#India – The Great Fertilizer Robbery


[Investigation] The Great Fertiliser Robbery

Big business houses are diverting subsidised fertilisers meant for poor farmers. G Vishnu exposes a shocking collusion that is costing the country crores of rupees
G Vishnu

2013-07-06 , Issue 27 Volume 10

Photo: AFPPhoto: AFP

Every year, the government spends anywhere between Rs 70,000-Rs 90,000 crore in subsidies to ensure affordable fertilisers for farmers to enable them to get a good yield. Yet, curiously, foodgrain production has not seen much increase, while farmers still continue to complain about unaffordable fertilisers.

In October 2012, TEHELKA had shown how flaws in the government’s pricing policy were letting private players increase fertiliser prices and siphon off subsidies (This Is Why Farmers Can’t Afford Fertilisers by , 1 October). An ongoing  by the Director General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI) has now revealed the extent of the scam; how it has spread on a massive scale in the three states of , Maharashtra and Haryana. TEHELKA has access to exclusive information that the DGCEI is probing alleged evasion of excise duty by more than 50 big companies.

Officials detail how over the past five years, these business houses siphoned off 10 million metric tonnes (MT) of -grade urea for which the government had paid more than Rs 2,000 crore as subsidy. Despite having annual turnovers of over Rs 200 crore, these companies also avoided paying more than Rs 300 crore in excise duties to the government in the same period.

Fertilisers are essential to a successful agricultural yield. Over two decades now, the Government of India has been subsidising fertilisers with the aim of easing the burden on farmers. Among the various fertiliser combinations, urea is one of the most utilised. Whereas India produces up to 22 million MT of urea annually, close to 8 million MT is imported. For every tonne produced, the government reimburses the difference between the cost of production and the MRP. Currently, urea is sold at Rs 5,360 per MT ( Rs 5.36 per kilo) and the subsidy ranges between Rs 9,000- Rs 20,000 per MT. Industries that manufacture dyes, colouring agents, resins, plywood, etc, use technical-grade urea, which is priced at Rs 32 per kg (Rs 32,000 per tonne). The government subsidy, however, is only meant for urea used for agriculture and not industrial purposes.

The DGCEI probe, which started as an investigation into the excise duty evasion by manufacturers of CPC Blue (a pigmentation agent that adds colour to paints), also discovered that private players were diverting the urea meant for farming to their own godowns. On top of that, over the past five years, these companies had evaded excise duty in excess of Rs 300 crore by concealing the purchase of urea.

How they did this is a reflection of how deep the rot is. A DGCEI investigating officer describes the situation as “an economy, kind of like a cottage industry, especially in Gujarat. A well-oiled system is in place to facilitate diversion of urea to these companies”. The DGCEI found that in the past five years, two lakh MT of urea has been diverted in Maharashtra and 20,000 MT in Haryana, while around 10 lakh MT has been diverted in Gujarat alone.

Among the many companies who benefited from subsidised urea are big names that include Asahi Songwon (owner Paru Jaykrishna was president of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce in 2007-08), Phthalo Color (owned by the Nanavati Group that also owns the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai), Meghmani Organics, Narayan Industries and Narayan Organic, Heubach Intermediates and Ramdev Chemicals in Gujarat. Mazda Colours and Shreyas Intermediates in Maharashtra and Bhabani Pigments in Haryana have also illegally diverted the agriculture- grade urea for their purposes — consequently saving on importing technical -grade urea and paying the customs duty.

These companies — most of them based in Gujarat — would buy urea from ‘trading companies’ such as Karan Chemicals, Lakshya Ventures and Lakshmi Enterprises, who, in turn, would provide fake bills showing purchase of salt. Interestingly, salt is not required at any stage in the production of CPC Blue. Yet, on record, the 50-odd companies had bought 10 lakh MT of salt. For instance, Karan Chemicals, one of the trading companies, has 10 dummy firms that claim to be selling salts to these companies. “They have followed every trick in the book to pull off this scam,” says a dgcei official, showing TEHELKA bills for non-existent mountains of salt.

This fact comes straight from the horse’s mouth. In a written statement to the DGCEI, Piyush Patel, president of CPC Blue Manufacturers’ Association and owner of Ishan Chemicals, has admitted that his own company indulged in this illegal practice.

“So far as the purchase of salt is concerned,” reads a statement by Piyush’s son Shrinal Patel, also director of Ishan Dyes and Chemicals Ltd, “according to the market strategy, we are procuring urea in the guise of salt under the invoices for salt… However, under the compulsion of market strategy and to remain in competition, we had to adopt this way.” Patel’s views are similar to what others who have appeared before the DGCEI probe committee have said.

Distribution of urea comes under the ambit of the state government. Once the Department of Fertilisers (DoF) at the Centre decides on the allocation for states, it is the state agricultural departments’ job to ensure distribution to farmers. This is where the village-level Agriculture Business Centres (ABCs) come into play. These local-level agencies that connect with the farmer play a massive role in giving out fake bills to the Department of Agriculture (DoA) in the name of non-existent farmers. Till now, the DGCEI has raided over 15 ABCs in Gujarat, all of which were found handing out fake bills.

“What we found was simply by carrying out raids and scrutinising documents,” says a DGCEI investigating officer. “It is not possible that the state DoA does not know about these practices. Convenient arrangements have been struck between politicians, bureaucrats and these business houses.”

Little surprise then, that in 2011, the Gujarat government kept demanding more and more urea, even though the state was seeing a drought-like situation. Since 2006, Gujarat has been complaining about urea shortage, at times asking Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar to step in. The DGCEI is investigating the probable involvement of some of the cooperatives that manufacture urea in Gujarat such as the Krishak Bharati Cooperative Limited (KRIBHCO), Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilisers Company Ltd (GNFC), Gujarat State Fertiliser & Chemicals Ltd (GSFC) and the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO).

“Right now, we are probing the 50- odd CPC Blue manufacturing companies under the Customs Act,” says another DGCEI official on condition of anonymity. “The Centre has not shown enough grit to crack down on these practices. If the CBI is to come into the picture tomorrow, all these companies will be charged under the Essential Commodities Act and they can be held criminally accountable.”

