#India — Human Rights Violations against a lesbian couple


Saranya went back to her parents on 30 July 2013, after undergoing a lot of stress and `emotional blackmail’

Press Release

Bangalore, 1 Aug 2013: After undergoing a lot of stress and `emotional blackmail’, one of the two women, Saranya, who came to Bangalore from Kerala, went back to her parents on 30 July 2013. However, Shruthi returned to Bangalore on her own choice and pledged to fight the conservative system and appealed to everyone not to discriminate them.

Saranya’s father Mr. Mohanan filed a Habeas Corpus petition in the Kerala High Court where Saranya was represented by well-know advocate Mr. BT Venkatesh and Advocate Asha on 30 July. However, the court has allowed the parents to talk to the girl alone for over two hours but we felt that she was not given a chance to talk on her own. She was asked by court whether she would like to go back to her parents and she replied `Yes’ in a mono syllable. She was under duress and “emotional stress”.

Adressing a Press Conference at Press Club today, Senior Advocate and Human Rights Activist Mr BT Venkatesh, said: “I feel that court ought to have handled the matter in a more sensitive manner. It was visible that the girl was under great stress and it was also necessary that the girl ought to have been enquired in a friendly atmosphere which was not the case. We have seen, there is a crying need to form a set of guidelines in the matters relating to Habeas Corpus petitions seeking custody of women or girl child in particular. Absence of such guidelines, we have seen, resulted in women being pushed to traumatic situations more particularly when the families are oppressive. The case of Saranya, unfortunately, stands in that league.”

“Saranya’s father has been harassing her for the last few days and he has also made false allegations against Sangama. After watching the whole issue unfold in the last few days, It is clear, Saranya’s decision came after she was subjected to emotional blackmail,” said Gurukiran Kamath, Director, Sangama.

Two lesbians from Kerala, who ran away from their homes, have requested the support of Sangama, a human rights organisation working for Sexual Minorities, for legal support.

Sangama is a human rights organisation promoting and defending the rights of sexual minorities, sex workers and other oppressed communities and has been working with many organisations in Kerala for the last 13 years and from 2010 it has been directly doing local work from many districts of Kerala with the community based organizations of sexual minorities. The organisation has supported many women in distress from Kerala in the last 13 years.

“Saranya has clearly told her father and other members that she has come out on her own. But the pressure from home was so much that she was forced to go back. I am sure Saranya is not happy there. I want to talk to her and want know how she is,” said Shruthi, who chose to return back to Bangalore.

“When we talk about freedom, where is the freedom for women? In a democratic country, if an adult is not having freedom then it is against the constitutional morality, ” said Elavarthi Manohar, Joint Secretary, Praja Rajakiya Vedike.

Shubha Chacko, a women’s rights activist and Director of Aneka said: “We will take this issue to women’s movement to have a larger dialogue. We strongly demand the protection of women’s rights.”

For details call Gurukiran 9972903460 or the helpline 9901682151

#India – Every Move She Makes. They’ll Be Watching Her #moralpolicing #Vaw


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Rising hemlines lead to rising TRPs. Aradhna Wal examines a commercial news industry committed to sleaze, to lechery and to shaming young women

There’s something rotten in the states of  and . And it seems the Kannada and Telugu news channels have identified the problem — girls gone wild, fuelled by alcohol. On 14 May, Karnataka’s leading regional news channel, TV9 Kannada, ran a programme, Olage Serideru Gundu (literally, ‘once alcohol is inside’), a fine assortment of video nasties from across the country, showing the great evils of girls drinking — the ruckus on the street, clothes askew, clashes with cops.

For some years now, the disapproving cultural policing of a class of girls — ones who can afford to go out to drink — has become a staple on regional news in both states. There is massive viewership, particularly of sleazy ‘true crime’ reports, and so editors and programming heads encourage reporters to follow women and young couples, to stake out pubs, nightclubs and make-out spots. A cursory search on YouTube reveals the many news reports with such eye-catching titles as ‘Drunk women causing hulchul’, ‘Drunk women causing hungama’, or ‘How to ban rave parties to save the youth’.

“We show boys too, but a girl being daring on screen instantly catches the viewers’ attention,” says Shreeti Chakraborty, senior producer with a leading Kannada channel. One clip was of an altercation between four female students of NALSAR University of Law and reporters from the Telugu news channel ABN Andhra Jyothy, outside Rain pub in Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills on the night of 11 April. Shruthi, Megha, Prachi and Adwitiya angrily confronted a drunk man filming them on his phone. The confrontation attracted a mob and reporters from ABN. Apparently, the drunk man was a reporter who had telephoned his colleagues. The footage was picked up by other news channels. Several of them branded the girls immoral, drunk and half-naked and even questioned the pub’s licence.

Watching the ABN footage is instructive. The camera pans up and down the women’s bodies. It is exploitative; consent is not an option, probably not even worth a thought. The viewer is implicated by the camera’s roving eye, a fellow voyeur leering at barefoot girls in short dresses. The cameraman follows the girls to their taxi, thrusting his camera through the door, his taunts provoking the girls to shout insults. Their expressions of fury at being cornered were circulated on primetime news as the faces of unacceptable modernity, of aggressive young women out at night, women who must be checked.

One irate senior journalist with a leading Telugu news channel described the girls as “public nuisance”, and launched into a tirade about “minors” getting drunk, abusing reporters and partying late into the night. He blames this “anti-social behaviour” on both NALSAR and the students themselves: “They even shot a promotional video for the ‘daaru party’ on campus. Look at the things they say in that.”

Confronted by this (self ) righteous indignation, the students launched an online campaign on change.org to prove that they had been harassed by the media. They compiled evidence to show that they were neither minors, nor drinking after legal hours (11 pm), and the leaked video that the news channels broadcast was not a promo for the party. Raj Singh, the owner of Rain, has stated that the ages of everyone at the party were checked and the girls left around 11 pm, not past midnight as the reporters alleged.

“The police raided us at 11.45 pm after the incident was over,” says Singh. “At 12.45 am the reporters barged into my club, beat up my security guard and placed bottles on the bars to suggest that the pub was still open.” His decision to stand up for the girls has meant that his pub “has been raided almost nightly by every department imaginable looking for some illegal activity”.

In response, Andhra Pradesh’s Electronic Media Association of Journalists put up a counter petition on change.org, asking for the girls who “assaulted reporters” to be condemned. It garnered over 5,000 signatures. But during routine checks, change.orgtraced the bulk of these signatures to one IP address, proving that most were fake. After they removed those signatures, only 132 were left.

The girls’ determination to stand up for themselves sets them apart in a state where reporters looking to manufacture lurid stories appear to operate without any kind of sanction. “We had to fight back,” says Shruthi Chandrasekaran, one of the girls involved in that now infamous April incident. “What’s happening is just wrong and too many people seem resigned to it. We don’t even know what motivates the media’s malice towards us.”

