Little Ellie & The Olympian: The Kindest Race Ever

–by The Huffington PostOriginal Story, Aug 10, 2012

He’s a world record holding sprinter from South Africa. She’s a spunky 5-year-old from Essex, England. In an inspiring series of images that have recently gone viral, the two strangers, united only by a stubborn refusal to let double amputations stop them, race each other in a friendly bionic foot race.

Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorious, 25, was just 11 months old when doctors discovered he had no fibulas, requiring below-the-knee amputations of both his legs. Ellie May Challis lost both her hands and legs at 16 months, after contracting a severe case of meningitis.

Although Ellie was originally fitted with standard prosthetics, the toddler found them difficult to walk with. More sophisticated carbon fiber legs — the kind worn by Pistorious — were expensive, but Ellie’s community rallied behind her, raising the $15,000 needed for the replacements. In 2009, the 5-year-old became the youngest person ever to be fitted with carbon fiber prostheses.

Held at an indoor track in Enfield, North London, little Ellie actually bested the champion sprinter in all four of their 15-meter races, to the cheers of her twin sister Sophie, and older siblings Taila and Connor.

In a historic announcement, Pistorious, who runs using special Cheetah Flex Footlimbs, was granted permission to race in the London 2012 Olympic Games,reversing a ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The International Association of Athletics had ruled Pistorious could not compete in the games because his Flex Foot limbs represented an unfair advantage. However, the Court reviewed evidence from two new (and conflicting) studies before making its ruling in favor of Pistorious.

Pistorious qualified for the semifinal heat of the 400 meter race on Sunday, but failed to qualify for the finals. His time, 46.54 seconds, was two seconds slower than the heat’s winner, reigning world champion Kirani James of Grenada. In a show of respect and sportsmanship, James embraced Pistorious after the race and asked to exchange bib numbers.

I just see him as another athlete, another competitor,” James told reporters the day before the semifinal. “What’s more important is I see him as another person. He’s someone I admire and respect.”

For his part, in an interview on the TODAY show, Pistorious said he willcherish his Olympic memories for “the rest of [his] life.” As his 89-year-old grandmother watched from the stands, Pistorious said, “Hearing the roar of the crowd and knowing that there were so many people behind me just made it that much more enjoyable.

Check out more adorable photos of Ellie and Oscar Pistorius below:

When battered people took on the pesticide industry #Endolsulphan

Author(s): Sunita Narain, Down to Earth
Date: Aug 15, 2012

English: Sunita Narain director, Centre for Sc...

English: Sunita Narain director, Centre for Science and Environment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, I want to tell you a true story of extraordinary courage. The past week, I was in Kasaragod, a district in Kerala, splendid in beauty and with abundant natural resources, but destroyed by the toxic chemical, endosulfan. The pesticide was aerially sprayed over cashew plantations, for some 20 years, in complete disregard of the fact that there is no demarcation between plantations and human habitation in this area. It is also a high rainfall region and so, the sprayed pesticide leached into the ground and flowed downstream. The poison contaminated water, food and ultimately harmed human beings.

This story is known. But the personal battles that make up the story of this poisoned land and its diseased people are not known. More importantly, it is not asked where this story ends?

Leelakumari Amma is the original heroine of this plot. In early 1990s, she came to Kasaragod, ironically, as an agriculture scientist, whose job was to push farmers to use pesticides. Her brother died mysteriously while she was building her house. But she did not connect the dots and moved in, only to realise that the pesticide spray was poisoning her land and water. Fish she put in her well died. She could not open the windows of her house for days when the helicopter sprayed poison. It seemed a thick cloud was hanging over her house. She could not breathe and worried about her children. Then she noticed that many people living close to her seemed diseased— children were born with deformities and severe neurological problems afflicted people.

Leelakumari Amma petitioned for help. But received threats from the Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK)—the public sector company, which owned the cashew lands. In 1998, she filed a case in the local court. The threats became more venomous. But she did not give up. In 2000, the court ordered an interim ban on spraying. Some months later, the vehicle she was travelling in was hit by a truck. Leelakumari Amma lost a leg. She told me that this was an accident. Maybe, but then maybe not.

About this time, Mohana Kumar, a doctor practicing in a neighbouring village, wrote to the medical fraternity about the incidences of abnormality and deformities, but got nowhere. Shree Padre, a freelance journalist of the area, also decided to write explaining the plight of people. His email reached Anil Agarwal, director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), who decided in mid-2000, to send a team to investigate and collect water, soil and blood samples. The results showed high levels of endosulfan—proving what was only suspected till then. The question, still, was what this meant for human health?

The pesticide industry hit back. It first hired a laboratory to ‘clean up’ the results. When this failed, it decided to hurt the storytellers. Mohana Kumar was served legal notices—so many he cannot even count. But hope was not dead. In 2001, the National Human Rights Commission intervened and asked the Indian Council of Medical Research for a detailed report. Scientists from the Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) analysed blood samples for pesticides and concluded there was significantly higher incidence of abnormalities and diseases in populations exposed to endosulfan as compared to the control population. Endosulfan’s effect on humans was established.

This study was even more inconvenient to industry. The investigators were attacked and vilified. A case was filed against the key scientist, Aruna Dewan, the day she retired from government service. The Centre set up committee after committee, headed by ‘eminent’ scientists to debunk the CSE and NIOH reports. This was fought back, at considerable personal cost. Thanal, a Kerala-based NGO, plays a critical role in research and campaign against pesticide industry smear and smut. This battle has not been easy. Over the past 10 years, industry has made it a habit to attack all research and threaten all scientists.

As a result, it has taken over 15 years for the truth to be known. Currently, the Kerala government’s ban on endosulfan prevails. Last year, the Supreme Court banned manufacture and use of the pesticide in the country. The state has accepted the need to provide compensation to ‘endosulfan victims’. A part of the compensation money will be paid by the PCK. Liability has been established.

