#India – Execution of Prof. Bhullar deferred #deathpenalty


 

By 

New Delhi, India (June 19, 2013): It is learnt that citing the “bad physical and mental health” of Sikh political prisoner Prof. Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, the office of the Delhi Lt. Governor of Delhi have deferred his execution.

According to a news reported by Indian Express (IE): “[t]his decision, a source said, was taken after scrutiny of the report submitted by the medical board formed by the Delhi government to ascertain Bhullar’s condition. The file has been forwarded to the office of the Director General (Prisons), Tihar Jail, the source said”.

“An objective, compassionate and humane view of the case has been taken after considering the deteriorating physical and mental health of Devinderpal Singh Bhullar and it has been decided to defer the matter. This decision was taken after scrutinising the report submitted by the medical board. Subsequently, he will be examined by a medical board again and the matter will be re-examined, the source said”, the news reported by IE reads further.

In its report, the medical board is learnt to have stated that Bhullar suffers from severe depression with psychotic symptoms. The jail manual states that a death row convict has to be declared physically and mentally fit before execution.

The file stating the L-G’s views has reportedly been recently forwarded to the office of the DG, Tihar, which will now send it to the home ministry before it is finally sent to the Delhi government.

It is notable that there was strong opposition to the execution of death sentence lashed upon Prof. Bhullar by Indian courts. Prof. Bhullar is sentenced to death in a highly contested manner by the Indian courts, and the Supreme Court of India repeatedly upheld his execution in a surprisingly controversial manner, where the the presiding judge of three judges bench acquitted him but two other judges upheld his death sentence on strange reasoning ignoring the absence of evidence against Prof. Bhullar.

Prof. Bhullar and his family are the victims of state-repression, as seven members of his family suffered severe custodial torture; whereas two from the family – Prof. Bhullar’s father and uncle, were secretly killed by Punjab police during enforced disappearance.

Delhi’s Lt. Governor’s decision is expected to brought a sigh of relief for Prof. Bhullar’s family as the decision has halted the execution of Prof. Bhullar for the time being but it must be remembered that the decision does not remove him from the death row permanently.

Disinformation and Journalistic Ethics: A Letter from Harsh Mander


June 6, 2013
We are publishing below a communication received from Harsh Mander, a former member of the National Advisory Council, regarding misrepresentation of his position and his politics by no less a person than the editor-in-chief of the Indian Express. The misrepresentation could easily have been corrected, had the mistake been really a mistake but by not publishing the letter or even and editorial correction, newspaper and the editor seem to be acknowledging that the error was in fact, intended. In the language of the Cold War, acts such as these were called ‘disinformation’. 
Response to Mr Shekhar Gupta’s article ‘The Bleeding Heartless’ in the Indian Express, June 1 2013
 

In response to an article by Mr Shekhar Gupta ‘The Bleeding Heartless’ in the Indian Express, June 1 2013, I sent the letter reproduced below on 3 June 2013, which has not yet been carried by Indian Express. I try not to respond polemically to articles which disagree with my views on public policy or other issues, as these differences are perfectly legitimate in a democracy. And who is to be sure that I am right, and my critics are wrong? But this was different, because it utterly falsely described my ideological position on Maoism as sympathetic, whereas I have always been passionately and publicly opposed to all forms of violence, including Maoist violence. Moreover it linked this to my membership in the NAC, and through that by implication to the many pro-poor agendas I sought to bring into and support within the NAC in the two years that I was a member. Finally Indian Express did not check with me the full facts reported in the opinion piece. I therefore felt I should respond formally to the report. But since this response has not been carried, and on the other hand it is being publicly referred to by others as well, I felt it would be best to place this reply in the public domain. – Harsh Mander

———————————————————————————————————-

Dear Shekhar,

Greetings!

This relates to your article ‘The Bleeding Heartless’ in the Indian Express, June 1 2013.

