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Time to BOYCOTT change.org , EXPOSED once again #socialmedia

I have exposed change .org two years back and every now and then the true colours are shown in their contradictory campaigns. Below is information why, after hosting more then 250 petitions i  have boycotted change.org

http://www.kractivist.org/why-activists-should-boycott-change-org-petitions/

HERE EXPOSED ONCE AGAIN

What’s Changing At Change.org

 POSTED ON 

CREDIT: ANDREW BREINER/ASSOCIATED PRESS/SHUTTERSTOCK

In its community guidelines “Don’ts” list, Change.org — the online petition company — makes clear that hate speech against any group is strictly prohibited.

“We’re fans of free speech, but we don’t allow hate speech,” the site informs users, defining it as “typically the advocacy of beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people based on characteristics such as their age, color, disability, ethnic origin, gender identity, nationality, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, medical condition, or veteran status.”

So when a user from Fort Worth, Texasposted a petition three weeks ago demanding that Caitlyn Jenner be stripped of her 1976 Olympic gold medal — based on the user’s conclusion that if “she has always believed herself to be truly female,” she “therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men’s sports and vice versa,” — users might easily have assumed the petition would be immediately taken down.

More than 15,000 signatures and an International Olympic Committee response later, the petition remains on the Change.org site. Weeks after it was first posted, the company appended a note to the petition affirming that while it had “received a high number of user flags,” the system used by the public to alert the company to potential Terms of Service violations, “Change.org is an open platform and doesn’t endorse any petitions.”

ChangeJenner3

CREDIT: CHANGE.ORG PETITION

The same company guidelines also explicitly state that the site will not “tolerate abuse, stalking, threats, trolling, or any form of bullying.” So, it seemed obvious that when ThinkProgress discovered an 11-month old petition from a Latvian user urging a Sint Maarten-based online forum for computer game hackers to ban a user because “he’s a homosexual,” it would have to go.

But nearly a week after ThinkProgress flagged the petition as inappropriate, relying on the company’s community policing process, the petition remained active and open. It was only removed after a media inquiry was sent to the company asking about this specific petition and a series of other petitions that appeared to violate the site’s terms of service.

Muslims, undocumented immigrants, LGBT people, people who may be HIV positive, and women who have reported sexual assaults have also faced the sort of hate speech and bullying the site claims to prohibit. At least one petition attacking each of those groups remained on the site even after being brought to the company’s attention. And just last week, in the wake of a racially motivated mass murder at a historically black church in Charleston, a user from Pennsylvania launched a petition defending the flying of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina capitol.

BanForum

CREDIT: CHANGE.ORG PETITION (REDACTED BY THINKPROGRESS)

As the nation and Internet grapple with questions about how to balance free speech with protecting privacy and guarding against online bullying and harassment, Change.org presents an interesting case study. Like YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and other Internet fora, Change.org faces daily decisions on what content to permit and what content to remove. But because of its evolution from progressive platform to open petition site, the company has faced some unique challenges as it grapples with the definition of “hate speech” — and several minority group activists and former employees have not been happy with the results.

‘A Business Model For Social Good’

The presence of these right-wing-attack petitions may come as a surprise to some users who share acommonmisconception that Change.org is a progressive non-profit website. While the name and URL give the impression of being a non-profit, it is not.

“We are social enterprise and that’s because we have an ambitious mission — to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see — and to scale that mission, we need a sustainable business model. For the foreseeable future, all of our revenue will be reinvested in the company,” a company spokeswoman explained to ThinkProgress, but the company hopes to someday turn a profit for its investors.

The company plays up its status as a certified B Corporation — a distinction given to companies that “meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency — and claims to utilize “a business model for social good.”

Originally, the site had a progressive aim. In 2012 Change.org came under fire from the AFL-CIOfor promoting anti-union petitions for for two education reform organizations: Stand for Childrenand StudentsFirst. According to its IRS filings, StudentsFirst — the group created by former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee — paid Change.org more than $1.6 million for “membership services” in fiscal year 2012-2013. After the relationship came to light, Change.org said it had “listened closely to the community of Change.org users, who have voiced their concerns in response to this decision” and decided to end its work for both groups.

Soon after, leaked internal memos revealed that the company, which once accepted advertisements only from progressive organizations that share the company’s values and worldview, had decided to adopt an “open advertising policy in which determinations about which advertisements we’ll accept are based on the content of the ad, not the group doing the advertising.” That meant the site would now accept ads, and money, from “organizations that represent all points of view, including those with which [Change.org’s leaders] personally (and strongly) disagree.”

Company founder and CEO Ben Rattray defended the changes, writing at the Huffington Post: “If we weren’t open to everyone, and if we limited access based on a set of political viewpoints, we would undercut the power of our petition creators and users. We would be perceived as an advocacy group ourselves, and the media and decision makers would often typecast petition creators as players in our supposed issue agenda, rather than the independent agents of change they are.”

Both StudentsFirst and Stand for Children returned to the fold as Change.org customers.

Now free to market its services to political forces of all stripes, Change.org has taken on some very conservative clients and is actively seeking to expand its reach into those circles, to boost its revenue from the right half of the political sphere. The anti-LGBTpro-climate denial Independent Journal Review is a current sponsor, encouraging petition signers who believe in “common sense conservative news” to register with them.

Change.org hastakenmore than $108,000 over the past year and a half to expand the supporter lists of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the campaign arm of the House Republicans majority, according to its filings with the Federal Election Commission.

ChangeORg IJR conserative news

CREDIT: CHANGE.ORG ADVERTISEMENT

An open “director of business development – DC” position currently advertised on the company’s site seeks someone to “sell Change.org’s advertising and list-building services to industry-leading organizations across the country that focus on issues that resonate with conservative Americans … tap into and grow your existing networks of center-right political campaigns and issue groups in the US to introduce them to Change.org,” and “establish relationships with leading consulting, fundraising, and digital marketing firms on the center/right side of the aisle.”

Kini Schoop, director of media relations for Change.org, told ThinkProgress in an email, “we are not a progressive platform. We are an open platform for people with diverse perspectives to use for change.”

Users who sign liberal-themed petitions allow the company to market itself to progressive organizations as a good way to reach like-minded members — and the same is true for those on the right. “If you were to use Change.org to sign mostly progressive petitions,” Schoop explained, “then you are also more likely to see sponsored petitions from [organizations] that reflect that view. Users who are signing more conservative petitions, are more likely to see a sponsored petition from an organization like the NRCC.”

An Open Internet

David Sullivan is policy and communications director for the Global Network Initiative, a non-profit organization that works to support “freedom of expression and privacy in information and communications technology.”

With the increased attention on the damaging effects of online hate speech, Sullivan said in an email, “Online platforms for user-generated content face difficult dilemmas supporting free expression and combating online harassment, challenges which are multiplied many times over when operating internationally.” To deal with the difficult balance, he noted, “companies can benefit from working closely with human rights organizations to ensure that there is adequate oversight and safeguards in their systems.”

The questions of how to handle hate speech are not unique to Change.org. Sites like YouTube also rely on user policing — but this approach requires significant resources to review flagged content. YouTube says it has staffers doing this 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so it can quickly remove any inappropriate content.

Other more neutral platforms, like Twitter, prohibit illegal activities but allow hate speech. Recently, Twitter changed its violent threats policy to make clear that threats of violence against others and the promotion of violence against others are prohibited (previously it had only barred “direct, specific threats of violence against others”). Last month, Twitter permanently suspended a user described by the Washington Post as “one of the Internet’s most infamous trolls,” after he tweeted seeking funds to help “take out” a civil rights activist.

And even beyond harassment, online companies each take varying approaches as to how they moderate user content.

Facebook is well known for having an aggressive moderation system. Last year, it had to apologize to drag queens and other members of the LGBT community who were suspended due to a strict “real name” policy. On the other hand, a group of users of Reddit — a site famous for supporting almost any type of speech — left the site earlier this year, claiming censorship after some moderators deleted threads they considered to be harassment.

MoveOnPetitions

CREDIT: MOVEON.ORG PETITIONS

Other sites, especially in the petition space, are less permissive. The progressive non-profit MoveOn operates MoveOn.org Petitions, a similar platform but exclusively for progressive causes. Nick Berning, MoveOn.org’s communications director, told ThinkProgress in an email that if a similar anti-LGBT petition were to be posted on MoveOn Petitions and brought to their attention, “we’d take it down immediately, because it would be inconsistent with our community’s values and violate our Terms of Service.”

