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#India – Anti-nuke activists urge PM not to sign Nuclear Agreement with Japan

By Newzfirst Bureau5/27/13

New Delhi – In the wake of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan, hundreds of people from across the globe have appealed him not to sign the IndiaJapan Nuclear Agreement.

Singh will be visiting Tokyo on Monday, 27th May in a trip that was scrapped last year after a general election was called in Japan.

With an aim to expand the partnership by discussing a wide range of issues including politics and the economy, it is expected to include the signing of infrastructure projects deals worth $15 billion, say reports.

“We stand in complete opposition to the India-Japan nuclear cooperation agreement that is currently under intense negotiation. The governments of both countries must refrain from promoting nuclear commerce, jeopardizing the health and safety of their people and environments.” reads the petition addressed to the both Indian and Japanese authorities.

Referring the Fukushima accident and post-accident impacts, the petition further reads thatIndia must behave responsibly and should rethink its use of nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy currently provides less than 3% of its total electricity and can be easily replaced, freeing the country to embrace renewable and sustainable alternatives, it adds.

Petitioners have also appealed the Government of Japan to desist the Nuclear Export Policy, through which it exports nuclear technology to other countries.

“The current policy option of exporting nuclear energy to countries like India, Vietnam, Jordan etc… are totally unjust while Japan is reeling under the huge financial losses posed by the Fukushima accident and its citizens are observing massive protests to demand a nuclear-free future and the victims of the triple meltdowns remain uncompensated.” the petition says.

(IANS)

 

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2006 Malegaon blasts: Probe against Maha ATS, CBI officials likely

Last Updated: Friday, May 24, 2013,
 
New Delhi: Maharashtra‘s elite Anti-terror Squad and CBI officials, who probed the 2006 Malegaon blasts, may have to face probe as the Centre has taken a serious view of allegations that nine Muslim youths were framed with malafide intentions.

Taking note of the chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency earlier this week in which four suspected members of right-wing groups were named as accused, senior officials in Home Ministry, the cadre-controlling authority of IPS, said the Maharashtra Government may be “advised” to probe the role of then ATS officials who had allegedly been framed.

 
The case was registered by Maharashtra ATS with Rajvardhan, then Additional Superintendent of Police of Nasik (Rural).

Abrar Ahmed, who was named by the ATS as an accused, had alleged in an affidavit that then DIG of ATS Subodh Jaiswal (at present on deputation to RAW) and then ATS chief KP Raghuvanshi had “doctored” a confessional statement from him.

Later, the case was probed by CBI whose Joint Director Arun Kumar, at present Additional Director General of Uttar Pradesh Police, but the families of the accused approached the court saying no CBI team ever visited or took their statement.

The supposed transcript of telephone conversation submitted by CBI along with its supplementary chargesheet which purportedly showed Abrar Ahmed hatching the conspiracy was not authentic, the families of the nine accused had claimed in their petitions.

ATS and CBI had earlier filed a charge sheet against the nine Muslim youth and charged them with triggering explosive devices on September 8, 2006 at Malegaon.

The youth, who were behind bars for five years, were released as NIA did not oppose their bail plea.

PTI

 

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Police of Murshidabad planfully attacking activists of MASUM

25 May 2013

 

To

The Chairman

National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House

Copernicus Marg

New Delhi

 

Respected Sir

 

 

 

I want to draw your attention on incidents of consecutive threatening on our District Human Rights Monitor; Mr. Azimuddin Sarkar, a resident of Village- Bardhanpur, Post Office- Murddpur, Police Station- Raninagar, District- Murshidabad. Previously, I made a complaint regarding attacks by anti social elements on the aide of local police from Raninagar Police Station of Murshidabad district on 14th October 2012, when his elder brother’ house became attacked and looted. Though, I made request for his and his family’s security and safety, but now it is evident that it was not heeded.