Repeated attempts by TEHELKA to get these companies to respond were met with silence. The few who chose to say anything, like Bhabani Pigments and Narayan Organics, declined any wrong-doing on their part. Interestingly though, Shrinal Patel of Ishan Dyes and Chemicals had a different explanation.

“We get the product,” says Patel, “and test it in our lab. If a product works for me, I purchase it. I haven’t bought it from any authorised agency. We have been telling the Central government that we are willing to purchase it at any price, but our condition was that it should be made available locally. On import, the particle size of technical-grade urea is coated with nitrogen on the outside, causing loss, but the government did not accept it.”

That the government has been complicit in the unchecked diversion of fertilisers meant for the poor, gains currency from the DGCEI’s own findings. “Government agencies have played a major role in all this,” says a DGCEI official. “Till now, we have found excise evasion of 300 crore. The diversion of over 10 lakh MT of urea that we have found was from just CPC Blue manufacturers. All we had to do was figure out the scientific formula behind manufacturing CPC Blue — salt does not come anywhere in the process. If we are to figure out the formula for other industries that manufacture resins, plywood, paints and dyes, we should be able to make a complete crackdown on diversion.”

Despite the fact that, since September 2012, the Centre has set up teams in the 17 states to put a check on this practice. Even as recently as 14 March, the Chemical and Fertilisers Secretary Sudhir Mittal wrote to the states, urging them to set up a mechanism to curb diversion.

So, why has nothing happened? Officials in the DoF at the Centre blame the states for lack of transparency, negligence and unwillingness towards bringing diversion and black marketing to a halt.

“Our pricing policy is yet to be implemented,” says an official with the DoF in New Delhi. “Fertiliser prices have been skyrocketing for the past three years, increasing as much as five times in some cases. On the ground, this has resulted in the farmer using a single fertiliser to such an extent that the soil loses value in some years. This has been disastrous for Indian agriculture.”

A senior official at the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers explains how the powerful fertiliser lobby has manipulated the situation to its advantage. “Most politicians do not antagonise this lobby,” he says. “No matter how hard you try to stonewall them, they still find a way to reach you.” The official cites a recent incident, when members of the fertiliser lobby made a presentation in a group of ministers (GoM) meeting much to the surprise of some ministers, who had managed to keep the private players away from influencing policy decisions. Other officials even recall instances when chief ministers have stepped in to stop probes.

These players have such a stranglehold on the sector that in the past three months alone, the ministry has spent Rs 300 crore excess while procuring.

“Around February every year, the DoF determines the quantum of fertilisers needed for the year and the procurement is planned,” says an official working for a PSU that produces fertilisers. “This year too, Indian Potash Limited (IPL, a conglomerate that started as a PSU, but is currently an amalgamation of cooperatives) was given the charge of importing 10 lakh MT of urea. But the ministry cleared only five lakh MT for import. IPL imported the same for $385 per MT in May. By June, when state-owned PSU MMTC placed tenders, the price of urea was $335. By 22 June, when the state-owned STC issued the tender, the price fell to $303. Being a private player, IPL understands the market fluctuations well, but it earned a lot in commissions by placing the order in May. The loss to the government for not giving the charge of import to a PSU was Rs 300 crore.”

Incidentally, the CAG had pulled up IPL in 2011 for getting undue benefits to the tune of Rs 762 crore after fudging its tenders. The explosive CAG report had raised expectations in some ministry circles that wanted to bring reforms and transparency. However, as the recent loss shows, the stranglehold is yet to loosen.

Amidst all this, the Indian farmer continues to lose out, as it is his fertilisers that are getting diverted and hoarded, while he has to buy it at a higher price. In a year when the total amount of subsidy spent on fertilisers touched a whopping Rs 90,000 crore, his fields benefit minimally and he is left wondering where the promised subsidy goes.

vishnu@tehelka.com

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

 

Note of dissent against Tehelka’s newly announced Tarun Sehrawat Award for Journalism of Courage and Conscience


courtesy- Tehelka

 

Pratik Kumar- Facebook

Why make a martyr out of Tarun Sehrawat? The young departed soul deserves an apology, and not memorials or an award in his name. His colleagues say that he died brave and strong. I believe it. When Tarun was in hospital grappling with cerebral malaria, the award page says, his camera was the only thing he had asked for in brief moments of consciousness. I feel sorry for Tarun. His journey with the camera had been cut short. And part of it was due to criminal negligence of Tehelka.

 

The organisation failed to take into account the dangers involved in sending a 23-year-old to the jungles of Chhattisgarh, a Naxal stronghold, and the so-called playground for all serious journalists and photographers in the making. Our more experienced and accomplished colleagues in the industry were left with only notes of lamentations and cautions. (I am sure most of them had learnt the rules of conflict reporting they cited following Tarun’s death, the real hard way.) But the eternal knowledge of ‘safety first’ gets passed on only in the times of distress. In some rare cases, it takes a Tarun to make us see the rot in human values, and the lack of mutual respect, within our own ever-so-restless journalism community.

 

Tehelka by announcing an award in the memory of Tarun is paying obedience to the culture of neglect. I am also afraid that the award hails the spirit of Tarun, journalism, courage and conscience in the same (foul) breath. All journalists, young or old, who are true to their profession will do all it takes to report good stories — that touches lives, but who would want to die and become a martyr like this? Especially so for Tehelka’s newly announced annual bravery award for young journalists, with a prize money of 1.5 lakh. I can only thank their unusual generosity.

 

I know quite a few ‘exposé journalists’ in my industry, most of whom started their careers with Tehelka. To put it the other way, several young journalists got to test their limits at Tehelka, some flourished, some went off limit, while some paid a price. I graduated last year, almost the same time when Tarun died, with a hope that editors do have a heart and are willing to back their journalists. In the discussions that ensued after Tarun’s death, I learnt how reporters and photographers are sent backpacking to cover sexy jungle exposés, without much preparedness. What now irks the most is a citation for Tarun’s bravery on the award page.