Much more remains to be done—from rehabilitating the living to providing specialised health care to the very ill. Also cleansing traces of endosulfan in Kasaragod’s soil, and taking the district towards organic farming. The stigma of pesticide contamination has to be wiped clean.

This will happen. I am sure. In the Buds school—seven special schools for endosulfan victims opened by the district administration—I saw signs of hope. Some 27 children from Padre and Perle village are enrolled there. I saw their teacher hold their hands, teach them how to smile, as they counted and drew flowers. Their laughter filled the room. The physiotherapist told me he was working hard to make sure these special needs children could walk. A few steps today, maybe more tomorrow.

Pesticides And ToxinsEditor’s PageAnil AgarwalCashew NutCompensationCourt,CSEEndosulfanGenetic DisordersHealth EffectsKasaragod (D)keralaLand pollutionPadre VillagePesticide IndustryPesticide ResiduesPesticide UsePesticides And ToxinsSunita NarainWater Pollution

ANNA-MORPHOSIS – The Kejriwal Conundrum


From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 33, Dated 18 Aug 2012


Arvind Kejriwal had tapped into a crucial anger. As chief architect of the Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement, he could have leveraged real change despite political resistance. Revati Laul assesses what his sudden change of course means

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

PERHAPS IDEALISM, conscience and a keen sense of righteous rage are not enough. Perhaps intransigent ego — even a modicum of megalomania, a small zone of blindness — are necessary traits in a would be revolutionary. How else can one make the leap and believe powerful vested structures can be overthrown overnight and supplanted with one’s own?

At THiNK — TEHELKA’s event in Goa — last year, there was one man international guests like The New York Times columnist Tom Freidman and astronomer Mike Brown wanted to meet more than any other. A short, stout, earnest man in trademark loose grey pants and chequered shirt. And an even more trademarked earnest face. A man around whom zealous crowds had swelled last year, teeming seas of humanity, shouting anti-corruption slogans in ‘I’m Anna’ caps. All along though, it was clear to everyone that the real face of the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement wasn’t Anna Hazare. It was Arvind Kejriwal. Anna was the mascot. Arvind was the architect.

In cruel contrast, in July this year at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Arvind the architect was no longer the most sought-after man. As he sat on an indefinite fast from 25 July, a reluctant media, tired from last year’s breathless coverage, turned up in a tepid trickle. Cameras dangled searchingly from cranes to reveal pockmarked aerial shots of much thinner crowds. Critics pronounced the Anna movement as last year’s story. Until halfway through the fast, it didn’t even make the headlines. Arvind, diabetic and weak, was losing weight and his health rapidly. Then the weekend was upon him. Anna joined the fast. Even so, a sceptical media continued to ask: if the Lokpal Bill wasn’t the agenda this time, what was the fast really about?

Arvind said it was to get the UPA government to set up a special investigation team against 15 Cabinet ministers whom Team Anna had accused of corruption. This did not quite meet the eye. Why would a government that had spent all of 2011 playing combat games with Anna and Arvind over the Lokpal Bill now give in to demands that even affiliates saw as mere posture? That too under pressure from a team whose previous fast in December 2011 had been a complete washout? As one hard day of fasting rolled into the next, even Arvind sounded like he expected nothing to happen. So, as he kept reiterating his favourite line at Jantar Mantar that he had no faith in the government, the question that kept surfacing on the same TV screens that had propped up the movement in the previous year was: what on earth was the point? On the other side of the split screens, smug politicians said to cameras — “Let them do what they want.”

And then, sure enough, something did happen that forced the TV cameras back into position. In a masterstroke that enabled him to save his face and end his nine-day fast and Anna his five-day one, Arvind announced that the IAC crusade was now going to morph into a political party. Some called it the death of India’s most watched anti-corruption movement. Others said it gave it fresh blood. Arvind and his co-strategist Prashant Bhushan termed it as total revolution. Anna ambiguously blogged his displeasure. And two days later, disbanded his team.

It was clear to everyone that the real face of the IAC wasn’t Anna Hazare. It was Arvind Kejriwal. Anna was the mascot. Arvind was the architect

So, what really had happened? Why had the crowds fallen away from Arvind in the past few months? Was this round of fasts a premeditated exercise to moult a skin that no longer fit? What changed in one day, and how, is not just a straightforward story of the Anna Hazare movement in a new bottle. It’s a complex and paradoxical account of the inner workings of one man. Arvind. And his ability to conjure a crowd from a consumer class and a party from a people’s movement.

FOR ALL his purist rhetoric, a great irony that dogs Arvind Kejriwal is that, in many ways, he exactly mirrors the qualities he criticises in the political class. He is a canny strategist: that is what helped him build one of the most high-visibility movements in recent Indian history. But for all his talk of extreme transparencies, virtuous processes and absolute truths, he can be very expedient and fluid with the truth himself. And consensus building is clearly not his strength. This is what made him blow the movement he had built.

Arvind’s sudden decision to float a political party has scattered the IAC, dismayed many of its core members, and brought simmering frictions into the open. According to Arvind, the idea of sitting on a door-die fast this time had a dual purpose. “It exposed the government’s injustice in the eyes of the public and also prepared the public for the next stage of the battle.” What was this next stage? Was the decision to turn the movement into a political party then taken much before the fast and not spurred by popular demand as he had claimed at Jantar Mantar? Was the fast merely a stage prop constructed to provide the backdrop needed to announce his party? “Not at all,” says Arvind vehemently. “It was not planned from before.”

But several IAC core committee members have a different story. Activist Akhil Gogoi, one such member, says the idea of going political was seriously discussed at a meeting on 22 April, three months before Arvind’s latest fast. “I opposed it. At least five other core committee members agreed with me. Then there was a second core committee meeting where this was decided. I wasn’t present and wasn’t asked.”