In recent incident, the house of Mr. Azimuddin Sarkar was attacked yesterday; 24.5.2013, but this time not by the anti- socials but the police only. Just now, I have received information that a posse of 8 police persons; all were in civil attire, not in their uniforms, attacked his house, ransacked, looted and broke open all the doors of his household, while he was not present to his home. The said police persons were identified by his son; Mr. Faruk Kamran and other eye witnesses of his neighborhood as Mr. Ajoy Pal; Sub Inspector of Raninagar and Mr. Swarup Biswas; Sub Inspector of same police station. They even informed that all others can be identified by them if produced. This atrocious and heinous act of police aggression started at 11 pm on the date and continued for next one hour. On that time, Mr. Azimuddin Sarkar was on his way to home from our office. It was reported that the police personnel came by a vehicle with registration number WB– 24 K- 7678. They forcibly entered his home by breaking the tin made entry gate and subsequently broke open the door of the room, where his wife Ms. Nazma Sarkar was fast asleep. They were astonished and shocked by the sudden presence of police and their door breaking noises. The police party asked for Mr. Azimuddin Sarkar, while the family said that he was out of home and would be back, it made the police berserk and furious, they broke open every doors of the house in search of Mr. Sarkar. In between, while one of the son asked the justification of their forcible entry, Mr. Ajoy Pal said if you ask questions, I will fire you. The police party was without any female staff, and while questioned over their looting spree by Ms. Nazma Sarkar, they hold her hands and tried to unclothe her. The daughter of Mr. Sarkar; Ms. Safinaj Nasreen, who happen to be a student of a prestigious college at Kolkata, was forcibly lifted from her bed and asked her to stand. In the melee, the police party threatened to kill another son of Mr. Sarkar; Mr. Tarik Kamran. During this incident, the police party looted, one gold bangle and one necklace from Mr. Nazma Sarkar, one gold neck chain from Ms. Safinaj, two used mobile phones and Rs. 35000 by breaking a steel almirah, the money was meant for purchase of a portion of parental land property. During the loot, the police devastated all the wooden furniture and two bicycles. The police during their destruction and looting spree, threaten the whole family by making several warnings the gist of their threats was that ask Mr. Sarkar to not teach us human rights, we can frame you in fake charges and thereafter will bash you to death and warned against making any complaints to any authorities. There are few witnesses who saw all the happenings but failed to protest due to the demonic behavior of the police party. The witnesses are: Mr. Anarul Islam; son of Late Bainuddin Sarkar, Mr. Ataur Rahaman, Ms. Selina Bibi; wife of Mr. Alamgir Seikh and Mr. Alamgirh Seikh and others.

Our experience in Murshidabad district draw us to conclude that the police and local anti socials are working in unison to check the initiatives taken to establish human rights environment. They have taken measures to intimidate, defame and threat our district level activists in three consecutive occasions in recent past, i.e, Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar, Mr. Safikul Islam and Mr. Gopen Chandra Sharma. All the details are with the National Human Rights Commission and major international agencies has voiced their anguis over the recent attacks on MASUM’s human rights defenders at Murshidabad district.    

 

This is not an isolated incident, rather the local police- administration- BSF– anti- socials of the area are continuously trying to create hurdles to the activities on protection and promotion of human rights. In this regard I have made several complaints to you whenever such attacks were perpetrated on our activists, but till date no visible actions have been taken, which in other hand encouraged the errant.

 

As the district police of Murshidabad, concurrently trying to diminish the human rights endeavors to shield their involvements in corrupt and atrocious deeds, which is contravene of legal guarantees of the citizenry, has started an all out attacks on our activities and activists, and devoid of any human rights practice must be cautioned and suggested for more prudence by your Commssion.

 

In this context, I demand for:-

 

1.    Immediate intervention over the issue and guarantee of ultimate safety and security of Mr. Azimuddin Sarkar and his family 

2.    Protection of Mr. Sarkar according to the International Conventions on Human Rights Defenders

3.    The criminal acts of Mr. Ajoy Pal and Mr. Swarup Biswas with other police personnel must be investigated by an independent agency and subsequent booking in appropriate sections of penal provision

4.    Mr. Azimuddin Sarkar must duly compensated for the financial loss, he incurred due to police loot and defamation and disrepute caused by raiding his residence in midnight

 

 

Sincerely Yours

 

 

(Kirity Roy)

Secretary


Kirity Roy
Secretary
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
(MASUM)
&
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity
40A, Barabagan Lane (4th Floor)
Balaji Place
Shibtala
Srirampur
Hooghly
PIN- 712203
Tele-Fax – +91-33-26220843
Phone- +91-33-26220844 / 0845
e. mail : [email protected]
Web: www.masum.org.in

 

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‘Court kutcheri’ Rap for Irom Sharmila #Raptivism #Protest #AFSPA

NEW DELHI, May 23, 2013

 

Sowmiya Ashok

Activists in support of Irom Sharmila hold a music satyagraha outside the Patiala house court complex in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V.V.Krishnan
Activists in support of Irom Sharmila hold a music satyagraha outside the Patiala house court complex in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V.V.Krishnan
TOPICS

Failure of democracy in Manipur could spell doom for entire country: activist

A Mumbai-based rapper and an alternative jazz duo, wearing garlands, carrying guitars, and accompanied by students and trade unionists — this motley group, which gathered on the lawns of the Patiala House Courts Complex early on Wednesday, attracted questions from the Intelligence Bureau, warranted notes in a police diary and brought in curious bystanders.

