Irrigation scam 2.0 ? Threat to forest land in Maharashtra


 More than 150 hectares of pristine forest in Sawantwadi, 500km south of Mumbai on the Maharashtra-Goa border, could be submerged along with homes, temples and sacred groves for an irrigation project that its opponents say is actually aimed at supplying water to proposed mines and an industrial zone in the eco-sensitive region, which is also a wildlife corridor.

In this season of irrigation scams in Maharashtra, locals and non-government organisations question the rationale behind spending tax-payers’ money on building the Saram-bala medium irrigation project on river Dabhil in a region with an average annual rainfall of 4,000mm. Besides, documents with HT reveal that nine of the 15 villages that are to get water from it are also beneficiaries of the Tillari and Talamba dams, two large projects in the final stages of construction.

Moreover, the Konkan Irrig-ation Development Corporation’s (KIDC) willingness to supply double the sanctioned amount of 5.820 million cubic metres of water to a proposed industrial area (according to the project report) as well as the proposed Zolambe mines owned by the Sindhudurg Mining Corp. Pvt. Ltd. (HT has a copy of the letter) has angered villagers and they are refusing to part with their land.

“With heavy rainfall in the district and perennial water streams flowing through all the villages, the government can build small check dams and mini reservoirs that can supply water to the remaining villages. Why does the government want to submerge forest land for an irrigation project,” asks Balkrishna Gavas, resident of Dabhil whose ancestral home and agricultural land are in the submergence area.

“With five irrigation projects proposed in the region, the Sarambala project is ill-conceived. With the project agreeing to supply water to a proposed mine and with more mines planned in more than ten villages below Dabhil, it seems like the project has been undertaken to facilitate mining operations in the eco-sensitive region,” said environmentalist Stalin D of Vanashakti, a non-government organisation. In fact, there are about proposals for 32 mines in the Sawantadi-Dodamarg region.

Environmentalists also question claims by the KIDC in its project report that Sarambala will have negligible impact on wildlife. According to them, the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg region is an important part of the Sahyadri-Konkan wildlife corridor, which connects the Koyna and Radhanagari wildlife sanctuaries and the Chandoli national park in the state with wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in Goa and Karnataka.

“The project site also has ancient sacred groves and temples contrary to the forest department’s claims that there are no religious, cultural or archaeological  sites on the land,” said Stalin.

The Sarambala project was envisaged in 1994 at a cost of Rs. 56.15 crore, which was raised to Rs. 184.3 crore in 2004. Till March 2012, Rs. 54.67 crore was spent on construction, acquisition and administrative work. So work on it can continue under the norms set by the state government’s recent white paper on irrigation:  more than 25% of the proposed budget has been exhausted and 35% of the work has been completed.

The total area under the project is 753.55 hectares. Of the 295.62 hectares across three villages that will go under water, 152.79 hectares is forest land. Till now, 110 hectares of forest land has been transferred to the irrigation department, while the remaining 42.79 hectares has been identified.

Though the irrigation department received approval in principle from the union environment and forest ministry in 2009, the state government has to pay Rs. 30.43 crore as net present value to the forest department for final clearance.

 

FDI in retail? say a big NO


Professor Anupam Bhargava, The Hindu

FDI is a debt inflow or liability foreign exchange because the profits or returns it generates will have to be repatriated. Will FDI in retail, single brand, banking or insurance enhance our foreign exchange earning capacity? Do they bring technology to the economy?

There is so much of talk going around in all circles regarding FDI. Politicians, for obvious reasons, speak a language of their own, driven by ulterior motives. Most of the times, they are not even knowledgeable to understand the long term consequences of the populist measures and policies they adopt. It would be in the fitness of things if the whole thing is explained in simple and elementary terms.

FDI is Foreign Direct Investment. Direct Investment is of two types: Domestic Direct Investment (DDI) and Foreign Direct Investment. DDI is done in domestic currency (rupee in India) and FDI brings in foreign exchange.

Now, the question arises why FDI. The need for FDI is justified only in two situations – (1) when DDI is inadequate or (2) when foreign exchange is required. On the DDI front, the position as obtained in our country is fairly sound. Banks are flush with funds; the domestic savings rate is one of the highest in the world; market capitalisation, constantly on the rise, makes available investible funds; and DFIs have huge unutilised funds waiting to be deployed in feasible projects. It is gung-ho all around. Therefore, domestically speaking, there is no shortfall of funds for investment.

As for foreign exchange, it is either an asset or liability, depending upon its repatriability. If it is repatriable (i.e., to be returned or repaid in the form of foreign exchange itself), it is a liability. If not, it is an asset. This way, only three sources of foreign exchange – (1) exports of goods and services, (2) NRO accounts in banks and (3) Foreign Aid — qualify as assets. The rest are liabilities like FCNR & NRE deposits of NRIs; FDIs; FIIs and foreign exchange loans from foreign governments and agencies. For convenience, let’s call one asset foreign exchange and the other liability foreign exchange. Some people choose to call them non-debt and debt inflows respectively.

FDI is a debt inflow or liability foreign exchange. Why? Simple, because the profits or returns it generates will have to be repatriated in foreign exchange. Secondly, all the men, material and merchandise imported in the years to come will have to be paid in foreign exchange. Finally, at the time of winding up/selling off, the proceeds will flow out of the country in foreign exchange. And, it is noteworthy here, all this will end up in the outflow of foreign exchange, many times more than the initial inflow. So, every FDI is a clear-cut case of liability foreign exchange.

All the above is about the supply-side of foreign exchange. Now, let’s examine the demand side. The question is – why is foreign exchange needed at all? Based on long-term benefits to the economy, the demand for it can be classified into consumption and construction. Consumption demand is the demand for foreign exchange to import consumption items like gold, oil, tourism and FMCG — all those areas where funds are just blown. On the contrary, ‘construction’ stands for all those areas which promote exports, substitute imports, strengthen the infrastructure of the country and make it more competitive globally.

So, we have the demand for foreign exchange classified into two and its supply also into two. This can be neatly depicted graphically in a Foreign Exchange Desirability Matrix.

The table makes it amply clear that Asset Foreign Exchange casts no negative impact on the economy, regardless of whether it is used for construction or consumption purposes. However, liability foreign exchange needs to be restricted to ‘construction’ purposes, as the consequences of putting it to consumption needs are grave.

Now, why should we go in for liability foreign exchange, like FDI, at all, if it is not for any export promotion, import substitution or any capacity construction purpose? Well, if we indulge in the luxury of blowing liability foreign exchange on non-developmental consumption items, we’ll end up worsening our foreign exchange debt position (we are already in the doldrums with mounting pressure on our capital account of balance of payments, owing to increasing deficits in our balance of trade account year by year).

In fact, until we have any project/avenue in hand which will, in times to come, yield foreign exchange more than its repayment schedule warrants, the inflow of liability foreign exchange should be outrightly avoided.

The service sector is comprised of marketing (wholesale and retail), banking, insurance, civil aviation, education, tourism, medical & health, telecommunication and software, etc. All these fall either in the construction category like education, medical and health, telecommunication and Software or consumption like marketing, insurance, banking and tourism.

Incidentally, in marketing, there is nothing like technology. It’s all about consumption, where the sole elements are Brand and Supply Chain Management; again nothing basic or infrastructural or technology enhancing. Further, the question arises — will FDI in sectors like retail, single brand, banking or insurance enhance our foreign exchange earning capacity? A big NO. Do they bring technology to the economy? Again, a big NO. Hence, FDI in ‘consumption’ sectors deserves to be outrightly rejected. If it is not, it would simply mean the government is not working in the interest of the economy, but is unscrupulously catering to vested interests.

Importing technology

They say, had FDI not come in, our automobile, telecommunication, aviation, banking and many other industries would not have reached global standards. I would say that instead of allowing foreign capital to set up shop here, the country should have used foreign exchange to just import technology, if needed; and set up the same industries with domestic capital. No liability foreign exchange; no profits going out of the country; domestic consumers getting the same products; and the fruits of exports being reaped by domestic firms and not foreign — all the way a win-win situation for us.

But, being blind to the undercurrents, we instead allowed foreign firms to set up bases here, milk the domestic market and carry back huge profits. The foreign exchange that flowed in by way of FDI was blown in consumption areas like gold and oil.

In the ensuing debate, lots of comparisons are being made with the U.S., the U.K., China and Japan. The question is: are we at the same level of development to indulge in the luxury of comparing ourselves with them?

With no apparent gain for the economy in the long-run on the table, there cannot be a more foolish act for any country than inviting foreigners to set up shop on its own territory. First, it is a clear signal of allowing them to reap profits here and take them back. Second, it is telling the world, loud and clear, that we, by ourselves, are incompetent and inefficient. If a foreign entity pushes for entry in the economy, it will still make sense. It wants to expand its market and reap profits. But what is the compulsion for a host country to insist that a foreign entity come and set up shop here?

