok, hanged himself to escape the mounting pressure of repaying a loan of nearly ₹2 lakh that he had taken to grow cotton on his 1.5-acre land in Talegaon village, Beed district, Maharashtra. That day, Nikita says, she and her father were home while her mother Sunita (30), grandmother Jaibai (65), and three younger siblings — Ashwini (12), Rohan (9) and Suraj (6) — had gone to visit a relative.

Around four in the afternoon, her father asked her to go out and clean the porch. The unsuspecting child, who was 10 at the time, followed his order.

Her mother returned around five and found the door locked from the inside. There was no response to their repeated knocking. A neighbour who was passing by noticed the commotion. He peeped in from the window and saw Ashok’s body hanging lifeless. Everyone rushed to break open the door. Nikita’s father had cut a hammock that used to hang from the ceiling and used the same rope to end his life.

‘I feel very tense’
“Pappa gelya paasun mala khup tension yeta, radu yeta” (I feel very tense since my father passed away, I feel like crying all the time), says Nikita. She uses the word ‘tension’ multiple times during the conversation, unable to articulate more exactly what she feels.

For the first few months, her weeping was seen as the natural reaction of a grief-stricken child. “All of us were crying,” says her grandmother, Jaibai. But Nikita failed to return to a semblance of her normal self. She stopped communicating and almost gave up eating. She spoke only a few words throughout the day and slept all the time.

“When we would call her for meals, she would eat very little and go back to sleep,” says Jaibai. “She didn’t want to go to school any more. She kept saying she had a headache.” In the following months, Nikita lost weight rapidly. She had fever often. Her crying wouldn’t abate, and she kept having graphic flashbacks of her father’s lifeless body.

Nikita, who saw her father’s body hanging from an iron shaft on the ceiling when she was 10, has lived in trauma since. | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

Nikita’s father could not repay the loan as Maharashtra had one of its worst spells of drought that year, and it ruined his crop yield. To continue repaying the loan, Nikita’s mother took charge of the farm and also started working in other farms, plucking cotton.

Two of Nikita’s siblings, Ashwini and Rohan, were sent away to Aurangabad to stay at a residential school that adopted the children of farmers who had killed themselves. Nikita, who is now in class nine, continued to battle against her anxieties, her trauma getting little attention from her family.

Last year, an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) who lived nearby took Nikita to the Beed Civil Hospital, where she was diagnosed with extremely low levels of haemoglobin. She was given three units of blood and prescribed several food supplements. Nikita still weighs only 30 kg, way below what’s healthy for a 14-year-old. Though she looks slightly better now, the ASHA worker says that the girl is lost in her own world.

An alien concept
The children of farmers who killed themselves cope with acute mental trauma, but they say very little. Even worse, no one asks. In a place where ‘mental health’ is still an alien concept, the fact that a parent’s suicide can damage the child remains unrecognised.

Senior psychiatrist and World Health Organisation (WHO) consultant Lakshmi Vijayakumar says that Nikita has been experiencing classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. “In children, these mental disorders don’t show up like they do in adults. Children mostly present themselves with continuous complaints of some kind of body pain (headache, stomach ache) or behavioural problems such as refusing to go to school, refusing to eat, and temper tantrums. Children who don’t have any of these problems may start bed-wetting,” explains Vijayakumar, adding that when a child loses a parent, there is a growing sense of abandonment and separation anxiety.

In Beed’s Arvi village, a dirt track through large cotton fields leads to a residential school called Shantivan. The word translates to ‘forest of peace’. Run by a couple passionate about social work, Shantivan is home to 300 children who have lost either one or both of their parents. Of these, 120 are children of farmers (from the Marathwada region) who have committed suicide. One of the eight districts of drought-prone Marathwada, Beed has witnessed the highest number of suicides in the region.

The silent sufferers: on Maharashtra farmer suicides

One resident, 14-year-old Mayur Rasal, lost his father in 2009, a year that saw a great number of farmers end their lives to escape debt. Mayur, his two older brothers and their mother, Vaishali, inherited three acres of land and an unpaid debt liability of over ₹5 lakh. Unable to bear the burden, Vaishali left with another man a year later. Mayur and his two brothers became their grandmother’s responsibility.

“My grandmother got labourers to plough the field and grow cotton, jowar and bajra. But she always complained that we did not have enough money, just like my father,” says Mayur. He says his relatives told him that his father had hanged himself from the ceiling fan. “It was June 1. I remember the date because I was going to join class 1 from June 15,” says the teenager, eyes turning moist as he remembers his father.

Saved by stories
Volunteers from Shantivan visit suicide-affected families and urge them to send their children to the residential school for a proper education and a better life. Last June, when they visited Mayur’s house in Manjar Sumba village, his grandmother immediately agreed to send him away. “He would cry all the time. He would wake up in the middle of the night, calling for his father,” says Kaveri Nagargoje, who runs Shantivan with her husband, Deepak. “He felt that no one cared for him, and both his father and mother had abandoned him. As he gradually opened up to me, I learnt that shortly after his father’s suicide, his mother, unable to manage the three children on her own, had ended up pouring boiling water on him,” Nagargoje says.

Nagargoje is not a trained counsellor but she says she does whatever she can to motivate the children. Storytelling brightens up the kids, she says. “I have made up a fictional character named Dheru who has faced similar hardships after losing his father to suicide,” she says. “In my story, he goes on to become a Collector and fulfills his mother’s dreams, pays off all debt, and has a peaceful life. Most of these children now aspire to become like Dheru.” Mayur, who is now in class 8, wants to appear for the civil services examination.

Nagargoje observes that most children at Shantivan need constant support: “Bed-wetting is a common problem in children as old as 12 years. Some are reclusive, and it takes time for them to mingle with others. But we closely observe each one of them and monitor their emotional as well as educational progress, as it tells us whether the child is getting over her trauma or continues to remain in its grip.”

Subhangi Rakh from Theria in Beed district lost her grandfather to suicide when he could not repay his farm loan. Later, a bull gored her father to death in the farm, and her mother left with another man. Subhangi has a twin sister and an older brother. She is seen here with other children in Shantivan, where her siblings are too.


Subhangi Rakh from Theria in Beed district lost her grandfather to suicide when he could not repay his farm loan. Later, a bull gored her father to death in the farm, and her mother left with another man. Subhangi has a twin sister and an older brother. She is seen here with other children in Shantivan, where her siblings are too. | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

In Wardha district, which falls in the drought-prone Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, a village named Kurzhadi has reported eight farmer suicides over the past decade. In 2016, Ganesh Thackrey gulped down a bottle of pesticide that he had kept for use on his three-acre cotton farm. When his wife Archana got home from a village gram panchayat meeting, she saw her husband on the floor, barely breathing. A neighbour helped her put Ganesh on a motorcycle and rush him to a government-run health centre 12 km from the village, in Phulgaon.