 

“In death, as in his life, Tarun exposed a crucial story: the almost criminal absence of health care in huge swathes of India.” 

 

The greatest of all ironies is that I and many of my friends who graduated last year were dying to get a reporting job with Tehelka.

 

P.S. I know what I would have done had I been the editor of Tehelka. I could have announced something like a Tarun Sehrawat Foundation to create free safety resources for journalists and photographers who report on conflict issues; in my way a befitting, yet silent method of paying a penance.

 

Links to the Tarun Sehrawat Award for Journalism of Courage and Conscience:http://tehelka.com/thetarunsehrawataward/

 

Articles on Tarun Sehrawat and jounalist’s safety:

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/remembering-tarun/article3540064.ece

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/37179/

http://www.newslaundry.com/2012/06/conflicting-interests/

http://blog.thehoot.org/tarun-sehrawat-and-jounalists-safety/

 

How do Tehelka editors see Tarun’s death:

http://tehelka.com/salute-to-a-friend-and-colleague/

http://tehelka.com/the-messenger-and-the-message/

source- https://www.facebook.com/notes/pratik-kumar/note-of-dissent-against-tehelkas-newly-announced-tarun-sehrawat-award-for-journa/597402643625095

 

ATTN DELHI- Protest Demo Against UP Custodial Death of Khalid Mujahid @May23 #mustshare


Khalid Mujahid: Yet Another Custodial Death of So Called “Terror Accused” in UP!

In UP under SP Rule: Injustices To Muslim Victims of Witch-Hunt Continue Unabated while Communal Hate Mongerer Varun Gandhi Allowed To Go Scot Free!

Demand Justice for Custodial Death of Khalid Mujahid in UP! Reinvestigate the Communal Hate Speech Case of Varun Gandhi!

Join Protest Demonstration Against UP Govt on 23 May

Assemble at Jantar Mantar at 11.30am and

March to UP Resident Commissioner’s Office, UP Niwas, Ambadeep Bhawan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg.

 

Khalid Mujahid, a so-called “accused” in the 2007 serial blasts in UP died on Sturday 18 May in police custody, yet another shameful injustice to a victim of Muslim witch-hunt. Khalid, a resident of Mariahu in Jaunpur and a Madarsa teacher, was arrested by the special task force of the UP police in December 2007 following serial blasts in UP and immediately and declared, of course without any evidence, to be an ‘operative of the Harkatul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI)’. Since then, he has been languishing in jail for last 6 years! Following sustained protests against false framing, a commission was formed to probe the matter. The report submitted in 2012 found discrepancies in the “official” police case against Khalid. On the basis of the report, the UP govt. was forced to  file an application in the court to withdraw case against Khalid.However, the court turned down the application. According to the activists, UP govt put up a weak application and now Khalid has died under mysterious circumstances, raising serious questions of cover up and conspiracy.

It is indeed yet another copybook instance of killing and suspicious death in Police custody of so called “terror accused” against whom police never managed to provide any evidence! One has not forgotten, how just last year 8 June, Mohd. Qateel Siddiqi of Darbhanga, arrested since Nov 2011, on charges of ‘involvement’ in several blast cases, was strangled to death by two gangsters, Sharad Mohol and Alok Bhalerao, inside Yerawada jail in Pune. Let us note, Maharashtra ATS had failed to file a chargesheet against Qateel in the 7 months from November 2011 till June 2012. In the Adarsh scam, accused got bail because the CBI failed to file a chargesheet within the stipulated 6-month period. If the same norms had applied, Qateel should have been free, given the failure of authorities to assemble any proof against him. Yet, he remained in jail, and the ATS kept claiming he was a ‘key Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative.’ From Maharashtra to Hyderabad, Gujarat to Darbhanga, the horrific saga continues unabated– framing innocent youth without a shred of evidence, torturing them for years together behind bars, and finally killing them off in custody or in fake “encounters”. These shocking cases- from Malegaon to Hyderabad, Bangalore to Azamgarh and Darbhanga-underline the vulnerability of Muslim youth routinely arrested on terror charges.

The cases also expose the duplicity and hypocrisy of the ruling regimes who never tire of swearing by ‘secularism’.During the UP elections, we have seen cynical competition between the SP and the Congress to woo support of the beleaguered Muslim community. Yet, in practice, whether it is the Congress-ruled Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh or the SP ruled UP, they are competing with the BJP in the false framing and custodial attacks on Muslim ‘terror-accused’.

Contrast this Witch-Hunt With How SP Govt in UP Manufactured  “Clean Chit” for Varun Gandhi in the Public Hate Speech Case! Varun Gandhi made the worst of anti-Muslim, venomous, hate-mongering speeches in Pilibhit before the previous Lok Sabha elections. The hate speech was delivered in large open public meetings and the entire country saw and heard them through TV channels then! But, suddenly, when the matter came up in the court, Samajwadi Party’s UP administration could not produce any video footage of the incident and several witnesses turned hostile! The recent Tehelka sting operation- aired by Headlines Today- exposed how the UP state machinery and an SP leader happily colluded with the BJP to manufacture the ‘clean chit’ for Varun Gandhi!

It is high time that this twin trend of communal politics - of state patronage to communal forces and hate-mongerers on the one hand and unabated state-sponsored witch-hunt of minorities on the other, this time enacted in UP,  is exposed and resisted.

We strongly condemn the custodial death of Khalid Mujahid and demand that all those responsible for framing him and responsible for his custodial death are brought to book. Moreover, the case against Varun Gandhi’s hate speech should be reopened, and all those responsible for scuttling the case against him – especially the Public Prosecutor and the officials in the UP government – should be punished for the shameful subversion of the judicial process.

We appeal to you to a Join Protest Demonstration against UP Govt. on 23 May

Assemble at Jantar Mantar at 11.30am and March to UP Resident Commissioner’s Office, UP Niwas, Ambadeep Bhawan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg.