In the article, you have mentioned that Padma, the wife of a leading Maoist Ramakrishna, managed an orphanage run by the NGO Aman Vedika with which I am associated. The facts of the matter are as follows. In several cities, my colleagues and I are helping run 45 residential homes for the education and care of around 4000 homeless street girls and boys. There are about 20 such homes for street boys and girls in Hyderabad. For running these homes, as house mothers and home managers, it is our policy to give preference to single women, women survivors of domestic violence, and homeless and destitute women, so that the children’s home also provides them a place of safety and healing. Under the name of Sirisha, a woman came to my colleagues in Hyderabad in the year 2008 saying she was estranged from her husband and only son and was in severe depression , and that she be given the chance to live among the children so that it would help her to heal. She requested initially for the chance to live in the home and volunteer her services. In time, when a position in the same home fell vacant, she was appointed as one of the home managers, because she performed her duties of child care well. No one had the faintest idea about her true identity. After more than 2 years with us, she applied for 10 days’ long leave for the first time. A few days later, we heard from the newspapers that she was Padma, second wife of a Maoist leader, and she was arrested by the police in Odisha.

On the larger question of ‘Maoist sympathies’, I have absolutely none. I have consistently written and spoken about my unambiguous and resolute opposition to all forms of violence, including Maoist violence. I have strongly and consistently disagreed with those, among them my liberal friends, who in any way romanticise or even indirectly rationalise their resort to violence, and those who suggest that their violence is justified because of the structural violence of poverty, exploitation and state violence. I feel that there is no such thing as altruistic violence. Violence, even when deployed in the name of the oppressed, ultimately brutalises all, and the oppressed suffer the most. The only legitimate instruments to fight injustice, in my opinion, are non-violence and democracy.

I would be happy to contribute a longer article to your esteemed newspaper to clarify the facts and my position on Maoist violence. Alternately, I would be grateful if you would kindly at least publish my clarification.

With warm regards,

Harsh Mander

Aman Biradari and Centre for Equity Studies,

 

‘Asghar Ali Will Be Remembered As A Creative Interpreter Of Islam’


In a career spanning over four decades, Asghar Ali was in the forefront of anti-communal movements and upholding the spirit of our secular constitution

MUSHIRUL HASAN

May 15, 2013

Photo Courtesy: www.csss-isla.com

Photo Courtesy: http://www.csss-isla.com

He never wrote his full name. AA Engineer is how he was widely known. I wrote a column on him in the Indian Express and followed it up with another article on his 70th birthday. Now, regrettably, I write his obituary.

Like many in this country and abroad I am deeply grieved by his sudden death. He was a man of extraordinary energy and unshakable conviction. Above all, he was on a mission to reform his own Bohra community, to expose the menace of communalism and to plead for a liberal and modernist version of Islam. What is amazing is that he actually believed that these changes would take place during his lifetime. Sadly, that did not happen.

Asghar Ali Engineer’s chief mission was to make India a safer place to live in for the minorities. For this, he did not adopt the reckless course of many a protagonist of Muslim causes. Instead, he endeavoured to instill confidence in the minorities. At the same time, he argued for reforms and innovations within inherited traditions. He wanted Muslims in particular to move forward and shed their psychological inhibitions. He wanted them to remain true to their faith, because he believed that Islam, contrary to its current demonization, championed social equity, justice and tolerance. He would quote chapter and verse from the Quran to defend his position. Unlike other reformers, he was a well-read person and linguistically equipped to interpret the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet. Therefore, he consistently argued, for example, that gender justice is enshrined in the Quran.

In a career spanning over four decades, Asghar Ali spearheaded many important movements. He was in the forefront of anti-communal movements, upholding the spirit of our secular constitution. Global peace and interfaith dialogue was lately, his principal passion. He tried to work out a synthesis between different religions, traditions and underline their commonalities. In this respect, his dialogues with Christian and Hindu priests are quite important. It marked an advance on a tradition pioneered by social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Mahatma Gandhi.

