#India- There is a credibility crisis at all levels of government- Aruna Roy


, TNN | Jun 2, 2013, 05.58 AM IST

This week activist Aruna Roy walked out of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC), complaining about this government’s ideological bias and obsession with growth. She talks to Padmaparna Ghosh about the dilution of the social sector focus.This is the second time that you have resigned from the NAC. What brought you back in 2010?

My decisions to join or leave the NAC have been taken collectively by the organization I work with – the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). I left in 2008 because at that time the NAC didn’t have a chairperson and was not playing the role it was supposed to. I returned in 2010 because there were many issues (such as the demand for a Right to Food bill) that needed a stronger policy framework and I felt it would be useful to channel the input that comes from many campaigns. The NAC has sent many important recommendations to the government. The recent NAC recommendations on the pre-legislative process if implemented immediately will provide all citizens an opportunity to participate in the making of laws. The need is to ensure that at least some of these recommendations are enacted and implemented.

How tough was it to find common ground between civil society and the government?

The agenda of the NAC is set by the government’s political commitments. Within that pre-deter mined agenda, the NAC has worked to incorporate civil society opinion to advise the government on how to take its agenda forward. NAC II has evolved detailed procedures such as the formation of working groups, which has allowed a broader consultative process. The NAC has maintained a focus on issues of significance to the poor and the social sector such as the MGNREGA and the Right to Food, and has taken up specific issues such as nomadic tribals and bonded labourers. One of the NAC’s important contributions has been to build the understanding that delivery systems and democratic governance are crucial to the effective implementation of any social sector initiative. Therefore, the RTI, and other transparency and accountability initiatives such as the social audit and recommendations for a pre-legislative process have been taken up.

How do you respond to those that call MGNREGA “demand-driven distress employment” and, therefore, ineligible for minimum wage?

The Minimum Wage Act came into effect in 1948 and has remained the bedrock for workers’ rights. Therefore the importance of payment of minimum wages to MGNREGA workers extends beyond the MGNREGA itself. If the Government refuses to pay minimum wages to workers on its own programme, it can never enforce the law for the millions of unorganised workers in the agricultural and industrial sectors. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that no one can even opt to work for less than the minimum wage, no employer can use a lack of resources as an excuse and any labour that is paid less should be considered forced.

The argument that the government does not have to pay minimum wages to people in distress only proves the SC’s point. In fact this issue goes straight to the core of the battle around MGNREGA. People who have been profiting from exploitation through payment of distress wages are now reacting because the MGNREGA has given workers the capacity to fight for minimum wages even outside the programme. By violating the Minimum Wages Act, the government is threatening to destroy the most significant labour protection measure in India.

How do you intend to press for its implementation from outside NAC?

The NAC is an advisory body. That is why I feel it necessary to concentrate on advocating in the public domain for the acceptance and implementation of these recommendations. I do not believe that a democratic government can keep refusing to respect the constitutional entitlement of a minimum wage. Public pressure needs to be built up around this issue, as we close in on elections.

What do you believe you have accomplished during your tenure at the NAC?

The NAC gave me an opportunity to raise multiple issues of concern to people’s movements and campaigns. It played a very important role in the passage of landmark legislations such as the RTI and MGNREGA. It was because of the NAC that experience from people’s campaigns was processed into powerful and effective draft laws. Even though this was often whittled down by the bureaucracy it served as a standard. My association with the NAC helped strengthen causes of the poor and marginalized I have been associated with over the last few years.

UPA-2′s credibility has been damaged in the recent past. Would you vote them back in 2014?

The crisis in credibility today is at all levels of government. Effective implementation is as important as the legislations themselves. Our solutions do not lie in thoughts between one election and another but in addressing the lack of transparency and accountability in governance structures. My politics has always been to enhance the participation of people within the democratic frameworks so that their voices are heard not just once in five years but every day

 

Memo to Sonia Gandhi : Cash transfer may not get you a win in 2014


English: Sonia Gandhi, Indian politician, pres...

