#India- Neither Ready nor Steady for #Aadhaar #UID #DBT #mustread


TRANSITION  FAILURE

Jun 30, 2013 |DowntoErath

Author(s): Jitendra @jitendrachoube1 Aparna Pallavi @AparnaPallavi1 Akshay Deshmane @DeshmaneAkshay Alok Gupta @alok227 M Suchitra

 Down to Earth- Cover Story

With an eye on the 2014 general election, the UPA government is expanding its ambitious Direct Benefit Transfer programme that promises welfare as cash in bank accounts. But without any groundwork it is only creating more trouble for beneficiaries

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election 2014Come July 1, the UPA government will roll out the second phase of its ambitious programme, Direct Benefit Transfer or DBT. The programme aims to transfer welfare benefits, such as scholarship, pension and subsidies, directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. When the government kicked off the first phase in 43 districts in January this year, it hyped DBT as a “game changer” in the way it provides benefits to the people.

The controversy-hit UPA sees the programme as its trump card for the 2014 general election. It plans to expand DBT to 78 districts, covering almost a fifth of the country.

At the core of the scheme are bank accounts that have to be “seeded”—paired in lay lexicon—with a biometric-based Aadhaar card that assigns a unique identification number. As Down To Earth reporters travel to five states under DBT they report that thousands of beneficiaries are left out of the DBT coverage at every step of opening the Aadhaar-paired account

‘WHAT’S ACCOUNT SEEDING?’

JHARKHANDWhen it comes to percolation of benefits through the UPA government’s ambitious direct benefit transfer (DBT) programme, Jharkhand fares the worst among states that Down To Earth visited. The programme remains a nonstarter in all the four districts in the state where it was rolled out in the first phase. And it is not difficult to figure out why.

Senior officials of the districts open up the discussion on DBT with a fundamental question: “What is seeding of bank account?” To the uninitiated, it means integrating one’s bank account with his or her unique identity (UID), or Aadhaar number. This helps the government access the details of the beneficiary and transfer welfare benefits as cash to his or her bank account. Thus, it is the single most important procedure to roll out DBT.

This ignorance among government officials is indicative of the state’s progress in implementing the ambitious programme of the UPA government. Seraikella-Kharsawan, the first district in the state under DBT since January, has more than 46,500 beneficiaries of different schemes. Only 500 are receiving the benefits.

In state capital Ranchi, District Information Officer Deepak Kumar claims 53,671 people are benefitting from 11 schemes under DBT. But the figure does not remain this impressive when Kumar divulges that the government has so far disbursed only Rs 16,454. This means each beneficiary has received Rs 3.20. This is a serious mismatch.

Confusion over numbers also reigns in Hazaribagh. At a recent review meeting of DBT, state chief secretary lauded Hazaribagh for the maximum Aadhaar coverage in the state. District UID officer Neetu Bharti says her department has issued Aadhaar cards to 9,000 people in Hazaribagh and all of them have seeded the card number with their bank accounts. But she admits that only 2,023 are receiving benefits.

According to the status report of the National Payments Corporation of India, the gateway for payment under DBT, released in March this year, cash benefits have returned from the bank accounts of 10-15 per cent beneficiaries even though the accounts were integrated with Aadhaar.

Lack of expertise or vested interest?

Till date, the UPA government has brought 25 Centrally funded schemes under DBT. But in Jharkhand, most schemes under DBT are state government sponsored. The Hazaribagh district administration claims to have brought 14 Central schemes under DBT, but 80 per cent of the beneficiaries are those enrolled for the state-sponsored scholarship and pension schemes. The Seraikella-Kharsawan district administration is yet to bring any Central scheme under the programme.

Khauri Pradhan Devi of Dugdha gram panchayat in Seraikella-Kharsawan is one of the 10 people who are receiving benefits through DBT. Another 440 are waitingKhauri Pradhan Devi of Dugdha gram panchayat in Seraikella-Kharsawan is one of the 10 people who are receiving benefits through DBT. Another 440 are waitingAnalysts say such biased implementation could be politically motivated. The district is the Assembly constituency of Chief Minister Arjun Munda who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the opposition at the Centre.

The district authorities fail to give a clear answer for the tardy implementation of DBT. Sangram Besra, deputy development commissioner of Seraikella-Kharsawan, blames it on poor Aadhaar coverage. “Kuchai and Rajnagar blocks of the district that have seen Maoist violence in the past have not been even visited by UID teams. This is when there are 357 UID enrolment centres across the state,” says Besra. “I have no qualms in revealing that the 16,162 people enrolled for UID in the district, belong to urban and semi urban areas, not rural areas.” Until Aadhaar cards are made, Besra plans to use the database of workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to disburse benefits.

Recently at a press conference in Ranchi, Nandan Nilekani, chairperson of the UID Authority of India, claimed that 20 million of a total 32.4 million people in the state have been enrolled for Aadhaar card. He also said every day about 69,000 people in Jharkhand are enrolling in Aadhaar. This means, within a year every resident of Jharkhand will have an Aadhaar card. But Nilekani evaded one crucial number, which is how many Aadhaar cards have been delivered to people and especially to those living in the hinterlands.

In Seraikella-Kharsawan’s Dugdha gram panchayat all the 450 tribals have enrolled in Aadhaar. Only 10 of them have received the card and are receiving old age pension through DBT. The rest are waiting for the card. And they are not the only ones. People in Maharashtra are also facing this problem.

Counted, discounted

MAHARASHTRA*Only Post-Matric scholarship beneficiaries from Scheduled Castes and Other Backward ClassesOn record, Wardha, Maharashtra’s pilot district for DBT, has the highest percentage of Aadhaar registrations for any district in the country. According to the Unique Identification Authority of India, 1.08 million Aadhaar cards (84.6 per cent) have been generated against a population of 1.3 million. Some 360,000 beneficiaries have linked their bank accounts with Aadhaar and the district administration has disbursed Rs 2.07 crore to these accounts.

The district administration now showcases an award it received in January from management consulting firm Skoch Development Foundation for successful transfer of funds under Janani Suraksha Yojana to mothers’ bank accounts through DBT (see ‘Suraksha compromised’). But the situation is not as hunky-dory as it appears.

Despite high number of enrolments and generation of Aadhaar IDs, cards are yet to reach many in the district. Worse, the administration has no clue about the number of missing cards and the reason they are missing.

Consider Seloo tehsil. With 88 per cent cards generated, the tehsil tops in Aadhaar coverage in the district. But in Seloo’s Yelakeli gram panchayat, nearly 50 per cent of the population of 6,000 do not have Aadhaar cards. “Only 15 per cent of them had failed to enrol in Aadhaar. The rest are waiting for the cards despite enrolment for some six months now,” says sarpanch Bandu Gawhale. “In April we sent a plea to the district collector to organise an Aadhaar camp in Yelakeli, but we are yet to hear from him,” Gawhale says.

The situation is baffling in neighbouring Paonar village where people have not received Aadhaar cards even after two years. The large number of missing Aadhaar cards means equal deprivation of entitlements covered under DBT. Since January, nine Central schemes, including Janani Suraksha Yojana, education scholarships and pension for the old and widows, are under the DBT regime in Wardha.

A poster in Wardha giving information on the linkage of cooking gas subsidy with Aadhaar from June 1A poster in Wardha giving information on the linkage of cooking gas subsidy with Aadhaar from June 1 (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)

In Yelakeli, 70-year-old Kaushalyabai Shete has stopped receiving old age pension since January after she failed to produce her Aadhaar card. In nearby Babhulgaon village, 17-year-old Sonali Hajare informs that six students, including her, did not receive scholarship for want of the card.

A sense of panic grips people as the district has begun disbursing important subsidies like those for cooking gas through DBT from June 1. Plans to disburse MGNREGA wages and fertiliser subsidy through Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts are also in the pipeline. These schemes target a larger mass of people. As the kharif season approaches, the greatest anxiety is regarding fertiliser subsidies.

“I could not enrol when the Aadhaar camp was organised in my village. I was visiting my relatives,” says 68-year-old Moreshwar Lonkar from Yelakeli. “Now the camp is over. The sowing season is very close and we will have to pay double the price for fertiliser, which we can ill afford,” says he.

District collector N Nawin Sona admits that the Aadhaar enrolment drive did not turn out as it should have been. The district started with 35 UID machines and is now left with only 17. “With most of the works done here, the machines have been moved to other districts,” says Sona.