When I first visited Asghar Ali at Irene Cottage in Santa Cruz East, I expected to be greeted in a large palatial house. Instead, I walked through a decrepit staircase which led me into a rather modest two-room apartment. It was barely furnished. There were only books and printed articles strewn all over the place. This is not surprising. He was a dedicated scholar who spent several hours every day writing his own books, articles and reports on communal riots in different parts of the country. Many of these were published in the Economic and Political Weekly. He will be long remembered for his bold and courageous interventions on leading public issues and in the service of communal peace and secularism. His judgement on most matters was objective and reasonable.
Asghar Ali was a reckless individual, with a junoon to transform the world. He travelled ceaselessly and kept odd hours which ultimately took a toll on his health. Whenever I asked him to take it easy, he would brush aside my suggestion. He said that he had miles to go and much more work to do.

His life offers many lessons to be learnt, of paths taken and not taken. But whatever may be the verdict of history, Asghar Ali Engineer will be remembered as a creative interpreter of Islam and as a champion of the liberal and secular values. His life clearly demonstrates that it is possible to be wedded to one’s own tradition and at the same time be a quintessential liberal. There is no conflict of vision in Asghar Ali’s public life or writings.

We will miss this enlightened and dignified man. We will miss a principled and conscientious citizen and dissenter who recognised no caste or community differences. And finally, we will miss a scholar who was relentless in his search for ideas and solutions to contemporary conflicts and divisions.

The author is Professor of History, former Vice-Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia and the former Director General, National Archives of India

- See more at: http://tehelka.com/asghar-ali-engineer-will-be-remembered-as-a-creative-interpreter-of-islam/#sthash.QGfpi43O.dpuf

#India – Food Security Bill is affordable


REETIKA KHERA, The Hindu
The subsidies meant for the poor are always under attack, while the rest are able to retain their privileges.
The additional allocation in grain and money terms will neither distort the grain market nor place a burden on the fisc.
Many recent commentators have portrayed the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) as an “unbearable burden” on the exchequer. The facts, however, do no substantiate the claim.
The NFSB has been trashed from time to time in the English dailies. For instance, Business Line (March 21, 2013) published an article titled “Food Security Bill will torpedo Budget”.
Another national daily claims that the Bill has a “fundamental flaw” that places “an unbearable burden” and “distorts agriculture” (Indian Express, March 19, 2013). Quite often, the claims are partly due to a misconception that the government is making new financial and grain commitments under the NFSB.
In fact, the NFSB does little more than turning into legal entitlements pre-existing food security schemes such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme, Public Distribution System (PDS) and maternity entitlements.
UNJUSTIFIED FEARS
Some commentators have said that it is precisely the legal commitment that will lead to problems in the future — for example, the fear of the emergence of a government monopoly in the grain market. This fear is not borne out by the facts.
Under the PDS, ICDS and MDM, the government currently allocates about 58 million tonnes of grain. To meet this commitment, the government currently procures about 30 per cent of grain. The NFSB commits 62 million tonnes, i.e., an additional 4 million tonnes.
The Budget of 2013-14 allocates Rs. 31,000 crore for two children’s food schemes — school meals and the ICDS which reaches children under six. The Budget allocation for the food subsidy in 2013-14 is Rs 90,000 crore.
According to our estimates, the food subsidy will increase from Rs 80,000 crore (in 2012-13) to Rs 1,11,221 crore, under the NFSB.
Thus, the NFSB implies an increase of just over Rs 30,000 crores in financial terms and 4 million tonnes in real (grain) terms.
Can India afford this? Speaking at a panel discussion at IIT Delhi in February, Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said “it would be dishonest” to say that we cannot afford the Food Bill, and that the subsidies that we need to target are those enjoyed by the middle classes (e.g., fuel).
Speaking at the same discussion, Amartya Sen made a pertinent point — that the reason why it is more difficult to reduce subsidies enjoyed by the middle classes (fuels such as LPG, petrol and diesel) is that the beneficiaries of those are more vocal than the rural poor or children under six who benefit from the food subsidies.
DOUBLE STANDARDS
This point is well illustrated by the events following last year’s Budget. The Budget 2012-13 announced a 1 per cent excise duty on unbranded jewellery and doubled custom duty on gold to 4 per cent. Gold is the country’s second biggest import, after crude oil. This burden on the current account deficit was an important reason for doubling the customs duty.
Following this, the All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation and others initiated a strike which went on for 21 days. They argued that the industry, including the “large” number of people it employs, and buyers of gold, would suffer. A massive media campaign was launched, following which the Finance Minister withdrew the excise duty.
According to the revenue foregone statement presented along with the Budget 2013-14, the revenue foregone from the gold and diamond industry for the previous financial year was Rs. 65,000 crore.
Such tax breaks are often justified on the grounds of the employment potential of the gems and jewellery industry. According to Invest India, a website of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, “The sector provides employment to around 1.8 million people. In the next five years, the sector is expected to create additional employment for around 1.1 million people.”
According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, 2009-10, the size of the Indian workforce is between 430-471 million persons. If the gems and jewellery industry employs 3 million people as per the Ministry’s target, this would be 0.7 per cent of the workforce.
An industry that employs less than one per cent of the Indian workforce is currently enjoying tax benefits amounting to Rs 65,000 crore (nearly 20 per cent of all revenue foregone). The Food Bill will benefit 67 per cent of the population at an additional cost of Rs 30,000 crore, yet it is said that it will “torpedo” the Budget.
NOT ENOUGH
If anything, the NFSB does not go far enough. The NFSB tabled in Parliament in December 2011 included special provisions for the destitute and other vulnerable groups (e.g., community kitchens and social security pensions).
These have been discarded in the version cleared by Cabinet on March 19, 2013. In many rural areas, the Block is already too far to go to complain, yet for violations of rights under the NFSB, grievance redressal only begins at the District level.
Viewed in this comparative perspective (for example, it is approximately 1 per cent of the GDP), few can question the affordability or desirability of the NFSB. In absolute terms it is not a small amount. One might argue whether such expenditure is worth it, given the “fact” that the programmes in its ambit, for example, the PDS, are “dysfunctional” (Indian Express, March 19, 2013).
However, recent data from the National Sample Survey of 2004-05 and 2009-10 suggest that while the functioning of the PDS is far from perfect, we do need to update our “facts”. In joint research with Jean Drèze, we show that the implicit subsidy from the PDS eliminates 18 per cent (14 per cent) of the “poverty gap” — or the difference between the poverty line level of income and the median income (or monthly per capita consumption expenditure) of poor households — among poor rural (urban) households.
Again, there are marked inter-State contrasts — in Tamil Nadu the corresponding figure is 60 per cent and in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh it is nearly 40 per cent.
The real question then is not whether India can afford to have a right to food but as the Food Minister said in a recent interview, “Can we afford not to?”
(The author teaches economics at IIT, Delhi.)