But Ganesh’s condition was critical. So he was transferred to a rural hospital in Sawangi, 35 km from Phulgaon. For nine days, Ganesh battled for life in the Intensive Care Unit of the Sawangi hospital. But his organs began to collapse one after another, and he eventually succumbed.

Archana then started to work on the farm. But with both father and mother away, the two children, Aniket (11) and Sanchita (9), suddenly found themselves on their own. “While the girl was still too young to understand what had hit the family, something changed in the boy after he lost his father,” says Avinash Ghode, a teacher at the Zilla Parishad Primary School in Kurzhadi where the siblings study.

Ghode says Aniket always ranked first in his class. “After his father’s death, he remained absent for a while. About three weeks later, when he rejoined school, he was no longer his chirpy self,” he recalls, adding that he also developed a severe problem in paying attention. Aniket, the teacher says, would stare blankly in class. He would have no clue what was being taught.

“We spoke to him several times and told him that whatever had happened was not in his control and that he needs to focus on his education,” Ghode says. Gradually, Aniket managed to get his focus back on studies and once again ranked first in class 5. He is now in Class 6. “But he is not his old self, when he used to be playful and laugh out loud,” says the teacher.

Any question about their father brings tears to the siblings’ eyes. When asked what they would like to do when they grew up, Aniket says he wants to be a police officer, while Sanchita wants to be a ‘madam’, as the teacher is addressed in the school. “These children need more than education. Such an upheaval in life is tough even for an adult to cope with,” says Ghode. He feels that the government has to bring in professional counsellors to reach out to such children.

A 2010 study led by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre found that losing a parent to suicide increases children’s risk of developing a range of major psychiatric disorders. “Those who have lost a parent to suicide are at a higher risk of committing suicide too,” says Vijayakumar, who has worked extensively in the farmer suicide-affected Kattumannarkoil district in Tamil Nadu and with the tsunami affected-children from the State. “There is a grave need to evaluate and counsel these children. They should get avenues to vent their emotions in a non-threatening manner,” she says, suggesting group painting and art therapy as possible methods. “The pictures they draw at times reflect the emotions they are going through,” she says.

Survivor’s guilt
Ann Masten, a professor of child development in the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, says that, in itself, losing a parent is a very stressful event in a child’s life. “Many children experience it as a parent leaving them for something they may have done. They react with anger at times. Some who internalise their feelings may become sad and silent, and can thus be easily ignored. Some children recover with good parenting and good teacher support, while others may require mental health support,” says Masten. “Intervention is needed because it is obvious that these children are silent sufferers,” she adds. But hundreds of children from Marathwada and Vidarbha’s suicide-affected families are exactly that — silent sufferers.

Experts say that survivor’s guilt is most commonly observed in those who have lost someone to suicide. They are tormented with either visual memories of the event or auditory memories. “We use the technique of memory distortion. For example, if it’s a visual memory, we get them to reconstruct it and then ask them to farther the body from them and gradually destroy the image. To reduce the guilt, we use the Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy techniques to assure them that it was not their fault,” says Mumbai-based counselling psychologist, Binaifer Sahukar. “With continuous counselling, they are able to become resilient. While the counsellor is not going to be around forever, these strategies are developed for them to use whenever needed,” she says.

Sahukar, who has counselled many school and college students, observes that some children may bounce back quickly while others may take time, and a few may never be able to deal with the trauma. “It all depends on the core personality and the stress tolerance threshold. We may have twins going through the same trauma and one of them may recover quickly while the other does not. The time taken to heal varies from person to person,” she says, adding that complete lack of counselling or a support system to deal with the trauma may lead to long-term consequences such as alcoholism and wrecked relationships.

In 2015, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recorded 8,007 farmer suicides across India. Of these, 3,030 were in Maharashtra, the highest number for any State. While the NCRB is still compiling the data for 2016, media reports peg it at around 3,063.

In February 2015, the government launched Prerna Prakalp, a mental health programme for farmers from suicide-prone Marathwada and Vidarbha. The programme currently covers eight districts of Marathwada and six of the 11 districts in Vidarbha.

A Prerna Prakalp cell theoretically consists of six people — a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, a psychiatric social worker, a psychiatric nurse, a community nurse, and an accountant/case registry assistant. But of the 14 cells that exist in the two regions, only eight have psychiatrists. The programme is largely dependent on ASHA workers, who have been trained to visit houses with a Patient Health Questionnaire 12 Somatic Symptom scale (a screening and diagnostic tool for mental health disorders) to assess the family members. But it only covers adults.

The number of positive replies to the 12 questions classifies the person as normal, mildly depressed, moderately depressed, or severely depressed. For the later three, the ASHA worker urges the family members to have a chat with a counsellor on the State’s toll-free mental health helpline, 104. The counsellor then gauges whether the person needs to be directed to the primary health centre or a rural or sub-district hospital. Since 2015, more than 30 lakh households have been surveyed, and 15,528 people were found to be suffering from various levels of depression — 12,850 mild, 2,089 moderate, and 567 severe. “Prerna Prakalp is not age-specific. But when we mean farmers, we mean adults. We try to reach out to children through our District Mental Health Programme (DMHP),” says Sadhana Tayade, joint director of Directorate of Health Services, who is in charge of mental health.

The man of the house
The DMHP was started in the 1990s under the National Mental Health Programme with the aim of upgrading State mental health facilities and reaching out to as many people in need as possible. Its outreach component involves targeted interventions, life skills education, counselling in schools and colleges, and workplace stress management. In Maharahstra, however, the DMHP’s school intervention programme was rolled out only in November 2016. The State authorities are yet to collate data on the number of children they have reached through the programme but the rough estimate is 12,000. So there’s still a long way to go for a targeted intervention to help children affected by farmer suicide.

For many children, the experience of Pawan Parve from Aurangabad’s Bodhwal village may be typical of the aftermath of a farmer’s suicide. After his father drank pesticide and died in 2011, Parve, who was only 14, suddenly realised that he had become the man of the house. Instead of receiving help through counselling, he found himself responsible for an unmarried sister and two younger brothers. “No one cared for me. I became just another farmer who had to pay off the debt,” says Pawan.

Somehow, he managed to repay his father’s ₹1 lakh debt by putting all his efforts into cotton and maize farming. Pawan is now in the second year of junior college, but he only appears for exams. He spends the day working on the three-acre farm or selling the yield, and studies for an hour or two at night. “From the day my father left us, I have never felt like a young boy. Everyone treats me like a grown-up,” he says. He has managed to save up ₹40,000 for his 18-year-old sister’s marriage as well. “My relatives have already started inquiring about her,” says the youngster, who once aspired to join the police force. But now he views the future with little hope. “Nothing has changed,” he says. “Just that I have replaced my father.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-silent-sufferers-on-farmer-suicides-in-maharashtra/article22777408.ece

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Not A Drop Of The Ganga Has Been Cleaned, Where The Money Is Going: NGT

 

Ganga

Source: Economic Times | The Hindu | Image Courtesy: geospatialworld

The National Green Tribunal criticised the Government agencies for wasting public money in the name of cleaning the Ganges. The Tribunal told the Center, “Not a single drop of river Ganga has been cleaned so far,” as reported by The Hindu.

The bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, NGT Chairperson, asked the government authorities to work together for the cause saying that the Prime Minister has given them a goal, so they should take it as a national project. The tribunal asked the government agencies to work in collaboration, and further added that they do not need any “drama” regarding complaints between Centre and the state of Uttar Pradesh.

“It is the fault of Central Pollution Control Board and other government agencies who are not doing their job properly. Had the authorities done their job properly, they would not be standing before the court. The authorities have done nothing. It is a misuse of public money, and everyone says that they are doing a lot to clean the Ganges, but not a single drop of the river has been cleaned,” says the NGT Bench as reported by The Hindu.

The centre has allocated over Rs 2,000 crore under the “Namami Gange” programme for the purpose of cleaning the Ganges. Further, the tribunal has also warned around 14 industrial units operating in Amroha and Bijnor districts, along with those operating on the banks of the river, to be prepared for the shutdown, while questioning them to justify why they should not face action.


“National Mission For Clean Ganga”
National Mission for cleaning Ganga is a registered society which aims to ensure effective reduction of pollution and rejuvenation of the river by adopting a river basin approach to promoting inter-sectoral coordination for comprehensive planning and management. The main aim of the NMCG is to maintain environmental flows in the river while ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.


Environmentalists’ Take
Reputed water conservationist Rajendra Singh says that distributing money for setting up Sewage Treatment Plants won’t bring good results unless national protocol to stop sewage water from entering into the rivers is followed.

Environmentalist CR Babu concurred saying that all the rivulets that are flowing in the Gangetic plain only carry sewage. No river can be cleaned until simultaneous efforts are made, as reported by Economic Times.


The Ganges
The Ganges or Ganga is a river considered as holiest of rivers by Hindus. It flows from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, covering around 2,525 km across five states. Despite the Ganga Action Plan launched in 1985, the river remains highly polluted

https://thelogicalindian.com/environment/ganga/

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BJP defends man accused of raping & killing 8-year-old, calls him ‘nationalist’ #WTFnews

At 3.30 pm on January 10, Asifa Bano, an eight year old Bakerwal girl left her home at Rassana in Kathua to graze horses in the nearby forest but didn’t return. A day later, her family registered a case but police couldn’t trace her.  A week later, her disfigured and decomposed body was recovered. It turned out that she had been raped too. The father Mohammad Yusuf said the girl’s “lips had been bitten and there were marks of violence on her thighs and face”.

The crime shocked the entire state. Public clamour grew for the police to act and arrest the killer. Bakerwals, a nomadic community, held protests. The issue also rocked the then ongoing Assembly session. The government promised action and formed a Special Investigation Team to probe the case. Two days later, police arrested a 15 year old boy for the murder.

Minister for Revenue and Parliamentary Affairs, Abdul Rehman Veeri later informed the House that the accused had confessed to the crime. He said “the accused had kidnapped the minor girl and put her in nearby cowshed at village Rassana, where he attempted to rape her and when she resisted, he killed her by way of strangulation”.

The arrest soon assumed a communal colour. The BJP MLA of the area Deepak Sharma visited Rassana later and held deliberations with the people of the one community only. Senior BJP leaders maintained silence over the issue even while the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti summoned the family of the girl to her office and assured them of the government’s support.

The Bakerwals, however, were not convinced about the involvement of the boy in the rape and murder, arguing that it was not possible for him to restrict the girl to a cowshed for a week. Another breakthrough in the investigation followed on February 10 when police arrested a Special Police Officer (SPO) Deepak Khajuria for the crime. Ironically, Khajuria had been part of the police search team looking for the then missing Asifa. And he had also been a part of the police contingent deployed to break up the crowds protesting the rape and murder.

“Police official held for rape and murder of 8 year old girl in Kathua. It has shaken our soul forever. Kudos to IGP Mr (Alok) Puri for his professional and timely investigation,” tweeted the Deputy Commissioner Rajouri Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary,

But since then, the issue has increasingly been communalised. The BJP has jumped to the defence of Khajuria and framed the crime in terms of a battle between nationalists and anti-nationals. Rallies are being taken out in support of the accused, with people participating in them using the tricolour to press their demand for his release. This forced Mehbooba to tweet her disappointment.

“Appalled by the marches & protests in defense of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua. Also horrified by their use of our national flag in these demonstrations, this is nothing short of desecration. The accused has been arrested & the law will follow its course,” Mehbooba wrote.

But this hasn’t changed her coalition partner’s behaviour.

“We are protesting because an injustice is being done by the government. And this is being done because our area, the area of Kathua, is inhabited by nationalist people. So, the attempt is to subdue us,” the BJP’s Kathua district president P N Dogra told media while leading a protest. “The fault of the accused (Khajuria) is that he was trying to push back against anti-national elements and those shouting pro-Pakistan slogans. It is part of jihad”.

The protests demanding the release of Khajuria are being taken out under the banner of Hindu Ekta Manch which is headed by state BJP secretary Vijay Sharma.

What is more, even Congress has decided to support the accused. In the protest rally held on Friday at Ghagwal, Congress leaders like Girdhari Lal, a former legislator and Subash Chander, a former MLC were also present were also present beside the BJP leaders Kuldeep Raj, an MLA and Rashpaul Verma, vice-chairman of State Board for Development of Other Backward Classes.

This has generated anger in Kashmir Valley and also among large sections of population in Jammu.

“Support for the rape accused is the new high in ultra-nationalism,” wrote Anuradha Bhasin tweeted on the hashtag #Justiceforkathuarapeandmurder.

In Valley, the chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons Parveena Ahangar termed the rape and murder disgusting. “The rape of Asifa should disgust us all as a people. And at the same time it should wake us up from our slumber; we must ask questions as to why it happened and we should be initiating strong campaigns to build pressure on the state to arrest the perpetrators,” she said in a statement.

Far from becoming an issue which should have brought the people together across the political divide, the rape and murder of Asifa has become a fresh source of polarisation in J&K. Even the coalition partners the PDP and the BJP are not on the same page with Congress also supporting the BJP line.

“This is a tragedy. This means the rape and murder of a minor girl is no longer an issue. The arrest of the alleged perpetrators is,” says Talib Hussain, an activist who was earlier arrested by the police for protesting the crime. “The BJP is trying hard to communalise the issue and it has succeeded to a large extent. But our effort is to stop the polarization and put the focus back on investigation”.

