#India – The Great Fertilizer Robbery


[Investigation] The Great Fertiliser Robbery

Big business houses are diverting subsidised fertilisers meant for poor farmers. G Vishnu exposes a shocking collusion that is costing the country crores of rupees
G Vishnu

2013-07-06 , Issue 27 Volume 10

Photo: AFPPhoto: AFP

Every year, the government spends anywhere between Rs 70,000-Rs 90,000 crore in subsidies to ensure affordable fertilisers for farmers to enable them to get a good yield. Yet, curiously, foodgrain production has not seen much increase, while farmers still continue to complain about unaffordable fertilisers.

In October 2012, TEHELKA had shown how flaws in the government’s pricing policy were letting private players increase fertiliser prices and siphon off subsidies (This Is Why Farmers Can’t Afford Fertilisers by , 1 October). An ongoing  by the Director General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI) has now revealed the extent of the scam; how it has spread on a massive scale in the three states of , Maharashtra and Haryana. TEHELKA has access to exclusive information that the DGCEI is probing alleged evasion of excise duty by more than 50 big companies.

Officials detail how over the past five years, these business houses siphoned off 10 million metric tonnes (MT) of -grade urea for which the government had paid more than Rs 2,000 crore as subsidy. Despite having annual turnovers of over Rs 200 crore, these companies also avoided paying more than Rs 300 crore in excise duties to the government in the same period.

Fertilisers are essential to a successful agricultural yield. Over two decades now, the Government of India has been subsidising fertilisers with the aim of easing the burden on farmers. Among the various fertiliser combinations, urea is one of the most utilised. Whereas India produces up to 22 million MT of urea annually, close to 8 million MT is imported. For every tonne produced, the government reimburses the difference between the cost of production and the MRP. Currently, urea is sold at Rs 5,360 per MT ( Rs 5.36 per kilo) and the subsidy ranges between Rs 9,000- Rs 20,000 per MT. Industries that manufacture dyes, colouring agents, resins, plywood, etc, use technical-grade urea, which is priced at Rs 32 per kg (Rs 32,000 per tonne). The government subsidy, however, is only meant for urea used for agriculture and not industrial purposes.

The DGCEI probe, which started as an investigation into the excise duty evasion by manufacturers of CPC Blue (a pigmentation agent that adds colour to paints), also discovered that private players were diverting the urea meant for farming to their own godowns. On top of that, over the past five years, these companies had evaded excise duty in excess of Rs 300 crore by concealing the purchase of urea.

How they did this is a reflection of how deep the rot is. A DGCEI investigating officer describes the situation as “an economy, kind of like a cottage industry, especially in Gujarat. A well-oiled system is in place to facilitate diversion of urea to these companies”. The DGCEI found that in the past five years, two lakh MT of urea has been diverted in Maharashtra and 20,000 MT in Haryana, while around 10 lakh MT has been diverted in Gujarat alone.

Among the many companies who benefited from subsidised urea are big names that include Asahi Songwon (owner Paru Jaykrishna was president of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce in 2007-08), Phthalo Color (owned by the Nanavati Group that also owns the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai), Meghmani Organics, Narayan Industries and Narayan Organic, Heubach Intermediates and Ramdev Chemicals in Gujarat. Mazda Colours and Shreyas Intermediates in Maharashtra and Bhabani Pigments in Haryana have also illegally diverted the agriculture- grade urea for their purposes — consequently saving on importing technical -grade urea and paying the customs duty.

These companies — most of them based in Gujarat — would buy urea from ‘trading companies’ such as Karan Chemicals, Lakshya Ventures and Lakshmi Enterprises, who, in turn, would provide fake bills showing purchase of salt. Interestingly, salt is not required at any stage in the production of CPC Blue. Yet, on record, the 50-odd companies had bought 10 lakh MT of salt. For instance, Karan Chemicals, one of the trading companies, has 10 dummy firms that claim to be selling salts to these companies. “They have followed every trick in the book to pull off this scam,” says a dgcei official, showing TEHELKA bills for non-existent mountains of salt.

This fact comes straight from the horse’s mouth. In a written statement to the DGCEI, Piyush Patel, president of CPC Blue Manufacturers’ Association and owner of Ishan Chemicals, has admitted that his own company indulged in this illegal practice.

“So far as the purchase of salt is concerned,” reads a statement by Piyush’s son Shrinal Patel, also director of Ishan Dyes and Chemicals Ltd, “according to the market strategy, we are procuring urea in the guise of salt under the invoices for salt… However, under the compulsion of market strategy and to remain in competition, we had to adopt this way.” Patel’s views are similar to what others who have appeared before the DGCEI probe committee have said.

Distribution of urea comes under the ambit of the state government. Once the Department of Fertilisers (DoF) at the Centre decides on the allocation for states, it is the state agricultural departments’ job to ensure distribution to farmers. This is where the village-level Agriculture Business Centres (ABCs) come into play. These local-level agencies that connect with the farmer play a massive role in giving out fake bills to the Department of Agriculture (DoA) in the name of non-existent farmers. Till now, the DGCEI has raided over 15 ABCs in Gujarat, all of which were found handing out fake bills.

“What we found was simply by carrying out raids and scrutinising documents,” says a DGCEI investigating officer. “It is not possible that the state DoA does not know about these practices. Convenient arrangements have been struck between politicians, bureaucrats and these business houses.”

Little surprise then, that in 2011, the Gujarat government kept demanding more and more urea, even though the state was seeing a drought-like situation. Since 2006, Gujarat has been complaining about urea shortage, at times asking Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar to step in. The DGCEI is investigating the probable involvement of some of the cooperatives that manufacture urea in Gujarat such as the Krishak Bharati Cooperative Limited (KRIBHCO), Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilisers Company Ltd (GNFC), Gujarat State Fertiliser & Chemicals Ltd (GSFC) and the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO).

“Right now, we are probing the 50- odd CPC Blue manufacturing companies under the Customs Act,” says another DGCEI official on condition of anonymity. “The Centre has not shown enough grit to crack down on these practices. If the CBI is to come into the picture tomorrow, all these companies will be charged under the Essential Commodities Act and they can be held criminally accountable.”

Repeated attempts by TEHELKA to get these companies to respond were met with silence. The few who chose to say anything, like Bhabani Pigments and Narayan Organics, declined any wrong-doing on their part. Interestingly though, Shrinal Patel of Ishan Dyes and Chemicals had a different explanation.

“We get the product,” says Patel, “and test it in our lab. If a product works for me, I purchase it. I haven’t bought it from any authorised agency. We have been telling the Central government that we are willing to purchase it at any price, but our condition was that it should be made available locally. On import, the particle size of technical-grade urea is coated with nitrogen on the outside, causing loss, but the government did not accept it.”

