Karnataka: Another RTI activist found murdered; whistleblowers demand CBI probe


By Newzfirst Correspondent1/12/13

 

Bangalore – Less than two months since the murder of an RTI activist from Bangalore, the state Saturday witnessed a brutal murder of another whistle-blower. This time Vasudeva Adiga hailing from coastal district of Udupi followed the fate of Lingaraju, who was allegedly murdered by the local corporator for exposing corruption last November.

The body of a missing RTI activist Vasudeva Adiga has been found in brutally murdered state on Saturday. Adiga, who hails from Vandaru village in Udupi district, had gone missing since Monday, 7 January.

The body has been found at Kadur of neighboring Chickmagalur district, about 225 kms from Udupi, with multiple injuries and its face smashed beyond recognition.

At the same time other whistle-blowers from Udupi district have alleged the involvement of local influential politicians, businessmen and top level government servants behind the murder. They have also demanded CBI enquiry into the murder.

Adiga had drawn the wrath of some local politicians and high-rank officers of the district for being very instrumental in exposing the corruption at various levels, said Shreeram Diwan, a journalist cum RTI activist.

Recently he had obtained some vital documents regarding alleged irregularities in much-delayed Varahi irrigation project, affairs of Mandarti temple and Nirmiti Kendra through RTI, he said.

While Varahi irrigation project has been delayed since three decades, Mandarti temple comes under Muzurai department of Government of Karnataka. The Nirmiti Kendra headed by the Deputy Commissioner of the district serves as a seminal agency to generate and propagate innovative ideas on housing and participates in tender of any government or private organization and executes the same in line with the objectives. It can undertake the government construction projects that cost less than 1 crore rupees.

“Adiga has been abducted and murdered after he determined to complain Lokayukta over misappropriation of public funds that run in multiple crores.” explained Diwan.

According to Diwan, Adiga had played crucial role in exposing huge irregularities by the stone quarries at Goliangadi recently. Following the complaints, the mining department had fined those companies upto Rs.4 crore.

“He even questioned the district authorities over granting permission to those blacklisted stone-quarries, which had not even paid the fine amount imposed by the department, to operate at other places.” he added.

Sources said that Adiga was approached by those officials, couple of days back to his abduction, for a compromise for which he did not budge. He was also threatened of dire consequences, the sources said.

Adiga went missing on the night of 7 January while he was returning to his home in 2-wheeler along-with some important documents obtained through RTI.  Family members found his deserted mobile, footwear, pen and two-wheeler on following day about 12kms away from his village, but not those documents he was carrying.

#Punjabgangrape-Woman gang-raped in Bus,5 arrested #Vaw #nolessonlearnt #delhigangrape


gangrape

Published: Saturday, Jan 12, 2013, 21:33 IST
Place: Gurdaspur | Agency: PTI

In a case similar to the gang-rape of a paramedic student in New Delhi, a 29-year-old woman was allegedly gang-raped by seven persons here.

The victim, a resident of a Ghukla village under Kahnuwan police station, was on way to her village in a bus when the driver and conductor kidnapped her and took her an undisclosed location where they and their five accomplices gang-raped her last night, SSP Gurdaspur Raj Jeet Singh told reporters.

The SSP said five of the seven accused had been arrested while two unidentified persons were still absconding.

He said that based on the interrogation of the five accused, efforts were on to arrest the remaining accused.

The victim in her complaint said that she was coming from her parent’s village Jagatpur district Pathankot in a bus but the driver Daler Singh did not stop the vehicle at the bus stand in the village.

Her request to conductor Ravi to ask the driver to stop the bus went unnoticed.

They took her to some place near Gurdaspur, where five of their friends joined them and gang-raped the woman in a house, the police official said.

The next morning, the driver dumped the woman in a near her village, he said adding, first she went to her house and them came to the police station to make her complaint.

A case under section 376 of IPC (punishment for rape) was registered against the seven accused, Singh said.

The five arrested were identified as Daler Singh, Ravi, Jaswinder Singh, Jagpreet Singh and Satwant Singh, he said.

The two absconders will be soon arrested and teams have been formed to nab them, he said.

Police said that the FIR was registered this evening.

The woman would be sent for medical examination, they said adding in the preliminary interrogation, the accused confessed to their crime.

 

#India-Mining Ministry’s Zero Loss Theory


In an elaborate cover-up, the Ministry of Mines is working behind the scene to save politicians and industrialists involved in illegal mining in Odisha
Prakhar Jain

January 10, 2013, Issue 3 Volume 10

Photo: Getty Images

HOW DO you defeat attempts to punish corruption? For the Union Ministry of Mines the answer is simple: set up a commission and then sabotage it.

