Change.org — Cat is out of the Bag


Change.org  Cat is out of the Bag, so let’s stop playing Ping Pong

May 12, Mumbai- Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Kractivism

  Its official now

After months of testing, Change.org is ready to launch a new revenue model that is geared to consumers, not organizations. By targeting consumers, the change.org team expects to pull in steady revenues in smaller dollar amounts. Contributions are capped at $1,000 per user per petition, but beta tests found that 98 percent of contributions were under $100. During the test period, a total of 5800 people contributed to promoted petitions. Read more here Now anyone can sponsor a petition on change.org

This is how petitions can be promoted and sponsored

Promoted Petitions allow anyone to promote their favorite petitions to Change.org users who may not otherwise come across them. Similar to promoted posts on Facebook or promoted tweets on Twitter, Promoted Petitions allows users to pay to feature any petition to other users on the site.

Sponsored Campaigns are similar to Promoted Petitions, but structured slightly differently to help organizations establish long-term relationships with Change.org users who are passionate about their work and sign their campaigns. Each Sponsored Campaign has an opt-in box allowing users to agree to find out more information about the sponsoring organization after signing. Organizations ready to connect with their next generation of supporters can head to Change.org for Organizations to learn more.

My open letter to Ben Rattray, last October, was precisely about this , #India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, #Change.org – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism when they announced change in advertising policies that ,there is no confusion that change.org is  not a business for a social cause but  like any for profit , they are making money on our database.

Now after my expose.#India – Change.org : Campaign Victory’s exposed #Vaw #Socialmedia, wherein I bought to notice two conflicting petitions on the same platform. I did get a reply on a tumblr.com  site ???  Wondering why  change .org  could not the responses  reply on an  official change.org site?  Also the tumblr.com   site with no  option to comment ,   My question,to   India director,  change.org Avijit Michael, that by replying to me, on another change/org staffs personal blog , with no option to comment,   this how change.org proposes to have a public engagement ?

The fact that  it was only after  I  pointed out that  two conflicting petitions, change.org looked into the matter and found that the  petition of voyeuristic  journalists managed  thousands  signatures by fraud  . They  have informed Information and Broadcasting  Ministry . Interesting but what if they would not be informed, will they know will  then and will they take action ?

For once let me make it clear I do not have a personal vendetta against change.org and neither people are confused by allegations they are concerned.

Here is a  Hoot investigative story on  change.org and how it operates  notes , Deconstructing Change.org

Change.org believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.

Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.

I will let the responses to my  expose on change.org speak for itself. I got many emails, facebook messages , some of them are below

आपने जो उदाहरण दिया है उससे स्‍पष्‍ट है कि कोई भी चेंज डॉट ओआरजी का दुरुपयोग कर सकता है। वैसे भी ये या तो व्‍यवसाय कर सकते हैं या सामाजिक बदलाव में कोई भूमिका निभा सकते हैं। और किसी को भ्रम नहीं होना चाहिए कि ये प्‍लेटफॉर्म सामाजिक बदलाव के लिए है। it’s really selling you and me on change dot org. –sandeepsamvad, new delhi, emaiil

it is hard to believe that change.org is not selling signatures as you have not completely denied when you said “Kamayani’s claim that we sell email addresses to sponsors is also incorrect. Our business model has been clearly outlined on the site. We allow our users to voluntarily opt-in to receive mailing from organisations via sponsored petitions.”there is a strong reason for not believing your words as in first instance you said in your reply “partly because one of them was the subject to anattempt at fraud and manipulation over the last week — almost 5000 signatures were added by two IP addresses” AND in very next line you say ” We have multiple levels of systemic checks to prevent this kind of abuse and ensurethat the integrity of our platform is maintained. The fraudulent signatureshave already been removed to reflect the count of genuine signatures.” WHAT HAPPEND TO THE MULTIPLE LEVELS OF SYSTEMIC CHECKS when peoples were signing petitions from one IP , in this case you have deleted signatures but how do we believe that other “victories” petitions are signed by individuals ;with this whole incident I think there are strong flaws on change.org , you have believed , trusted and took actions on almost all points Kamayani higlighted and on other hand you said “We completely respect Kamayani’s right to a different view, although we regret that she is spreading misinformation about Change.org”

I would have trusted on your words , if you would have removed this fraudulent signature petition and all other such petitions;I myself have written a petition and I know it is very difficult for us to raise a issue and bring in people to spend a time and sign it ; with this whole incidence of Change.org my belief on online petitions is shattered .lastly I perceive it in this way and that is , I think you also believe less  on change.org , as you chose Tumbler to highlight such a big news about your own website .I am hoping for a fair dialogue about this whole issues with a thread of previous emails and replies on change.org homepage so that truth must come out …

( Rahul Deveshwar on Facebook )

Change.org platform is no longer on the side of justice, but neutral in the fight against oppression, and hence, has actually taken the side of the oppressor…( Aashish Gupta  via email)

The idea that the  change.org makes no judgment on the type of petition seems a bit strange. Do they not have some sort of system of checks and balances? How many people sign things just on trust? I know I have done. To personalise the mistake (if it was a mistake) that they may have made to an individual who points out the inconsistency of their position on a specific petition seems to me a policy of “shoot the messenger” No petition is a trivial issue to those who take the trouble of starting one, or signing one. Motives would seem a significant factor. therefore this personalisation also would appear to have a motive. Is the organisation afraid of criticism? In which case the attack on an individual would seem logical. Why could not have change.org  provided a coherent answer to the inconsistency highlighted and not personalise the matter to an individual. It is those who work on the ground with people who matter, the idea of holding “people power and democracy in high regard” seems to me bullshit, and appears to appeal to interest groups who have a neo liberal agenda of control.
Kamayani I think all such organisations to me are suspect and anyone who points a finger that may expose their inconsistencies would be demonised in some way. specially such democracy movements of recent past seem to have had bloody results when western interests are threatened, Middle East, Pakistan orange revolution etc etc come to mind. There is sometimes more at stake than rights of people and that is the jobs of those who run these corporate “rights” organisations almost across the world and they would always go with their sponser, who would be western based or financed.  Kamayani, May be you have touched a brick that could shake the edifice ? I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.   I have closed by change.org account  (Satish Barot on FB)

