RBI to banks: Don’t deny education loans based on location #goodnews #mustshare


by  Nov 9, 2012
If you are a student, looking for an education loan, you have some good news. Well almost. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in it’s notification has warned banks to not reject education loans to students just because the student does not fall under the bank’s service area.

Why: Because RBI has been been receiving a number of complaints where students have been refused educational loan as the residence of the borrower does not fall under the bank’s service area.

RBI has asked banks to issue suitable instructions to all their branches for meticulous and strict compliance of these guidelines. Reuters

Exemption: However the central banks also clarified that the service area norms are to be followed by banks in case of Government sponsored schemes for education.

What: RBI has asked banks to issue suitable instructions to all their branches for meticulous and strict compliance of these guidelines.

In mid August, Finance Minister, P Chidambaram had said to various Public Sector Banks, that education loan is a right of every student.

And, if any PSU banker was found rejecting a large number of education loan application, they could be penalised for rejecting the application.

Looks like, education loans norms are becoming student friendly, one step at a time.

 

Asian Human Rights Commission INDIA: Despicable policing


November 12, 2012

AHRC-STM-226-2012-01Once again, the country’s judiciary has underlined the fact that there is something fundamentally wrong with the police in India. On 7 November, the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, Justice Vikramajit Sen, while hearing a case said, “I never understand why the police always take the side of villains. Whether it is Haryana or Karnataka, it is the same.” Justice Sen, chairing the Division Bench of the court was hearing a criminal case. Expressing concern about the conduct of police with regard to women, Justice Sen said, ” … the police have no sympathy over the plight of the [rape] victim … Until it happens to their families, they cannot understand”, concluded the court.

The courts in India, including the Supreme Court, on several occasions have lashed out at the police and other law enforcement agencies in the country, each time expressing concern of the fact that these agencies are professionally unfit to undertake their mandate. For instance the Kerala High Court while hearing a case relating to crimes committed by the state’s police officers expressed serious concern over the high number of police officers, ranking from constable to the Inspector General of Police, who have criminal cases against them, and are still in active service.

The report submitted by the Director General of Police in Kerala to the High Court on 8 August 2011, reveals the names of 533 police officers that fall into this category. The state government however has tried to dismiss the seriousness of the issue and no action whatsoever has been taken against these officers so far.

One of the most notorious cases in the list is that of an officer of the rank of the Inspector General of Police, accused of charges including corruption, smuggling, and threatening and intimidating witnesses. The fact that these officers are not only responsible for formulating policies for the department, but are also directly involved in criminal investigation, challenges the capacity of the Indian police to undertake criminal investigation, one of the foundation stones of criminal justice delivery in the country.

In fact the Government of India does not have a real picture of the state of affairs concerning the alarming internal wilt that has occurred in the police. The record available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is an example of this. The NCRB report claims that out of the 61786 complaints made against the police in 2011 in the whole of the country, only 916 were charge-sheeted.

Human rights organisations like the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and other civil society organisations have been calling upon the Government of India to take immediate action to deal with this serious absence of professionalism and morale within the police and other law enforcement agencies in the country. Cases documented from India, including that of corruption, the widespread practice of torture and other forms of custodial violence substantiate this concern. The AHRC has been calling upon the Indian authorities to address with immediate effect the resultant moral wilt within the police as well as other law enforcement agencies, which has led to the breakdown of the day-to-day administration of criminal justice in India.

Just as it is in the case of any other disciplined force suffering from lack of morale and professionalism, the despicable conduct of the police is not limited to cases involving private complaints. The lack of an enforceable disciplinary and accountability framework has resulted in the police treating crimes committed against their own rank and file with the same temperament as it is in the case of private complaints. Criminal investigations in the country resemble in fact a marketplace, where negotiations are made in the open and deals sealed under the table.

The internal investigation report filed by the Director of Police Intelligence, Mr. T. P. Senkumar, to the Director General of Police, Mr. K. S. Balasubramaniyam, concerning the case of assault and death of a Sub Inspector of Police (SI), Mr. Thankaraj, in Kerala speaks about the alarming fact that police officers even compromise with criminals, crimes committed against fellow police officers by local thugs, after demanding and accepting bribes from these criminal elements.

The intelligence report prepared by Senkumar alleges that the Superintendent of Police, Mr. K. B. Balachandran and other police officers have accepted bribes from a local thug, Mr. Sebastian, so that Sebastian’s name is dropped from the list of suspects accused of assaulting the SI, that resulted in his death. That such demeaning and corrupt practices are highly prevalent among the rank and file of the state police department, not only negates every legitimate purpose of criminal investigation, but also encourages all officers to be corrupt within the force.

In this case too, unfortunately the Government of Kerala is reportedly refusing to take action against the errant police officers due to illegal and political considerations. These incidents are not rare in India, but rather the standard conduct of police officers, that the entire force does not enjoy an iota of trust among the population, and unfortunately the country’s judiciary subscribes to this general perception.

