Zee News-Navin Jindal episode: Real face of media exposed? #Sting


 

Moneylife Digital Team | 25/10/2012 05:21 PM |   

While paid news is being discussed since the last election, for the first time we saw there is no wall between news reporting and sales, as Zee News’ editors Samir Ahluwalia and Sudhir Chaudhary are also business heads of the channel
The episode between Navin Jindal and Zee News is becoming murkier every day. Jindal, the Member of Parliament (MP) belonging to the Congress party and chairman and managing director of Jindal Steel and Power-part of the $15 billion diversified OP Jindal Group-had filed criminal extortion case against Zee News and Zee Business channel.

 

Following a formal complaint by Navin Jindal, the Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) suspended its treasurer Sudhir Chaudhary, who is also editor and business head of Zee News. Even the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) headed by former chief justice of India JS Verma has said that it would inquire in to the complaint by Jindal. While both Zee and Jindal are sticking to their own stands, the entire episode raises more questions on the ethics of news reporting and business.

Jindal, in a dramatic press conference on Thursday, also released tapes showing the conversation between his team members and Zee News reporter, who allegedly asked for cash to stop the TV channels sting operation. “Media in our country has to be above suspicion. Media has played a crucial role in our country. Jindal Steel and Power has faced an incident on which I want to give a pure version. The way Zee TV has carried the news, it has become important for me to share,” the Congress MP said.

Earlier, Jindal had filed a first information report (FIR) against Subhash Chandra, chairman of Zee group, Punit Goenka, managing director of Zee, Sameer Ahluwalia and Sudhir Chaudhary, both editors and business heads of Zee Business channel. In the FIR, Jindal said that Ahluwalia and Chaudhary demanded “certain advertisement commitments” worth several crores of rupees (Rs100 crore, according to media reports) for not broadcasting a story about the Jindal group’s alleged involvement in the coal block allocations.

 

Jindal in the FIR said, “…the said three officials (Ravi Muthreja, head for corporate communications, Sushil Kumar Maroo, director and Vivek Mittal from Jindal) met with the aforesaid Sameer (Ahluwalia) and Sudhir (Chowdhary) at Polo Lounge of Hotel Hyatt Regency, New Delhi on 17 September 2012. In this meeting Sameer and Sudhir claimed that the deal amount will be Rs100 crore and not Rs20 crore as same was a communication error. They further said that if our company agreed to pay their company a total sum of Rs100 crore, they will not telecast any program concerning us and further they will improve/repair damage already caused to our company and its management due to the said programs.”

 

The complaint also blames Zee group’s head Subhash Chandra. It says, “Aforesaid Sameer and Sudhir further informed us that a vilification campaign against our company is under instruction, consent and full knowledge of aforesaid Subhash Chandra and other officials of their top management. They further informed that Subhash Chandra Goyal was fully aware of this. In fact this whole thing was his plan and each step had his concurrence”.

 

The Zee group, however, denied the allegations made by Jindal. According to a PTI report, Punit Goenka, managing director and chief executive, Zee Entertainment Enterprises has said, “This kind of allegation has happened in the past and may happen in the future. It doesn’t make any difference to us and we will stick to the truth. These are all pressure tactics.”

 

Zee News also alleged that Jindal misbehaved with a team of its reporters after they sought clarifications from him on the allegations levelled against his company for alleged irregularities in allocation of coal bocks.

 

This case highlights the effects of the diminishing wall between news reporting and sales and marketing. Renowned media critic Ken Auletta, while writing about Sameer Jain and Vineet Jain, the Times of India brothers, in The New Yorker has highlighted the question about news and paid news. (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/10/08/121008fa_fact_auletta ). Auletta says, “India is one of the few places on earth where newspapers still thrive; in fact, circulation and advertising are rising. In part, this is because many Indian newspapers, following an approach pioneered by the Jain brothers, have been dismantling the wall between the newsroom and the sales department. At the Times of India, for example, celebrities and advertisers pay the paper to have its reporters write advertorials about their brands in its supplementary sections; the newspaper enters into private-treaty agreements with some advertisers, accepting equity in the advertisers’ firms as partial payment.”

 

#UK- #David Cameron rejects votes for #prisoners #humanrights


 

channel4

David Cameron rules out giving prisoners the vote despite the advice of his chief law officer in the face of pressure from the European court of human rights.

In response to a question from Labour MP Derek Twigg, the prime minister told the House of Commons that “no one should be in any doubt, prisoners are not getting the vote under this government”.

Mr Cameron was clarifying the issue following advice from the attorney general, who had said the government, under pressure from Europe, may need to back down over the issue of prisoner votes.

The European court of human rights has ruled, in what is known as the Scopola ruling, that there should not be a blanket ban on prisoners being allowed to vote.

International obligation

Dominic Grieve QC, the attorney general, told MPs this morning that the ruling “imposes an international legal obligation on us”.

Giving evidence to the justice select committee, Mr Grieve warned that Britain was obliged to obey the judgment and could face huge damages claims from prisoners.

“The issue, it seems to me, is whether the United Kingdom wishes to be in breach of its international obligations and what that does reputationally for the United Kingdom,” he said. “This is not a matter where there’s not parliamentary sovereignty. There clearly is. Parliament gives and parliament can take away.

However, Mr Cameron said during prime minister’s questions: “The House of Commons has voted against prisoners having the vote. I don’t want prisoners to have the vote, and they should not have the vote.

“If it helps by having another vote in parliament on another resolution to make absolutely clear, to help put the legal position beyond doubt, I am very happy to do that.”

In February the House of Commons voted by a margin of 234 to 22 against removing the blanket ban.