” I am a little shocked that we bothered Mr. Tumbler. When I think, you own change.org. It would be more official when you post it there. Innit ?” (Harish Iyer, Facebook)

I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.    ( Kavita Krishnan, New Delhi email )

I completely agree that the case of the NALSAR students whose privacy was invaded and who were morally policed by these mediapeople shows exactly why change.orgshould not accept petitions from all sources. Many of us followed Kamayani’s use of change.org because we believed the organization had an explicit pro-justice bias in the campaigns it took on. Having change.org be a neutral platform to be used by anybody, or accepting paid sponsorships means that the platform indeed becomes something like Facebook – a profit seeking platform which we can use but which is not by itself an ally. I urge change.org to discard labels like neutrality, openness and democracy- all of which are used in our current socioeconomic system to mean that those with money will have the loudest voice – and to take an explicit stand on promoting justice through their petitions…( Kaveri, Bangalore )

It is sad that every space has been taken over by the BUSINESS and MONEY MAKERS…. we think we are playing in a free ground but that ground is also owned by the same corrupt minds… Amir Rizvi, Mumbai

It is indeed time that the issue about online petitions was addressed in more detail. Having read your blog and the response by change.org leaves me to conclude that change.org is definitely on the back foot as it has not bothered to explain the selling of email ID’s names etc for proit to other NGO’s. This is the business model of all the online petition sites and that is how they manage to have fancy pay packages for their employees and maintain their infrastructure. Sure, change.org may well be a technology oriented, democratic organization, but that does not absolve it from carrying out unethical practices.

The argument that change.org allows opt-in is not a favor done by the organization towards its users. It is legally mandated that such services should opt-in rather than opt-out services (throw back to Google, Facebook and other litigation’s and their results)

What happens to these online petitions (apart from creating a few seconds of “awareness”) is also debatable. I wonder if change.org has devised any metric to track what effect their online petitions have made. Being a “technology driven” organization, they should have the the means to track the effects of their petitions and should release such audits from time to time to their users.

In summary, the business model of change.org appears to be simply that of any other aggregator/mass e-mailer. To cloak this behind a veil of social consciousness and activism is doing dis-service to others who actually get their hands dirty doing real work and not sit behind computer terminals in air-conditioned offices selling their databases to the highest bidder. (Anuj Wankhede, Delhi)

I am completely with you and also understand the concern you raised in your narration. Media being one of the institutions operated and controlled by capitalist and patriarchal values certainly is not going to take pro-women, pro-equality stand. The argument of change.org that they provide space for ‘activism’ seem to be not true unless they take a critical position on issues being raised in and through their space. What if tomorrow anti-women, anti-dalits, anti-muslims, anti-abortion, anti-poor, anti-rights, anti-tribal, anti-minority people start putting up their petitions through change.org? What would be the position of owners/facilitators of this space?

Request to change.org from my side is to upload their position on many of the issues they feel are the result of inequalities, historic and systemic nature of discrimination, coercive hierarchies and culture of violence. Anand Pawar, Pune

Change.org has crossed the line between change-making and profit-making  .

So people are not confused by my expose ,but more concerned !

Supreme Court of India – ‘Revolving door’ in lawsuits


M J Antony  May 07, 2013 , BS

criminal_justice_jurisprudence

The Court now limits review petitions to only grave errors in judgments

When litigants lose their final appeal in the Supreme Court, most of them learn to grin and bear it. However, lawyers tend to advise those with deep pockets to carry on the fight in different modes. Some desperate measures are filing applications for clarification and modification, moving review petitions and finally, curative petitions. Most of them turn out to be a triumph of hope over experience.

The first method to revive the lost cause is to file an application for clarification, alleging ambiguities in the decision where none exists. The bench that passed the judgment usually sees through the game and dismisses it. Another technique is to file an application for modification of the order, pleading technical hurdles in its implementation. This is also perceived as a ploy to re-argue the case and is mostly rejected.

If both stratagems fail, and there are more funds for litigation, there are two more options. The first one is moving a review petition. More than 90 per cent of them are dismissed in judges’ chambers during the lunch recess. A few months ago, 340 review petitions relating to land acquisition were massacred in minutes. It was a rare instance of a government authority returning twice with review petitions (Haryana Industrial Development Corp vs Mawasi).

Hoping to contain the flow of such petitions, the Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago emphasised in a batch of petitions that a review was justified only when there was a serious error in the judgment (JSW Steel Ltd vs Sandur Manganese & Iron Ores Ltd).

“In review jurisdiction,” stated the judgment dismissing the petitions, “the Court shall interfere only when there is a glaring omission or patent mistake, or when a grave error has crept in the judgment that we failed to notice. Mere disagreement with the view of the judgment cannot be the ground for invoking the same. As long as the point is already dealt with and answered, the parties are not entitled to challenge the judgment in the guise that an alternative view is possible under the review jurisdiction.”

This view had to be reiterated because of the routine filing of review petitions. There must be an “error apparent on the record”, as the Civil Procedure Code and the Supreme Court rules say. In a leading caseParsion Devi vs Sumitri Devi, the Court had explained the law thus: “An error which is not self-evident and has to be detected by a process of reasoning can hardly be said to be an error apparent on the face of the record. It is not permissible for an erroneous decision to be ‘reheard and corrected’. A review petition, it must be remembered, has a limited purpose and cannot be allowed to be an appeal in disguise.”

If the ingenuity of the lawyer and the client’s pockets are not yet exhausted, there is still another way. This path was broken by the Supreme Court itself – only to be regretted leisurely. In the case Rupa Ashok vs Ashok Hurra, the Court stated that “the almighty alone is the dispenser of absolute justice” and the rest might err. Ensuring certainty and finality of a judgment of the Court of last resort could not be made an end in itself. Even the law must bend before justice.

With such good intentions, the new curative petition was forged by the Court. This petition must be accompanied by a recommendation of a senior advocate, stating that the case requires re-examination. The curative petition has to be first circulated to a bench of three seniormost judges. They will decide by a majority that the case should be re-examined. Only then the case will be heard by the judges, who heard the case originally.