He said he was due to speak on Sunday at a seminar in Jammu city organised by some Hindu organisations in support of the justice for Asifa. “So, there are efforts to salvage the situation. And we hope to succeed in this,” Hussain said.

http://www.catchnews.com/politics-news/shocking-bjp-defends-man-accused-of-raping-killing-8-year-old-calls-him-nationalist-99692.html

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From PNB to Mallya to farm income, India enables corruption

Two recent developments almost ripped apart the government’s claims that it was determined to unearth black money.

RN Bhaskar

 

Last week most market watchers were left stunned with wide-mouthed amazement. Two developments almost ripped apart the government’s claims that it was determined to unearth black money.

One was, obviously, the Punjab National Bank scandal involving some Rs.11,400 crore. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has issued summons for appearance to billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi and his business partner Mehul Choksi in connection with its money laundering probe.

The ED notice is laughable because a similar ED notice was issued in the case of liquor baron Vijay Mallya as well.  And everyone knows how far that notice has reached.

The Mallya case is equally distressing because, just last week, the media was full of news about how a small Singapore company, BOC Aviation, managed to get the London courts direct the absconding Mallya to pay (to BOC) damages of $90 million.  Here was a small Singapore company that could make London courts slap a damage charge against Mallya. And here was India – a country with a battery of smart lawyers – unable to get even one favourablejudgement from London. It pointed to India’s abject incompetence, and the Opposition alleges collusion.

Coincidentally, two Modis (Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi) and Mallya are now overseas.  All the three managed to escape the CBI and the ED.  True, the ED now claims that they have attached assets (belonging to Nirav Modi) worth Rs.5,100 crore.  But weren’t assets seized and attached even in the NSEL case?  Why were those assets not liquidated and the defrauded investors reimbursed?  Why should one believe that this time round, the ED will actually liquidate assets to make good the losses?

India’s investigative and judicial system has much to answer by way of explanation to the queries raised above.

More questions than answers

In fact, the Nirav Modi case raises more questions than the government has cared to answer.

First, how is it that G. Shetty – the man who is alleged to have allowed Nirav Modi to take large sums of cash from PNB – was not exposed for almost seven years.  Surely, he must have gone on leave for some time during these years.  Surely, the Core Banking System (CBS) should have registered these transactions! After all, all SWIFT-related transactions have to get reflected in the CBS, which is part of the Finacle Banking solution developed for Indian banks by Infosys.

Then there is the SWIFT system itself.  Senior bankers will tell you that — at least till a few years ago — all transactions required two independent officers to ratify a SWIFT  transaction.  This was known as the system of double  control. Hence Shetty could not have been working alone.  His entries had to be authenticated by another officer as well. Was the software tinkered with in such a way that only one person could authenticate a transaction? Is Infosys giving its inputs to the investigators? Or has the RBI come up with fresh regulations allowing only a single authentication to be adequate?

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Moreover, senior bankers also talk of how loans against bank guarantees are normally discouraged by banks.  A Letter of Undertaking (LoU) is one kind of bank guarantee. So how were loans permitted against LoUs (see PNB letter – pg 1 given above; the full document can be viewed here)?  And even if they were, why was the norm of 110 percent margin money requirement waived?  Banks have conventionally insisted on 110 percent margin money for any kind of advance taken from any bank against a bank guarantee or an LoU.  Why were Nirav Modi’s companies allowed to raise money from different banks on the basis of such LoUs, which were supplied without the margin money of 110 percent being deposited with the bank?

Finally, how is it that such frauds get discovered only after the key people involved have flown away?  Nirav Modi has flown away, and Shetty is untraceable till the time of writing this article.  There is no mention of his fellow collaborators either. There is no explanation regarding the reasons why two officers who were required to authenticate the SWIFT transactions remained in their positions of authority for seven continuous years.  Normally such positions are rotated, to ensure that collusive arrangements do not continue for long periods of time, and also to ensure that such arrangement s come to light. Nor is there any mention of the brokers who received their commissions for arranging funds from other banks on the basis of such LoUs.  According to some reports, the brokers got their commissions from the same branch of PNB.

India loves black money

In fact, the silence on the issues raised above only reinforces the fear that India loves black money.  True, legislators love to talk about their determination to root out corruption.  But look at events very closely, and you will discover more acts that smack of collusion than determination (to root out black money).

#1 Consider how a Singapore company could get the UK courts to compel Mallya to pay it $90 million; and India’s inability in getting even one favourable UK court order against Mallya after all these years.

#2 Consider how the big fish always manage to escape India’s law enforcement machinery.  Clearly, this should be a case of dismissals on account of ineptness and incompetence.  Or it should be a case of hauling some enforcement officers over the coals for collusion.  The silence suggests collusion at this stage as well.

#3 Consider again, how the Aadhaar scheme was allowed to sail through even though India’s authorities knew that this was merely authentication, not identification.  The Aadhaar biometrics could have been included under the NPR (National Population register) which actually identifies. Thus, anyone  could, even if he were a Nepali or a Bangladesh national, manage to get an Aadhaar card on the basis of a bogus ration card and a bogus election card (because the Aadhaar system merely checks documents without getting them cross verified, and without getting the person  identified by other people.  Given that as many as half a billion Aadhaar cards could be defective, the numbers of unidentified Aadhaar cards could be almost half the number issued. Since each bogus identity is a unique individual (Bangladeshi, Nepali or who have you), his/her biometrics will not be duplicated, hence never come to light as a fraudulent recipient of an Aadhaar number.

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The decision of NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) to link the latest bank account to an Aadhaar number is equally perplexing, because the system overwrites the previous bank account number.  This removes any possibility of tracking the amounts received from the consolidated funds of India as subsidy reimbursements paid  over a period of time.   That the loopholes in the UIDAI and NPCI systems took place when key people from Infosys were at the helm of affairs at both companies is rather unfortunate.

Is the FCRA being amended retrospectively?

Then take two other reasons why there is growing scepticism about India’s stated resolve to root out corruption.  The first relates to the emailed letter EAS Sarma, former Economic Affairs Secretary, Government of India, wrote to the finance minister Arun Jaitley on 3 February 2018 (see pix of the first page alongside, and the full email here).

The letter refers to the government’s alleged moves to introduce through a Finance Bill to be tabled before Parliament an amendment to modify certain clauses of the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA) with retrospective effect.  The move appears to be to “condone the illegalities committed by Congress, BJP and a few other political parties by unethically accepting political donations from foreign sources, though prohibited under that Act. This, in my view, is not only illegal but it runs counter to the national interest, making a mockery of your so-called campaign of bringing in electoral reforms and enhancing honesty in the electoral system.

The email letter goes on to say “To amend an existing law retrospectively to permit the political parties to accept donations from foreign companies raises serious concerns about the government’s intentions vis-a-vis the likely influence of foreign agencies over the electoral process in India and its likely adverse implications for the national interest.