The usually laidback morning hours at the court complex were replaced by a “peaceful, non-violent open air jam” to support Irom Sharmila Chanu at her next Delhi trial. It was another matter that, a few hours later, Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain postponed the recording of prosecution evidence in a case against the rights activist to August 30, after Ms. Sharmila could not appear in court.

The piercing sounds of the trumpet in Aditi Veena’s hands announced the beginning of the ‘Musical Jam’ for which invites went out on social networking sites as early as mid-April. With 700 confirmed attendees on Tuesday night, the musicians were slightly taken aback at the initial sparse turnout — 15 persons — at half-past-eight. “We don’t know why we don’t have more people here but we are in need of some enlightenment, some illumination….,” said Mark Aranha, who, along with Aditi, forms the jazz duo Ditty & Mark.

A few songs later and the venue shifted from the garden inside the court complex to the footpath outside the main gate — so the media could take part as well. The venue change also prompted freelance rapper Ashwini Mishra aka ‘A-List’ to render Iron Lady, which he said had been a ‘work-in-progress’ for over a year. “That is right. It is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act… it is time for the people to take the power back…” he rapped, a year after he got back to the art-form after a sabbatical. “My second innings, so to speak, has been much more political,” he said.

The intent was a peaceful satyagraha which was in “no way anti-Army, anti-India or anti-security forces” but one which believed that “human rights is sacred.” But on the footpath outside the courts, the clash of class and language were palpable. “Everything is in English from the lyrics to the placards. How will anyone who walks past know what is going on?” commented a bystander.

It was trade union activist Alok Kumar’s first ‘musical protest,’ which he admitted made him uncomfortable but at the same time opened up new ways of doing things. “We are, in a way, positive about the gathering but this kind of performance has the potential to alienate people,” he observed. “We should be looking at a new form of art which can create a dialogue among people.”

A member of the North-East Forum for International Solidarity, Mr. Kumar felt it was important to understand the art form being presented and make it more context-specific.

“More and more people should know and relate to the issue. Failure of democracy in Manipur could create a condition where democracy can be killed in India.”

 

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Supreme Court Verdict on Kudankulam shocking

 

NEW DELHI, May 23, 2013

 

“Verdict on Kudankulam shocking”

 

Mohammad Ali

 

 

Activists and experts under the platform of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament & Peace (CNDP) have termed the Supreme Court’s go-ahead to the controversial nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu “shocking” and “absurd”.

 

Arguing that the verdict will go down in history as one of the “black” judgments of the Court, Supreme Court lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan said: “It is an unfortunate and a terrible judgment which shows the establishmentarian mindset of the SC judges, accepting whatever the Government presents, especially in the context of this mindless rush towards nuclear energy.”

 

The apex court in the first week of this month gave a green signal to the commissioning of the largest nuclear power plant of the country arguing that in order to “sustain rapid economic growth, it is necessary to double the supply of energy. Energy tariff is also increasing, and nuclear power in the long run will be much cheaper than other forms of energy”.

 

Mr. Bhushan underscored that transgressing from the actual prayers in the petition, the apex court completely overlooked brazen violation of official safety norms by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. He also countered the logic of cheaper energy through nuclear power. Mr. Bhushan said nuclear power was the “most expensive” way of producing electricity as “there are large number of hidden costs in producing electricity through nuclear power which the court didn’t take into account.” He said the apex court also did not take into account that the AERB was not an independent body as it was just a part of the Department of Atomic Energy.

 

Kumar Sundaram from CNDP highlighted that the petitioners, concerned at the huge negative impacts of the power plant, had approached the apex court, highlighting serious issues such as recent scams allegedly involving Russian Company ZiO-Podolsk’s supply of sub-standard equipment to nuclear power plant at Kudankulam and violation of the AERB’s reactor sitting norms.