Despite such strict conditions, in the case Sumer vs State of UP, the Constitution bench for the first time gave vent to the rampant misuse of the provision for curative petitions. It said: “The apprehension of the bench (which delivered the Hurra judgement) that the remedy provided may not open the flood gates for filing a second review petition has come true as is evident from the filing of large numbers of petitions. It was expected that the curative petitions will be filed in the rarest-of-rare cases, but in practice, it has just been opposite.” The judgment quoted one certificate to show how casually they are issued. The senior counsel’s recommendation comes easily but, perhaps, not cheaply.

The quest for perfect justice must end somewhere. “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final,” said US Supreme Court judge Robert Jackson. The Supreme Court, with over 66,000 cases before it, can hardly afford the luxury of providing more revolving doors to rich litigants. They must give way to the ordinary people waiting for years at the gates of justice.

 

Change.org – Sign the change you want to see #onlineactivism


The concept of online petitioning is riding high on the wave of social change sweeping the world. MANU MOUDGIL says that while the impact is promising, there are several roadblocks to be negotiated.
Posted/Updated Saturday, Apr 27 , thehoot.org
Every other day, a new mail drops into the inbox asking you to ‘change the world’ by signing a petition. It can be as serious an issue as seeking justice for an acid attack victim or as trivial as asking Justin Bieber to have a live concert in India. For an increasing number of urban Indians bred on concepts of equality and justice but frustrated by trappings of age-old power hierarchies of this country, the idea is promising. You don’t need to be a kurta-wearing social activist sitting on dharnas or a donor writing cheques to fund campaigns. Just filling in your name, email Id and postal code would do.
Petitioning around social campaigns has been in practice for decades but never has its impact been more pronounced than today when a call to ‘stop rape’ can gather 59,000 signatures in just 24 hours (On last count, the petition had 6.64 lakh signatures). For every signature, the decision makers get an email (many petitions also request the supporters to call the officials) thus ensuring constant pressure on them to act.
Two government school teachers in Jharkhand get paid after four years, five asphalt factories in Rajasthan shut down for causing air pollution, a discriminatory temple ritual is banned in Karnataka…the list goes on about the impact online petitions have made, though not singularly.
Online petitioning picked up pace in India after 2011 when Change.org, the world’s largest e-petition platform, started its operations here. Today, it has close to 6 lakh users with 600-800 petitions started every month, up from 11-15 petitions two years ago. Worldwide, it has operations in 18 countries and boasts of 35 million users.
Change.org also scores over other online platforms because of its support team, which helps build a communication strategy around selected petitions. In India, a small five-member team sends emails to users, talks to the media and suggests ways to engage with decision makers around campaigns which are bound to get popular support like the anti-rape petition started in wake of the Delhi gang-rape. The team works on 14-16 campaigns a week.
Everyone’s invited
 
One palpable difference online platforms have made in the field of campaigning is democratisation of the petitioning tool. Anybody can mobilise support for a cause they strongly feel about. Namita Bhandare, who started the anti-rape petition, had never participated in protest marches or candlelight vigils. She wrote the petition just to give vent to her anger and feeling of helplessness after the Delhi gang-rape. “At first, I questioned myself what would a petition do. In fact, now I realise that the recommendations we made in the petition were very basic and the Justice Verma Commission went much beyond as it factored in marital rape, action against armed forces and redefined sexual assault. However, filing that petition was cathartic for me. The tool lends power to the people who were earlier completely dependent on media or NGOs to mobilise support,” she says.
However, critics believe that e-petition promotes slacktivism or armchair activism which is also the reason it is so successful. It gives “false power” to those who feel helpless in face of problems they can’t control and prevents many of the supporters from participating in on-ground action. Preethi Herman, Campaigns Director at change.org laughs off such criticism. “We tend to assume that people just sign petitions. Online platform is the first point of engagement. They make telephone calls to decision makers, participate in offline events and help spread the word further. You can’t equate mobilisation with activism as it’s more about developing a larger support base for your cause. Most of the supporters are not activists but they do want a change,” she says.
Bhandare agrees: “ E-petition does sensitise one to the cause. You can’t just start a petition on rape and go to a cocktail party. I am sure many of the signatories to my petition also joined the on-ground protests.”
Change.org also collaborates with Video Volunteers and CGNet Swara, the two grassroots-level organisations which use video and audio media to highlight issues in rural India. “It was important for us to adapt to Indian conditions where Internet penetration is still very low. We work with Video Volunteers and CGNet Swara to identify issues in their areas which could be promoted online and hence bridge the gap between rural and urban population,” Herman says.
Tania Devaiah, the impacts manager at Video Volunteers, confirms that getting numbers behind a cause through online petition lends an institutional approach to the campaign. “Constant flow of emails and phone calls does build pressure on decision makers in comparison to a single approach of making and screening of videos. We pick up issues for online campaigns where either it’s difficult to make the authorities act or the cause has a universal appeal,” she adds. The next frontier change.org wants to conquer is to make the platform available in Hindi and adapt it to mobile phones.
The loopholes
Change.org believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.
Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.
Verification of facts reported in the petition is another sore point. Though some petitions do carry images and videos related to the issue, there are chances that you might end up supporting a wrong cause. For instance, an incident in Hyderabad got two separate petitions running on the website. Girl college students coming out of a pub after a farewell party were accused by the regional news channels of creating nuisance at a public place and depicted as uncultured while the students blamed the media of moral policing and wrongful depiction. The chances are you may end up signing one of these petitions without getting to know the other side. Herman says since numerous petitions are created daily, it’s not possible to substantiate the facts presented in each of them but whenever the Change team works on and pushes a petition, the facts are verified in detail.
Values shortchanged?
Change.org claims to be a corporation using the power of business for social good. It made revenue by allowing sponsored petitions from progressive groups willing to shell out dollars to promote their campaigns. The concept has helped the company generate enough profit to make its functioning self-sustaining.
However, something changed in October last year when a leaked internal documentrevealed how the organisation was replacing its value-based advertising policy to an ‘open’ approach allowing even conservatives and corporates to use its resources. This invited widespread criticism from the progressive community which felt that the vast user database it helped build through the years was being sold to the opposition camp.
On the other hand, as underscored by Isaac Luria of Groundswell, organisations running social campaigns don’t get a full contact list of their supporters whom they could later invite to attend meetings, join local groups, or donate. “Of course, I could have bought the names that signed the petition on Change.org for around $500,000 or about $2 per name if I had the foresight before the campaign was launched or had the money,” he adds.
Change’s founder Ben Rattray responded to the criticism by arguing that the organisation “cannot maintain an open platform and simultaneously block all ads that don’t fit a particular political view” and ads from controversial groups would only be accepted if the platform has users interested in their work. He also emphasised that an open advertiser policy was essential to avoid being “regularly forced into unsustainable positions.”
However, not everybody was impressed with these clarifications. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, an online campaigner who has initiated a petition asking Rattray to come out clean, says the definition of openness pushed by Change.org is not in consonance with progressive principles. “I used to laugh at some of the inane petitions like the ones promoting homophobia or anti-abortion, as I was sure change.org will not give any support and the petition will die its own death. But with the new policy, anyone is eligible to advertise. So, after I sign a petition for human rights, I might find a link to a sponsored petition on giving legal recognition to khap panchayats,” she says.
Mahabal has now been trying other online platforms but is not happy with their technical support. For the time being, she is using her own blog to mobilise online support and is hopeful that Indian activists will have their own independent platform soon.
Meanwhile, as they say, every change is accompanied by discomforts. The question is how well can we deal with these.
Official recognition