Andhra Pradesh has some 16 regional news channels. Sevanti Ninan, editor of The Hoot, an online media watchdog, has written about how corporate ownership sets the terms and how the need to be profitable means a redrawing of the lines between public and private. In a market exploding with money and fierce competition, no channel can afford for viewers to switch off. Thus, there’s little distinction between what channels define as eyeball-grabbing reportage and salacious entertainment. News seems to essentially mean reality TV served with an indigestible side dish of hypocritical, moralistic commentary.

GS Rammohan, associate editor with ABN Andhra Jyothy, accepts that TV news has gone insane, driven by ratings and profit. According to the , what sells is sex and crime. “People enjoy watching other people’s private lives on TV,” he says. As long, apparently, as the “other people” are comely young women. The same senior journalist who denounced the NALSAR students stated matter-of-factly that channels look to show beautiful women onscreen as de facto policy. Local media in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, Rammohan says, are similar in this regard. Though Karnataka has six regional news channels as opposed to 16, its crime news coverage is famous for stings, both successful and attempted, on bars in Bengaluru, Mangalore and Manipal. Many of these stings are the work of reporters employed by Suvarna News 24×7 and TV9 Kannada, the two most popular regional news channels in Karnataka. Both blame the other for lowering the tone of the public conversation with leering, tabloid journalism.

Raoof Kadavanad, a crime reporter with a leading English daily in Hyderabad, watches the tactics of TV reporters with some bemusement. He describes how crime reporters seek out couples in public spaces and film them with hidden cameras. The footage is then screened to bolster the argument that the behaviour of young women in the city is deplorable. After the NALSAR incident, TV5 aired a segment about Hyderabad’s nightlife that deplored what was “happening to our sisters and daughters”

In July 2012, Tonic, another pub in Banjara Hills, was raided for having a party long after legal hours. The media filmed the raid, focussing largely on the women in that familiar, creepy style. Depressingly, this behaviour is typical. In January 2012, Suvarna broadcast a ‘sting’ on illegal bars in Bengaluru. The ‘illegality’ of said establishments was, of course, of less concern than filming the girls on their cameras. In 2011, a medical student was photographed at a party in Le Rock Cafe in Bengaluru. Her picture was published in a Kannada newspaper belonging to the Telugu channel Sakshi TV as an example of the malign influence of western culture on the present generation.

The combination of sanctimoniousness and aggression is visible. Girls are hunched over, hiding their faces, surrounded by baying men. The footage is edited insidiously, with strategic blurring implying nudity when a girl is wearing a dress deemed insufficiently modest. Shame is thrust on the girls. “It was terrifying,” remembers Shruthi, “to be chased by this man with a camera, who won’t even let you shut the car door.” Her fear has been felt before by innumerable women running away from cameras, desperately covering their faces with dupattas, scarves or their own hands.

Another popular tactic used by reporters is to wait around with traffic police conducting its weekly drunk-driving tests at various checkpoints around Hyderabad. Every Friday and Saturday night, a small group of reporters armed with lights and cameras film these checks, waiting for women who might be stopped. “Channels use that footage in different packages to say different things for months. People enjoy it,” says ABN Andhra Jyothy’s Rammohan.

In Bengaluru, Ajit Hanamakkanavar, the Crime Bureau Chief of Suvarna, acknowledges that “news has crossed over the line to  and reality TV”. “In the TV business, the remote control is your biggest enemy. No one watches serious, investigative stories,” he adds. The channel has a “legal team at the ready” to deal with accusations of slander and defamation. The reporters are often tipped off about the bar raids by the police. “A commissioner will not be my source,” says Hanamakkanavar, “but a constable will be.” A senior police officer confirmed that the constabulary and reporters often share information.

Both Rammohan and Hanamakkanavar put the blame squarely on upper management. The top brass have cynically turned moral policing into a lucrative business. Many of the reporters, who often come with their own cultural baggage, actually believe they are making a valuable difference, providing a much-needed check to out-of-control youth. It is not enough for them to observe society; they feel the need to become enforcers of a particular, usually imaginary, cultural code. Sampath Kumar, a crime reporter for ABN, earnestly tries to explain how “these people” can be kept in check “through fear of the media and by being made to understand that their behaviour is wrong”. He claims the reporters have the public on their side and that tip-offs come just as often from their audience as from the police.

In Karnataka, there is also a penchant for blaming the outsider, or the ‘foreign hand’ — students and professionals, who flock to cities from other states and countries, and bring money, decadence and loose morals. The pressure to make the money to lead extravagant lifestyles also results in crime, say reporters. Rajesh Rao, the Mangalore crime reporter for TV9 Kannada, says that he’s “seen what goes on in these pubs, what drugs are exchanged. These petticoat parties where girls wear short clothes”. Suresh Kumar Shetty, the Mangalore crime reporter for Suvarna, worries about the effects the “lavish lifestyle” of rich students from outside the state have on locals.

Like Rao, Shetty admits that his channel has attempted to smuggle cameras into popular bars. He once asked two friends of his, who were not reporters, to enter a bar as a couple and film the goings-on. To validate the rightness of the cause, he refers to the tragic suicide of Sneha, an 18-year-old Mangalore girl, in February this year. A drug addict, she reportedly killed herself because she couldn’t afford the next fix. Her parents spoke about a girl who used to top her class at school until she started going to parties in hotels and pubs and was introduced to drugs.

This story fits conveniently into Rao and Shetty’s argument that local youths are tempted into vices they cannot afford and that the media must protect them. Naveen Soorinje, the Mangalore reporter for Kasthuri TV, disagrees. With vehemence. He made national headlines last year after the 23 July 2012 homestay incident in which activists from the Hindu Jagarana Vedike attacked boys and girls at a birthday party. Soorinje’s coverage shed light on what had happened, yet he was named as an accused in the case by the police. Released on bail in March this year, all charges against Soorinje were dropped by the Karnataka government on 14 June. Having consistently reported on cultural policing, he points out when right wing groups such as the Sri Ram Sene go on one of their periodic moral policing jaunts in Mangalore, the media, tipped off by these groups, is close behind. It’s a cosy relationship. The media gets political backing for its own occasional hand-waving about decadent modern culture and the right wing groups get the soapbox and spotlight they so desire. “When the right wing groups are not around,” says Soorinje, “TV channels film young people in pubs and ask ‘what is the Hindu sangathan doing now?’ When TV9 does something, Suvarna tries to catch up by doing something more sensational.”

This role of social responsibility is championed by TV9 Telugu’s executive editor Dinesh Akkula and Input Editor Arvind Yadav. According to them, the story of Telugu media is one of transformation — from a cutthroat business to responsible journalism that is the hallmark of the likes of TV9. “Maturity is coming in slowly,” says Akkula, “we stick to the guidelines recommended by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA). We don’t target specific people or groups, but we show what’s in the public interest.”

In TV9 Telugu’s infamous Planet Romeo sting (February 2011), a reporter posed as a gay man on the site Planet Romeo and befriended other members, eliciting intimate details while recording his conversations. The ‘report’ was broadcast with lots of hand-wringing about how Hyderabad was falling prey to the fashionable gay culture. The conversations were played on TV, revealing identities, personal sexual preferences and histories. Prominent gay rights lawyer Aditya Bandopadhyay filed a complaint and the NBA fined the channel 1 lakh, a piffling sum for a network of TV9’s size.