Berning observed that “the bigger distinction between Change and MoveOn isn’t in what we take down — it’s what we choose to promote. MoveOn Petitions is an explicitly progressive platform, and we only solicit and promote (via things like emails to members, expert campaign support, etc.) progressive petition campaigns.” His organization, therefore, “would never solicit, lean into, or amplify a right-wing petition. Change.org on the other hand is a for-profit that explicitly markets itself to conservatives and doesn’t just host right-wing petitions, it actively promotes them. It is a fundamentally different approach.”

Credo Mobilize, another progressive petition site operated by the progressive CREDO Mobile company, says it expects it will “probably see campaigns we don’t agree with and campaigns that might seem a bit random,” but that it will “work hard to disable campaigns that come to our attention and are defamatory, discriminatory or illegal.” As Murshed Zaheed, Credo’s deputy political director, explained in an email, “whenever we see campaigns that use ‘hate speech,’ they are immediately marked as inappropriate and suppressed from the platform.” He added that he and other colleagues “are personally looking over new petitions every morning,” and usually remove inappropriate petitions “right away.”

Todd Heywood, a Change.org contractor back when the company was officially progressive, believes the company’s evolution toward the “open platform” model has led some progressives to MoveOn and CREDO — a move he fears has created a segmenting that may dilute the strength of the message. “When you spread out the petitions over three agencies instead of one, you dilute your reach and you dilute your message. You’ll have more petitions, but you’ll have less participation. It will become less effective as a tool — and an organizing tool in particular — because people won’t have this one-stop shop.”

But for some groups on the left, that’s a risk they are willing to take. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told ThinkProgress in an email: “There are many other vendors and partners who provide the same services as Change.org, and that are also aligned with our values and goals. In this case, that allows us to keep our business with firms that aren’t working to undermine our members and the communities they serve.”

‘Making Money Off The Backs Of The LGBT Community’

The international attention the anti-Jenner petition garnered was enough to draw a response from the International Olympic Committee: A statement from its communications director affirming that “Bruce Jenner won his [sic] gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games and there is no issue for the IOC.” This response generated even more attention and widespread internationalnewscoverage.

Though the petition is carefully worded to not appear overtly anti-trans, going so far as to include “congratulations to Ms. Jenner for her courage,” LGBT rights activists said its plea for Jenner to “support the transgender community by giving up the medals earned by competing against the wrong gender” seemsdesigned as an attack on both Jenner and the transgender community.

One such activist is Michael Rogers, the executive director of Netroots Connect (a conference for LGBT media and activists). He told ThinkProgress that for several years he has observed that a large number of anti-LGBT petitions have been posted on Change.org and not removed, even after the company was alerted to them. And he believes the company’s business model relies on these petitions, but tries to hide it.

Rogers noted that violence against transgender people is an ongoing problem and expressed concern that anti-trans petitions could contribute to a hostile climate.

As a test, Rogers explained, he created a petition some time ago calling for one of the most extreme anti-trans policy ideas he could come up with. “I put up a petition demanding that trans people put up photos in their neighborhood if they planned on transitioning for a month before hand, with an artist rendering of what they planned to look like,” he recalled, and said he alerted company employees that it was online. “They wouldn’t take it down,” Rogers said, and, ultimately “I had to take it down myself.”

Brianna Cayo-Cotter, head of global communications for Change.org said in email, “We have no record of this alleged petition and want to highlight that users do not have the ability to delete petitions without assistance from our help desk. We have alerted ThinkProgress to the inaccuracies of this account, and are disappointed an unverified claim remains on record.”

Less preposterous (but still anti-LGBT) sentiments have also been evident in large petitions to support anti-LGBT activists like Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and the DuggarFamily of 19 Kids and Counting.

Rogers noted that when he created a similarly outrageous test petition — a demand for the Supreme Court to reverse Loving v. Virginia (the 1966 case that overturned state laws banning interracial marriage) — Change.org deleted it almost immediately. But a ThinkProgress review of currently active and closed but still visible petitions found one urging someone to “stop being a [racial slur]” and another demanding the deportation of “illegals” who it claims are spreading cholera and tuberculosis in the United States.

IllegalsChange

CREDIT: CHANGE.ORG PETITION

The apparent relative tolerance for hateful petitions, Rogers says, “shows how preposterous their moneymaking model is. Make no mistake — they depend on the Duck Dynasties and the [Jim] Bob and Michelle Duggars of this world to pay their staff.”

Once the company reviews flagged content, not all users are happy with what the company deems acceptable. After reviewing them for Terms of Service violations following ThinkProgress inquiries, Change.org allowed these other campaigns, that could be deemed hate speech, to remain active:

Demanding that President Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launch an investigation into “whether Islam is antithetical to Human Rights. The petition compares Islam to Nazism and warns: “The roots of the violence and persecution of other religions which we see both today, and in the history of the belief, are there plainly in the Koran and especially the Hadith or life of Muhammad.”

Opposing drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. The petition’s 1,000-plus signers agreed that “What should be done is to make illegals follow the laws like everyone else and become a citizen. A license is a privelege [sic] and should be earned. We continue to give all kinds of benefits to people living here illegally and it needs to stop. Do not continue to reward illegal activity.” The petition is now closed but still online.

Promoting the ex-gay movement. More than 2,800 users demand that President Obama meet with “those of us who have left the homosexual lifestyle” as he has with “countless people who are participating in the homosexual lifestyle.”

Demanding legal action against a woman who reported being sexually assaulted. The author opined that Columbia University anti-rape activist Emma Sulkowicz had “no evidence” to back up her allegations and claimed that “new evidence has surfaced [that] she lied about the raped [sic].” The petition demands “she be pressed charges [sic] for her defamation.”

A former Change.org staffer told ThinkProgress that in the past, a petition like the anti-Jenner one would most likely have been removed by a team of staffers that reviewed each day’s new petitions for hate speech. The staffer, who asked not to be identified as his current employer did not authorize him to speak on the record, said it is “reasonable to assume” that the identities of the people who signed the Jenner petition and those like it will be used to help market the site to conservative businesses.

The former staffer also noted that while Change.org claims to be an open platform where grassroots activists create petitions, during his tenure there, “the biggest campaigns didn’t just happen — they were engineered internally, with Change.org finding a petition starter, creating a story for the media about how this perfect person just happened to show up to start a campaign about an issue they just happened to be the perfect person for.” As such, according to this former employee, the company played a large editorializing role beyond just allowing an open platform — and may well do the same on behalf of the conservative organizations the company is now actively recruiting.

Change.org’s director of policy, Sunita Bose, told ThinkProgress that she does not see a contradiction between being an open platform and having some staff involvement with some of the campaigns. In a follow-up email, she added: “Like all open platforms, we feature some content — that’s why you receive emails from YouTube with videos they think you may be interested in. We have a very small campaigns team that supports a small proportion of petitions with particularly compelling stories we think will resonate with our users, and other people. We have policies with ethical standards, including things like fact checking, around the campaigns we promote.”

Where Is The Line?

In addition to being a former Change.org contractor, Todd Heywood is a freelance writer and an expert in HIV criminalization and discrimination issues. Now, he said, the site has become a haven for offensive right-wing rhetoric, including petitions outing people who are allegedly living with HIV.

According to Heywood, this is particularly dangerous because “when you out someone as being HIV positive, you put them at risk for violence and potentially criminal action, depending on the state. Forced disclosure has led to several murders of women living with HIV.”

Naina Khanna is the executive director of Positive Women’s Network – USA. She said her organization sought help from Change.org when a June 2014 petition with the name “Aware the Public” accused a named individual of rape and of transmitting HIV to the petition creator’s sister. “We Reached out to Change.org, asking to them to exercise editorial control, to either edit or remove the petition,” she recalled, adding that her organization “explained why we felt this was really stigmatizing.”

The letter, sent to Change.org, noted that company’s definition of a petition was “a public message to one or more decision-makers, asking them to do something” and that the posted accusations “may not even qualify as a ‘petition.’” It also noted that the petition’s language calling the accused “already known for having AIDS” clearly “maligns a person based on a condition he may live with — a characteristic about himself that he cannot change,” in violation of the official hate speech guidelines.

Khanna shared the response Change.org’s Bose sent her, rejecting the request, with ThinkProgress. It stated:

If we received a claim from the man named in the petition, we would consider removing the petition but, in the absence of that, it’s the petition starter’s choice whether they want to edit or remove their petition. As an Internet platform, it’s not our place to judge people’s guilt or innocence nor to fact check every claim in the 30,000+ petitions that are started by people on Change.org every month.

We don’t evaluate hypothetical situations publicly, but I want to stress that if a petition was written with the sole intention of revealing someone’s HIV status or to malign all people with HIV, it would almost certainly violate our terms and be removed.