Online petitioning is officially recognised in the US where the right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The White House hosts an online platform ‘We the People’ where any petition which gets 1,00,000 signatures within 30 days elicits a government response. The threshold before January 2013 was 25,000 signatures and one of the petitions which got the White House speaking was seeking ‘genocide’ status for the 1984 Sikh riots in India. The petition had more than 30,000 signatures.

original article http://thehoot.org/web/Signthechangeyouwanttosee/6753-1-1-12-true.html

Andhra Pradesh -You will be imprisoned for grabbing SC,ST lands


DC | 27th Mar 2013

HyderabadRevenue minister Raghuveera Reddy has warned that those who have occupied SC,ST lands and not handed  it over will be booked and sent to prison.

 

The minister made this statement at the revenue conferences in the state Assembly on Tuesday. He said 4.5 lakh acres of SC,ST land have been occupied in the state by others and 2.5 lakh acres were recovered and returned to the community.

The remaining land will be recovered and returned to the SC,STs. In the seventh and final phase of the land distribution programme, the government will distribute every acre of land fit for cultivation. So far, 75 lakh acres of government and forest land were distributed among SC, STs.

The  minister further  said, 4.7 lakh petitions were received in the ongoing revenue conferences that started  on March 21, and 1.26 lakh petitions were cleared on the spot, 5,996 petitions were rejected and the remaining were under process. Petitions will be cleared in 90 days, the minister assured.

Commenting on the Minister’s statement the Opposition members expressed their objection on conducting of revenue conferences when the Assembly was in secession. Reacting to this the revenue minister said, so far except three to four ministers, all the ministers, and 70% of the MLAs participated in the revenue conferences. The conferences will continue till April 10, so that the MLAs can participate as Assembly Session will be is over, the minister said.

 

India’s Cash Transfers for the Poor Face Early Hurdles #UID #Aadhaar


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

By AMOL SHARMA

 

DOHAKATU, India—Officials in this impoverished eastern Indian village have a message for local residents: the government wants to give you a bank account and plop money in it—now.

 

India is embarking on a dramatic shift in how it delivers welfare benefits to its hundreds of millions of poor citizens. The program, which officially begins in January and will be rolled out nationally by the end of next year, will transfer up to $58 billion in cash into the bank accounts of some 90 million households. Beneficiaries will withdraw the money using a high-tech system that verifies their identities using fingerprint scans.

 

Indians who now must get welfare payments at post offices—enduring waits of days or weeks and sometimes paying bribes to get entitlements—will get direct deposits in their personal bank accounts for everything from old-age pension to scholarships to salaries for public works projects.

 

Poor households will also get cash deposits to buy basic commodities like kerosene and cooking gas at market rates. That would replace subsidies that currently go to distributors, who are supposed to offer discounts—a system that critics say is plagued by waste and fraud.

 

The new payment approach doesn’t create any new entitlement programs for the poor. But the ruling Congress party has trumpeted it as a signature anti-poverty initiative, hoping it will prove a masterstroke ahead of national elections in 2014. Party leaders say direct deposits will ensure entitlements get to beneficiaries instead of being siphoned off by middlemen, and are touting the slogan “Your Money in Your Hands.”

 

Dohakatu is a village of subsistence potato and rice farmers in Jharkhand state. Its residents largely depend on government handouts to survive and it is among the handful of regions that participated in early trials of cash transfers and have a head-start in the rollout. People here are already getting direct cash deposits for a range of benefits.

 

“We are quite confident the cash transfer scheme will create magic in the next election,” said Shahzada Anwar, a Congress party official in Jharkhand who was in Dohakatu village recently to watch locals withdraw cash.

 

India’s huge amount of welfare spending is a major contributor to its shaky public finances. The nation’s budget deficit was 5.8% of gross domestic product in the year ended March 31. The government says the new cash deposit program can generate much-needed budget savings by eliminating corruption such as people using fake identification documents to get the same benefit twice.

 

To withdraw money under the program, beneficiaries must present a 12-digit unique identification number that every Indian is gradually being issued—220 million people have them so far. Then, they must scan their finger on a portable device known as a micro-ATM, which validates their identity in a national biometric database.

 

“No one can falsify their identity and get away with it,” Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters recently. He said the efficiency gains are “incalculable.”

 

But at least in the early going, the cash transfer project will actually be a financial drag, with $1.2 billion in estimated net losses for the exchequer through March 2015, according to a recent study by the government-funded National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. The expected savings will come in the following six years and will total about $14.5 billion, or 15% of the budget deficit in the latest fiscal year, the report says.

 

Transferring cash for 29 government welfare programs will be a massive administrative undertaking. The first challenge is to open bank accounts quickly in places like Dohakatu: only 40% of India’s 1.2 billion people have bank accounts, and only 36,000 of India’s 600,000 villages even have a bank branch. There are plans to open 73,000 new “ultra small” bank branches of about 100 to 200 square feet apiece and hire one million banking employees in rural areas, according to minutes from a government committee overseeing cash transfers.

 

The micro-ATM machines depend on creaky wireless connectivity with speeds on par with the standard a decade ago in the U.S. Getting the system to work requires the intricate syncing of databases by managers of the national unique ID program, government agencies dispensing benefits, and banks. Banks have to be equipped to process a flood of new transactions in their networks. Cooking gas-related transactions alone could number 1.7 billion per year.