That appalling piece of reporting shows that it’s not just middle and upper-middle class girls in the firing line, but all manner of easy targets. The Telugu news channel NTV 24×7 once filmed transgenders at an LGBT awareness event held by the NGO Suraksha and then aired that footage in a completely different context, when a man was murdered at a popular cruising spot. TV9 Kannada did a major expose in 2009 on the “Devdasi tradition” among sex workers of Kudligi in Bellary district. The story’s fallout, as documented in a fact-finding report by Vimochana, a women’s organisation, and Nava Jeevana Mahila Okkuta, a Dalit Women’s Collective, was that these sex workers, previously accepted by a wider community, were now ostracised. They had lost their only source of livelihood, couldn’t send their children to school and were shunned by the neighbours. The TV9 journalist, Prakash Noolvi, went on to win the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award in January 2012. “The reporter didn’t hide the faces of these women,” says Akkai Padmashali, the media coordinator of Sangama, an LGBT organisation. “They cheated these women by posing as clients. One had even been visiting them for sex.” She angrily recounts the many times reporters secretly film sex workers to extort money from them.

Activists and intellectuals point to how a large section of society gives legitimacy to the media and other self-appointed moral police. People will be outraged by a girl being beaten up, but will also say that she should not have been out drinking in the first place. Conservatives who might be of completely different backgrounds find common ground when setting limits on women’s behaviour. Shaming is a cultural reality. Madhavi Lata, a scriptwriter and former reporter for NTV, is honest about the fact that truth is often warped to fit viewers’ preconceptions. But even she asks why “these girls give people the chance to say something about them. They could go out for a drink in more decent clothes”.

Hyderabad-based activist Tejaswini Madabhushi recalls media reaction to the 5 January ‘Midnight March’ in the city, an attempt to take back the night from sexual predators and the moral police. “Vernacular news reporters,” says Madabhushi, “kept asking us why we wanted to go out in the night and provoke men like them.”

Pop culture too reflects this attitude. Audiences cheer when Telugu heroes verbally and physically abuse heroines. It’s part of a nationwide acceptance of . Sandhya, a leading gender rights activist in Hyderabad, says people “want to see women as sex objects. Studios call us for panel discussions and pit us against someone from the right wing. We tell them to leave the girls alone and start telling the boys how to behave.” R Akhileshwari, a senior print journalist, points out that it’s “always the woman’s body” that is the locus of censure or dispute. “Why do these channels not look at the liquor shops on the road, where men buy drinks, enjoying a session right there by the roadside?”

Perhaps legal challenges will force TV channels to modify their intrusive behaviour. “It is a violation of privacy,” says Bengaluru-based lawyer Akmal Rizvi. “It can be interpreted as stalking, which comes under Section 354D of the IPC.” One of Hyderabad’s eminent lawyers says, on the condition of anonymity, that some reporters “blackmail people for money by threatening to show their faces on TV”. The NALSAR students cited the reporters’ violations of the NBA’s regulations concerning stings and media ethics. The reporters argue that roads are public areas.

“Moral policing on TV goes back to the ’90s when crime shows started,” says Deepu, a Bengaluru- based documentary filmmaker with Pedestrian Pictures. He reiterates the point that journalists are part of the social fabric that consumes these shows. But the very morality these channels pretend to is hypocritical. “Why would you want to see that picture of the skimpily dressed girl if you are so moral?” asks Nisha Susan, freelance journalist and writer, who began the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign in 2009 in response to Sri Ram Sene goons beating up women in a Mangalore pub. Thousands of people around the country responded to her call to send the thugs the aforementioned items of women’s underwear. She adds that each generation must push the boundaries for acceptable female behaviour and be prepared for the inevitable friction.

As of now, vernacular media is working hard to play to its audience’s prejudices. An audience that tunes in repeatedly to be scandalised. Perhaps one day, these channels will be overtaken by their viewers as they’re forced to adapt to changing times. One day, the audience will note the rage on a young girl’s face as she is backed into a corner by a reporter wielding a camera. And then they’ll no longer listen to the reporter’s claims that it is the young girl whose behaviour is immoral.

aradhna@tehelka.com

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

 

#India- Grassland fodder for development in Karnataka #WTFnews


Karnataka’s cattle farmers protest the allotment of 12,000 acres of traditional grazing land for defence, nuclear and other projects. Imran Khan reports

Imran Khan

June 28, 2013

Lifeline The Amrit Mahal Kavals are critical to the livelihood of the local pastoral communityLifeline The Amrit Mahal Kavals are critical to the livelihood of the local pastoral community Photo: Vivek Muthuramalingam

Since the time of our forefathers, our cattle have been  in these grasslands. But now a high wall prevents us from going there,” laments Ranganna, a 58-year-old cattle farmer in south . “Where do they expect us to go in search of fodder?”

Ranganna belongs to one of the nearly 40,000 families from 73 villages in  district (250 km from state capital Bengaluru) that rear livestock for a living. About 12,000 acres of bio-diverse grassland in Challakere taluka of this district has been diverted to make way for a host of defence, , industrial and .

Known for supporting the Amrit Mahal breed of hardy indigenous cattle, these grasslands — called the Amrit Mahal Kavals — have traditionally served as common grazing land for the local pastoral community.

According to the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969, this grassland ecosystem is designated as ‘forest’. Yet, over a period of three years since 2008, the lands were handed over to the Defence Research and Development Organisation () for a project to build and test unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre () for an uranium enrichment facility, the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) to host a synchrotron (for advanced scientific research), the Indian Space Research Organisation () for a satellite centre, besides other industrial and infrastructure projects. Many small and ancillary industrial units linked to the defence production sector are also expected to come up in the region. Under threat is the livelihood system of the local pastoral community that breeds a variety of livestock in this arid region as its primary economic activity.

According to the state animal husbandry department, Chitradurga district supports 3.16 lakh non-descriptive cattle, 24,000 crossbred cattle, 3.68 lakh goats and 9.31 lakh sheep. The Amrit Mahal Kavals form a support system for this intense practice of animal husbandry and the Challakere Kavals are critical to the livelihood of people across more than 70 villages. Ecologists claim the Amrit Mahal Kavals are the largest contiguous stretch of arid grasslands still existing in Karnataka, and perhaps, all of south India.

Wildlife surveys indicate that the Challakere Kavals are a biodiversity hot spot and habitat of the highly threatened Blackbuck. Some recent records suggest that the critically endangered  is also found in this area.

Against the common perception that villagers are a threat to wildlife, the grazing practices here help prevent the land from being excessively overgrown with grass, creating niches where the wild species can forage for food.

However, these concerns seem to have been set aside when the Karnataka government gave away the ecologically precious land to the projects at a pittance — Rs 30,000-Rs 35,000 per acre. All the projects are expected to have significant environmental and social impact. Elected representatives, institutions of local governance and the residents of the area were kept completely in the dark when the land transfer took place. In fact, the locals came to know of this only when the organisations to which land had been allotted began building boundary walls.