 

In their petition, the concerned groups had also raised the non-compliance with the 17 post-Fukushima safety recommendations by a special AERB committee, besides undermining of several processes of Environmental Impact Assessment and Coastal Regulatory Zone clearance and flouting of the mandate for evacuation exercises and emergency preparedness drills, Mr. Sundaram added. While delivering the verdict the Court “sidestepped all these violations and virtually affirmed all the myths we have been contesting all along. If you read the SC judgment it is like the violation has not taken place at all,” he added. Criticising the judgment, eminent journalist and founding member of CNDP Praful Bidwai also demanded time-bound implementation of the 15 cautionary guidelines proposed by the apex court, especially the one regarding the withdrawal of bogus cases against those involved in the movement against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

 

 

 

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Recording of evidence in case against Irom Sharmila pushed to 30 Aug #AFSPA #Vaw

May 22, 2013New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday fixed 30 August for recording of prosecution evidence in a case against rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu for allegedly attempting suicide during her fast-unto-death in New Delhi in 2006.

The Manipuri activist has been on a fast for over 12 years demanding repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in her home state.

Irom Sharmila. ReutersIrom Sharmila. Reuters

Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain, who had earlier scheduled the matter for Wednesday for recording testimony of prosecution evidence, fixed the matter for 30 August after 40-year-old Sharmila could not appear in the court.

The court allowed the plea of Sharmila’s counsel who sought her exemption from personal appearance for today.

Earlier on March 4, the court had put the rights activist on trial after she had refused to plead guilty for the offence of attempting to commit suicide (Section 309 of IPC).

If convicted, Sharmila, who is out on bail in this case, faces a maximum jail term of one year.

Popularly known as the “Iron Lady”, Sharmila had earlier said her’s was a non-violent protest. She has been on fast since 2000.

She had rejected the charge that she had attempted suicide in 2006 and had told the court, “I do not want to commit suicide. Mine is only a non-violent protest. It is my demand to live as a human being. I love life. I do not want to take my life but I want justice and peace.”

While framing charges, the court had said, “It is alleged against you (Sharmila)…that you on October 4, 2006 at about 8 PM sat at Jantar Mantar on fast unto death uptil 11.30 pm on 6 October, 2006 and refused to get your medical check up and thereby, committed an act with an intention or knowledge that under such circumstances that death may be caused and thereby, committed an offence under Sec 309 of IPC.”

PTI

 

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Unions, left-wing outfits demand release of Maruti workers

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi  May 20, 2013 Last Updated at 12:28 IST

Slam Police lathi-charge on demonstration by families of 147 workers arrested last July for Gurgaon violence

Police action against protesting workers of Maruti Suzuki in Kaithal in Haryana during the weekend has drawn criticism from trade unions and some left wing organisations, who have renewed demands to free the 147 workers arrested in July last year after the violence in the Gurgaon plant.

Police lathi-charged a demonstration of workers’ families outside the residence of Haryana Industry Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala and arrested about 100 workers and their family members from the dharna site at the Kaithal mini secretariat on the night of May 18. Workers had given an ultimatum on may 8 to release all 147 Maruti workers arrested after the July violence. They had threatened to demonstrate outside the house of Surjewala on May 18.

The workers and their family members have been sitting on a dharna at the Mini Secretariat from 28 April demanding release of the 147 workers in Gurgaon Jail and reinstatement of the workers, both permanent and contract, terminated without enquiry following the 18 July incident.

Said a senior trade union leader from All India Trade Union Congress: AITUC has expressed solidarity with the protesting workers.

He said that the unions formed at these factories are not affiliated with any central union and have been supported by various organisations including local political parties.

According to the New Trade Union Initiative a workers organisation that weaves together small groups and unions,  84 Sarpanches from across Haryana had extended their support to the Maruti Suzuki workers struggle at the last demonstration of the workers at Kaithal on 8 May, The Haryana Government has stopped the funds to these Panchayats. Thus it is using both brute force and its fiscal powers to obliterate the struggle of the workers and put down the solidarity and support mobilised by the Sarpanches across the state, NTUI said.

“We continue to stand in solidarity with the struggle of the members of Maruti Suzuki Workers Union and their demand for a fair inquiry, release of the arrested workers and reinstatement of the workers terminated after the 18 July 2012 incident. This struggle against capital and the complicit state is a critical turning point in upholding democratic rights of the working class,” a joint statement by four different organizations supporting Kaithal workers said. These are NTUI, Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Association for Democratic Rights and People’s Union of Civil Rights.