Social activists and panchayat members give a different reason for the poor Aadhaar coverage. They say camps were held without proper awareness among people about the programme and without any coordination with panchayats. “The UID team shut camps and left when they pleased, regardless of whether all people in the village had been enrolled or not,” says Aruna Bahadure, panchayat member of Yelakeli.

Card or no card, one thing that worries everyone is whether the subsidies that are proposed to be DBT-linked will really be credited to the bank account, and in time. “Once the linkage is made, the price of fertilisers will double,” says Pilaram Champatrao Raut, a farmer from Ghorad village, one of the showcase villages of the district administration for DBT implementation. If subsidy reaches late, farmers will be in deep trouble, says farmer Ambadas Chambhare. “It will not make fertilisers any cheaper. What is wrong with the subsidy system?” he asks.

Input dealers are equally apprehensive. “Once the subsidised supply stops we will have to make a higher investment to procure stocks,” says Pankaj Kamdi, a dealer from Seloo. “We will not be able to give farmers the informal loan because of high risks. It will impact farmer’s economy as well as our business,” he adds.

Sona says his administration is

making all efforts to ensure that subsidies are credited to the beneficiary’s account within 24 hours. However, at this moment, assurances are cold comfort. The poor of Wardha have their fingers crossed.

“How can a government, which is not able to transfer welfare benefits even after months, credit subsidies within 24 hours?” asks Pushpa Behade of Ghorad. Behade, a farm hand, has not received widow pension since January, although she has an Aadhaar card and a bank account. It appears Behade’s Aadhaar number has not been integrated with her bank account. This lack of knowledge has left thousands of beneficiaries like Behade bereft of their dues, particularly in Rajasthan.

Suraksha compromised

imageNo bank account meant no benefit for Deepali Thakre (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)The Wardha district administration has been much lauded for its prompt implementation of Janani Suraksha Yojana through DBT. It was one of the first schemes to be brought under DBT in Wardha. The administration held camps to enrol pregnant women all over the district and roped in anganwadi workers and auxiliary nurse midwives to open their bank accounts. Anupam Hivlekar, medical officer of Wardha Civil Hospital, says there were initial hitches in transferring the benefits due to lack of Aadhaar cards. But that has been sorted out. “We now have the district collector’s instruction to pay all beneficiaries regardless of Aadhaar. Women who do not have bank accounts are being paid through account payee cheques,” says Hivlekar.

But everyone appears to have missed out the fact that a disturbingly large number of women do not have bank accounts, a must for encashing account payee cheques. The civil hospital’s own figures show 1,718 of the 1,873 beneficiaries were paid through account payee cheques till May 23. The cheques have a validity of three months. Bearer cheque option has been stopped since DBT was introduced.

Even the cash-on-bedside through micro-ATM option works only for account holders. The civil hospital’s report mentions that beneficiaries paid through cheques could not cash them in the absence of bank accounts, but provides no numbers. There is no explanation why such a situation has arisen. When Down To Earth shared the report with district collector N Nawin Sona and Mohan Mahshankar, general manager of Bank of India, lead bank for DBT in Wardha, they expressed bewilderment. Sona said there may have been laxity in implementation, and that he would ask hospitals to refer all cases where cheques have been issued to the bank for action.

Cycle of despair

RAJASTHANUdaipur, Ajmer and Alwar of Rajasthan are among the first 20 districts in the country to roll out DBT in January. Five months on, many beneficiaries say they prefer the earlier system of payment through cash or bearer cheques. Their aversion is not unreasonable. Barely 23 per cent of the beneficiaries in these districts have received government benefits in their accounts since DBT was introduced. Of the rest, most have been left out of DBT as their accounts are not seeded with Aadhaar. As of April, 24,000 of the 33,000 beneficiaries in Udaipur were not receiving benefits due to this reason.

Those who have Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts also face problems, mostly due to technical glitches at the bank. M P Dungarwal, manager of the Malwa Ka Choura branch of Punjab National Bank, that has been assigned to facilitate DBT, told Down To Earth that increasing workload without a robust technical backup is hindering the roll-out. Before DBT, the bank had 4,500 accounts. Now there are 15,000. All these accounts must be seeded with Aadhaar and linked to the electronic payment system. But the branch suffers from poor internet connectivity that cripples the programme, says Dungarwal. Incomplete information on the Aadhaar card is another problem. Many names do not have surnames. It is difficult to process such incomplete identity information from banking point of view, he adds.

People’s woes do not end here. The account opened for DBT does not accept cheques that the beneficiary receives under government schemes yet to be brought under the DBT regime.

Dharamchand Grecia, a banking correspondent of Punjab National Bank for Kyari panchayat in Udaipur, says he has helped people open some 200 DBT accounts. “But they have limited features and people end up opening another bank account by shelling out Rs 1,000 to encash government cheques.”

In February, Naveli Bai of Piparmal village in Udaipur received a cheque of Rs 1,400 under Janani Suraksha Yojana, which offers incentive for institutional delivery. “The cheque will lapse next month if I fail to open another account by then,” she says. Naveli already has an Aadhaar-enabled bank account.

Maternity benefit programmes are losing appeal since DBT was rolled out in Rajasthan. Consider Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana. The scheme promises Rs 4,000 to a pregnant woman after she attains a certain nutrition status and receives vaccinations before and after delivery. Documents available at the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) office of Jhadol block in Udaipur show only 10 of the 35 pregnant women registered under the scheme have availed the incentive since January 2013. Maya Parmar, supervisor of Mahila Bal Vikas Kendra under Jhadol ICDS, says, “We have been asked to provide benefits to only those who have Aadhaar cards. But very few have the card.” Most do not have the required documents like voter identity cards and other residential proofs to get themselves enrolled in Aadhaar. It is difficult for expecting mothers to stand in the long queue for enrolment, she adds.

Middlemen continue to rule the roost

imageBhagwan Choudhury from Kotasim block buys diesel for lighting his house after government stopped providing kerosene through PDS as an experiment to disburse subsidies through DBT (Photo: Jitendra)Kotasim block in Alwar district hosts India’s first experiment to directly transfer cash subsidy instead of distributing kerosene through the public distribution system (PDS). This is supposed to be an experiment that will craft the government’s future plan to disburse subsidies through direct benefit transfer (DBT).

Started in December 2011, the experiment suffers from the same glitches that DBT faces in other areas. Ram Avtaar Yadav, a 60-year-old, partially blind resident of Kanherka village, has a regular question to any stranger he thinks is a government official: “Why have I not received kerosene subsidy in my account?” For the past seven months Yadav has been buying kerosene from open market as the government has stopped supplying it through PDS. Since the cost of kerosene is more than that of diesel, many people like Yadav have started using diesel for lighting their houses.

Says Mukesh Sharma, manager of Rajasthan Rural Bank, “Earlier, PDS dealers acted as middlemen. They kept ration cards of beneficiaries with them and filled them as per their wish. The system exists even now, though in a different way.” Sharma, whose bank is facilitating DBT in Kotasim, elaborates: instead of ration card, beneficiaries submit a bank account number at the fair price shop while buying kerosene. The shop owner must share the account number with the bank along with the bill so that the beneficiary receives the subsidy in his account. But shop owners often write their account numbers or that of their kins on the bill. Sharma suggests that the government should rope in gram sevaks (village development officer) and patwaris (village accountants) to check this practice.

Metro malaise

Aadhaar card a dream in Mumbai

imageApplicant Yash Rathod may have to wait for months for Aadhaar cardThe urban poor is worse off than his rural counterpart when it comes to getting benefits through DBT. Mumbai’s poor have redefined DBT to Delayed Benefits Transfer, and twisted UPA’s slogan aapka paisa, aapke haath (your money in your hands) into aapka paisa, Aadhaar bharose (your money depends on Aadhaar). They have a reason. Most of them have stopped benefitting from government schemes since the launch of DBT. Mumbai City and Mumbai Suburban fare the lowest when it comes to distributing Aadhaar cards to the target sections. The worst affected are students belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes and other backward sections who receive scholarships. It provides for the course fees and a nominal grant for students’ expenses.