Justice Santosh Hegde, another key Team Anna member, also admits he was against starting a party and was not consulted about the decision. “I cannot tell you how much I regret the disbanding of this movement. The Lokpal Bill that is under consideration in Parliament is not everything we wanted, but it was 70 percent there. We could have accepted it and slowly built pressure to amend it bit by bit. But I think some psephologist told them that there is an Anna wave in the air, so you can win if you float a party.”

Perhaps Gogoi and Hegde were genuinely outvoted by other team members but what their statements confirm is that the proposal to form a political party did not unfurl entirely as Arvind pronounced at Jantar Mantar. It also raises another important question. If forming a party was being considered as far back as April, why was this not shared with “the people” Arvind claims he works on behalf of?

It’s a question many disgruntled core committee members are asking. Devinder Sharma, a veteran grassroots activist, in fact, goes a step further. He says Arvind paradoxically has a lot in common with Sonia Gandhi, his key adversary, in how he runs his team. Sharma says he had dived into the Arvind crusade with great enthusiasm only to find that “here too, it’s only the high command that decides”. High command: The words are intended to sting Arvind, who has often shrilly denounced the Congress’ top-down style of functioning and claimed the IAC has no such power structure and is driven purely “by the people’s will”.

The sudden decision to float a party has scattered the IAC, dismayed many of its core members, and brought simmering frictions into the open

Is Arvind the crusader and anarchist then most well suited really to be a politician? Insight comes from a fourth core committee member. Sunita Godara, sportsperson and activist, and winner of the Asian Marathon in 1992. In 2010, when Arvind was looking for a suitable sportsperson to file a PIL on corruption in the Commonwealth Games, Godara came handy. “Inclination towards a mainstream political formation was there for the past six months,” says Godara. By her reckoning, the idea was Shanti Bhushan’s, former Union law minister and Prashant’s father. “Shantiji always used to say, till when will we keep fighting like this? If they are not changing the system, we will have to get into the system to fight.” Arvind puts this down to “various discussions” the team had, part of the “churning process”. However, he insists the decision to go political was finally taken only on 1 August.

But even on that day, according to Godara, the crucial decision was taken only by a few. “It was clear that only a select lot — two or three people — will decide whether we go political or not,” she said.

Arvind rebuts these accounts, placing the onus of the decision to go political on Anna and narrating with standard polemic why things unfolded the way they did. “The government was not passing the Jan Lokpal Bill,” he says, “because there are 15 ministers in the Cabinet with serious allegations of corruption against them.” In the meantime, Anna had got some damning feedback that people were saying they still had faith in the movement’s leadership but had lost faith in the movement. People were asking, what was the point of a fast? “When hope dies, people stop coming out on the streets,” explains Arvind.

For all his purist rhetoric, a great irony that dogs Kejriwal is that, in many ways, he mirrors the very qualities he criticises in the Indian political class

Amidst this pall of despondency, came the letter signed by 23 eminent citizens, including political scientist Yogendra Yadav, former army chief Gen VK Singh, former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh and journalist Kuldip Nayar asking for the fast to be called off. This letter, suggesting that Team Anna come up with an alternative form of politics, was projected as the main catalyst.

A message went out via TV channels to Arvind’s largely TV audience. Twenty-four hours later, a Zee News poll came back with a verdict he had hoped for: 96 percent in favour of a political alternative. It didn’t seem to matter that by “a political alternative”, these eminent citizens weren’t necessarily suggesting Team Anna transform themselves into a political party.

Nayar, in fact, told TEHELKA, “This has completely shifted the goalposts away from what they were fighting for until now — a strong anti-corruption Lokpal Bill.” Nayar added further that the team would need to go to the masses and build itself patiently bottom up instead of what it is now — top down. But Arvind wasn’t interested in the fine print. At 5 pm on 2 August, he sipped a glass of coconut water, broke his fast and announced the formation of a political party. A seemingly disastrous situation had been turned by him into the springboard for his next big step.

Focal point Arvind Kejriwal holds an early morning meeting during Anna Hazare’s fast at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi in August 2011Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Devinder Sharma blogged that this decision was a “death warrant for social movements”. But Arvind says without a trace of self-reflective irony: “You see, the core committee is not important. The people of this country are.”

As the announcement broke on the networks, many of the 2,000-odd volunteers in the IAC team were deeply crestfallen. Suddenly, without warning, all their goalposts had shifted. For a year-and-a-half, Arvind had made the Jan Lokpal Bill seem the most redemptive tool in Indian public life, but having gained serious momentum, he didn’t seem to have the patience to fight it through. For a year-and-a-half too, he had mocked the government and spoken headily about a new democratic form of functioning — where supra complex decisions would be made only with feedback from the people, and websites would solicit consultations.

Now suddenly, from Bhagat Singhs and Che Guevaras, without being told, were they all to become part of something that would one day look like the establishment? The IAC movement had been built on the backs of many people. Were they to be disbanded without even a jan sunwayi? Arvind and Prashant had to gather volunteers in a quick damage-control meeting. Insiders say it has had mixed results.

If forming a party was being considered as far back as April, why was this not shared with ‘the people’ Arvind claims he works on behalf of?

But disgruntlement among some IAC volunteers had begun to kick in even before this announcement. One of them, Shivendra Singh Chauhan, wrote his list of woes to Arvind; the letter was leaked to the media. The gist of Chauhan’s grouse was that he had been happy to work back-breaking hours to create IAC’s Facebook page, but over time, it had become subject to an increasingly centralised style of functioning. Another disgruntled volunteer told TEHELKA they had wanted Arvind to set up an effective grievance redressal system within the movement itself. “We wanted to know how the core team was being chosen,” says the volunteer. “And why the donations and funds received from October 2011 onwards were not up on the website yet? But, the more questions we raised, the more difficult it became for us to function.”