 

by R Jagannathan May 30, 2013, First Post
#Cash transfers #DCT #Espirito Santo #HowThisWorks #Politics #Sonia Gandhi #Subsidies
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The Congress party has set great store by the direct cash transfers (DCT) scheme, which it has relabelled as direct benefits transfer (DBT), and which it further hopes will result in a direct votes transfer (DVT) scheme and a game-changer in the next elections.
The Rs 64,000-thousand-crore question is: Will it work? Will it deliver the benefits as envisaged? And, more importantly from the Congress party’s point of view, will it deliver the votes?
The short answers are: maybe not, maybe not, and a definite no to the above three questions, in that order.
Memo to Sonia: get reforms going, get growth going.
DCT’s rollout has been patchy so far and the linkage between bank accounts and Aadhaar number seeding is still not 100 percent even in the 43 districts that were the initial targets for small schemes such as scholarships, pensions, et al.
The chances of high success in the big-ticket game-changer schemes like MGNREGA, LPG subsidies and ultimately food and fertiliser subsidies are very limited till 2014. Voters may at best get a glimpse of the promise of the scheme, but any glitches may also get magnified. One could neutralise the other.
The chances of garnering votes is thus limited, since DCT needs at least three to four years to implement properly on a national scale – but this is precisely where the Congress seems to be in too much of a hurry, and hence not paying enough attention to detail.
These are the broad conclusions of a detailed research report on DCT by Espirito Santo Securities (ESS) which discussed the issue with policy-makers, economists, and did some pilot studies where the scheme is being implemented (especially East Godavari district in Andhra).
This is ESS’s conclusion based on early results for DCT even in the first 43 districts where bank penetration and Aadhaar enrolments were supposed to have been very good. The report says only Rs 22 crore has been disbursed using the Aadhaar payments bridge, while more than twice that amount (Rs 57 crore) was paid out using traditional methods. DCT was less than a third of the total amounts disbursed.
If this is the outcome in districts with the best bank-Aadhaar penetration and that too for schemes that anyway involve only cash – scholarships and pensions – and where there is little fraud, one wonders how it will work for the more massive MGNREGA and LPG subsidy schemes that are being targeted for rollout in 121 districts by 1 July and 1 October this year, respectively. The complete national rollout is scheduled for 1 April 2014 – a tell-tale indication of where the election time-table could lie as far as the Congress leadership is concerned.
The Espirito Santo research is certainly not negative on DCT – and nobody beyond Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (NAC) has serious doubts that it can only be an improvement over the way welfare schemes are implemented right now, with lots of leakages, ghost beneficiaries, and excessive corruption. Estimates of savings for the exchequer range from a minimum of Rs 33,000 crore (according to the PMO) to a wildly optimistic Rs 1,10,000 crore of savings, according to a study by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
The upper-end expectations are clearly pie-in-the-sky given our record of poor implementation of almost any scheme.
In the case of DCT, in particular, the problems lie in the short-term political expectations embedded in the scheme, which raise concerns about whether they will be implemented well enough and with long-term benefits in mind. Just as MGNREGA and farm loan waivers were implemented without great thought being given to scheme design and reviews, DCT too falls into the same basic cracks.
MGNREGA is facing hurdles in its seventh year of implementation, and the outlays on the scheme have been cut from peak levels just before the 2009 elections due to supply side problems (supply side means providing work for those who demand it). The farm loan waivers scheme has been negatively commented upon by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
Will it be the same story with DCT in 2014? These are Espirito Santo’s conclusions:
#1: Full rollout before 2014 is “extremely unlikely.” The best guess is that “the bulk of the savings will come only after the complete roll-out which may take two to three years.”
#2: Most experts are cautiously positive on DCT, but they dispute the quantum of benefits the government is expecting from it, since few believe that corruption will be eliminated.
#3: ESS does not see “DCT as addressing the near-term fiscal problem. It has to be accompanied by further cuts to subsidies, among other things.”
Conclusion: DCT will not be a game-changer by 2014. ESS says: “We estimate that the impact of DCT will be substantial only post 2015-16, unless the scheme dies down due to lack of political will post the 2014 elections.”
The larger point is this, as Firstpost pointed out earlier. Even in 2009, the Congress party only fooled itself when it thought MGNREGA was a game-changer, when the real thing that delivered it a convincing victory was fast-paced growth from 2003-2008. That, unfortunately, is not the case now.
Memo to Sonia: get reforms going, get growth going. DCT is a direct transfer of benefits to the next government in any case.