According to Bengaluru-based ngo Environment Support Group (), despite statutory notices from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board against violation of environmental laws, issued over two years ago, not one of the project proponents has complied with any of the mandatory environmental and forest clearance norms and standards. The DRDO, for instance, has built a 28-km wall in violation of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006, and has even tested its weaponised drones without any civilian or military clearances.

According to documents accessed by TEHELKA, BARC is conducting advanced research on the nuclear fuel cycle, for developing nuclear fission reactors, atomic energy applications in agriculture and nuclear medicine. Meanwhile, DRDO is building a runway for testing the indigenous drones Lakshya and Nishant.

The DRDO project was initially planned to come up 40 km away in a neighbouring taluka. In 2007, however, the then MP from Chitradurga constituency, NY Hanumanthappa, wrote to Defence Minister AK Antony asking for the project to be shifted to its present location in Challakere. In his letter, Hanumanthappa assured the minister that at the new location there was “no question of acquisition of land and payment of compensation”.

The locals are agitated because no one sought their views on these decisions that were to affect their lives so significantly. “How is it reasonable for the government to allot the land to various agencies without involving its real custodians?” asks Karianna, a local villager and Chitradurga district president of the All India Kisan Sabha (), a peasants’ organisation affiliated with the CPM.

That the locals have been “custodians” of the Amrit Mahal Kaval lands is also acknowledged in a June 2011 report of the iisc, A Precious Heritage: Rapid Bio-diversity of the Khudapura Campus. According to the report, “The land for these campuses has recently been taken over from the local people, for whom this was a grazing commons, and the healthy state of the ecosystem shows that the local grazers and farmers have been wise custodians of this landscape.”

Today, a huge concrete wall prevents these “custodians” from accessing their pastoral lands. Activists allege that by allowing this 28-km wall to come up, the government has undermined the locals’ right to life, given their dependence on the grazing commons. The region has also been severely hit by repeated droughts that have further worsened the condition of the local pastoral community.

Even as pastoral activities are becoming less viable, the other major source of livelihood — blanket weaving — is also under threat. Challakere is famous for the kambali (woollen blankets) woven by the local Kuruba community. “The kambali industry has already been hit due to dwindling supplies of wool. Loss of grazing land is making it worse,” says R Girish of the Woollen Handloom Weavers Production and Sales Cooperative Society in Doddalluthi village.

Unable to maintain their livestock, people are resorting to distress sales and migrating to other places. TEHELKA visited a local cattle fair and found that cattle were being sold to butchers at throwaway prices. “We are selling the cattle as fodder has become unaffordable,” says Kenchalingappa, a 48-year-old cattle herder. “We may have to move from here and seek work as labourers in Bengaluru.”

The AIKS mobilised the local villagers to petition the Karnataka High Court against the transfer of their grazing land. The ESG, too, has raised the matter of environmental violations and ecological impact with the South Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal in Chennai. Following ESG’s petition, the tribunal has formed a two-member expert committee to hold public consultations and review the environmental and ecological consequences of the diversion of land to the projects. The tribunal is expected to arrive at a decision in July, based on the committee’s report.

“People in these areas have been living in sub-standard conditions. There are no proper schools and no toilets,” says HS Jagadeesh, IISC’s special officer for the Challakere project. “With the coming up of the projects, the quality of life in general will improve. There will be ample employment opportunities. Also, a scientific city will emerge in a backward district.”

At its core, the conflict is between the promise of a technologically advanced society pitted against the traditional livelihoods of pastoral communities. There is also the question of whether the wild species on the verge of extinction, such as the Great Indian Bustard, can survive the drone testing, the nuclear fuel enrichment facilities, and the intense urbanisation and industrialisation that will follow

Jagadeesh says, “Development will come at some cost.” However, the people of Challakere ask why they should be the ones to pay the price.

imran@tehelka.com

 

A Conversation With: Journalist Naveen Soorinje


By ROHINI MOHAN
Naveen Soorinje.Courtesy of Daya KukkajeNaveen Soorinje.

On July 28, 2012, Naveen Soorinje, a journalist with the Kannada television network Kasturi Newz 24 in Mangalore, Karnataka, covered an attack by a mob from the right-wing group Hindu Jagarana Vedike on a group of boys and girls having a birthday party at a suburban resort. A cameraman, Seetharam, who goes by one name, filmed the brutal assault, which lasted half an hour.

Widely known as “the homestay attack,” it was only one of a rising number of incidents of sectarian moral policing in the developing and modernizing city of Mangalore. But when Mr. Soorinje and Mr. Seetharam were arrested in November, along with 43 others, and charged with conspiracy, rioting and unlawful assembly, the case inspired an intense campaign for media freedom and Mr. Soorinje’s release from jail. Mr. Soorinje was freed on bail on March 23, and the charges against him and Mr. Seetharam were finally dropped on Friday.

In an interview with India Ink, Mr. Soorinje spoke about what he learned during his time in jail and the dangers he sees in extremist groups and in the complicit police in Mangalore.

 

Q.

Since your arrest in November 2012, you maintained that you only recorded the attack and were not a participant. What led to charges being dropped now?

A.

Civil society groups and journalists appealed to the Karnataka chief minister’s office for charges to be dropped. They had approached the earlier B.J.P. [Bharatiya Janata Party] regime, but that was the government that in a way put me in jail, so we didn’t expect them to release me. It was only after the new C.M. from the Congress Party took charge that he signed the petition to drop charges against me. Of course, when the Congress was the opposition party earlier, they didn’t do anything then.

Q.

How were your five months in Mangalore jail?

A.

This might sound odd, but it was good that I saw the inside of a jail. As a journalist, my view of crime stopped at the arrest, police and trial. The life of imprisonment was a blind spot. I found that the increase in communal tensions in Mangalore has led to even the jail being segregated. In the A block, are the Muslims and Dalits, largely convicted or accused of terrorism, smuggling or theft. The B block is the Hindu block, with thugs from right-wing groups — people who attacked girls for talking to boys, or for drinking. I’m Hindu, but since the attackers I filmed and thereby got arrested were in B, the cops thought I’d be safer with the Muslims and Dalits.

I stayed in different wards every few weeks, chatting with whoever was willing to talk. It was eye-opening, the abysmal conditions, the twisted interrogations, the stories of so many innocents or one-time petty criminals that languish in prison for ages while their trials go on for decades.

Q.

Have threats and intimidation against journalists grown in the past few years in Mangalore?

A.

Yes, it has been a crucial part of the communal groups’ intention to intimidate society. After the pub attack of January 2009 — I was a print reporter then — [the Hindu extremist group] Sri Ram Sena upped its violent projects. Hindu boys and Muslims girls can’t eat ice-cream together, can’t sit together in a bus. The attacks on college kids were all over.

I’m lucky to have a secular, fair editor. I’d reported on all this with a group of like-minded reporters. We shared tip-offs, created maximum coverage. We were disgusted with the random attacks on women and even more ashamed by most media that focused on the so-called moral degradations — girls’ drinking and smoking and going with boys — than the assaults by these communal thugs.