 

“The magnitude is just staggering,” said R.S. Sharma, director general of the Unique Identification Authority of India that runs the national “Aadhaar” identification program. “If you start transferring money into people’s accounts and don’t create a distribution network, then you are in for big trouble,” he said.

 

India took inspiration for its new approach from other big emerging economies, including Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and South Africa, which have started cash transfer programs to combat poverty and social inequality. India is targeting a far larger number of households than those countries. But its program is different because it isn’t linking benefits to specific social goals. Brazil’s program, for instance, gives 12 million low-income households about $30 a month on the condition that they show their children have an 85% school attendance rate and have received medical checkups and vaccinations.

 

About 2,000 people are participating in the Jharkhand cash transfer program now. In Dohakatu, part of Ramgarh District, locals were streaming into a ramshackle community center on a recent afternoon to withdraw cash. Among them was Riman Devi, a 51-year-old widow.

 

Her salary for digging wells and ponds as part of the government rural jobs program was deposited directly into her first-ever bank account that was created last month. Rather than go to a distant bank branch to access it, Ms. Devi approached an official and uncertainly handed over a card with her 12-digit ID number printed on it. He keyed the number into a micro-ATM. She scanned her finger to check her balance, and then again to withdraw her week’s salary: 400 rupees, or $7. Everything checked out. The official reached into his pocket, pulled out a wad of bills and paid her. (He, in turn, gets reimbursed by the government.)

 

Ms. Devi said the new system beats the old approach of getting government payments from the local post office, which often wasn’t open or would run out of money. “Sometimes it took two to three days to get the money. It was very difficult. It’s faster here,” she said. She spent some of the cash that afternoon on edible oil, spices and vegetables at a local bazaar.

 

The new way of paying has hardly solved Ms. Devi’s problems. Her only income comes from occasionally selling homemade bamboo baskets for 50 cents apiece. She doesn’t qualify for a widow’s pension because the government doesn’t classify her as below the poverty line. A local official says that is a mistake that will be corrected when the central government does a new poverty survey. Ms. Devi lives with her son in a mud-walled house with a bedroom that doubles as a rice-storage area. “Winter is coming and we don’t have warm clothes,” she said.

 

Sitting nearby in the village center was Vasudev Pahan, an 80-year-old whose family lives mainly on subsistence wheat and potato farming. Collecting his $7 monthly pension—which goes to low-income senior citizens—used to be an ordeal. He’d squeeze into a car with 14 people to go to a government office in a nearby town. Then he would wait in a line of as many as 400 people. Sometimes the office would run out of money or close before he could get his cash, so he’d have to return a few days in a row.

 

Now Mr. Pahan walks 20 minutes to the micro-ATM in the village center and withdraws cash in minutes from an account where the government has deposited his pension. “People who are getting it this way are happy,” he said.

 

A few local Congress party officials arrived at the Dohakatu center to take stock of the action and take credit for what they already proclaim as a signature achievement. Mr. Anwar, an affable, mustachioed man with a thick shag of black hair, shook hands with some villagers before plopping into a plastic chair. “This is the strongest weapon for us,” he said of the political benefits of the new program. “No one can give opposition to this.”

 

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress’s main opposition in New Delhi, have criticized the Congress party for over-politicizing the initiative, but haven’t attacked the idea of the new direct payments.

 

Glitches in technology were on display in Tigra, a group of farming villages 12 miles west of Ranchi, Jharkhand’s capital. Some 39 people signed up to participate in the new program in October, but 30 of them weren’t able to take out cash from the mini-ATM despite trying several times. The main problem, authorities said, was that their new bank accounts at state-owned Bank of India weren’t “seeded” with unique ID information for beneficiaries—so it was impossible to verify people’s identities.

 

On a recent afternoon, Mahmood Alam, the local banking representative in Tigra who handles micro-ATM transactions—known as a “business correspondent”—believed the problem had been solved and was setting up to give out cash to a few dozen locals. He set up his micro-ATM machine not far from men and women threshing rice crop and goats wandering in the fields.

 

He tapped with his stylus to enter the details of Teju Gope, a 71-year-old pensioner who has a new account with Bank of India. “Place your finger for processing,” a message on the screen said. Mr. Gope swiped his finger. After a few seconds came a disappointing reply: “UID (unique ID) blocked/inactive/wrong.”

 

Mr. Alam shook his head. “It’s still not working,” he said. He said he’s optimistic about the new program but acknowledged the government’s rushed approach has resulted in some errors. “It looks to me like everything wasn’t totally ready,” he said.

 

A.K. Pathak, assistant general manager of Bank of India, said the Tigra payments snafu is an isolated incident that has been resolved. He said the Jharkhand trials overall have gone well.

 

The Jharkhand government is racing to expand the program. About 19 million of the state’s 32 million people still haven’t gone through the sign-up process to get biometric ID numbers. In Ramgarh district about 60% of the 950,000 residents don’t have unique IDs. The government is trying to prioritize people who will be getting cash transfers.

 

“This is a huge task for us—a technological leap forward is happening,” said Amitabh Kaushal, Ramgarh’s deputy commissioner, the top local bureaucrat.

 

Local officials say the use of biometric identification will weed out people who used aliases or fraudulent documents to get the same benefit twice. In one block of villages in Ramgarh, the government used to have 43,801 claimants in the rural job program as of the last official figure in 2006. But after a recent sign-up drive with biometrics, there were nearly 9,000 fewer people on the rolls. Mr. Kaushal said it isn’t clear yet whether that discrepancy is a result of fraud removal or the normal transition of some people off welfare.

 

New Delhi officials are counting on the biggest savings to come from countering fraud in the subsidy programs for commodities like kerosene and cooking gas. Critics say the current system is rife with corruption. Dealers siphon off goods and sell them on the black market. People fake their way into getting benefits they don’t deserve.

 

Food subsidies are the government’s biggest welfare expense, accounting for $13.3 billion in spending in the year ended March 31. But the government left food out of the cash transfer program, wary that it is too complex and too sensitive to do now. A survey of 1,200 households last year by the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi found that two-thirds of respondents were strongly in favor of keeping the status quo of picking up food grains at government ration shops rather than going to stores to pay market rates.