 

 

 

 

UPA-II failed to deliver on its promises: Aruna Roy’s report card


by Pallavi Polanki May 25, 2013
 National Advisory Council (NAC) member and leading social activist Aruna Roy has come down heavily on the government for its poor performance in the social sector.
Roy, an instrumental force behind the Right to Information Act, criticised the government for stalling on essential legislations such as the Food Security Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill and the Lokpal Bill.
Roy spoke to Firstpost about UPA-II’s record on inclusive growth, the government’s new advertising campaign and the UPA’s biggest challenge as it goes into polls in 2014.
Excerpts from the Interview:
 
Has UPA-II delivered on its promise of inclusive growth?
While UPA-I delivered on some essential promises in the social sector such as MGNREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and the Forest Rights Act, UPA-II has made promises which it has failed to deliver.
The Food Security Bill lies in Parliament waiting to be passed with little time left for debate on its provisions or to strengthen its framework. In fact, there seems to be a real danger that it may not get passed at all.
The Land Acquisition bill which has been mired in controversy has also not moved beyond the stage of the Standing Committee. Even the much touted UID-based direct benefit transfer has encountered basic problems and is a non-starter.
Roy has said the government failed to deliver on many promises. Image courtesy: Ibnlive
The UPA-II promised a revamping of the National Social Assistance Programme to move towards universal and enhanced pensions for the elderly, single women, and disabled. However, this too remains unfulfilled. The question of money seems to have dominated all decisions related to the social sector, so much so that many states are talking about a cash crunch in MGNREGA.
The Right to Education Act was passed during UPA-II, but the implementation of its progressive provisions remains crippled due to a lack of resources needed to meet commitments.
Corruption scandals have rocked UPA-II with disturbing regularity. How has government fared in bringing more transparency in governance?
An area where the performance of UPA-II has been deeply disappointing is in its inability to deliver on basic governance legislation of critical importance to the country today. The debate around the Lokpal Bill resulted in several pieces of draft legislation which would undoubtedly help citizens ensure accountability of the government and its officials. Apart from the Lokpal Bill, the Grievance Redress Bill, the Whistleblower Protection Bill, the Judicial Accountability Bill are legislations that should be passed immediately.
The Whistleblower Protection Bill and the Grievance Redress Bill actually affect the right to live of the poor in significant ways. An effective Grievance Redress Bill could have been like an RTI part II for UPA-II. Instead, the Government exempted its premier anti-corruption investigating agency – the CBI from scrutiny under the RTI Act, and has now been forced by the Supreme Court to promise independence in investigation of corruption cases.
If the Government has any intent of addressing corruption and arbitrary use of power, anti- corruption agencies must be made independent, transparent, and accountable, and this basket of accountability legislations, which have come to Parliament after much public action over the last two years, must be passed immediately.
What do you make of the publicity campaign released recently by UPA-II to highlight its achievements in the social sector. Is the UPA making the same mistake that the NDA made in 2004 with the ‘India Shining’ campaign?
It is true that the “game changer” label given to the UID-based cash transfer/direct benefit transfer seems to resonate with the NDAs ‘India Shining’ campaign. In both cases, there is little that is delivered to the poor in real terms and the triumphant claims only served to rub salt in the wounds of large numbers of suffering and marginalised people.
Does the UID system create more problems for the poor? AFP
The attempt to ensure that money reaches the beneficiary without leakages along the way is laudable, but imposing an impractical and untested centralized delivery platform like the UID on a complex development structure can complicate existing systems and exclude large numbers of people.
The results from the roll out districts speak for themselves. Miniscule numbers of beneficiaries have received money through this platform and even in these cases there has been no additional benefit to them. For the poor as a whole, there has been the added problems and irritants associated with having to acquire a UID number on which all entitlements will be tethered.
If wisdom prevails, UPA-II even in its last year would concentrate on delivering on its social sector promises: ensure that food and pension entitlements are made a reality, enact citizen-centred accountability systems to guarantee delivery of entitlements and fix accountability of officials.
What will be the UPA’s biggest challenge as it goes into polls in 2014?
The challenge for any government is to deliver on its promises and the UPA II will be evaluated on its implementation of promises made. The questions it will have to answer are: what are ways in which it has promoted or vitiated the achievements of UPA-I ,vis-a-vis the Right to Information, MGNREGA, Forest Rights Act, etc?
Two, has it delivered on its promises of inclusive growth in UPA II – Right to Food, Pensions, Education, Health, etc? And three, has it provided a real answer to the widespread frustration of people about the lack of accountability at all levels and numbers of cases of grand corruption that have been regularly coming to light?
I don’t wish to speculate on what the results of a particular election will be. I do, however, believe that a government has a duty to deliver on promises it has made to its electorate.
The India Shining Campaign demonstrated that people are shrewd and respond only when real benefits reach them. Tall claims and slick campaigns do not get votes. Slogans are seen as mere rhetoric. It would be a mistake not to recognize that people can understand political intent through delivery.