The AHRC is of the opinion that the single largest impediment to police reforms in India is the police force itself. Police force in India, which by now has reduced to a mere uniformed criminal gang that brokers with authority, enjoy absolute impunity in return to the role of middlemen they play in power brokering.

Officers agree to do the cleanup jobs for the powerful and the rich with the least amount of persuasion and they are willing to illegally manipulate investigations into corruption and other crimes. While high-ranking police officers often sell their uniforms to the country’s corrupt political and financial elite, the lower-ranking officers extort money from the ordinary people, by engaging in crimes like extortion, fabrication of charges or even undertaking smuggling activities.

The police and all law enforcement agencies to extort bribe from detainees and suspects use threat of torture. Some police officers engage in supporting anti-national and terror syndicates after accepting money and other favours from these gangs. In that, the single largest threat to national security in India is its own police force. Unfortunately this is an issue that the country’s administration is yet to admit to and to remedy.

The continuance of such a state of affairs in police and other law enforcement agencies not only impedes the overall framework of the rule of law in India but also absolutely negates the country’s capacity to fulfil the constitutionally mandated domestic human rights standards. Such faulty institutions that are incapable of discharging everything that is expected to be undertaken within the framework of the rule of law, is exploited further by the government to implement draconian legislations like The National Security Act 1980, The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 and their state variants like The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999; The Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act, 2000; The Uttar Pradesh Control of Goondas Act, 1970; The Assam Preventive Detention Act, 1980; The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958; and The Madhya Pradesh Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam, 1990. There are at least 44 such legislations in India, which allows the police to arbitrarily take action against innocent members of the public.

The police to sidestep the rule of law guarantees use all the above legislation, without exception, that other procedural restrictions built in into the Criminal Procedure Code, 1974, to prevent misuse of authority is today meaningless. Today the police could illegally detain, keep in prolonged custody and even murder people with absolute impunity. This negates the fundamental premise of fair trial.

All these legislations however are implemented in the guise of empowering law enforcement agencies to control and prevent crime. Yet the most simple and elementary step, to discipline the police, is yet to be implemented in India.

The basic flaw in this mindset of the government is that the law enforcement agencies are conceived as organs to maintain order at the expense of awarding arbitrary authorities to the state agencies, who subject these laws to wanton misuse since the agencies implementing these legislations themselves act with the same mindset of organised criminal syndicates. Today if anyone refers the law enforcement agencies in India as organised criminals in uniform, such a reference is not untrue.

It is not that exceptions to this general perception do not exist in the rank and file in the law enforcement agencies. It is only that the number of such officers is far too low, that they alone cannot improve the image or performance of the rest of the force. It is a sad truth that both the government and the law enforcement officers know that for the conditions to improve, the change has to come from within, yet both choose to do nothing about it.

# # #
For information and comments: Bijo Francis, AHRC. Telephone: + 852 – 26986 339, Email: india@ahrc.asia

Cartoon provided by Mr. Satish Acharya
. The cartoonist’s page could be viewed at http://cartoonistsatish.blogspot.com/

 

Attack on Dalit colonies pre-planned, says commission


Dharmapuri, November 12, 2012

PTI

A Dalit woman grieves over the property damage at her house in Natham colony in Naikkankottai on Friday. Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan
The Hindu
A Dalit woman grieves over the property damage at her house in Natham colony in Naikkankottai on Friday. Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

Taking a serious view of the recent violence in which 268 huts at three Dalit colonies in the district were set on fire, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, which visited the violence-hit areas, on Monday said the attack was “out and out pre-planned.”

The Commission inferred from the visit that the attack was “out and out pre-planned and organised crime” against the Dalit community, NCSC Chairman P.L. Punia told reporters.

The violence was triggered after a man committed suicide on November 7 over his daughter’s marriage to a Dalit.

Mr. Punia said the mob had attacked a Dalit family in Kondampatti village where an inter-caste marriage had happened, revealing that they were taking revenge.

Petrol bombs were hurled at four-wheelers, two-wheelers, and valuables looted from houses revealing that it was not a sudden attack but a pre-planned one, the NCSC chairman said.

No casualty was reported. But all the houses in the colonies suffered damaged, Mr. Punia said, adding that the villagers were in a state of shock.

The Commission praised the district administration and police personnel who acted swiftly to arrest 126 culprits in connection with the violence.

As many as 40 houses were damaged and 175 houses were partially damaged, Mr. Punia said, adding that the government had provided only temporary relief measures. The estimated loss was roughly about Rs. seven crore.

The district administration should constitute a peace committee, Mr. Punia said.

As school girls of affected villages felt afraid to go to school, the district administration should arrange buses with police protection for a couple of weeks till the situation returns to normal, the Commission recommended.