 

The biggest limitation of the cash transfer project, critics say, is that it won’t solve the most fundamental problems in India’s targeting of welfare subsidies. Biometric screening ensures that people trying to get benefits are who they say they are—and eliminates duplicate subsidies. But if a person is being excluded from benefits now because they aren’t classified as below the poverty line, or is wrongly classified as eligible for benefits, nothing in the cash transfer program will detect that or change it.

 

Meanwhile, there are limits to the program’s ability to stamp out corruption. There is no reason a micro-ATM operator can’t ask for a kickback when giving people their money, just as a postal worker might, the critics say. “If you’re getting arm-twisted today, you’ll get arm-twisted tomorrow,” said Reetika Khera, a development specialist at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

 

From a political standpoint, putting cash into the bank accounts of the poor would seem like “manna from heaven” for the Congress-led government, says Ravi Srivastava, a development economist who has studied cash transfers. But he said it would be “incredible folly” for the government to underestimate the challenges of executing the project, especially in such a quick time frame.

 

“This whole thing has raised expectations to an unrealistic level, both within government and within the Congress party,” he said.

 

—Rajesh Roy and Krishna Pokharel contributed to this article.
Write to Amol Sharma at amol.sharma@wsj.com

 

A version of this article appeared December 27, 2012, on page A9 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Tapping Benefits GetsEasier for India’s Poor.

 

 

 

Change.org –the Brutal Betrayal !


by- MattBrowner Hamlin

Yesterday news broke that Change.org, an historically progressive-leaning distributed organizing platform, would shift to working with any advertising client, regardless of political affiliation. The story has been ably covered byRyan GrimJeff Bryant, and Aaron Krager – I highly recommend you read their pieces, all of which hinge around leaked internal Change.org documents that cover this shift.

The documents are well worth reading and have been posted by Krager (all links are PDFs). They include:

  • July 2012 email from CEO Ben Rattray to staff explaining the recent decisions by senior staff to pursue a big change in their client advertising policy;
  • September 2012 email from Rattray to their staff explaining the shift;
  • Rebrand-InternalFAQs-Change
  • As I said, the posts linked above give a good run down of the general problems associated with this shift in policy and values form Change.org. I recommend you read them and the leaked documents, which give a very clear view of the goals and motives behind this shift.

    I want to draw attention to one particular aspect of Change.org’s justifications for this move, quoting Jeff Bryant:

    What will change is that Change.org will no longer “filter potential advertisers” based on the advertisers’ “values.” Nor will Change.org filter potential advertisers based on any “gut feelings about the content of the ad itself.”

    The implication expressed in Change.org’s internal documents, by Change.org’s spokesman Ben Joffe-Walt who Ryan Grim quotes as saying, “Change.org is “not beholden to one community,” and by the talking points circulated by multiple Change.org staff members on progressive email list serves all point to the idea that it’s simply not possible for Change.org to make determinations about which clients are or are not progressive. As a result, they are saying they are now formally stopping to make any attempt to limit who they sell email addresses to based on their “values.”

    These talking points are undermined by their expressed strategies for evolving their advertising platform. In a section in their internal FAQ titled, “When will we be able to target ads better?” they have this explanation:

    • Machine learning: we are developing the technology to match action alerts to users, which utilizes everything we know about a user (what petitions they’ve signed, geography, demographics) to match them to petitions they’re most likely to be interested in. This is complicated technology but should bear fruit in 2013. Once that happens, we should be able to repurpose the technology and use everything we know about a user (what petitions they’ve signed, geography, demographics) to match them to the ads (sponsored petitions) they’re most likely to be interested in.
    • Tagging: we want to move from our current 8-cause system to a much more flexible tagging system. Once complete, users and Change.org staff will be able to tag any petition in many different ways, for example as “pro-choice.” We will then be able to show that “pro-choice” advertisement to people who have signed petitions tagged as “pro-choice” while suppressing people who’ve signed “pro-life” petitions. This is technically complicated, and we’re hoping to make significant progress in 2013.

    To be clear, what this means is not only that Change.org is saying internally that they are capable of assessing the political orientation of an advertiser or a petition, but that this assessment is something which is critical to their evolved business model.

    I raise this point because to me the idea of determining what is or is not in line with the values this company espoused since its founding until this week is completely possible. It’s been done with relative success by Change.org – excepting their work with union busting clients like Students First and Stand for Children – throughout the history of the firm. And most importantly, their ability to determine if a client should target liberal or conservative audiences is central to their future business model. They will be selling organizations and companies this ability – it’s what will make their ads worth money to their clients.

    When I look at Change.org’s talking points and internal messaging documents,  I see a lot of sophistry and disingenuous argumentation that I’m not going to go through now. I see statements like they’re not doing this for the money and since I am not a mind reader, I can only speculate whether or not that is true.

    But Change.org is telling the public that they are simply incapable of figuring out if their clients are liberal or conservative and as a result must throw up their hands to even trying to make the choice – this is a flat-out lie. Their own technology development and advertising targeting plans reveal it as a lie. Not only are they capable of making a determination as to what a client’s values are, it’s what they are selling their clients to maximize the impact they have as an advertising platform.

    There’s a lot to be unhappy about with this devolution at Change.org. I’m sure others will write more about it in coming days and I’m guessing I will too. But the completely cynical use of a lie about their fundamental ability to figure out who they are partnering with when they sell ads is something that I feel compelled to highlight first and foremost.

Extrajudicial killings: SC issues notice to Centre, Manipur government


By Abu Zafar10/1/12, Abu Zafar, Newzfirst

 

NEW DELHI

The

Su

 

Supreme Court of India Monday admitted a petition filed by the family members of the victims of extra-judicial killing in Manipur and issued the notices to the Central and Manipur Governments.

The Extrajudicial Executions Victims’ Families Association (EEVFA) had filed the petition before the apex court seeking the constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the extra judicial killings in the state since 1978.

Appointing Menaka Guruswamy, a Supreme Court lawyer, as the amicus curiae into the matter, the bench consisting Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai set 4 November as the next date of hearing.

Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, told the Supreme Court that more than 1,528 people have been killed by security forces since 1978.

The petition also claimed that the killings took place when the victims were in the custody of police or other security forces.

The petition also stated that neither departmental enquiries were conducted into such killings nor the criminal investigations.