That the government has been complicit in the unchecked diversion of fertilisers meant for the poor, gains currency from the DGCEI’s own findings. “Government agencies have played a major role in all this,” says a DGCEI official. “Till now, we have found excise evasion of 300 crore. The diversion of over 10 lakh MT of urea that we have found was from just CPC Blue manufacturers. All we had to do was figure out the scientific formula behind manufacturing CPC Blue — salt does not come anywhere in the process. If we are to figure out the formula for other industries that manufacture resins, plywood, paints and dyes, we should be able to make a complete crackdown on diversion.”

Despite the fact that, since September 2012, the Centre has set up teams in the 17 states to put a check on this practice. Even as recently as 14 March, the Chemical and Fertilisers Secretary Sudhir Mittal wrote to the states, urging them to set up a mechanism to curb diversion.

So, why has nothing happened? Officials in the DoF at the Centre blame the states for lack of transparency, negligence and unwillingness towards bringing diversion and black marketing to a halt.

“Our pricing policy is yet to be implemented,” says an official with the DoF in New Delhi. “Fertiliser prices have been skyrocketing for the past three years, increasing as much as five times in some cases. On the ground, this has resulted in the farmer using a single fertiliser to such an extent that the soil loses value in some years. This has been disastrous for Indian agriculture.”

A senior official at the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers explains how the powerful fertiliser lobby has manipulated the situation to its advantage. “Most politicians do not antagonise this lobby,” he says. “No matter how hard you try to stonewall them, they still find a way to reach you.” The official cites a recent incident, when members of the fertiliser lobby made a presentation in a group of ministers (GoM) meeting much to the surprise of some ministers, who had managed to keep the private players away from influencing policy decisions. Other officials even recall instances when chief ministers have stepped in to stop probes.

These players have such a stranglehold on the sector that in the past three months alone, the ministry has spent Rs 300 crore excess while procuring.

“Around February every year, the DoF determines the quantum of fertilisers needed for the year and the procurement is planned,” says an official working for a PSU that produces fertilisers. “This year too, Indian Potash Limited (IPL, a conglomerate that started as a PSU, but is currently an amalgamation of cooperatives) was given the charge of importing 10 lakh MT of urea. But the ministry cleared only five lakh MT for import. IPL imported the same for $385 per MT in May. By June, when state-owned PSU MMTC placed tenders, the price of urea was $335. By 22 June, when the state-owned STC issued the tender, the price fell to $303. Being a private player, IPL understands the market fluctuations well, but it earned a lot in commissions by placing the order in May. The loss to the government for not giving the charge of import to a PSU was Rs 300 crore.”

Incidentally, the CAG had pulled up IPL in 2011 for getting undue benefits to the tune of Rs 762 crore after fudging its tenders. The explosive CAG report had raised expectations in some ministry circles that wanted to bring reforms and transparency. However, as the recent loss shows, the stranglehold is yet to loosen.

Amidst all this, the Indian farmer continues to lose out, as it is his fertilisers that are getting diverted and hoarded, while he has to buy it at a higher price. In a year when the total amount of subsidy spent on fertilisers touched a whopping Rs 90,000 crore, his fields benefit minimally and he is left wondering where the promised subsidy goes.

vishnu@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 27, Dated 6 July 2013)

 

Press Release- #Uttarakhand- We cannot ignore the climate crisis anymore!


INDIA CLIMATE JUSTICE

 

STATEMENT ON THE UTTARAKHAND CATASTROPHE

We cannot ignore the climate crisis anymore!

 

 

25 June 2013

 

The India Climate Justice collective notes with deep anguish the devastating loss of life, livelihoods, and homes in Uttarakhand and beyond. The death toll is likely in the thousands, way beyond current official figures. We extend our deep condolences to the families and friends of those killed, and our support to those still fighting for survival, and to local populations whose livelihoods will take years to rebuild.

 

This tragedy was triggered by extreme unseasonal rains in North India, 2-3 weeks in advance of what is normal for this region. The Director of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Dehradun, said that 340 mm fell in a single day at Dehradun, a record not seen for five decades. Such extreme and unseasonal rainfall seems to us to indicate a global warming induced climate change phenomenon. Warmer air due to global warming has the capacity to hold more moisture, leading to more intense bursts of rainfall. The natural monsoon cycle in India has already been badly disrupted, and a new cycle of extreme rainfall events and prolonged droughts have been reported from all over the country in the recent past. Thus, contrary to statements by senior politicians, the Uttarakhand disaster is not natural: it is no less man-made than the other contributors to the tragedy. And if it is indeed induced by global warming, similar catastrophes could recur with increasing frequency and intensity anywhere in the country in the coming years.

 

In Uttarakhand, a chaotic process of ‘development’ that goes back many years exacerbated the effects of this extreme rain. Extensive deforestation of mountain tracts, by the state and more recently due to ‘development’ projects, led to soil erosion and water run-off, thus destabilizing mountain slopes and contributing to more intense and frequent landslides and floods. Unchecked hill tourism has resulted in the huge growth of vehicular traffic, spread of roads not suitable to this mountainous terrain, and the construction of poorly designed and unregulated hotels and structures, many near rivers. Sand mining along river banks has intensified water flows into rivers.

 

Most of all, the construction and planning of hundreds of small, medium and large dams across the Himalayan states from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the northern Himalayas to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the east, have destabilized an already fragile ecosystem and threatened biodiversity. A staggering 680 dams are in various stages of planning, or construction in Uttarakhand alone! These dams have a direct connection with the extent of the damage that can be caused in such flooding events, in that the tunnelling and excavation in the so-called run-of-the-river projects cause huge and unregulated dumping of excavated debris into river basins, leading to increased siltation, and in turn aggravating the flood situation. The electrical power generated by these dams will be consumed by urban elites elsewhere. It is ironic that these dam projects, while adversely impacting people’s access to their river commons, claim to be climate change solutions in the guise of renewable and green energy, and have already made huge profits by fraudulently claiming CDM (clean development mechanism) status. In 2009, the CAG had warned the government of Uttarakhand that the “potential cumulative effect of multiple run-of-the-river projects can turn out to be environmentally damaging”. Like many other warnings by environmentalists and local community groups in the past, this was also ignored. And now we are facing one of the biggest disasters that the country has seen in decades.

 

The central government of India and various state governments, including the govt of Uttarakhand, have prepared action plans for combating climate change. Any such plan ought to include the establishment of a disaster-prediction and warning mechanism. The Uttarakhand government has taken no measures to prepare for this kind of eventuality, though it has paid lip service to climate action plans over the last three years.  In the present case, the IMD issued inadequate warning, which was disregarded by the state government. An urgent prior warning could have ensured that pilgrims don’t move forward and retreat to relative safety, that locals reduce their exposure to risk to the extent possible. Thousands of pilgrims from different states, locals, workers in hotels and dharamshalas, and transport animals have been killed. Cars with people inside them were washed away. Those who have survived had to go without food for several days. Thousands are still stranded at different points, or in forests, and we are still counting the dead.