TEHELKA has documents to prove that top officials in the mining ministry, which set up one such commission to investigate illegal mining, are working behind the scenes to dilute cases against politicians, industrialists and bureaucrats who are likely to be indicted in the commission’s report.

The matter pertains to the excessive mining of iron ore in Odisha, which the state government has already acknowledged as being illegal in several ways. However, the mining ministry has been trying its best to make the unlawful lawful by converting cases of illegality into irregularity.

The attempts at cover-up have speeded up as the former Supreme Court judge Justice MB Shah, tasked with probing illegal iron ore and manganese mining across the country in 2010, is expected to submit a voluminous report by the end of January.

Documents in possession of TEHELKA show that none other than the then mining secretary, Vishwapati Trivedi, was involved in the cover-up of the scam which, going by even the conservative estimates of Odisha government, caused a loss of 70,000 crore worth of natural resources. Calculated by market rates, the scam might rise to a staggering 3 lakh crores.

Seeds of the scam were sown in the beginning of the last decade when China started importing iron ore in huge quantities to build necessary infrastructure for the Beijing Olympics. As prices of iron ore skyrocketed, mining companies across the nation scrambled to exploit the opportunity.

According to the mining laws, no mineral can be extracted from ground without the prior permission of government. However, taking advantage of a loophole, mining companies in Odisha manipulated the law in connivance with bureaucrats and politicians, and started exporting an unprecedented quantity of iron ore. The companies include those associated with the Tata and the Birla groups.

The scam came to light after the 2009 state Assembly elections, when Rabi Das, the editor of a local Odia newspaper, started investigating into the campaign expenditure of two major political parties following the poll. The money was traced back to illegal mining. This prompted Das to file a case in the Supreme Court, forcing the state government to stop all major mining activities in the state.

When similar such cases were reported from Bellary and Goa, the Union mining ministry asked Justice MB Shah to inquire into the illegal mining of iron ore and manganese across the nation. In the following months, the ministry initiated the coverup by going to the extraordinary length of amending the rules and interpreting the laws to benefit the case of the criminals.

The ministry even sabotaged the Odisha government’s attempt to recover the price of ore mined illegally. Three days after the state decided the modalities of computing the penalty last July, the ministry changed the definition of illegal mining by issuing a notification and amending a rule through which a mine is allocated.

The notification read, “…violation of any rules… within the mining lease area by a holder of mining lease shall not include illegal mining.” It also selectively interpreted what would constitute “an area held with lawful authority” and says that a mining lease area shall be considered as an area held with lawful authority while determining the extent of illegal mining.

In addition to the notification, to leave no doubt about the ministry’s intention, a letter was written two months later by Trivedi to the chief secretary of Odisha. The letter stated, “…the interpretation that a land granted under a mining lease by the state government can be held to be occupied without lawful authority on the grounds of violation of provisions of any other law of the land is not appropriate and such interpretation may not stand in the Court of law.”

The letter went on to suggest that if other laws like the Environment (Protection) Act and the Forest (Conservation) Act have been violated by the miners, penalty can be imposed under those Acts and not under the law governing mining in the country. This distinction, Trivedi wrote, may also be clarified to the State Accountant General.

Since most of the illegal excessive mining in the state happened in lease areas (mostly under the grossly misused provision of ‘deemed extension’ when the process of renewal of mining leases is pending) the notification and the letter dealt a huge blow to Odisha. Under the mining laws penalty can be recovered only when mining is done illegally and without the authority of law. The ministry, therefore, killed all chances of recovering the loss caused due to illegal excessive mining of a major mineral.

However, under huge political pressure, the state government went ahead with issuing show-cause notices to the miners in October last year for recovering almost Rs 70,000 crore for “illegal” production of iron ore “without the authority of the law”.This was despite the state government knowing that it would hardly be able to recover a single penny if the show-cause notice were challenged in a court of law.

Covering the tracks Those involved in illegal mining in the state include companies associated with the Tatas and the Birlas, Photo: AP

The companies, as expected, have challenged the notice before a revision authority working under the ministry of mines. Some industrialists have also approached the courts disputing the order, saying that the extra ore mined by them can at best be called an irregularity and not illegality.

Trivedi, however, defends the notification and his letter to the chief secretary. He says that the notification was issued in consultation with the law ministry, after the interim report of MB Shah Commission recommended that the laws against illegal mining be made stronger. “The miners in Odisha had a valid lease and therefore were not holding the area without lawful authority. Those proved to be mining beyond the lease area, which is illegal, will not be able to get mining lease in future because of the notification,” he says.