 

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ATTN DELHI- Protest Against Continued State Repression onAnti-POSCO People’s Movement @May 24

Protest Against Continued State Repression

onAnti-POSCO People’s Movement

Odisha Bhawan, 1 Niti Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi
 

11 am24th May (Friday), 2013

 

In the continuum of brutal attacks on the struggle against forcible land acquisition for a POSCO steel plant in Odisha, the most recent case of repression has been the unlawful arrest of POSCO Pratirodh Samgram Samiti (PPSS) leader Abhay Sahoo from Bhubaneshwar airport by Odisha Police. This arbitrary arrest is clearly a part of the ploy to destabilize the People’s Movement that has been fighting against the forcible land grab by Odisha/Central Government for the POSCO project.

After the unlawful arrest of Abhay Sahoo on 11th May, from 16th May 2013 onwards, a Odisha wide platform POSCO Pratirodh Jan Sangharsh Manch (PPJSM) have started a demonstration for indefinite period at Lower PMG, Bhubaneswar demanding immediate scrapping of the project and release of PPSS leaders Abhay Sahoo, Laxman Paramanik ( victim of the bomb attack in early March), Promod Das and two others from jail.

On behest of CAPITAL, the Odisha Government and the Indian (Union) Government lends its unabated support for the project leading to utmost repressive measures on peaceful protesters.

We strongly condemn the complete disregard for any kind of democratic processes, and the blatant use of brute force through police as well as goons to brutally crush the movement that is going on in the region. We call on all democratic and progressive organizations and individuals to condemn the arrest of anti-POSCO activists and protest against the Odisha Government’s naked support towards POSCO, where it is ready to murder its own citizens so that POSCO may set up its steel plant.

 

People’s Struggle Against ‘Corporate – State Nexus’ Long Live!

 

Sd/-

New Socialist Initiative (NSI), Sanhati – Delhi, JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU), POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity Delhi, All India Students’ Association (AISA), Democratic Students Federation (DSF), Left Collective, KNS (Krantikari Naujawan Sabha), CPI-ML (Red Flag), People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), New Materialist – JNU, Students for Resistance (SRF), Women Against Sexual Violence & State Repression (WSS)

 

Facebook Event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/462067460546772/

 

 

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#India – Systematic diversion of community resources to the private sector #mustread

Pits of sleaze

 Frontline

Show Caption
1 / 5
  • AT a mine in Chhattisgarh. Indiscriminate mining by cement plants here have resulted in the displacement of people in Adivasi areas.
  • Anil Ambani holds a jar containing the first coal from his Reliance Power's Sasan mines in Madhya Pradesh, in Mumbai on September 4, 2012. Critics say the government is subsidising private electricity discoms like Reliance and the Tatas and asking the poor to pay higher tariffs for electricity.
  • Coal-loaded wagons in Kolkata. The guidelines for allocating coal blocks were changed from time to time to facilitate increased participation of the private sector.
  • Aam Aadmi Party leaders outside the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on April 28 with power bills collected from people.
  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As many as 32 coal blocks were allocated when he led the NDA government.

Systematic diversion of community resources to the private sector in the name of growing energy demands has been the trend since the advent of neoliberal policies, but the allocation of coal blocks by the UPA-II government was done in total violation of norms. By AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA in New Delhi

ON the face of it, the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report on the allocation of coal blocks is a formal indictment of the United Progressive Alliance-II government, which not only failed to adhere to legal and bureaucratic procedures while allowing captive coal mining but also doled out mining licences selectively to incompetent and unprofessional companies. Firstly, the standing committee, headed by Trinamool Congress leader Kalyan Banerjee, says its report, called “Review of allotment, development and performance of coal/lignite blocks”, scrutinised the functioning of the screening committee and examined the guidelines for the allocation of coal blocks. Secondly, it pointed out that the monitoring mechanism and the review of coal blocks by an Inter-Ministerial Group had been far less than satisfactory.

Barely had the UPA-II government recovered from similar allegations in the 2G spectrum case when the standing committee report on coal blocks gifted the opposition yet another opportunity to shout down the government in Parliament on an issue that has been on the nation’s mind in the last one year: corruption. While the standing committee highlights the inadequacies of the UPA-II government in its report, it does not, however, link the bureaucratic malpractices with the neoliberal governance model that India adopted in the early 1990s and its structural malaise. Two trends are absolutely clear from the findings of the standing committee. One, a crony capitalist structure as a result of economic deregulation has firmly entrenched itself in the political ethos of India. Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are not just integral to this structure but have helped perpetuate it. Two, India has witnessed a systematic diversion of community resources like coal and other minerals to private hands, which have scant respect for either the environment or inclusive development. The diversion was justified by different governments since 1991 in the name of the growing energy demands of India. Both these trends are not mutually exclusive as can be inferred from the standing committee’s findings.