Khanna believes Change.org needs to do a better job of enforcing its terms of service. “It is the responsibility of a site like Change.org to be responsible in terms of exercising some sort of control,” she said. “They say they are not a place where bullying or harassment is allowed. This [kind of petition] is both.”

Asked about her company’s policing process, Change.org’s senior communications manager Shareeza Bhola said in an email that, “like YouTube and other open Internet platforms, we ask our users to flag any content that violates our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service. Our community can flag content by reporting it as inappropriate, writing to our help center, or by otherwise escalating it to our staff. Once we receive those flags, we have a team who monitor them, and if the content violates our policies, we will remove it.”

As for how many flags the company receives and how long it takes for offensive petitions to be removed, Bhola did not provide numbers but noted, “We have a Customer Advocacy team based in SF who work with contractors around the world to manage abuse complaints. The amount of time it takes to make these determinations varies greatly depending on the content — for example, we can relatively quickly judge if content is inciting violence.”

Change.org’s Schoop said the company sees “over 1,000 new petitions every day” and has “only a small team of people reviewing the flags.” She added that the site recently updated its community guidelines and its “definition of hate speech includes content that maligns a whole class of people based on their gender identity, and sexual orientation.” But, she noted, to empower “anyone, anywhere, to create the change they want to see,” the company takes “suppressing the voice of any one of our users extremely seriously, which is why any content removal needs to be in line with our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.”

Bose acknowledged that the company has room for improvement as far as its policing speed. Noting the site’s rapid growth, she explained the site needs to grow its reviewing team: “This is an area [in which] we’re still catching up,” she said, noting that the company is currently in the hiring process for a “trust and safety lead.”

“These are tough challenges that all open Internet platforms face,” Bose observed. “To stay open, safe, and empowering,” she explained, the site has created an internal “decision flow, to determine whether content is bullying and hate speech.” Change.org doesn’t release that information publicly to ensure people don’t “game the system.”

Victories Every Day

Change.org points to a number of progressive victories as evidence of the site’s influence. In April, they note, Netflix pledged to make all of their major original programs accessible to the blind, after more than 3,000 users urged them to do so. An Indiana lawmaker stripped language from his own bill in February after more than 236,000 people signed a Change.org petition warning it would hinder anti-bullying efforts in schools. After nearly 70,000 people signed a petition urging a policy change, the international basketball governing body agreed to allow players to wear religious head coverings.

ChangeFront

CREDIT: CHANGE.ORG

It can be hard to gauge how much of an impact the petitions had in making the highlighted victories happen — and what constitutes a win.

A 2014 petition launched by former NFL punter Chris Kluwe garnered more than 80,000 signatures demanding the Minnesota Vikings release the results of an investigation they conducted into allegations of discrimination against their former player. After Kluwe agreed to a settlement with the team that did not include a full release of the report, he and the company deemed it a victory. Kluwe noted on the site that “the Vikings were very much aware of this petition and concerned about the resulting negative attention. We decided that it was not in our best interest — or the public’s interest — to force the team to release the entire investigation report publicly due to privacy concerns.”

2012 petition highlighted by Change.org suggests that it helped Trayvon Martin’s parents win “justice” for their son. Though charges were filed against Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, he was acquitted in 2013.

In an email to ThinkProgress highlighting the site’s victories for LGBT causes, Change.org’s Schoop noted, “Just today, a petition got [former Arkansas Republican Governor] Mike Huckabee kicked out of a conference hosted by the Jewish National Fund in Canada for his views on LGBTQ issues.” But the petition she linked to had garnered just 31 supporters and the news article mentioned in her email quoted the Jewish National Fund’s CEO saying that the petition “had absolutely no impact whatsoever” on the group’s decision to cancel Huckabee’s keynote speech.

The impact of some of the petitions, however, is undeniable. After Scouts for Equality and former Cub Scout leader Jennifer Tyrrell collected millions of signatures urging the Boy Scouts of America to eliminate its anti-LGBT policy, a largely-dormant movement was reignited. The organization lifted its ban on gay youth in 2013 and last month its president called for an end to the national ban on LGBT adults.

Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality told ThinkProgress that Change.org played a “critical role” in the effort. “The amount of signatures you can amass in one place really helps put a number on what the interest looks like — especially when you have such a compelling story as we do with the Scouts.” Wahls said the resulting media attention had a real impact on the national Boy Scout leadership: “I think what the Change.org platform did for us was to help put media attention on the issue. And that media attention is what caught the attention of BSA.”

Schoop said the site sees “almost one victory every hour on a wide range of topics.” She added, “Our homepage reflects some of the largest and most timely victories, and we gather all our victories here: www.change.org/victories.”

As for the question of why the list seemingly omits conservative victories, like the petition to keep Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty on the air, Schoop had no response.

‘A Tacit Endorsement?’

Ben Rattray

Change.org founder and CEO Ben Rattray

While many of the hateful petitions posted on Change.org receive only a handful of signatures, their presence can have a harmful effect, activists say. A since-removed petition seen by ThinkProgress calling for President Obama to “remove overly homosexual fagboy [name omitted] from existence” attracted just 14 signatures. But, critics note, this sort of petition need only be seen by that individual (whose apparent photo appeared in the petition) or one of his friends or family to cause serious damage to the person’s safety and well-being.

“Any time you have rhetoric in the body politic that is toxic, it sends a message to the targeted group — whether it’s LGBT, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, or even Christians — that [they] are less-than in American society. That helps create all sorts of insecurities for the individuals as well as social safety issues. When you perceive someone as less-than a full member of society, you’re more likely to start denying basic rights,” the former Change.org contractor Heywood warned.

Change.org founder Ben Rattray has saidrepeatedly that he created the site precisely because he wanted to support minority communities. Rattray told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012 that his younger brother came out to him as gay before the rest of his conservative family knew, and that he regretted not supporting him sufficiently. As his brother’s school attendance declined, he began experimenting with drugs, and he threatened to run away, Rattray stayed silent.

“The lack of active rejection of the venom of homophobia is still a tacit endorsement,” Rattray said. “It’s exacerbated by people like me.”

http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/06/25/3668486/change-org-anti-lgbt-petitions/

 

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SC petition filed for Delhi Professor, G N Saibaba’s Release

saibaba-main

HYDERABAD: Council for Social Development regional director Kalpana Kannabiran has filed a petition in the Supreme Court for appropriate order to secure the release of Delhi University professor GN Saibaba  from the solitary confinement in prison and also orders to permit him to stay with his care-givers in a place where he has routine and familiar access to medical facilities, assistance and health care.

Prof Kalpana Kannabiran filed the petition invoking the epistolary jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution.

The petitioner, naming Union of India, National Human Rights Commission, State of Maharashtra and Dr GN Saibaba as respondents, argued that Saibabab’s arrest was unconstitutional and violative of his rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution as he had disability which was aggravated by his chronic ill health.

She said in her petition that Saibaba had been arrested by the Maharashtra police for alleged links with Maoists. He has been kept in solitary confinement in the Nagpur Central Prison. “Saibaba teaches English at Ram Lal Anand College in Delhi and is a wheelchair user with 90 per cent benchmark disability caused by permanent post-polio paralysis of legs and painful chronic spinal condition. In addition to this, he suffers from chronic heart ailment with high blood pressure.”

The petitioner said that detention of a person with severe disabilities, who requires high support for daily living, was violative of his dignity and personal liberty. “Keeping such a person in solitary confinement in judicial custody amounts to denial of access to health care and recognition of need for special assistance for persons with disabilities.”

She said the action of the state of Maharashtra in arresting Saibaba was violative of India’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The convention enjoins states to refrain from engaging in any act or practice inconsistent with the present convention and to ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the present convention. The convention also says that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

She said that denial of special provisions, assistance and specialised health care access to person with disabilities in custody who uses a wheelchair and has special health care needs arising from chronic illness, comes firmly within the meaning of “degrading, inhuman and cruel treatment in derogation of the state’s obligation under the UNCRPD.”

Pleading

■ He suffers from chronic heart ailment and post-polio paralysis

■ He is wheelchair-bound

■ He has 90 pc benchmark disability

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Vedanta Talks Of “Pride” Post Shame, Faking Happiness #CSR #Vedanta #NDTV #Priyankachopra #mustread

By Prerna Bakshi

 

On the 19 of August, NDTV and their partner group Vedanta announced the launch of their ‘Our girls Our pride’ campaign with Priyanka Chopra as the campaign ambassador. This happened on a day when Vedanta suffered a huge blow to its mining operations in Odisha. The launch of this initiative comes at a time when the whole world is witnessing the great triumph of the Indigenous and Tribal communities of Odisha, who by rejecting Vedanta’s bauxite mining operations have set an unprecedented example for the rights and sovereignty of all Indigenous peoples around the world. This victory is not just of the Dongaria Kond and of other surrounding communities of Niyamgiri, but a victory of all Indigenous peoples around the world and their right to self-determination.