Pratik Jadhav, a student of South Mumbai’s Siddharth College, says he did not receive the Post-Matric scholarship for SCs this year as he does not have an Aadhaar card. “My father had to take loans for paying the fee,” he says. At Shindewadi municipal school, Kiran Rathod was taken aback when the school authorities told her that her children would not receive Pre-Matric scholarship this year. The scheme supports education of children whose parents are engaged in occupations such as manual scavenging and tanning. When asked why the children were deprived of the benefits, an official from the Social Justice and Special Assistance Department says, inadequate Central grants for scholarship schemes is always a problem. Unavailability of Aadhaar cards is making it worse. Since the introduction of DBT, only 2,471 of the 10,920 SC students and 1,459 of the 8,796 Other Backward Class students have received the annual scholarship. Of the 8,405 beneficiaries from manual scavenging and tanning professions, the administration could reach only 689. Though the Rathods have applied for Aadhaar cards, officials say it would take them four to five months to issue the cards.

What is complicating the scenario is the state’s changing decision. “Soon after launching DBT, the government made Aadhaar card mandatory for all schemes. However, when questions were raised in the Assembly about the inconvenience to people, the government relaxed it in last week of March. Now it has again made it mandatory.

Only tall claims

delhiThe Delhi government claims 95 per cent success in providing an Aadhaar number to citizens. But its achievement does not seem to be trickling down to the poor of the national capital.

According to Dharampal, divisional commissioner of Delhi and nodal officer of DBT for the state, Delhi has brought nine Central schemes under DBT. Though 22,000 beneficiaries have Aadhaar cards and their UID numbers seeded with bank accounts, only 9,000 are receiving benefits. Dharampal says the state-sponsored Annshree Yojana is doing well in comparison to the Central schemes under DBT. All the 45,000 identified beneficiaries of Annshree Yojana are receiving benefits. Their number would increase to 100,000 in next couple of months, he claims. Ground realities paint a different picture.

All 50 Bengali Muslim families living in Shahbad Dairy slum in North Delhi earn their bread by ragpicking on the streets. They are eligible for Annshree, under which a BPL family without a ration card receives Rs 600 a month for food. Almost all of them have enrolled themselves in Aadhaar and have seeded their UID number with their bank accounts.

imageMurshid Bibi is a chance beneficiary of Annshree in Shahbad Dairy slum (Photo: Jitendra)Yet they are running from pillar to post to avail the benefits. So far, only seven families have received the benefits. One of them is Murshid Bibi’s family.

In April, Bibi’s account was credited with Rs 7,199. But her relatives Hadisa Bibi and Tojila Bibi are yet to receive the benefit. In January, they had spent Rs 1,000 each for opening new accounts after bank officials told them that their old accounts cannot be integrated with Aadhaar. But their hopes have turned into frustration.

Gas gamble

ANDHRA PRADESH*Only scholarship and pension beneficiariesAndhra Pradesh is arguably the only state that was prepared to roll out DBT. It ran a two-year campaign to enroll people under Aadhaar and also experimented with models to implement DBT. In the first phase, the state selected five districts where it had already implemented a state-initiated cash transfer programme for scholarship and pension schemes. According to M V S Rami Reddy, deputy director general of UIDAI, Andhra Pradesh, about 75 million of the 85 million population in the state have been enrolled in the programme as of May 15. More than 58 million cards have been generated. The five first-phase districts have a population of 27.5 million, of which 90 per cent have been enrolled in Aadhaar. Reddy says the postal department is now grappling with the problem of delivering the huge volume of cards.

The state launched Aadhaar-linked scholarship in Hyderabad, Chittoor and East Godavari on May 1 on a pilot basis. And it was a cake walk. The state was already making scholarship payments through bank accounts and had streamlined the process. “We do not see a distinct value-addition in Aadhaar linkage in terms of disbursement, because we had cleaned the data system and almost eliminated duplicates and bogus holders,” says P V Ramesh, principal secretary, finance, and nodal officer for implementing DBT. However, Ramesh says, Aadhaar is certainly one more check. Every year the state government disburses Rs 5,000 crore as scholarship to 2.7 million students. Even before DBT was launched, 80-85 per cent of scholarship holders had seeded their Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts. In East Godavari, the seeding percentage is 90 per cent, says Ramesh.

Yerra Ravi of Rangareddy says he first needs cash to buy gas cylinderYerra Ravi of Rangareddy says he first needs cash to buy gas cylinder (Photo: M Suchitra)Housalla Bhujappa, a security guard in Malkapur village in Rangareddy district, whose two daughters receive scholarships, says there will not be much difference if scholarship is linked to Aadhaar since it is already being disbursed through banks. Pension is the other programme that was brought under DBT on May 1. It was rightly launched in Chittoor district as a pilot project. In Chittoor, post-office linked disbursement of pension through women’s self-help groups (SHGs) was already in place. SHG members are given hand-held devices linked with the bank or post office accounts. The pensioners go to the SHGs and give their thumb impression and get the money. After introduction of DBT all they had to do was link their Aadhaar numbers with the bank accounts.

The state’s real test began on June 1 when it brought subsidies for cooking gas under DBT. It has to cater to 4.6 million cooking gas consumers in the five DBT districts. Though 80 per cent of them are enrolled in Aadhaar, the challenge lies in linking their Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts as well as with the database of gas agencies. As of May, 55 per cent of the consumers had got their Aadhaar numbers seeded with gas companies but only 25 per cent with their bank accounts. Sensing a big trouble the government has extended the the deadline till August.

People are rushing to get their Aadhaar numbers integrated with gas agencies and bank accounts. But they are apprehensive about the new scheme, under which one has to buy cooking gas at unsubsidised rate and the Rs 435 subsidy will be credited to their accounts later. “No one knows how many days the government will take to credit the subsidy in our accounts,” says N D N Kishore, a stationery shop owner in Hyderabad. M Sathyanarayana, an internet cafe owner in the city, prefers the earlier system of getting subsidised cylinders. Both Kishore and Sathyanarayana point out that there is a possibility of the subsidy being capped and prices of cooking gas going up.

Neither ready nor steady

Challenges ahead are immense

image(Photo: Soumik Mukherjee)UPA’s political leadership has focused all its attention on DBT. The ruling alliance is only a few months away from the general election and its two other big-ticket initiatives—the Right to Food Bill and the Land Acquisition Bill—are uncertain. But the first phase of DBT is unfolding more like a nightmare than a sweet political dream. At the core of the mess are poor banking coverage and lack of foolproof planning before launching the ambitious programme.

DBT aims at reducing the administrative cost of delivering benefits and weeding out siphoning off of benefits (see ‘Kind to cash’, Down To Earth, February 1-15, 2011). It does so by pairing the unique identity number in the Aadhaar card with the bank account of a person. This enables the government to identify the right beneficiary and to send monetised benefits directly to his or her account. The International Monetary Fund has estimated the impact DBT can have in India, and according to it, the combination of cash transfer and the Aadhaar system of identification will reduce wrongful diversion of benefits in welfare programmes by 15 per cent. This can save the government Rs 56,859 crore in 2013-14 which is more than half the rural development budget.

Using the Planning Commission’s data on DBT, Down To Earth (DTE) calculated the current status of the programme’s actual reach in the 43 districts covered in the first phase. The findings are a harsh verdict on its progress. In the past four months, of the estimated 1.6 million beneficiaries of some 25 schemes, only 4 per cent have been able to get benefits in their accounts (see ‘Not so direct’ ). The benefits include mostly old age pension and cash incentives for institutional delivery. In fact, in the five states DTE travelled to not all schemes have been implemented under DBT. This is despite the fact that states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh have almost two years of experience in direct benefit transfer.

imageIllustration: Anirban Bora

There are three key reasons for this dismal performance which are also fundamental to a cash transfer programme. They are: low coverage of formal banking system; Aadhaar enrollment not keeping pace with the rolling out of the programme; and significantly low level of pairing of beneficiaries’ accounts with their Aadhaar numbers.

Currently, there is one bank branch for every 12,100 people, making India one of the least covered countries. DBT increases the demand for coverage by several times. The government either has to set up new branches or increase the existing branches’ capacity. Going by the state of banking in rural areas, one rural branch has the capacity to open up not more than 15 accounts in a day. But DBT experience in various states shows that a branch has to manage 70-90 accounts a day. In October 2011, the government made it compulsory for banks to open branches in all habitations with a population of 5,000 or more. There were 3,925 such habitations to be covered. By April 2013, nearly 15 per cent habitations were yet to have a bank. Then, there are not enough ATMs for people to access their money easily. According to RBI’S estimate, the country needs at least 34,668 on-site ATMs but only 1,097 ATMs could be opened till April. This has affected DBT’s outreach because absence of ATMs means the already overburdened banks have to handle the withdrawal transactions as well.