 

Narendra Modi Attacks His Henchmen-Chanakya and Machiavelli Rolled into One



By Badri Raina

Friday, April 19, 2013
MODI1
Epigraph                               I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself

And falls on th’other—

(Macbeth, I,vii)
“Intent” you will see is the horse that Macbeth wishes to ride to the glory of the Scottish throne.  And the only spur he has to race that horse is his “ambition. “ Wretchedly, he recognizes this to be a “vaulting” ambition, and as in gymnastics, the momentum of intent in the athelete carries the gymnast past the vault to fall on the other side.  Such Macbeth acknowledges to himself to be the force of his wanting, one inherently slated to “overleap” into disaster.

I have from very early on sought  in the career of Macbeth a prescient type of the modern day fascist imagination, and sought to draw lessons from  Shakespeare’s exploration  for our understanding of our own Narendra Modi phenomenon.

In one word, these are demonstrations of unmitigated self-regard that assumes to itself the right to trample the world to the pulpit of absolutism, sustained by a Dionysian/Nietzschean drive to the high morality of denying the powerless the right to exist at all.  And getting to that goal  without being hostage to any loyalty, if such loyalty thwarts the attainment. Thus, if Dionysus and Nietzsche define the goal—be thou the superman, and let women, the chosen ones, be the begetters of supermen, and eliminate all the rest—Chanakya and Machiavelli, bringing the East and West together, show the ways to the goal.

How else may one explain the stunning news now coming out of Gandhinagar, capital of Gujarat, to wit that he government there (read Modi) means to approach the courts for enhancement of the life sentences of Maya Ben Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi—two of  Modi’s most blindly devoted action hands (recalling the murderers who are shown in such intimacy with Macbeth?)—to death sentences.

You have to do nothing more than resurrect the Tehelka Sting Operation Report (see Tehelka online for august 29, 2012 and September, 08, 2012 for all the self-confessed details by Babu Bajrangi of his intimacy with Modi through the days of the Gujarat carnage—“Narendra Bhai nahi hote  na to hum log bahar hi nahi nikaltee” (had narendra modi not been behind us we could not ventured out to the  killings at all, referring here to the Naroda Patiya massacre of some ninety or more muslims where Bajrangi and Kodnani were found to be the chief butchers).”

Further, in translation, “it was only because of him (Modi)…otherwise who would have dared…it is all his handiwork…for if he gave instructions to police, they would have screwed our happiness.”  Again “but for Modi, neither Patia nor Gulberg  (where one of the victims sent to brutal wrack was a congress party member of parliament, Ehsan Jaffri, incidentally a fine scholar of Sanskrit literature, among other things, and whose devastated widow, Zakia Jaffri has now filed a Protest Petition in the local court contesting the conclusions drawn by the Supreme Court- appointed Special Investigation Team—SIT—headed by an erstwhile head of the country’s premier investigating agency, the CBI  on the basis of new evidence of wireless messages and call details of frantic efforts by policemen on the ground on feb.,27 and 28 to persuade their superiors of the carnage that was already underway but denied by Modi’s chief law enforcement officers, barring some outstanding ones who later were to pay for their loyalty to their oath of duty.

It will be recalled that one of Modi’s ministerial colleagues, late Haren Pandya, had testified secretly to a civil society instituted panel of enquiry comprising three outstanding judges of the higher courts to the effect that Modi had, allegedly, at a meeting on the 27th with his core team of loyalists decreed a no action and hindrance course to be  followed the next day when the VHP -called and BJP- supported  Bandh call was to be implemented.  Pandya was found out and killed shortly after.  More recently, Sanjiv Bhat, an IPS officer, at one time close to Modi, has testified that he was actually present at that crucial meeting, corroborating what the late Pandya had said.  He was suspended, then subjected to multiple legal harassments, like some of the other upright officers, like Rahul Sharma, who had stood up for the right and proper.

Meanwhile, Bajrangi, in that Tehelka Sting confession was to go on to laud his mentor Modi for stage-managing his arrest after he had been absconding for four months, and to say how “Modi manipulated the Gujarat judiciary to get him bailed out.”  (The SIT took no cognizance of these confessions.  Also to underline that the Supreme Court in its remarks on the SIT closure report which thought there was no prosecutable evidence againt Modi  had averred trenchantly that the SIT’s  findings and conclusions seemed at complete loggerheads, which is the reason that the Supreme Court  ordered the separate report filed by the Court’s Amicus, a highly reputed senior advocate who opined that Modi infact could be prosecuted on the SIT’s findings such as they were  to be made part of the record and passed on to the complainant.

Maya Ben Kodnani  was only a member of the state assembly when the Narodia Patia massacre happened under her gleeful watch and direction.  And ah, so dear to Modi that she was subsequently inducted into his cabinet of ministers!

Babu Bajrangi was sentenced to full life in prison, and Kodnani to 28years in the slammer, where they cool their heels as we speak.

Think of the background above, and imagine that the same Modi should now be seeking enhancement of their sentences to death.  “O brave new world that hath such creatures in it.” (Tempest)

A flurry of speculation is now underway, and much of it germane.  That on the seeming threshold of a call to leap to the centre of India’s political control come the next hustings in 2014, this is Macbeth-Modi’s way of saying what  a secularist he is after all, with justice for the minority Muslims dearest to his heart.  Catch: why now? And why in relation to two of his most devoted hatchet loyalists?

Here is what seems most likely to be the motivation:  the Protest Petition filed by Zakaia Jaffri ,  replete with damning evidence that the Gujarat government had hitherto claimed to have been destroyed, and much of which the SIT had concealed, refusing to hand over all its papers to the complaining widow until directed by the Supreme Court to do so with rectitude and promptness, is due to come up in the local Gujarat court on April 24.  News of the Gujarat government’s intent to seek enhancement of sentence on Bajrangi and Kodnani came a day after the filing of the Protest Petition, long after time lawfully allowed for such revisions of sentence  to  be sought.

This may well be the onset of the last act of Macbeth:  should the court in Gujarat, in view of the new evidence of damining complicity adduced in the Petition, take cognizance of the materials now before it, the only recourse for it may be to order the framing of charges against the 59 accused named by the complainant, Zakia Jaffri.  And the first accused in that list is Narendra Modi.