The operations of Vedanta, have been consistently called into question by many communities, environmentalists and human rights activists. By launching this campaign along with NDTV, Vedanta is attempting to do what could only be described as damage control in the guise of ‘corporate social responsibility’. Vedanta recently suffered a unanimous defeat by all the 12 gram sabhas (village council meetings) which took part in this ground breaking decision. Now the mining company appears to be using this campaign for PR purposes, for ‘brand recognition and awareness’. By using this opportunity as a means to improve its damaged reputation, Vedanta intends to create a positive image of its company to further its vested interests.

This campaign claims to bring issues of girls’ education, health, nutrition, foeticide and infanticide into light. It is ironic to say the least that the same Vedanta which is claiming to spread awareness about issues related to girl child would have otherwise displaced or pushed into poverty many of these girls and their families or exploited their labour in exchange for cheap wages in its mining operations.

Vedanta’s co-partner, NDTV, a major broadcasting television network, by partnering with such a company, globally held in question for its violation of environmental and human rights, is further strengthening the corporate-media nexus where each profits from the other.

Also noteworthy in this campaign is the choice of Priyanka Chopra as the campaign ambassador. Chopra was earlier seen featuring in the advertisement of the ‘Ponds White Beauty’ product. This product which promotes the idea of whiteness as beauty, fairness as norm. The message of the ad was quite clear, that being dark is not beautiful, it is to be done away with.

The Bollywood actress associated herself with a product that went further in trying to create a ‘niche’ among its many competitors that rule the not-so-fair Indian fairness market. The product claimed to achieve something, which hadn’t been done before. It did not just promise ‘glow’ (read whiteness), but, ‘pinking glow’.

This in a nation so obsessed with the idea of ‘fair’ skin where the sales of whitening products far outstrip those of Coca-Cola and tea, according to one market research firm’s report. This in a nation where the market of fairness products was worth over US$400 million in 2010, according to a report by AC Nielsen, a market which is growing at 18% per year.

Questions then need to be asked about what ‘pride’ this campaign claims to bring. How just is it ethically, morally and politically to have a campaign on an issue of crucial significance being run and promoted by social actors whose very actions damage the standing of the girls in our society.

(The writer is a Research Scholar at the University of Sydney and could be contacted at [email protected] or could be followed on Twitter @bprerna)

Please sign two petitions below, one to NDTV and one to priyanka chopra agaisnt VEDANTA’S desperate attempt as PR exercise to save themselves  after being kicked out by dongria kondh tribals, with resounding no to mining by 12 villages as asked by Supreme court

PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE

Ask Priyanka Chopra to withdraw as ambassador of Our Girls Our pride Now !!

 

Ask NDTV to stop sleeping with Enemy Vedanta Now !!

 

 

 

 

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#India- Dalit boy ,who married a higher caste girl, dead on railway tracks

Dalit boy Ilavarasan found dead on railway tracks
agencies
#999999; padding: 4px; -webkit-box-shadow: #aaaaaa 0px 0px 1px; max-width: 90%; height: auto;" alt="E. Ilavarasan, the Dalit boy whose marriage to a Vanniyar girl triggered violence in three villages of Dharmapuri district in November 2012, was found dead along a railway track in Dharmapuri on Thursday. File photo" src="http://cdn.mobstac.com/m/img/?src=http%3A//www.thehindu.com/multimedia/dynamic/01507/Elavarasan_jpg_1507648g.jpg&w=220" width="220" height="168" />

E. Ilavarasan, the Dalit boy whose marriage to a Vanniyar girl triggered violence in three villages of Dharmapuri district in November 2012, was found dead along a railway track in Dharmapuri on Thursday. File photo

E. Ilavarasan, the Dalit boy whose marriage to a Vanniyar girl triggered violence in three villages of Dharmapuri district in November 2012, was found dead along a railway track in that town on Thursday, a day after she said she would never go back to him and would stay with her mother.

Railway police said his body was found along a track behind the government arts college in Dharmapuri.

News of the boy’s death led to a tense situation in Dalit areas in Naickenkottai, with many of them thronging the Government Medical College hospital, where his body was taken.

Dharmapuri Superintendent of Police Asra Garg said Raliway Police are conducting an inquiry and that it was too early to say if there any foul play. Police pickets have been posted in sensitive areas in Naickenkottai.

The girl, Divya, told reporters on Thursday after appearing for a hearing in Madras High Court that she has been under tremendous pressure all along and was unable to forget her father who committed suicide after her marriage. She also said she no longer wanted to live with her husband, but her mother.

The bench comprising Justices M. Jayachandran and M. Sunderesh had reserved the orders for Friday.

Her mother had filed a Habeas Corpus Petition to produce her before the Court and set her at liberty.

On July 1, Ms. Divya had told the court she would go with her mother “for the time being”. She also said she had no problems in the house of her husband or with her mother-in-law, but was haunted by incidents of her father’s death, who committed suicide after her marriage with Mr. Elavarasn of Natham village.

Ms. Divya’s mother too had opposed the marriage on October 14, 2012.

Three villages of Dharmapuri district — Natham, Kondamapatty and Annanagar — witnessed violence and as many as 296 huts belonging to Dalits were torched on November 7, 2012 after the girl’s father committed suicide.

Several writ petitions were filed and the court ordered a probe into rehabilitation measures taken in Dalit colonies under the committee headed by IAS officer Vaski, which submitted a 5,000-page report to the High Court.

_

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/india-displaced-women-and-children-imprisoned-for-a-month-by-vedanta-and-police-vaw-wtfnews/" target="_blank"> #India displaced women and children imprisoned for a month by #Vedanta and police #Vaw #WTFnews
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/india-dalits-stripped-of-dignity-caste-discrimination/" target="_blank"> #India – Dalits stripped of Dignity #Caste #discrimination
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.vancouverdesi.com/news/nhrc-issues-notice-to-haryana-over-assault-of-dalit-boy/559451/" target="_blank">NHRC issues notice to Haryana over assault of Dalit boy
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Change.org — Cat is out of the Bag

Change.org  Cat is out of the Bag, so let’s stop playing Ping Pong

May 12, Mumbai- Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Kractivism

  Its official now

After months of testing, Change.org is ready to launch a new revenue model that is geared to consumers, not organizations. By targeting consumers, the change.org team expects to pull in steady revenues in smaller dollar amounts. Contributions are capped at $1,000 per user per petition, but beta tests found that 98 percent of contributions were under $100. During the test period, a total of 5800 people contributed to promoted petitions. Read more here Now anyone can sponsor a petition on change.org

This is how petitions can be promoted and sponsored

Promoted Petitions allow anyone to promote their favorite petitions to Change.org users who may not otherwise come across them. Similar to promoted posts on Facebook or promoted tweets on Twitter, Promoted Petitions allows users to pay to feature any petition to other users on the site.

Sponsored Campaigns are similar to Promoted Petitions, but structured slightly differently to help organizations establish long-term relationships with Change.org users who are passionate about their work and sign their campaigns. Each Sponsored Campaign has an opt-in box allowing users to agree to find out more information about the sponsoring organization after signing. Organizations ready to connect with their next generation of supporters can head to Change.org for Organizations to learn more.

My open letter to Ben Rattray, last October, was precisely about this ,  #India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, #Change.org – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism when they announced change in advertising policies that ,there is no confusion that change.org is  not a business for a social cause but  like any for profit , they are making money on our database.

Now after my expose.THE CHANGE CAMPAIGN EXPOSED  wherein I bought to notice two conflicting petitions on the same platform. I did get a reply on a tumblr.com  site ???  Wondering why  change .org  could not the responses  reply on an  official change.org site?  Also the tumblr.com   site with no  option to comment ,   My question,to   India director,  change.org Avijit Michael, that by replying to me, on another change/org staffs personal blog , with no option to comment,   this how change.org proposes to have a public engagement ?

The fact that  it was only after  I  pointed out that  two conflicting petitions, change.org looked into the matter and found that the  petition of voyeuristic  journalists managed  thousands  signatures by fraud  . They  have informed Information and Broadcasting  Ministry . Interesting but what if they would not be informed, will they know will  then and will they take action ?

For once let me make it clear I do not have a personal vendetta against change.org and neither people are confused by allegations they are concerned.