The Commission would recommend to the government to constitute a separate body to provide counselling to the victims, Mr. Punia said.

A senior official of the National Commission for SC/ST had visited the three Dalit colonies on November 10.

 

Maruti Workers to observe ‘ Black Diwali ‘


Inquilab Zindabad! Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad!

for more photos click on the image above.

12 November 2012

This diwali is a black diwali for us, a diwali of jailed and unemployed workers while the management of Maruti Suzuki rejoices in support and assurance it receives from the government, administration and police acting against us. We took out a march in the morning today from the new bus stand in Kaithal to the residence of Industries Minister, Randeep Surjewala’s residence in Kaithal, Haryana, where we planned observe kali diwali on 12th and 13th November. Our fellow workers and friends and relatives joined us. We spoke to the minister, Surjewala, who listended to our demands, and gave assurance to resolve the issue at the earliest and speak to the Labour minister, Shiv Charan Lal and the Chief Minister after diwali.

Earlier, starting on 7th morning, the MSWU completed its two-day hunder strike and dharna on the evening of 8thNovember in Gurgaon with a spirited mass rally of over 3000 struggling workers joined by over 1000 workers from Eastern Medikit and other factoriesand others who came in solidarity, forcing the government to take notice of our present condition. We broke our hunger strike in front of the DC Office and inside the jail at 4pm, and took out the mass rally from the Mini Secretariat to the Youth and Sports Minister, Sukhbir Kataria’s residence in the Bus stand-Railway station road in Gurgaon, who came down to the street to listen to our demands, and gave us assurance of resolving our demands by taking it up with the Chief Minister after diwali.

Out hunger strike was a united action by the terminated workers, the 149 workers languishing in Gurgaon Central jail for the last three-and-a-half months, which includes our entire Union body also completed their two-day hunger strike inside the jail, despite continuous threats of torture and of separating them in separate jails. We received renewed solidarity from the workers working inside the factory in Manesar, who were planning on a solidarity lunch boycott, but were coerced by the heavy deployment of police and local company-henchmen, and bouncers to drop the solidarity action in the lunch time.

Thus our hunger strike became a form of solidarity action among the workers who are jailed, terminated and working inside the factory. However the company management and the government has tried to divide us, we will continue to find ways to be united in our resolve to forge solidarity and raise our legitimate demands. We were enthused to find the support of theworkers and union of Maruti Suzuki plant, Gurgaon, whose Union representatives including Kuldeep Jhangu stayed with us in the dharna site and rally in our support. Today’s march and dharna in Kaithal saw mass participation. We reiterate our demands:

  1. Institute an independent impartial probe into the incident of 18th July 2012, and into the role of the management in it.
  2. Immediately release all the arrested workers. Stop all repressive measures by the police on workers-inside the jail, inside the company and outside- and on their family members and relatives.
  3. Immediately reinstate all the 546 terminated workers.
  4. Immediately end the illegal lock-out in Eastern Medikit, and take back all the workers with payment of back dues.

Inquilab Zindabad!

Imaan Khan, Ram Niwas, O. P. Jat, Katar Singh, Yogesh, Raj Pal, Mahabir

Provisional Working Committee,

MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS UNION (MSWU)

When excess mining got a legal seal #Odisha


pic courtesy, Reuters

Debabrata Mohanty : Bhubaneswar, Mon Nov 12 2012, 01:22 hrs

A key mining regulator, The Indian Bureau of Mines, allowed excess mining to carry on in Orissa by raising the permissible limit of those responsible, says the state government, which recently slapped a penalty on several leaseholders.

The IBM, however, says that excess mining is not illegal as long as the companies involved pay the royalty for what they have extracted. In fact, because of an amendment to mining rules, the state and the Centre continue to debate what constitutes illegal mining.

The IBM, with its headquarters in Nagpur, approves the mining plans of each company for a period of five years with predetermined annual limits under section 5(2)(b) of the Mines & Minerals (Regulation & Development) Act, 1957 and other rules such as Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, and Mineral Conservation & Development Rules, 1988. A lease period of 20 or 30 years is, therefore, divided into four or six mining plans. After the state government gets the IBM-approved mining plan, it grants or renews a lease.

When the first signs of excess mining in Keonjhar and Sundargarh showed in 2003, IBM officials on the ground spotted it. Official sources said that under the MC&D Rules, 1988, IBM officials are empowered to cancel the lease or impose penalties. It instead revised the mining plan, the sources said.

Documents with the steel and mines department show that in Khandabandh mines in Keonjhar, the IBM had approved extraction of 3.60 lakh tonnes by Tata Steel in 2006-07. The company raised 7.64 lakh tonnes, and again 7.42 lakh tonnes in 2007-08. The next year, the IBM raised the limit to 7.06 lakh tonnes without imposing penalties. In 2002-03, when the limit was 24 lakh tonnes at Joda East mines, the Tatas mined 30.5 lakh tonnes. The next year, the IBM raised the limit to 40.1 lakh tonnes.