Mastermind Kejriwal is a canny strategist who has succeeded in drawing support from both mass leaders and disgruntled people from across IndiaPhotos: (L To R) Shailendra Pandey, Tarun Sehrawat

The story of Arvind then seems to be the story of double gyres: the capacity for creative energy, expansion and decline all locked into the same diagram. Over all of the past year, Arvind was able to whip up a public storm like few others in recent times. He was also able to corner the government into promising and tabling the Lokpal Bill. Yet, he seemed incapable of spotting “the peaking moment”, beyond which things can only go downhill. When the Lokpal Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha, he could have urged his co-team to claim a victory, short of the absolutes, and build on it. It would have given people hope, a second wind. But by insisting on his maximalist positions, Arvind seems to have lost the entire movement. It’s not a loss that is his alone. For many Indians who believed in him and his extravagant promises, he has just made it more difficult to believe again. A new party may be birthed. But the infant movement is dead.

TO FOCUS only on the decline of the IAC, however, would be to flatten a very complex picture. Over 14 months and four fasts, Arvind repeatedly managed to draw crowds from what many derisively call the unthinking middle class. How did he do this? What pulse did he catch?

Sunita Godara describes Arvind’s earnest anger management on stage. She says he mesmerised people with lines such as “Are we going to trust MPs who lie and steal our money?” While on a campaign across Haryana with Arvind in July this year, she said even in a small town like Bhiwani, there were more than 5,000 people waiting after 8 pm just to listen to him.

It’s this ability to channel a sort of collective catharsis for people’s frustration that made a beat constable come up to Arvind in August last year and say, “I have been taking bribes for the past 16 years. But in the past 10 days, I haven’t taken a single bribe. And I have never experienced such bliss before.” It also made a car thief return a stolen car this year with a note saying: “This car had Anna posters on it. I don’t want it. I’m sending it back.”

With his earnest, unyielding zeal, that is what Arvind most was: a figure of hope. Yogendra Yadav has called himself a friend of the movement for precisely these reasons. He said the tenacity and positive energy of the movement was a force to reckon with. Later, reacting to criticism levelled at the movement, he said in the Indian Express, “In a choice between two less than pure sides, I prefer the protesters’ infirmities to the rulers’ intransigence.”

Abhinandan Sekhri, a friend and a fellow traveller in the IAC, explains Arvind’s charm. “The clarity with which he speaks and his ability to simplify issues of governance sets him apart from the policy wonks.”

This is what makes the story of Arvind and what he’s brought to the theatre of political and social movements in the country most interesting. (And most riddled with paradox.) He tried to awaken political consciousness in a class that doesn’t care. It’s a class the Congress, with its focus on the common man, has traditionally ignored. A class that the BJP, in forcing into the Hindutva right-wing box, has also managed to alienate many sections of. Many argue the political potential of this liberal middle class is a space that was almost completely ignored till the IAC movement. Intuitively, Arvind seems to have cracked how to speak to them: not for them the slow dialogues of democracy: street action here had to be accusatory, instant, high on spectacle and emotion. And short-lived. Basically, a vent for anger. But trading on their impatience, Arvind was also trapped by it. When you sell instant and miraculous change overnight, two years can seem a galactic age.

For many Indians who believed in him, he has just made it more difficult to believe again. A new party may be birthed. But the infant movement is dead

Arvind was not always an impatient man. But growing up in Hisar, Haryana, in the 1970s and ’80s — in the era of Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man — Arvind has always understood the power of anger. An honest taxman in the Indian Revenue Service (IRS), his own anger and frustration with the system kept building up. In 1999, with no alternative in sight, he started an NGO called Parivartan that began by sorting out people’s tax problems. Amongst the hundreds of cases Arvind looked at was an old woman who hadn’t got a tax refund since 1978. In 2000, finding it difficult to juggle his job with his activism, Arvind took a long sabbatical. Parivartan expanded its role from taxes to municipal problems and adopted two slum resettlement colonies — Sundernagari and Seemapuri in West Delhi.

Post-2002, Arvind began to use RTI for much of his social and political action. Though they now walk very divergent paths, Arvind acknowledges Aruna Roy as his most significant mentor. Having won the Magsaysay Award in 2006, Arvind used the money to start yet another NGO — Public Cause Research Foundation. In the same year, he formally resigned from the IRS to plunge into a full-time career as an activist.

Manish Sisodia, a key IAC member, who joined Arvind in 1999 to set up Parivartan, describes him as an obsessive worker, waking at 2 am to make notes and redraft policy. By now, a decade of wrestling with the system had made Arvind restless. He was waiting for his Rang De Basanti moment. 2010-11 brought exactly the canvas he needed. It was the year of scams. The CWG scam; the 2G scam; the Adarsh Housing Society scam; the Bellary mining scam.

Arvind, however, recognised that to launch a large-scale agitation against corruption he would need many things. Unlike other social movements built on communities linked through common causes of livelihood or gender, here there was no clear impact group. He needed symbols, glue, amplifiers. This is when he thought of approaching Anna Hazare — aware that, at least in his optics, he would resonate for middle-class Indians as a sort of modernday Gandhi. But how could he ensure people would turn up?

Arvind went to people he knew could mobilise huge masses. Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. For purists from social movements, this seemed heresy, and allying with them has often made the IAC look like moral contortionists. But Vijay Pratap, a political activist who has known Arvind for a decade, believes it’s with this out-ofthe- box thinking that Arvind really scores. His success stems from his capacity to have a brilliant strategy without an overarching ideology. What Yogendra Yadav characterised in an interview to TEHELKA, as “the politics of anti-politics”.