We got life threats. People came around my house, screamed on the phone. They burned the press of the local paper I worked at, set fire to the editors’ chair. My editor was arrested; I was chased a few times. The head of Sri Ram Sena, in a press conference, said that it is not enough to kill one fellow. Openly, he said,” We should take out one more journalist, then Mangalore will be fixed.”

Q.

What have the police done to stop this?

A.

These lumpen elements have free rein because of two things: people’s discomfort with modernity and westernization, and police complicity. In the homestay attack, when the police turned up, they conversed with the attackers for over half an hour. One victim tried to escape, but the police caught him and brought him back. In custody, the police allowed the attackers to beat him.

Why did they detain the victims? The Mangalore police do this — take the scared, assaulted kids to the station, call their parents, and then give them advice. “Don’t send your girls with boys, don’t let Muslims and Hindus interact in college, why is your child drinking, don’t you know Indian culture?” This is moral policing, what else? Beat, and then give unsolicited advice to the wrong person.

Q.

The police blamed you for not informing them about the attack even when you were tipped off earlier by a source.

A.

That is untrue. I repeatedly called the inspector of the local police station, Ravish Nayak, from my official number. Nayak did not pick up. The attacks had begun by then, and there was mayhem; the poor girls were screaming. I asked my friend Rajesh Rao of channel TV-9 to call the police. He also called Nayak, again in vain.

My cameraman and I were the first people there, and we tried to record everything. Other journalists came in minutes. We all shot, but we couldn’t stop the drunk, crazy goons attacking the young boys and girls.

It was a birthday party. When I got there after a local source tipped me off — not one of the attackers, as my phone call record shows — a girl was sitting on the porch, and two boys were playing games on their mobile phone. There was no rave party, as the goons alleged.

Q.

You were also accused by the police of abetting the attack because you didn’t stop it.

A.

This is an old dilemma in journalism: do you stop the action or do you report it? But here, I had no dilemma. I was screaming and requesting, “Don’t hit the girls.” The camera has caught my voice, but the attackers were unwilling to listen. They were like a pack of lions. I couldn’t physically stop them. No one could. [Read a translated version of Mr. Soorinje’s full account of the attack here.]

It is common today in India for mobs to call the local media informing them of a planned raid or attack. This is their way of getting publicity. Just 20 days before this homestay attack, a girl was molested publicly by a gang in Guwahati, Assam. In that, the cameraman was egging the attackers on, instructing them. So it may seem like I was in the same situation, but I was not.

Q.

How do the people of Mangalore react to this? Have the sectarian groups influenced their actions?

A.

Mangalore is both modern and conventional. That friction is being exploited. People live their lives as they please, but in private. In public spaces like buses, colleges, restaurants, there is a lurking fear.

The homestay incident was in July 2012. After that, there have been 10 other assaults. None have been investigated, and visual evidence is limited. Moreover, some tabloids — why, even big dailies — mangle the issue. If the Bajrang Dal [a Hindu fundamentalist group] has slapped a girl who was smoking, the headline will say “Smoking girl slapped.” It’s a combination of right-wing ideology and power driving the police, goons and some of the media.

Q.

You are still with Kasturi TV, and still in Mangalore. Has this experience changed the way you report or live now?

A.

There is an angle of caste that I’ve begun to understand. For example, all the boys and girls attacked in the homestay are Muslims or from backward castes. The accused goons are also from backward or lower castes, barely educated until third or fourth grade. All the leaders — of Sri Ram Sena and of the Vedike — are high caste, sitting happily in Bangalore, never arrested, only giving wildly inflammatory speeches on Hindutva to their minions without any consequence. I’ve realized that accountability must go further than the immediate actors.

I used to always try and do balanced reports — you know, quote both sides. But now I want to expose the attackers even more strongly. There is nothing to redeem them.

Rohini Mohan is a journalist based in Bangalore. She is working on a book about the civil war in Sri Lanka.

[This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.]

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/

 

#India – Mining scam in Karnataka keeps getting bigger


BANGALORE, June 17, 2013

Sudipto Mondal, The Hindu 

Karnataka government lost Rs. 2000 crore in Commercial Taxes. File photo
The Hindu Karnataka government lost Rs. 2000 crore in Commercial Taxes. File photo

The epic proportions of the illegal mining scam that was uncovered by the Karnataka Lokayukta in its 2011 report may actually have been just one act of a much larger, more complex and multi-layered drama.

 

There is now new evidence to suggest that the Lokayukta’s final report on illegal mining – a political game-changer that sent the powerful to jail and catalysed a regime change in the state – is just one part of the mining story. A six-month-long investigation by The Hindu, with help from whistleblowers in the Railways, the Karnataka Commercial Taxes Department and the CBI, points to losses to the State exchequer between January 2006 and December 2010 that are, at the very least, Rs. 1 lakh crore or eight times the estimated figure given in the Lokayukta report. The investigation also shows that the State lost Rs. 2,000 crore in commercial taxes.

 

The new information suggests that the dominant narrative on illegal mining, namely, that illegal ore was mainly exported to China to feed an infrastructure boom triggered by the Beijing Olympics, is actually a very partial telling of the mining scam story. The new data with The Hindu furthers the depth and reach of the mining scam, a part of which was so exhaustively covered in the Lokayukta report.

 

Some our central findings are as follows.

 

The Lokayukta report says that 12.57 crore tonnes of iron ore was exported overseas from Karnataka between 2006 and 2010. However, documents with The Hindu reveal that nearly 35 crore tonnes of ore was transported out of Bellary in the same period. If one were to deduct the 12.57 crore tonnes exported (as per Lokayukta report), the remaining the 22.43 crore tonnes was sold in the domestic market.

 

The Lokayukta report estimates the losses to the exchequer at Rs. 12,228 crore. The organisation’s calculation was based on the fact that the government had given permits for extraction for only 9.58 crores tonnes of ore. Subtracted from the 12.57 crore tonnes exported, it meant that 2.98 crore tonnes of ore was illegally mined and exported. The Lokayukta estimated the price of ore exported at an average of Rs. 4,103 per tonne.

 

What explains the divergence between the findings of the Lokayukta and those of The Hindu? The Lokayukta has relied on Customs Department data on ore shipments exported from 10 ports in Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh between 2006 and 2010, to calculate the quantum of ore that left the country.

 

By contrast, The Hindu has looked at the total quantity of ore transported out of Bellary by road and rail. Railway documents show that 20 crore tonnes of iron ore was transported out of Bellary from six railway stations and 14 railway sidings between 2006 and 2010. Of this, nearly 19 crore tonnes of ore was marked “for export”.

 

From data sources in the CBI and Commercial Taxes Department, we know that lorries carried at least 14 crore tonnes of ore out of Bellary by road in the nine months between September 2009 and June 2010. “This was when the Bellary [Reddy] brothers had rebelled against B.S. Yeddyurappa’s government. The rebellion was a smokescreen to intensify illegal mining. At least 20,000 trucks were leaving Bellary each day in that period,” a CBI official told The Hindu.