“The mining plan/scheme is an instrument to systematically conserve the ores and not finish them overnight. Once a mining plan is given for five years, it should not be revised midway, but that’s what the IBM did,” said Orissa director of mines Deepak Kumar Mohanty. “They didn’t levy any penalty on over-mining and instead set new limits the next year. If you are going to condone illegalities, why have a mining plan/scheme at all?”

IBM officials say excess extraction is not illegal as long as the miner pays the royalty. “Once royalty is paid on excess production of ore, it can’t be called illegal mining. This was more like irregular operations,” said M Biswas, regional controller of mines with the IBM.

Biswas rejected the state’s allegation that the IBM failed to detect irregularities in mining. “We have done our duty and the state government is doing its job,” he said. “The IBM should not be blamed for the wrongs. It has taken action against certain mines by suspending their operations.”

Chief secretary B K Patnaik had written to the Union Mines Ministry about the IBM’s inaction, and the mines secretary wrote back to say that 20 per cent excess mining for a given year is condonable. This July, the ministry amended the MC Rules, 1960, saying mining outside the lease area is illegal but excess mining inside the lease area is not. The state government finds this difficult to accept. “Where is the rule in the MMDR Act that says 20 per cent excess mining can be allowed?” says the state director of mines.

Jayant Das, president of the Orissa High Court Bar Association and a lawyer on mineral matters, said, “The IBM had all the information to be able to crack down on illegal mining. But companies continued to over-extract from mines which had a deemed renewal status. This is not possible without a quid pro quo arrangement.”

Environmental activist Biswajit Mohanty, who has filed a PIL in the Orissa High Court demanding a CBI probe into the scam, said, “If deemed renewal by the state steel and mines department was the main cause of excess mining, the IBM’s negligence or condoning gave the miners the licence to loot.”

 

Thames Water – a private equity plaything that takes us for fools


When the water company was privatised we were promised a utopia of private sector efficiency

  •  Will Hutton ,  Guardian, The Observer, Nov 11, 2012
Victorian sewer, Knightbridge

Inside one of London’s Victorian sewers. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA

London remains the effluent capital of Europe. The Victorian network of sewers is overwhelmed, and untreated or semi-treated sewage is leaking into the Thames, leaving the tide to do the rest, just as it did when the great engineer Joseph Bazalgette built the system. It is no longer acceptable – for consumers or in terms of international water standards. For more than a decade Thames Water has known that it needs to builda huge 20-mile tunnel 70 metres under the river to conduct the sewage out to sea, a £4bn investment that would last more than a century.

The chancellor, George Osborne, has identified the scheme, now gone through interminable planning inquiries, as part of the national infrastructure plan. And it is reliably tipped to be included in December’s autumn statement as eligible for the new infrastructure guarantee. British taxpayers will essentially guarantee the £4bn of Thames Water borrowing, so that whatever happens investors will get their money back. This will allow Britain’s biggest water company to borrow hugely, as a government body in effect, at the keenest rates of interest.

Which is why even if you don’t live in London you should pay attention: you will be offering the guarantee. Enough of such guarantees and Mr Osborne will be able to pronounce the tideway tunnel one of 40 priority projects to spearhead a multibillion-pound infrastructure boost – without increasing public borrowing at all. Magic!

However, those with long memories will recall that one of the principal arguments for privatisation was that no such guarantees would ever be needed again. When Thames Water was privatised back in 1989, raising a paltry £922m for the government, we were promised a utopia of private sector efficiency in which the water industry’s new private sector owners would create a first-class water system at much lower prices than the government ever could. The industry could escape Treasury constraints and borrow freely. Regulation would be light touch. The “dead hand” of government should be got out of this industry as out of every other.

Thames is certainly a different company, proudly boasting that 99.98% of its sampled water meets quality standards and of a rolling investment programme to meet its regulatory obligations. And, God, has it borrowed freely! It is crippled with debt, which has jumped from £1.8bn to £8bn over the past decade under its foreign owners – first the German utility RWE and, since 2006, a group of private equity funds domiciled in Luxembourg, marshalled by the Australian bank Macquarie. Taking account of the debt means that its net worth has hardly risen at all.

Macquarie is the bank that makes Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital look saintly. Its every effort is organised to outflank regulators and tax authorities, and so make extra for itself – thus its nickname as the millionaire factory. But the game cannot start unless it owns a monopoly business, such as Thames Water, that reliably generates profits and cash. In a country such as Britain, whose politicians like to claim is “open for business” and where tough questions about corporate behaviour are rarely asked, it is an invitation to be looted, and so we have been. Responsible owners would steward their company with more care.