Historically, no economy has ever developed on foreign capital. In the industrial revolutions of various nations, the crucial factors that have been instrumental are (1) indigenous mobilisation of resources, (2) domestic technological development and application (3) strategic management and (4) support from the governments, mostly to ward off external pressures. Cases of foreign investment are few and far between.

Let us keep in mind that foreign exchange is both a boon and bane, to determine which each of its inflow needs to be individually assessed for its costs and benefits, before allowing it.

(Professor Anupam Bhargava, a PhD in Management, is a former AGM of SBI. He is now Adviser and Research Guide at Rajasthan Vidyapeeth (Deemed University), Udaipur. Email: anupambhargava58@gmail.com)

 

Bhopal-Promises broken, justice delayed


Author(s):
Moyna, Down to Earth
Issue Date:
2012-12-3

Bhopal gas tragedy survivors continue to suffer as court cases are delayed and government promises prove hollow

bhopal

Almost three decades after the Bhopal gas leak killed a few thousand people overnight, the struggle continues for its survivors. A number of issues concerning the survivors of the disaster, termed the biggest industrial accident in history, seemed close to resolution this year, but none were resolved. Provision of potable drinking water, removal and disposal of the toxic waste from the Union Carbide factory and even a strict apex court ruling requiring the government to provide full healthcare facilities to the survivors were all just promises made in government offices and court rooms.

The survivor organisations have organised numerous protests and wrote letters requesting the India government to withdraw from the Olympics sponsored by Dow Chemical [1]. In Bhopal and Delhi, hundreds of protesters have been asking the prime minister of India to explain why their plight has not improved in the past 28 years.

For officials, Bhopal has become an “emotive issue” and thus resolutions planned and proposed always failed to take off. Though there is a Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation department, most of the decisions require to be approved and executed by the Central government. The main concerns following the December 1984 disaster have been: groundwater and soil contamination, poor health facilities, incorrect count of those affected by the gas leak, disposal of the toxic waste at the Union Carbide factory site, making Dow criminally liable for the gas leak and subsequent events and lack of government involvement in the continuing litigation in the United States of America.

One positive development in 2012 was the official acknowledgement of groundwater [2] contamination around the Union Carbide factory. Despite studies by reliable organisations and laboratories [3], the Government of India and the Madhya Pradesh government have denied groundwater contamination in and around the Union Carbide factory (also see ‘The chemistry of living death’ [4]  and ‘The poison piles up’ [5]) .

Despite the apex court coming down heavily on the government and other agencies involved in providing relief to Bhopal gas leak victims, the government has failed to take any action. In August, the Supreme court, while disposing of a public interest petition ordered better health facilities for Bhopal gas victims [6], directed that standard treatment protocols be implemented and noted that public studies on the disaster-affected people need to be carried out.

The toxic waste lying at the factory premises is another major point of contention. It is to be disposed of by the Central Pollution Control Board and at the beginning of 2012, a German Company, GIZ, was called in to dispose of the waste. After a long debate between Indian authorities and the German agency, the proposal to incinerate the waste in Germany fell through [7]  (also see ‘Bhopal to Germany’ [8]). Vinod Babu, head of the hazardous waste division of the Central Pollution Control Board says: “We are working on the best solution possible to ensure proper disposal of the waste and that is why it is taking time.” He explains that the waste, disputed water contamination and other pollution caused 28 years ago has become an “emotional concern”. “We are required to keep many non-technical concerns in mind while dealing with any issue related to Bhopal gas leak and thus it takes longer than it would otherwise.”

It has been reported that the waste may now be disposed of in the sea since the site at Pithampur in Madhya pradesh—the Centre is routing for it–is controversial [9]. A senior official with the Union ministry for chemicals and petrochemicals, on condition of anonymity, says: “For 30 years, we have been trying to get rid of the waste but every time it seems like we might succeed, some activists protest for one or the other technical reasons we are unable to dispose it of.”

There seems to be no end to the delay. In October, the Madhya Pradesh High Court lifted the seven-year old stay on summoning Dow Chemical—the parent company of Union Carbide [10]. Whether the show-cause notice is ever given to Dow and whether the company actually appears in court remains to be seen. Meawnhile, the numerous cases continue to drag (see Bhopal gas leak: curative petition downplays number of deaths [11]; SC refuses to restore stiffer charges for Bhopal disaster accused [12]  and Union Carbide refuses more compensation to Bhopal gas leak victims [13]).

There has been an attempt to rework the corporate liability and bring the chemical giant Dow Chemical to book. The company has consistently denied any responsibility for the 1984 disaster. But legal experts and activists say [14] the company is hiding behind a corporate veil and is accountable  (also see ‘The Bhopal legacy: reworking corporate liability’ [15]).

The delays and postponements have been innumerable for the survivours and victims of the 28 year old disaster [16]. Rashida Bi of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh says, “I want to hope things will get better and we will not be living in the shadow of 1984 but every time some improvement is seen in the horizon, we are scared it will not come through.” Echoing her sentiments, Nawab Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha says, “The government and courts just talk. On ground, nothing ever gets done. With this kind of treatment it is very difficult to remain hopeful that things will improve at some point.”

In an attempt to bring the big corporate giant to book, activists have even filed a case in the US. But the case was dismissed for the third time in a decade by a district court earlier this year [17]. The activists appealed against this dismissal in late November.

Along with the protests and ongoing court cases to mark 28 years of the gas leak, the Bhopal survivors organisations circulated a charter of demands, titled Corporations and Governments in USA and India must ensure justice and a life of dignity for the Bhopal survivors and their children well before the fourth decade begins (see ‘Charter of demands’). It says the 25,000 people are dead and numbers are still mounting and 150,000 are battling chronic illnesses.

Survivors’ charter of demands

The charter of demands circulated by the Bhopal gas tragedy survivors’ organisations has given two years to Union Carbide and Dow Chemical to ensure that they:

  1. Cease to abscond from justice and answer, through its designated official, charges of manslaughter and grievous assault in the criminal case pending before the Bhopal District Court
  2. Respond positively to the Government of India’s petition in  the Supreme Court and make financial arrangements for compensating actual number of deaths and injuries caused as a result of the December 1984 gas disaster
  3. Set aside sufficient funds for clean up of contaminated soil and groundwater in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory and for health monitoring of the affected population

Two years for the Government of USA to ensure that:

  1. Authorised representatives of Union Carbide Corporation cease to abscond justice in Indian courts and appear in the pending criminal case arising from the disaster in Bhopal
  2. Warren Anderson former chairperson of Union Carbide is extradited from USA to answer charges of manslaughter and grievous assault in the Bhopal District Court
  3. Dow Chemical and Union Carbide pay penalties for the deaths and injuries caused by the 1984 gas disaster at rates comparable to those paid by British Petroleum for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010
  4. Dow Chemical and Union Carbide clean up the contaminated soil and ground water in and around the abandoned pesticide factory and provide for health monitoring of the affected population

Two years to the Government of India to ensure that:

  1. Dow Chemical is not allowed to make any investments in this country directly or indirectly till it accepts Union Carbide’s liabilities in Bhopal
  2. The prosecution agency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) brings Union Carbide Corporation and Warren Anderson before the Bhopal District Court in the pending criminal case
  3. The CBI through a Special Prosecution Cell does its best to send Keshub Mahindra and other Indian accused to jail for at least 10 years
  4. The Bhopal Memorial Hospital has full facilities for treatment of all diseases known to be associated with exposure to Union Carbide’s poisons
  5. The National Institute for Research in Environmental Health (NIREH) provides treatment protocols specific to exposure-related health problems and carries out medical research that benefits the gas victims and those exposed to contaminated groundwater
  6. The petition before the Supreme Court of India for additional compensation from Dow Chemical/Union Carbide is based on correct figures of deaths and injuries and best efforts are made for its adjudication in favour of the Bhopal victims
  7. It intervenes in the US Federal Court in support of the Bhopal plaintiffs seeking clean up of the contaminated land in and around the abandoned factory
  8. A comprehensive scientific assessment of the nature, depth and spread of contamination is carried out by a competent agency for clean up and assessment of liability
  9. Epidemiological studies are carried out particularly to document the health impact of chronic exposure to contaminated ground water and children with congenital malformations born to gas and contaminated water exposed parents

Two years to the government of Madhya Pradesh to ensure that:

  1. All hospitals run by the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department are adequately staffed, stock quality medicines, are fully computerised and use standardised treatment protocols
  2. Every person known to be injured by the disaster and / or exposed to contaminated groundwater receives a health book that ensures free health care at government run hospitals
  3. Every person known to be disabled or turned destitute as a result of the disaster receives a monthly pension of at least Rs 1,000 as social support
  4. All residents of the communities-affected by ground water contamination are provided clean piped water
  5. All children of gas and contaminated water exposed parents with congenital disabilities receive access to rehabilitation and medical care

 

Read more: Bhopal gas tragedy [18]

 

 

Koodankulam plant: Anti-nuclear activists questions government in SC


By PTI – NEW DELHI

04th December 2012

The anti-nuclear activists Tuesday criticised the government in the Supreme Court for exempting the Russian firm involved in setting up Koodankulam nuclear power plant from paying damages in case of mishaps and fixing Rs 1500 crore only as maximum liability on plant’s operator.