“Magisterial inquiries that took place sometimes were conducted by the executive magistrates under the cover of secrecy and most often without intimation to the eyewitnesses and the members of the families. They were conducted as an eyewash.” the petition said.

Families of victims see a ray of hope:

Responding to the developments, Neena Ningombam, secretary of Extrajudicial Executions Victims’ Families Association (EEVFA), said, “There is a hope of justice, that’s why we moved apex court.”

According to Neena she has knocked every possible door in pursuit of justice, but futile.

Neena, 33, is mother of two sons of age 10 and 5 years. Her husband Nongmaithem Michael was killed on 4 November 2008, by the security forces branding him as the terrorist.

(A group photo of victims’ families during a meet in last March. Courtesy- humanrightsmanipur.wordpress.com)

Stand up for people from the North-East India #mustshare


 

The campaign logo itself invites and let you get into the shoe of a little brown fish, discriminated and humiliated just because she was born with a different look and color from the rest. This is the same treatment the people who originate from North East India receive. It is time we unite and stand for our rights!

THE BIRTH OF A MOVEMENT:

Today the people of North-East (NE) India face several issues of racial discrimination, harassment and violence outside their home states as a result of lack of awareness among the citizens of India about the region of NE and its culture. Each day we suffer and each day we wonder why we are made to feel as “foreigners” in our own nation. Is this what we would like to call “home sweet home”?

Within the states of North-East India, short-sighted government policies such as ‘The Armed Forces Special Powers Act’, the lack of control of illegal migration from Bangladesh and general governmental neglect has resulted in increased alienation of the people from the democratic processes. What could be blamed – xenophobia, racism or simply, lack of awareness?

INCEPTION:

SDPFNEI (Stop Discriminating People from North-East India) started as an online discussion group (www.facebook.com/sdpftnei) to address issues of discrimination faced by North-East Indians. We believe, although the circumstances are harsh but a sense of perpetuated victimization can only be counter-productive.

Recognizing online social networking platforms such as Facebook to be a feasible, easily accessible and vital platform to create general awareness and dispel the visage of racial stereotype(s). While addressing key issues/complaints faced by the people by highlighting them and followed by public debates, we realize the need to generate active interest in the NE region.

The members realized that the awareness of the land of the Seven Sisters has remained almost non-existent among the Indian citizens even after 60 years of the nation’s independence. The achievement and sacrifices of the people from this region in nation building (Defence, Technology, Sports and Administrative Services etc) has been largely ignored by the nation’s media, its educational systems and the political leadership. The group has resolved to proactively address these issues via constructive engagement with the government, national institutions and the conscious citizens of India.

KEY ISSUES:

A) We face harassment and discrimination almost every day. Our women are subject to frequently sexual assaults. Some of our fellow citizens continue to verbally abuse and stereotype us by calling us “Chinky”, “Nepali”, “Bahadur”, “Chinese” and various other slurs have become a daily occurrence. Many Indians are hypersensitive to any perceived (real or imaginary) racial slur they may receive outside India. However within India, the same people remain largely oblivious to the far more frequent and intense racial insults, harassment and violence heaped on India’s citizens from north-east India.

B) The continued sexual assaults and heinous crimes against the women of the North East India increases at an alarming rate. Metropolitan Indian cities have a tendency to be notorious regarding women’s safety in general but the recent spike in such untoward incidents indicate that sexual predators find the “different” looking (Mongoloid facial features) women as an ‘easier prey’.

C) The fruits of modern infrastructure & economic development have largely bypassed the NE region. Leaders in New Delhi should handle the issues pertaining to the region with more sensitivity and maturity. Rather than compounding the problem by their myopic view of the region via a security lens only.

D) Six decades after the nations independence, many of its citizens are still forced to conduct their daily life with guns pointed at them by their own Government. The indigenous inhabitants of the North East are still forced to live with the draconian Armed Forces special Powers Act (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura) along with Jammu and Kashmir) which is a misguided mechanism that has done more harm than good. Decades of ASFPA has only helped propagate a culture of violence and hate. Fundamental rights of the people need to be recognized. India as the largest democratic country cannot overlook the loopholes in the myopic vision by the central leaders of the past.

E) The mainstream media only covers news about violence and insurgency in the North East region instead of covering thousands of other stories that more truly reflect its rich vibrant culture, history and unique landscape. It’s a shame that for many decades India’s government, politicians, and rest of the country still continue to ignore the NE states. It has mostly been a case of out-of-sight and out-of-mind as far as the mainstream media is concerned.

F) The North East region is a beautiful place with rich eco-geographical landscapes, physical and human resources. We are a friendly people blessed with multi-faceted talents that range from music, education, fashion, sports etc. Visitors would find the people friendly with rich cultural heritage. The fabled head hunting warriors or barbaric tribesmen are but a myth.

WE ARE NOT ANTI-INDIA:

1. We believe that raising awareness is the key to identifying and perusing the solutions to the above issues. Hiding the issues “under the carpet” makes matters only worse.

2. This forum is not anti-India. Though we focus on issues relating to North-East Indians, we believe that addressing issues of discriminations faced by any group or community in India is actually a patriotic act that truly contributes to nation-building.

3. A nation becomes strong when all its communities in various forms are truly made to feel as equal citizens of the nation.

Many years ago Rabindranath Tagore wrote a Nobel prize winning poem that began and ended thus:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
——————————————————
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

SDPFNEI strives to achieve the above ideals which as yet have remained unrealized many years since the nation’s birth. The views expressed by the members of the forum are solely their own and are not endorsed by the Stop Discrimination of People from North-East India.

Can you sign the petition to help add more pressure on the Government? 

We need all the responsible citizens like you to join the movement to end racial discrimination in this generation.More signatures will add strength to the opposition to this campaign.

Please do include your full name, email and your current city while signing up.

GET INVOLVED, SIGN THE PETITION: We have launched the Signature Campaign on April 23 in New Delhi. Now the signature campaign will go on till nov 13, 2011 nationwide and we expect to achieve upto 3 Lacs of signatures. This is the only way we can make the government listen to our cries.