#India risks backlash hurrying through #Aadhaar project- #uid #biometrics


A villager goes through the process of a fingerprint scanner during Unique Identification (UID) database system in the Pathancheru village, in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh April 27, 2010. REUTERS-Krishnendu Halder-Files
Nandan Nilekani speaks during a news conference in Mumbai June 8, 2005. REUTERS-Arko Datta-Files

By Manoj Kumar

BEELAHERI, India | Thu Oct 25, 2012 2:15pm IST

(Reuters) – India is shaking up the way it gets billions of welfare dollars to the poor with a plan that could one day reshape the economy and tackle graft keeping millions in poverty, but in one small town a pilot of the new system is proving unpopular.

Putting India’s technological prowess to work to bring the entire 1.2 billion population within the reach of government, the widely feted unique identity (UID) project set up by Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani two years ago has so far scanned the irises of 210 million people into a biometric database.

Now, in a more ambitious version of programmes that have slashed poverty in Brazil and Mexico, the government has begun to use the UID database, known as Aadhaar, to make direct cash transfers to the poor, in an attempt to cut out frauds who siphon billions of dollars from welfare schemes.

“We can ensure that the money goes to the correct person and the role of middleman is ended with direct transfer of benefits to the needy,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a crowd of thousands in the Rajasthani town of Dudu on October 20, as he launched the programme, accompanied by the president of his Congress party, Sonia Gandhi.

Following a slew of reforms aimed at jolting Asia’s third largest economy from a deep slump, the plan could over medium term bring some order to India’s troublesome fiscal deficit by plugging leakages of subsidized grain, fuel and fertilizer.

Two years ago, a McKinsey report estimated such an electronic platform for government payments to households would save up to $18 billion annually – enough to wipe out one-sixth of a fiscal deficit that could hit 6 percent of GDP this fiscal year.

In the next year alone, the government plans to transfer the wages for over 50 million workers in a rural job scheme, along with pensions for 20 million senior citizens and about 5 million education scholarships and some fuel subsidies directly to bank accounts linked with the Aadhaar identity number.

But in Beelaheri, a small village in the Rajasthani region of Kotkasim where the kerosene pilot began last year, hundreds of bank accounts have been set up without referencing the UID database, as the government pushes ahead with the politically rewarding cash transfers before readying Aadhar to identify the correct beneficiaries.

Critics warn good intentions are already being undermined by the hurry ahead of a national election due in 2014 and by vested interests, including bureaucrats and politicians in states, who stand to lose discretion over distributing funds.

The government is aiming for about two trillion rupees of cash transfers under different schemes by March 2014 even if the distribution of the ID numbers is incomplete, according to several media reports.

By lowering costs, Aadhaar could make a planned food subsidy programme that is a pet project of the left-leaning Sonia Gandhi easier to finance, for example.

The Congress party is banking on that programme to help it win a third consecutive term, despite voter anger at graft.

(Graphic on ID cards, subsidies: link.reuters.com/mek53t)

REALITY CHECK

The pilot project in Beelaheri, a village of 2,000 people some 130 km (81 miles) southwest of Delhi, replaces kerosene subsidies with cash rebates and has been running since December. It has massively lowered demand for the subsidized fuel, which weighs on government finances.

But teething problems are immediately visible.

Hundreds of new Aadhaar ID cards are strewn in messy piles on the counter of a small tea-shop on the edge of the village. Locals drift in and rifle through the cards, looking for their own.

The government has begun the cash transfers even to people who have not received their cards, said Pushkar Raj Sharma, a local government official overseeing the scheme in the area.

On the back foot over multiple corruption allegations, the government is desperate to win back voters with effective welfare programs without further blowing out a fiscal deficit being closely watched by global credit ratings agencies.

The government is likely to spend over $55 billion this fiscal year ending in March on fuel, fertiliser and food subsidies, as well as a flagship scheme guaranteeing 100 days of work a year to rural labourers, and other welfare programmes.

Launched by Singh in 51 districts, the government says the direct cash transfer plan will eliminate millions of fraudulent benefit claimants over the next 4-5 years. It says Aadhaar could reduce subsidies by about one percentage point of GDP.

The Kotkasim plan, one of five small pilot projects across India, offers insight into issues the wider Aadhaar-direct transfer project may face when it is rolled out nationally.

Sharma said the project had cut the amount of kerosene being sold to one-eighth of the earlier levels, partially due to elimination of “ghost beneficiaries,” or duplicate identities used to claim benefits.

But he also admitted the pilot had been rolled out with little coordination with the UID database and that funds being transferred arrived only sporadically in bank accounts.

“Funds are not coming in time. Otherwise the scheme is very useful to check leakages,” Sharma said.

Many villagers were frustrated at the new system, which makes them pay market rates up to three times the subsidized cost of kerosene, and then makes it difficult to recover the money.

Tailor Dharam Pal said he had simply stopped buying kerosene he was entitled to because he faced a lengthy visit to the bank to withdraw the rebate, often to find it had not been deposited.

“I have no idea when the money will come and I have to spend half of my working day every time to visit the bank,” said Pal.

Instead, many villagers are buying more easily available cooking gas, suggesting lower kerosene sales in part represent a drop in legitimate use.

Lower sales are good for government finances whatever the reason – but obstacles to cheap fuel do not play well with voters.

“The government will have to pay a price in elections. Not even half of the people in village are buying kerosene.” said Tulsi Ram, 45, a villager.

Critics warn the goal of registering the biometric data of 1.2 billion people — currently being carried out by two different enrollment programmes — and bringing the masses of rural India into the banking system could face big problems if the wrinkles are not quickly ironed out.

“I would call it a logistical nightmare,” said Jyotinder Kaur, an economist at HDFC Bank, India’s No. 3 lender.

Kaur feared the system would be still vulnerable to graft, whereby one person could obtain multiple cards during their distribution, for example.