Opening an account under DBT is a little different. For this people require enrolment with Aadhaar. This presents the next obstacle. Only half of the beneficiaries have enrolled with Aadhaar till date and one-third have opened the account. Importantly, there is hardly any visible effort to pair the accounts with the Aadhaar numbers, thus, leaving out 96 per cent of the beneficiaries.

The recently launched cooking gas subsidy transfer also faces this problem, with added intensity. An LPG consumer has to pair his Aadhaar number with not only the bank account but also the service provider. Soon after bringing LPG under DBT, the government celebrated a million transactions by June end. But there are widespread complaints also. Only 20 per cent of the consumers had paired their numbers with accounts, while about 58 per cent paired with service providers. This is despite the fact that the 20 districts where LPG was brought under DBT have more than 90 per cent Aadhaar coverage. Sujata Chaturvedi, deputy director general of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), says, “Some states started late, so they lagged. We want to keep pace but problems like lack of machines, staff and awareness among people came to the fore.” She warns, “The process of seeding of account would be another uphill task.”

On April 29, the Planning Commission convened a meeting to take stock of DBT’s progress. Collectors of all the 121 districts to be covered under the programme from July 1 and other key players attended the meeting. Sources inform that to the shock of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the banks and district officials blamed each other for the shortcomings, reflecting a sorry state of affairs. Notable was the absence of any representative from the DBT gateway, National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), which came under severe criticism at the meeting.

It seems nobody wants to take responsibility (see ‘Initial hiccups…’). The Union Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) blames the banks for not expanding their reach. The ministry is implementing a pilot programme of direct cash transfer of wages under the rural employment guarantee programme in five states. It is using the national electronic fund transfer system, the usual money transfer one does electronically using individual account. Since its launch in October 2012 it has transferred Rs 389 crore till the end of May this year. “The value addition under DBT will be when the money is paid at the doorstep. It is only possible if banks recruit business correspondents in every panchayat with micro-ATM,” suggests Rajesh Bhushan, joint secretary of MoRD. But banks informally blame the Aadhaar system and the high administrative cost of the programme that is not adequately compensated. DTE reached out to many banks but none of them agreed to speak on the subject.

Banks also refuse to take responsibility for the identity generated under the Aadhaar number. All banks are supposed to keep a record of their customers’ identity under RBI’s “know your customer” rules. UIDAI has refused to take the responsibility, saying its job is only to create the identification number.

The troubles do not end there. “Many accounts seeded with Aadhaar numbers still do not get direct payment,” points out Vaibhav Galeria, district collector of Ajmer. “There is lack of coordination among different agencies, largely between banks and NPCI.” A P Hota, managing director and CEO of NPCI, blames banks for the glitches. Responding to DTE queries, Hota denies any technical problem at the gateway. “For felicitating DBT, NPCI maintains the Aadhaar Mapper (software that keeps all the subscribers’ data). This Mapper is updated remotely by banks by logging into the NPCI system. If banks do not update the Mapper, the transactions are likely to be returned unprocessed. Therefore, it is necessary that banks update the Mapper on a day-to-day basis.”

The problems are set to multiply as the government rolls out the second phase of DBT with 78 more districts from July 1. In June, it launched transfer of subsidy for cooking gas. In October, the rural employment guarantee programme will be brought under DBT. From 1.6 million beneficiaries at present the programme will cover close to 25 million beneficiaries by July. With coverage of MGNREGA, the number of beneficiaries will jump to 34 million. That the government is nervous is visible. Since April, there have been hectic attempts to salvage the situation, with the Prime Minister’s Office taking direct charge of DBT monitoring.

However, there are pertinent lessons for the government to make the future transfers smooth. The experiences of transferring pension in Andhra Pradesh and transferring wage under the rural employment programme in Rajasthan are instructive. In both the cases, the government embarked on a preparatory stage. This resulted in innovation. In Andhra Pradesh, the pension receivers go to the local self-help group and give thumb impression to a hand-held device for verification to get pension right there. This device is linked to the person’s account in post office or the local bank. In Jharkhand, government simply used the electronic transfer system to give wages. There are merits in these experiments in terms of simplifying the system. But these experiments may not be leakage-proof. Teething problems like delay in benefit transfer and absence of value addition in DBT also need to be addressed innovatively.

But the question that still needs to be asked and answered is whether the country is prepared for this roll-out? If not, will this election initiative backfire on the ruling UPA? Clearly, god is in the details, and the details are missing.

DBT: Initial hiccups or a mistake in haste?

Rajesh BhushanDifferent schemes Have different challenges

Rajesh Bhushan,
Joint Secretary,
Ministry of Rural Development

Till date, the 25 schemes rolled out under DBT are Centrally funded. So it has been easy to send money directly to the beneficiaries’ accounts. But implementing those pension schemes that have state budgets as well is going to be tough. The finance ministry is the key body for such schemes, but it is unable to send money directly to the beneficiary’s account because of varying structures of schemes across states. I believe the scheme will be effective if payment is made at the doorstep. And this can be made possible by recruiting millions of business correspondents of banks in every panchayat with Micro-ATM

Sujata ChaturvediAadhaar Should Have Been Implemented Years Ago

Sujata Chaturvedi,
Deputy Director General,
UIDAI

The idea of providing unique identity number should have been implemented 25 years ago. We have registered nearly 300 million people under Aadhaar. It is the duty of the state government to organise camps to enrol its people. Sometimes seasonal problems like floods and festivals slow the enrolment process. I agree that the process of seeding of Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts would be another uphill task

A P HotaBlame Banks For The Glitches And Non-Cooperation

A P Hota,
Managing Director,
National Payment Corporation of India (gateway for payment under DBT)

There is no technical problem at the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI). For facilitating DBT, NPCI maintains the Aadhaar Mapper. Banks update this Mapper remotely by logging into the NPCI system. If the banks do not do so, the transactions are likely to be returned unprocessed. Therefore, it is necessary that banks update the Mapper on a day-to-day basis

Nidhi KhareSeeding Of Accounts Taking Time

Nidhi Khare,
Advisor (DBT),
Planning Commission of India

There is a delay in enrolments under Aadhaar and seeding of accounts. It is a time-consuming exercise. But the fact is there is a growing acceptance of cash incentives offered through DBT

Nikhil DeyDon’t replace goods and Services with cash

Nikhil Dey,
Activist,
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

We are not against the idea of Aadhaar-related cash transfer. Our main concern is replacement of goods and services with cash. Government’s own data shows that DBT has failed to benefit the poor. Pension scheme is good option for cash transfer. Janani Surksha Yojana is successful without technology

Montek Singh AhluwaliaThings Will Be Good

Montek Singh Ahluwalia
Deputy Chairperson,
Planning Commission of India

I agree that there is lack of coordination among different agencies. Even the prime minister is working on it. The glitches and delays are all transitional issues. It will definitely be sorted out in the coming months

Jitendra reported from Rajasthan and Delhi; Aparna Pallavi and Akshay Deshmane from Maharashtra; Alok Gupta from Jharkhand and M Suchitra from Andhra Pradesh

 

Dayamani Barla – The Voice of Jharkhand #indigenous #tribalrights


EPW, Vol – XLVIII No. 23, June 08, 2013 | Moushumi Basu

Activist-journalist Dayamani Barla has won many awards, the latest being the Ellen L Lutz Indigenous Rights Award from Cultural Survival. The first journalist from the Munda tribe in Jharkhand Dayamani wields her pen and leads the struggles of fellow tribals equally powerfully against the machinations of the state and big business.

Moushumi Basu (basu.moushumi@gmail.com)is a freelance journalist based in Kolkata

The email status message of Dayamani Barla, the tribal activist from Jharkhand always reads, “Ladenge.. Jeetenge…” (We will fight… we will win). Fighting against the establishment’s unjust policies and protecting her fellow tribals from displacement has become second nature for Dayamani. Along with the struggles however, there have also been awards and accolades.

The awards she has won include the Counter Media Award for Rural Journalism, the National Foundation for India Fellowship, and the Chingari Award. The latest is the 2013 Ellen L Lutz Indigenous Rights Award from Cultural Survival, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in recognition of her pioneering  grass root leadership for tribal rights. Cultural Survival works with indigenous peoples across the world to defend their lands, language and culture.  Barla was chosen from amongst 60 nominees from across the world.

Described as the “Iron Lady of Jharkhand” for her fearless opposition against the infringement of adivasi rights, she was presented the award, which includes a US $10,000 cash prize, at a ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York on 23 May. The event also coincides with the twelfth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The award has been instituted in the memory of late Ellen L Lutz (1955-2010), a well-known human rights lawyer and former executive director of Cultural Survival.