He further argues that the miners cannot be penalised under the mining laws for not having clearance under the environment and the forest laws. “And there is no limit to the ways in which a law can be interpreted. If someone disagrees with the ministry’s interpretation, then it would be best to let the courts decide,” he says.

Activists in the state blame the politicians for this cover-up. “A large number of senior politicians from the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Opposition, the Congress party, are deeply entrenched in the mining business. If the fine is recovered, they would get devastated,” says Rabi Das.

Biswajit Mohanty, a member of Transparency International, an international civil-society organisation, has filed a public interest litigation challenging the ministry’s notification. He describes it as “colourable exercise of rule-making power, which suffers from the vice of arbitrariness”.

Niranjan Patnaik, the state Congress president, who has indirect interest in the business through his relatives, also slams the fine and says that mine owners have only mined more ore from their leased areas and alleges that nobody is touching the illegal extraction by mafia/mafias who were working under the patronage of BJD leaders. “In comparison to what the mine owners have done, these mafias have extracted and sold 100 times more iron ore. Even the Shah Commission has not gone beyond the leased areas to investigate the real theft of minerals,” he says.

It would be interesting to see whether the Shah Commission is able to catch the real culprits behind the mining scam or gets hoodwinked by the systematic efforts of the bureaucracy to project that there is not scam at all.

prakhar@tehelka.com

 

Maharashtra tribal Christians face Boycott


John Dayal

PALGHAR, Maharashtra,  Jan 12, 2013 — For over 10 days, a torn Bible and a damaged harmonium have been lying in a makeshift prayer hall which villagers now take turn to guard—just the way the attackers had left them on December 30 (2012). Although the anger has subsided, the tribals are unable to muster courage to resume their Sunday prayer service.

The tribal Christians of Tamsai village in Palghar claim that the makeshift prayer hall was attacked after the gram panchayat threatened them to stop the prayer service or else “face the consequences”. They allege that the villagers who attacked them were “angered” by the spread of Christianity.

While the Palghar Superintendent of Police claimed it was an internal fight among villagers without any communal motive, the sarpanch of the gram panchayat denied having made any threat of a social boycott.

According to the victims, the attackers were from their own village and from neighbouring villages. “Most of them are known to us,” claimed Raju Bhoir. The victims said they were carrying out their regular Sunday worship service when a few village men came and stopped the prayers. The tribals, who insist that they have not converted into Christianity but merely follow the path of Jesus, have been carrying out prayer services for the last three years.

Bharat Patil, 22, who has “dedicated” himself to religious work says that the panchayat has unanimously decided to boycott those who accepted Christianity. “They have decided to deny us water and firewood if we stay converted. We have been trying to convince them that our documents still remain the same. We have just chosen a newer way of life without undergoing any sort of conversion,” he said.

Superintendent of Police (Palghar) Anil Kumbhare said: “The village has seen several outsiders regularly visiting them and preaching Christianity. On that day, too, some people had come and it led to an internal fight.”

According to the tribal Christians, the gram panchayat has denied them access to village wells and firewood. “We were thrashed. They walked in while the prayer was on. Many women were also attacked,” said Sainath Amboravate whose family embraced Christianity a decade ago and who now works as a preacher.

Disruption caused during the Sunday morning prayers on December 30 has shaken the villagers in Tamsai and Pochade.

“When those men came, we called the local police immediately. Police arrived, too. But no one helped. We are afraid that these people might strike back,” said Patil.

“Around 300 people come to our village every Sunday for prayers. We had just gathered when these men barged in and began damaging the musical instruments. A copy of the Bible was torn. About 25 of the worshippers sustained injuries and had to be treated,” Patil claimed. “We have given the names of those who attacked us but the police have not taken any action,” said Bhoir.

“It was an internal fight and was resolved on the same day. We have recorded their statements,” said Senior Police Inspector of Manor Vijay Pawar.

Village sarpanch Kailash Andher claimed that it was a “petty quarrel” among a few villagers and was not communal in nature. “It was a small fracas and was resolved immediately,” he said.

A group of villagers on Thursday met former president of the Indian Christian Voice Dr. Abraham Mathai. “The tribal Christians from Mokhada, Wada, Vikramgarg and now Palghar have continued to suffer from a spate of attacks perpetrated by extremist elements because of the communal bias of the police. It is most shocking when these poor tribals are attacked in the presence of the police,” Mathai said.