 

#India- ‘Rape victim’, 10, threatened with stoning unless she withdraws claim #Vaw #WTFnews


The family of a ten-year-old girl who was detained after complaining she had been raped by a neighbour is under police protection amid claims that she will be stoned to death if they do not withdraw the allegation.

CHILDRAPE
Dean Nelson

By , New Delhi

2:30PM BST 11 Apr 2013

The young Dalit girl’s overnight detention, alone in a cell in a special women’s police station, has caused growing anger throughout India as it seeks to improve security for women following the gang rape and murder of a Delhi student last December.

Four officers from the Kotwali women’s police station near Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh were suspended pending an investigation after an Indian television crew which happened to be in the station filmed the girl behind bars.

She had gone to the police station with her mother who had found her unconscious in a field after, she said, a 35-year-old higher caste neighbour had raped her.

The girl is from one of four poor Dalit or “untouchable” families in a village dominated by higher caste Lodhe Rajputs. Since making the complaint they have been under intense pressure from village elders to drop the claim and accept a “settlement” instead.

In an interview with the Indian Express, the girl’s mother said the family had been warned they would be killed if they did not back down. “They have been threatening to kill us, burn down our ancestral home and stone my daughter to death if we do not withdraw the rape case. Even the village panchayat (council), including the sarpanch (leader), is in favour of the accused and is asking the family to settle the matter,” she was quoted as saying.

Additional Superintendent of Police Vaibhav Krishna, who has been appointed to head an inquiry into why the girl was jailed, said two constables and a sub-inspector had been posted outside the family’s home after two relatives of the accused abused them in the street.

He was not aware of any threat to stone the girl, he said, but had put the family under police protection to avoid any further confrontations.