“I would be very cautious given the implementation risks, and the size of the population and the fact that there is really no sanctity attached to the UID,” Kaur said.

(Additional reporting by Arup Roychoudhury; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Simon Cameron-Moore)

 

Laying a new #aadhaar, without a debate ? #UID


 Oci courtesy- The Hindu
Pratap Bhanu Mehta Posted online: Thu Oct 25 2012, 02:13 hrs
The paradigm shift in welfare needs as much public debate as corruptionIndia is at two critical inflection points. Its administrative practice was corrupt, secretive, hierarchical, arbitrary and overtly centralised. The welfare architecture that went with this state leaked like a sieve, produced all kinds of price and productivity distortions, was captured by the powerful and caught in a rigid bureaucratic logic. The revolt against old administrative practice is now being played out in the open. It has not followed a neat institutional logic, but it has brought us to the point where it is clear that business as usual cannot continue. But we are potentially in game-changing territory on the welfare architecture as well. With the launch of Aadhaar-linked cash transfer schemes, we are putting together the building blocks of another possible but exciting paradigm shift. The paradigm change in welfare needs as much public debate and attention as corruption.

In some ways, the political economy effects of the potential paradigm shift in our welfare architecture could be momentous. We are in a moment of great possibility, but we need to think through exactly what we are doing to build this new architecture very carefully. The design of large-scale welfare systems, once institutionalised, is very difficult to change. It took half a century to get modest healthcare reform in the US. Under the 12th plan, there is going to be unprecedented spending on a healthcare system. But there is no evidence yet that we have the foggiest idea of how to design an incentive-compatible system that will actually yield results. Most institutional debates in healthcare, for example, seem blissfully unaware of complex ground conditions and behavioural issues that need to be taken into account while designing the grand new architecture we are proposing.

The potential of Aadhaar has been discussed more. There are legitimate concerns over privacy that still need to be addressed. But the case for moving towards cash transfers is quite compelling. In moral terms, it gives citizens the autonomy to exercise the kind of subtle choice they need to cope with varying and difficult circumstances. There is an obtuse paternalism in claims that the poor cannot make relatively rational choices. The idea of millions of women directly receiving cash in their bank accounts is an enticing and empowering one. The practical case is also quite compelling. It would be a little Panglossian to argue that Aadhaar will eliminate all corruption. But there is no doubt that it has the potential to remove a lot of intermediaries as far as citizens are concerned. In the case of fertiliser and fuel subsidies, it could liberate us from the worst distortions in pricing and the sheer criminality the current system produces.

There are important issues of technical detail in assessing the promise of this paradigm shift now under way. But there are some puzzles about the way in which the political establishment is framing the shift to a new welfare paradigm. First, sections of the establishment seem to think that Aadhaar allows us to bypass the need to build capacity in the state, as if this were one technological solution to a human organisation problem. In fact, the opposite is true. Over the course of its development, Aadhaar will require an even more sophisticated state. There is sophistication in the Aadhaar team, but unless that percolates into all other parts of the bureaucracy we will end up with the same dysfunctional system with a layer of technology. I suspect some of the luke-warmness to the potential of Aadhaar comes from this thought. For years we have, justifiably, been fed the idea of state failure. To turn around and then ask citizens to trust the state with something potentially as game-changing as Aadhaar is still a leap of faith for most. Aadhaar can be a catalyst for state reform. But there has to be more evidence that these changes in the other parts of the state are indeed being catalysed. The rot of the old bureaucracy still casts a shadow over any promise Aadhaar might have.

Second, there is the issue of political framing. The problem with the UPA is that it thinks it can have everything. Hopefully, the fiscal crisis will jolt it out of its stupor and force it to make some choices. So on the one hand, it has to be credited for going down this path of building a new architecture. On the other hand, a lot of its most visible political commitments smack so much of the old, ossified paradigm that you are not sure which way it will eventually turn. The issue of PDS is a complicated one. In part, the complication comes from the uneven development geography of India. In some areas, potential starvation is still an issue; while in most of India the debate now has to shift to nutrition rather than starvation. There is a possibility that the supply response to potential spending in cash may indeed vary. So it is possible that we may need a modest PDS even with cash transfers. But what is clear is that the proposed food security bill is a travesty that promises the worst of both possible worlds. It delivers less than what many states are already delivering; at the same time, its logic is completely at odds with the new supple and flexible architectures that are now becoming a possibility. So Aadhaar, if implemented well, signals the possibility of a 21st century welfare state. The food security bill is a throwback to the 1970s, with all the distortions and rigidities of the old system. Which signal should we pick up?

Finally there is the uncertain political economy. Much has been made of the literature that suggests that cash transfers in Latin America favoured incumbents. Depending on the timing and context, cash transfers can have electoral consequences. But apart from one shot effects, we do not yet know enough about the dynamic political effects of a cash-based welfare regime. Current subsidies have been hugely distortionary. But they were under limits induced by the fear of inflation. Because delivery was relatively hard and ineffective, political mileage was more limited. But with an effective cash based system, the temptation to run ahead of fiscal sustainability and productivity may be even greater.

A less distortionary, more effective and autonomy-inducing welfare state is possible. But we need to attend to it with more diligence. There is no stopping India, if it can use this inflection on accountability and welfare to do away with the old regime and usher in a new.