 

#India – 5000 people on the road to Protest Arrest of Women Health Activist


Massive rally by JADS in Badwani, MP to protest against unjust arrest of Madhuri

madhuriprotest1
As is now widely known, the leading organizer of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhuri was arrested
on 16th May 2013 at Barwani district court. This arrest was made in connection with the protest done by
the Sangathan related to the case of an adivasi woman Baniya bai, who was forced to deliver on the
roadside near Menimata PHC, because she was denied care in the PHC.
In response to this unjust arrest, nearly 5000 people mobilized by JADS, including large numbers of
women, demonstrated on 21st May 2013 in front of the District collector’s office at Barwani. Key
demands of the protesters were release of Madhuriben along with dismissal of all false cases against
various activists, major improvement in public health services, and eliminating large scale corruption in
implementation of the NREGA programme in the district. Major slogans included “Amu akkha kon chhe
– Madhuri chhe, Madhuri chhe” (‘Who are all of us – all of us are Madhuri’), “Aspatal mein loot band
karo” (Stop exploiting patients in Hospitals) and Nyay nahi to jail do” (‘Either give us justice or give us
jail’). The demonstrators from various far-flung areas of the district had gathered from 1 pm to 9.30 pm
in front of Collector’s office, but the collector refused to address the demonstrators or to meet their
representatives.
In this situation of total non-responsiveness of the District administration, JADS activists finally pasted a
notice on the police barricade, addressed to the Chief Minister, giving the warning that if the government
does not release Madhuriben by 30th of May, the Sangathan would mobilise an even larger rally at the
Collector’s office.

madhuriprotest

protest2

 

#India – A sound whistleblowers’ protection law is long awaited


The responsibility to protect

Anjali Bhardwaj , Shekhar Singh : Mon May 06 2013,
A sound whistleblowers’ protection law is long awaited. It languishes in Parliament at the system’s perilNandi Singh, a resident of a remote village in Assam, was brutally attacked with axes in September 2012 as a result of a complaint filed by him regarding irregularities in the functioning of fair price shops supplying rations under the public distribution system. He succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital and his wife was seriously injured in the attack. Nandi Singh had also been attacked a month prior to his murder and had filed a case and sought protection. His wife and two children await justice.Ram Thakur from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district was shot dead last month by relatives of the mukhiya of his village. He had exposed embezzlement of funds in the MGNREGA in Ratnauli panchayat using muster rolls and other information he had accessed under the RTI Act. He had also alleged that the mukhiya of the village had siphoned off the funds. Prior to the fatal attack, there had been several incidents of attacks on him and he had repeatedly sought protection from the police.

Nandi Singh, Ram Thakur and thousands like them across the country have been threatened, assaulted, even killed for raising their voices against corruption and wrongdoing. Following the passage of the RTI Act in 2005, it isn’t just officials within the system who have access to government information — ordinary citizens across the country are holding local officials to account in ways that were unfathomable even a decade ago. Unfortunately, for these whistleblowers who dared to show truth to power, there has been no justice. Neither have their attacks and murders been properly investigated, nor have the cases of corruption and wrongdoing they exposed been dealt with.