Both the FCRA of 1976 and the FCRA of 2010 rightly prohibited political parties and their members from accepting donations from foreign sources. The Representation of the People Act echoed these prohibitive provisions. It goes to the credit of the Parliamentarians at that time to have thought about the deleterious implications that foreign donations could have on the political parties and their implications for the national interest.

Despite such clear legal provisions, both Congress and BJP blatantly sought and accepted donations from foreign sources year after year.

I, along with Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), filed a Writ Petition [W.P.(C) 131/2013] before Hon’ble Delhi High Court contesting the same. The latter pronounced their judgement on 28-3-2014 (copy enclosed) upholding the contention in our WP and directing the Union Govt to act against the political parties within six months.”

Thus, instead of complying with the orders of the court, the government now appears to be willing to change the laws retrospectively/ That would allow political parties the liberty to conceal the source of their funding. Since such an allegation has been made before the courts, and since the government has not responded to the order of the courts, one is inclined to believe that the allegations are true, and that it is the politicians who have actually abetted and promoted the creation of black money.  If the allegations are true, it would explain the desire of the legislators to conceal the source of funds, and thus allow the black-money to go undetected.

Agriculture the laundromat

There is one more reason to believe that the government has no real desire to unearth black-money.  It related to the disclosures of agricultural income that were made to the income tax authorities during 2011 and 2012.  What makes those disclosures preposterous is (a) they were larger than ever before, (b) the cumulative value of disclosures during the two years was a mind-boggling Rs.874 lakh crore. (c) the cumulative value  of disclosures were eight times India’s GVA for 2013, and almost 100 times the total tax collected in a year.

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The amounts were so staggering that any income tax officer would have dismissed them.  Unfortunately, today, the income tax department is not in a position to either dismiss them, or even accept them.  To dismiss these declarations would require them to file cases of wrongful disclosure against the declarants (because under the income tax laws any income above a certain limit must be fed in by the declarant online, and swear to the authenticity of these declarations).  It is reasonable to believe that such large declarations could only have been made by very powerful and extremely wealthy people (many of them possibly politicians).  Prosecuting them on a large scale (around 8 lakh such assessees) would be inconceivable.  To accept such declarations that were eight times a country’s GDP would immediately raise a hue and cry about how the country had been looted all these years.

That is why the disclosures and submissions have remained with the income tax department like a hot potato.  They bear testimony to the government’s unwillingness to root out black money.  They also seem to explain why the government had been unwilling to go after the people whose names had been disclosed in the St Kitts exposure and the Paradise Papers episode. That the government did begin an investigation was on account of the directives given by the Supreme Court.

In conclusion

That is why many do not take the governments protestations over the PNB fraud at face value.  Many believe that someone in the government must have had a hand in allowing these diversions of funds to take place.  How else can one explain the LoUs being accepted without the double control mechanism of the SWIFT keys?  How else does one explain the disclosure coming to light after the key persons had fled the coop?

That could also explain why even though bank managers have been hauled up for the NPAs, not a single legislator or Politically Affiliated Person has been hauled up for compelling bank authorities to give loans to undesirable borrowers.  That the PNB loot began seven years ago, and continued till recently, puts both the Congress and NDA governments under a harsh spotlight.

So what will the outcome be?  Your guess is as good as mine.  The only thing that is certain is that there remain more questions than answers at this stage.

http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/comment-from-pnb-to-mallya-to-farm-income-india-enables-corruption-2510203.html

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India – ‘We Don’t Just Have An Environmental Crisis, But A Govt In Denial As Well’

Prerna Singh Bindra,

minihydel_620

A mini hydel plant in the Western ghats, a biodiversity hotspot. Between 2014-17, 36,500 hectares of forest land–the equivalent of 63 football fields every single day–were diverted for non-forest purposes such as mining, highways and industry.

 

India ranked among the bottom five nations in the global Environmental Performance Index (EPI) list released in January 2018, slipping 36 places in two years. Multiple studies conducted recently have shown that India is dealing with an environmental crisis.

 

Consider the following findings:

 

The government does not appear to be worried about India’s poor showing in environment protection. The minister for environment, forests & climate change (MoEFCC) Harsh Vardhan has dismissed them as “just rankings”.

 

Citizens seeking redressal of environmental grievances have therefore turned to the judiciary, notably the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which was established as an act in Parliament on October 18, 2010.

 

“The green tribunal is now the epicentre of the environmental movement in India,” environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta told IndiaSpend. “It has become the first and the last recourse for people because their local governments are not doing the job of protecting the environment. But political apathy, indeed deliberate action, are rendering the NGT ineffective.”

 

A law graduate from Delhi University, Dutta, 43, started pursuing environment law in 2001. His first case was against Vedanta, the mining company, where he represented the Dongria Kondh tribals seeking a ban on bauxite mining in the Niyamagiri hills in south-west Odisha, considered sacred by local communities.

 

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“The NGT Act requires the tribunal to have 40 expert members,” environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta told us. “It had about 20 members when it started in 2011 in its one Delhi bench. Now, it has only five members.”

 

Dutta has, since, taken on cases against other mega mining projects too–the Rs 9,000-crore Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh and the Lafarge lime mining project in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. Dutta also fought for the Ratnagiri farmers whose mango orchards would have been affected by JSW’s thermal power plants.

 

In 2005, Dutta co-founded the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) with another environment lawyer Rahul Choudhary. Two years later, they set up the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Resources and Response Centre, which provides an accessible database on EIA reports–known for being subjective and fraudulent–along with a critical analysis.

 

In an interview with IndiaSpend, Ritwick explained the collapse of green governance in India, how the current government is diluting environmental safeguards and how the NGT is being weakened.

 

Recent studies have shown that India ranks among the bottom nations in environment performance while it tops the world in environment conflict. What explains this crisis?

 

One way of looking at this is that the level of reporting of conflicts is high–unlike say in China–and also because the system allows you to raise your voice.

 

Having said that, India is witnessing a high level of environment conflict across the landscape. One reason is that, in absolute numbers, more people–250 to 300 million–in India are dependent on natural resources than any other country in the world. Our people depend on forests, wetlands, seas, rivers, grasslands, mountains for their livelihood and sustenance. And all these ecosystems are under severe pressure.

 

The Himalayas are set to have the highest concentrations of dams in the world, so states like Himachal, Arunachal and Sikkim are fraught with conflict over water, and dams (with consequent displacement and loss of forests). In central India–Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand–the takeover of land for mining has communities up in arms; Goa is taking to the streets against the plans to transform it into a coal corridor. Tamil Nadu–and indeed across the country–there is a war over sand–with officials, reporters, environmentalists being killed and harassed for taking up the (issues of) sand mafia/illegal mining.

 

Add to this the fact that India’s forests are under very severe pressure. Between 2014 to 2017, 36,500 hectares of forest land were diverted for non-forest purposes like mining, highways, industry, and so on. This works out to an annual average of 12,166 hectares, or the equivalent of 63 football fields every single day. This does not include the encroachments.