“Cultural Survival is honored to present Dayamani Barla, an Indigenous human rights activist and journalist from the Munda tribe in the Indian state of Jharkhand, with the award,” said its Executive Director Suzanne Benally. Barla has been at the forefront of people’s movements against corporate and government-led land grabs and other injustices that threaten the survival, dignity, and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples. “This award is presented in recognition of outstanding human rights work, dedicated leadership for Indigenous Peoples rights, and a deep life commitment to protecting, sustaining, and revitalising indigenous cultures, lands, and languages,” Benally added.

Protecting Every Inch of Land

Her crusade to protect the rights of fellow tribals began from the days of agitation against the Koel Karo  hydel power project in the 1990s, near Ranchi, in then undivided Bihar. The proposed dam threatened to submerge nearly 55,000 acres of agricultural land displacing about 2,50,000 indigenous people.  Further, 27,000 acres of forests would have met a watery grave alongwith the sarna sasan diri (religious sites) of the tribal communities. The agitation gave birth to a new slogan “We will not part with an inch of our land….” which continues to reverberate in the tribal areas of Jharkhand even today. The proposal of the dam had to be finally shelved by the state government, after nearly eight tribals lost their lives in police firing on 2 February, 2001.

Barla points out:

Koel and Karo are not just rivers for us – they represent our cultural identity forming the basis of our livelihoods. When eight adivasis were martyred on 2 February, we realised that the state whose foundation stone was laid on 15 November 2000 is not actually for us tribals, but simply for the exploitation and plunder of  the natural resources of our native state and jeopardisation of our existence….

She took the challenge headlong on behalf of her tribal community, leading several agitations in the state against land grabs. She dared to rise against the world steel giant Arcelor Mittal who had proposed  a 12 MT steel plant by taking away about 12,000 acres of land spread across nearly 40 villages in Khunti and Gumla districts of the state.  In 2006 she began mobilising the public against such attempts at forcible land acquisition under the banner of the Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch (Forum for the Protection of Indigenous People).

“ Loha nahi anaj chahiye!” (“We want grains, not iron!”) was the rallying cry of indigenous communities protesting against this project.  “The government says that those getting displaced will be compensated and rehabilitated. But the question is – what will the government and the companies compensate for?” asks Barla. “Can they rehabilitate our pure air, forests, rivers, waterfalls, our language culture, Sarna-Sasan Diri, our identity and our history? No, that is absolutely impossible…for us adivasis land is just not land but the heritage of our ancestors who cleared the forests and made the land worth living and cultivating,” she adds. Finally, the steel baron had to give up his dreams of setting up a steel plant in the tribal state.

Tribal Model of Development

Barla however clarifies that the tribals are not against development but it should be sustainable and not at the cost of uprooting them. “We should also be a part of this development process by getting access to health, education, jobs etc. We want development of our identity and our history— social values, language and culture. We want the polluted rivers to be pollution free. We want wastelands to be turned green…. This is our model of development”, she says.

Recently, the state government was locked in a major anti-displacement struggle against adivasi farmers at Nagri. Barla who was at the forefront of the agitation was jailed from 16 October to 24 December, for taking part in demonstrations with the farmers of Jharkhand. The battle was over 227 acres of fertile land that has sustained the tribals in the region for generations. However, the  government had allotted it to the Indian Institute of Management, the Indian Institute of Information Technology and the National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL). Caught in this crossfire were about 128 affected families, who claim to be the lawful owners of the land. They contend that neither they nor their forefathers had agreed to sell their lands and had not accepted the amounts for the deal at that time.

Is This Freedom?

Coming from a family of bonded labourers who had lost their lands in the name of national development, Barla could well identify with their sufferings. Barla argued that the instituions be allotted alternative area for their campuses instead of their fertile paddy land. “If we demand a National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) card, they issue a property warrant. If we demand our land, water, forests, the Jharkhand government says we are a danger to the state. They book us in false cases, by calling us Maoists…. Is this the freedom that leaders like Birsa Munda fought for?” she asks.

Considered as the “Voice of Jharkhand” for her struggles and powerful pen, she is also the first journalist from the Munda tribe. “Barla has charted new waters as an Indigenous woman to ensure the voices and perspectives of Adivasi people are heard by the larger mainstream society,” says her nominator Terry Odendahl, executive director and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. She funded her education by working as a domestic help. Even today, her source of livelihood is a road side tea and snacks stall “Jharkhand Hotel”, run by her husband Nelson.

For Barla, activism and journalism go hand in hand.  “When I visit different villages as a journalist I listen to their issues first. Then they ask for possible solutions to their concerns and in the process, I find myself getting involved in their struggles”, she confesses.

But to be involved with the struggles and stand with the people does not mean that she has to quit writing. “I am an activist as well as a journalist.” However, it has not been easy for her to make forays into mainstream journalism “It has always looked down upon us adivasis as uncivilised, naïve and foolish. It is a stereotype to say that adivasi are stupid. Now we are trying to prove that we are not… ” she says, smiling.

 

Press Release – Statement on the unprecedented detention of CDRO team by police


Sanhati

May 29, 2013

We strongly condemn the absolutely arbitrary and unprecedented action of the Jharkhand police administration in detaining eight members of a CDRO (Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations) fact-finding team while they were addressing a press conference in Ranchi. The team had just returned from a fact-finding mission to Chatra, where ten members of the CPI(Maoist) had been supposedly killed in a long gun battle with the TPC, a splinter group actively supported by the state government, in March 2013. However, at that time, there were local media reports that the CPI(Maoist) members had been poisoned and then shot to death in a false encounter. The fact-finding team, consisting of members from PUCL Jharkhand, APDR West Bengal and PUDR Delhi, had gone to investigate the veracity of these reports and the circumstances behind the incident. They were in the process of addressing the press and releasing their report while officials of the Jharkhand police, accompanied by a large number of policemen came and picked them up without providing any explanation.

The audaciousness of the act, committed in presence of the assembled press, clearly shows the scant respect for democracy and democratic procedures which the Jharkhand police has. The members of the team, including a woman, were detained in the Kotwali police station for a long time till they were released late in the evening. The police maintained that they had just been picked up for finding information, although it is unclear what information the former were seeking which could only be obtained by picking them up from the venue of a press conference using a posse of armed policemen. This is clearly a tactic of intimidation by the Jharkhand government to dissuade future fact-finding teams from visiting sites of incidents where the state government, or groups supported by the state government, are complicit in criminal activities. However, it is incredible that such a thing can happen in broad daylight and in open view of the public and press. We unequivocally condemn this blatant attack on the activities of democratic rights organizations and the attempt to muzzle them in order to hide the criminal complicity of the state government in encounter killings and other illegal activities.

 

Activists probing Maoists’ deaths detained #WTFnews


Ranchi, May 26, 2013

 

 

Anumeha Yadav

  
 
 
 
 
 
 
Activists of the Coordinationof Democratic Rights Organisations at a Ranchi police station on Sunday. Photo: Manob Chowdhury
  Activists of the Coordinationof Democratic Rights Organisations at a Ranchi police station on Sunday. Photo: Manob Chowdhury
 

Jharkhand on high-alert following Maoists attack on Congress rally in Chhattisgarh

A team of activists from Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO), an alliance of 20 human rights advocacy bodies, was detained for questioning at a police station in Ranchi for over three hours on Sunday evening.

The activists said they had visited Jharkhand to do an independent fact-finding into the killing of 10 Maoists by the banned Tritiya Prastuti Committee, a breakaway faction of Maoists, in Kunda panchayat in Chatra district on March 29 this year.

The TPC had allegedly killed 10 Maoists in Lakarmanda village and taken 25 hostage for four days. Eye-witnesses in the village had at the time reported that they seen the TPC hand over the bodies of the Maoists to security personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force, who reached the site the next day but did not attempt to arrest any of the TPC cadre.

“We were talking to journalists at Albert Ekka Chowk in the city when policemen called [us] aside for questioning. [They] insisted we accompany them to the police station,” said Shashi Bhushan Pathak, a Ranchi-based CDRO activist.

Chatra Superintendent of Police Anoop Birtharay said the district police had informed Ranchi police to probe the team after local intelligence inputs from Kunda. “[The activists] spoke to the villagers portraying Maoist leader Laleshji, who was killed by the TPC in the encounter, as a “people’s protector”,” said Mr. Birtharay.