The well-known case of Satyendra Dubey, a graduate from IIT-Kanpur who was murdered in 2003, after he exposed financial and contractual irregularities in the Golden Quadrilateral Corridor Project of the National Highways Authority of India, had sparked the demand for an effective bill to protect whistleblowers. However, over nine years and innumerable attacks on whistleblowers later, the bill remains stuck in legislative morass.

The Whistleblowers Protection Bill, introduced in Parliament in August 2010, was passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011 and has been awaiting discussion and passage in the Rajya Sabha. The bill provides for a mechanism to conceal the identity of a whistleblower, where (s)he feels that revelation of identity would lead to victimisation or harassment by vested interests. The bill makes it an offence to reveal the identity of the complainant and prescribes imprisonment and fine for anyone who reveals the identity. In addition, there are provisions to protect the whistleblower from victimisation resulting from the disclosures made.

There are, however, several lacunae in the bill that need to be discussed and addressed in Parliament. One of the most significant is the lack of a clear and adequately broad definition of what constitutes victimisation. It is critical to ensure that under the law, in case of a complaint of victimisation, the charge should stand established if the action or inaction that led to the complaint violates any law, rule, policy, order or is not in conformity with the general practice, procedures and norms in the matter, or is not based on sound reasons.

The bill is also silent on penalties and compensation vis-à-vis victimisation. If the legislation is expected to effectively deter victimisation, it must provide for strict punishment and penalties to be imposed on anyone who victimises whistleblowers. It must also ensure that wherever a whistleblower is killed or suffers grievous injury as a result of making a complaint, action is taken on a priority basis on the original complaint of corruption or criminal offence filed by the whistleblower. Cases of people like Nandi Singh, Ram Thakur and scores of whistleblowers who are poor and marginalised, bear testimony to the fact that whistleblowers and their families need to be compensated for any loss or other detriment suffered by them as a result of victimisation.

The law must cover complaints against the prime minister, chief ministers and all other public authorities, like the armed forces. Also, it is important that complainants against the private sector get protection under this act. It is widely recognised that corruption in private institutions has a significant impact on the public. Given the vast scale of the private sector in India and the corruption therein, it is important that this bill be extended to complaints about the private sector when they either abet corruption (under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act), or commit a criminal offence. This would also be in keeping with the stated position of the government, as indicated in the prime minister’s speech at a CBI conference in October 2011, to bring the private sector within the ambit of anti-corruption laws.

The law must take care to not empower anyone to dismiss or close a complaint on the grounds that it is “frivolous” or “vexatious”. These terms are impossible to define objectively and are likely to be misused. It may lead to a situation where most complaints would be routinely rejected as being frivolous or vexatious.

It is the moral obligation of the government to protect whistleblowers like Satyendra Dubey, Ram Thakur and Nandi Singh, who represent the conscience of the nation. A robust mechanism for the protection of whistleblowers in a time-bound manner is necessary to promote an environment to encourage people to blow the whistle about wrongdoings. A sound whistleblowers’ protection law might not be sufficient to protect whistleblowers, but is certainly a long-awaited and necessary first step. The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) has been demanding that the Whistleblowers Protection Bill be immediately discussed and passed by Parliament in the current session. This legislation is a key measure for fighting corruption, and in conjunction with other anti-corruption and grievance redress legislations like the Lokpal bill and the grievance redress bill, will ensure better governance.

The writers are members of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information

- See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-responsibility-to-protect/1111862/0#sthash.EipBoELw.dpuf

 

MGNREGA inefficiently managed, finds CAG


Issue Date: 

2013-4-23

Government spent Rs. 1,26,961 crore but hardly 30 per cent works are completed

Exactly five years after the employment guarantee programme’s pan-India roll out, the programme seems to have lost favour with the rural poor. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) office submitted its latest audit report on the programme to Parliament on April 23. The audit shows around 20 per cent decline in employment generation under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the last two years.

The rural employment programme guarantees 100 days of manual work if a rural household demands it. Government first implemented the programme in 200 districts in 2006. On April 1, 2008, it was extended to all rural districts in the country. This is the second such audit by CAG. The recent audit covered implementation during 2007-12 in 182 districts.