Time therefore to argue before the court that a chief minister who is seeking enhancement of sentence on two  convicted colleagues who had been as close to him as all the background etched above suggests, regardless of being staunch Hindutva votaries and cuthroats, could hardly have been guilty of complicity in the massacre of Muslims in the first place, could he?

Desperate times, desperate remedies, decreed both Chanakya and Machiavelli as courses to undertake by the one who would be Prince.

It is a sort of throw of the dice that we see increasingly happen towards the denoument in Macbeth.  Already a chorus of disapproval of Modi’s  “vaulting ambition” to be prime minister, at least prime ministerial candidate of his party which he thinks little of anyway and has decimated in his own state, grows louder not only among some of BJP’s chief and oldest allies, but within the BJP itself.

The engineered hype around Modi—engineered chiefly by India’s corporate electronic  channels on the chamber music swell of India’s new urban elites, all of whom see this now as the moment to dismantle the Weimar republic; enough of democracy, bring in the war-mongering superman—thus is now at woeful loggerheads with Modi’s  increasingly rougher truck and likely upcommance with the law, and  with the factually limited expanse of his acceptability among the polity at large, about eighty percent of which exists outside the worlds of the social media, and is devoted to imperatives that have little to gain from fascist consolidation.

Simmering, and not so simmering, speculation is also under way since this news has come of how this seeking of enhancement of sentence on Bajrangi and Kodnani may play among the hard core cadre Hindutva support for Modi, within and outside Gujarat.

It may not be anymore such a well-kept secret that Modi’s  consecutive successes at the husting s n Gujarat have had little to do with claims of “development’, real or propagated—the stuffing of these claims has lately been taken out with calculated invocation of facts country wide, and Gujarat has been found to be  lagging in the ranks, be it in GDP growth, per capita income, or FDI inflows, not to speak of its abysmal  record on malnutrition, gender ratio, anaemia among lactating women, and now a fatal lack of water accessibility to vast stretches of the state  from whence tales of horrendous suffering arrive everyday—but with the silent fact that he is credited with having achieved that which even the RSS and other strident sartraps of the Hindutva tradition  never did achieve, namely, subjugating, then relegating, Gujarat’s  Muslims with ruthless intent, and without fear, regret, or rethink, refusing for example to wear the Muslim skull cap offered him at  his  socalled  “sadhbhavna” (harmony/reconciliation meet), and generally having sought with firm resolve to turn Gujarat into the sort of Hindutva land that the RSS chief, Golwalker, had envisioned in his 1938 book, Bunch of Thoughts, in which a whole chapter is titled  “Enemy number one” namely, the Muslims.

Given that context, it is more than likely that Modi’s  move to have Bajrangi  and Kodnani sent to the gallows may cause the deepest  shock of recognition and heartburn among his Hindutva cadres.  To think now that this man could, for his “vaulting ambition” think nothing of dispatching  his dear old loyalists as so often so  eloquently is done by the successful  individualists of the Shakespearean Renaissance.  This will be galling indeed, and cannot but have decisive electoral fallouts.

There may also be some truth to the speculation that Modi may have inkling that Bajrangi and Kodnani may spill some further beans on their own behalf.  What better course than to project them now as unbecoming of earthly existence altogether.

Among these dark happenings, though, is the sterling light that shines from the corner opposed to Modi in these legal wrangles.  They, all human rights activists at heart, have said they oppose the death penalty and, oppose it even if it be a Bajrangi or a Kodnani.  Halelujah!  You show the way.

Clearly  the days ahead will be full of interest.  The local court in Gujarat due to begin hearing the Protest Petition on April 24 means to carry on a day to day basis.  Thus its determination of the new evidence and its decision should not take long in coming.

Whichever way that goes, there will no doubt be fresh appeals all the way again to  the apex court.  But should the lower court seek to frame charges, a sea change cannot but happen  both in the Modi saga and in the larger politics of Hindutva that  has been so strident since 2002, and hand-in-glove, one might note with market fundamentalism and India’s  affluenet diaspora in the West.

Fingers crossed.  May justice not only prevail but be seen to prevail.

 

Tihar’s sinister labyrinths– Torture, custodial deaths, negligence and rampant corruption


 — India’s high security prison has all this and much more reports G Vishnu

G Vishnu

G Vishnu , Tehelka

April 5, 20l  

Tihar jail. File Photo

After 35-year-old Ram Singh, one of the accused in the infamous 16 December Delhi gang-rape case, was found hanging in his cell in Jail No. 3 of Tihar, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde called it a major lapse in security. The minister would do well to read this story.

TEHELKA has found out through interviews and testimonies of former and under-trial inmates of Tihar that torture, sodomy, custodial deaths, negligence, and rampant corruption — India’s highest security prison has all this and much more. Even though questions have been raised on the circumstances around Ram Singh’s death, nobody is surprised that it was possible in Jail No.3, which houses close to 4,000 of Tihar’s 13,000 odd inmates.

TEHELKA went through the testimonies of inmates who detailed their ordeal inside Tihar for a public interest litigation (PIL). Sample this from Samrat*: “On 14 January 2012, I was cut across my face with a sharp weapon. It is the duty of the jail officials to take care of under-trials, protecting them from inmates who have such violent behaviors. But unfortunately the jail officials often turn a blind eye to such inmates in exchange for the greed of money,” he says.

“We both are educated and know our rights. He is being subjected to torture because we decided to complain to authorities about the things that happen within those walls,” said Samrat’s wife, speaking on the condition of anonymity. She further reveals that she was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 5,000 to get a relative’s name in the Mulakaat List (list of outsiders who are allowed to interact with the inmates). Another former inmate says he had to pay a bribe of Rs 50,000 to a high-ranking official to get a better place to sleep. “In a place where a pouch of tobacco that otherwise costs Rs 20 can be bought at about Rs 500, coercion becomes a skill to survive for convicts,” he says.