“The Rs 1500 crore liability violates the principle of strict liability based on the foundation of Article 21 of the Constitution,” advocate Prashant Bhushan told a bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, appearing for the anti-nuclear activists.

The submission prompted the bench to ask if in case of liability being more than Rs 1500 crore “will it be borne by the tax payers?”

“It will be perhaps be the burden on the tax payers,” it further observed.

The remarks were made when Bhushan argued that not only the Indian operator of the plant, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) will have to bear the liability of Rs 1500 crore but it will also not have the right to recourse.

“Rs 1500 crore liability is for plant operator who has no right of recourse if the damage is due to the defect in the reactor supplied by the Russian company,” he said.

He questioned the foreign company from shying away from the liability.

During the hearing, the bench also took note of the submission that the project was cleared without the detailed study about its impact on the marine life.

“We would like to see the report on the marine life,” the bench said.

Meanwhile, the NPCIL placed before the bench the status report on implementation of 17 recommendations made by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on the safety and security of the plant after the Fukushima incident in Japan.

The Supreme Court court on November 21 had made it clear to the government that all safety measures for handling disaster must be put in place at the Koodankulam power plant before it is operationalised.

The apex court was hearing a bunch of petitions by anti-nuclear activists challenging the commissioning of the plant on the ground that all safety measures have not been put in place.

The corporation had said deep geological repository (DGR) for keeping nuclear waste is not needed now and it will be required only after a few decades.

A DGR is a nuclear waste repository excavated below 300 meters within a stable geologic environment. It entails a combination of waste form, waste package, engineered seals and geology that is suited to provide a high level of long-term isolation and containment without future maintenance.

 

The Dark And Secret Dungeons Of Iraq: Horror Stories Of Female Prisoners


By Wijhat Nadhar

12 December, 2012
Countercurrents.org

When women in Iraq are arrested, they routinely go through three gruesome phases, starting with humiliation, followed by torture, and often ending with rape. I have received disturbing information from two different, well informed sources: one from qualified social workers in Al-Kadimiyah Women Prison, the other from three national guards officers who worked in the prison.

The common procedure is as follows:

During the Arrest

The torture journey starts when security forces raid and search the houses, through random raids or ordered raids. The Fourth Commander of the Second Brigade – Team 6, Major Jumaa Al-Musawi, has confirmed this information. This man has a criminal record, and he was assigned to this position by the American Forces during their first training courses in intelligence gathering. He used to live in Al-Thawra (now called Sadr City) / Sector 87. In his own words:

“When we receive the raid and search orders from the Brigade Intelligence, we usually start with a little party and drink alcohol, or take some drugs. We choose the most cruel soldiers to carry out such operations. The first thing we do is to lock the men and youngsters in a room, and the women and children in another room. We start to steal what can be taken fast, like jewelry, and we mess up the house, like throwing the women’s underwear here and there; some soldiers even steal some of this underwear. After that, we start to do a body search on the women, and having fun touching their private parts or breasts. We threaten them to arrest the men in the house when they refuse to be touched. If those women are pretty, we usually rape them immediately, and leave the house when we find no weapons or incriminating material. In case we find some weapons, every man and youngster in the house will be arrested, and if there are no men at home, we arrest all the women instead. This is totally according to the orders we receive.”

What follows is one of many stories about the crimes committed by these corrupt creatures, who shamelessly brag about their misdeeds to each other. Al-Musawi and his assistant Lt. Rafid Al-Darraji (another criminal who was imprisoned in Abu-Ghraib and sentenced to death, but was released by the Americans, using him as a guardian, along with their own guard dogs, giving him the Lt. rank. He used to live in Al-Nuariyah District. Here is what they state:

“In July 2006, we received an order to raid and search the house of one of the fabric merchants in Karradah (his name is not mentioned). When we reached his house at 1:00 a.m., we didn’t find the man, we only found his wife and his 17 year old son. During the search we found a rifle, which – according to our law – is permitted for the personal protection of civilians. But we threatened the woman that we would arrest her son if she didn’t let us rape her. So, we handcuffed the son and locked him in a room, and one soldier after the other raped the lady in the other room. The other soldiers stole what they could find, then we headed to a well-known brothel in Al-Doura District in Um Alaa’s house to enjoy the rest of the night there.”

They continue: “The first thing we do when an arrested woman is being transported to the detention location, is that every part of her body is touched by all the soldiers in the vehicle, while using dirty language. When we reach the detention facility, we leave her in the investigation room, supervised by the intelligence officer and his assistants. They directly take all her clothes off, blindfold her, handcuff her, then the intelligence officer starts to rape her with his assistant. And later they ask her some questions: if she’s guilty or innocent and so on. Then they blackmail her, saying that she should be cooperative and give important information about the District where she lives, otherwise they would distribute photos of her while she was naked and being raped. They would accuse her of false charges if she would file a complaint about harrassment and torture. If she receives a “guilty” verdict, she usually stays in the same location for a period of one to three months, in order to finish the procedures of her “case”, to be sent to the headquarters. During these months, every single intelligence officer and soldier in the Brigade will rape her. After that, she will be sent to Al Tasfeerat Prison in Shaab Stadium, or to Al-Muthanna Airport Prison. Sometimes the prisoner is transferred to the facility of the Chief Commander’s Office in the Green Zone, which is a cellar under the building of the Baghdad Operations Headquarter, supervised by Major General Adnan Al-Musawi. This place is one of the most dangerous, dirtiest prisons of Al-Maliki.

Al-Tasfeerat Prisons

This is the second stage of the unfair arrest journey. The female detainee will be sent either to Shaab Stadium Prison or the notorious Al-Muthanna Airport Prison. A group of the worst psychopaths in the government is supervising these prisons, a corrupt committee of criminals of the Military Intelligence, the Intelligence services of the Ministry of Interior, and an Intelligence and Security Representative from the Chief Commander’s Office. This management is appointed by the Iraqi Correction Office through the Ministry of Justice. 45% of its employees are Al-Mahdi Militia members, 30% from the Badr Organisation. The other 25% is divided among the other criminal parties of the government.

This phase is considered as the most barbaric. The security forces, prison guards and members of the prison management practice the most terrible ways of torture, humiliation, profanation, deprivation, blackmailing the prisoners, ethnic and sectarian and political discrimination, and raping men and women without exception. Female prisoners are detained for very long periods, without legitimate accusations or investigating their case. In criminal Maliki’s jails, there are many women who were imprisoned for periods between one year and six years, without any legal representation or procedures regarding their case.

There are many examples of the immoral and brutal practices being committed against female and male prisoners in Al-Tasfeerat Prisons. Some officers from the Ministries of Interior and Defense, the Office of the Chief of Command, and some partisan and criminal militia leaders visit these prisons, and choose some detainees to be tortured for hours and raping them for sectarian reasons. Some of the prisoners die as a result of this brutal torture. Between 2008-2012 Al-Rasafah Tasfeerat Prison recorded the death of more than 250 prisoners, among them 17 women. During the same period Al-Muthanna Airport Prison recorded the death of 125 prisoners, among them three women.

And these torture practices do not only take place in Al-Tasfeerat Prisons, but in all the prisons supervised by the Ministry of Justice, especially the Juveniles Prison, Al-Kadimiyah Women Prison, the notorious Abu-Ghraib Prison, in addition to the secret prisons of Al-Maliki where no accurate records are available about the male and female detainees who died because of the brutal torture they faced there.

It’s worth mentioning that under Al Maliki’s rule, some notorious high risk level prisoners – men and women alike- were released or secretly smuggled out Al-Tasfeerat Prisons, after destroying all the documents and papers related to their cases, on the orders of Ministers and VIPs in the Ministries of Interior and Defense, and the Commanding Chief’s Office. Here are some of prisoners who were “released”:

Radiyah Kadum Muhsin : she was one of the prominent leaders of the Dawa Party, and was released after an order from Al-Maliki himself, and under the supervision of his Intelligence and Security Consultant. She was accused of leading one of the biggest human trafficking criminal gangs that kidnap children and sell them, in addition to prostitution, seducing some officers and government officials, and blackmailing them with their own pornographic photos, or even eliminating them. She was also accused of drug dealing, and forging official documents.

Adnan Abdulzahra Al-Aaraji: he is one of the prominent leaders of the Mahdi Militia, and the head of one of the most notorious gangs known in Iraqi history in terms of sadism, criminality and discrimination. He was arrested by the Americans while he was trying to smuggle 5000 corpses of his victims to Iran during the sectarian wars in 2006. Those corpses were sent to Iran in three cooled vehicles for the sake of human organs trade. He was accused of smuggling antiques, explosives, weapons, and drugs. We mentioned here only two of the prisoners who were “released” from Al-Maliki prisons.