The latest audit report brings out the usual concerns associated with the programme: forgery in job cards, late payment of wages, declining job demand and non-completion of works.

Going by the extracts of the report tabled in Parliament, CAG found that lack of close monitoring of the programme has led to widespread irregularities. Many states have not been able to spend the allocated funds under the programme. Interestingly, states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar having large rural population have spent the least.

Under MGNREGA, around 13 million works were taken up at an expense of Rs 1,26,961 crore, most of them related to water and soil conservation, useful to small and marginal farmers. But, the CAG report finds, only 30 per cent of these works have been completed.

Cover Story Related Articles:

 

#India- Wages for dead show Rs 55,000 cr loot in NREGA scheme #scam


Wages for dead show `55,000cr loot

New Delhi, DNA, April 6: The corpse of Bengali Singh was burned to ash atop a funeral pyre in 2006.Five years later, the dead man was recorded as being paid under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to dig a canal in Bishanpur in Godda district of Jharkhand.

Officials in his village and the surrounding region used at least 500 identities, including those of a physically-challenged child and a 94-year-old blind man, to fake work logs and to steal wages, according to police reports.

District administrators and village heads across the country have used tactics such as ghost workers, fake projects and over-billing to embezzle about Rs55,000 crore from the world’s largest workfare initiative, an investigation by Bloomberg News shows. Only 42-56% of the employment reported by the jobs programme is confirmed by data from the national sample survey office, a joint study by Princeton University and the Paris School of Economics shows. That suggests that about half the work is genuine. 

The Union rural development ministry also estimates 30% of the Rs1.8-lakh crore spent nationally since the programme began has been lost through graft.
Embezzlement remains an intractable issue in the rural employment push, said D H Pai Panandiker, president of the RPG Foundation, an economic research group.
“The bulk of the spending is a complete waste of money.”
Bloomberg compiled hundreds of pages of police documents and interviewed dozens of people from January through March across three states to examine the looting in the flagship welfare programme.
The police are probing more than 2,000 cases of corruption spanning 100 projects in just one district of Jharkhand.
They include funds for a well to be used by only one landowner and payments toward an irrigation canal that was never constructed. Dry eart h covers the area where the channel was supposed to be.
At least 60% of the expenditure in Jharkhand under the NREGA has been pilfered, said Nishikant Dubey, a BJP MP from Godda. That amounts to more than Rs630 crore in the last fiscal alone.
“It’s happening everywhere.” I keep telling my officials that this is money for the poor. So, please don’t steal from it, but they don’t listen,” he said.
About 30% of India’s 16.8 crore rural households have been provided with employment under the initiative each year since 2008. 
The scam in Godda used fake job cards to claim wages for imaginary labour, according to the police report.
One of the identities stolen was of 94-year-old Akal Sah, who is deaf and blind and uses a stick to walk.
The records of the jobs programme have Sah spending eight hours a day for a week in 2011, shovelling earth from a pit. One of his co-workers was a physically-challenged eight-year-old child, Suvitha Devi. Frail and malnourished, Dev i struggles to lift her right arm or speak clearly after a bout of meningitis at an early age.
The police accused Ghulam Rasool and his wife, Zubeida Khatoon, the village headwoman, of orchestrating the fraud in Bishanpur.
Post-office workers created the job cards and a village secretary and a computer operator also aided the scam, according to the charges.
The charge sheet says the pair ordered postal staff to withdraw money in the name of dead or fake workers. False finger and thumbprints were used in payment receipts to enable the fraud. -Bloomberg


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#India – MGNREGA activist gangraped, murdered in Bihar #Vaw #WTFnews


 Adrienne Rich`s #Rape- but the hysteria in your voice pleases him best #poem #Vaw

Author(s): Alok Gupta, downtoearth.org
Date: Apr 3, 2013

Victim had angered influential landlord community of her village

A 45-year-old activist, who had been protesting against irregularities in the implementation of the rural employment guarantee scheme, was gang raped near Mandai Khurd village in Muzaffarpur on the night of March 27, the day of Holi festival. The victim died the next day while she was being taken to a local hospital.