For 39-year-old Jacob Philip, an NRI from Dubai who had spent a decade in the USA, torture stared at him the day he entered Tihar. “I entered the designated ward on 20 September 2008. I had no place to sleep as the place was overcrowded. That night I saw 10-15 inmates beating a fellow inmate in front of everybody. I found later that he was being beaten because he had the audacity to say ‘bye’ to others after getting a bail that day,” says Jacob.

Absurdly, Jacob ended up in Tihar under the Extradition Act. Under the act, the enquiry on the accused cannot continue for more than 60 days. Yet, Jacob ended up spending three and a half years inside Tihar, until he was acquitted and finally released on February 25, 2012. “I used to help people write their bail applications and appeals. At the same time, I also knew the powerful people inside. During my time inside, I saw things I cannot even begin to describe. I can say without exaggeration that I saw at least a thousand cases of torture perpetrated on weaker inmates by stronger ones with tacit and sometimes open support from Jail authorities,” he adds. “In Tihar, nobody is accountable. Nobody is answerable. How can anybody expose anything?”

Jacob describes Tihar as a parallel world with its own set of rules. He was lodged in Jail No. 4 of Tihar. The ward behind his is 4B, a punishment cell (kisuri ward in Tihar parlance). Jacob spent countless nights hearing screams of inmates being tortured. Convicts running the ‘chakkar‘ (Control room, but also refers to torture), armed with sticks and blades, would beat up fellow inmates. Motives would range from extortion and punishment for non-conformism. Sometimes, even jail guards would join.

Mohammed Amir, who spent 10 years in Tihar as a terror accused before his acquittal in 2012, confirms all the above and more. Amir claims he was subjected to torture by fellow inmates, who attacked him at the behest of some jail officials. “You cannot expect Tihar to be a correctional facility. Everybody there has a very criminal mindset,” he said.

Three inmates also spoke about the economics of sodomy inside Tihar. “There’s forceful sex for extortion. And there’s sex that inmates often indulge in for money. Some pay in fear of forceful sex. Some indulge in sex in order to earn a little,” said a former inmate on the condition of anonymity.

Journalist Iftikhar Gilani, who documented the sinister world inside Tihar in his book My Days in Prison, agrees that Tihar is hardly a place to reform. “Here criminals are brutalised. Under-trials spend years inside and convicts run the place.India does not understand the point of having its prisons. The people who man these prisons know nothing about criminal psychology or social science — key elements for helping prisoners to reform,” he says.

Iftikhar was not merely a witness to torture. He had been wrongfully arrested, accused of being an ISI agent in June 2002 and spent close to nine months in Tihar. “I was beaten up inside the jail superintendent’s office the day I arrived there. In the subsequent days, I was put in solitary confinement. I was also made to clean the toilet with my shirt. On a particular night, when I was really sick, one of the wardens said “marne do usse” (let him die), when my fellow inmates called for help,” recalls Iftikhar.

The shocking negligence that Iftikhar recalls from his days in prison are still prevalent as is obvious from the case of Santosh Kumar, who died on 25 February last year. An inquiry report by district and sessions judge IS Mehtain has observed that Santosh died due to negligence on part of the jail authorities. Santosh had consumed acid some years ago, which damaged his oesophagus to an extent that he could never consume solid food again. He was completely dependent on a liquid diet, which was being administered using a feeding tube inserted into his stomach. Arrested in December 2010 and lodged in Tihar, Santosh was denied four liters of milk that was due to him as per court orders. By December 2011, his health had completely deteriorated. Despite the Patiala Sessions Court order, the jail authorities failed to provide him medical treatment, ignoring Santosh’s pleas. On 16 January, Santosh was taken to AIIMS where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. His treatment however started only on 7 February. Within three weeks, Santosh was dead. He had spent his last days writing letters to authorities to provide him the required medical treatment.

While the National Human Rights Commission has received a multitude of complaints regarding human rights violations and custodial deaths inside Tihar over the last five years, some inmates are battling it out in the courts. A particularly determined inmate is 60-year-old Christopher Rozario, who in a petition to the Delhi High Court, has alleged that he has been repeatedly tortured by jail authorities. Christopher claims to be a PhD holder from Cambridge and a former employee of Kerala University.

However, Sunil Kumar Gupta, Chief PRO of Tihar rubbished Christopher’s allegations. Gupta also rejected all the other assertions. “There might have been isolated instances of torture. I can guarantee that things have changed over the last year. There’s no blade-baazi these days. We have reigned in on the ‘chakkars‘ and convicts do not enjoy the same powers as earlier. We have complete transparency in place,” he said responding to TEHELKA’s queries.

Former top cop Kiran Bedi, credited with bringing several reforms feels that bringing more technology would go a long way in making Tihar a less brutal place. “Add more transparency. Bring more cameras. You won’t find corruption. You will give convicts space to reform,” she says.

G Vishnu     

 

Journalist Naveen Soorinje granted bail #goodnews


His arrest had raised many important questions about the violation of democratic rights and media freedom in India
Tehelka Bureau

March 18, 2013

Naveen Soorinje. Tehelka photo

Naveen Soorinje, the private Kannada channel reporter who was arrested for exposing an assault on women by Hindu extremists in Mangalore has finally received bail after four months. Justice Sreedhar Rao of the Karnataka High Court granted the bail after a surety and a bond of Rs 5 lakh. Naveen is likely to be released either today or tomorrow after the order copy is received and signed. “Finally justice has been done after four months. I hope the freedom of the press will not be muzzled any longer by the present government and the local police in Mangalore will not resort to harassing those media persons who exposed the issue,” his lawyer Nitin R said.

“We are very happy with the news and want to congratulate and thank all the people who rallied around him in support,” his brother Prem Soorinje said.

On 7 November, Soorinje was arrested by the Mangalore Police who lumped him along with the Hindu Jagaran Vedike group who groped and attacked the boys and girls celebrating a birthday at a homestay in Mangalore on July 28, 2012. Since he and his cameraman had caught the men chasing, slapping, and groping teenaged women, the arrest made this one of the most bizarre examples of shooting the messenger. The 43 attackers who were charged in the case were identified on the basis of Soorinje’s footage. TEHELKA had raised many important questions after his arrest and the violation of democratic rights and media freedom.