Jharkhand Director-General of Police Rajeev Kumar said his state’s police were on high alert following Saturday’s Maoist attack on a Congress motorcade in Chhattisgarh in which over 27 were killed.

 

Jharkhand – Questions over killing of student in ‘encounter’


GUMLA (JHARKHAND), May 6, 2013

Anumeha Yadav, The Hindu

 

Family grapples with questions over the killing of 17-year-old Naveen by police in ‘encounter’

There had been an employees’ strike at the college since February. Mukesh Sahu, 21, a second-year B.Sc. student, spent the Thursday afternoon in March running errands at Gumla market. As he sat down near the town pond to catch up with his college friends, his phone rang. “Naveen has been shot. The police shot him.” It was his uncle, a couple of years older than him, whose village his brother Naveen had left for that morning.

The next few hours were a blur, Mukesh recalls, as he and his family reached the Gumla police station. The police claimed that Naveen, 17, a student of Class XI, was Rajesh Tiger, an area commander of the breakaway Maoist group, People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), in Gumla. The police claimed that they had shot him while he was trying to escape with two PLFI members, after extorting Rs.38,000 from an entrepreneur. “Naveen helped to cultivate the small plot of family land after school hours. Classes have been irregular since the strike began at college. That day, he had gone to meet the family of my grandfather’s brother at Pakri Chaura because we needed a putujhaarh (a grass fence) for the farm, and our relatives’ village has more forested land,” Mukesh says.

“We stood in the police station, crying, screaming for hours till it was dark. The police brought Naveen’s body in an auto. I recognised the blue-white shirt he had worn that morning. As more of our relatives gathered, the police called a bus full of policemen. We were scared that they were going to lathi-charge us, so we went back home,” recalls Naveen’s aunt Anita Sahu, 32.

At 6 a.m. the next day, the family reached the government hospital. Four hours later, the police brought Naveen’s body for an autopsy. His family members recall that they watched the police go in with a magistrate and doctors, but were denied entry. A month later, after they got a copy of the autopsy report, the family approached the Gumla district branch of the State Human Rights Commission, but was discouraged by officials there from pursuing the matter. “The officer asked for Rs.2,000 in bribe,” alleges Anita Sahu, who has trained as an auxiliary midwife nurse at the Gumla government hospital.

In April, a friend in Ranchi, 100 km away, helped the family contact Jharkhand Human Rights Movement general secretary Gladson Dungdung, who wrote to the National Human Rights Commission, demanding an inquiry into the alleged encounter. But the family members are still grappling with questions over Naveen’s killing.

“If my son was an area commander, how come the police have no records of him, no photos, no evidence of his links to the PLFI,” asks Naveen’s mother Bhagvanti Devi. Ajay Kumar, director, Wings IT Computer Centre for Education & Solutions, Gumla, shared records with The Hindu , which show that Naveen got admission to a Diploma of Computer Applications on a 60 per cent scholarship in January and attended five of seven classes the previous week.

The First Information Report registered at the Gumla station notes that at 4.30 p.m. on March 21, the Gumla police and Inspector Digvijay Singh of the Raidih police station chased three PLFI men who were trying to escape southwards of Pakri Chaura on a motorcycle, after collecting Rs. 38,000 from Gumla entrepreneur Manoj Sahu. According to the FIR, one of the three men, PLFI commander Rajesh Tiger, fell after being shot; two others escaped with the money. A pistol and an empty shell were recovered from his side.

“On my way to pick my nephew from his tuition classes, I saw a police jeep by the side of the path out of the village. A motorbike was lying by the road. The police were firing on the sides of a man who ran a few metres, his hand on the right side of his chest, then fell and rolled over in the field. His face was covered, and I realised only later that it was Naveen who was on my uncle’s motorbike. There were no other men with him as claimed by the police,” claims Mahesh (name changed), Naveen’s uncle, who then called Mukesh up to inform him of what he had seen. “The local journalist who reported on this came to meet my family and said he did not see any gun or shell near where Naveen’s body lay. The police put it there,” said Mukesh. The police have not yet recorded the statements of either.

More shockingly, the autopsy report records a firearm injury from a long distance, with an entry wound of 0.5 by 0.5 inch on the chest and an exit wound of 1.5 by 1.5 inch on the back. But Naveen’s family say that while there was a bullet wound on the chest, there was no mark on the back. “The family washed Naveen’s body before we cremated him. There are 100 people who can to testify that there was no mark on the back. Why this lie in the report? Did they remove the bullet to remove evidence and then fabricate this?” asks Anita.

“My suspicion is that this boy was 200 per cent PLFI [man]. If human rights groups interfere with the police work, the PLFI will be never finished from the area,” says Saurav Prasad, one of the three doctors at the government hospital who performed the autopsy.

While the FIR records that Manoj Sahu’s family was being threatened by the PLFI, Mr. Sahu says he received phone calls from Pahadi Cheetah, a splinter group also active in Gumla. “Men who identified themselves as Pahadi Cheetah and who killed my father some years back called my brother Ravi incessantly after March 16, demanding Rs. 1 lakh. We agreed to give Rs.38,000; my older brother sent me to Pakri Chaura with the money, but I did not see the encounter,” he said.

IG CID Anurag Gupta has said the police will inquire into the incident. “From the facts, it seems the boy was a student and did not have any criminal history.”

The PLFI is one of the more than 15 breakaway Maoists groups active in Jharkhand. In March, the Jharkhand police stepped up operations against PLFI leader Dinesh Gop active in Gumla, Simdega and Khunti districts.

 

#India – Tribal girls going under knife for virginity #Vaw #Patriarchy #WTFnews


Kelly Kislaya, TNN Apr 26, 2013,

RANCHI: Conservative India‘s preference for a blushing, untouched bride is now making a mark in tribal societies, where virginity was never really an issue in the past. Hymenoplasty, or hymen repair surgery, which has for long been popular among women in metros has made its way into the tribal heartland. Though there have been only four queries and two such operations in the city in the last two years, but it is definitely is a start of a new trend in this tribal-dominated city.

Dr Anant Sinha, a plastic surgeon and founder of Devkamal Hospital, the only place in Ranchi that offers hymenoplasty, said: “The first query regarding hymenoplasty came to me around two years ago, but I managed to convince the girl not to undergo the surgery. Since then, I have handled four such cases -I managed to discourage two girls, but had to perform surgery on the other two as they were adamant. The last operation I performed was in October 2012. It is a one hour procedure and costs Rs.15,000.”

Interestingly, three of these four girls were tribals. Sinha said: “I did not ask them too much about their background or why they wanted to get operated, but I did manage to convince one tribal and one non-tribal girl not to get operated. The two operations that I have performed were on tribal girls.”

Tribal girls opting for hymenoplasty has come as a surprise to many as virginity has never been an issue in the tribal society. Giridhariram Gaunjhu, former head of Ranchi University‘s tribal and regional languages department, said: “Tribal societies never questioned a girl’s purity. Many tribes practiced polyandry and promoted widow marriages even when they were taboo in the rest of the country. These girls who opted for hymenoplasty are exceptions and have been influenced by the so-called modern society.”

The influence Gaunjhu is talking about is evident on media and social networking sites, where posts like ‘In the year 2013, a virgin wife is more important than dowry’ are common and underline the message that a man always wants to be the first one to conquer the female’s body. Such messages only create pressure on youngsters to conform.

A 24-year-old girl said: “I have been a sportsperson all my life and my hymen might have ruptured. I just pray that I bleed when I have intercourse with my husband for the first time. This could just ruin my life.” Piyush Lakra, a 28-year-old, said: “One of my friends recently got married and all his friends asked him if his wife was a virgin.”

Sinha said: “Girls want to get hymen restored so that they bleed during their first sexual intercourse after marriage thus giving an impression of being a virgin. People fail to understand that hymen rupture has nothing to do with virginity. A hymen can rupture while doing excessive physical work or during sports like cycling, running or horse-riding.”

 

#India -Free lawyer’ service helps tribals branded Maoists in Jharkhand #goodnews


naxalites

, TNN | Apr 15, 2013,

RANCHI: A group of young lawyers in Ranchi has decided to take up, gratis, cases of thousands of tribals branded as Maoists and shoved into jails across Jharkhand every year.
The lawyers, who have named their organizationJharkhand Organization for Human Rights(JOHAR), have initiated a survey to pick out such cases and offer them free legal consultation. And just so that the tribals are aware that they need not pay for seeking judicial assistance, the lawyers have named their endeavour “muft mein wakil”.