After The Trial

Here begins the real tragedy. After the arrest, the prisoner – if she’s still alive – has physical wounds all over her body, having many psychological problems because of the unfair trials and the terrible treatment she faced during the time in prison, including torture and rape.

And here is another serious hardship the female prisoners are facing inside the detention centres.

There are women in these prisons with criminal records, convicted for various crimes. The prison supervisors use those inmates to bully the arbitrarily detained, innocent female detainees, imprisoned for sectarian reasons, because of false accusations or reports by secret informants. Those inmates are scaring the arbitrarily detained, watching them, blackmailing them through continuous attempts to find out things about their personal lives. Then that information is used against these innocent women to break them psychologically, through disinformation and lies about the families of those innocent prisoners.

Various Ways of Torture of Iraqi Female Prisoners

1- Physical and Psychological Torture:

The prison supervisors use many different forms of physical and psychological torture, which they learned from their Americans and the Iranians supervisors. These methods include:

Taking off the clothes of the prisoners for more than two hours, while insulting them.

Beating them hard with sticks, or kicking them hard in the loins.

Electrical shocks in their breasts, loins and head.

Using all kinds of sexual harassment (we will not reveal more details because of the extreme shameful nature).

Recurrent rape after midnight by the guards and other persons who work in the prison, in the presence of the prison manager, because the rape often happens in his room.
Those criminals: the prison manager and the other supervisors, continuously repeat their disgusting acts. They invite other security officers from the Ministries of Interior and Defense to participate in their savage orgies, that always end in rape of the prisoners.

I will mention only one incident I witnessed in Al-Kadimiyah Prison in 2008 and can be confirmed by a social assistant who works there:

In one of the secret prisons of Al-Maliki in the Green Zone, there was a prisoner named A.A.Al-Zaidi. He was a Police Colonel before, and also held a position in the Intelligence Dept of the Badr Org., known as one of the terrorist extremist militias. His task was to assist the Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in getting information, names and addresses of security and intelligence officers from Saddam’s regime, so that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards could find them and eliminate them. His wife was helping him too, along with her cousin who is a lieutenant in the Ministry of Interior Special Commandos, called Sayid Jalal Al-Magsoosi.

A.A.Al-Zaidi was also responsible for recruiting women to carry out suicide attacks in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Sunni areas in Iraq, especially Diyala and Baghdad. He was arrested by the American Forces while he was trying to illegally enter Jordan with his wife and other three women, carrying spying equipments. His wife and the three women were put in Al-Kadimiyah Prison, but he was taken to Al-Maliki’s secret prison in the Green Zone.

On New Year’s Eve, while the intelligence officers and some interrogators were partying and drinking in the prison, they told one of the guards to bring A.A.Al-Zaidi. The prisoner entered and the drunken officers asked whether he wanted to talk to his wife on the phone. They phoned the manager of Al-Kadimiyah Prison, asking him to bring the prisoner’s wife. The two talked on the phone, and the prisoner was taken to his cell again.

After that, the chief interrogator talked to the wife and said: “we want to party with you and five other pretty friends of yours. We will be coming within an hour to the women prison, so you should all be ready. You will be five and we are six. The prison manager prepared a room for them, and all the prisoners were raped many times by the officers and two of the prison guards. While they were partying and raping the women, they cheered: “hail to Al-Maliki, the pimp, the liar, the thief of Baghdad!”

2- Deprivation:

This word does not accurately describe the dire situation of the women in prisons who are devoid from the simplest rights and needs, like;

Deprivation of family visits, phone calls, and all kinds of contact.
Deprivation of health services, health care, and other sanitary needs.
Deprivation of legal rights, no authorization to see or consult a lawyer.
Deprivation of regular exposure to sunlight, and having no detergents or necessary disinfectants.
Deprivation of complaining to the concerned committees, prisoners are threatened that they should not complain to those committees or else… And even if the prisoners file a complaint, no one will ever listen, because those committees will hear the complaints and then neglect them.

3- Blackmail and Terrorization:

Female prisoners often receive threats that their family members will be arrested and false accusations are made against the families of the prisoners. The prisoner has to pay a huge amount of money and has to beg to make a phone call to her family. Those who have not enough money can sell their bodies to make a phone call.

This is just a brief account of what is happening in the women prisons. Baghdad alone has more than 3000 women imprisoned. The prisoners are distributed among the following jails:

Al-Kadimiyah Prison
Al-Tasfeerat Prison in Shaab Stadium.
Al-Muthanna Airport Prison.
Al-Baladiyyat Prison.
Al-Rustumiyah Prison.

There’s another secret prison supervised by the Chief Commander’s Office, containing 65 imprisoned women. The site of this prison is changed regularly. in addition to these prisons other small detention centres are located in different security and intelligence operations headquarters.

Translation from Arabic: Lubna Al Rudaini

Editing: Dirk Adriaensens

 

#India-Who said what in FDI debate


IANS India Private LimitedBy Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited – 2 hours 57 minutes ago

New Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS) Seven speakers from different parties spoke Tuesday on the FDI issue in the Lok Sabha, kicking off a two-day debate with voting.

The debate will end Wednesday with a vote. If it loses in the voting, the UPA government need not resign but it will certainly be a huge embarrassment.

Here are some quotes :

Sushma Swaraj (BJP, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha) : “Small shops, retailers have been wiped out in countries which allowed FDI in retail. About 12 crore people will go out of jobs in India due to the UPA government’s decision to allow FDI in retail. PM makes bold statements like if we must go down, we’ll go down fighting. You must Mr PM, but fight for the poor, not the rich, fight for country, not multi-nationals, fight for small, not big.”

Kapil Sibal (Communications Minister) : “It was decided that retail will only be in cities with over 10 lakh population. There are 53 such cities. After that we felt some states have opposition government. If we separate the states that don’t want it, there are 18 cities left…So if FDI in retail will be implemented in only 18 cities, why is the debate happening? This debate is not needed at all, it is a totally political debate.”

Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party chief) : “As far as FDI is concerned, how much so ever you explain, it is not in favour of the country. We are speaking for the people, it is not in favour of the country. Thirty crore people will be unemployed. If this was good and beneficial, why is America in trouble? Why are people unemployed there?”

Dara Singh Chauhan (Bahujan Samaj Party): “Poor people are anxious over the impact this policy can have on their lives. They fear the multi-national companies will take away their livelihoods. The government should not rush with it.”

T.K.S. Elangovan (DMK) : “I am not telling this as an opponent, but telling this as your brother. I don’t want to put you (government) for a whole-body scan as opposition, but it (FDI in retail) is definitely not in interest of the trading community. “We were the first party to oppose FDI, but we don’t want to oppose you. We have done many good things for the country together, something may not be in favour of the country, but we don’t want to oppose you.”

Basudeb Acharia (Communist Party of India-Marxist): “The government is giving dreams of employment (from FDI).. There is 0.8 percent growth in employment in the country and unemployment is rising, there is an economic slowdown… If Wal-Mart gives one employment, it will snatch 17 employments.”

 

The case against cash transfers #UID #Aadhaar


If the system doesn’t work, don’t fix it, just dismantle it, the government appears to be saying in the matter of cash transfers in lieu of subsidies, writes Sachin Kumar Jain

Public distribution system (PDS)

Since 2005, the government has indicated a preference for a policy of cash transfers in lieu of  subsidies it provides to people under various welfare schemes (health, education, agriculture, food rations, etc). The Delhi government has initiated a cash-for-food pilot in two urban slums. Their logic is that people are then free to ‘buy’ these services in the open market.

Therein hangs a tale. The World Bank and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are  key organisations pushing cash transfer policies in India, arguing that people do not receive their entitlements and benefits related to basic services, and so it is time to adopt alternatives, the best one being to transfer cash instead of providing services and substance.

In a paper on the issue, the UNDP argues: “Cash transfer schemes are also being advocated in the Indian context as a measure of enhancing the efficiency of delivery of government programmes. It is well known that the administrative cost of delivery of services in the country is high, there are substantial leakages, and inter-sectoral coordination is not optimal. It has been argued by some that the amount of Rs 2,000 billion that is spent annually on food, fuel and fertiliser subsidies may be better utilised by providing cash directly to the beneficiaries or to the gram panchayats (locally elected village councils) that in turn can implement schemes for the poor… CCT (conditional cash transfer) schemes have been observed to promote more regular health check-ups among pregnant women and children in countries with a good and functioning health infrastructure.” (http://www.undp.org.in/content/cct/CCT_DP.pdf)

The UNDP paper further advocates conditional cash transfers to improve education levels, health indicators and social wellbeing. It says: “Conditional cash transfers are different from unconditional cash transfers — grants to vulnerable persons/groups on the basis of certain predetermined eligibility criteria. Social transfers such as pensions to senior citizens, the physically challenged, children, etc, are the most common unconditional cash transfers. The main difference as compared to CCT schemes is that they are unconditional programmes and do not attempt to influence individual/household consumption preferences. They recognise the vulnerability of those whom the scheme addresses and make provision of a cash grant to enable individual/group coping mechanisms, often in response to guaranteed human rights. These constitute protective social security measures.” Still, the UNDP has provided funding of $10 million, in four phases, to the Delhi government to pilot cash-for-food, which will replace food from the public distribution system (PDS).