 

There has also been extensive devastation of local lives and the regional economy. Serious devastation has been reported from over 200 villages, so far. Innumerable locals, including agricultural workers, drowned in the raging waters or were submerged under mud and debris. Houses have collapsed or been washed away. Tourism and the local employment it generates have been hit indefinitely at the peak of the tourist season. Floods, landslides and debris have devastated agriculture along the rivers. Irrespective of whether these extreme rains are due to climate change or not, this is what a climate change world in the Himalayas looks like. This devastation is a glimpse into a climate uncertain future.

 

We see this tragedy as a result of cumulative and widespread injustice and wrongdoing: not only against the Himalayan environment, but also against mountain communities whose survival depends on that environment. This tragedy is also a crime, because our policy makers and administrators are also part of the larger climate injustice at a global scale that threatens, displaces and kills the marginal and the poor everywhere. On another plane, they simply let it happen. We believe that adaptation to disasters does not just mean desperate rescue work during and after the event, but also reducing vulnerability and risk before. Effective adaptation involves a series of measures that need to be adopted on a war footing. The sustainable development of a hill economy, and equity – not profit for a few – should be at its core.

 

India Climate Justice demands:

 

·         That the governments at the central and state level retreat to a low carbon pathway of development that has equity, decent employment, and sustainability at its core.

 

·         That the planning and construction of dams in the entire Indian Himalayas be reviewed, and all construction be halted until such a review is carried out.

 

·         That the use of explosives in all such infrastructure development works is completely stopped.

 

·         That, given the likelihood of extreme rainfall events and other climate extremes in the future, extensive and sub-regional warning systems are put in place urgently across all the Himalayan states, the coastal areas and beyond.

 

·         That a proper assessment of the carrying capacity of specific ecosystems is carried out.

 

·         That the eco-sensitive zone measures be implemented from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi and eco-sensitive zones be established in other river valleys.

 

·         That a river regulation zone be enforced such that no permanent structures are allowed to be constructed within 100 metres of any river.

 

·         That the residents and their organizations are thoroughly consulted in a democratic plan on climate change, in the revival of the local hill economy, and the generation of decent employment.

 

·         That all working people be compensated for the loss of life and livelihood, and that urgent plans are put in place for the revival of local livelihoods and agriculture.

 

·         That the central government learn from the Uttarakhand catastrophe to put in place prior adaptation measures not just for the mountainous regions but beyond, for coastal and the drought-prone interiors as well.

 

 

 

(INDIA CLIMATE JUSTICE)

 

 

Endorsing Organizations

All India Forum of Forest Movements; Pairvi; Beyond Copenhagen; South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People; National Alliance of People’s Movements; Himalaya Niti Abhiyan; New Trade Union Initiative; All-India Union of Forest Working People; Chintan; Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha; Toxics Watch Alliance; Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh; Rural Volunteers Centre, Assam; Vettiver Collective, Chennai; Himal Prakriti, Uttarakhand; Maati, Uttarakhand; Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti; River Basin Friends (NE); India Youth Climate Network; Intercultural Resources; Kabani, Kerala; Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh; National Cyclists Union, India; Equations; Posco Pratirodh Solidarity, Delhi; Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives; Science for Society, Bihar; Nagarik Mancha; SADED; JJBA, Jharkhand; BIRSA; Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee; Adivasi Mulvasi Astitva Raksha Manch; National Adivasi Alliance; Bank Information Centre; Focus on the Global South; Jatiyo Sramik Jote, Dhaka; Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan; People’s Union for Democratic Rights; All India Students Association; All India Progressive Women’s Association

 

Individuals

Badri Raina, Kamal Mahendroo, Benny Kuruvilla, Subrat Sahu, Arun Bidani, Saurav Shome, Amitava Guha

 

India Climate Justice is a collective comprising social movements, trade unions, other organizations and individuals. It was formed in 2009 to respond to the growing climate crisis, from a perspective of justice and equity.

Emailindiaclimatejustice@gmail.com

Tel:  09434761915, 09717771255, 09910476553

 

Repeating Enron in Jaitapur- Miscalculations of the cost of energy from Jaitapur will cost #India


English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

 

Suvrat Raju, Hindu 

 

The tariff of Rs. 4 per unit of electricity is unrealistic unless the government subsidises the cost of the first two Areva reactors by Rs. 22,000 crore

More than a decade after Enron’s collapse, its legacy continues to haunt Maharashtra. In 2006, the Dabhol power project was restructured into the Ratnagiri power project with public subsidies that, by some estimates, amounted to Rs. 10,000 crore. The project has led a troubled existence and in March this year it announced that it may have to stop servicing its outstanding debt of Rs. 9,000 crore because of a problem with its fuel supply. In spite of this reminder of the continuing long-term costs of sweetheart deals to attract foreign investment in the power sector, a team from the Indian atomic energy establishment left for France last week to repeat the same mistakes.

Problem with design

The French company Areva, just like Enron, has been promised a contract for six European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) by executive fiat, bypassing a competitive bidding process. The reactors will be set up in Jaitapur, which is also in Ratnagiri. No one knows the exact extent of this give-way, because no EPR has been commissioned anywhere in the world. Areva started construction on its first EPR in Finland in 2005, with a promise to complete the reactor by 2009, at a price of just over €3 billion. After eight years, the reactor is still incomplete but cost estimates have ballooned to €8.5 billion —almost thrice the original figure. Areva has various excuses, but similar delays and cost increases in the second EPR under construction in its own country point to a more fundamental problem with the EPR design.

There is little public data about the EPRs being built in China, but these prices are consistent with those proposed for EPRs in Britain and indicate that each Indian reactor may cost as much as Rs. 60,000 crore. So, the price of the two reactors that the government hopes to commence in the Twelfth Plan period will equal the total plan outlay on science and technology including the departments of Space, Science and Technology, Biotechnology, and research labs throughout the country.

What does this imply for consumers? In 2010, the then CEO of Areva, Anne Lauvergeon, told this newspaper that the tariff would be “below the Rs. 4 figure.” More recently, Areva suggested that this “tariff holds true,” except for small escalations because of the delay in operationalising the project.

Both Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) have doggedly refused to explain the origins of this number. In the same 2010 interview, Lauvergeon said that “I am not going to give you the details … it is not for me to give the price if the customer does not want to give it.” The government has also refused to divulge information in meetings with local activists or even in response to parliamentary questions, where it has fallen back on the story that the final price is still under negotiation.