The standing committee points out that the Union government has abused its powers and handed out natural resources to a few “fortunate” companies, without following a transparent system. In the course of its investigation, it also found that some of the companies which had been allocated coal blocks were neither professional mining companies, nor did they have the expertise to conduct scientific mining. This is a clear violation of the guidelines for the allocation of coal blocks. In fact, the screening committee and the inter-ministerial group colluded to allocate illegitimate mining licences. Consequently, it has demanded an investigation into the decisions of the screening committees and recommended strong penal action against those involved in such an arbitrary process.

Systemic changes 

Such partisanship in governance is not just a consequence of institutional corruption. The systematic tweaking of laws and guidelines since the early 1990s points to the fact that such institutional corruption is an inevitable outcome of a larger economic model and a philosophy that advocates the withdrawal of the state from all processes of regulation. To understand this in the context of coal allocations, it is imperative to understand how the concept of captive mining came about and how it was facilitated by different governments.

With the advent of the private-sector-led economic growth model in the 1990s, the Coal Ministry declared that the production of coal should be doubled in 10 years to sustain the growing manufacturing sector. Since around 70 per cent of India’s power supply comes from coal, the Ministry estimated that a sustainable growth rate of 8 per cent over 10 years would require the production of 90,000 megawatts (MW) of thermal power. To reach this target, the Ministry planned to open 500 coal mines over the next 10 years in addition to the existing 600 mines.

To facilitate such massive production, the government decided to invite private companies to coal mining. This required amendments to the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973, which mandated that only government agencies can have access to the coal resources of the country. The standing committee quotes the Coal Ministry’s response in its report: “Under the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973, coal mining was exclusively reserved for the public sector. Coal India Ltd (CIL) and Singareni Coal Companies Ltd (SCCL) had the main responsibility of supplying coal to all end users. However, in the face of burgeoning demand, these companies were not able to meet the entire demand due to resource constraints, resulting in import of coal. This necessitated allotment of captive blocks to specified end users, mainly to augment availability and bridge the gap between demand and supply of coal. Captive blocks are allocated only in some specific priority sectors.”

Many energy analysts believe that allowing private players’ entry was a strategic failure in itself, and instead of taking the easy route, the government could have invested in government agencies to make them technologically equipped to handle high pressures. Moreover, what made the government believe that CIL was ill-equipped to handle the growing demand is a moot question. The government, at this point, conveniently forgot that coal mining had been nationalised precisely because private companies were not in a position to adequately increase the investment in their mines. The standing committee report says: “As adequate capital investment to meet the burgeoning energy needs of the country was not forthcoming from the private coal-mine owners, unscientific mining practices adopted by some of them and poor working conditions of labour in some of the private coal mines became matters of concern for the government. On account of these reasons, the Central government took a decision to nationalise the private coal mines.”

The amendment to the CMN Act came about in a conspicuously hurried way. In 1992, the Ministry of Coal stated that the amendment was a “matter of urgency” and initiated measures for the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the Act. However, the Law Ministry disapproved it. Hence an amendment Bill was passed in July 1992 in the Rajya Sabha but was held up in the Lok Sabha. This time, citing its urgency, the government promulgated an ordinance in January 1993, which the Law Ministry approved. Finally, the Bill was approved by the Lok Sabha in April 1993. The amendments to the CMN Act allowed private sector participation in coal mining operations for captive consumption towards generation of power and “other end uses” which may be notified from time to time.

However, after a fierce debate the government allowed for some regulatory guidelines, which, the standing committee points out, were openly violated. The guidelines laid down certain principles for allocating coal blocks, in order to protect government agencies and prevent private companies from operating unsystematically. It said: “A) The blocks in greenfield areas where basic infrastructure like road, rail links and power lines are not immediately available should only be given to private sector. The areas where CIL has already invested in creating such infrastructures for opening new mines should not be handed over to the private sector. B) The blocks offered to private sector should be away from the existing mines and projects of CIL. C) Blocks already identified for development by CIL should not be offered to the private sector. D) Private sector should be asked to bear the full cost of exploration in these blocks which will be offered to them.”