In a survey conducted by the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and the Right to Food Campaign, in Delhi’s slum settlements in May-June 2011, a mere 201 out of the 4,005 BPL (below the poverty line) women interviewed stated that they preferred cash transfers; 91% of BPL families wanted the distribution of subsidised foodgrain to continue. Of course, they looked forward to structural improvements in the PDS.

During documentation of a series of case studies on food insecurity and hunger among tribals in Madhya Pradesh, by Vikas Samvad, it was found that people from tribal communities overwhelmingly prefer food, for various practical reasons.

Seventy-year-old Puswa Mawasi of Madulihai village in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district possesses a BPL ration card. But he has never received more than 20 kg of foodgrain, that too of inferior quality. Often, he visits the ration shop only to find it shut. Sukvariya, a 68-year-old woman tells a similar story.

Anjanwada is a village in Sondhwa tehsil of Alirajpur district that has been affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project. The dam has submerged the livelihood resources of 60 of the 63 families residing in the village, yet all these families have been allotted APL (above the poverty line) ration cards. If a villager falls ill, it’s inevitably life-threatening as it takes three hours by boat to navigate the reservoir waters to the nearest primary health centre (which is almost always shut). No public transport system has been set up either by the Narmada Valley Development Authority or the state government.

During our field survey, we asked Puswa Mawasi whether people would be willing to accept cash transfers as an alternative to foodgrain rationing, considering the dismal state of the public distribution system. He thought for a while before replying: “Then we would have to go to Majgawan tehsil headquarters to get our rations from the private dealer.” After a pause, he added: “The cost of foodgrain keeps going up day by day. That would be the end of us, and we would all die of hunger… Our government took more than 12 years to increase the old age pension amount. No, we only want food.”

Sukvariya Bai chipped in: “Cash? No, never. Even today, the liquor contractors spell death for us. If cash flows in place of food, it would not go towards foodgrain but be spent on liquor and gambling. The young seek new pleasures every day. Every rupee we get will be splurged on such frivolous pastimes. Just reform the ration shops and their staff. That’s enough for us.”

The adivasis of Anjanwada speak with one voice. “Will we be cured if cash comes into our hands? The hospital staff already fleece us. Things would get even more difficult with private healthcare. No, we don’t want cash. Just give us foodgrain and healthcare,” they say.

The Nandi Foundation, which supports the idea of cash transfers and putting an end to government involvement in social welfare administration, conducted a survey in 12 districts of Madhya Pradesh in 2010, to assess the opinion of beneficiaries about the policy change. It found that 95% of women opposed the idea of dismantling the public distribution system and replacing it with cash transfers. Women firmly believe that the cash will never come into their hands because, in most families, control of money is in the hands of men who do not always spend it on basic necessities.

Forty economists from around the world (working in internationally renowned universities like Harvard, LSE, D-School, IGIDR, ISI, Princeton, Columbia, Warwick, etc) have written (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-06-01/news/29608448_1_pds-) to the prime minister urging universalisation of the public distribution system. They have also appealed against cash transfers replacing foodgrain rationing. Acting on the appeal of these learned economists, an intensive study of 1,227 households was undertaken in March-June 2011, in 100 randomly selected villages of nine districts, covering Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, under the leadership of Indian researchers Professor Jean Dreze and Ritika Khera. (http://infochangeindia.org/a-pds-that-works-is-better-than-cash-transfers.html)

The study showed that 91% of people in Andhra Pradesh, 88% in Orissa, 90% in Chhattisgarh, and 81% in Himachal Pradesh want only foodgrain. Only 11% in Tamil Nadu, 15% in Rajasthan, and 22% in Jharkhand prefer cash. It is revealing to note that among those giving priority to cash, most are males.

The people surveyed pointed out that there are no other shops besides the government ration shop, in most habitations. So where would they go with their cash? At least at present, foodgrain was available and was being distributed equally. With cash there would be no such equity.

Votaries of cash transfers

K Seethaprabhu, senior assistant country director in India for the United Nations Development Programme, in her paper titled ‘Can Conditional Cash Transfers Work in Rural India?’ writes: “The Indian government is seriously studying the implications of introducing such programmes to address India’s nutritional challenges. In March 2008, ‘Dhanalakshmi’ — a CCT for female children with insurance cover — was introduced on an experimental basis in 11 educationally backward blocks across Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Punjab. The programme provides for cash transfers to the family of a female child on their fulfilling specific conditions: birth and registration of the child, immunisation, enrolment and retention in school. If the girl remains unmarried until the age of 18, insurance cover of Rs 100,000 will be given to her. Several state governments have launched variations of CCT programmes, providing incentives to promote the birth, survival, and education of girls. For example, the Ladli scheme of the governments of Delhi and Haryana puts money in the bank at various stages; the full amount is provided to the girl when she turns 18.”

This approach leaves the question of inequality unanswered. While advocating conditional cash transfers, institutions like the UNDP combine it with unconditional cash transfers, further complicating the issue. They also emphasise the need to strengthen public service institutions like schools, hospitals and the public distribution system.

The World Bank, in its report ‘Social Protection for a Changing India’, launched in May 2011, said: “No country in the world has a well-functioning PDS system. India is no exception. India’s public distribution system has limited benefits due to huge leakage and wastage.” It recommends cash transfers as an alternative to providing subsidised food for the poor. Quoted here is part of a news report (based on the abovementioned World Bank report) on the World Bank’s recommendation, which says: “Leakages and diversion of grains are high. Only 41% of the grain released by the government reaches households, according to 2004-05 NSS (the latest data available), with some states doing much worse. In 2001, the Planning Commission has estimated this leakage of BPL grain at 58% nationally.”

The report, prepared at the request of the Government of India, shows that India’s policymakers and the World Bank are travelling in the same boat and do not believe in drastic reforms in the PDS. Instead of reforms, they are ready to dismantle the system. They don’t want to accept the argument that the PDS is fundamentally necessary to protect food producer farmers, offset price fluctuations and ensure food security to the country at large. They forget that India is not a country with an 85% urban population or 5% poor population — where cash transfers have worked to some extent. It is still a rural economy-based country where 77% of the population survives by spending just Rs 20 ($ 0.44) a day. India will have to retain control over production and public service delivery mechanisms to ensure equality and the availability of essential services which we demand as entitlements.

Government is shrugging off responsibility

It is now an accepted fact that the government system is so corrupt and disorganised that it cannot deliver basic services to the citizens of this country. Any direct government hand in administering foodgrain, healthcare, education and social security would mean the breakdown and ruin of these services. That’s why it’s being said that it is better that people begin to accept a system of receiving cash relief, in accordance with certain eligibility norms.

In financial year 2010-11, the central and state governments spent a total of Rs 3.69 lakh crore on the social welfare sector (education, healthcare, livelihoods, social security, etc). The total amount of subsidy on the social sector, in 2011-12, is Rs 1.62 lakh crore, which is about Rs 20,000 crore more than in the previous year. Public expenditure on the social sector is declining; the cash transfer policy will contribute further to this decline.

The Planning Commission sees benefits in adopting cash transfers, asserting that the government should not have a direct administrative role in the social sector. It advocates that the government should either shut down its ration shops, hospitals and welfare programmes, or adopt a policy of direct cash transfers in lieu of these services in order to enable the private sector to develop. In a paper titled ‘Introducing Conditional Cash Transfers in India: A Proposal for Five CCTs’ (2010), the Planning Commission said what the World Bank wanted to hear. “India has had a long history of untargeted or poorly targeted subsidies, which are in need of replacement, especially because the fiscal burden of these subsidies has become increasingly unbearable after the multiple fiscal stimuli post-2008 economic crisis.” The Department of Food and Civil Supplies in 2008 asked for a Rs 242 crore budget to provide food coupons instead of foodgrain and allow people to use them as cheques to buy food from the open market. Once it is properly set in place, the public distribution system will be shut down.

This year, while reading his budget speech in Parliament, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated that instead of distributing subsidised kerosene and foodgrain the government would directly deposit cash payments into the accounts of beneficiaries. When it was pointed out that cash transfers would prove inadequate if the prices of kerosene and foodgrain rose (once official controls were withdrawn) the government had no answer.

The only refrain was that since subsidies provided under various welfare programmes seldom reached the beneficiaries, the only real solution was to directly transfer cash to them. And that this would offer them the freedom to choose whichever alternative service or commodity they desired that was available in the open market.