Thames Water has done what the regulator has asked but no more. It has not been concerned to make the water system more resilient, with, say, back-up reservoirs to guard against climate change – earlier this year, we witnessed restrictions on water use because of drought. Nor has it managed its affairs so that it has spare capacity for the unexpected or for a big project like the tideway tunnel.

Instead it is a vehicle whose over-riding priority is incredible shareholder enrichment. By maxing out on debt, all the astonishingly high interest payments can be offset against tax, so that in 2012 it paid no tax whatsoever even while paying £279.5m of dividends – subject, of course, to minimal Luxembourg taxation. T Martin Blaiklock, an infrastructure consultant whose work the Observer reports today, calculates that if Thames had made no dividend payments over the past 10 years and instead used the cash to build up reserves, it would have accumulated £4bn to build the tunnel with no extra borrowing, and thus no extra water charges. The private equity groups behind Thames, he reckons, would have merely seen their investment grow by about two-thirds since 2006 rather than enjoyed a tenfold increase – a much fairer deal all round.

As it is, the Treasury is going to endorse the way Thames has been managed by offering it the get-out-of-jail free card of an infrastructure guarantee. I favour using such guarantees to deliver infrastructure investment that would not otherwise take place, but it throws into sharp relief the co-dependence that exists between the public realm and the private sector – and one that is wholly unacknowledged either in law or culturally.

Thames Water is a utility providing 14 million Londoners with water. In law, and culturally, it is no more than a private equity plaything whose obligations to London are secondary to whatever wheeze will enrich its shareholders, who now include both Abu Dhabi’s and China’s sovereign wealth funds.

Most of England’s water companies are run the same way. As Blaiklock comments, sooner or later one of our overindebted water companies will collapse, requiring a more formal bailout than an infrastructure guarantee. (State-owned Scottish Water, by contrast, faces no such risk.) But it will have contributed precious little tax to the state that is bailing it out.

Four crucial reforms are required before the guarantee scheme is launched.

First, Ofwat, the regulator, should have much greater powers with regard to water companies’ balance sheet strategies: borrowing plans should only go forward with its prior approval and it should be able to launch periodic stress tests.

Second, as public service companies, all British water companies should pay corporation tax as a percentage of turnover, with proper deductions for investment and depreciation, but no allowances for any financial transaction with a tax haven.

Third, non-executive directors of utilities should be made legally responsible for ensuring that the utility’s first obligation is to discharge its purpose as a utility rather than to be financially engineered to induce high shareholder returns.

Fourth, the government should take a golden share in each company that accepts a guarantee.

What has happened to the English water industry over the past 20 years is as disgraceful as what happened to our banks. Britain badly needs new infrastructure investment; but it also needs a more responsible capitalism. Mr Osborne has the opportunity next month to ensure both. He cannot – and must not – offer indiscriminate guarantees for no wider economic and social return

Mining in rat holes, and a Meghalayan policy


Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Tehelka Blog, Nov 12, 2012

It is said that Meghalaya has a history of no less the 80 years of unregulated and unscientific mining of natural resources, mostly coal and limestone. Due to customary tribal laws and lack of resistance, unregulated mining has turned into a cottage industry of sorts in the hilly state. In fact, though it remains quite unregulated, mining is Meghalaya’s biggest industry.

For instance, you will come across ‘rat hole mining’ in almost every nook and corner, where minors risk their lives to dig out coal. It was after activists rung the alarm bells on child rights abuse in these ‘rat holes’ that the Meghalaya government started to take the matter seriously. Moreover, the presence of large-scale limestone reserves in the state has made way for dozens of cement manufacturing plants, often set up in violation of environmental and forest guidelines. Meanwhile, the state government has drafted the Meghalaya Mineral Policy 2010 and plans to get it approved in the winter session of the State Legislative Assembly – the last time the Assembly would meet before the state goes to polls in early 2014.

The Mukul Sangma government has already started to hard sell the policy, which promises to bring scientific know-how to miners and private investment to the mining sector so that bigger projects can be envisaged, which would also enable infrastructure development. Sources say, since the Congress in Meghalaya is itself divided in opinion about introducing the policy, the government keeps it on hold. There is a desperate attempt to dress up the policy as a holy cow, but it is really going to be that sacrosanct?

All of Meghalaya falls under the Sixth Schedule areas, where, as per the Constitution, the tribals do not need any prior permission to start mining. So there is no need for environmental, forest or pollution clearances, and the industry is tax-free. Many of the tribals in governance and politics are also seen to be involved in unregulated mining. Though labour laws, child rights and safety norms are joke for Meghalaya’s mining industry, Constitutional safeguards for tribal areas in the form of the Sixth Schedule keep the Centre from poking its nose in the matter. Sources claim that all politicians have huge assets in unregulated mining, and the workers in the sector are either migrant poor from other states, or from Nepal and Bangladesh, or they are trafficked minors. So the state government tends to ignore even major mining accidents.
So the policy might have come about because of the pressure the state government came in from the Guwahati High Court on the issue. The HC had imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on Meghalaya for not having a mining policy, and later another Rs 5 lakh for not regulating mining on tribal land.