He said the girl had been detained in a cell because of a “misunderstanding” and an investigation into the decision was continuing.

“I feel very sad for the victim, we feel sorry she had to undergo such a trauma but it was not intentional,” he said.

The family believes it was an attempt to intimidate them into dropping the rape allegation.

SP Krishna said a villager had been arrested for the alleged rape, but he said the man denied the allegation and said the girl had been terrified after he scolded her for picking tomatoes from a neighbour’s field.

“The girl was terrified, ran away and she said that he had misbehaved with her,” he said.

A medical examination had been inconclusive and had not confirmed a sexual assault, he added.

Ranjana Kumari, a leading women’s rights campaigner, said the detention of the girl highlighted the obstacles to justice for poor women in rural areas. “In spite of laws being in place, there is no justice. It shows how atrocities against women are neglected and the victims are victimized,” she said.

 

Global media investigation finds 612 Indians among thousands with firms in tax havens


 

Icij-reporters-, Ritu-sarin : New Delhi, Washington | Apr 04, 2013, IE

BM

In the biggest global expose of its kind on offshore investments and secret financial transactions, an international group of investigative journalists has found details of more than 1.2 lakh offshore entities and trusts belonging to individuals and companies in more than 170 countries and territories, including India.

These individuals and companies include politicians, the mega rich and tax offenders, among others, who have invested in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cook Islands, Samoa and other offshore hideaways.

The 612 Indians in this list include two members of Parliament — Lok Sabha Congress MP Vivekanand Gaddam and RS member Vijay Mallya — and several industrialists such as Ravikant Ruia, Samir Modi, Chetan Burman, Abhey Kumar Oswal, Rahul Mammen Mappillai, Teja Raju, Saurabh Mittal and Vinod Doshi.

The list also includes businessmen who have had a brush with authorities such as the Income-Tax department and the CBI. Several of the offshore investments were made in possible violation of RBI and FEMA rules.

Details of these transactions were contained in 2.5 million secret files and accounted for more than 260 gigabytes of data. They were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and their total size is more than 160 times larger than the leak of the US State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010.

Based in Washington DC, ICIJ (www.icij.org) is an independent network of reporters who work together on cross-border investigations.

ICIJ collaborated with 38 media organisations around the world, including the The Indian Express, for this ambitious global project and to analyse the documents. The other media partners include The Washington Post in the US, The Guardian and BBC in Britain, Le Monde in France and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The secret files provide facts and figures — cash transfers, incorporation dates, links between companies and individuals — that illustrate how financial secrecy has spread aggressively around the globe. They represent the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organisation.

Besides several well-known Indians, the lists include American doctors and dentists, middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, East European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives and international arms dealers.

These people used international financial services providers such as the Portcullis Trustnet (PTN) of Singapore and the Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL) in the British Virgin Islands to register offshore companies in tax havens. PTN and CTL, it has been found, have helped tens of thousands of people set up off-shore companies, personal financial trusts and hard-to-trace bank accounts.

Anti-corruption campaigners argue that offshore secrecy undermines law and order and forces average citizens to pay higher taxes to make up for revenues that vanish offshore. The stolen asset recovery initiative, a programme of the Wold Bank and the United Nations, has estimated that cross-border flows of global proceeds of financial crimes total between $1 trillion and $ 1.6 trillion a year.

On the other hand, offshore defenders counter that most offshore patrons are engaged in legitimate business transactions. Offshore centres, they say, allow companies and individuals to diversify their investments, force commercial alliances across national borders and do business in entrepreneur-friendly zones that eschew the heavy rules and redtape of the onshore world.

The 15-month long investigation has found that alongside perfectly legal transactions, the secrecy and lax oversight offered by the offshore world allows fraud, tax dodging and political corruption to thrive. The expose has also thrown light on the functioning of “nominee directors’’ in offshore companies, several of whom have also been engaged by Indian patrons of offshore companies.

For instance, a cluster of 28 “sham directors’’ have been identified as having served as the on-paper representatives of more than 21,000 companies between them, with some individual directors representing as many as 4,000 companies each.