The version of the National Food Security Bill approved by the ruling government’s Cabinet committee has a provision to gradually transfer cash amounts in place of foodgrain rationing. While dealing with the question of reforms in the PDS, the proposed NFSA (draft approved by Cabinet), makes clear its intentions on cash transfers. Chapter 13, Section 3(g) of the Bill says: “Introducing scheme for cash transfer to the targeted beneficiaries in lieu of their foodgrain entitlements… in areas and manner to be prescribed by the central government.”

It costs Rs 3.65 for every rupee of development funding to percolate down to the beneficiaries. If the relief meant for poor families in the 150-odd central and state government-run programmes is provided in cash, it would mean that every poor and vulnerable family would receive Rs 2,140 a month, raising them above the poverty line. Will this suffice to provide them access to foodgrain, healthcare and education at the prevailing open market rates?

Until now, the poor have been receiving services directly from the government, which, to some extent, limits the scope for corruption. Once people begin receiving cash amounts, instances of fraud will increase.

Where cash transfers can work

Today, 42 crore of India’s most destitute are able to survive because the public distribution system provides them 35% of the foodgrain they require. The sad fact is that there is no true assessment of poverty in the country. As much as 39% of India’s poor population does not even have a ration card; they get no government welfare relief whatsoever.

The government system cannot be made accountable or free of corruption, so the alternative proposed is not to reform it but to divest it of its purpose and functions and let the people repose their trust in the market.

India is moving towards a system of cash transfers in accordance with certain eligibility criteria. Whether it is foodgrain payments or health services payments, the government will make cash transfers available only to those it accepts as poor. According to present official criteria, a poor family in a village is a family that spends less than Rs 15 per day per capita; the amount in urban areas is Rs 20 per capita. Such exercising of government discretion in transferring money raises the basic fear that the system may no longer remain public or open.

The Indian initiative appears to be influenced by the cash transfer programmes prevalent in South American countries. These are countries where urbanisation has been taking place for the past 200-300 years, and 80% of their populations live in cities. Gender discrimination is comparatively low, as is corruption.

Our Planning Commission fails to see that these countries have developed stable welfare services. They have provisions to extend economic help to families with school-going children, and the programmes are successful because the school system works well. They also have hospitals and other services, making cash transfers a meaningful exercise. In India, the infrastructure for basic welfare services is collapsing; any policy of cash transfers could have disastrous results.

The cash transfer systems of Brazil and Mexico are touted as examples to be followed. But it should be understood that only 5% of the populations of both these countries are below the poverty line, whereas the Indian figure is 46%. This means they require a system of cash transfers catering to only small numbers of beneficiaries, a model that’s unlikely to be viable in India. Similarly, there is a difference between using cash transfers as an alternative to providing basic services, and using them to promote infant care and nutrition in maternal security programmes. Should we really be telling pregnant women to accept Rs 1,400 and get their deliveries done wherever they wish? Or should we be strengthening our healthcare infrastructure and network?

We need, therefore, to be clear about the consequences before deciding to operationalise any system of conditional cash transfers. Seventy per cent of India’s population still lives in villages where few banking institutions are available. As many as 26,000 rural banks have downed their shutters since 1992, and commercial banks have shown no interest in social welfare schemes. That’s why it’s difficult to reach cash to village populations.

We have seen cash disbursals being made to promote maternal security and pension schemes, but even in these cases many beneficiaries do not receive their entitlements because of corruption. This proves that cash transfers do not put an end to corruption, as is claimed by proponents of such a course of action. Eventually, we need to reform and strengthen our infrastructure and systems and make them more accountable.

What’s more, it is important to note that the Supreme Court has defined food, nutrition, and social security as basic human rights. These rights cannot be compromised or curtailed by BPL eligibility and other conditions. Conditional cash transfers limit basic rights. They have only been successful where government systems are capable and influential. In India, the government system is weak and helpless. In such a scenario, the monopoly of the private sector could prove dangerous.

It is being said these days that India is now a developed economy and public distribution programmes only sully the country’s image by suggesting backwardness. That’s why such programmes need to be discontinued. But what intellectuals fail to realise is that the government buys 4-6 crore tonnes of foodgrain every year, at its minimum support price, to run the public distribution system. If foodgrain were not distributed through the public distribution system, the government would buy less from farmers, who would then no longer have the luxury of being able to sell their produce within a radius of 10 km from their villages. This would increase their dependence on companies like ITC and Cargill, leading to a situation where multinational companies, not the government, determine the price of foodgrain.

The public distribution system plays an important role in India, providing security to farmers, controlling price, and providing emergency supplies and foodgrain in areas/states facing scarcity. A system of cash transfers would end this role and destabilise the foodgrain market. Farmers are also participants in the public distribution system; they need to be consulted.

Equally important, the government should introspect on its reluctance to strengthen the infrastructure and working of the public distribution, healthcare and education systems. Is the government implementing such policies merely to benefit the corporate-capitalist forces? If that is so, we need to put a stop to such anti-people policies.

(Sachin Kumar Jain is a right to food activist and freelance journalist based in Madhya Pradesh)

Infochange News & Features, September 2011

 

Monograph – #UID is not yours- #Aadhaar #privacy #Identity #mustshare


MONOGRAPH

Government and UIDAI vigorously promote the UID

scheme. They claim various benefits, like reduction in corruption,

euphemistically termed – “Leakages”, in government’s welfare

measures. these claims are made based on conjecture, whim, feelings,

and perhaps, some hope. A huge scheme, with immeasurable

impact, almost certainly, adverse, has been launched with absolutely

no study or thought. Government authorities have bought the rosy

picture that a former private sector IT honcho painted. Such use

of IT and more especially, biometrics has never been attempted on

this scale. !ere is very large body of evidence of the impracticality

of such use of IT and biometrics. !e audacity with which those in

charge have plunged into the UID scheme defies logic.

The media, in particular, have been silent, and on many an

occasion even supportive of the scheme. Intriguingly, most news

about the scheme “nds place in business pages of print media. !ere

is a dreadful combination of ignorance, sycophancy and greed in

promoting a scheme, which while spending public money, provides

business opportunities for pro”table exploitation.

The public are largely ignorant and mostly unconcerned.

Many believe that since, Government is promoting the scheme, it

could have some use. Some are apprehensive about losing out on

government largesse and rush to enrol in the scheme. Government,

UIDAI and media encourage such herd behaviour through leaks

which suggest that one or the other of welfare subsidies would be

“linked” to UID. !is they do, while projecting UID as voluntary.

!e deceit has so far been successful.

A few, who have studied UID and similar schemes, realised

that this is a sinister ploy of Government. We are among those who

have understood that the gathering of people’s data, in the manner

in which it is done through private foreign and Indian “rms poses

dangers to the Nation and all of us. We questioned UIDAI and

governments and failed to receive satisfactory answers. We have

addressed or elected representatives, in Parliament and in the States.

Our approach to Parliament was singularly successful. A Parliament

Standing Committee to which, the National Identi”cation Authority

of India, Bill 2010 was referred trashed the Bill as well as the UID

scheme.

We believe that the truth about UID be told to the people

of India. !is Monograph is the result of our commitment to this

cause. In the Monograph, we present various perspectives of those

who have examined UID, through articles they wrote for us. We

included in the Monograph a few RTI queries and UIDAI’s replies,

to show the scheme up, for what it truly is. We have included

material garnered from the Internet to call attention to the need to

halt the scheme, investigate the inferences that could be drawn from

the information and take an informed decision on the UID scheme.

I have compiled this Monograph with help from the

contributing authors and others.

!ursday, 22 November 2012 Mathew !omas

(Mathew !omas is a former Defence Scientist. He is now a civic activist)

DOWNALOD THE MONOGRAPH BELOW

DOWNLOAD MONOGRAPH HERE

The Bhopal Disaster and Medical Research


Vol – XLVII No. 49, December 08, 2012 |  EPW-C Sathyamala and N D Jayaprakash

The Supreme Court, in its fi nal order of October 1991, upheld the compensation settlement with Union Carbide which made the Government of India liable for any shortfall in compensation or any new claims from the Bhopal gas victims. Following this order the Indian Council of Medical Research disbanded its medical esearch on the long-term medical effects of the disaster. A recent Supreme Court order directs the ICMR to resume that research, but the question that looms is why the ICMR abdicated its ethical mandate and allowed its subordination to a political diktat. Why did the ICMR as aninstitution allow itself to become an apologist of the Indian state?

C Sathyamala (csathyamala@gmail.com) is an epidemiologist and a member of the Advisory Committee on Bhopal set up by the Supreme Court of India on 17 August 2004. N D Jayaprakash (jaypdsf@gmail.com) is convenor, Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti, a Delhi-based coalition of over 30 all-India organisations founded in 1989 to support the gas victims.