The victim had reportedly became an eyesore for the influential landlords who have allegedly “hijacked” the rural employment scheme in the village using fake job cards. The activist (name withheld) was popular for her protests against the liquor mafia. The gang rape took place in a corn field when the victim was returning with her husband after meeting relatives.

Her husband was tied to a tree while she was forcibly carried away to a nearby field. The rapists reportedly tormented the victim for nearly half an hour. The victim’s husband was later untied by the assailants and threatened with dire consequences if he approached the police.

Enraged by the gang rape and subsequent death of the victim, villagers blocked the highway for nearly four hours. Rinku Devi, district secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Janwadi Mahila Samiti, alleged that activists protesting peacefully against the incident were beaten by goons and that three female activists were injured in the protest on March 28.

“The tormentors stuffed bamboo and pebbles in the private parts of the victim. There were deep teeth bite marks on her entire body,” Rinku said.

Villagers are also suspecting the role of police in the entire incident. Villagers claimed that police is not taking action to nab the criminals. They also blamed police for focusing on maintaining law and order in the village instead of arresting those who committed the crime.

Second murder of activist in a week
This is the second killing of a MGNREGA activist in the district. In both incidents, the role of police has come under scanner. Last week, an advocate, Ram Kumar Thakur, was shot dead in Ratnauli village after he exposed a MGNREGA scam.

Police claim that family members of the rape victim did not report the incident to the local police station. News about the incident reached district police headquarters after protesters blocked the road. “We have constituted raiding teams to nab the culprits. Police would have been able to act swiftly if the victim family had lodged an FIR,” Arvind Kumar Gupta, additional superintendent of police, Muzaffarpur, said.

There is also a widespread rumour that the post mortem report of the victim has been doctored. Protesting villagers said that police are refusing to give a copy of the autopsy report. “Our sources have informed that post mortem report says that victim was not raped,” villagers said.

There was no arrest till the time of filing of the report. Keeping in the view the tension reigning the village, a contingent of police have been deployed.