 

The writer, president of the Centre for Policy Research, is contributing editor, ‘The Indian Express

express@expressindia.com

 

 

Immediate – Release – Malicious Campaign against Teesta Setlavad by the Newspaper’ The Pioneer “


25.10.2012

Press Release

 

CJP Rebuts Malicious Campaign by The Pioneer

 

The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a Mumbai based registered trust strongly rebuts the malicious campaign once again launched by the Pioneer a newspaper edited by Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Chandan Mitra. In a story laced with outright falsehoods the newspaper has alleged that the CJP has violated the law, namely the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

 

Since we work in the public domain we place the following facts for your information while emphasising that what the Pioneer  has been resorting to since 2010 constitutes unprofessional journalism: not once were we contacted before this or other stories was carried. In October 2010 we had through our lawyers issued a legal notice to the newspaper (pasted below) following a spate of articles which visibly toned down that newspaper’s coverage after the notice. This time too legal action will follow.

 

The CJP has not violated any law or rule and has collected donations for its primarily legal rights work from national and international sources through lawful means. The Pioneer deliberately picks out CJP’s Secretary Teesta Setalvad for its remarks on violations when it is not her but a Board of Trustees that have been functioning collectively and supporting this work. Teesta is deliberately being projected as recipient with malicious intent.

 

CJP provides legitimate legal aid to help victims of mass crimes to access justice, a Constitutional mandate supported by international human rights standards. Bringing perpetrators of violence to justice – is being deliberately dubbed as mala fide activity.

 

“Seeking donations in the name of helping riot victims” is a vague generalization. Different donors made contributions for specific purposes and not something as vague as “helping riot victims”.  The donations received by CJP were for two very specific objectives:

 

(1) Legal Aid to victims of the mass crimes: We emphatically state that the foreign contributions received by CJP for legal aid were accordingly earmarked and used for that very purpose.

 

(2) Aid for Two Ambulances for Mumbai City: In the wake of the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, a need was felt for a citizens’ initiative to augment the existing ambulance service in Mumbai. This was in view of the fact that very many people who received bullet injuries at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus simply bled to death because they were not enough ambulances to rush the injured to hospitals. We again emphatically state that the foreign contributions received by CJP for legal aid were accordingly earmarked and used for that very purpose. Two ambulances purchased with such contributions have been in service in Mumbai since 2009. Donations from international music personalities and groups including Jethro Tull through his manager Ian Anderson, Naomi Campbell, Chatwals (through the IMG Lakme group) were received to run these two ambulances that even today run in Mumbai.

 

(3) The foreign contribution received from Ford Foundation was for “Peace building activities in Gujarat & Maharashtra”. We affirm that the money was earmarked and utilized accordingly.  It was a grant received for a period of 3 years, received in three annual instalments after submission and approval by Ford Foundation of annual narrative and financial reports.Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand are only two of the  6 trustees of Sabrang Trust.

 

Since 2010, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFT) has been supporting our legal work and the amount received from them has been utilized for legal aid alone as per the itemized budget approved by UNVFVT (United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture). It is a matter of great pride for CJP that its legal efforts to bring justice to the victims of the communal carnage in Gujarat is supported by UN agency and administered by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva.

 

The CJP would like to emphasise that the accounts of both CJP and Sabrang Trust are audited annually within the stipulated time every financial year and the audited accounts along with the auditor’s report are submitted regularly in the prescribed format to the Income Tax Department, the Charity Commissioner’s Office and the FCRA department of the Union ministry of Home Affairs.

 

The CJP with its committed Board of Trustees consisting of IM Kadri (President), Nandan Maluste (Vice President), Arvind Krishnaswamy (Treasurer), Teesta Setalvad (Secretary), Cyrus Guzder (Trustee), Alyque Padamsee (Trustee), Anil Dharker (Trustee), Javed Akhtar (Trustee), Taizoon Khorakiwala (Trustee), Rahul Bose (Trustee), Javed Anand (Trustee), Gulam Pesh Imam (Trustee), Cedric Prakash (Trustee) stands by the work it has undertaken to ensure implementation of the rule of law through providing legal assistance to victims and witnesses of mass crimes.

 

Both the CJP and Sabrang Trusts are two separate entities. All expenses of both trusts are incurred after sanction is received from the Trustees.

 

From September 2010 right until when our lawyer Ms Aparna Bhat served a legal notice on The Pioneer  on October 23 2010, this newspaper has first indulged in pathetic, one-sided slander-mongering against Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (Copy of Legal Notice pasted below) even going to the journalistically unprofessional levels of publishing Teesta Setalvad’s colour photograph on the editorial page, simply based on one-sided and vicious statements of a former employee who had been discontinued due to unprofessional activities on 18.1.2008. After the legal notice, some semblance at objectivity was pursued by the newspaper.

 

Now again on 25.10.2012, a series of falsehoods have been published by The Pioneer, with a deliberate and malicious intent. The CJP would like to state that The Pioneer is functioning like the cheap propaganda wing of the party in power in Gujarat and not a newspaper. The fact remains that CJP’s consistent legal aid to victims and witnesses has been one of the factors –along with the Supreme Court’s monitoring and witness protection — enabling them to depose in Courts against powerful accused. It is these vested interests supported by the powerful in the state which are, in a concerted fashion, launching this current malicious and ill-intentioned attack on CJP.

 

We would also like to point out that previously vicious allegations of “tutoring” by CJP have been unequivocally turned down and rejected by the trial courts in Gujarat (Sardarpura and Naroda Patiya cases-2011,2012), Best Bakery case (2006.2012) and SC Registrar General’s Report (2005). Despite this spokespersons and lawyers of the ruling party in Gujarat continue to spout falsehoods on television in the media. The Pioneer in general and through its article published today, is part of this pattern.

The persistent falsehoods against our organization despite this vindication in courts of law is a tactic and part of the vicious rumour-mongering that the political party responsible for the violence in the state of Gujarat and its parent organizations are well-known for. The motivations behind earlier campaigns by the Pioneer, edited by a man who is member of Parliament from the party that is in power in Gujarat, and other spokespersons are not simply to malign CJP—the real motive is to intimidate witnesses and even attempt to obstruct the course of public justice.