To read and sign the petition, please visit

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/neindia/

join us on facebook

https://www.facebook.com/SDPFTNEI

 

The (Auto) Rakshasa and the Citizen


June 14, 2012

A petition from an organization called Change India invaded my Facebook wall today right before – rather ironically, it turns out— my morning auto ride. The petition is filed under a category on the site called “petitions for economic justice.” When you open it, the image pasted below opens. A sharp fanged, dark skinned “auto-rakshasa” demands one-and-a-half fare. The commuter is “harassed.” The petition that accompanies this image urges the ACP of police to create “an efficient system” so that complaints made to report auto-drivers who overcharge or refuse to ply can be tracked. How, it asks, can “concerned Bangalorean citizens” expect “justice” if their complaints are not tracked?  We all must, it urges, “join the fight.”

Image

Let me first say quite clearly that I do not mean to undermine the intentions and frustrations of those who launched this campaign and, yes, when the meter goes on without asking, it eases a morning commute significantly. The question is: if this does not happen at times (and indeed it doesn’t) then why is this so and what does one do about it? There is a lot to be said about the economics of the issue itself and I welcome others reading who know more to write about it more extensively. But this piece is not about that. It is about the campaign itself and how we articulate political questions in our cities. It is fundamentally about the easy, unremarked way in which a working urban resident and citizen – who is also, after all, a “fellow Bangalorean” and concerned with “economic justice”– can be termed and portrayed a “rakshasa” as if it were a banal utterance.

 

Our urban institutions don’t, in many ways, work. We know this, the poor have always known it and it seems to be the newly discovered ire of elite politics. We complain, the petition says, and “no action” is taken. This complaint is not unique to this campaign or to the elite. The narrative commonly told about our cities today is in terms of “failure” and “illegality” whether it is dysfunctional institutions, corruption, broken infrastructure or slums. I am not contesting these failures or the anger of the petition writers at it. There is, however, a “but.” It is, put bluntly, this: not all institutional failures are the same, not all crimes are equal and not all illegalities lead to the same consequences. Protesting against them without taking this into account is not just ineffective, it is deeply unjust. Let me take an example from housing. Rich people who build illegal houses make “farmhouses” and “unauthorized colonies.” Poor people who do the same make “slums.” In a campaign against “illegality,” only one of them gets demolished. Only one is called an “encroacher” and a “pickpocket.” Only one of them can be a “rakshasa,” the other gets to be a “citizen.”

But, the campaign writers may rightly say: “We are not against autodrivers – it is about complaining against those that overcharge.” Does then a campaign’s representation, these words, this cartoon (ahem) really matter that much? It does. These imaginations, names, words and aesthetics alter, narrow and limit urban politics. You cannot see a rakshasa as another citizen who lives in your city. There was an alternate way to run this campaign: to sit with associations and unions of auto-drivers and come to an agreement. To find out if auto fares are reasonable, high or low. To figure out community mechanisms to prevent non-metred travel. To, if that’s what came out of the engagement, support campaigns for metre fare increases as inflation, prices and petrol/gas increase. To work out a periodic shock-absorption surcharge for periods with very high gas prices. To find out why it costs four times as much to own and register an auto than a Tata Nano. To find out what the daily rental of the auto-driver is that he is trying to make in his twelve hour shift. To figure out why his fares are regulated though the rental he pays isn’t. To consider, quite simply, the auto-driver as a person and a citizen rather than a criminal or a rakshasa. To find out how the institutions the petition is angry at have failed him just as much and, most likely, with much deeper consequences.

Instead this campaign pits “concerned citizens” against “autodrivers” that are, as the image suggests, always already criminal. It repeats the mistake of multiple recent middle-class campaigns for “economic justice” and “social change.” These campaigns increasingly target a particular set of issues –for example, corruption or security – that should concern all of us but because of the way they are defined and articulated instead exclude what is a majority of our urban citizens.

Where do such images come from? Let me trace just one possible thread. In another context, Leela Fernandes has argued that Indian cities are defined by a “new urban aesthetic of class purity.” She was referring to new forms of elite built environments from streets cleared of the poor, gated communities and enclosed malls, and parks where one can walk and play but not sleep and work. Yet this aesthetic doesn’t just manifest itself in the built environment – it is part of an elite urban politics that cannot imagine the poor as fellow citizens. Elite and middle-class campaigns thus become something altered– they are reduced to the protection of what Fernandes calls a “lifestyle.” Not the Right to Life, but the Right to Lifestyle. In the protection of this lifestyle, the working poor cannot exist as fellow citizens with rights and dignities. Their concerns cannot be part of the conversation. They are “rakshasas” that take resources from the state, are the sole reason for public debt, encroach on public land, burden athe government for “handouts,” and pollute and dirty the city just as they take hard-earned tax money taken away from its rightful heirs.

The responses that these campaigns seek can understand “economic justice” only in the form of punitive and disciplinary punishment for the always already criminal poor. In this particular campaign, the only possible result is a deeper surveillance and harassment of auto-drivers by law enforcement – no other interaction is possible, no other solution is conceived. Herein lies the tragedy. What is this campaign fundamentally meant to be about? It is about what happens to a complaint made to a public institution about a service. It could relate then to other, larger campaigns about getting public institutions to work and be accountable to all parts of what makes our urban public. The autodriver is as interested in this question as you or I yet he is excluded, in this frame, from asking it. Worse, he is held responsible for it.

Read more at Kafila

Appeal from a daughter in Bangladesh – ‘ Give justice to my mother Saira “


Sami  Ahmed says

Twenty  years ago the Bangladesh government broke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when they allowed the child marriage of my mother, Saira Ahmed, to a British paedophile. The purpose of this petition is to generate enough support that the Bangladesh government will recognize that they have broken several articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and press charges against the family my mother was married into. All facts stated here are verified in the feature film that is in development based on these events.

Me and my mum want to say thank you to all that sign our petition because in doing so you make us feel like we do have a family here, and that we are not alone. Your signature means you are now family members. I want to keep you all updated monthly about the progress of this campaign, so kindly do provide an email address and continue to share this petition with others.

The act of child marriage is not rare: from 2000-2008, 64% of women aged 20-24 in Bangladesh were married before they were 18 years old.

We have all the legal documents and court papers to prove Saira’s husband was a paedophile here.

1:Saira during her child marriage. 2 & 3: Saira now

PLEASE SIGN ONLIEN PETITION HERE AND SHARE WIDELY

contact
Sami Ahmed
Website: http://justiceforsaira.wordpress.com/