The Supreme Court, in its final order of October 1991, upheld the compensation settlement with Union Carbide which made the Government of India liable for any shortfall in compensation or any new claims from the Bhopal gas victims. Following this order the Indian Council of Medical Research disbanded its medical research on the long-term medical effects of the disaster. A recent Supreme Court order directs the ICMR to resume that research, but the question that looms is why the ICMR abdicated its ethical mandate and allowed its subordination to a political diktat. Why did the ICMR as an institution allow itself to become an apologist of the Indian state?

C Sathyamala (csathyamala@gmail.com) is an epidemiologist and a member of the Advisory Committee on Bhopal set up by the Supreme Court of India on 17 August 2004. N D Jayaprakash (jaypdsf@gmail.com) is convenor, Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti, a Delhi-based coalition of over 30 all-India organisations founded in 1989 to support the gas victims.

The 9th of August 2012 witnessed the culmination of a protracted litigation in the Supreme Court of India (SCI) by the survivor groups and their support organisations in the Bhopal gas leak disaster case for appropriate medical relief and rehabilitation. The ­order passed on the writ petition No 50 of 1998 (Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghatan (BGPMUS) & Ors1 vs Union of India & Ors2), directed the Government of India (GoI), the Government of Madhya Pradesh and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), to ensure the continuation of medical research, prepare standardised protocols for diagnosis and treatment of the exposed, as well as provide patient-retained health booklets for recording their medical history and treatment.3 Though the order can be considered radical given the context, as rightly pointed out in the EPW editorial (2012), it is indeed disturbing that it requires a Supreme Court order to direct ICMR to continue research on what is patently their role as a medical scientific body. Why did the ICMR abdicate its ethical mandate and allow its subordination to a political dictate is the story that needs to be told.

The industrial disaster in Bhopal on the night of 2/3 December 1984 exposed more than two-thirds of the nearly 9,00,000 population to a mixture of toxic gases4 that escaped from the pesticide factory owned by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), a subsidiary of ­Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), a US multinational company currently owned by another US multinational, Dow Chemicals. As was to be expected, the UCC ­denied any wrongdoing on their side but would not part with the toxicological ­information on methyl isocyanate (MIC), the chemical which had been stored in liquid form in the factory premises and whose runaway exothermic reaction was responsible for the ­disaster. In the absence of this critical toxicological ­information, the scientific bodies had to generate their own data for understanding the nature of the chemical injury and develop possible antidote and therapies.

Suppression of the Health Impact

In the period immediately following the disaster, both the central and state governments appeared to be serious about mapping its health impact. The first systematic survey on the exposed population was carried out by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), which had been approached by the Commissioner of Relief and Rehabilitation for the gas victims (Singh 2010). Funded by Sir ­Dorabji Tata Trust (since the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government had refused to finance it), the house-to-house survey was conducted from 1 January 1985 to the second week of February 1985, by “… [a] total of 478 students, 41 faculty members and 13 staff members cover[ing] 25,259 households” (Singh 2010).

Alongside, the ICMR began the process of providing the gas-exposed families with a unique identifying number as a first step towards developing a sampling frame for long-term epidemiological studies. Based on post-mortem studies on the dead which indicated a “cyanide-like” poisoning,5 ICMR conducted a ­double-blind clinical study to assess the efficacy of Sodium Thiosulphate (NaTS), as an antidote to the poisoning and ­concluded,

…the rationale for the use of sodium thiosulphate as an antidote has been established to ameliorate the lingering sickness of gas affected victims of Bhopal (ICMR 1985).

Yet, the ICMR did not follow through with this recommendation both because of opposition from the powerful medical lobby in Bhopal which was heavily influenced by Union Carbide and because of the Indian government’s wavering stand. The MP government on its part decided to suppress the data collected by TISS which had been handed over to it in good faith.

In early 1985, the Indian Parliament passed the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act (deemed to have come into effect from 20 February 1985), purported to prevent the exploitation of the victims by the ambulance-chasing American lawyers. However, with this Act, the Indian state assumed the role of parens patriae vis-à-vis the victims thereby appropriating their rights under its umbrella of care. The Bhopal Act gave the Indian government,

exclusive right to, represent, and act in place of (whether within or outside India) every person who has made, or is entitled to make, a claim for all purposes connected with such claims in the same manner and to the same effect as such person(GoI 1994, emphasis added).

Under this Act the victims had no rights to represent themselves and, though it was challenged in the SCI as early as 1986,6 it was upheld as being constitutionally valid.7 The logical consequence of this legal appropriation of a citizen’s right to litigate meant that the state had the right to medical appropriation as well (Jaising and Sathyamala 1992). Hence, it became the government’s ­exclusive right to determine whether they would study the health effects of the toxic gases, which aspects they would research on, whether they would share the findings with the claimants and whether they would submit the research findings in their litigation against UCC.

With the passing of the Act the changing stance of the Indian government could be discerned, and the victim groups were forced to approach the courts for medical relief. The petition filed on behalf of the victims in August 1985 brought to the notice of the SCI the refusal of the medical community in Bhopal to administer NaTS as well as the lack of adequate healthcare facilities for the gas exposed.8

The Supreme Court then set up a committee of seven experts with three representatives from the ICMR, two from GoI and two representatives of the gas victims. The committee was to examine the detoxification of the gas victims by NaTS therapy; suggest appropriate design for an epidemiological ­survey for the purpose of documentation, and for determining compensation payable to the victims; and to recommend guidelines for the provision of medical relief, and monitoring of the ­exposed population. The SCI, convinced of the need for long-term medical monitoring, stated in their order of 4 Nov­ember 1985:

It is desirable that some independent machinery must be set up which would…carry out a proper epidemiological survey and also a house-to-house survey of the gas affected victims both of which will also be necessary for the purpose of determining the compensation payable to the gas affected victims and their families. It would be necessary for the purpose of ensuring proper medical ­facilities to the gas affected victims.

Inadequate Epidemiological Study

However, the members of the committee, representing divergent interests, could not come to a consensus. In 1987-88, the two representatives of the gas victims in the committee9 submitted a separate minority report entitled “Final Report on Medical Relief and Rehabilitation of Bhopal Gas Victims”. This pointed out the inadequacies in the studies initiated by the ICMR, specifically the long-term epidemiological study, and outlined a set of well-considered recommendations on how they could be improved upon. Though this was submitted to the Court on 30 August 1988, it was not ­taken cognisance of.10

Seemingly in response to this petition, the GoI on its own set up the “Scientific Commission for Continuing Studies on Effects of Bhopal Gas Leakage on Life Systems” headed by C R Krishna Murti (former director, Indian Institute of Toxico­logy Research). The commission’s report submitted to the GoI in July 1987 (publicly accessible only a decade later) was also not submitted to the courts. The 1,000+page report, entitled “The Bhopal Gas Disaster: Effects on Life Systems” commented on the ICMR studies that

..[t]he progress of the epidemiological programme mounted in Bhopal has been tardy and suffers from many inadequacies in the design and in the infrastructure for implementation (Krishna Murti 1987: 11-12).

The report highlighted certain important areas for research:

What is the prognosis of the continuing suffering of the thousands of gas exposees [sic] including a large number of children?
How many of the gas exposees [sic] are likely to be condemned to life-long disability?
Will there be an imprint of the disaster on the progeny of the gas-victims? (Krishna Murti 1987: 3).

It recommended that

… the Ministry of Health with the assistance of ICMR and other agencies creates the requisite mechanism for high level coordination and monitoring of the long-term health studies of the Bhopal Gas Victims (Krishna Murti 1987: 26).

State Complicity

On 14/15 February 1989, empowered by the Bhopal Act, when the GoI settled all claims of the present and the future arising out of the disaster, it was clear that it was not based on any scientific understanding of the nature of injuries or the numbers of injured as none of the data collected by the several scientific bodies was placed before the Court. Due to countrywide protests that followed the unjust arbitrary settlement, the SCI, forced to come out with some justification, in their 4 May 1989 clarificatory order, used arbitrary numbers to provide a mathematical rationale for the amount of money settled for. It was during the hearing of the review petitions challenging the settlement that the victim groups became aware for the first time of the real numbers involved. The numbers provided by the MP government showed that, as of 31 January 1989, i e, 15 days prior to the settlement of the approximately 6,00,000 claimants, only 29,320 persons had been categorised for injury, and of these less than 100 persons had been found to be permanently disabled (partial or full).11

It was left to the victim groups to demonstrate that the process of Personal ­Injury Evaluation (PIE), adopted by the Directorate of Claims for categorisation of injuries, was designed to underestimate the nature of injuries and that by

…inadequately examining the claimants (clinically and through investigations) and by evaluating the injuries and categorizing them with the use of faulty tools biased against the gas victims, the Directorate of Claims, Bhopal, ha[d] ‘defined’ away the injuries of more than 90% of the victims as ‘no injury’ or ‘temporary injury’ (Sathyamala et al 1989).12

With the settlement of 13/14 February 1989, and the SCI’s clarificatory order of 4 May 1989, the complicity of the Indian state became apparent and it was from this period onwards that the victim groups realised that they could no longer depend on the GoI and would need to enter into litigation on their own to ­represent their interests from their point of view.