 

I.M. Kadri                                           Nandan Maluste                                Teesta Setalvad

(President)                                         (Vice President)                                 (Secretary)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Trustees:

Arvind Krishnaswamy                         Javed Akhtar              Cyrus Guzder                               

Alyque Padamsee                              Anil Dharker                Javed Anand

Rahul Bose                                         Cedric Prakash           Ghulam Pesh Imam

Taizoon Khorakiwala

 

 

 

 

Legal Notice Sent on 23.10.2010

23.10. 2010

 

Editor,

Pioneer

Chandan Mitra

 

Dear Sir,

 

I am retained by and act under instructions from the Citizens for Justice and Peace who has advised me that your newspaper Pioneer has been carrying a series of slanderous articles against them particularly targeting their Secretary, Ms.Teesta Setalvad.

My clients advise me that since the past two months especially, but even earlier, months on    6.9.2009,  7.9.2009, 8.9.2009. 10.9.2010, 12.9.2010, 22.09.2010, 18.10.2010 and 19.10.2010, 20.10.2010 and 22.10.2010 Days you have made allegations against the Secretary stating that she has influenced witnesses, altered their versions of their statements and is trying to mislead the course of justice. My clients advise me that these allegations are an utter distortion of the truth and slanderous, made with a political motive to protect those accused of heinous crimes in 2002. They advise me that since you belong to the same political party that is currently the ruling dispensation in Gujarat and which is being criminally investigated for conspiracy into mass murder etc. you have a vested interest in these slanderous and defamatory reports.

 

My clients further advise me that you are making these baseless allegations on the basis of alleged disclosure made to you by a former employee of my client without verifying the same from my client and not verifying the facts.  In your newspaper, you are also carrying the same allegations either attributed to this former employee, or some of the accused in the ongoing trials or the State of Gujarat itself.

 

My clients further advise me that the articles are being published at a time when the trials are in progress and eye witnesses are deposing, and moreover that a criminal investigation into the political dispensation in Gujarat is underway and is aimed at, if not likely to affect the course of justice and is a clear case of interference with the administration of justice.

In the circumstances you are hereby called upon to desist from carrying out these articles, which are clearly slanderous and defamatory in nature immediately failing which my clients would be forced to take appropriate legal action both criminal and civil as they may be advised.

 

I am sure that you would comply with the requisition contained herein and thus obviate the necessity of having to initiate any action against you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Aparna Bhat

 

How safe is Bangalore for North East Indians? Where is ‘rule of law’?


2:50 AM, 25th October 2012, Bangalore, Manohar  Elavarthi

I feel very tired and exhausted after spending 5 hours running around in the Bangalore City, waiting in front of Seshadripuram Police Station and interacting with the police personnel. I am writing this in the midnight as what I saw today is extremely disturbing and frustrating.

Tejaswini, activist handing the 24×7 NorthEast telephone helpline (http://northeastsolidarity.blogspot.in/2012/08/north-east-helpline-launched-in.html) on behalf of Peace and Solidarity Forum received a phone call at around 9:30 PM on 24th October 2012 from a person of Tripura origin living in Seshadripuram area. He told that North East Indians living in his building were facing constant physical assaults, extortion and threats using dangerous weapons for the past 2 months. Tejaswini, Bharati, Hanumath, Harish, Prakashraj (fellow activists from Praja Rajakiya Vedike http://www.facebook.com/prajarajakiya) and myself rushed from different locations of Bangalore and reached Seshadripuram around 10:15 PM.

We met 8 North East Indians (from Assam and Tripura) living in the same building, 4 people each living in a small room with very little ventilation. They are working as security guards/ sales persons in Mantri Mall/ Orion Mall/ nationalised banks/ other establishments in the nearby localities. These workers didn’t leave Bangalore City during the exodus of estimated 30000 North East Indians out of Bangalore City in August 2012. These people try to save as much as possible from their meagre salaries to be sent to the families back home in the North East. Their ordeal began after Ramzan in end-August.

4 goondas named Karan, Santosh, Manjunath and Ramesh, who live in the same locality started coming in the night, mostly in groups of 2/3 and harass, abuse, threaten and extort money from these North East workers. Multiple time they used sharp knives to threatened these workers and threatened to kill them if they don’t give them money. Multiple times many North East workers were physically assaulted. On the afternoon of 6th October 2012 (Karnataka Bundh on Cauvery issue) 2 of the goondas physically assaulted a worker and asked him to collect Rs. 500/- each from the workers’ from their monthly wages (generally received on 10th day of each month) and give it to the goondas if they want to be be safe. The goondas threatened to kill all the North East workers otherwise.

This seems to have led to most of the 100+ North East workers living in the building running away from there in the past 20 days. Some have shifted to other areas and others have left Bangalore City. Those who continue to live there faced increased brutality. Goondas physically attacked 2 North East workers on 23rd October 2012 night and extorted Rs. 2000/- from them. In the morning of 24th October 2012, the workers went to the Seshdripuram Police Station and complained about their ordeal. Police didn’t bother to take any action. Same day at 7:30 PM the goondas barged into a room, hit a North East worker and snatched his N-70 NOKIA mobile phone away. The workers started calling their people in Tripura and Assam. According to them one of their friend from Tripura got the NorthEast helpline telephone number from the Chief Minister of Tripura (?).

The North East workers told us that they have to give a large amount of their money to these goondas. They said that they are fed-up of giving their hard earned money to these goondas and having no money to celebrate the festival (most of them are Hindu and others are Muslim). By around 10:45 PM we went to the Seshadripuram Police Station. In spite of all our efforts the police personnel were not willing to register the complaint or take action in catching the goondas (the workers wanted to show the houses of goondas so that they can be caught by the police). The police showed no interest in doing their duty. We were told by the police personnel to come on 25th morning as the Police Inspector will come to the station at that time. After waiting (and standing as they made us wait outside the station, where there is no seating) for more than 2 hours in front of the police station, we decided to inform the media.