 

Leaving out these nine months, on each day between 2006 and 2010 an average of 1,000 lorries left Bellary, with an average load of 32 tonnes of ore per truck. This adds nearly another 4 crore tonnes to the overall tally.

 

Therefore nearly 35 crore tonnes of iron ore was transported from Bellary in four years time by lorries and railway wagons.

 

Officers in the Commercial Taxes Department and the CBI concur on the point that 35 crore tonnes of ore could not have been exported from the ports near Bellary. “All the 10 ports [from where stolen ore was being exported] put together simply don’t have the capacity to handle such massive traffic,” said one Commercial Taxes officer.

 

These sources agree with the Lokayukta report to the extent that only 12.57 tonnes was actually exported. “On this count, the Lokayukta report is accurate as it is Customs Department data on which the report is based,” said an officer.

 

However, the remaining 22.43 crore tonnes of ore, although marked “for export”, was supplied domestically, he says. This, the officer claims, was done to evade commercial taxes.

 

Water -Not Worth The Parchment? Many A Slip To The Sip


NARENDRA BISHT
GOVERNANCE: WATER SUPPLY
Not Worth The Parchment?
All the contracts are generous, but privatised water hasn’t really got our cities overflowing with joy
LOLA NAYAR , Oulook Magazine

Many A Slip To The Sip

  • 30 Number of Indian cities where private sector and MNCs have been roped in by civic bodies to manage the water supply.
  • 0 No project has so far delivered on lofty commitments; most continue to face major opposition from the consuming public and civil society.
  • 100 Average percentage rise in water tariff in cities and urban areas with privatisation projects. More to follow?
  • 0 Obligation on water conservation or sewage treatment by PPPs, even as public funds and manpower is being provided to them.
  • 35 Duration, in years, of management contracts being signed by civic bodies, up from pilot management projects for a few years.

***

Across the road, on the other side of the gleaming new malls of south Delhi, is the older but not quite glamorous settlement of Hauz Rani. It’s summer, holiday time. But every evening, when they ought to be playing, dozens of young children, jerrycans in hand, troop to the nearby colonies and to a public tap near the malls to lug water back home—for drinking, cooking, was­hing and cleaning. The life-sustaining liquid, always in short supply, is evide­ntly scarcer this summer. Not atypical, you’d say, that’s how things are in India.

Now, into this scenario, enters a troika of private companies, promising salvation. Suez, SPML Infra and Degremont, in a consortium, have got a 12-year contract from the Delhi Jal Board to supply 24×7 water over a 14 sq km expanse that includes Hauz Rani. So is salvation really round the corner? Similar projects  from across the country have ominous stories to tell. In Mysore, Nagpur and Khandwa, private efforts to ramp up public water supply are croaking under the weight of expectations. Costs are up, supply erra­tic and discretionary—they have not been above parching the less posh parts so as to cater to the tony neighbourhoods. And in the worst-case scenario, alternative sources of water, like tubewells or public taps, get blocked for good measure. As India prepares to go down the privatised water route, it’s a good juncture to ask, after bijli and sadak, is paani too slipping out of reach of the aam aadmi?


Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah

Mysore, Karnataka

  • Model: PPP contract for remodelling of water supply distribution system of Mysore city
  • Firm & cost: JUSCO; Rs 234.5 crore
  • Earlier tariff: Rs 125 up to 25 KL @ Rs 5/KL, Rs 8/KL from 25–50 KL and so on
  • Proposed tariff: Slab starting from Rs 5/KL for domestic connections
  • Status: Local protest against JUSCO and municipal officials on poor project planning and implementation; Rs 7 crore penalty imposed on JUSCO for various lapses in the project; committee constituted to resolve issues.

The average middle-class consumption of water is 20-30 KL per month; City profiles by Outlook /Manthan

Three more Delhi areas (Vasant Kunj, Mehrauli, Nangloi) have been given over to the public-private partnership (PPP) model that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tirelessly asserts is the answer to the nation’s ills. All told, the capital is among 30-odd cities where civic bodies have called in private entities, including mncs, to “manage” the water supply. The number is set to go higher as more cities approach the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Mission (JNNURM) which—ironically, considering the man after whom it is named—makes private participation a precondition for financial support.

Civic bodies have been pushed, despite strong protests, into experimenting with the PPP model. The government’s justification has been that the private sector will bring in investments, technology and management efficiency, none of which a cash-strapped public sector can offer. Yet a study of 13 private water and sanitation projects by the Planning Commission has praise for none. In four cases—Latur, Mysore, Dewas and Khandwa—the project viability has itself been questioned.


Photograph by Sanjay Rawat

Delhi, NCR

  • Model: Build, operate and maintain for 12-15 years in three pilot projects
  • Current tariff: Rs 600/month average
  • Proposed tariff: DJB to decide
  • Firms and cost: Suez, SPML Infra and Degremont (Malviya Nagar); SPML Infra, Tahal Consulting and Hagihon Jerusalem Water (Mehrauli and Vasant Kunj); Suez and SPML combine (Nangloi); Rs 253.30 crore
  • Status: Survey work has started in proposed areas for improving infrastructure. Activists are questioning the logic of DJB outsourcing O&M while providing all raw material.

The average middle-class consumption of water is 20-30 KL per month; City profiles by Outlook/Manthan

When the state cedes control of as vital a public asset as water, it allows business to hold the poor to ransom and fleece them.

But the march towards privatisation  continues. Current models of pub­lic-pri­vate water partnerships are div­erse, from refurbishing the infrastructure to service contracts for billing, collection and met­ering. At present, most projects are foc­u­sing on distribution improvement. Even so, only a few places have seen experiments with citywide distribution, with hardly encouraging results at that. Many more projects are coming up: Naya Rai­pur in Chhattisgarh has decided to give its water distribution contract to Jindal Co on the PPP model. Kolhapur, Maharashtra, has the distinction of being the first to go in for PPP for sewage treatment.

“Six years ago, activists and residents’ welfare associations in Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore were able to stall a World Bank-led move to have the private sector take over water supply projects by making it a condition for granting loans,” says S.A. Naqvi of the Citizens’ Front for Water Democracy. “Ironically, the Centre is now taking exactly the same route through JNNURM.” It’s nob­ody’s case that India’s moribund water supply system is not in dire need of help, as the Hauz Rani scenario illustrates. It’s also not that its residents would be cussedly averse to paying; anyone who has sampled Delhi’s ‘machine ka thanda paani’ knows service doe­sn’t come free. But as water PPPs begin to come apart, the que­stion is not whether citizens should pay for unlimited use of a finite commodity like water, but to whom and how much? When Hauz Rani’s saviours, the neighbouring colonies, receive water for a mere two and a half hours a day, the answer isn’t so easy. The Delhi PPP experience is not unique:

  • In Mysore, JUSCO, a Tata enterprise, has faced severe time overruns, paid penalties and faced pubic outrage
  • In Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, all indications are of the project being unsustainable in the long run
  • In Latur, Maharashtra, SPML has been forced to hand back the water supply management to a government entity after local opposition.