 

Karnataka: How A Government Job Spelt Doom For 37 Dalit Families


Four months after being hounded out of their village, no respite in sight for these ‘untouchables’
Imran Khan

2013-03-23 , Issue 12 Volume 10

Castaways Ostracised Dalits demand land and security

When Lakshmamma, 33, applied for a job as a cook at an anganwadi, little did she know that it would blow up into a crisis, not only for her, but for all the 37 Dalit families in her village. For nearly four months, the Dalit community of Shivanagar village in Chitradurga district, 200 km from Bengaluru, has been protesting at Freedom Park in the state capital, against their ostracisation by the upper-caste residents of Majure, a village 12 km from Shivanagar.

The upper castes are adamant they won’t allow Lakshmamma, a Dalit woman, to cook for their children at the anganwadi, and have enforced a social boycott on her community as “collective punishment” for her refusal to quit her job.

Lakshmamma had been thrilled when she saw the advertisement for the job in a local newspaper in August last year. Like most Dalits in her village, her husband Nagaraj, 43, worked as a labourer for upper- caste landowners in Majure.

The anganwadi job meant a lot to the family of five that could barely make ends meet. So when Lakshmamma finally landed the job, it could have been the beginning of a better life for her family.

But trouble started the day she joined work at the anganwadi in Majure. The upper- caste residents of the village, comprising Lingayats and Vokkaligas, refused to allow a Dalit woman to cook for their children at the anganwadi. At a hurriedly convened meeting, the upper-caste elders decided to ask Lakshmamma to sign a letter of resignation. When she refused, the elders decided to impose a social boycott on the entire Dalit community of Shivanagar.

The boycott meant the Dalits were not allowed to buy anything from the local shops, nor could they work in the fields and houses of the upper-caste landowners — their basic source of livelihood. In effect, the Dalits had been rendered jobless.

In protest, the Dalits organised a sit-in at the Hiriyur taluk office on 15 November last year. Demanding the intervention of the local police and the district administration to end their persecution, they not only protested half-naked, but six of them even went to the extreme of smearing themselves with human excreta to symbolise their intolerable plight, hoping the officials would be shocked into taking action.

The protest led to action, no doubt, but it was against the protesters. Six protesters — who had smeared themselves with human excreta — were arrested on charges of disturbing the peace. “The police torched our tents. Fearing for our lives, we went to Bengaluru and set up camp at Freedom Park,” says Bhojraj, one of those arrested. Since then, a tent at Freedom Park has been home to the 37 Dalit families of Shivanagar.

The protesters allege the police action was carried out at the behest of local MLA (Independent) D Sudhakar. When contacted by TEHELKA, the MLA flatly denied that anything of the kind happened in his constituency. “It is just a conspiracy to malign my name,” he says. “I have done enough for the Dalits.”

The dalit protesters at Freedom Park are staring at an uncertain future. Too scared to return to their village, they are worried about their children’s education and desperate for alternative avenues of employment.

“We sent petitions to the chief minister and the social welfare minister, but nothing has happened so far,” says TD Rajagiri, president of the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (B Krishnappa faction), which is supporting the agitation. “We are requesting the government to provide land and security to the Dalits. They cannot go back to work for Majure’s upper-caste landowners.”

Social Welfare Minister A Narayanaswamy told TEHELKA it’s impossible to give land to all the Dalit families at once. “We will give land to some of them this year, and to another batch, the next year. Unless and until they agree to this, nothing can move forward. But they have refused so far.”

After challenging the unwritten code of untouchability, facing persecution and protesting for nearly four months, Lakshmamma is left wondering if it was indeed a mistake to apply for that job. It remains to be seen if the state authorities can reassure her and the other protesting Dalits that their future would not be all dark.

imran@tehelka.com

 

#Chhattisgarh-Schooled In Rebellion, An Imperilled Generation


In Bastar’s dark interiors, the Naxals are running schools for children, teaching them to be wary of the government

2013-03-09 , Issue 10 Volume 10

Catch ’em young Children at a school run by Naxals in Jappemarka village, Bijapur district

0N 29 DECEMBER last year, joint forces comprising the CRPF and state police busted a Naxal training camp during a combing operation in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, 450 km to the south of Chhattisgarh’s capital city Raipur. TEHELKA visited Jappemarka village where the encounter had taken place and found that besides training camps, the Naxals were also running schools for children in the densely forested region.

It takes a two-day trek through forest trails, after crossing the Bailadila hills — known for the National Mineral Development Corporation’s iron ore mines and forming the border between Dantewada and Bijapur districts — to reach this village. In a small clearing amid the woods just outside the village, a group of children greet TEHELKA with shouts of “Lal Salaam”, reminding us that we are in Naxal country. They are students of an Ashram Shala (residential school) run by the Naxals for 30-odd children from the nearby half-a-dozen villages.

Then the children sing a song in Gondi, the local tribal language. The song is on “the importance of education in making a revolution”, we are told. This is a region where the Naxals have set up what they call the Janatana Sarkar, or “people’s government”.

Motiram, a student at the Jappemarka Ashram Shala, says he wants to become a teacher in a Naxal school. Motiram doesn’t know the national anthem, but he knows how to hide if the police suddenly show up. But his ‘teacher’ Sukhlal, who was once a member of a Naxal dalam (armed squad), claims the children are not trained in warfare. “They are only given general physical education like in government- run schools,” he says. “After the Salwa Judum (an anti-Naxal campaign) started, the government has closed down all schools in this area. As the villages here are believed to be Naxal-dominated, these children cannot go to schools elsewhere. The Naxal-run schools are their only means of getting education.”

The children are taught from textbooks prepared in Gondi by the ‘education department’ of the Janatana Sarkar, besides the same Hindi textbooks that are used in government schools in Chhattisgarh. Even the school uniform is similar.