The expose comes shortly after a list of 18 Indians who had bank accounts in the LGT Liechtenstein Bank and around 700 Indians who had accounts in HSBC in Geneva became public. In both cases, account holders were prosecuted and paid penalties to Income-Tax authorities for deposits they had made abroad without paying taxes in India.

Incidentally, India had signed a double taxation treaty called the Tax Information Exchange Agreement with the BVI in 2011 to check tax evasion and money laundering from the tax haven. Finance ministry officials said that similar agreements are in the process of being drafted with the Cook Islands and Samoa.

While the Liberalized Remittance Scheme 2012 permits Indians to deposit up to $200,000 abroad annually, the RBI has made it clear that this does not include deposits in tax havens. “As yet, the $200,000 facility for remittances abroad is not applicable for individuals to open accounts or companies in tax havens,” a RBI spokesperson told The Indian Express.

Auditors said the legality of holding offshore accounts and registering offshore companies is complex. The RBI restriction on individuals incorporating companies abroad, they said, can be easily circumvented if an offshore company is first incorporated and the shareholding then transfered to the beneficial owner.

In the cases under scrunity, documents show that both patterns have been followed. The date of incorporation and the date of the patrons being appointed shareholders/directors is either identical — which is a violation of RBI guidelines — or is a month or so later. If it is the latter, these individuals can say they just acquired shares of an offshore company.

However, with individuals debarred from using LRS for setting up companies, even the remittance dispatched by them for setting up an offshore entity can be a violation. Under rules of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), the use of the offshore route to bring in FDI is also prohibitted and is a violation of Section 8 of the act.

There is also a restraint on individuals setting up offshore companies without the prior approval of the RBI.

MEGA BYTES

* 15-month investigation based on 260 GB data in 2.5 million secret files including 2 million emails covering nearly 30 years

* Data had details of over 1.2 lakh offshore firms/trusts and 12,000 agents

* Owners, benefactors of offshore accounts spread across more than 170 countries, territories

* 86 ICIJ journalists from 38 media organisations in 46 countries collaborated in investigation

* Data found 28 ‘sham directors’ who together represented 21,000 firms

 

 

Activists send notice to Union forest minister over public hearing


Indian Express, Ahmedabad, 5 March 2013

Activists have sent legal notices to various authorities, including Minister of Environment & Forests Jayanthi Natarajan, for proceeding with the public hearing for the Mithi Virdi nuclear power plant even as the consultant for the project is not properly accredited.

“If the Environment Public Hearing dated March 5 of proposed nuclear power plant at Mithi Virdi is not cancelled as well as the incomplete, illegal EIA prepared by a non-accredited consultant be rejected, we will be left with no choice but to take legal action against you as an individual and the concerned authorities,” the activists, under the umbrella of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, said in the notice.

The Indian Express had reported earlier that the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had asked project proponent Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to clarify why it had hired a consultant not fully accredited to assess nuclear power plants to draw up the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the 6,000 MW project.

The consultants, Engineers India Limited (EIL), had clarified they have applied for accreditation with QCI-NABET, the accrediting agency. No change in schedule was considered after that.

Activists and protesters have not been convinced of the report’s reliability and have “picked holes” in the report. They have sent at least five different letters regarding this to the authorities, asking the public hearing be either cancelled or postponed and the draft EIA report withdrawn. They are yet to get a response, they said.

The GPCB maintains that the contested report is only a draft report and that the board’s role is merely to help the district collector conduct the public hearing, record the proceedings and forward it to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

he plant at Mithi Virdi will be the country’s first nuclear power plant to use US technology and is a maiden project under the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement.

Local opposition against the project has mounted since the Fukushima disaster in Japan as well as by the site selection — almost four-fifths of the 777 hectares earmarked for the project site is fertile agricultural land producing both kharif and rabi crops.

 

Have sought accreditation to assess Nuclear Power projects: EIL to GPCB


Nuclear Power Corporation of India

 

 

 

Adam Halliday: Ahmedabad, Indian Express, 23 February 2013

The consultants for the proposed Mithi Virdi nuclear power project have told the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) that they have applied to be registered as qualified assessors for nuclear power projects, said GPCB officials.