In spite of it being middle of the night, media personnel from many Kannada-news channels and 1/2 newspapers reached the station in less than 15 minutes time. After media starting to interact with the victims, police started doing their duty. Police started pressurising us to lodge the police complaint before talking to the media. With in 30 minutes time, the Police Inspector also arrived at the station. Police were able to detain 3 of the 4 accused in the Police Station within the next 30 minutes. I am not sure what would have happened without the media presence. Police suddenly started offering us chairs to sit inside the station. They promised security for the North East workers today night. They took the written complaint of the workers and promised to give the FIR copy tomorrow morning.

Even when the police were doing their work after the media intervention, the driver of police Zeep threatened 2 of our activists who accompanied the North East workers in the Zeep to identify the houses of the goondas. He told that there will be no safety for North East workers if we lodge a complaint against the goondas. He told that the goondas have a lot of support in the area and that 50000 strong crowd from the area will hit the North East workers and our activists tomorrow. He told the activists not to register a complaint against the goondas.

Why are the police not-responsive to us? Why is police driver seems to be on the side of goondas? Why are police seem to be soft on these goondas? Do police benefit by being soft on goondas? If this is the police response when a large section of activists come to police station, what will be the police response for the complaints of ordinary citizens and particularly those from disadvantaged sections of society?

Will these North East Indians get justice? Will they be chased away from the area soon. We also heard that one of the goonda (Karan) has multiple police cases against him already. Are we putting the North East Indians in danger by asking them to take action against gross injustice?

This is not the first time, there are many instances of police neglect in the past as well, some of them are

- police took more than 2 hours in the night to visit the house of a North East Indian in Koramangala area who was threatened

- police took more than 2 hours in the night, when a house of North East students were attacked in Banaswadi area with stones, after reaching the place the drunk policeman demanded money from the students

- police didn’t book a case against a senior police officer and his son for brutally assaulting 4 North-East students in the National Games Village recently. Police seems to have fed the false story in the media that the students were drunk and were dancing to the loud music in their flat when the incident took place. Forget loud music, the flat itself was locked at that time. The 4 students were waiting downstairs after coming to visit their friend (who stays in a flat in that apartment complex) as their friend was away. This happens in a place where 2 senior-most officers of North East origin – Mr. Lalrokhuma Pachao (present Director General of Police, Karanatka) and Mr. HT Sangliana (ex-Bangalore City Police Commissioner and ex-Member of Parliament elected to Loksabha from Bangalore City) live in the same area.

It looks like there is no ‘rule of law’. Police are supposed to enforce the ‘rule of law’. Where do ordinary people who have no activist or media connections go? Is there some home? Is there some way?

I will end here, for now.

CONTACT MANOHAR AT - manoharban@gmail.com

#RIP-Goodbye, #Jaspal Bhatti: India’s poker faced satirist, beloved common man INDIAN TV


 

Famous comedian Jaspal Bhatti died in a road accident near Jalandhar on Thursday. Bhatti was going to Nakodar from Bhatinda for the promotion of his upcoming film ‘Power Cut’. The accident happened on Shahkot area of Jalandhar. Bhatti’s car rammed into a roadside tree.

Bhatti’s son and actress Surilie Gautam of his upcoming film were injured in the mishap. Both the injured have been admitted to the hospital. Jaspal Bhatti was one of the pioneers of Indian comedy, and his shows ‘Flop Show‘ and ‘Ulta Pulta’ were one of the earliest socio-political satire works on TV.

 

, Updated Oct 25, 2012 at 12:14pm IST
Rituparna Chatterjee, IBNLive.com

Fate has misdirected this episode of ‘Flop Show’. India‘s first stand-up artiste & satirist Jaspal Bhatti is dead.

It was a two minute stand up section with a 20 second skit on the same subject. The capsule, ‘Ulta Pulta’, was the Hindi version of his topsy-turvy grasp of rampant corruption and the humour in everyday life.


Bhatti began his stint with the Tribune newspaper in 1982 as a cartoonist with a column ‘Oddly Speaking’ on social malaise. He remained with the paper for five-six years before specialising in television stand-up, one of India’s first in this field.
Equally popular was his ‘Flop Show’ that changed TV’s TRP game in the 90s. Each episode started with a lengthy skit and wrapped up with a parody. The credits of the show were nothing Indian audiences had ever seen. Bhatti poked fun at the world, but first, he parodied himself with opening credit that said ‘Misdirected by Jaspal Bhatti’, ‘Underground Singers’, ‘Camera Jerks’ and ‘Jarring Music’ and ‘Over Actors’.
The actors – Jaspal Bhatti himself, wife Savita and Vivek Shauq – became household names for their poker face acts. He went on to write and direct two more shows – ‘Full Tension’ and ‘Thank You Jija Ji’. His ‘Nonsense Club’ was India’s first humour club. The street plays enacted through this club would draw attention to social evils.
His foray into cinema started in 1996 with his Punjabi feature film ‘Mahaul Theek Hai‘ in Chandigarh that parodied the police. Since then he has acted in several films, including Mausam (2011), Fanaa (2006), Kuch Naa Kaho (2003), Tujhe Meri Kasam (2003), Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe (2002), Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai (2000), Kartoos (1999), Aa Ab Laut Chalen (1999) and Jaanam Samjha Karo (1999).
He was promoting his film ‘Power Cut’ – a Punjabi comedy which will be released on October 26 when he met with the fatal accident. Power Cut is produced by P&R Films in association with Mad Arts, Jaspal Bhatti Film School.