“The results of PPP projects in urban water supply in India—even globally—aren’t encouraging. They don’t seem to be the solution that they were thought to be,” says Gaurav Dwivedi of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, a study group. “These are expensive projects and municipal bodies are at risk of losing control of water supply to private companies due to long contract periods from which there is no getting out.”


Photograph by Vivek Pateria

Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh

  • Model: PPP Build Own Transfer (BOT) concession contract for 25 years
  • Firm and cost: Vishwa Infrastructure; Rs 115.32 crore
  • Earlier tariff: Rs 150 per month/connection
  • Proposed tariff: Rs 11.95/KL
  • Status: Construction phase ongoing, delayed by around two years. Investigations by JNNURM expert committee on irregularities. Local committee formed to look into people’s objections to privatisation including removal of non-revenue water, loss of municipal control, tariff hikes, etc.

The average middle-class consumption of water is 20-30 KL per month; City profiles by Outlook/Manthan

On paper, the case for privatisation of water supply, like telephony and aviation, seemed sound. Meeting the growing water demands of growing cities requ­i­red high investment. Better quality water called for sophisticated infrastru­cture. The private sector held the allure of money, technology, and also its famed managerial skills in implementation, delivery, acc­ou­ntability. Win-win. In reality, however, the experience has been quite the opposite as the state willingly cedes control over a vital public asset such as water under the garb of a PPP and watches haplessly as the poor are fleeced.

In many cities, private companies have brought little to the table. Naqvi says all the contracts awarded actually “have mechanisms to ensure the private parties don’t have to put in any of their own investments. During the initial two and a half years of the pilot projects, when the consortiums will be doing distribution, Delhi Jal Board will be paying very high management fees, besides the power bill, delivering treated water at the colony and providing its own employees to the private partner free of cost.”


Photograph by Sangeeta Mahajan

Nagpur, Maharashtra

  • Model: PPP contract for distribution, operation and maintenance and uninterrupted water supply (24×7) for 25 years
  • Firm and cost: Veolia Water and Vishwaraj Environment; Rs 566 crore
  • Earlier tariff: Rs 150–200 per month/connection
  • Proposed tariff: Rs 7.90/KL
  • Status: Several problems arising in project implementation, from steep water tariff hikes, dissatisfaction with meters, increased water consumption in demo zone after project implementation etc

The average middle-class consumption of water is 20-30 KL per month; City profiles by Outlook/Manthan

“The results of PPP projects in India are not encouraging,” says Gaurav Dwivedi. “They don’t seem to be the solution they were thought to be.”

On top of that, private companies are seen to be tinkering with that invaluable (and often scarce) commodity called democracy. Despite initial hiccups, electricity distribution saw some improvements after privatisation in cities like Delhi due to the presence of multiple sources of power. But private water companies have to depend on a finite number of sources. Diminishing rainfall, depleting water tables and raging wars between states have seen water become scarcer. So, supplying 24×7 water to one area in a city as promised by a private operator means depriving a number of other areas of their rightful due. It also means creating an artificial demand with an eye on the bottomline.

Worse, says Prof U.N. Ravi Kumar, a Mysore-based water consultant who has been engaged in the revival of water bodies. Private water suppliers are not making any effort to look at issues like waste water management or conserving water resources, he says. “All the projects we hear about are presentations by the companies and project promoters. Governments can easily get swayed by promises of 24×7 supply.” In other words, the private players have sold a pipe dream and are getting access to exploit and monetise public water resources without adding to it.


Photograph by AFP, From Outlook 24 June 2013

Hubli, Karnataka

  • Model: PPP contract for provision of 24/7 continuous water supply including refurbishment of distribution network
  • Firm and cost: Veolia Water; Rs 235.10 crore
  • Earlier tariff: Rs 90 per month per connection
  • Proposed tariff: Rs 6/ KL for 0-8 KL, Rs 10/KL for 8-15 KL, Rs 15 for 15-25 KL and minimum charge of Rs 48 per month
  • Status: Questions about the lack of transparency in the project particularly with respect to the tariff structure; uncertainty about financial implications for local people when support is removed.

The average middle-class consumption of water is 20-30 KL per month; City profiles by Outlook/Manthan

In many cities where private operators have moved in, anecdotal evidence shows that, while the rich and well-off can be assured of better supplies at a higher cost, those defaulting on even one bill end up paying dearly with water supplies being stopped. While private players have been relentless in enforcing the rules on individual domestic connections, they seem to have fallen prey to their political masters while dealing with commercial connections—which usually default on a much larger scale than domestic ones.

Ashok Govindpurkar, a veteran Nat­ionalist Congress Party councillor from Latur, says they were widely supported in their protest against private management of water supply in their city of four lakh population as households having or seeking to instal a handpump needed to get permission. “The cost of a water connection for Rs 1,700 plus a meter cost of Rs 2,400 was a huge burden on the poor,” he says. Adds Gaurav Dwivedi of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, “Water PPPs do not have a pro-poor orientation even tho­ugh this is the section of the community, especially in urban settings, which needs water supply and sanitation services at low costs on an urgent basis.” It does not call for any particular political bent to see that, in India, this would only worsen the country’s overall indices.

The private companies complain about being demonised. “In Latur, water was supplied once a week before we took over. We improved the situation and supplied it on alternate days,” says Rishabh Sethi, exe­cutive director, SPML. “The lack of support and coordination between government entities with respect to their contractual obligation has been the main reason for the project being kept in abeyance. Plus plentiful local opposition, including from local political groups.”


Photograph by Amit Haralkar

Latur, Maharashtra

  • Model: Management contract for 10 years
  • Firm & Cost: SPML; Fixed management fee (IRR of 19.6 per cent)
  • Earlier tariff: Rs 100/month
  • Proposed tariff: Rs 150 (plus meter cost of Rs 2,400 + connection cost Rs 1,700)
  • Status: The first case where a private management contract has been rolled back following three years of protests by people and most political parties barring Congress. The project has now been given to a public sector entity.

The average middle-class consumption of water is 20-30 KL per month; City profiles by Outlook/Manthan

In Mysore, JUSCO’s plea for renegotiation of the contract is meeting with widespread opposition. Despite some benefits having accrued to ‘chronic problem’ localities in the city, many other areas are seeing a drop in supplies. Ditto Nagpur, where the distribution project was extended to cover the whole city even before the assessment of the pilot was done. “I don’t think private participation has worked anywhere in India for a sufficiently long period or provided a credible appraisal performance,” says water activist Himanshu Thakkar.

JUSCO is not the only company trying to renegotiate the terms of its contract, but the Mysore city corporation is in a fix. It is facing a financial squeeze and has no answer to the public ire. Also, there’s  little option of throwing out the private company without inviting protracted litigation. With the long-term contracts loaded in favour of private companies, civic bodies are caught between a rock and a hard place. And the only way out, it seems, is to wait like its counterparts in Europe and declare water supply a public sector operation after the contract runs out.