Here is a  Hoot investigative story on  change.org and how it operates  notes , Deconstructing Change.org

Change.org believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.

Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.

I will let the responses to my  expose on change.org speak for itself. I got many emails, facebook messages , some of them are below

आपने जो उदाहरण दिया है उससे स्‍पष्‍ट है कि कोई भी चेंज डॉट ओआरजी का दुरुपयोग कर सकता है। वैसे भी ये या तो व्‍यवसाय कर सकते हैं या सामाजिक बदलाव में कोई भूमिका निभा सकते हैं। और किसी को भ्रम नहीं होना चाहिए कि ये प्‍लेटफॉर्म सामाजिक बदलाव के लिए है। it’s really selling you and me on change dot org. –sandeepsamvad, new delhi, emaiil

it is hard to believe that change.org is not selling signatures as you have not completely denied when you said “Kamayani’s claim that we sell email addresses to sponsors is also incorrect. Our business model has been clearly outlined on the site. We allow our users to voluntarily opt-in to receive mailing from organisations via sponsored petitions.”there is a strong reason for not believing your words as in first instance you said in your reply “partly because one of them was the subject to anattempt at fraud and manipulation over the last week — almost 5000 signatures were added by two IP addresses” AND in very next line you say ” We have multiple levels of systemic checks to prevent this kind of abuse and ensurethat the integrity of our platform is maintained. The fraudulent signatureshave already been removed to reflect the count of genuine signatures.” WHAT HAPPEND TO THE MULTIPLE LEVELS OF SYSTEMIC CHECKS when peoples were signing petitions from one IP , in this case you have deleted signatures but how do we believe that other “victories” petitions are signed by individuals ;with this whole incident I think there are strong flaws on change.org , you have believed , trusted and took actions on almost all points Kamayani higlighted and on other hand you said “We completely respect Kamayani’s right to a different view, although we regret that she is spreading misinformation about Change.org”

I would have trusted on your words , if you would have removed this fraudulent signature petition and all other such petitions;I myself have written a petition and I know it is very difficult for us to raise a issue and bring in people to spend a time and sign it ; with this whole incidence of Change.org my belief on online petitions is shattered .lastly I perceive it in this way and that is , I think you also believe less  on change.org , as you chose Tumbler to highlight such a big news about your own website .I am hoping for a fair dialogue about this whole issues with a thread of previous emails and replies on change.org homepage so that truth must come out …

( Rahul Deveshwar on Facebook )

Change.org platform is no longer on the side of justice, but neutral in the fight against oppression, and hence, has actually taken the side of the oppressor…( Aashish Gupta  via email)

The idea that the  change.org makes no judgment on the type of petition seems a bit strange. Do they not have some sort of system of checks and balances? How many people sign things just on trust? I know I have done. To personalise the mistake (if it was a mistake) that they may have made to an individual who points out the inconsistency of their position on a specific petition seems to me a policy of “shoot the messenger” No petition is a trivial issue to those who take the trouble of starting one, or signing one. Motives would seem a significant factor. therefore this personalisation also would appear to have a motive. Is the organisation afraid of criticism? In which case the attack on an individual would seem logical. Why could not have change.org  provided a coherent answer to the inconsistency highlighted and not personalise the matter to an individual. It is those who work on the ground with people who matter, the idea of holding “people power and democracy in high regard” seems to me bullshit, and appears to appeal to interest groups who have a neo liberal agenda of control.
Kamayani I think all such organisations to me are suspect and anyone who points a finger that may expose their inconsistencies would be demonised in some way. specially such democracy movements of recent past seem to have had bloody results when western interests are threatened, Middle East, Pakistan orange revolution etc etc come to mind. There is sometimes more at stake than rights of people and that is the jobs of those who run these corporate “rights” organisations almost across the world and they would always go with their sponser, who would be western based or financed.  Kamayani, May be you have touched a brick that could shake the edifice ? I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.   I have closed by change.org account  (Satish Barot on FB)

” I am a little shocked that we bothered Mr. Tumbler. When I think, you own change.org. It would be more official when you post it there. Innit ?” (Harish Iyer, Facebook)

I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.    ( Kavita Krishnan, New Delhi email )

I completely agree that the case of the NALSAR students whose privacy was invaded and who were morally policed by these mediapeople shows exactly why change.orgshould not accept petitions from all sources. Many of us followed Kamayani’s use of change.org because we believed the organization had an explicit pro-justice bias in the campaigns it took on. Having change.org be a neutral platform to be used by anybody, or accepting paid sponsorships means that the platform indeed becomes something like Facebook – a profit seeking platform which we can use but which is not by itself an ally. I urge change.org to discard labels like neutrality, openness and democracy- all of which are used in our current socioeconomic system to mean that those with money will have the loudest voice – and to take an explicit stand on promoting justice through their petitions…( Kaveri, Bangalore )

It is sad that every space has been taken over by the BUSINESS and MONEY MAKERS…. we think we are playing in a free ground but that ground is also owned by the same corrupt minds… Amir Rizvi, Mumbai

It is indeed time that the issue about online petitions was addressed in more detail. Having read your blog and the response by change.org leaves me to conclude that change.org is definitely on the back foot as it has not bothered to explain the selling of email ID’s names etc for proit to other NGO’s. This is the business model of all the online petition sites and that is how they manage to have fancy pay packages for their employees and maintain their infrastructure. Sure, change.org may well be a technology oriented, democratic organization, but that does not absolve it from carrying out unethical practices.

The argument that change.org allows opt-in is not a favor done by the organization towards its users. It is legally mandated that such services should opt-in rather than opt-out services (throw back to Google, Facebook and other litigation’s and their results)

What happens to these online petitions (apart from creating a few seconds of “awareness”) is also debatable. I wonder if change.org has devised any metric to track what effect their online petitions have made. Being a “technology driven” organization, they should have the the means to track the effects of their petitions and should release such audits from time to time to their users.

In summary, the business model of change.org appears to be simply that of any other aggregator/mass e-mailer. To cloak this behind a veil of social consciousness and activism is doing dis-service to others who actually get their hands dirty doing real work and not sit behind computer terminals in air-conditioned offices selling their databases to the highest bidder. (Anuj Wankhede, Delhi)

I am completely with you and also understand the concern you raised in your narration. Media being one of the institutions operated and controlled by capitalist and patriarchal values certainly is not going to take pro-women, pro-equality stand. The argument of change.org that they provide space for ‘activism’ seem to be not true unless they take a critical position on issues being raised in and through their space. What if tomorrow anti-women, anti-dalits, anti-muslims, anti-abortion, anti-poor, anti-rights, anti-tribal, anti-minority people start putting up their petitions through change.org? What would be the position of owners/facilitators of this space?

Request to change.org from my side is to upload their position on many of the issues they feel are the result of inequalities, historic and systemic nature of discrimination, coercive hierarchies and culture of violence. Anand Pawar, Pune

Change.org has crossed the line between change-making and profit-making  .

So people are not confused by my expose ,but more concerned !

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Supreme Court of India – ‘Revolving door’ in lawsuits

M J Antony  May 07, 2013 , BS

criminal_justice_jurisprudence

The Court now limits review petitions to only grave errors in judgments

When litigants lose their final appeal in the Supreme Court, most of them learn to grin and bear it. However, lawyers tend to advise those with deep pockets to carry on the fight in different modes. Some desperate measures are filing applications for clarification and modification, moving review petitions and finally, curative petitions. Most of them turn out to be a triumph of hope over experience.

The first method to revive the lost cause is to file an application for clarification, alleging ambiguities in the decision where none exists. The bench that passed the judgment usually sees through the game and dismisses it. Another technique is to file an application for modification of the order, pleading technical hurdles in its implementation. This is also perceived as a ploy to re-argue the case and is mostly rejected.

If both stratagems fail, and there are more funds for litigation, there are two more options. The first one is moving a review petition. More than 90 per cent of them are dismissed in judges’ chambers during the lunch recess. A few months ago, 340 review petitions relating to land acquisition were massacred in minutes. It was a rare instance of a government authority returning twice with review petitions (Haryana Industrial Development Corp vs Mawasi).

Hoping to contain the flow of such petitions, the Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago emphasised in a batch of petitions that a review was justified only when there was a serious error in the judgment (JSW Steel Ltd vs Sandur Manganese & Iron Ores Ltd).

“In review jurisdiction,” stated the judgment dismissing the petitions, “the Court shall interfere only when there is a glaring omission or patent mistake, or when a grave error has crept in the judgment that we failed to notice. Mere disagreement with the view of the judgment cannot be the ground for invoking the same. As long as the point is already dealt with and answered, the parties are not entitled to challenge the judgment in the guise that an alternative view is possible under the review jurisdiction.”