Ahead of the election, no political party in Meghalaya would dare to speak against illegal and unregulated mining, and after the poll, everyone will forget the issue and the policy will bite the dust. It is time for the tribal chiefs of Meghalaya, who hold enormous powers, to rise beyond clannish thinking and raise their voice for a regulated mining regime that has respect for the environment, and for forest, labour and child rights.

Ratnadip Choudhury Author: Ratnadip Choudhury works as a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka. A young IT professional by training and a journalist by chance, Ratnadip hails from Tripura and has been reporting out of Northeast India for Eight years, as of 2012. He started his career with the Tripura Observer and went on to work with the Northeast Sun, The Northeast Today, News Live, Sahara Time and The Sunday Indian. He has also contributed to BBC, CNN, NatGeo TV, NDTV, CNN-IBN and TIMES NOW. Before joining Tehelka, Ratnadip worked with the national bureau of the television news channel NewsX. He specializes in conflict reporting and has a keen interest in India’s eastern neighbours. He is based in Guwahati.

How Telecoms Sell Your Private Info to the Highest Bidder


Wireless providers are aggressively collecting and reselling your usage data. And a lot of what they do remains secret.
November 8, 2012  |

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Lasse Kristensen

  CIVIL LIBERTIES

Have you ever lost your mobile phone and been able to find it through your wireless company’s GPS tracking service? Or have you signed up for a family locator program to check on where your kids are through their phones? If so, you’ve voluntarily entered the world of telco tracking. Unfortunately, these are but the most innocent tracking programs that wireless companies like AT&T and Verizon are engaged in.

Every seven seconds or so, one’s wireless company tracks your position vis-à-vis the nearest cell tower, determining not only your location but how long your call lasts. What a phone company does with this data, let alone with all the other information it gathers, remains the company’s secret.

Earlier this year, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) revealed that, in 2011, state and local law enforcement agencies had received approximately 1.3 million records from the nation’s wireless carriers. A wireless customer’s personal information provided to law enforcement entities is fairly comprehensive. It includes geo-locational or GPS data, 911 call responses, text message content, billing records, wiretaps, “ping” location and what are known as cell tower “dumps” (i.e., a carrier provides all the phones numbers of cell users that connect with a discrete tower during a discrete period of time).

Equally insidious, these same wireless providers are aggressively collecting and reselling your usage data. The most widely used method is through a special GPS geo-location program offered by Carrier IQ known as CIQ.

Are You Being Tracked?

On October 10, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) sent inquires to nine of the nation’s leading data brokers asking about their business practices. These companies aggregate and sell consumer information and include Acxiom, Datalogix, Epsilon, Experian, Rapleaf and Spokeo.

The senator should ask the same questions to the nation’s leading wireless providers.

* * *

“Data is the new oil,” declared Bill Diggins, a Verizon Wireless exec in charge of the telco’s latest data aggregation program, Precision Marketing Insights (PMI). Verizon, along with Sprint, introduced its initial device tracking service in 2007.

But PMI goes further.  According to Diggins: “We’re able to analyze what people are viewing on their handsets.” He offered the following example: “If you’re at an MLB game, we can tell if you’re viewing ESPN, we can tell if you’re viewing MLB, we can tell what social networking sites you’re activating, if you’re sending out mobile usage content that’s user-generated on video.”

Other wireless executives share Diggins’ enthusiasm for data collection. Sprint company spokesperson Stephanie Vinge Walsh champions the power of the telecos: “We think it’s a benefit to receive ads targeting your interests rather than ads which may not be relevant.”

Verizon’s PMI program allows it to collect user data from devices running on either an Android or an Apple OS (operating system).  According to Verizon, the data collected includes what products and services a consumer is using (e.g., device type, calling features and usage patterns), what apps are on the device and GPS location. In addition, it collects a host of demographic and psychographic information “such as gender, age range, sports fan, frequent diner, or pet owner.”

Further, the company acknowledges that all the collected information can be combined into “aggregated and marketing reports.” In turn, these reports can be sold to third-party entities like data aggregators and direct marketing firms. However, it insists: “We may combine this information in a manner that does not personally identify you.” Some reports indicated that Verizon provides a customer’s home address to third parties.

Diggins identified the company’s long-term goal as insinuating itself into a customer’s mobile wallet. “So we’re able to identify what that customer likes not by filling out forms but by actually analyzing what they do on a day to day basis and serve them with products we know they like because we’ve seen they’ve downloaded and purchased products like that.”

Pulling the curtain further aside, Diggins reveals the underlying rationale of Verizon’s data collection effort: “We’re doing this on a one-to-one basis even though we’re marketing on an aggregate anonymous because we’re able to just view everything they [users] do.”