Besides Sukhlal, the Jappemarka school has one more teacher and two cooks, who are paid Rs 1,000 every month. The school offers education till Class V. So what will the children do after that? “They can work for the Janatana Sarkar, teach in the Naxal-run schools or become village healthcare workers,” says Sukhlal, who studied till Class V at the government school at Mirtur, 10 km away. The exact locations of the Naxal-run schools are kept secret from ‘outsiders’ as top Naxal leaders visit them occasionally.

When the police raided Jappemarka village on 29 December last year, Sonu, a ‘Class III student’ at the Ashram, hailing from nearby Bechapal village, could not flee into the forests with the others. He says the police thrashed him and let him go only after he said he studied in the government school at Mirtur. Though the Ashram Shala was set on fire during the raid, the children say it is being rebuilt again at another “secret” location.

DURING THE two-day trek to Jappemarka, TEHELKA was accompanied by Mohan, the commander of the Bhansi local guerrilla squad. Mohan was a Class V student at the Mirtur government school in 2005 when Salwa Judum started operations in the area. He says atrocities by the Judum forced him to join the Naxals. Mohan showed us several spots where pressure bombs and booby traps had been planted. On receiving information of police presence, the pressure bombs are wired and the wooden covers removed from the trap holes.

Life in these villages is not easy. The villagers often have to spend the nights in the forests to evade police raids. Ramesh, a resident of Udepal village, says the monsoon months are the most difficult, when the tribals cannot even light a fire to ward off wild animals.

In Udepal, TEHELKA also met Dashru Mandavi, who says he once aspired to become a government officer. In 2005, after completing his primary education from Mirtur, he enrolled in the government-run residential school at Gangalur for further studies.

Salwa Judum was at its height at the time. One evening, some armed policemen from Gangalur police station came to the school, asked him if he was the dada (Naxal) from Udepal, and then took him away. Later in the night, Dashru told the guard at the police station that he wanted to use the toilet and managed to slip away. The police came to Udepal looking for him, but he had already escaped into the nearby forests.

Dashru says he has not joined the Naxals, but one of his brothers, Sukuram, was shot dead in Udepal in 2006, and two years later, three more of his brothers were arrested. Two of them, Misra Ram and Mangu, died in custody, Dashru alleges, while the third, Bugra, is still in the jail. Dashru claims the police did not even hand over Mangu’s body to the family.

Mahendra Karma, a senior leader of the Congress who is known as the founder of the Salwa Judum, told TEHELKA in Dantewada that if the police have indeed destroyed the Naxal-run school in Jappemarka, it was the right thing to do. “The Naxals have destroyed hundreds of government schools.”

letters@tehelka.com

- See more at: http://tehelka.com/schooled-in-rebellion-an-imperilled-generation/#sthash.1up6r0qH.dpuf

 

Journalist Shahina, media person intimidated outside court #Vaw


By Newzfirst Correspondent2/22/13

Coorg – Alleging that Journalist Shahina and a media person – present at the spot – were intimidated by a group of right-wing activists outside the Sessions Court in Coorg district of Karnataka, an activist present at the spot said that the Police is doing nothing to stop their bullying.

Journalist Shahina K K, who previously worked with Tehelka, had come to the Sessions Court in Coorg to seek bail. She was accompanied by media persons from the Media One Kerala media channel.

“Although Shahina has been granted bail in her case, about 8 to 10 right-wing activists are intimidating the Media One channel persons here. They asked them to show the visuals recorded in their camera after which they demanded that the visuals be deleted,” Jisha, an activist who is present at the spot, told Newzfirst.

“The police, which is present here, is doing nothing to stop the bullies” added Jisha.

Shahina, in her article written while she was still working with Tehelka, had showed that witnesses in the Bangalore serial blasts case were fragile, false and forced. Following the publication of this article, she was implicated under charges of section 506 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The accusation of Karnataka Police is that she ‘intimidated the key witnesses’ in the blasts case during the course of her interviews taken for the article.

 

#Mumbai-Senior journalist and witness in #Gujarat riots related case threatened


 

By Newzfirst Correspondent2/8/13

 

Mumbai – A senior journalist and a witness in a case related to the 2002 Gujarat massacre Friday accused an editor of a prominent daily of starting a “vicious vilification campaign” against him by publishing concocted news relating to the case and threatening him with more dire consequences.

Ashish Khetan – a witness in the Naroda Gaam case - sent a mail to RK Raghavan, head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the 2002 Gujarat carnage, accusing Avinash Jain – the resident editor of Dainik Bhaskar newspaper – of carrying out a “vicious vilification campaign” by publishing factually incorrect articles and also threatening him with more dire consequences.

Khetan said, “The Ahmedabad edition of Dainik Bhaskar newspaper dated February 5 published a factually incorrect and depraved account of my ongoing deposition in the Naroda Gram massacre case. On the same day the Delhi edition of the same group published a story claiming that I have retracted my testimony.”

These two articles triggered a vicious vilification campaign against my evidence on social media. Clearly it’s an attempt to not only demoralize me but also vitiate the public opinion against the credibility of my ongoing evidence, he further said.

On sending a mail to Ahmedabad edition’s resident editor demanding an apology and clarification instead of correcting the mistake, the editor  Avinash  Jain called me from his cell phone and threatened that more editions of Dainik Bhaskar Group could also now start reporting that I’d retracted my statement, Khetan alleged.

In the letter, Khetan also accused defense lawyers particularly Chetan Shah of being abusive and insulting while cross-examining him.

“Through out my deposition he kept taunting and humiliating me. Also many of his questions were aimed at insulting and annoying me. But this was not all. On more than one occasion he also tried to intimidate and threaten the presiding judge. He on multiple occasions screamed at her at the top of his voice and humiliated her in front of the packed court room.” he said.

Khetan is examined in connection with the sting operation he had conducted in 2007 while working with Tehelka magazine, wherein  Babu Bajrang, a leader of Bajarang Dal and a couple of other accused persons made extra-judicial confessions.

Eleven persons were killed in the Naroda Gam massacre on 28 February 2002. 84 accused are undergoing trial in the case.