However, it is possible to independently estimate the cost of electricity using a study on the economics of imported reactors that the government produced in preparation for the India-U.S. nuclear deal. This was later updated and published by NPCIL.

When M.V. Ramana and I applied this framework to the Jaitapur reactors, in a paper for theEconomic and Political Weekly, we concluded that the true cost of electricity is likely to be almost four times as high as what the government claims. The figure of Rs. 4 per unit comes from a combination of unrealistic assumptions and a revenue model that provides massive public subsidies to the project.

The single most important factor in determining the tariff is the capital cost of the reactor. The government claims that the Indian EPRs will be cheaper because construction forms “about 40 per cent of the total cost.” Estimates suggest that construction costs in India are about 60 per cent lower than Europe. So, under best case conditions, the government could hope for about a 25 per cent reduction in the total cost.

However, the capital cost assumed in the government’s study is not 25 per cent lower, but literally 25 per cent of the figure for European reactors! It is this assumption of an unrealistic capital cost that underpins the Rs. 4 figure.

The study also reveals how the government plans to set out an exceedingly generous revenue model for the project. For example, it assumes that the project will have access to long-term debt at an interest rate of only 6 per cent. This is inconsistent with the serious concerns about the project’s viability. Moreover, since the yield on 10-year Indian Government bonds has been consistently higher than 7 per cent, even the full backing of the government will not bring the rate down to this level in the open market. So, the government will have to arm-twist public sector banks or itself provide a long-term loan to the project at this throwaway rate.

Another subsidy is built into the government’s plan to inject equity during the first few years of construction. In the government’s revenue model, this money will sit idle for more than a decade until the reactor becomes operational. Assuming, optimistically, that the EPRs are constructed as fast as the Kudankulam reactors, this delay will bring the government’s return on equity down from the advertised rate of 14 per cent to an effective rate of only 7.7 per cent. Further delays, which are likely, will reduce this further.

When these parameters are corrected, and combined with a realistic estimate of the cost of fuel, the government’s own methodology leads to a first year tariff of Rs.15 per unit, even without including transmission and distribution costs. Obviously, this cannot be passed on to consumers, and so the state will have to subsidise the electricity. To bring the tariff down to Rs. 4 will require a subsidy of Rs. 22,000 crore each year for the first two reactors. This “Areva-subsidy” is a quarter of India’s entire food subsidy bill.

There are other serious questions about the project. For example, Areva’s reluctance to accept even a small amount of liability is in sharp contrast to its unscientific claims that it has precisely computed the probability of a serious accident in an EPR, and found it to be once in 1.6 million years.

But the economics of this project are so appalling that it is possible to separate these issues and even the broader question of the role of nuclear energy in India. Even the nuclear establishment accepts, as WikiLeaks revealed, that the “NPCIL [has] paid a ‘high’ price”. The justification for the project cannot be Maharashtra’s electricity shortage either since at this price it is possible to find several alternative solutions to that problem.

Jairam Ramesh admitted that for the government, the “venture is significant not just from an energy generation but also from a strategic point of view.” Anil Kakodkar, former chairperson of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, explained that India had to “nurture” French “business interests” because France helped India when it wanted access to international nuclear markets.

Back-room deal

This is an admission of an unsavoury back-room deal. However, a moment’s reflection also brings out the circularity of this argument. France supported India’s efforts because it wanted to sell reactors to India. Why should the country return this self-centred help by paying through its nose?

There is a simple but significant political aspect to this entire issue. It is clear that this deal and the concomitant negotiations to purchase reactors from American companies are being driven by pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office. The reason that negotiations with Areva have taken on an urgent note is because the government’s prospects in the next elections are uncertain. If the next dispensation does not have the same ideological commitment to imported nuclear reactors, these deals may flounder.

Our system concentrates enormous financial powers in the hands of the executive. However, just because the government has the power does not mean that it has the right to rush into a deal that could bleed the country for years to come.

— SUVRAT RAJU

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/repeating-enron-in-jaitapur/article4834435.ece

 

 

 

‘Location tracking’ of every Indian mobile user by 2014 #WTFnews


Exclusive:FIRST POST
by Danish Raza
#Department of Telecom #HowThisWorks #Location Tracking #Mobile Services
New Delhi: The government has directed all telecom service providers to make location details, a mandatory part of call data records (CDR) of all mobile users in the country, starting mid- 2014, according to a Department of Telecommunications (DoT) directive obtained by Firstpost.
 
Effectively what this means, is that in addition to the contact number of the person you spoke to, duration of the call and details of the mobile tower you used, CDRs will now also reflect details of where you were when you made a call. The DoT directive is titled ‘Amendments to the unified access service license agreement for security related concerns for expansion of telecom services in various zones of the country’ and has been issued to all unified access service licensees.
 
Telecom companies are known to have assisted investigative agencies in probing criminal and terror cases by providing such details in the past. It is also common for agencies to tap mobile phones. But this exercise  which aims to track the location of every mobile user in the country, is unprecedented in sheer scale and intention.
 
What is noteworthy here however, is the accuracy with which the government wants to know where you are- more than 90 percent accuracy in urban (sic), defined as more than one million mobiles in a municipal unit. While the location tracking exercise has its genesis in a DoT order issued in May 2011, its effect on the ground should be visible from mid- 2014.
 
To start with, these details will be provided for specified mobile numbers. “However, within a period of three years location details shall be part of CDR for all mobile calls,” said the directive.
 
The DoT directive says that while detecting the location of the mobile users in urban centers, the telecom operator should achieve 80 percent accuracy in first year followed by 95 percent accuracy in the second year. But it is not clear from the note that to achieve these accuracies, the starting year is 2011 (when the order was issued) or 2014 (when location details shall be part of CDR for all mobile calls).
 
A cyber security analyst has called this an ‘alarming’ development and did not rule out the possibility of the government feeding citizens’ CDR information into the central monitoring system (CMS) – the centralised project through which the union government plans to monitor phone and internet activity in the country. Civil rights groups have also criticised CMS, describing the move as ‘chilling’.
 
“Through this DoT directive, the government is merely asking mobile operators to maintain location details. But for CMS, mobile companies have to transfer all such details to the government. Therefore, eventually, I believe, these details will be fed into the central server,” said Commander (rtd) Mukesh Saini, former national information security coordinator, government of India.
 
Alarming as it appears, but India is not the only country to conduct location tracking of its citizens. “This is a standard practice in European countries which use GSM technology, said V K Mittal, former scientist with National Technical Research OrganisationHe added that obtaining location details of targets is an integral part of agency modules while cracking criminal and terror cases. However, to do this for every mobile user, Mittal said, is illegal, unethical and unconstitutional as the state will be able to continuously target its citizens. “This is a clear indication that we are now moving towards a totalitarian regime in the name of security.”
 