 

Thirteen of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India. The Yamuna–flowing through India’s capital–has 16 million faecal coliform parts per million (PPM); the standard is 500 PPM for potable water. Even the flush in your toilet might have cleaner water.

 

The Lancet report which said that 2.5 million people are dying prematurely due to diseases linked to pollution was dismissed as a western conspiracy. Environment minister Harsh Vardhan, also a doctor, has denied reports that suggest air pollution leads to millions of death every year saying that: “To attribute any death to a cause like pollution may be too much.”

 

So we don’t just have an environmental crisis, but the government is in denial as well.

 

Isn’t the government exaggerating the crisis by diluting regulations that safeguard the environment and according clearances in forests? How does the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime compared to the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government?

 

As far as the number of environment clearances accorded (is concerned), the rate has been consistently high, over 90%, pre- or post-2014, UPA–II or NDA-II. But in the UPA era, the MoEFCC at least took some proactive measures for conservation. For example, there was a moratorium on industries in critically polluted clusters, and an initiative to identify and protect some eco-sensitive areas of the Western Ghats. It did not reach its logical conclusion, but at least there was an effort. A few detrimental projects like the Neutrino Observatory on the buffer of Mudumalai Tiger reserve were halted. And, of course, the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, was passed in the Parliament.

 

From 2014 onward, you won’t find any activity or project stopped on environmental grounds, or even one initiative taken for environment protection. There isn’t even a dedicated minister–Prakash Javadekar, who held the portfolio earlier, and current incumbent Harsh Vardhan, are part-time ministers.

 

Governments say that they balance “environment and development”. Where is the balance? Balance is when both sides are equal, not when there is almost 100% approval.

 

Instead, you have a ministry which considers clearing damaging projects in national parks and sanctuaries as its achievements–a document uploaded on the MoEFCC’s website lists as its initiatives and achievements that the NBWL approved 400+ projects between 2014-2017.

 

Can you elaborate on specific moves by the current regime that dilute environmental regulations?

 

The National Waterways Act, 2016, intended to convert rivers into highways–with heavy traffic of cargo ships of coal, oil, chemicals–was passed by the Parliament, overruling other statutory processes. The government is not seeking environment approvals for bulk of the waterways.

 

The Wetlands (Conservation & Management) Rules, 2017, are more of a framework to legalise wetland destruction. It fails to cover 65% of the total area identified as wetlands, disbands the National Wetland Regulatory Authority, waters down the definition of a wetland, and has done away with the requirement of an environment impact assessment.

 

The task of granting mining approvals has also been relegated to the district level, to a committee which will have the district chief engineer of the irrigation department as the chairperson and the mining officer as a member. The District Environment Regulation Authority is to be headed by the district magistrate whose job is to increase revenues. It’s like asking the fox to guard the chicken. It has granted general approval–which means each project won’t be assessed individually–under the Forest (Conservation) Act for clearances in forest areas that are within 100 km of the Line of Actual Control.

 

Isn’t the Waterways Act, and the big dams, a contradiction of one of the government’s flagship priority schemes–Namami Gange?

 

Yes, it is a serious contradiction. But before we get into that, I would like to bring up another point. When the new government came to power, one of the first things it did was to give the water resources ministry a new nomenclature–ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation. The message here is that Ganga is to be rejuvenated, but other rivers may be tapped, dammed, developed. That they will be viewed only as resources, not rivers. What it is essentially doing is making a class and caste discrimination between rivers, where Ganga is an upper-caste river in comparison to others which are lower-caste rivers. Brahmaputra, Teesta, Narmada, Cauvery–all suffering from pollution, reduced flows etc–other rivers don’t figure in its rejuvenation projects.

 

So we have a Ganga-obsessed ministry; yet, there is no concrete action to protect the Ganga. The main emphasis within this programme is on effluent treatment plants, likely as they are easy to set up. There is little talk of ensuring the flow of the river, which is essential for the flushing action to clean the water, and maintain the ecosystem of the river, support fish and other aquatic life like dolphins, gharials etc.

 

But for a river to have a flow, you need to rationalise and stop dams, and no one wants to do that.

 

But don’t we need dams for power? About 300 million Indians don’t have access to electricity.

 

It’s not about power. There is a nexus around the construction of dams–the contractor, construction, procurement of steel, cement etc–and that is the driver.

 

According to the NITI Aayog report, we have already reached surplus as far as power is concerned. Every single day, India has 3,000-4,000 MW with no takers. The Central Electricity Authority has itself said that there is no need for a power plant in the next 10 years, till 2017.

 

Yet, we continue to commission power plants. In September 2017, a 1,600 MW power plant–incidentally Adani’s–was approved in Jharkhand’s Godda district. It will destroy forests and multi-crop fertile land, only to sell its entire electricity produce to Bangladesh. There is immense unrest among the local farmers who do not want to give up their land, and because of the resultant pollution and falling water tables.

 

Yes, about 300 million people in India don’t have access to power, but it’s because there is no last-mile connectivity. We are in a situation where we may have 1,000 MW surplus power but no distribution for that last village which has 30 people.

 

What you need here is a wind or solar that will take six months to set up, rather than a hydro- or thermal power plant which will be established only in eight to 10 years. But we will still invest in that mega power project with the long gestation period at the cost of one whole generation going without electricity.

 

Who are these power plants serving? Not the people who are still deprived of electricity. When we talk of protecting an elephant corridor which is being blocked due to, say, a power transmission line or a power plant, people say ‘but India needs power’. But we don’t, we have excess of it, but don’t have access to it. The real issues are bad management, distribution failure, transmission losses, inefficient plants–but (we) are not addressing these, or investing here.

 

There is also an effort to undercut the NGT?

 

The NGT is being hollowed out. The NGT Act requires the tribunal to have 40 expert members. It had about 20 members when it started in 2011 in its one Delhi bench. Now, it has only five members.

 

The NGT benches at Bhopal, Chennai, Pune and Kolkata are non-functional because of lack of quorum. The Chennai bench has closed down because it doesn’t have even one member, while Kolkata and Pune have only one judicial member. No judgement has been passed in Kolkata since December 2017.

 

It is not just about numbers. The tribunal hears matters on a range of subjects–pollution, toxic waste, pesticides, forest destruction etc, and to function effectively, it needs members with specialised expertise. For instance, one major issue the Delhi bench is hearing currently is to do with PM 2.5/PM 10, where forest officers–the only expert members it has–are out of their depth.

 

The result is that cases are being delayed, from hearing 80-90 cases a day, it can now hear only about 10. This defeats the very purpose of the NGT which was to provide expeditious and speedy justice. The law requires that every matter should be decided within six months.