Through an order from the SCI, the victims were allowed access to their PIE assessment and the newly elected government (the National Front government) made available the ICMR studies on the gas exposed which had till then been held under the Official Secrets Act. The ICMR studies showed the effects of exposure to be multi-systemic, irreversible and progressive; the exposure had affected the immune system, previously asymptomatic persons were becoming symptomatic and there was a grave possibility of carcinogenic and mutagenic changes in the exposed population.

Unfortunately, the victim groups were not able to put up an effective challenge against the civil settlement particularly against the faulty medical categorisation based on the faulty personal injury evaluation process. The National Front government too failed to raise this issue before the Court. However, it was when the counsel for UCC argued on the basis of the numbers provided by the MP government13 and showed, mathematically, using the same rationale provided in the SCI’s clarificatory order of 4 May 1989, that UCC had in fact paid up more than what was warranted,14 that the central importance played by the injury assessment in compensation became clear.

Why Stop Research?

After 3 October 1991, when the final ­order on the review petitions, upholding the civil part (compensation) of the settlement, was pronounced by the SCI, the GoI decided to disband its medical studies. This was in contravention to the court ruling that,

…for at least a period of eight years from now the population of Bhopal exposed to the hazards of MIC toxicity should have provision for medical surveillance by periodic medical check-up for gas related afflictions.15

There was a compelling reason for the GoI’s decision to disband the medical studies. The settlement had quashed all future litigations against UCC and in the event of shortfall in the compensation payable to the victims and in case of newer claims (new manifestation of injuries both in the directly exposed and in their progeny, i e, new generation of claimants), it was the GoI that was liable. It was now not in the interest of the GoI to document the long-term medical effects of the disaster as they were now legally liable to compensate the new claims, if any, and therefore in the same year all ICMR studies were brought to an end. This was also the reason why the victims, even after repeated demands and many legal directions, were never provided with health booklets to record their medical history; for doing so would turn such booklets into a legal document on the basis of which they could claim compensation for long-term effects.

Since the GoI showed no signs of ­re-initiating medical research, the victim groups and their supporters approached the SCI in 1998 for legal remedy. Though the SCI gave several orders16 directing the ICMR to restart the medical research and the health directorate of MP to issue health booklets to record patient history of the gas exposed, they have been largely ignored.

As though to justify the unjustifiable, in a recent report, ICMR is stated to have withdrawn from conducting medical ­research because,

[i]n 1994, after review/recommendations of the projects by the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) and Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), it was observed that the projects had achieved the objectives and were thus completed… (ICMR 2012).

With this statement, the ICMR has cut at its root of scientific integrity, because all evidence points to the contrary. In fact, ICMR’s recent publication based on data from 1985-94, the period after which the studies were discontinued, confirms that in Bhopal,

…cancer of all sites in both males and females showed a significant increasing trend in incidence rates over the years in Area 1 … while in Area 2 no linear trend was observed (ICMR undated: 174).17

While there have been and there continue to be individual scientists within the ICMR who have done work that has been in keeping with their scientific-­ethical mandate, ICMR as an institution has allowed itself to become an apo­logist of the Indian state. The Bhopal ­expe­rience does not infuse confidence among people who live near potential disaster sites about the seriousness and commitment on the part of the government, both central and state, to protect its citizens. With such a track record, the people who are currently protesting the nuclear power plant in Koodankulam are right to distrust the state which has demonstrated that its interests lie elsewhere

 

Banking hiccups are the biggest challenge for direct transfer of subsidy #Aadhar #UID


Demanding draft , The Week
By Soumik Dey
Story Dated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 14:30 hrs IST

Call for change: A tribal woman shows her ration card to get coupons to purchase subsidised rice. AP Photo

The villagers of Kotkasim in Alwar, Rajasthan, recently experienced something for the first time. Direct cash transfer of subsidy, they were told, would be more beneficial than the existing method. Against their purchase of kerosene at market price (unsubsidised), they received three months’ subsidy directly in their bank accounts. But it was anything but beneficial—according to a study by field researchers Bharat Bhatti and Madhulika with development economist Jean Dreze, the amount spent on travelling to banks exceeded the amount they collected as subsidy. Also, the payment of subsidies was erratic and untimely.
Despite the initial hiccups, however, many more bank accounts will be ringing with cash from deposits made by the government in lieu of subsidies from next January. Plans are afoot to provide cash doles instead of subsidising essential purchases by next year. Payouts for farm loans, scholarships and employment schemes would be directly credited to beneficiary accounts even before that.
Is direct cash transfer a better way to give subsidies? Theoretically, yes. It will surely plug the leaks in the messy public distribution system. Also, as Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said, falsification and duplication would be practically eliminated. “I believe it would also result in considerable savings for the exchequer,” he said.
The first phase of the project will be based on Aadhaar identities of citizens in 51 districts in 16 states. It would cover 29 of 42 government welfare schemes. The 12-digit Aadhaar number, which has already been issued to 21 crore people, will suffice as the identity to link it with bank accounts.
But even the very first step—that is the government depositing money in beneficiaries’ bank accounts—could falter unless a few  things are fixed. In a recent meeting with public sector bank chairmen, Chidambaram was told about some “practical problems” that need to be resolved before rolling out the project. The most important concern was about reaching the unbanked people in remote areas, whose livelihoods largely depend on government support.
“To meet the January deadline in 15 states, banks will have to do much. The finance minister has asked banks to speed up financial inclusion for the unbanked districts and blocks by setting up branches or banking 
correspondents,” said D.K. Mittal, financial service secretary at the finance ministry, after the meeting, which was also attended by chief ministers of 21 states. It was suggested that bank employees carry handheld machines and dispense cash to beneficiaries in person.
Initially, the cash transfers would be for farm loans, educational loans, and health and social justice schemes. At a later stage, the system would be used for transferring subsidy for anything from food to fuel. “Anything and everything that is a subsidy will have to be paid through this system. Making electronic transfers for retail purchases is still a big challenge, but we are working on it,” said Mittal.
Banks face another serious problem as well. They would be held responsible if any Aadhaar information leaks, an account gets hacked or a wrong beneficiary manages to get enrolled. “Enlisting correspondents can be done very quickly and at a very low expense. But the main challenge here is having a secure technological network. So far we had partnered with private players to use their networks, but having bank’s own infrastructure would be mandatory for managing subsidy distribution,” said Pratip Chaudhuri, chairman, State Bank of India.
The government has been urging banks to start new accounts even without Aadhaar, but with other relevant documents, and finish rolling out the direct cash transfer of subsidy by April next year. Banks have opened five crore accounts using Aadhaar so far, but will have to open six crore more in just over a month.
The government’s target has largely been accepted by most bank chiefs. However, some of them have said that it could be ambitious on more than one count. “There is also a possibility of enrolling too many fake IDs early on. Without the biometric Aadhaar cards, assuring real identities of beneficiaries would be a problem,” said a public sector bank chairman, who did not wish to be named.
Many states have voiced their concerns about assigning Aadhaar cards as the only recognised identification of beneficiaries. “States do much of the distribution of subsidies aimed at mothers, children and health reliefs for the physically challenged, many of whom may not have enrolled under Aadhaar. Opening zero-balance accounts using Aadhaar cards itself is a very time-consuming affair,” said Sheila Dikshit, chief minister of Delhi,  which has been identified by Chidambaram as one of the states to implement the project in the first phase.
While a lot still needs to be done, the stage is set for banks to become a crucial link between the Centre, states and subsidy beneficiaries. If they can achieve this, the rewards are promising. The government’s annual subsidy disbursal amounts to around Rs.3 lakh crore. Banks surely know that a lot of their problems could be solved with that kind of liquidity in the system.

Technical support

While reaching the unbanked rural population is the biggest challenge before the direct transfer of subsidy, many service providers have already come up with solutions. Delhi-based Starfin India uses a biometric system, with a user-friendly software developed by Tata Consultancy Services, to connect to State Bank of India’s servers. The company identifies people in villages with computer and connectivity, and trains them to use the biometric system and become customer service points.
“Currently we have about 300 villages in our network and are opening about 10,000 no-frills accounts a month in rural and urban areas of five states,” said Jitendra Singh, managing director and CEO of Starfin. “We started a year back and have done about Rs. 500 crore worth of transactions so far.” Starfin charges its users Rs.6 to Rs.12 for deposits and withdrawals.
Beam Money, another such service provider, has RBI approval for using mobile phone networks to make money transfers. “Direct cash transfers can be done through mobile or landline phone connections. Given the documentation and verifications for securing phone connections, they are as secure as using biometric cards like Aadhaar for linking beneficiary accounts,” said Anand Shrivastav, chairman and managing director, Beam Money.