“Despite options of free legal aid offered by the government and agencies like district legal services authority, tribals often don’t get these facilities because they are afraid to approach them. Also, they are not much aware of the law,” says Gopi Nath Ghosh, who is associated with the endeavour.

Human rights violation is a mounting problem in Jharkhand’s tribal areas which sees many innocent people being labelled as Maoists and subsequently prosecuted. NGOs working in the area say that the number of such cases increases whenever there is a security operation in the region.

For instance, 13 people were framed as Maoists in the 2001 Topchanchi massacre in which 13 Jharkhand armed police officers were killed. After they had spent many years in jail, they were finally acquitted by the Dhanbad district court in May last year.

Curiously, nobody is really sure about the exact number of such cases where tribals are unfairly branded as rebels. A Christian missionary, Father Stain Swami, who works for the rights of tribals, had filed an RTI application with the state government in 2011 to seek accurate figures. He says that the total number of such cases could be around 6000 or even more.

With most tribals not even fully literate — let alone being aware of complex legal formalities — help from the lawyers is being hailed as a welcome step for them. Although till now, the lawyers have identified only about a dozen cases, the momentum, says advocate Anup Agarwal, convener of JOHAR, would pick up once their survey is complete.

Incidentally, one of the cases in which the lawyer group has already started providing free assistance is the high-profile Jeetan Marandi case. Jeetan Marandi was accused of masterminding the Chilkhari massacre in 2007 in which former chief minister Babu Lal Marandi’s son Anup was killed. The subordinate court had pronounced capital punishment but the Jharkhand high court not only reversed the judgment but also acquitted him of the charges.

However, his wife Aparna Marandi is now in Dumka Jail on allegations of being a Maoist. No lawyer was ready to assist her until JOHAR lawyers Ahmed Raja and Anup Agarwal stepped in to take up her case.

 

Angry Jeetan Marandi vows to continue stir for poor


JEETAN

 Mukesh Ranjan | Ranchi |  Pioneer, April 1, 2013

Aggravated after his release from the jail after five years, Jeetan Marandi is all set to expedite his movement for the cause of the release of thousands of innocent tribal people lodged in various jails on the pretext of being Naxals.

Jeetan, a prime suspect of the Chilkhari massacre in which Anup Marandi, son of the former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi along with other 17 other people got killed, awarded death sentence by a Giridih Court, was released from Birsa Munda Central Jail on Thursday.

“I am not happy even after my release, as thousands of poor and tribal people are still lodged in jails without any substantial charges against them. My acquittal has exposed the intention of the suppressive Governments at the Centre and in the State,” said Jeetan.

“Had I not been acquitted, the intention of the Government would not have been clear,” added Jeetan. “They are trying to keep me away from my wife and son and have put my wife in the jail with a four-year child with her,” he alleged.

He was arrested allegedly because his name resembled to a Maoist Jeetan Marandi for whom cops had been looking for. There had been wide range of agitations across the country after Jeetan’s arrest on April 5, 2008.

Even Human Rights activist Binayak Sen came in open support of Jeetan Marandi terming the death sentence to the tribal artist as unlawful. An artiste and a tribal rights activist, Jeetan was well known for utilising the power of music to speak against government atrocities on the common man, especially tribals.

He was speaking to the media persons during a felicitation ceremony organised, by Jeetan Marandi Rihai Manch, after his release from the jail at Namkom Bagicha in Ranchi. Jeetan is to be felicitated in Giridih on Sunday.

Jeetan, who also narrated the police atrocities he had to go thorough while he was in jail and looked determined to work for the cause of over 6000 tribal and 10,000 other  people lodged in jail under Crime Control Act. He also accused the State and the Central Governments of conspiring against him to put in the jail to suppress the voice of the poor and downtrodden.

As the Government wants to label Jeetan’s family as a sympathiser of the CPI (Maoists), it has imposed a false case against his wife Aparana Marandi along with her four-year child in jail a few months back. The kid has not even seen his father’s face,” said Central Committee member of the Marxist Co-ordination Committee Sushanto Bhattacharya.

17 people got killed on the spot at Chilkhari on October 26, 2007 while 12 got injured in the massacre. Two more people died later during investigations. During a cultural programme at Chilkhari, a few unidentified persons started firing indiscriminately on the crowd present at the function.

Jeetan and other three were convicted under section 143,342,379,149,120B, 30, 149, Copyright Licencing Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act along with 302.

 

Jharkhand – Tribal and Cultural Activist Jiten Marandi released from jail #goodnews


RANCHI, March 29, 2013, The Hindu

Jiten Marandi, cultural activist and one of the secretaries of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners was released from Birsa jail in Hotwar in Ranchi on Thursday.

He was accused with 19 others in 2008 in the October 26, 2007 massacre at Chilkari in which 19 persons, including Anup Marandi, son of the former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi, were kille. While the Jharkhand High Court acquitted him in December 2011 of the death sentence given to him by a Sessions Court, he had to remain in jail as the government invoked the Jharkhand Crime Control Act (2002) against him.

“Jiten was falsely accused in all cases because he had taken active part in resistance movements going on in Jharkhand. He had to stay in jail for five years because the authorities had filed these politically-motivated cases.

“He would have got released even sooner but he chose to not appeal against the government’s order which remained in force for two years,” said Sushanto Mukherjee, Marxist Coordination Committee central committee member, who received Mr. Marandi after his release from Birsa jail in Hotwar.

 

Jharkhand: The failed promise of an adivasi state #indigenous #tribalrights


Jharkhand's Resourse Curse.

 

Richard TOPPO

A tribal perspective from Jharkhand describes how the creation of the state, ostensibly for the welfare of tribal populations, has only led to their exploitation and displacement.

 

Almost a century ago, Katherine Mayo published a book titled Mother India that criticised the Indian way of living. Such were the author’s views that even Gandhi described it as “the drain inspector’s report” which examined only the drains of the country. Conflating with Mayo’s discriminatory work was another contemporary piece by Rudyard Kipling titled White Man’s Burden. Things would have been different had these works been considered the mere fancy of creative minds. But they were perceptions that became the paradigms of the western perspective, veiling the ground realities and on-going brutalities and actually making people believe that what the colonisers did was in the best interests of the colonised. As a result, most westerners were alienated from the plight of the colonised. Purpose well served – unopposed exploitation.

 

Years later, India seems to walk the same line that it once so bluntly lambasted. Tribal communities in central areas of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh have been exploited, displaced and dispossessed of their resources by the state. But the government has successfully created an illusory perception of ‘development’ that has alienated the middle class from the plight of the tribals. As a result, the government ruthlessly exploits tribal populations, and does so almost unchallenged by other sections of society.

 

Placating tribals

 

On November 15, 2000, tribals, mostly from central India, had something to rejoice about. A demand articulated for over a century saw the birth of the state of Jharkhand.

 

Demands for separate statehood for Jharkhand were first raised in 1914 by tribals, as mentioned in the State Reorganisation Committee Report 1955-56. Tribal politicians vigorously took up the cause, supported by other indigenous communities. For long, the mineral-rich areas of Chota Nagpur and Santhal Pargana had been exploited and the tribal people displaced in the name of development. Racial discrimination of tribals by outsiders, referred to as dikus in the tribal tongue, was rampant. The demand for separate statehood was not merely to establish a distinct identity but also to do away with years of injustice.

 

However, the creation of Jharkhand has only increased the vulnerability of tribals. The token concessions of a tribal chief minister and a few reserved constituencies were deemed a green signal to displace tribals for so-called ‘development’. According to reports of the Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights, a total of 6.54 million people have so far been displaced in Jharkhand in the name of development. The ongoing land acquisition at Nagri village (near Ranchi, Jharkhand) for the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL) may seem like development projects in the eyes of the educated and the affluent. But these elite educational institutes have displaced over 500 tribal villagers. The displacement in the name of dams, factories, mining, etc goes largely unreported.

 

In a place where displacement and development have become synonymous, the strategic reasons for such oppressive measures go beyond monetary gain. One senses, quite palpably, consistent attempts by various corporate firms to exert control over the policy formulation process. This political-corporate nexus was very apparent when 42 MoUs were signed as soon as Jharkhand came into being. According to a human rights report published by the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM), the state government of Jharkhand has so far signed 102 MoUs which go against the laws of the Fifth Schedule. Vast tracts of land will be required to bring these MoUs to fruition.