 

Not filling the vacancies is a very deliberate action on the part of the government to ensure that this institute is made non-functional and dysfunctional. In its response to a petition, the Delhi High Court in August 2017 asked the government whether it wanted to wind up the NGT.

 

Another very damaging move was The Finance Act, 2017. It changed the process of appointment of its members by an independent committee to one that is decided by the secretary, MoEFCC. It also provided the MoEFCC power of dismissal and other service conditions, thus making NGT subservient to it. Remember, the NGT questions decisions given by the environment ministry and holds them to task for non-compliance of laws.

 

Fortunately, it has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

 

Another concern is the systematic process to dilute and dismantle the environmental law structure, which was first attempted by the high-level TSR Subramanian committee in July 2014. The report was stuck down by a parliamentary committee, but the process to weaken and subvert the law is ongoing.

 

Can you give an example to illustrate this?

 

A December 2016 MoEFCC notification called for integrating environmental concerns in building bye-laws, as the building and construction sector is a major pollutant and contributor to greenhouse gases.

 

Yet, the same notification removed all environment laws–the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, Environment (Protection) Act–and also dismissed the need for an environment impact assessment for the construction industry. So, no project can then be challenged on environmental grounds before the NGT.

 

The government explained that the new amendments were in order to improve the environment and to ensure ease of doing business. Another purported objective was to provide for affordable housing, and help the poor. But the notification applied to multiplexes, commercial complex and hotels. This amendment is absurd since it comes at a time when urban infrastructure is set to increase more in next 10 years than it did in the last 50 years.

 

The notification was challenged in the NGT. In its judgment, which quashed the notification, the NGT said that this is actually a ploy to help real estate sector under the guise of providing affordable housing to the poor. It also pointed out that the ease of doing business cannot come at the right of life and right to environment.

 

So do you believe the NGT is being obstructionist, stopping big projects and development?

 

Not true. Contrary to the myth that the NGT strangulates growth, there are very few instances where the NGT has quashed a decision taken by the MoEFCC. In NGT’s entire history, the total number of projects it has stopped do not exceed 10, six of which have managed to get relief from the Supreme Court. In the same period, the government would have approved some 100,000 projects. As per our analysis, in 2017, the government gave about 10,000 forest approvals, and stopped only three, of which two have a forest area of less than three hectares.

 

The reason the government is intent on expunging the NGT is not because it is obstructionist, but because it enables the public to question the inaction of the government, and holds it accountable.

 

(Bindra is a former member of the National Board for Wildlife and the author of The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis.)

http://www.indiaspend.com/cover-story/we-dont-just-have-an-environmental-crisis-but-a-govt-in-denial-as-well-61292

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#SundayReading- 3 Seconds Divorce – Compelling insight into triple talaq and Muslim women

 

My job was to amplify their voice, give them a platform: Shazia Javed on 3 Seconds Divorce

Speaking at the world premiere of her documentary, the filmmaker spoke about why she was compelled to focus on subject of triple talaq and the importance of letting the women’s voices speak for themselves.

Photo: Shazia Javed

SONAL PANDYA

The 54-minute documentary 3 Seconds Divorce began its festival journey at the 15th Mumbai International Film Festival in the International Competition section. It was important for filmmaker Shazia Javed for the film to get its start here in the presence of women who gave their voices to the film. 3 Seconds Divorce speaks out on the issue of triple talaq (obtaining divorce by saying ‘talaq’ thrice) in the Muslim community.

Javed and her co-producer and cinematographer, Babita Ashiwal, beamed after the film’s world premiere on 1 February 2018. The housefull screening was attended by many of the women who are featured in the documentary.

 

The filmmaker, who lives in Canada, spoke with Cinestaan.com about how she wanted to address the issue of triple talaq and give those affected a chance to raise their voice.

Triple talaq was a subject that I wanted to explore ever since I was a young girl going to school, growing up in Delhi. It used to bother me that something like this existed and it had so much power to just make a woman homeless in seconds. As a Muslim woman growing up, I questioned it even more,” Javed said.

She recalled reading an article in a newspaper by Asghar Ali Engineer. “He gave these arguments about alternate interpretations and how you can do a general interpretation of the text,” she read and found an alternate way of looking at the issue.

As a student, there wasn’t much she could do then, but she wrote a letter to the editor.

By 2014, as a filmmaker, she had made a few films including the short documentary, Namrata (2009), which was produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Namrata was the story of an Indian woman who migrated to Canada from India and found herself in an abusive marriage. She gained the courage to leave the wedlock and became a police officer.

 

Javed decided to make her next documentary on triple talaq and began shooting in 2014. The Supreme Court declared triple talaq unconstitutional in August 2017. “Interestingly, at that time, there wasn’t much information out there and as we kept shooting, it kept picking up steam. (3 Seconds Divorce) is able to capture that movement,” she said.

Initially, Javed and her team, talked to academics and scholars to understand the subject and later began speaking with women divorced through triple talaq. She found that triple talaq “was far more common, or the threat of it, was far more common.”

“Every time I heard someone talk about halala, I would cringe. This is something I just couldn’t process. But one thing I knew for sure, as I spoke to these women, they were all articulate, courageous and willing to come in front of the camera. They all wanted justice,” Javed added.

She didn’t want to portray them as victims or pitiable and stressed she didn’t come in with a saviour complex mostly associated with filmmakers. “My job was to amplify their voice, give them a platform and deal with it within that framework. My own background as an Indian Muslim woman did help with that. I’m not a stranger,” she said.

LUBNA, IN A STILL FROM THE FILM. PHOTO: SHAZIA JAVED

3 Seconds Divorce highlights one brave woman, Lubna, who is a survivor in the truest sense for Javed. Speaking about Lubna’s fascinating transformation, Javed said, “She juggles motherhood, a job and activism. Some days she’s happy and she’s confident. The other days she’s bogged down. To me, that’s a very human story. We all need to know that activism doesn’t come easy. People who actually fight these battles pay a price in their personal lives.”

The documentary also features several members of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) who did the groundwork — doing research and undertaking surveys as well as drafting alternate laws. Javed said BMMA were able to articulate what the need was.

She called the nationwide rallying against triple talaq as “one of the biggest revolutions led by Muslim women in the history of India”. The movement had several allies (women from all religions and walks of life) who volunteered to help them out. Javed feels proud that her documentary was able to capture a slice of this history.

“I want young women to look back and see this is how it was done. And you don’t take it for granted,” she stressed. I think, even now, I derive a lot of inspiration from women who have come before me and who have fought for basic rights, (like) the right to vote and simple things. I feel like I need to continue the fight and not let it go waste.”

She added the Supreme Court ruling validated the long fight for justice for women like Lubna and the other activists. “It gives you the strength that what I did was worth it. There’s a lot of validation that they’re feeling at this moment,” Javed said.