This view had to be reiterated because of the routine filing of review petitions. There must be an “error apparent on the record”, as the Civil Procedure Code and the Supreme Court rules say. In a leading caseParsion Devi vs Sumitri Devi, the Court had explained the law thus: “An error which is not self-evident and has to be detected by a process of reasoning can hardly be said to be an error apparent on the face of the record. It is not permissible for an erroneous decision to be ‘reheard and corrected’. A review petition, it must be remembered, has a limited purpose and cannot be allowed to be an appeal in disguise.”

If the ingenuity of the lawyer and the client’s pockets are not yet exhausted, there is still another way. This path was broken by the Supreme Court itself – only to be regretted leisurely. In the case Rupa Ashok vs Ashok Hurra, the Court stated that “the almighty alone is the dispenser of absolute justice” and the rest might err. Ensuring certainty and finality of a judgment of the Court of last resort could not be made an end in itself. Even the law must bend before justice.

With such good intentions, the new curative petition was forged by the Court. This petition must be accompanied by a recommendation of a senior advocate, stating that the case requires re-examination. The curative petition has to be first circulated to a bench of three seniormost judges. They will decide by a majority that the case should be re-examined. Only then the case will be heard by the judges, who heard the case originally.

Despite such strict conditions, in the case Sumer vs State of UP, the Constitution bench for the first time gave vent to the rampant misuse of the provision for curative petitions. It said: “The apprehension of the bench (which delivered the Hurra judgement) that the remedy provided may not open the flood gates for filing a second review petition has come true as is evident from the filing of large numbers of petitions. It was expected that the curative petitions will be filed in the rarest-of-rare cases, but in practice, it has just been opposite.” The judgment quoted one certificate to show how casually they are issued. The senior counsel’s recommendation comes easily but, perhaps, not cheaply.

The quest for perfect justice must end somewhere. “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final,” said US Supreme Court judge Robert Jackson. The Supreme Court, with over 66,000 cases before it, can hardly afford the luxury of providing more revolving doors to rich litigants. They must give way to the ordinary people waiting for years at the gates of justice.

 

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Change.org – Sign the change you want to see #onlineactivism

The concept of online petitioning is riding high on the wave of social change sweeping the world. MANU MOUDGIL says that while the impact is promising, there are several roadblocks to be negotiated.
Posted/Updated Saturday, Apr 27 , thehoot.org
Every other day, a new mail drops into the inbox asking you to ‘change the world’ by signing a petition. It can be as serious an issue as seeking justice for an acid attack victim or as trivial as asking Justin Bieber to have a live concert in India. For an increasing number of urban Indians bred on concepts of equality and justice but frustrated by trappings of age-old power hierarchies of this country, the idea is promising. You don’t need to be a kurta-wearing social activist sitting on dharnas or a donor writing cheques to fund campaigns. Just filling in your name, email Id and postal code would do.
Petitioning around social campaigns has been in practice for decades but never has its impact been more pronounced than today when a call to ‘stop rape’ can gather 59,000 signatures in just 24 hours (On last count, the petition had 6.64 lakh signatures). For every signature, the decision makers get an email (many petitions also request the supporters to call the officials) thus ensuring constant pressure on them to act.
Two government school teachers in Jharkhand get paid after four years, five asphalt factories in Rajasthan shut down for causing air pollution, a discriminatory temple ritual is banned in Karnataka…the list goes on about the impact online petitions have made, though not singularly.
Online petitioning picked up pace in India after 2011 when Change.org, the world’s largest e-petition platform, started its operations here. Today, it has close to 6 lakh users with 600-800 petitions started every month, up from 11-15 petitions two years ago. Worldwide, it has operations in 18 countries and boasts of 35 million users.
Change.org also scores over other online platforms because of its support team, which helps build a communication strategy around selected petitions. In India, a small five-member team sends emails to users, talks to the media and suggests ways to engage with decision makers around campaigns which are bound to get popular support like the anti-rape petition started in wake of the Delhi gang-rape. The team works on 14-16 campaigns a week.
Everyone’s invited
 
One palpable difference online platforms have made in the field of campaigning is democratisation of the petitioning tool. Anybody can mobilise support for a cause they strongly feel about. Namita Bhandare, who started the anti-rape petition, had never participated in protest marches or candlelight vigils. She wrote the petition just to give vent to her anger and feeling of helplessness after the Delhi gang-rape. “At first, I questioned myself what would a petition do. In fact, now I realise that the recommendations we made in the petition were very basic and the Justice Verma Commission went much beyond as it factored in marital rape, action against armed forces and redefined sexual assault. However, filing that petition was cathartic for me. The tool lends power to the people who were earlier completely dependent on media or NGOs to mobilise support,” she says.
However, critics believe that e-petition promotes slacktivism or armchair activism which is also the reason it is so successful. It gives “false power” to those who feel helpless in face of problems they can’t control and prevents many of the supporters from participating in on-ground action. Preethi Herman, Campaigns Director at change.org laughs off such criticism. “We tend to assume that people just sign petitions. Online platform is the first point of engagement. They make telephone calls to decision makers, participate in offline events and help spread the word further. You can’t equate mobilisation with activism as it’s more about developing a larger support base for your cause. Most of the supporters are not activists but they do want a change,” she says.
Bhandare agrees: “ E-petition does sensitise one to the cause. You can’t just start a petition on rape and go to a cocktail party. I am sure many of the signatories to my petition also joined the on-ground protests.”
Change.org also collaborates with Video Volunteers and CGNet Swara, the two grassroots-level organisations which use video and audio media to highlight issues in rural India. “It was important for us to adapt to Indian conditions where Internet penetration is still very low. We work with Video Volunteers and CGNet Swara to identify issues in their areas which could be promoted online and hence bridge the gap between rural and urban population,” Herman says.
Tania Devaiah, the impacts manager at Video Volunteers, confirms that getting numbers behind a cause through online petition lends an institutional approach to the campaign. “Constant flow of emails and phone calls does build pressure on decision makers in comparison to a single approach of making and screening of videos. We pick up issues for online campaigns where either it’s difficult to make the authorities act or the cause has a universal appeal,” she adds. The next frontier change.org wants to conquer is to make the platform available in Hindi and adapt it to mobile phones.
The loopholes
Change.org believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.
Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.
Verification of facts reported in the petition is another sore point. Though some petitions do carry images and videos related to the issue, there are chances that you might end up supporting a wrong cause. For instance, an incident in Hyderabad got two separate petitions running on the website. Girl college students coming out of a pub after a farewell party were accused by the regional news channels of creating nuisance at a public place and depicted as uncultured while the students blamed the media of moral policing and wrongful depiction. The chances are you may end up signing one of these petitions without getting to know the other side. Herman says since numerous petitions are created daily, it’s not possible to substantiate the facts presented in each of them but whenever the Change team works on and pushes a petition, the facts are verified in detail.
Values shortchanged?
Change.org claims to be a corporation using the power of business for social good. It made revenue by allowing sponsored petitions from progressive groups willing to shell out dollars to promote their campaigns. The concept has helped the company generate enough profit to make its functioning self-sustaining.
However, something changed in October last year when a leaked internal documentrevealed how the organisation was replacing its value-based advertising policy to an ‘open’ approach allowing even conservatives and corporates to use its resources. This invited widespread criticism from the progressive community which felt that the vast user database it helped build through the years was being sold to the opposition camp.
On the other hand, as underscored by Isaac Luria of Groundswell, organisations running social campaigns don’t get a full contact list of their supporters whom they could later invite to attend meetings, join local groups, or donate. “Of course, I could have bought the names that signed the petition on Change.org for around $500,000 or about $2 per name if I had the foresight before the campaign was launched or had the money,” he adds.
Change’s founder Ben Rattray responded to the criticism by arguing that the organisation “cannot maintain an open platform and simultaneously block all ads that don’t fit a particular political view” and ads from controversial groups would only be accepted if the platform has users interested in their work. He also emphasised that an open advertiser policy was essential to avoid being “regularly forced into unsustainable positions.”
However, not everybody was impressed with these clarifications. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, an online campaigner who has initiated a petition asking Rattray to come out clean, says the definition of openness pushed by Change.org is not in consonance with progressive principles. “I used to laugh at some of the inane petitions like the ones promoting homophobia or anti-abortion, as I was sure change.org will not give any support and the petition will die its own death. But with the new policy, anyone is eligible to advertise. So, after I sign a petition for human rights, I might find a link to a sponsored petition on giving legal recognition to khap panchayats,” she says.
Mahabal has now been trying other online platforms but is not happy with their technical support. For the time being, she is using her own blog to mobilise online support and is hopeful that Indian activists will have their own independent platform soon.
Meanwhile, as they say, every change is accompanied by discomforts. The question is how well can we deal with these.
Official recognition

Online petitioning is officially recognised in the US where the right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The White House hosts an online platform ‘We the People’ where any petition which gets 1,00,000 signatures within 30 days elicits a government response. The threshold before January 2013 was 25,000 signatures and one of the petitions which got the White House speaking was seeking ‘genocide’ status for the 1984 Sikh riots in India. The petition had more than 30,000 signatures.

original article http://thehoot.org/web/Signthechangeyouwanttosee/6753-1-1-12-true.html

  • #India – Change.org : Campaign Victory’s exposed (kractivist.wordpress.com)

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Andhra Pradesh -You will be imprisoned for grabbing SC,ST lands

DC | 27th Mar 2013

HyderabadRevenue minister Raghuveera Reddy has warned that those who have occupied SC,ST lands and not handed  it over will be booked and sent to prison.