Jiten Jain, Delhi based cyber security analyst, said that going by the kind of information which the government already possess, it is not surprising if location details become part of CDR. “But monitoring the location of every citizen is like creating a monster,” he said

 

 

#India must address worrying stock out of tuberculosis drugs #healthcare


 

 

Indian government drug tender process leads to deadly delay in drug supply

 

New Delhi, 17 June 2013 – The Indian government must urgently address the persistent issues and almost routine delays of procuring drugs to treat tuberculosis, international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today. The issues are behind a worrying stock out of TB drugs which the country is currently experiencing.

 

“As a country with such a high burden of tuberculosis, MSF is deeply disturbed that India is experiencing stock outs of critically needed drugs to treat children and those with drug-resistant TB”, said Leena Menghaney, India Manager of MSF’s Access Campaign. “In this instance, it’s a stock out that can cost people’s lives and the government must act urgently to fix the problems.”

 

India is currently experiencing stock outs across the country of both paediatric TB drugs and those used to treat drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). Under India’s public TB treatment program, the government is responsible for buying drugs and distributing them to the states which then provide treatment.

 

The stock out is related to the never-ending issues with drug procurement that India faces in many of its public health programmes – the routine but deadly delay in tendering for these drugs – and the resulting drug stock outs are one of the reasons why India has one of the world’s highest burdens of DR-TB.

 

“As a TB treatment provider, MSF is witnessing the impact this is having on our own patients”, said Dr. Homa Mansoor, the TB Medical Referent for MSF India. “In our Mon, Nagaland project, I’ve seen a 12 year-old girl on treatment arrive with her father after a long journey to get her medicine. The medicines were out of stock, but luckily we had six days’ worth of drugs available from a patient who had died. Otherwise, we’re having to resort to breaking adult pills to give to children, which is really dangerous as it could over- or under-dose them.”

 

Other patients have been forced to purchase medicines from private pharmacies, but have received lower-dosage drugs, which – if it causes a patient to under-dose on that drug – could lead to resistance.

 

“A continuous, sustainable supply of quality-assured medicines is vital for TB patients to have even half a chance of being cured”, Dr Mansoor said. “As a doctor, I know the disease, I know how to manage it, but I feel powerless because we don’t have the medicines to treat.”

 

“It’s just not good enough that India talks of scaling up DR-TB treatment, but finds the medicine cabinet empty at a time when the most vulnerable patients – those diagnosed with DR-TB – are most desperate to get the medicines that can treat them”, Dr Mansoor added.  “The Indian Government must act now to address this dire situation.”

 

The stock outs in India are occurring as the World Health Organization late last week issued interim guidelines on bedaquiline, the first new drug to treat TB in 50 years, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration at the end of 2012. MSF has welcomed the release of the guidelines, but has said use of the new drug needs to be regulated and controlled, and studies must be undertaken to find combinations with the new drugs in shorter, more effective and less toxic treatment regimens.

 

 SOURCE- http://www.msfaccess.org/

 

Pioneer of Women Studies Vina Mazumdar- A Personal Tribute #Feminist


Vina Mazumdar

Vol – XLVIII No. 25, June 22, 2013 | C P Sujaya , EPW

A recollection of the varied contributions of Vina Mazumdar (1927-2013), one of the pioneers of both the women’s movement as well as women’s studies in India.

C P Sujaya (cpsujaya@gmail.com) is a retired IAS offi cer from the Himachal Pradesh cadre who worked as joint secretary in the Ministry of Women and Children from 1985 to 1989. She is Vice President of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi.

My story starts, somewhat incongruously, with the inevitable struggle of an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer to get a “good” posting in the Government of India. One needs the pull and push of godfathers and godmothers, especially for postings considered cushy or prestigious (the two words have different connotations).

So, when I decided to opt for the normal five-year tenure in the Government of India, away from my home cadre of Himachal Pradesh, I was aware of these facts of life but did not visualise how difficult it would be. However, I found an unexpected ally in a non-governmental organisation (NGO), who introduced me to Bunker Roy, who in turn became a conduit in my search.

When I was finally informed that I had been posted as joint secretary in the Department of Social Welfare (as it was then called), my heart did sink a bit. “Social Welfare” or “Welfare” postings were not really popular with the bureaucracy, but after sternly telling myself that beggars could not be choosers, I trotted off to Shastri Bhavan in early 1985.

Bunker Roy had apparently done his bit in spreading the word. I came to know this when one day, soon after I joined in Shastri Bhavan, R P Khosla, the secretary of the ministry, called me to his room. There were two women sitting there with him and one of them, who was puffing away on her cigarette, turned around, looked me up and down and said in a very matter-of-fact tone, “Ah, there you are” – as if she knew me (or knew of me) and was expecting me. I was completely mystified. Coming from the boon docks, I had never heard of Vina Mazumdar, or of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS). Nor had I heard, except very vaguely, about the women’s movement.

The rest, I would say, is my history. I found a new vocation, a new interest, a new awareness, both of the world around me and of myself. Over the four years I spent in Shastri Bhavan, I discovered “gender”, with all its connotations. Vina-di, as she was widely known, was the guiding light, the reason why I felt myself so involved in this “not so important ministry”, why I began to understood a dictum “the personal is the political”. (All this was in spite of a solicitous junior (male) colleague warning me of the pitfalls of engaging with “women’s groups” – he graphically described how every divorce that took place would be followed by celebrations organised by such groups.)

Towards Equality

But what I started to feel was that I had a whole new world to explore, uncover and understand. I had not heard of the Committee on the Status of Women, or of Towards Equality (TE). It was just a report or a book, left on my table in the office, meant for “reading” because it related to the ministry (there were many of these). But the presence of, and my frequent meetings with Vina-di and her persona made TE come alive. This report became my first and primary textbook in Shastri Bhavan, enriched, with running anecdotes provided by one of my personal assistants in the office, S C Bhattacharya, who, coincidentally, had earlier worked as her stenographer when she was dictating the final report of TE. Bhattacharya remembered, especially, the high speed and the high quality of her dictation, which he said, was the best training-learning experience he had received in his career of stenography. I still have with me this old printed copy of TE (first edition), now dog-eared, torn and frayed. In turn, Bhattacharya told Vina Mazumdar that the new joint secretary seemed to be obsessed with TE and had issued instructions that she should not be disturbed in office with too many sundry visitors since “she had to make up for a lot of lost time”. In turn, Vina-di repeated this quote back to me, with some delight.