New rules With Anna staying away from the political party, Kejriwal will have his task cut outPhoto: AP

No one, not even Arvind, expected this to work on the scale it did. Or for people with such disparate political beliefs to be able to come together and stay together. Prashant Bhushan from the political left, Arvind who many see as liberal. Kiran Bedi who some see as liberal right.

Possibly, this is why the draft Jan Lokpal Bill the team came up with also seemed so full of contradictions. It spoke to the left liberal when it recommended that grievances should be sorted out at the local level through a decentralised system. At the same time, it also sounded decidedly centre- right in recommending that the Lokpal be an overarching institution checking corruption at every level. It’s also the reason why the IAC could not build consensus amongst civil society groups.

Arvind clarifies that the movement against corruption will continue alongside building a party. But the stakes for him just got much higher

Many veteran grassroots leaders are extremely critical of this. PV Rajgopal, a land reforms activist, joined the IAC core committee in April 2011. He says since the movement was chiefly propped up by the middle class, he’d joined in to make sure the campaign could be sustained even if middle class interest waned. But the flipside, according to Rajgopal, was also a middle- class malaise. Arvind was a man in a hurry. From day one, the IAC movement was ratcheted up in volume, promises, expectation and assault. Social movements can’t be run like that, Rajgopal explains. They take time and unfold slowly. If they are to overturn old, well-set systems, it must have patience and the moral muscle of a long-distance runner. Since Arvind had built his movement like instant noodles on short-term goals and expectations, it was almost inevitable that it would falter. When Rajgopal saw the first signs of the movement taking sides in party politics — in their anti-Congress campaign in the Hisar by-election, he bowed out of it.

Others like Madhuresh Kumar of the National Alliance for People’s Movements say the crossroads Arvind has brought his movement to could either boost grassroots movements, help them occupy more space in the political mainstream, or it could serve as a warning of where not to tread.

Many, like Medha Patkar, have also pointed out that the success of social movements cannot be measured through short-term goals like the ones IAC set for itself: “Give us the Lokpal Bill of our choice in the next 10 days or else…” The Narmada Bachao Andolan, for instance, got 11,000 displaced people settled, another 40,000 are still waiting. Meanwhile, the movement has changed the discourse on land reforms and people’s struggles on the whole.

Nikhil Dey, another rights activist, points out that, in his stridency, Arvind seems blind to the success his campaign against corruption has already had. Its constant pressure on the UPA has brought the battle for transparency and accountability forward; the Grievance Redressal Bill is now with a Standing Committee in Parliament. So is the Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill. A little more sustained pressure would also probably yield a strong Lokpal Bill.

But Arvind’s failure and success are inextricably bound. Having tuned himself so loud, he is unable to back down. He cannot seem to accept that no Bill can get passed without building some degree of political consensus. That persuasion must be as much a strategy as accusation. He cannot seem to see that in August last year, and in December and now, as the Parliament sits in the monsoon session, opportunities to leverage what he has already won have been lost.

What choice did we have, Arvind counters. “It’s wrong to say we should not be result-oriented. If we had continued in the same manner as many other NGOs, we’d be running the movement for the sake of the movement.” He clarifies that the movement against corruption will continue alongside building a party. But the stakes for Arvind just got much higher than the do-or-die predicament he put himself in at Jantar Mantar in July.

As he kills his avatar of the anarchist to try and be ruler, people will now ask the same of him that he has asked of his political adversaries. To deliver on all the promises he makes. Including the Lokpal.

As architect of a people’s movement, Arvind Kejriwal has left a very messy blueprint. To criticise him, however, is in no way to condone the venality of the political class in general, or the malafide of the UPA government, in particular. Rather, it is to ask what state have we brought ourselves to that a public warrior must speak so loud and hard to rouse our attention?

Building movements is difficult business. Building a political party will probably be even tougher. But if there’s one lesson Arvind ought to take from his fight against corruption, it is to remember that when one is shaping the future, it’s good to have both a chisel and a hammer. Good also to appeal to the better self in your adversaries than declare them incapable of change.

Revati Laul is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.


Police atrocities on dalits: High court issues suo motu notice to Gujarat #Narendramodi

TNN | Aug 10, 2012, 03.55AM IST

 the state home secretary and Rajkot police commissioner to explain the alleged police atrocities on dalit women and children.

A bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharyaand Justice J B Pardiwala took suo motu cognizance of the issue on basis of a letter from the president of Gujarat Dalit Sangathan, Jayanti Mankadia. The bench sought a reply from the concerned officials in two weeks.

In his letter, Mankadia sought action against the policemen under the Prevention of Atrocity Act for the alleged police action in Rajkot on June 25. He also demanded protection for the victims, who were allegedly tortured by the cops. The applicant has also sought a probe by the National Human Rights Commission.

According to case details, there were clashes between two members of the dalit community and Muslims in Rajkot in June, where primary school teacher and dalit leader Gunavant Rathod was killed. The residents of Ambedkarnagar took out a procession on June 25 to protest the killing. “Immediately after the rally, police forcefully entered residences in Ambedkarnagar and assaulted people, including women and children,” Mankadia alleged.