However, most of the coal blocks allocated throughout India were not in greenfield areas but in populated areas. It is because of such high-handedness in coal allocation that both government and private companies have consistently faced resistance in times of land acquisition. The standing committee found that not only were many coal blocks of CIL diverted to private companies but that this happened where CIL had already developed enough infrastructure for mining. Many coal blocks were allocated by diverting lands of reserved forests. The “no-go zones”, meant to protect the forests, were hurriedly converted to “go zones” to open up private mining in the forests. The most pertinent example of such allocations is in Chhattisgarh, where private coal mining has mushroomed around Central Coalfields Ltd, a holding company of CIL (“Mining Tussle”, Frontline, July 16, 2010).

Expansion of end use 

The amended Act allowed the private sector to meet the growing demands of energy. However, a vague description of “end use” allowed the government to permit coal mining for industries ranging from iron and steel to cement. The standing committee notes that the production of cement was included as an approved end-use for the purpose of captive mining of coal in 1996. Therefore, cement-producing companies also became eligible to undertake coal mining for captive consumption, instead of buying coal from the market. Indiscriminate mining by cement plants in Chhattisgarh has resulted in chaos and large-scale displacement of people in Adivasi areas (“Standing up to the state”, Frontline, June 17, 2011).

Guidelines were also changed from time to time to facilitate increased participation of the private sector. The standing committee notes: “The Ministry has informed the committee that guidelines were first framed in 1993. Thereafter consolidated guidelines were framed and adopted in 2003. The guidelines were further modified in 2005 and in 2006. In 2005, the Expert Committee on Coal Sector Reforms provided recommendation on improving the allocation process, and in 2010, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act was enacted, providing for coal blocks to be sold through competitive bidding.”

A detailed report compiled in 2008 by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, which gives the scale of ecological damage done by such indiscriminate mining, notes: “Every major legislative and regulatory change that has happened in the last 14 years in India in the mining and minerals industry has been done in the name of the National Mineral Policy (NMP) (1993). The mining sector has been opened up for private investments, foreign direct investment has been allowed and regulations have been relaxed (by the NMP).”

NDA’s active involvement 

Initially, facilitation of the private sector’s entry into mining came from the Congress party. And despite its vocal criticisms against the UPA-II in the matter of coal allocations, the record of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is no good. In fact, it can be held equally culpable. The list of NDA’s achievements on the BJP’s website proudly declares that it introduced the most significant energy scheme in India’s history. The scheme was more of a vision called “Power to all by 2012”. The standing committee notes: “The production of coal assumed a greater significance after 2003 when Government of India pronounced a mission ‘power to all by 2012’. Accordingly, the GOI envisaged capacity addition of 1,00,000 MW of power by 2012 and in order to meet this increased capacity, corresponding increase in the coal production was required in X-XI Plan periods (2002-12).”

In fact, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government made coal allocation in a much greater way than the Congress had done before. As many as 218 coal blocks were allocated from 1993 to 2010. While only five and four blocks respectively were allocated under Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and H.D. Deve Gowda, Vajpayee took an unguarded approach while allocating coal blocks. Thirty-two blocks were allocated during the NDA government. The Congress, of course, took this rash approach further by allocating 175 coal blocks from 2004 to 2010.

Along with the “Power to all by 2012”, the NDA regime passed the New Electricity Act, 2003, with the stated objective of helping electrify rural areas. But not so public is the fact that the power sector was deregulated and private players were allowed to generate and supply electricity. This facilitated the entry of private companies into power generation, which required thermal power. The NDA regime provided extraordinary facilities to the new players and at the same time disinvested in public sector power plants. Coal blocks were allocated to power companies, cement plants, steel factories, and so on, within the same region so that they could dig out coal for their primary businesses at a minimum cost of transportation. This meant that many companies were allocated mining licences without having any expertise in it. It worked like this: a company chooses a “coal block” and submits an application to the Ministry to mine there, in a process called “linkage”, and the Coal Ministry allocates mining rights to the company after getting an environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The Ministry of Coal told the standing committee that there were three ways of allocating coal blocks. The first method was called “captive dispensation through screening committee”, where most of the violations of guidelines happened. The standing committee notes that the screening committee allocated coal blocks in a highly opaque manner. It has also pointed out various instances of the inter-ministerial group interfering in the screening process to allocate coal blocks to a few companies. Who can forget the instance of the Delhi-based Pushp Steel, which got a mining lease in Chhattisgarh for only Rs.1,00,000, with no experience or capital, both prerequisites for allocation?