For now, 3 Seconds Divorce begins its festival rounds and has already secured a television broadcaster. Javed also hopes, like her earlier films, the film will lead to a broader discussion at community screenings.

https://www.cinestaan.com/

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Mumbai citizens statement: Free Chandra Shekhar Azad

Free Chandrashekhar ‘Azad’

We, the undersigned citizens and civil society organisations of Mumbai, express our solidarity with the members of Bhim Army who have been working for the rights of Dalits in Sahranpur, Uttar Pradesh for the last two years. They have been advocating education for Dalits and running successful evening schools for them, besides raising a voice against atrocities. Apart from empowering young Dalit women to study and become financially independent, the organisation helps economically marginalized Dalits to study and on occasion supports medical expenses of patients during emergencies.

Despite garnering tremendous support across Saharanpur district and parts of Shamli and Muzaffarnagar and parts of Uttarakhand, they have been demonized and targeted by the state government.. The district administration and its dependent local media have accused the organization of being ‘Naxalites’ and ‘terrorists’ along with a range of other unsubstantiated allegations. Several activists and senior leaders of the organization were forced to go underground.

Prominent activists and leaders of Bhim Army, including its founder Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ have been hounded with false cases lodged against them. Almost 40 activists were arrested and tortured in jail.

Chandrashekhar was arrested while underground on June 8, 2017. While all other activists and senior leaders of the organization eventually got bail, Chandrashekhar continues to languish in Jail.

Bail granted but Jail continues!

Chandrashekhar faced serious charges including rioting, armed with deadly weapons, unlawful assembly, attempt to murder, assaulting public servants, trespassing and breach in peace. None of these claims of the State administration stood in the Court.

On 2ndNovember, 2017 the Allahbad High Court granted him bail on all the charges. However, the very next day, in a shocking development the state government slapped NSA (National Security Act) on Chandrashekhar. Since then, Chandrashekhar has been in Saharanpur jail where his health also rapidly deteriorated when he didn’t receive adequate medical attention and his condition became critical. Finally, due to public pressure he was sent to Meerut for medical treatment. On 27thJanuary, 2018, NSA on Chandrashekhar was extended by another 3 months.

The continued incarceration and harassment of Chandrashekar and his organization is a shameful indictment of the manner in which judicial processes are being subverted. The violent crackdown on the legitimate work of the Bhim Army bodes ill for our democracy, which ought to encourage all those who fight economic and social oppression.

We demand that Chandrashekhar is released and false charges against him and other members of Bhim Army be dropped forthwith.

 

Signed:

Anand Patwardhan
Geeta Seshu
Teesta Setalvad, Citizens for Justice and Peace
Javed Anand
MJ Pandey
Prakash Reddy, CPI
Vivek Monteiro, CITU
Milind Ranade, Kachra Vahatuk Union
Sambhaji Bhagat
Irfan Engineer
Meena Menon
Rohini Hensman
Sandhya Gokhale, Bombay, Forum Against Oppression of Women
Simantini Dhuru
Sujata Gothoskar
Amar Jesani
Sukla Sen
Anjali Monteiro
KP Jayshankar
Nazreen Fazalbhoy
Ganesh Devy
Nirja Bhatnagar
Hasina khan
Ram Puniyani, All India Secular Forum
Mini Mathew
Brinelle D’Souza
Kamayani Bali Mahabal
Ammu Abraham
Firoz Khimani
Dolphy D’Souza
Sambhaji Bhagat

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India -90-day limit no basis to deny insurance claim #mustshare

Dipak K Dash| TNN | 

NEW DELHI: An insurance company can’t deny paying the assured amount even if the policy holder dies within 90 days from taking a policy. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has ordered an insurance company to pay Rs 2.5 lakh with 9% interest to the kin of a deceased who had died on the 90th day of the purchase of a policy.
The case refers to one Kulwinder Singh of Fazilka in Punjab, who had paid Rs 45,999 to HDFC Standard Life Insurance on May 26, 2010. He passed away due to a heart attack on August 25 in that year. When the family sought the full assured amount, the insurance firm paid them only the premium that Singh had paid.

While directing the insurance firm to pay the full assured amount, the single-member bench of M Shreesha also referred to an order from the insurance regulator IRDAon June 27, 2012 involving the same insurance company. Based on the order, NCDRC upheld that the insurance companies cannot apply the 90-day waiting period and reject claims. The IRDA had ordered Rs 1 crore penalty on the same insurance company for rejecting 21 claims citing the same 90 days waiting period.

The NCDRC also observed, “Even in the instant case, the deferred period was 90 days and it’s not as if the time of death was planned only to take advantage under the policy expecting that the insured may not live beyond the period of 90 days.”

Singh’s family submitted how the deceased had made the premium payment in cash on May 26, 2010 but the policy became effective from May 29. Singh’s family had pleaded that since the premium was paid in cash, so the risk cover began from that date.

The NCDRC also took into consideration of other policies held by the deceased from other companies. In those cases, the risk of coverage invariably begins from the date of proposal.

Singh’s family had moved the NCDRC in 2014 after the state consumer commission had turned down the order of district forum to pay Rs 2.5 lakh to Singh’s kin.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/90-day-limit-no-basis-to-deny-insurance-claim/articleshow/62857602.cms

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Hyderabad: Republic TV’s ‘fake news’ led to torture for 3 youths, freed without charge

Hyderabad: Intense police interrogation and months in prison, the three Hyderabad youth finally gets relief as the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is all set to shut the sedition case against the three youth arrested for being the sympathizers of Islamic State.

Special Investigation Team of Central Crime Station, Hyderabad arrested three youths for alleged contacts with ISIS. It was the result of the news telecast on Republic TV channel.

According to reports, there was a special telecast on Republic TV channel in which it was claimed that Hyderabad is the center for ISIS activities. It was also shown that the youths of the city have contacts with this organization.Abdullah Basith, Salman Mohiuddin Qadri and Hannan Qureshi. were continuously projected as agents of ISIS. After this Hyderabad police arrested them.

A higher police official confirmed that these youths have been arrested but surprisingly no case has been registered against them. Still they are under investigation.

SIT had reportedly served a notice twice to the channel, asking the management to submit original tapes of the interview for forensic analysis and asked their reporter to appear for a probe.

The purported interviews were recorded with spy cameras. Although the management of the channel sent a CD of the interviews, police wanted original unedited videos, a top SIT official said. A SIT team also went to Mumbai to record the statement of the correspondent, but he was not available.

It may be noted that Hyderabad and Cyberabad police had earlier arrested these youth and sent them to prison. Later, they were released on bail.

It is reported that TV Channel showed the statements of these youths as a result of which police came into action and registered a suo moto case under IPC sections 121 (A) (waging war against the state) 124 (A) (sedition) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against the alleged IS sympathisers.

https://www.siasat.com/news/hyderabad-republic-tvs-fake-news-led-years-torture-3-youths-freed-without-charge-1320148/

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