Not to be undone, AT&T actively collects user data. It introduced its FamilyMap program to track the location of any cell phone on AT&T’s network in 2009. On its AdWorks site, AT&T promotes its capabilities to “reach customized audience segments based on anonymous and aggregate demographics.”

AT&T insists it doesn’t sell personal data to third parties. Rather, it offers “[third parties] products and services, packages, discounts and promotions from the AT&T companies, such as High Speed DSL Internet access, wireless service and U-verse TV services, which may be different from the types of services you already purchase.”

AT&T provides “location information” to Sense Networks, a company analyzing mobile location data for advertising. One of its products, CitySense, highlights local nightspots to customers based on cellphone usage.

“Because cell phones have become so ubiquitous,” notes Ramón Cáceres, a researcher at AT&T’s labs in Florham Park, NJ, “mining the data they generate can really revolutionize the study of human behavior.”

He described how, last year, AT&T undertook a study of the travel habits of wireless subscribers in the New York and Los Angeles regions. The company sifted through millions of call detail records (CDRs) from hundreds of thousands of customers in 891 separate zip codes areas.  It analyzed the origin and destination numbers, the type and duration of call and the location of the cell tower nearest to where the call was made.

A full report of AT&T’s research findings was not released. However, what was disclosed is illuminating as to how data collectors analyze customer behavior. It found that, on average, people living in Manhattan travel 2.5 miles most days, compared to five miles in Los Angeles. “But,” according to Cáceres, “we also found that when you look at the longest trips people make, people that live in New York go significantly further, 69 miles on a weekday compared to 29 in Los Angeles.”

The other two leading wireless providers, Sprint and T-Mobile, are also commercializing subscriber data. A T-Mobile spokesperson said it “collects information about the Web sites that customers visit and their location” and that it “may use that information in an anonymous, aggregate form to improve our services.”  T-Mobile employs the Carrier IQ program for GPS tracking. It does not provide information as to the third-party customers it provides user data.

Sprint provides customer data to third parties. Going further than either AT&T or Verizon, it lets advertisers target customized messages to a subscriber’s wireless phone. However, it insists that it does not provide third parties with customer’s site visit information or location data; it ended its relation with Carrier IQ last year.

One of the most intriguing areas in which wireless companies are working with third parties involves auto insurance. This may explain why AT&T conducted such extensive research into subscribers’ mobility habits. Sprint recently established the Integrated Insurance Solutions unit offering “usage-based insurance” data.

Sprint is working with Allstate’s unit, Esurance, on a pilot program in Arizona and Texas. It offers insurance companies a turnkey tracking solution, including the on-board car tracking device, the wireless connectivity to capture, send and record the data, and the program to evaluate the driver’s performance.

One of the major providers of such insurance is Progressive through its “Snapshot” program. Working with Sprint, it identifies the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), tracks the driver’s speed, time of day, location and braking patterns via a diagnostic device plugged into the car. Perhaps more insidious, it also records when the device is connected and disconnected from the vehicle.  Snapshot does not include GPS tracking technology, nor identify the vehicle’s location, nor whether the driver broke the speed limit.

According to a recent article in Reuters, “more than 30 North American insurers are looking at some sort of usage-based program.”

* * *

Tracking and personal privacy are growing concerns among Americans, yet a very grey area in the courts, Congress and the Obama administration. A recent study by UC Berkeley School of Law found Americans overwhelmingly believe data stored on their mobile phones is private. Nearly three out of five (59%) of respondents 18 to 65-plus said their phones were “at least as private” as their home computers and 19 percent believed their phones were more private than their home computers. 

The U.S. federal courts seem confused over cyber privacy. In January, the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Jones that the police could not hide a tracking device in a suspect’s car without a valid warrant. More recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Cincinnati, OH) ruled the conviction of an alleged drug dealer should stand because there is no constitutional right to cellphone privacy; a custom “did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data given off by his voluntarily procured pay-as-you-go cellphone.”

The Obama Justice Department has repeatedly come out in opposition to a customer’s privacy rights using a wireless services. As it noted in a case in February, “… a customer has no privacy interest in cell-site records, which are business records created and stored by a cell phone provider in its ordinary course of business.” It insists that Fourth Amendment prohibitions against “unreasonable” searches and seizures do not apply to a mobile device.

Both the progressive Electronic Frontier Foundation and the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute have raised concerns about telco tracking. Both insist that the aggregation and sale of customer data by wireless companies might violate federal electronic privacy laws. Three statutes are sited: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), the Communications Act of 1934 and the Cable TV Privacy Act of 1984. In particular, the cable law requires “prior written or electronic consent of the subscriber” before any personally identifiable information can be collected.

When Congress settles down in the wake of the 2012 election, the efforts of Sen. Rockefeller, Rep. Markey and others will likely focus a spotlight on cyber privacy like never before.