The second method was “government company dispensation”, in which coal blocks were allocated to government agencies. The standing committee has highlighted various instances where CIL allowed private companies to mine in its coal blocks. The third was “tariff based competitive bidding”, where coal blocks were auctioned.

Auctioning of community resources like coal, in the last 15 years, has led to a speculative rise in the prices of coal. “Speculative rise in coal prices has led to multiplier effects on common people. Increased tariff of electricity and price rise in most products in the market are a result of this. Instead of such auctioning, if the energy sector, which I consider a very crucial sector, had remained in the hands of public-sector units, common people would not have experienced such a steep price rise in the last few years. Today, the situation is ironical. The government is subsidising private electricity discoms like Reliance and Tatas, and the poor are being asked to pay higher tariffs for electricity,” Ashok Rao, president of the National Confederation of Officers’ Associations (NCOA) of Central Public Sector Enterprises, told Frontline.

Policy changes are made to ensure inclusive and real development. However, a hasty change in the economic approach since the 1990s entailed that the government showed an extraordinary willingness to stop all forms of regulation and still retain its power to control economic processes. This is a sordid mix, the outcome of which can be nothing but scams such as this one. The standing committee notes: “218 coal blocks allocated with geological reserves of about 50 billion tonnes have been allocated to eligible public and private companies under the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973. Out of that, 25 coal blocks have been de-allocated. Out of de-allocated coal blocks, two coal blocks were re-allocated to eligible companies under the said Act. Thus, the net allocated blocks are 195 coal blocks with geological reserves (GR) of about 44.23 billion tonnes…. Out of 195 coal blocks allocated so far for captive mining, 30 blocks have started coal production and out of 160 captive coal blocks allocated during 2004 to 2008, only two have started production.” The standing committee also notes with shock that no revenue was accrued to the government from the allocations and recommends that all allocations from 1993 to 2011 be investigated.

Such dubious record puts a question mark over not only the efficiency of new policies but also on the unholy government-industry partnership which promotes such policies. “The arbitrary distribution of mining licences has led to the emergence of a secondary market. The companies get mining licences but resell them to other players, completely disregarding the end-use for which they had got the licence in the first place,” said Nilotpal Basu of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Among the five companies raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation was the Hyderabad-based Navbharat Power. This company was allotted two coal blocks in Odisha in 2008, but it sold them to Essar for Rs.230 crore a year later without developing the block. The guidelines place no restrictions on such reselling. Companies have applied for coal blocks without any experience and expertise so that they could sell them for hefty amounts.

Mining leases have become a property realtor’s dream. The standing committee report and the disastrous experience with captive mining surely mandate the need for a re-authoring of policies to stop the transfer of valuable community resources to the private sector. It has been established through a series of scams that the private sector is not as efficient as it claims to be.

 

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Supreme Court – Two-finger test violates rape survivor’s right to privacy #Vaw #Goodnews

Press Trust of India | Posted on May 19, 2013

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has held that the two-finger test on a rape survivor violates her right to privacy, and asked the government to provide better medical procedures to confirm sexual assault. A bench of Justices BS Chauhan and FMI Kalifulla said even if the report of the two-finger test is affirmative, it cannot give rise to presumption of consent on part of a rape victim.

“Undoubtedly, the two-finger test and its interpretation violates the right of rape survivors to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity. Thus, this test, even if the report is affirmative, cannot ipso facto, be given rise to presumption of consent,” the bench said.

The two-finger test entails medical inspection of the female hymen. Referring to various international covenants, the judges said rape survivors are entitled to legal recourse that does not violate their physical or mental integrity and dignity.

Two-finger test violates rape survivor's right to privacy: SCThe apex court said that rape survivors are entitled to legal recourse that does not re-traumatise them.

“Medical procedures should not be carried out in a manner that constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and health should be of paramount consideration while dealing with gender-based violence,” the apex court said. “The State is under an obligation to make such services available to survivors of sexual violence. Proper measures should be taken to ensure their safety and there should be no arbitrary or unlawful interference with her privacy,” the bench said.

Keeping in mind the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights 1966 and the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power 1985, the Supreme Court said, rape survivors are entitled to legal recourse that does not re-traumatise them or violate their physical or mental integrity and dignity. “They are also entitled to medical procedures conducted in a manner that respects their right to consent,” it said.

 

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