Born on March 3, 1955 at Amritsar in a Rajput Sikh family, Bhatti graduated from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh as an electrical engineer.

He became popular with his street plays in the city. His plays were spoofs ridiculing corruption in society.

Before venturing into television, he was a cartoonist for the The Tribune newspaper in Chandigarh.

After a successful stint on television with his show, Bhatti’s subsequently acted in Hindi and Punjabi films and got his due recognition in the film industry with Salman Khan starrer “Janam Samjha Karo” in 1999 where he played Salman’s personal secretary.

Bhatti played the role of Jolly Good Singh, a guard, in Aamir Khan-Kajol starrer ‘Fanaa’. He also starred in the comedy Punjabi film ‘Jijaji’. His first directorial venture was a feature film in his native Punjabi language ‘Mahaul Theek Hai’, a humorous take on Punjab police. It was well received amongst audience.

Bhatti appeared on many reality shows after that. He was seen in ‘Comedy ka King Kaun’ as a co-judge with actress Divya Dutta and also presented his dancing abilities in ‘Nach Baliye’ with wife Savita.

Bhatti set up a training school and a studio in Mohali near Chandigarh called ‘Joke Factory’ and also an animation school ‘Mad Arts’, where he launched a new 52-episode comedy series titled ‘Thank You Jijaji’.

The school also produced an animation film on female foeticide which won the second prize in the Advantage India organized by 1take media. It won a certificate of merit at the IDPA-2008 Awards in Mumbai.

The comedian’s latest film ‘Power Cut’, is based on the frequent power cuts in Punjab

India’s welfare system fails, poor don’t get money


 

 
Thursday, October 25, 2012

BUDHI BAWAL, India: Uddal Singh, a retired army sergeant, is part of an experiment trying out radical changes to the Indian welfare system that the government plans to adopt nation-wide. And he’s furious.

 

He along with the 250,000 residents of Kotkasim, a bloc of Alwar district in western Rajasthan state, were chosen to be part of a pilot scheme to end the sale of subsidised kerosene, a fuel used by the poor for lighting and cooking.

 

Instead of buying it at a heavily discounted rate at the local government shop, those with ration cards were each in theory paid cash by the government and required to purchase the liquid at the market price.

 

“Since one year, no money has come into my account, not one paisa (cent),” the mustachioed 58-year-old said bitterly in the village of Budhi Bawal, a dusty one-street settlement of a few thousand people, mostly farmers.

 

Instead of lighting his kerosene lamps, he says he now makes do with candles at night.

 

Officials “come here to the shop, see the record of our ration card numbers and say the money will come,” he explained outside the grubby Fair Price Shop run by the local government dealer.

 

The Kotkasim trial has been disruptive, tricky to implement, and — depending on who you listen to — either a roaring success in cutting wasteful state spending, or a disaster that has caused hardship.

 

The conclusions are important.

 

In New Delhi, where the trial is viewed as a model for the future, the government is fast-tracking plans to distribute as much of India’s $61-billion welfare budget in cash as possible.

 

India is home to hundreds of millions of some of the poorest people on the planet who depend on government hand-outs for survival.

 

“As long as the money arrives in people’s accounts, the scheme is not a bad idea at all,” village leader Rakesh Kumar told AFP in an interview.

 

But he estimates 70 percent of people in his area have had problems receiving the cash.

 

“We have had to deal with the fall-out of the government’s experiments.”

 

The attraction of paying cash to the poor and leaving them to spend it has been enhanced by two foreign programmes which are broadly seen as successful: Mexico’s Progresa or Oportunidades, and Brazil’s Bolsa Familia.

 

Under the cash model, governments can keep track of the money they spend better, cut out middlemen, and even make the money conditional on beneficial things such as sending children to school.

 

They also bring the poor into the banking system, obliging them to open accounts to receive welfare payments.

 

Nandan Nilekani, who runs the government’s scheme handing out new biometric IDs known as Aadhar, says the system has already reduced fraud.

 

“When Aadhar is used, in some of pilots, there has been a 20-30 percent reduction in beneficiaries by reducing duplicants,” he says, pointing to trials in the states of Tripura, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.

 

Nation-wide 200 million people already have a new unique Aadhar ID and Nilekani’s scheme aims to cover half the population, or 600 million people, in the next 18 months.

 

“On the basis of Aadhaar, we can ensure that the benefit of schemes reach genuine beneficiaries and that there is no mediator,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last weekend.

 

India subsidises everything from fertilizer and food to kerosene so cutting waste is crucial to the government’s drive to rein in its budget deficit.

 

But a welfare shake-up is politically risky and fraught with danger in a country where an estimated 42 percent of children under five are malnourished.

 

The Public Distribution System is the biggest such scheme in the world, providing subsidised kerosene, wheat and rice to up to a quarter of all households from cob-webbed shops of the sort seen in Budhi Bawal.

 

It is also staggeringly inefficient. An estimated 58 percent of grains purchased by the government fail to meet their intended targets, data from the national Planning Commission showed in 2005.

 

The results in Kotkasim are described by the top local administrator, District Collector Ashutosh Pednekar, as “remarkable”.

 

Figures from his office show kerosene consumption has fallen 82 percent since the cash scheme began, a saving for the government of 1.5 million rupees ($30,000) per month.

 

Before, crooked dealers would siphon off subsidised kerosene at 15 rupees a litre and sell it on the black market for around 30 rupees, where it was purchased as a cheap replacement for diesel to run tractors or generators.

 

Those entitled to discounted fuel also had an incentive to draw their full allotment — up to three litres per month — and then sell it on at a profit.

 

“The diversion of kerosene for purposes other than cooking and lighting has been stopped,” Pednekar told AFP.