Vina Mazumdar took me under her wing. I learnt about the International Women’s Year (1975), the International Women’s Decade (1976-85), went through the reports of the Mexico (1975) and the Copenhagen (1980) Conferences on Women, and prepared the ground in Shastri Bhavan for the next (third) upcoming International Conference on Women scheduled for mid-year 1985 in Nairobi. My advantage was that the presence of Vina Mazumdar and her colleagues from CWDS made each of these earlier events come alive, because they, as the representatives of the women’s movement, were actively in pursuit of the implementation of the recommendations made earlier at these conclaves and they made me feel personally involved as well. This would not have happened if the UN reports of Mexico, Copenhagen, etc, were to just “officially” land on my table for me to read, which is what normally happens within the government departments and ministries. It would then have become a duty, sometimes even a chore, for bureaucrats to plough through these “weighty” tomes. (I would probably have told one of my juniors to prepare a “short” summary.) Personal involvement is rare in such a scenario, just official duty.

Education as Empowerment

One day she asked me to go with her to the room of the education secretary, Anil Bordia; a new National Policy on Education was on the anvil. One of Vina-di’s highest priorities related to education, to women’s education, and how it was visualised and implemented. She used to repeat to us a Sanskrit sloka, sa vidya ya vimuktaye – education is that which liberates – (this was long before Freire!). Anil Bordia was planning to arrange a workshop on the proposed “New Education Policy” (NEP) and, of course, wanted Vina Mazumdar’s help, especially for drafting the section on women’s education.

Her imprint is still there in this section of the policy document. Part IV of the 1986 policy, enshrined the title “Education for Women’s Equality”, starting with these memorable sentences:

Education will be used as an agent of basic change in the status of women…In order to neutralise the accumulated distortions of the past…the National Education system will play a positive interventionist role in the empowerment of women…foster the development of new values through redesigned curricula, textbooks, the training and orientation of teachers, decision-makers and administrators, and the active involvement of educational institutions. This will be an act of faith and social engineering…The National Education System will play a positive interventionist role in the empowerment of women.

It was the first time that the word “empowerment” entered the vocabulary of a government policy document and it was Vina-di’s achievement. I remember that in the official discussions which I attended many eyebrows were raised. Sadly, it has now been debased and trivialised by overuse in all sorts of other contexts, but the original sheen has still not disappeared from my mind.

When this concept of education as a means of empowering women entered government policy, it did not lie dormant, with no practical expression or manifestation. Vina Mazumdar strongly believed that government policies are to be “implemented” and not to be kept as showpieces. The initiation of the Mahila Samakhya programmes in 1988 for rural, poor women (especially scheduled caste and scheduled tribe women) by the education ministry was a direct result of this theme of women’s empowerment in the NEP. It was an unconventional programme, raised eyebrows for its apparent breaking of protocols and government’s “rules of business”. Mahila Samakhya is not a programme which taught the women only the ABCs; it mobilised and organised the poorest women of the locality and village into groups and taught them, what can be termed, “life-skills” using unorthodox teaching-learning methods, so that they developed the ability to fight their own battles and thus become empowered women.

Women and Children

Notwithstanding her priority to the building of a strong women’s movement in the country, Vina-di did not separate or split issues relating to women and those relating to the child. Many feminists – especially radical feminists from the west – looked at the processes of motherhood as patriarchal ploys of diverting women’s attention from their autonomy and their individuality; child-care and child-rearing was seen as a burden that prevented women from an “outside” life, relegating her to the “inside”. In India, the early women’s movements of the 1970s followed this reasoning, by and large. If women and children were clubbed as a dyad by the State, this was more for administrative and management reasons, whereas the Indian’s women’s movements of that time were largely anchored by women and focused on women. Childcare, maternity and maternal health, the population issue, etc, were extremely important issues for the movement, but they were seen from the point of view of women and not that of the child. Vina Mazumdar, however, showed far-reaching and exceptional sensitivity towards the need to visualise the mother and the child in the same frame, but as independent persona, each having separate identities, both of which had to be cared for.

A decade after TE, in 1985 the book titled, Who Cares? A Study of Child Care Facilities for Low Income Working Women in India, written my Mina Swaminathan and published by the CWDS with the feminist publishing house Kali for Women came out. Vina-di wrote the preface, in which she mentioned the connections between TE and the presence of childcare facilities as an important support service for women. The book was written and published with the approval of the executive committee of CWDS, even while Mina made it abundantly clear that she was doing so from the perspective of child needs, not from that of women. CWDS fully supported her in this. In her preface, Vina-di recalled Mina’s own contribution to the setting up of CWDS in 1980.

There was genuine partnership in such efforts between those who worked for the women’s cause and those who worked for the child’s cause. It was not a bifurcated interest or interests. Vina-di had much to contribute to this broader vision of the existential relationship of the mother and the child through her encouragement of those who were looking at children’s needs. Mina acknowledges that it was Vina Mazumdar who initiated the study and supported its completion with utmost interest. In the first chapter of the book, Mina points to the increasing recognition that women and children need to be seen together and the needs of families to be considered as a whole, that facilities for children of working women can no longer be seen in isolation from the need for child development and education, nor could children’s programmes be seen in isolation from the changing position of women and families. The two, she says, should converge and be placed in the larger framework of social and economic change and development. Both Mina and Vina Mazumdar always prioritised the childcare needs of poor and vulnerable women.

Similarly, when Razia Ismail, after retirement from UNICEF, put all her energies into the formation and running of the Indian Alliance for Child Rights, Vina Mazumdar presented the first annual lecture on the girl child in 2001.

Academic Activist

Academia and action came together for Vina-di. She did not see any fault line or divergence between them. She was the architect of the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) programme of women’s studies, under which for the first time the focus was shifted from middle-class preoccupations to those of the socially and economically deprived. ICSSR commissioned studies on unorganised women workers in the coir, cashew and other industries. She was instrumental in pushing the idea of creating the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS), which she presented during a conference at the SNDT University under the then Vice Chancellor Madhuri Shah. After the memorandum of association was finalised and passed, elections were held to pick the executive committee to conduct the IAWS conferences.

From its inception, the IAWS has been an organisation for both scholars and activists, and as Maithreyi Krishnaraj points out, it has rejected the separate categorisation of these two conventional groups. Devaki Jain says that it has redefined the scholar as an activist and the activist as an intellectual. When the Mahila Samakhya programme was started, the women of the sanghas (i e, the village women) said that “they wanted time to think” according to Srilatha Batliwala, who started the programme in Karnataka. In each of the IAWS conferences, both scholars and activists participated and still do. As Maithreyi Krishnaraj points out, this was a special feature of the IAWS unlike other discipline-based bodies.