 

The minister made this statement at the revenue conferences in the state Assembly on Tuesday. He said 4.5 lakh acres of SC,ST land have been occupied in the state by others and 2.5 lakh acres were recovered and returned to the community.

The remaining land will be recovered and returned to the SC,STs. In the seventh and final phase of the land distribution programme, the government will distribute every acre of land fit for cultivation. So far, 75 lakh acres of government and forest land were distributed among SC, STs.

The  minister further  said, 4.7 lakh petitions were received in the ongoing revenue conferences that started  on March 21, and 1.26 lakh petitions were cleared on the spot, 5,996 petitions were rejected and the remaining were under process. Petitions will be cleared in 90 days, the minister assured.

Commenting on the Minister’s statement the Opposition members expressed their objection on conducting of revenue conferences when the Assembly was in secession. Reacting to this the revenue minister said, so far except three to four ministers, all the ministers, and 70% of the MLAs participated in the revenue conferences. The conferences will continue till April 10, so that the MLAs can participate as Assembly Session will be is over, the minister said.

 

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India’s Cash Transfers for the Poor Face Early Hurdles #UID #Aadhaar

200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

By AMOL SHARMA

 

DOHAKATU, India—Officials in this impoverished eastern Indian village have a message for local residents: the government wants to give you a bank account and plop money in it—now.

 

India is embarking on a dramatic shift in how it delivers welfare benefits to its hundreds of millions of poor citizens. The program, which officially begins in January and will be rolled out nationally by the end of next year, will transfer up to $58 billion in cash into the bank accounts of some 90 million households. Beneficiaries will withdraw the money using a high-tech system that verifies their identities using fingerprint scans.

 

Indians who now must get welfare payments at post offices—enduring waits of days or weeks and sometimes paying bribes to get entitlements—will get direct deposits in their personal bank accounts for everything from old-age pension to scholarships to salaries for public works projects.

 

Poor households will also get cash deposits to buy basic commodities like kerosene and cooking gas at market rates. That would replace subsidies that currently go to distributors, who are supposed to offer discounts—a system that critics say is plagued by waste and fraud.

 

The new payment approach doesn’t create any new entitlement programs for the poor. But the ruling Congress party has trumpeted it as a signature anti-poverty initiative, hoping it will prove a masterstroke ahead of national elections in 2014. Party leaders say direct deposits will ensure entitlements get to beneficiaries instead of being siphoned off by middlemen, and are touting the slogan “Your Money in Your Hands.”

 

Dohakatu is a village of subsistence potato and rice farmers in Jharkhand state. Its residents largely depend on government handouts to survive and it is among the handful of regions that participated in early trials of cash transfers and have a head-start in the rollout. People here are already getting direct cash deposits for a range of benefits.

 

“We are quite confident the cash transfer scheme will create magic in the next election,” said Shahzada Anwar, a Congress party official in Jharkhand who was in Dohakatu village recently to watch locals withdraw cash.

 

India’s huge amount of welfare spending is a major contributor to its shaky public finances. The nation’s budget deficit was 5.8% of gross domestic product in the year ended March 31. The government says the new cash deposit program can generate much-needed budget savings by eliminating corruption such as people using fake identification documents to get the same benefit twice.

 

To withdraw money under the program, beneficiaries must present a 12-digit unique identification number that every Indian is gradually being issued—220 million people have them so far. Then, they must scan their finger on a portable device known as a micro-ATM, which validates their identity in a national biometric database.

 

“No one can falsify their identity and get away with it,” Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters recently. He said the efficiency gains are “incalculable.”

 

But at least in the early going, the cash transfer project will actually be a financial drag, with $1.2 billion in estimated net losses for the exchequer through March 2015, according to a recent study by the government-funded National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. The expected savings will come in the following six years and will total about $14.5 billion, or 15% of the budget deficit in the latest fiscal year, the report says.

 

Transferring cash for 29 government welfare programs will be a massive administrative undertaking. The first challenge is to open bank accounts quickly in places like Dohakatu: only 40% of India’s 1.2 billion people have bank accounts, and only 36,000 of India’s 600,000 villages even have a bank branch. There are plans to open 73,000 new “ultra small” bank branches of about 100 to 200 square feet apiece and hire one million banking employees in rural areas, according to minutes from a government committee overseeing cash transfers.

 

The micro-ATM machines depend on creaky wireless connectivity with speeds on par with the standard a decade ago in the U.S. Getting the system to work requires the intricate syncing of databases by managers of the national unique ID program, government agencies dispensing benefits, and banks. Banks have to be equipped to process a flood of new transactions in their networks. Cooking gas-related transactions alone could number 1.7 billion per year.

 

“The magnitude is just staggering,” said R.S. Sharma, director general of the Unique Identification Authority of India that runs the national “Aadhaar” identification program. “If you start transferring money into people’s accounts and don’t create a distribution network, then you are in for big trouble,” he said.

 

India took inspiration for its new approach from other big emerging economies, including Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and South Africa, which have started cash transfer programs to combat poverty and social inequality. India is targeting a far larger number of households than those countries. But its program is different because it isn’t linking benefits to specific social goals. Brazil’s program, for instance, gives 12 million low-income households about $30 a month on the condition that they show their children have an 85% school attendance rate and have received medical checkups and vaccinations.

 

About 2,000 people are participating in the Jharkhand cash transfer program now. In Dohakatu, part of Ramgarh District, locals were streaming into a ramshackle community center on a recent afternoon to withdraw cash. Among them was Riman Devi, a 51-year-old widow.

 

Her salary for digging wells and ponds as part of the government rural jobs program was deposited directly into her first-ever bank account that was created last month. Rather than go to a distant bank branch to access it, Ms. Devi approached an official and uncertainly handed over a card with her 12-digit ID number printed on it. He keyed the number into a micro-ATM. She scanned her finger to check her balance, and then again to withdraw her week’s salary: 400 rupees, or $7. Everything checked out. The official reached into his pocket, pulled out a wad of bills and paid her. (He, in turn, gets reimbursed by the government.)

 

Ms. Devi said the new system beats the old approach of getting government payments from the local post office, which often wasn’t open or would run out of money. “Sometimes it took two to three days to get the money. It was very difficult. It’s faster here,” she said. She spent some of the cash that afternoon on edible oil, spices and vegetables at a local bazaar.

 

The new way of paying has hardly solved Ms. Devi’s problems. Her only income comes from occasionally selling homemade bamboo baskets for 50 cents apiece. She doesn’t qualify for a widow’s pension because the government doesn’t classify her as below the poverty line. A local official says that is a mistake that will be corrected when the central government does a new poverty survey. Ms. Devi lives with her son in a mud-walled house with a bedroom that doubles as a rice-storage area. “Winter is coming and we don’t have warm clothes,” she said.

 

Sitting nearby in the village center was Vasudev Pahan, an 80-year-old whose family lives mainly on subsistence wheat and potato farming. Collecting his $7 monthly pension—which goes to low-income senior citizens—used to be an ordeal. He’d squeeze into a car with 14 people to go to a government office in a nearby town. Then he would wait in a line of as many as 400 people. Sometimes the office would run out of money or close before he could get his cash, so he’d have to return a few days in a row.

 

Now Mr. Pahan walks 20 minutes to the micro-ATM in the village center and withdraws cash in minutes from an account where the government has deposited his pension. “People who are getting it this way are happy,” he said.