Don’t tamper with personal freedom via Aadhar and UID


 Dailyexcelsior, Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala
The Government has proposed to increase the scope of present scheme of providing pension to widows and helpless. The present qualifying age of 40 years age will be reduced to 18 years. Disabled will get pension at more than 40 percent disability against 80 percent at present. In a separate move it is proposed to distribute subsidies on fertilizer and LPG in cash to the beneficiaries. The Government plans to use the Aadhar platform for distributing these benefits. Biometric information-finger prints and pictures of the iris and the face-of each citizen will be collected and stored in a centralized computer. This will enable verification of the beneficiary when he approaches a ration shop for his monthly quota. These are indeed laudable objectives and the Government should be congratulated for moving from subsidies in kind to cash.
Problem with Aadhar is invasion of privacy of the individual. Say, one is taking part in anti-corruption movement. Booking of rail tickets is linked to Aadhar as well as withdrawal of cash from ATMs. It thus becomes possible for the Government to pinpoint and track movements of political opponents. Gopal Krishna of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties tells that such UID proposals have been abandoned in the US, Australia and UK. The reason has predominantly been privacy. In the UK, the Home Secretary explained that they were abandoning the project because it would otherwise be `intrusive bullying’ by the state, and that the government intended to be the `servant’ of the people, and not their `master’.
It appears the Government is trying to smuggle in a surveillance system over all its citizens under the guise of cash transfers. Krishna tells of how such a system was misused by Hitler. Germany had the lists of Jewish names even prior to the arrival of the Nazis. Nazis got these lists with the help of IBM. This company  was in the ‘census’ business that included racial census that entailed not only counting the Jews but also identifying them. At the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, there is an exhibit of an IBM Hollerith D-11 card sorting machine that was responsible for organizing the census of 1933 that first identified the Jews. Such religious-, racial-, caste- or even political profiling could be introduced in the system in due course by the Government of India.
Another area of concern is that data management has been outsourced to US companies like Accenture which are deeply interconnected with the US Department of Homeland Security. Accenture’s profile includes developing prevention tactics and streamlining intelligence gathering.      Another US company involved in the India’s UID project is L-1 Identity Solutions. L-1 is a US defence contractor whose name was associated with the CIA and other US defence organizations. Former CIA director George Tenet and former Homeland Security deputy secretary Admiral James Loy were on the board of L-1 till 2010.
China had also embarked upon a UID type scheme but it abandoned it mid-way on concerns expressed by the Communist Party. The Chinese project was being done by a French company Safran. Recently L-1 has bought Safran. In this way, the technology of profiling people developed by Safran in China will now come to India via L-1.
There are two aspects of the Aadhar scheme. The distribution of pensions and cash subsidies through strict biometric monitoring is to be wholly welcomed. But the method adopted for doing this is wholly unacceptable. It seems the Government is surreptitiously smuggling in a powerful vigilance mechanism under the guise of cash distribution of subsidies. It is like a security personnel handing over secrets of the country to foreign powers so that he can build a school in his village. Collection of biometric data and possible handing over of the same to foreign powers cannot be justified on grounds of cash distribution of subsidies.
We should examine other alternatives. The justification of Aadhar arises from the fact that large number of subsidies is to be distributed to beneficiaries. We should think of removing this entire cobweb of subsidies and distributing a consolidated amount to each citizen as his right to life. All complicated systems of food, fertilizer, LPG, kerosene and even health and education subsidies should be scrapped. People should be given money to buy all these services from the market according to their choice.
The opposition should wake up. The 2004 elections were lost by NDA because there was nothing on the ground which would provide relief to the common man. Last general elections were again lost by the NDA because UPA had implemented MNREGA and loan waiver. The UPA hopes to win the coming elections in 2014 on the back of pensions and cash transfers. The opposition should demand universal consolidated cash transfer through an organization like the Employees Provident Fund as a counter to this dangerous move by the UPA.
The main difficulty in implementation of this suggestion is the stranglehold of the welfare bureaucracy. Over the last sixty years large numbers of government servants have been employed in the provision of welfare schemes to the people. These include education, health, subsidized food grains and a host of schemes such as house for the poor under Indira Awas Yojana and widow’s pension. These schemes provide huge benefits to the government servants. One beneficiary of the Indira Awas Yojana told me that he had to pay bribe of Rs 10,000 to get the benefits of Rs 25,000. Large amounts of bribes will now be obtained by the government servants in providing certificates of 40 percent disability.  The apparent objective of these schemes is to provide benefits to the poor. But the more important and real objective is to create a huge army of government servants that stands behind the government and is willing to crush any rebellion by the people against exploitation. All political parties are trying to appease this section of the society because these have a decisive role in the electoral process.
The solution is going to be difficult. One possibility is to stop new recruitments in the welfare departments. The money saved upon retirement of present servants may be diverted to cash payments. Cash payments will grow gradually. Another solution is to deploy these servants in productive works such as traffic control, police, judiciary, forest protection and pollution control.
The giving out of doles via Aadhar is unacceptable because it opens the gates for providing this information to foreign powers; and also because it does not solve the basic problem of a bloated welfare mafia.

 

#India- Average daily calorie intake in rural India falls 5%: Govt #WTFnews


PTI : New Delhi, Thu Mar 07 2013, 

Poverty

 

The average daily intake of calories of the rural population, as per the NSSO data, dropped by 4.9 per cent or 106 kilocalories from 1993-94 to 2004-05, Parliament was informed today.

“As per NSSO report based on the survey conducted by it in July 2004-June 2005, the average per capita calorie in-take at all India level in rural areas is 2,047 kilo calories as compared to 2,153 kilo calories based on the results of similar survey undertaken during July 1993-June 1994,” Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Statistics and Programme Implementation Srikant Kumar Jena told in a written reply to Lok Sabha.

This shows a drop of 106 kilocalories and percentage decrease of 4.9 per cent in per capita calorie intake in rural areas over 2004-05, he said.

Jena said the government has taken a number of steps to increase opportunities for livelihood/wage employment and food security of rural people so as to enable them to have access to availability of food and thus better intake of calories.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), Swarnajayanti Gramin Swarojgar Yojana are some of the prominent wage employment generation schemes focussing at rural population in the country, he said.

Targeted Public Distribution System, Annapurna Scheme for Senior Citizens, Mid-Day Meal are amongst the schemes targeted for food security, Jena said.