Officials said the public hearing for the project will therefore be held as scheduled on March 5, even as environmentalists have petitioned Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan to cancel the hearing because of the issue. They said they have not received any response from the ministry. “The public hearing will be held as scheduled on March 5,” said Bhavnagar District Collector V P Patel.

The GPCB had last week asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to clarify why it had hired an unqualified consultant to assess its proposed 6000 MW project. The NPCIL had referred the matter to the Engineers India Limited (EIL), the consultants, to respond directly.

At the end of the draft environment impact assessment report for the project, EIL, a public-sector undertaking, has attached a copy of its QCI-NABET certification in which it shows it has been given conditional accreditation to assess category B thermal power plants.

Category B Thermal Power Plants are those with a capacity of 500 MW or less, which can be cleared by state authorities. Category A power plants, on the other hand, refers to plants of higher capacities, and need clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). All nuclear power plants fall in category A.

No consultant in the country has been accredited to assess nuclear power plants, although the NPCIL already runs six such units with a total capacity of 4,780 MW generated from 20 reactors.

The proposed plant at Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar district will be the first such project built using American nuclear technology.

 

 

 

India wins Kishanganga case at The Hague court #Pakistan #Kashmir


Ravish Tiwari : New Delhi, Tue Feb 19 2013,

The International Court of Arbitration at The Hague Monday ruled in favour of India‘s position on the diversion of Kishanganga water, setting aside objections by Pakistan that has halted work on the 330 MW Kishanganga hydel project in Jammu & Kashmir.

Islamabad took New Delhi to the court of arbitration in the summer of 2010, disrupting Indian plans to divert water from the Kishanganga into the Bona Madmati Nallah. Islamabad said the diversion violated provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1965, a claim that India refuted.

While the broad verdict is in India’s favour, officials were learnt to be going through the detailed order to check the fine print. The verdict is likely to mean a green signal for the Kishanganga project. Pakistan had earlier taken India to a neutral inter-nations expert for resolution of a dispute on the Baglihar dam, which too had gone in India’s favour in 2007.

In a statement issued late on Monday evening, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, “The award of the court of arbitration at The Hague today reaffirms the validity of India’s position… It highlights once again that India is adhering to all the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty.”

Former Central Water Commission chairman A K Bajaj, who was involved with the process of dispute resolution from the beginning and had been engaged by the government even after retirement, said, “It was a major point that Pakistan was opposing on various frivolous grounds and it is good that the hon’ble tribunal has decided the matter by correctly interpreting the relevant provisions of the Treaty.”

Former water resources secretary Dhruv Vijay Singh, who spearheaded the Indian case, told The Indian Express, “India always believed in abiding by the provisions of the treaty. And we will continue to do so.”

The arbitration went through tumultous phases after New Delhi and Islamabad failed to agree on the nomination of three neutral judges. Both sides invoked a provision in the treaty under which UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had to nominate Stephen M Schwebel, a former president of the International Court of Justice, as the head of the seven-member arbitration bench.

The technical expert was nominated by the rector of London’s Imperial College of Science and Technology, and the legal expert was recommended by the Lord Chief Justice of England to complete the three neutral members, including the chairman, on the bench.

The bench, on which the two countries nominated two members each, visited both sides of the LoC before beginning a detailed hearing which concluded on August 31 last year.

India’s legal team was led by Fali S Nariman and comprised international law expert Shankar Das and hired foreign lawyers. The technical and factual case was presented by a team comprising Singh, Bajaj, Indus Commissioner G Aranganathan and his deputy Darpan Talwar, among others.

 

#India- time to think beyond rape and engage with deep rooted sexism #Vaw #genderbias


Think beyond the rape

RAPE

 Kalpana Sharma urges the need to engage with the deep-rooted sexism and misogyny in all aspects of Indian society

We must now move beyond sorrow and anger at the horrendous gang rape and lingering death of the 23-year-old woman in Delhi. Since December 16, this one story and its many dimensions have dominated the media.  Opinion pieces, talk shows, surveys, documentaries – we have seen, read, watched.  The horror of this hideous gang rape by six men in the national capital has finally brought to centre stage an issue that should have been a national concern much earlier.