 

“The moment you start selling kerosene at a market price, the business collapses for those with a business in ‘leakages’,” added the 34-year-old.

 

Under the next phase of his plan, the sale of subsidised cooking gas cylinders will be phased out in Kotkasim.

 

In five months time, the whole of Pednekar’s district of Alwar, home to 3.7 million people, will move over to the cash transfer system for kerosene.

 

While he conceded people were “not going gaga” over the cash system, “by now, there would have been a hue and cry” if they had not received the money. In the dusty villages of the trial area, AFP spoke to households who said the cash had indeed arrived promptly.

 

But there was also anger and confusion.

 

Some complained of surly bank officials who refused to help them; others said repeated complaints had come to naught; many said they had either stopped buying kerosene altogether or were now paying the higher price from their own pockets.

 

John Blomquist, an economist from the World Bank in New Delhi and expert on welfare programmes, says cash transfers can be an effective strategy to cut fuel and power subsidies.

 

“As countries get more developed, you tend to see fewer in-kind benefits” such as subsidised fuel, he told AFP.

 

“You can design a great cash transfer system, but it’s really about do you have the mechanism in place to implement well? Can you monitor well?”

 

 

#INDIA-Activists, academics take out anti-Kudankulam protest in #Bangalore #nuclear


BANGALORE, October 25, 2012

Staff Reporter

Safety first:Anti-nuclear activists and members of the New Socialist Alternative protesting at the Town Hall in Bangalore on Wednesday.— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Safety first:Anti-nuclear activists and members of the New Socialist Alternative protesting at the Town Hall in Bangalore on Wednesday.— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Academics, activists and students gathered at the Town Hall on Wednesday evening to express solidarity with residents of Kudankulam, who have been resisting the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.

Organised by the New Socialist Alternative, the demonstration saw participation from various anti-nuclear activist groups and organisations that have been campaigning for the rights of the Tamil-speaking population in Sri Lanka.

Protesters spoke about the repression of people in Kudankulam, and on the perils of nuclear energy and plants in the wake of the massive nuclear meltdown of reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011.

“With such nuclear plants, there is always a possibility of great accidents. We need to look at other possible alternatives such as solar energy,” said Atul Chokshi, professor from the Indian Institute of Science. Prof. Chokshi emphasised that the consent of residents should be taken before any such development plans.

Ambrose Pinto, principal of St. Josephs’ College of Arts and Sciences, said the government’s role in and response to the Kudankulam issue has been “entirely disappointing”.

“This is a very strong example of being anti-democratic. There are so many people living close to the plant. The radiation will affect them,” he said.

Condemned

The protesters singled out the former president A.P.J Abdul Kalam, and condemned his call for support for the nuclear project. They demanded that all existing and future nuclear projects be suspended.

 

Ailing boy among 7 Indian fishermen released #India #Pakistan #Goodnews


October 25, 2012 by Shazia Hasan, Dawn

KARACHI, Oct 24: “I am not a fisherman. I was never meant to be here,” said 17-year-old Kishan Babu before being released from the Malir district prison here on Wednesday.

The young Indian from Gujarat said that he was only on an outing at sea with his fisherman uncle when they found themselves in Pakistani waters where they were taken into custody and their boat seized.

That was in November 2011. And Kishan’s uncle, Dana Bhai, has also been released in the meantime while Kishan himself was declared unfit for travel by doctors despite his name being in the list of prisoners for release as many as four times.

The boy was being treated for brain abscess at the Civil Hospital Karachi with other Indian fishermen confirming the fact that he had water coming out of his ears while on the boat last year.

Kishan’s name first came up for release on May 17, 2012, but it was only now that he was considered well enough to travel in the coach that would take the seven fishermen to Lahore from where they would be handed over to the Indian authorities at Wagah on Thursday morning.

About his impression of the people of Pakistan and their attitude towards him, Kishan, who still looked frail, said that everyone had been very kind to him. “I wasn’t very clear about my future after passing class 10, but now I want to become a doctor like the doctors and surgeons who took care of me here,” Kishan told Dawn.

The other fishermen have been here for six months. Among them was Krishan Soma Saraniya. “I have a wife and six children back home. They hadn’t a clue as to what had happened to me until I sent them a message through another fisherman who was released from here three months ago.

Now my family writes to me. They call, too, but I prefer letters to phone calls because I can’t handle their crying. They always cry when they call,” he said with eyes brimming with tears.

“Now it’s my turn to cry,” he said looking slightly embarrassed at getting emotional on being released.

“There are nine more fishermen who were arrested around the same time as we, but their names didn’t come up this time,” said 22-year-old Vipul. He said he would still be catching fish after retuning to India, but would be more careful next time.

“I have two younger sisters and two younger brothers back home and with them still in school, and me not there, my poor father is finding it very hard to make both ends meet,” he said. “Fishing is what I know. It is what I do.”

All the other men — Ramesh Sagal Chawda, Amrit Lal Badiya, Harshit and Bhagal Bhagvan — were glad to be leaving, too, finally, their bags neatly packed and lined up by a wall in the prison.

A polythene bag on one of the bags had a few juice boxes and biscuit packets.

“They are for Kishan,” said Amrit Lal Badiya. “He has completed his medicine courses but has been advised to take plenty of juices and biscuits to get his strength back,” he added while lending his recuperating friend a shoulder to lean on.

Meanwhile, a few Indian fishermen inmates also came to say goodbye to the seven who were leaving. They also wanted to see them off outside where the wagon arranged by Legal Aid Office, headed by retired Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, stood waiting for them.

“Where do you think you all are off to? Back to your barracks please now. Don’t think you can fool us into getting out. You are in jail. Not even a fly gets out of here without being noticed,” said a jail staffer wagging a finger at the Indian inmates jokingly as the others were allowed to leave.