Mangalore : Govt drops all charges against journalist Soorinje #goodnews


 

journalist-Soorinje

 

 

Mangalore: June 14; The State Government has dropped all charges against journalist Naveen Soorinje in connection with the Morning Mist home stay attack Recently The Visual Media Journalists Association of Dakshina Kannada district had submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah urging him to drop all charges against journalist Naveen Soorinje and TV cameraman Sharan in connection with the Morning Mist home stay attack.

 

 
As per the Cabinet meet on Thursday June 13 it was decided to withdraw cases registered against journalist Naveen Soorinje in the Morning Mist Home Stay attack .
Advocate M P Amruthesh had filed public interest litigation in the state high court on February 6, challenging the state cabinet’s January 31 decision to withdraw case standing against Soorinje.
But the state High Court had, based on an affidavit that Soorinje was not involved with illegal activities at the venue, granted bail to him thereafter on March 23.

 

Karnataka: 63 percent prisoners in state are under-trials


By Newzfirst Bureau 6/5/13

 Delhi/Bangalore – More than 60 percent of the prisoners in various jails across Karnataka state are under-trials. This information was Wednesday given by the State’s chief minister Siddaramaiah in the Chief Ministers’ Conference regarding Internal Security held at New Delhi.

Out of 13,572 prisoners in the State, 4 % are women prisoners, about less than half of them being women convicts and the rest are under-trials. About 63 % of the prison population constitutes under-trials and 34 % are convicts, Siddaramaiah said in his speech.

Mentioning that prisons are integral part of the Criminal Justice System and function as custodians of prisoners he said that his Government is making all efforts to treat the prisoners in a humane manner and towards the reformation, correction and rehabilitation of prisoners.

Saying that Karnataka Government has recognized the importance of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), he stressed that some safeguards are necessary before setting up NCTC so that they are not given unbridled powers to encroach upon the States’ domain.

Talking about the Left Wing Extremism he said that the State has witnessed Naxal activities in the four western districts  of Chickmagalur, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, and Kodagu .

He also said that a total of 30 naxalities have been listed and named and a search is being organised to trace them.

The Anti-Naxal Force has been in hot pursuit and has been successful in busting several Naxal camps. It has successfully carried out encounters against prominent Naxals and destroyed several Naxal Camps, he said.

The State Government have been very pro-active in increasing developmental activities and by harnessing the youths in these areas to divert them away from Left wing extremism’s ideology and activities, he said.

 

#India – Even LPG cash transfer faces #Aadhaar problem #UID


Pranav Nambiar P Thursday, May 30, 2013 , FE
New Delhi : In the 20 districts selected for the first phase of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme roll-out starting June 1, not even one out of five households is in a position to benefit from the scheme right now, an FE investigation shows. In these 20 districts — deemed to be the most Aadhaar-ready — with an estimated 76 lakh households, only 56% have their LPG connections linked to an Aadhaar number. And hardly a third of these households with Aadhaar-linked LPG accounts have bank accounts seeded with Aadhaar cards. Considering that such a dismal situation persists even in these districts selected for the initial phase of DBT roll-out primarily on the basis of their high Aadhaar penetration (80%), it is clear that the scheme’s expansion to the more unprepared and less accessible parts of the country is easier said than done.
The country has a total of 14 crore households with LPG connections, going by the records of oil marketing companies. The government’s hope is that pan-India roll-out of DBT for LPG subsidy disbursal would help trim its subsidy burden on this fuel by an annual R10,000 crore. The DBT scheme, meant to to cover the government’s annual bills on subsidy and entitlements like pension and scholarships by cutting leakages, is expected to come handy for the fiscal consolidation drive.
Government officials in the know told FE for every 100 households on an average in these 20 districts, some 80 have an Aadhaar card, of which around 56 have LPG connections seeded to their Aadhaar card and just 19 bank accounts seeded with Aadhaar cards. Owing to these low levels of linkage, a grace period of three months has been given to people in these districts to link Aadhaar cards with both LPG and bank accounts. During this period, they would continue to get the entitled number of LPG cylinders at subsidised prices.
This effectively means a deferment of the DBT roll-out. After this grace period, all customers who have not completed the necessary formalities will have to buy LPG cylinders at market price (that is, sans any subsidy), till they complete the same and be able to access DBT benefit.
Among the 20 districts covered under the first phase of DBT, two – Mysore in Karnataka and Mandi in Himachal – will start the scheme out from July 1, due to bye-elections. Of the remaining 18, those with the lowest bank linkages include SBS Nagar in Punjab, Diu in Daman and Diu as well as Una in Himachal Pradesh, which has less than 10% Aadhaar linkages to bank accounts. LPG linkages in these regions are higher at around 40-50%.
On the other hand, some districts like Mysore in Karnataka, Pathanamthitta in Kerala, and East Goa in Goa have about 30-40% of bank accounts linked to Aadhaar. LPG linkages to Aadhaar cards are also relatively higher in these districts ranging between 50-75%.
Under the DBT scheme, LPG consumers will get about Rs 4,500 per annum in cash from the government in their bank accounts as subsidy. They will have to buy LPG cylinders at the market price of Rs 901.50 (per 14.2-kg). The supply of subsidised LPG cylinder has been capped at nine cylinders per year for a consumer.
Banks have also been somewhat tardy in reaching out to the intended beneficiaries as they expect individuals to take up the onus in getting bank accounts and LPG connections seeded with Aadhaar, an official added. “Nevertheless,we have now launched extensive awareness campaigns across different formats like print, television and radio. We are also distributing pamphlets about the benefits of the programme and have kept drop boxes at LPG distributors for submitting bank account details,” the official said. He added that some people, particularly sections of the upper middle class and high net worth individuals might even be showing lack of interest in availing themselves of the DBT benefit.
A government official from Tumkur district in Karnataka said the reason for the low bank account linkages is that some people are worried about sharing bank account details in case it might be misused. In Tumkur, out of a targeted 3.20 lakh households, only about 18% bank accounts and 55% LPG connections are linked to Aadhaar.
An official in Maharashtra’s Wardha district said in many cases, people do not have bank accounts. This has slowed down the process of linking bank accounts with Aadhaar cards. Out of 2.01 lakh households, 66% have LPG and 38% bank accounts seeded to Aadhaar.
An official in Kerala’s Wayanad district said there has been a slight improvement in the seeding levels as the June 1 kick-off date approaches. They are hoping the three-month moratorium along with enhanced SMS and call centre campaigns will push a much larger number of people to join the scheme. Out of the 1.4 lakh households in Wayanad, around 95,000 have LPG linkages to Aadhaar and 35,000 bank linkages with Aadhaar.
The government has not finalised the dates for the subsequent phases of rolling out the LPG DBT scheme to other districts. “We will watch and learn from these 20 districts before finalisng our next phase,” said a government official close to the development. At present, there are about 145 million LPG connections in the country.
To avail of the subsidy, customers without a bank account must open an account by submitting Aadhaar details to the bank branch or LPG distributors. Similarly, customers can link their LPG connections to Aadhaar cards by submitting details to the LPG distributors. As per the DBT scheme, Aadhaar-linked domestic LPG consumers will get an advance in their bank accounts as soon as they book the first subsidised cylinder even before delivery.