Over 600 women attended the first conference and Vina-di’s efforts to get the presence of the members of the women’s wing of political parties brought in Mrinal Gore, Ahalya Rangnekar, Manju Gandhi, Sarojini Varadappan, Sister Mary Braganza, Pramila Dandavate, etc. Vina-di’s attempt was to build a federation across all parties. Though this idea failed, the women’s movement always had the presence of women members of political parties and this was largely due to Vina Mazumdar’s vision. She had created a forum of “seven sisters” which is still remembered with nostalgia.

The Responsibility of Democracy

Vina-di’s insistence on conducting formal, planned elections for selection of office-bearers of women’s organisations is another unique aspect of her faith in democratic values. It is also a tribute to her insistence on formal procedures being consistently followed, perhaps due to her own collegiate experiences. Besides the IAWS (which came into being later), the CWDS, started in 1980, has regularly conducted formal elections for their office-bearers. This formal electoral procedure is not followed by most NGOs and other social organisations where informal procedures such as election by consensus, show of hands or voice vote are the usual modes.

Vina-di has an anecdote that related to one of her many trips to Bankura (West Bengal) where CWDS was working with tribal women. She used to tell us this incident quite often; it had obviously made a deep impression on her. Lotika Sarkar was with her on this trip to Bankura. Lotikadi had just finished speaking to the tribal women of the area (unlettered and poor) telling them and making them understand – as she was asked to – about their rights relating to all aspects of their lives. Her intention was to make the women acquainted with the issue of women’s rights, how they are not powerless creatures but strong beings because they had rights as per the Constitution of India. The women heard her talk with rapt attention. After the talk was over, one of the tribal women (I forget her name) put up her hand and put a question to Lotika Sarkar,

It is wonderful that you have come here from Delhi and told us, unlettered women, about all our rights, about what we can do with these rights. It has made us feel strong; our shoulders are now straight and broad after listening to your talk. Now, tell us what our responsibilities are.

I think Vina-di remembered this small incident all her life because it reinforced her belief in the strength of women, especially of poor women. The women’s movements have always fought against the “welfare” approach to women, against the tendency to see women as powerless, needing protection rather than empowerment.

Vina-di led a multidimensional life, with multifarious interests, as her biography Memories of a Rolling Stone has depicted. To those of us who knew her closely, she will always remain a lasting influence, because she has touched our lives with such strength. It would not be an exaggeration for me to say that my life as an IAS officer took a complete U-turn after knowing her, working with and listening to her, interacting to her and most of all, learning from her.

 

#India – There is a need to dismantle the UID Project, the NPR, the CMS, #Aadhaar


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India’s IT Min of State Milind Deora’s Thinks The CMS (India’s PRISM) Is “A Good Tool”

 

 

 

 

 

By  on Jun 11th, 2013  |  medianama.com

 

 
 

Milind Deora, India’s Minister of State for IT thinks that the Central Monitoring System (CMS), which is essentially India’s version of PRISM, “is a good tool” which will “ensure and protect your privacy”. On a Google Hangout last week with him, I asked Deora about the IT Act, the IT Rules, India’s Identity project (Aadhaar), and the CMS and other systems the Indian government is setting up for tracking SMS, GPRS usage, Phone Calls, Location, and what users are accessing and downloading. Please note that this was held a day before the disclosures around PRISM.

 

For those unable to view the video, Deora said that no law is perfect, there are issues with implementation, they’re open to suggestions, but above all, Deora said – bizarrely – that the CMS is being set up to safeguard our privacy from mobile operators,and protects the national security of the country. He said that with processes set up, the officer in charge will not have access to information, politicians will not get access. He did not respond to the question on India’s privacy law.

Apart from that, Deora said I’m misinformed. The context of my questions:

1. India’s IT Act, it’s Section 66a and IT Rules are draconian, the government has promised to amend them (read this), but kept deferring making any changes, despite the issue being taken up by a committee (read this) and Parliament (read thisthis and these notes on a live discussion), and a public interest litigation (read this). They’ve issued an advisory on Section 66a (read this), a clarification on the IT Rules which wasn’t enough (read this) but the law and the rules remain draconian, and susceptible to misuse. The IT Ministry has the power to change the rules, but hasn’t done it so far. In fact, like Deora in the Q&A, it has defended its rules (read this). We’ve repeatedly pointed towards the need for transparency and specificity (read this) as a solution. Despite Deora giving assurances about there being rigor in finalizing the IT Act, it was passed without debate, a knee-jerk reaction in an atmosphere of fear (read this).

One common refrain from this government (and Deora in this Q&A) has been that they’ve used wordings from international laws to draft Indian laws – that is true but misleading because it’s easy to choose selectively to remove safeguards; laws need to be looked at in their totality, not just sentence by sentence.

2. India is setting up a Central Monitoring system (read this) for tracking what we say or text over the phone, write, post or browse over the Internet, getting direct access from telecom operators and ISPs. Last year, we had reported on a home ministry tender for the same (read this). In 2011, we found a Tender Document from the Delhi Police which had details of setting up the CMS (read this)

3. The Mumbai Police has set up a social media monitoring cell, which, strangely, has been tracking torrents (read this).

5. Aadhaar, India’s not quite flawless (read this) unique identity project, created circumventing Parliament as per a Parliamentary committee (read this) will eventually link all your databases together, across government services, and what is worse, the data will be given to private companies – National Information Utilities, with 51% private ownership – read this.

6. All of this is being done before India has passed a Privacy law (read this), and even if a Privacy law does come into place, how safe do you feel, and how likely do you think the government executives, to not circumvent the law, or create loopholes that they can use?

My contention is that there is a legal and technological framework for surveillance that is being created and deployed right now without proper approval of Parliament, and without Parliamentarians in India paying adequate attention to it. Having technological infrastructure is not enough – they can and will be circumvented.

Having legal safeguards is not enough – even if laws are put into place, the government will create loopholes because they want this power (look at the IT Rules and Aadhaar). You can really rely on the government or the police to abuse the power that they give themselves (read this). What prevents the government in power from harassing individuals who challenge them (including those from opposition parties) on the basis of National Security? Where does National Security end and Government Security begin, and what do we do about a trigger-happy CERT-IN blocking dissent without any transparency?

You decide – am I misinformed, or is Milind Deora misinformed or misleading?

The Only Solution

The only solution is what the UK did with its Identity project (read this): dismantle these projects, no matter how much money has been spent on them, because the risks to civil liberties is too great. There is a need to dismantle the UID Project, the National Population Register, the Central Monitoring System, change the IT Act and IT Rules, and create a privacy law. It is also bizarre for Deora to suggest that information which the government has access to through mobile networks and ISPs will not also be available these service providers.

So, Milind, I do not agree that this monitoring should be, as you said, “the exclusive domain of the government”, because I don’t trust the law enforcement agencies, this government and the governments to follow.

We’d be happy to publish a response to this post, if you wish to clarify further.