Rupa Sondarva (16) sustained spinal injuries and is now facing disability for life, he said in the letter adding, “Residents are not only facing multiple FIRs but also fearing retribution from the police and they need protection.” The HC, which decided to treat the letter as a writ petition, appointed advocate Shalin Mehta as amicus curiae to assist in the proceedings. The state government has been maintaining, on the other hand, that the police had to lob teargas shells to disperse the mob, as it blocked the road during the protest. When it did not work, cops took to caning which resulted in injuries to various persons. However, the complaint is to the cont

Raipur court admits plea against Chhattisgarh CM in land case #goodnews


English: Raman Singh Chief Minister of Chattisgarh

English: Raman Singh Chief Minister of Chattisgarh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



PTI | 01:08 AM,Aug 09,2012


Raipur, Aug 8 (PTI) A local court today admitted a petition against Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and two others in connection with land allocation to Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd (BALCO). The petition was filed by former Minister and senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel in the district court last month. Besides Singh, former Chief Secretary P Joy Oommen and BALCO Chief Executive Officer Gunjan Gupta have been named in the petition filed under IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act. The matter will now come up for hearing on September 22, court sources said. In the petition, Baghel has alleged corruption and cheating by the state administration in regularisation of land illegally occupied by BALCO in Korba which led to a loss of Rs 140 crore to the state exchequer. The Congress leader has accused Singh and Oommen of entering into a criminal conspiracy and causing loss to the Government in land allotment to the company. District Judge B P Varma, however, rejected the petitioner’s prayer for an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) inquiry into the matter. PTI SNG RSY




In Defense of Pussy Riot and the Russian Punk Movement


AUGUST 09, 2012

Taking Heroic Stands Against Bigotry, Censorship and the Abuse of Power


Yesterday CounterPunch printed an ignorant defense of the pending imprisonment of Russian female punk band Pussy Riot by economic columnist Mike Whitney.  I choose the word “ignorant” carefully; Whitney seems genuinely uninformed about the decades-old Russian punk movement and the Russian social conditions they navigate.

Once upon the time the Left was in favor of free speech, feminism, and confrontational protest, and simultaneously suspicious of authoritarian predatory privatizers, misogynist clerics and prudish censors.  From the many articles and comments like Whitney’s in the (putatively) left of center blogosphere, we learn that the American Left is now quite alright with misogynist religion, censorship, rigged trials and the like just as long as the oppressing government is a foreign policy foil of the United States.  This turns so-called progressives into just another group of intellectually dishonest bigots.

The first logically erroneous and morally indefensible position of the Pussy Riot-bashers is the notion that because Vladimir Putin sometimes has decent (and self-interested) foreign policy positions, it should not nor could not be possible to criticize him for any other reason.  Potable water is a resource of which our planet has shortages; wrongness unfortunately is in abundant renewable supply.  It’s entirely possible to be critical of American foreign policy and Russian internal repression at the same time, and none of the champions of the Pussy Riot prosecution have even attempted to explain their impossible and ridiculous implication that the two are mutually exclusive.  It becomes intellectually dishonest on the part of Whitney and others not even to attempt to make any such case.

Putin and the very rich thugs who run Russia – the new 1% of that country – came to power in the climate of privatization pushed by American economic hatchet men such as the vile Larry Summers.  They have been stripping Russia of natural resources through former state-held utilities and other newly private companies and the economic growth this has spurred has been very poorly distributed, by design ending up in the pockets of well-connected oligarchs.  In the first ten years of an independent Russia, a small number of people became rich while the average life expectancy for a male dropped a shocking three years.  This led to the new sardonic Russian aphorism that “Everything they told us about communism was a lie and everything they told us about capitalism was true.”

Just a few months ago Putin backed a harsh austerity regime titled Strategy 2020 for Russia’s poor, indistinguishable in its detail from the sort being imposed in Greece, Spain or here in the United States.  Putin is raising the male retirement pension age by five years for men and eight for women, which, given Russian life expectancy, will effectively rob many poor Russians of any retirement at all.  Putin is also shifting the burden of funding pension funds, which had been 100% the employer’s responsibility, to workers themselves, now planning to get workers to fund up to 15% of those funds from their already meager salaries.

Strategy 2020 also calls for renegotiating the salaries of public workers downward, and for cutting social spending across the board.  While the Pussy Riot critics in the US like to paint Putin as the second coming of Fidel Castro, he is in fact more accurately compared to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Against this backdrop of unfettered crony capitalism, the Russian state has maintained a repressive attitude toward the right to speak and protest, most viciously launching repeated brutal police attacks upon gays and lesbians attempting to hold peaceful marches for basic civil rights.  These marches too have also upset the patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, a hypocritical church – if this is not a redundant phrase – which has managed to make peace with any human rights-denying power structure in the country for several decades somehow without noting any evident sin.

It was my understanding that the Left was fine with upsetting vicious old men who lie about a special relationship with God in order to oppress women.  Pussy Riot detractors have a responsibility to tell us how and why this has changed.  I don’t believe they will because I don’t believe they can.

The less said about the alleged popularity of Putin the better.  In 1984 Ronald Reagan scored a crushing victory over Walter Mondale among that portion of the population who bothered voting.  I have no recollection of the American Left at that time declaring that criticism of Reagan, his policies, or the religious charlatans who supported his administration therefore became inappropriate or somehow invalid.  We have regressed several decades, if not centuries, if it becomes necessary for anyone to defend the act of criticizing a politician who wins an electoral victory.

The United States badly needs an angry group of young women charging the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and denouncing the many crimes of Barack Obama.  Shame on us as a society for not yet producing the same.

Whitney and others commit lazy, craven and inaccurate libel against Pussy Riot and their millions of supporters within Russia with the claim that they are “useful idiots.”  These critics place themselves in general agreement not only with elders of the church but with Russia’s neo-Nazi skinhead movement, both of whom have denounced Pussy Riot for being misbehaved little girls.

Punk has been a major influence in Russian (and Soviet) counterculture since the early 1980s.  It is not as if these ladies have taken up something new nor something that’s just landed in Moscow last week, courtesy of American intelligence.  This isn’t NSC or CIA money; these people are real artists steeped in Russian counterculture and they want better lives for themselves and their fellow citizens.  The band members have been pulling stunts like this since their teens, their most infamous previous stunts include filming themselves kissing subway police and a media-invitation public orgy.

It would be refreshing if for once Americans, even and especially ones labelled progressives, could imagine that non-Americans have some agency in their own lives and societies.  It would be refreshing if not every action of foreign residents were assumed to be for the benefit of Americans.