 

People’s opposition and various constitutional laws against land acquisition have always been impediments to the corporations. In 2011, a people’s movement forced Arcelor Mittal to pull out of a proposed project in Jharkhand. The corporate sector has been trying hard to change the status quo in its favour, and in doing so has adopted some dubious means. The Chota Nagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act is one of several laws provided by the Constitution to safeguard tribal interests. It was instituted in 1908 to safeguard tribal lands from being sold to non-tribals. The law was meant to prevent foreseeable dispossession, and preserve tribal identity. Loss of land would naturally lead to loss of tribal identity as the issuance of a community certificate requires proof of land possession.

 

The private sector seems to have taken a special interest in drastically reforming or abolishing the CNT Act. Corporate-owned newspapers like Prabhat Khabar and Dainik Bhaskar have campaigned vigorously for reforming the Act to make transfer of land from tribals to non-tribals more flexible. Needless to say, any reform in this direction would directly benefit corporations that own mines in the tribal lands of Jharkhand, and pave the way for future land acquisition.

 

The state government, irrespective of party banner, has been part of such threats to tribal interests. Non-inclusion of the Sarna religion in the religion category of census data has drastically downsized tribal populations. There have been lapses on the part of the administration to provide accurate data on tribal populations, many of which are underreported.

 

With the never-ending displacement, the tribal population figure has dropped to a mere 28% on paper.

 

The dark side of anti-Naxal operations

 

There is little doubt that the Naxal menace has increased over the years. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has good reason to declare Naxalism the biggest internal security threat. In Jharkhand alone, since its formation, a total of 4,430 cases of Naxal violence have been reported so far; 399 police personnel, 916 Naxalites, and 395 common people have lost their lives in such violence. The brutal way in which Naxal violence is perpetrated – beheading, mutilating body parts, slitting throats – has greatly amplified people’s fears. Splinter groups like the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), Jharkhand Liberation Tiger (JLT) and Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) have further intensified the problem and led to the administration using counter-violence.

 

The security forces deployed in Maoist infested areas face constant threat to their lives. While the terrain here is conducive to guerrilla warfare, the local police finds itself inadequately armed and trained to engage in such warfare. Hence, central forces armed with superior firepower and equipment and better training are called in.

 

People are told that the Naxalites wish to overthrow the government by violent revolution and undemocratic means, and that they need to be stopped to sustain India’s ‘bright future’. But some facts go unheard. According to a report by JHRM, since the creation of Jharkhand a total of 4,372 people have been arrested on the charge of being Naxalites. Of these, 315 are hardcore Naxals for whom the government had announced prize money. The remaining 4,057 have no record of any criminal offence; even the police has been unable to establish their Naxal involvement  (1). In an extreme case, sources claim that the government was instrumental in sustaining the PLFI during the initial days of its formation, to counter the CPI (M). The move backfired and the PLFI became a prominent terror group in Jharkhand.

 

In other instances, countless innocent people (mostly tribals) have been killed during anti-Naxal operations. The incident that occurred on April 15, 2009 at Latehar, Jharkhand, exposed the dark side of these operations. Five tribals were picked up from their homes by the CRPF and district police, taken to a nearby place and shot dead. The initial police investigation tried to cover up the act, claiming the tribals were Maoists. Following protests, the Jharkhand police finally accepted that they were ordinary villagers who had no links with Naxalites.

 

The recent exposure of anti-Naxal operations in the Saranda jungle, home to over 125,000 tribals, is even more disturbing. Central and state forces deployed here under Operation Monsoon and Operation Anaconda destroyed homes and killed innocent people, not sparing even the food the tribals had. As revealed by JHRM, during Operation Anaconda, 33 villagers were arrested on charges of Naxal involvement. The police has been unable to provide any evidence to support this claim.

 

The problem with an over-hyped ‘Red Corridor’ is that it justifies the actions of the security forces: they are seen as deployed in enemy terrain to ‘protect’ India’s ‘bright’ future. And so, a ‘few’ innocent casualties at the hands of the security forces are deemed inevitable. The victims are labelled ‘Maoist supporters’. As the Red Corridor mostly falls under tribal areas, a general, albeit fallacious, perception exists that the tribals in these areas are Naxalites or Naxalite supporters. What worsens the situation is the exclusion of such areas by the concerned state administration which, after 64 years of independence, has failed to establish any communication with people living in these areas. A district mostly falls in the Red Corridor zone not because the people here support the Naxal ideology, but because the administrative units in these areas are nowhere to be seen, giving a free hand to the Naxalites. It is the failure on the part of the state administration to reach out to rural tribal areas that has provided ample opportunity for Naxalism to flourish.

 

Decades after their exclusion, the government is trying to bring tribal societies out of their so-called ‘museum culture’ into the mainstream. But the methods being adopted are displacement, and the giving away of lands to multinational companies to set up factories, thereby reducing even the most affluent farmer to a petty labourer. The fact that abundant mineral resources sit beneath these tribal lands hardens the government’s stance, making it determined to counter any opposition with a heavy hand.

 

There is a dual strategy behind the tag ‘Red Corridor’. Multinational companies and mining corporations have incurred huge losses, mostly in tribal areas: firstly, as levy amount to several Naxalite outfits amounting to hundreds of crores in a single year; secondly, uncertainty over land acquisition even after signing MoUs with the concerned state government due to tribal laws and people’s opposition. By declaring districts Maoist zones, the government clears the ground for future operations to be conducted by the security forces. The mission: to ‘liberate’ such zones from the evil clutches of Naxalites and ‘anti-developmental’ forces. The ‘anti-developmental forces’, as termed by the government, are tribals whose protests are solely aimed at retaining their land; they have no intention whatsoever to topple the government. Several cases of tribals protesting against forcible land acquisition and being killed or imprisoned for allegedly being Naxals have been reported across the state of Jharkhand.

 

Tribals stand on a thin line between Naxalites and the government, exploited and destroyed by both. In areas where the Naxalites have a presence, not following their orders could result in gruesome killings. Thus, any meeting called by any of these outfits is an unspoken compulsion for the village, not an option.

 

In such a scenario, resorting to indiscriminate firing and blaming Naxalites for using innocent villagers as human shields is not only a failure on the part of the security forces but also on the state to provide safety to its citizens. The illusion presented to the common man has entwined tribals and Naxalites in such a complex manner that any number of killings in tribal areas fails to generate much sympathy among the people. The recent killing of 18 alleged Naxalites at the hands of the security forces in Chhattisgarh, and its aftermath, is evidence of the general perception that even if these people are not Naxalites, they are definitely supporters.

 

All in the name of ‘national interest’

 

In an interview with Shoma Chaudhary from Tehelka in 2009, Home Minister P Chidambaram made the following comment: “No country can develop unless it uses its natural and human resources. Mineral wealth is wealth that must be harvested and used for people.” But who are the ‘people’ for whom mineral wealth must be harvested? The middle class and elites who own multinational corporations.

 

The mineral resources have more to do with profiting private firms than national growth. For example, the royalty fixed by the central government for iron ore is just 10% of the value of mined iron ore, extraordinarily benefiting private mining firms. Tribals have always remained outside the loop of beneficiaries. This was evident in the non-implementation of the PESA Act until recently, for more than 10 years, in scheduled areas of Jharkhand even after a 2010 directive from the Jharkhand High Court. Adding to this was non-implementation of the Samatha judgment across areas under the Fifth Schedule, which would have hugely benefited tribals. Tribals have repeatedly been exploited, displaced and ruined in the name of ‘national interest’.

 

Jawaharlal Nehru once exquisitely explained the meaning of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, or ‘Victory to Mother India’, as victory to millions of people spread across the vast tract of India. The privileged classes who are fervently nationalistic must understand that their fellow nationals are being bludgeoned into a war-like situation. These wars are not only perpetrated by the juggernaut of so-called ‘development’ but are sustained by false myths that have blinded the general public. In a brilliant piece by George Monbiot, published in The Guardian, the author speaks about the injustices of the British Empire and the myths so well established that “we appear to blot out countervailing stories even as they are told”.

 

In order to sustain an actual inclusive growth, people need to do away with such false perceptions and not let exploitative action go unchallenged. Only then will the true essence of ‘Victory to Mother India’ materialise. National development is not just about showcasing the country’s economic growth on paper. A massive GDP growth rate is meaningless if tribals and other underprivileged peoples continue living underdeveloped lives. As a tribal, I expect the government to set aside its false perceptions of development that encourage exploitation of tribal communities, and bring about real meaningful growth.

 

Editor
Khan Kaneej Aur ADHIKAR
(Mines minerals & RIGHTS)