When the 2001 census figures revealed the drastic decline in the child sex ratio, we should have woken up and asked, what is happening to this country that girls are not even being allowed to be born.  But we did not.  We dismissed talk of the consequences of this precipitous decline leading to an increase in the levels of violence against women. Yet, a decade later all those prophecies are coming true.

When international studies indicated that too many girls were dying in India before the age of six because of socially endorsed neglect in health care and nutrition, again few were alarmed.  This was not a dramatic one-time occurrence.  It was a process that was killing off girls.  So no one noticed.  And few cared.

There are many more processes that continue to disadvantage women from birth, onto marriage and even when they are widowed, abandoned or divorced.  But these are processes that lead to subjugation, violence and death.  So no one notices.  And few care.

Today, women are reaping the consequences of this lack of attention to the details – by policymakers, by civil society and by the media, all those who are now worked up about the issue of rape and sexual assault against women.

At root is the issue of patriarchy – that long word that we prefer not to mention.  It is about social systems that sanctify the superiority of the male.  It is customs and traditions that socialise women to believe that they are inferior, that they must accept a secondary position in everything.  And ones that make men believe that it is their right to dominate, to order, to demand sex and servitude from women, including from those to whom they are related.

Even as we work to make the criminal justice system work for the survivors of sexual assaults, tighten existing laws so that the perpetrators of these crimes do not get off lightly and establish fast-track courts so that cases do not drag on until the survivor is exhausted and gives up, we must delve deeper into these societal structures that ultimately perpetuate and even endorse sexual crimes.

Even if all these legal steps are taken, they will not suffice in reducing levels of violence until the stranglehold of patriarchy is broken.  That is no easy job.  The system has had centuries within which to perfect itself.  It has learnt how to mould itself even as society changes and ‘modernises’.  So, even as women are being encouraged to study, to pursue careers, a line is drawn:  this far and no further.  A career, yes, but only if it can fit in within the prescribed limits of a marriage.  Have your own mind and opinion on issues, but not at the cost of alienating the men in your life – your father, your bothers, and your husband.  Even if young educated women chafe at these restrictions, the majority of them fall in line.

What greater violence could there be than to tell a young girl that she is a free bird, that she can do what she likes, and then cage her within these resilient societal structures?  The price for resisting, for being their own women, is to be confronted with forms of violence that are often not even reported.  Those that occur in a public space are noticed.  What happens within the confines of homes is never known.

The mothers of these young women lived through this violence.  But there is a difference.  Their mothers did not demand equal rights to the public space outside the home.  Today’s young women believe they have the right.  And just that act, of stepping out with confidence, is being interpreted as their being sexually available to men.  They are challenging patriarchy.  And this is enraging those who believe that a woman is good for only set tasks – as a homemaker and as someone who provides sexual gratification, and of course male progeny, to men.  Anyone falling outside this frame should be punished.

Grim as this sounds, there is hope – because women and men are finally talking about these issues, because the media is engaged and because policy-makers are not being allowed to make any more excuses.  Yet, after all the shouting is over, those who really want a lasting change will have to engage with the deep-rooted sexism and misogyny in all aspects of Indian society, of which gang rapes and sexual assaults are one manifestation.

Kalpana Sharma is an independent journalist, columnist and media consultant. She has been, until recently, Deputy Editor and Chief of Bureau of The Hindu in Mumbai. In over three decades as a full-time journalist, she has held senior positions in Himmat Weekly, Indian Express and the Times of India. Her special areas of interest are environmental and developmental issues. She writes a fortnightly column in The Hindu’s Sunday Magazine section, The Other Half, that comments on contemporary issues from a gender perspective. She has also followed and commented on urban issues, especially in the context of Mumbai’s development.

Kalpana Sharma is the author of Rediscovering Dharavi: Stories from Asia’s Largest Slum (Penguin 2000) and has co-edited with Ammu Joseph Whose News? The Media and Women’s Issues (Sage 1994, 2006) and Terror Counter-Terror: Women Speak Out (Kali for Women, 2003)

Source- http://www.thethumbprintmag.com/