I became aware of Russian punk in the late 1980s through issue #59 of the essential American hardcore punk zine MaximumRocknRoll, which focused upon the brave bands of the former Soviet Union, people who faced prison time and police beatings for their songs and haircuts.  By that time the controversial Yegor Letov and his band Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense) were major figures and influences in underground arts and politics in Russia, and had been for several years.  I still have a cassette the band sent me me for the princely sum of US$3 when writing to their listed address.

Whitney and others would do well to use the internet to delve into the 30 year indigenous history of Russian punk, not only Grazhdanskaya Oborona but classic bands such as Va-Bank and Naive, the latter having met by chance in the same Soviet tank corps.  Through old guard communism, perestroika and now the oligarchy, Russian bands have taken heroic stands against bigotry, censorship, and abuse of power.  The bravery and intelligence of these groups can not be overstated; Pussy Riot is their rightful heir.

There is one vital question the American cavalier Pussy Riot critic needs to answer.  If they are “useful idiots,” what variety of idiot are you?

Chris Randolph lives in Philly and can be reached through his blog.


Wade Michael Page and the rise of violent far-right extremism, Wednesday 8 August 2012 20.00 BST

The man who opened fire in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin was not just a crazed loner, but a vocal neo-Nazi – in fact, his white supremacist ideology reflected a growing form of extremism that expresses its strength through violence rather than at the ballot box

o   Matthew Goodwin

Wade Michael Page

Wade Michael Page performing with white power group End Apathy. Photograph: Reuters

On Saturday 28 July 2012, Wade Michael Page walked into the Shooters Shop inWisconsin to buy a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, and ammunition. Eight days later, the 40-year-old military veteran arrived at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek and began shooting at members of the congregation who had gathered to prepare a meal. During the shooting, six members of the Sikh community, one police officer and the attacker were killed.

Within hours of the shootings, the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) revealed that Page was a known white supremacist. He had links to networks including the Hammerskin Nation and was involved in an underground music scene often referred to as “white power music” or “hate rock”. Influenced strongly by earlier bands in England such as Skrewdriver, white power music is seen by those who study extremism as one of the most important recruitment tools for the modern far right. Page’s involvement appears to have been deep: in an interview with online music magazine in 2005, he claimed to have sold all of his possessions so that he could travel around the country attending white power festivals such as Hammerfest. The next year he formed a band called End Apathy recruiting bandmates from the other groups such as Definite Hate and 13 Knots. Asked in 2005 to elaborate on the meaning of the band’s lyrics, Page replied: “The topics vary from sociological issues, religion, and how the value of human life has been degraded by being submissive to tyranny and hypocrisy that we are subjugated to.”

Page’s body also contained references to white supremacism. A tattoo of the number “14” was a direct reference to the so-called “14 words” that occupy a central role in neo-Nazi vocabulary: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” This passage, a reference to a section of Mein Kampf, was popularised byDavid Lane, a member of white supremacist terror group The Order. Another tattoo of the Odin or Celtic cross represents one of the most popular symbols among neo-Nazis, seen as the international symbol for “white pride”. Those who had been close to Page confirmed his ideological affinity to the extreme right. Reflecting a wider belief within the movement, an old army friend of Page claimed that as far back as the 90s he had talked about “racial holy war”, and would rant “about mostly any non-white person”.

As with the aftermath of the attacks by Anders Breivik in Norway, it was not long until sympathisers surfaced online. “Take your dead and go back to India and dump their ashes in the Ganges, Sikhs,” wrote one neo-Nazi. Others praised their “brother”: “All I feel is loss and sympathy for a brother that was overwhelmed by pain and frustration. I could [sic] care less though for those injured and wounded other than Wade.” Another warned of future attacks: “There are thousands of other angry White men like Page, the vast majority of them unknown … When will they, like Page, reach their breaking point…?”

The threat of violence from disgruntled rightwing extremists is not lost on the security services, or analysts. In 2009, Daryl Johnson, an analyst at the Department for Homeland Security, authored a report that explicitly warned of the growing threat of far-right violence. Pointing to the economic downturn, the election of Barack Obama and evidence that some military veterans were struggling to re-integrate into civilian life, the report was one of the first to flag the growing importance of the extreme right – a movement that was routinely overlooked after 9/11. Few, however, took the warning seriously. Rather, Republicans and rightwing commentators openly criticised the report. Some saw it as an attempt to discredit the insurgent and right-wing Tea Party movement while many viewed it as an unfair attack on military veterans. Others said it focused unnecessarily on domestic rather than foreign manifestations of terrorism.

But Johnson (who was later shunted into a different department) was not wrong. Following Wisconsin, some analysts reminded commentators that the far right is responsible for as many – if not more – attacks on US soil than religious-based extremists, and now poses the most significant domestic security threat. Indeed, prior to 9/11 the most damaging act of terrorism within the US was the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma by militia sympathiser Timothy McVeigh, which resulted in 168 deaths and more than 800 injuries. Between 1990 and 2010 the far right committed 145 ideologically motivated homicide incidents in the US. Of these incidents, excluding the bombing in Oklahoma City, far-right extremists killed 180 people.

The data suggests that American far right groups have grown “explosively”, which is attributed to a potent combination of public anxieties over the financial crisis, the growth of conspiracy theories, the exploitation of fears over non-white immigration and the prospect of Obama securing a second term in office.

According to the SPLC, in 2011 the number of “hate groups” active in the US reached 1,018, 69% more than in 2000. The most striking growth has been within the “patriot” scene, which contains anti-government groups that cling to conspiracy theories and view the government as enemy number one. There were fewer than 150 of these (mostly inactive) groups in 2000. By 2011, there were almost 1,300. In fact, since 2009 this particular variant of the far right has grown at a rate of 755%.