 

A few local Congress party officials arrived at the Dohakatu center to take stock of the action and take credit for what they already proclaim as a signature achievement. Mr. Anwar, an affable, mustachioed man with a thick shag of black hair, shook hands with some villagers before plopping into a plastic chair. “This is the strongest weapon for us,” he said of the political benefits of the new program. “No one can give opposition to this.”

 

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress’s main opposition in New Delhi, have criticized the Congress party for over-politicizing the initiative, but haven’t attacked the idea of the new direct payments.

 

Glitches in technology were on display in Tigra, a group of farming villages 12 miles west of Ranchi, Jharkhand’s capital. Some 39 people signed up to participate in the new program in October, but 30 of them weren’t able to take out cash from the mini-ATM despite trying several times. The main problem, authorities said, was that their new bank accounts at state-owned Bank of India weren’t “seeded” with unique ID information for beneficiaries—so it was impossible to verify people’s identities.

 

On a recent afternoon, Mahmood Alam, the local banking representative in Tigra who handles micro-ATM transactions—known as a “business correspondent”—believed the problem had been solved and was setting up to give out cash to a few dozen locals. He set up his micro-ATM machine not far from men and women threshing rice crop and goats wandering in the fields.

 

He tapped with his stylus to enter the details of Teju Gope, a 71-year-old pensioner who has a new account with Bank of India. “Place your finger for processing,” a message on the screen said. Mr. Gope swiped his finger. After a few seconds came a disappointing reply: “UID (unique ID) blocked/inactive/wrong.”

 

Mr. Alam shook his head. “It’s still not working,” he said. He said he’s optimistic about the new program but acknowledged the government’s rushed approach has resulted in some errors. “It looks to me like everything wasn’t totally ready,” he said.

 

A.K. Pathak, assistant general manager of Bank of India, said the Tigra payments snafu is an isolated incident that has been resolved. He said the Jharkhand trials overall have gone well.

 

The Jharkhand government is racing to expand the program. About 19 million of the state’s 32 million people still haven’t gone through the sign-up process to get biometric ID numbers. In Ramgarh district about 60% of the 950,000 residents don’t have unique IDs. The government is trying to prioritize people who will be getting cash transfers.

 

“This is a huge task for us—a technological leap forward is happening,” said Amitabh Kaushal, Ramgarh’s deputy commissioner, the top local bureaucrat.

 

Local officials say the use of biometric identification will weed out people who used aliases or fraudulent documents to get the same benefit twice. In one block of villages in Ramgarh, the government used to have 43,801 claimants in the rural job program as of the last official figure in 2006. But after a recent sign-up drive with biometrics, there were nearly 9,000 fewer people on the rolls. Mr. Kaushal said it isn’t clear yet whether that discrepancy is a result of fraud removal or the normal transition of some people off welfare.

 

New Delhi officials are counting on the biggest savings to come from countering fraud in the subsidy programs for commodities like kerosene and cooking gas. Critics say the current system is rife with corruption. Dealers siphon off goods and sell them on the black market. People fake their way into getting benefits they don’t deserve.

 

Food subsidies are the government’s biggest welfare expense, accounting for $13.3 billion in spending in the year ended March 31. But the government left food out of the cash transfer program, wary that it is too complex and too sensitive to do now. A survey of 1,200 households last year by the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi found that two-thirds of respondents were strongly in favor of keeping the status quo of picking up food grains at government ration shops rather than going to stores to pay market rates.

 

The biggest limitation of the cash transfer project, critics say, is that it won’t solve the most fundamental problems in India’s targeting of welfare subsidies. Biometric screening ensures that people trying to get benefits are who they say they are—and eliminates duplicate subsidies. But if a person is being excluded from benefits now because they aren’t classified as below the poverty line, or is wrongly classified as eligible for benefits, nothing in the cash transfer program will detect that or change it.

 

Meanwhile, there are limits to the program’s ability to stamp out corruption. There is no reason a micro-ATM operator can’t ask for a kickback when giving people their money, just as a postal worker might, the critics say. “If you’re getting arm-twisted today, you’ll get arm-twisted tomorrow,” said Reetika Khera, a development specialist at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

 

From a political standpoint, putting cash into the bank accounts of the poor would seem like “manna from heaven” for the Congress-led government, says Ravi Srivastava, a development economist who has studied cash transfers. But he said it would be “incredible folly” for the government to underestimate the challenges of executing the project, especially in such a quick time frame.

 

“This whole thing has raised expectations to an unrealistic level, both within government and within the Congress party,” he said.

 

—Rajesh Roy and Krishna Pokharel contributed to this article.
Write to Amol Sharma at [email protected]

 

A version of this article appeared December 27, 2012, on page A9 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Tapping Benefits GetsEasier for India’s Poor.

 

 

 

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Change.org –the Brutal Betrayal !

by- MattBrowner Hamlin

Yesterday news broke that Change.org, an historically progressive-leaning distributed organizing platform, would shift to working with any advertising client, regardless of political affiliation. The story has been ably covered byRyan GrimJeff Bryant, and Aaron Krager – I highly recommend you read their pieces, all of which hinge around leaked internal Change.org documents that cover this shift.

The documents are well worth reading and have been posted by Krager (all links are PDFs). They include:

  • July 2012 email from CEO Ben Rattray to staff explaining the recent decisions by senior staff to pursue a big change in their client advertising policy;
  • September 2012 email from Rattray to their staff explaining the shift;
  • Rebrand-InternalFAQs-Change
  • As I said, the posts linked above give a good run down of the general problems associated with this shift in policy and values form Change.org. I recommend you read them and the leaked documents, which give a very clear view of the goals and motives behind this shift.

    I want to draw attention to one particular aspect of Change.org’s justifications for this move, quoting Jeff Bryant:

    What will change is that Change.org will no longer “filter potential advertisers” based on the advertisers’ “values.” Nor will Change.org filter potential advertisers based on any “gut feelings about the content of the ad itself.”

    The implication expressed in Change.org’s internal documents, by Change.org’s spokesman Ben Joffe-Walt who Ryan Grim quotes as saying, “Change.org is “not beholden to one community,” and by the talking points circulated by multiple Change.org staff members on progressive email list serves all point to the idea that it’s simply not possible for Change.org to make determinations about which clients are or are not progressive. As a result, they are saying they are now formally stopping to make any attempt to limit who they sell email addresses to based on their “values.”

    These talking points are undermined by their expressed strategies for evolving their advertising platform. In a section in their internal FAQ titled, “When will we be able to target ads better?” they have this explanation:

    • Machine learning: we are developing the technology to match action alerts to users, which utilizes everything we know about a user (what petitions they’ve signed, geography, demographics) to match them to petitions they’re most likely to be interested in. This is complicated technology but should bear fruit in 2013. Once that happens, we should be able to repurpose the technology and use everything we know about a user (what petitions they’ve signed, geography, demographics) to match them to the ads (sponsored petitions) they’re most likely to be interested in.
    • Tagging: we want to move from our current 8-cause system to a much more flexible tagging system. Once complete, users and Change.org staff will be able to tag any petition in many different ways, for example as “pro-choice.” We will then be able to show that “pro-choice” advertisement to people who have signed petitions tagged as “pro-choice” while suppressing people who’ve signed “pro-life” petitions. This is technically complicated, and we’re hoping to make significant progress in 2013.

    To be clear, what this means is not only that Change.org is saying internally that they are capable of assessing the political orientation of an advertiser or a petition, but that this assessment is something which is critical to their evolved business model.

    I raise this point because to me the idea of determining what is or is not in line with the values this company espoused since its founding until this week is completely possible. It’s been done with relative success by Change.org – excepting their work with union busting clients like Students First and Stand for Children – throughout the history of the firm. And most importantly, their ability to determine if a client should target liberal or conservative audiences is central to their future business model. They will be selling organizations and companies this ability – it’s what will make their ads worth money to their clients.

    When I look at Change.org’s talking points and internal messaging documents,  I see a lot of sophistry and disingenuous argumentation that I’m not going to go through now. I see statements like they’re not doing this for the money and since I am not a mind reader, I can only speculate whether or not that is true.

    But Change.org is telling the public that they are simply incapable of figuring out if their clients are liberal or conservative and as a result must throw up their hands to even trying to make the choice – this is a flat-out lie. Their own technology development and advertising targeting plans reveal it as a lie. Not only are they capable of making a determination as to what a client’s values are, it’s what they are selling their clients to maximize the impact they have as an advertising platform.

    There’s a lot to be unhappy about with this devolution at Change.org. I’m sure others will write more about it in coming days and I’m guessing I will too. But the completely cynical use of a lie about their fundamental ability to figure out who they are partnering with when they sell ads is something that I feel compelled to highlight first and foremost.

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