*

 

 

 

Indian legal fraternity invites Pakistan’s CJP


PAKISTAN TODAY

ISMAIL DILAWARWednesday, 5 Jun 2013

Pakistan_india_flags

karachi – The judges and lawyers of the Supreme Court of India (SCI) are keen to invite Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhri to their country before his retirement this year in December.
They also showed their determination to take up with their government in New Delhi the issue of hundreds of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. “We are interested to invite the chief justice of Pakistan to India,” said Justice (r) AK Ganguly of the SCI.
Justice Ganguly along with Advocates Colin Gonsalves, Prashant Bhushan, Mukul Sinha and Nijhari Sinha are in Pakistan to attend the two-day India-Pakistan conference on “judicial activism, public interest litigation and human rights” which concluded on Wednesday.
Pakistani lawyer Faisal Siddiqui, Karamat Ali Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), and others accompanied the Indian delegation.
“He (CJP) has taken many bold steps to show what important role the judiciary can play in a society,” said Justice Ganguly during a visit to the press club.
KPC President Imtiaz Faran, Secretary Aamir Latif, Vice President Saeed Sarbazi, Joint Secretary Shams Keerio, Senior Journalist Habib Khan Ghauri and members of governing body welcomed the guests.
Advocate Colin Gonsalves said they had decided to invite Justice Ch during the two-day moot in Pakistan where events relating to the inspirational lawyers’ movement for the restoration of CJP were brought to his knowledge.
“We have concluded to invite him (CJP) to India before his retirement,” said Advocate Gonsalves. Chief Justice Chaudhri would retire on the 13th of December this year.
The Indian lawyer was all praise for the CJP for the latter’s suo motu actions with regard to the public interest litigation (PIL). “The exchange of views is very important,” remarked Justice Ganguly.
Quite few people in India knew about the lawyers’ movement in Pakistan in the favour of Justice Chaudhri after he was sacked by the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
However, a Pakistani lawyer, Advocate Faisal Siddiqui told Pakistan Today that the CJP’s visit to India was just a ‘dream’ now. He, however, believed that such interaction would promote people-to-people contact between the two neighboring nations.
Earlier in a meeting with KPC’s governing body, Justice Ganguly said he had observed that judges in Pakistan were bolder than that of India. This, he said, was because of the lawyers fraternity which had been fighting for the independence of judiciary shoulder-by-shoulder with the judges.
About the two-day moot, Advocate Gonsalves said a weeklong conference would soon be held in India to which 20-25-member delegations would be invited from the South Asian countries.
The lawyer also vowed that his side would take up the issue of around 200 Pakistani fishermen imprisoned in Indian jails with the Indian government.
The Indian delegation viewed that the two countries had common values and culture, so they should live in peace and promote people-to-people contacts. Specially, they said, visa procedures should be simplified. “This is our first step towards building a link between the lawyers and judges” living across the border, said Advocate Gonsalves. The members of Indian delegation were later gifted “Ajrak”, the sign of thousands of years old Sindhi cultural.

 

#India- Government eavesdropping ‘chilling’, says rights group #CMS #Monitoring


Agence France Presse | Updated: June 07, 2013 17:03 IST

 Indian government eavesdropping 'chilling', says rights group
New DelhiThe Indian government‘s move to implement blanket eavesdropping of online activities, telephone calls and text messages is “chilling”, Human Rights Watch said today as controversy raged in the US about Internet surveillance.The Central Monitoring System was announced in parliament late last year and is a so-called “single window” allowing Indian state bodies such as the National Investigation Agency or tax authorities to monitor communications.

New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded a full public debate about “the intended use of the system before proceeding” as the monitoring was created without parliamentary approval.

The Indian surveillance comes as reports emerged that the US National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been tapping into the servers of Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and six other top US Internet companies, stirring a major row in the United States.

The US White House defended the clandestine data collection as a critical tool for preventing “the threat posed by terrorists” and said it was only targeting foreigners, not Americans.

In December 2012, the Indian government said in a statement its monitoring system would “lawfully intercept Internet and telephone services”.

A government spokesman declined to comment Wednesday on media reports that the government had begun rolling out the system.

Human Rights Watch said clear laws were needed to ensure that increased surveillance of phones and the Internet does not undermine rights to privacy and free expression.

“The Indian government’s centralised monitoring is chilling, given its reckless and irresponsible use of the sedition and Internet laws,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Indian activists have raised concerns that the monitoring will inhibit them from expressing their opinions and sharing information.

The government has released scant information about what Indian agencies will have access to the system, who may authorise surveillance, and what legal standards must be met to intercept various kinds of data or communications.

India does not have a law to protect against intrusions on privacy.

A government appointed expert group observed in a 2012 report that current privacy regulations were “prone to misuse”.

Wong said Indian authorities should amend the existing Information Technology Act to protect free speech “and be fully transparent about any surveillance system that might chill people’s willingness to share opinions and information”.

In recent years, Indian authorities have arrested people for posting comments critical of the government on social media, put pressure on websites such as Facebook to filter or block content and imposed liability on private telecom operators to filter and remove content from users.

 

Don’t fund Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant , locals urge European banks


Friday, Jun 7, 2013, 6:47 IST | Agency: DNA

Protesters at the proposed site for a nuclear plant at Jaitapur sent an e-mail to the three main bankers — BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and Credit Agricole in France — on Tuesday, requesting the CEOs not to fund the project.

They have intensified their cause to save the environment from effects of radioactivity.

Indian government officials are set to meet French and other European investors over the week in Paris to discuss funding opportunities for the nuclear project.

Sources said about 1,000 people gathered around the proposed nuclear site on Tuesday at Jaitapur after learning that officials were going to negotiate the financial aspect of the proposed project with with French as well as other European bankers.

“They were riled by the news that Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Department of Atomic Energy officials were going to Paris to discuss financing of the project with French bankers. Slogans were raised against NPCIL, Areva and the French bankers,” a source told dna.

Amjad Borkar, an activist from the fishermen’s community, said: “The project will destroy marine life and make fishermen destitute.”

The e-mail to the bankers stated: “NPCIL and the Government of India officials are making wrong representations, concealing the ground information and distorting the facts and are trying their best to convince you to finance the mega project.”

Activists Premanand Tevedkar and Mansoor Solkar said that despite an increase in compensation, the farmers were not going to give up their land. “Protesters said they would lay down their lives but not give up their land and right to livelihood,” he added.

The e-mail was sent by the villagers, farmers and fisherfolk of Jaitapur, Madban, Sakhari Nate, Mithgavane, Niveli, Karel and all the surrounding villages situated near the site.

“We will never allow anybody to contaminate our ancestral land and sea, marine as well as land of the Konkan coast with nuclear energy. It’s our right to life and livelihood and we will not give these up at any cost,” said the e-mail to the bankers.