In the meantime, what can a wireless user do? Each of the major wireless providers offers customers various means to limit tracking.  Be advised that “opt out” procedures are not easy to find and challenging to implement. The following are good sites to start:

For more information on opt-out options and privacy rights regarding wireless devices, check out these resources.

#India- Status of doctors at Primary Health Centres


Nov 12, 2012

According to PRS legislative Research , Public health care in rural areas is provided through a multi-tier network. Public Health Centres (PHCs) are provided for every population of 30,000 in the plains and 20,000 in the hills. Generally, each PHC caters to a cluster of Gram Panchayats. PHCs are required to have 1 medical officer and 14 other staff. As on March 2011, there are 23,887 PHCs in the country.

Among the states, Chhattisgarh has the highest vacancy of doctors at 71%, followed by West Bengal (44%),

Maharashtra (37%), and Uttar Pradesh (36%). On the other hand, Rajasthan (0.4%), Andhra Pradesh (3%)
and Kerala (7%) have the lowest vacancies in PHCs.

• Nine states do not have any doctor vacancies at all at the PHC level. These states include Bihar, Jharkhand
and Punjab.

Read more below

Downlaod here

 

 

Gang rape of a tribal woman by five Special Police Officers (SPO’s) in Jharkhand #Vaw



To,
Mr. Satyabrata Pal,
Hon’ble Member,
The National Human Rights Commission,
Faridcourt House, Copernicus Marge,
New Delhi-1

Sub: For investigation and necessary legal action on a case of gang
rape of a tribal woman by a group of five Special Police Officers
(SPO).

Dear Sir,

I would like to bring your kind attention on a case of gang rape of a
tribal woman by a group of five Special Police Officers on 23rd
October, 2012 at Dungardih village of Ranchi district in Jharkhand.

Case details:
A tribal woman Shukri (nick name) W/o Mr. Sudhra Lohra resident of
Dungardih village comes under Tamar police station of Ranchi district
in Jharkhand was raped by a group of five Special Police Officers on
23rd October, 2012.

The incident took place in the night at 11 PM when the Special Police
Officers – Mr. Sanjay Pramanik, Mr. Mangal Pramanik (both the resident
of Dungardih village), Mr. Somra Munda (resident of Lungtu village),
Mr. Sunil Mahto (resident of Chirudih village) and Mr. Dhananjay Munda
(resident of Lowahatu village) arrived to the house of Mrs. Shukri by
a Scorpio vehicle. Since, Mr. Sanjay Pramanik, Mr. Mangal Pramanik
comes from the same village therefore; they knew that Mrs. Shukri was
along at home and she’ll not hesitate to open the door if they seek
her help.

Mrs. Shukri was convinced that they need her help urgently therefore
she opened the door. However, as soon as she opened the door, all the
five SPOs entered into her house, caught her and put into the vehicle.
Thereafter, they took her nearby the Dungardih stream and they raped
her whole the night one after another. Finally, they left her in the
morning after threatening her that if she opens her mouth, they’ll
finish off her along with her family members.

After the incident Mrs. Shukri was completely terrified, shocked and
lost her mental balance. She went elsewhere with her husband but she
was still in abnormal condition and behaving differently, which gave
clue to her husband about the gang rape.

When Mrs. Shukri’s husband Mr. Sudhra Lohra supported her, she was
ready to file an FIR in the police station. A case was filed in the
police station and the perpetrators were arrested. However, the victim
apprehends that she may not be safe as the SPOs have very good
relationship with a top cope, who had given them free hand to operate
in the region.

The Special Police officers are involved in sexual exploitation of
women, murder of the villagers and collection of levy. In fact they
have terrorized the regions where they operate. The Jharkhand Police
have deployed 3400 SPOs in the state and also provided arms to them
which is completely illegal. All of them are the ex-Naxal therefore
they never bother about the human rights.

Hence, it is a clear case of the gross violation of the right to a
dignified live of Mrs. Shukri, therefore, I request the National Human
Rights Commission for the following actions.
1.      A high level inquiry should be established on a case of gang rape
of a tribal woman Mrs. Shukri by a group of five Special Police
Officers.
2.      Since, a case of gang rape has already been registered against the
alleged perpetrators but there is an apprehension that the police can
save them therefore punishment should be ensured.
3.      The victim of gang raped Mrs. Shukri should be compensated, given
psychological treatment and provided her the security to fight the
case.
4.      The NHRC should order the state government not to arm the civilians
in the name of fighting the Naxal because it’s leading towards gross
human rights violation in the state.
5.      The NHRC should order the state government to create an appropriate
mechanism to check the illegal activities of the SPOs.

I shall be highly obliged to you for the same.

Thanking you.

Yours sincerely,

Gladson Dungdung
General Secretary,
JHRM, Ranchi.

Gladson Dungdung <gladsonhractivist@gmail.com>