While it is difficult to compare across borders, similar warnings have been voiced in Europe. Last year, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany noted that while the number of people in far-right political parties had contracted to 22,000, the number of those involved in more combative and confrontational forms of far-right politics was on the rise: the number of rightwing extremists with a propensity to violence had increased to 9,800; the number of followers of more violence-prone neo-Nazi groups had risen to 6,000; and the number of street-based demonstrations had reached an all-time high.

Though less affected than other countries, from 2001 onward, authorities in the UK have similarly voiced concern over a rapidly evolving far-right scene. In recent years, at least 17 individuals who committed or planned acts of violence or terrorism, and who were linked to the far right, have been imprisoned. In 2009, the discovery of a network of rightwing extremists in England with access to an arsenal of weapons prompted London Metropolitan police to warn that far-right militants might attempt a “spectacular” attack. In the same year the English Defence League (EDL) was born, introducing a new form of far-right politics that is less interested than its predecessors in elections, and more focused on rallying support through street-based confrontation and networks that transcend national borders.

A candlelight vigil following the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Photograph: Chris Wilson/AP

Though often dismissed as alarmist, these warnings were partly validated in July 2011, when Breivik launched his politically motivated attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utøya. Shortly afterward, authorities in Germany discovered that a violent neo-Nazi cell – the National Socialist Underground (NSU) – had been responsible for at least a dozen murders. Then, in Florence, an activist connected to the far-right group Casa Pound shot dead two immigrant street traders in an unprovoked attack. While it might be tempting to treat the attack in Wisconsin in isolation, it is actually the latest in a series of acts of violence from individuals linked to far-right groups.

The perpetrators of these attacks are often dismissed as crazed and psychologically flawed loners. Perhaps this is because we have grown used to the security threat from religious extremists and tend to view their far-right counterparts as a loony fringe, rather than rational agents who are using violence to achieve certain goals. WhatBreivik in NorwayGianluca Casseri in Florence, the “London nailbomber” David Copeland and Michael Page all share in common is that they arrived at violence following a longer involvement with far-right extremism. For more recent examples – such as Breivik – their attacks followed an almost total immersion in online “virtual communities”. These perform a crucial role in cultivating a set of narratives that are often later used to justify violence. These include emphasis on the perceived threat of racial or cultural extinction, belief in an impending and apocalyptic conflict (a “race war” or “clash of civilisations”), belief that urgent, radical action is required and that followers have a moral obligation. In short, only by engaging in violence can they defend the wider group from various threats in society.

This preference for violence or terrorism reflects a viewpoint within the far right that has long prioritised “direct action” over a ballot-box strategy. For much of the past two decades in Europe, the strength of the far right has been measured through its number of votes at elections. But it is important to note that – for some within this scene – strength is measured as the ability and willingness to engage in violent action against “enemies” that are seen to threaten the racial purity and survival of the native group. These enemies can beimmigrants, minority groups, future leaders of mainstream parties or the state.

Identifying and tracking the Breiviks and Pages of this world will always be extremely difficult. But the reality is that – at least for the past 10 years – western democracies and their security agencies have focused almost exclusively on only one form of violent extremism. The far right may still pose less of a threat than al-Qaida-inspired groups, say, but our ignorance of this form of extremism is striking.

Wisconsin teaches us that the challenge that now presents itself is to understand what “pushes and pulls” citizens to commit violence in the name of rightwing extremism, and to develop an effective response. To do this, we must first start taking violence from the far right more seriously.


Soni Sori’s story: propaganda and prejudice #Indianexpress

The writer has failed to study the factors that are central to understanding how the Maoist conflict affects individuals. Pre-conceived notions surface at every stage in the story, says ARITRA BHATTACHARYA
Posted/Updated Friday, Aug 10 15:28:45, 2012, The Hoot
“Soni’s Story” (published by The Sunday Express on August 5 on page 11, Mumbai edition)[i] tries to untangle the web of contradictions around Soni Sori, a tribal schoolteacher and activist based in Chhattisgarh: is she a Maoist or a Maoist sympathiser, a police informer, or a social worker? It tracks Sori’s life from 2010 in an attempt to throw light on the issue, but in the process muddies the picture further.
The overwhelming sense that a reader draws from the story is perhaps the delegitimisation of Sori: she is portrayed as a double-crosser, a person who played to both sides in the Maoist-State conflict and fell in her own trap. In the story, the reporter speaks to various people associated with Sori who make claims that are not probed, no FIRs are cited, no chargesheets are examined and crucial information that could change the reader’s perceptions about claims made by people relating to Sori is withheld.
One of the planks on which the reporter bases the prospect of Sori being a double- crosser is the statement of local Congress leader Awdhesh Kumar Gautam. “She was playing to both sides. She could not have managed it for long,” Gautam tells the reporter. Yet, the latter fails to provide the reader with instances that may bring this forth. There aren’t even quotes from police officers substantiating how Sori was helping them, or whether she had actually promised them “a major haul of Maoists” as Gautam claims.
Crucially, the reporter withholds the information that Gautam is a powerful local contractor and a former police constable who has an old enmity with Sori. As reported by Tehelka, when Sori got an independent contract from the district collector to build her own school, Gautam allegedly began to resent her inroads into his core business[ii]. Provided with this bit of information, it is possible to look at Gautam’s claims in a new light: that of a local businessman trying to settle scores. Why did theSunday Express withhold this information from readers?
The Express also withholds the fact that Sori’s family and Gautam are political rivals. As the same newspaper had reported, Sori’s elder brother Sahdev once contested a panchayat election against Gautam’s wife, who won[iii].
As for her links with Maoists, the Sunday Express suggests that since Sori was not shot at/ injured when alleged Maoists attacked her house and shot at her father, she must be one. “Last June, Maoists attacked her father Mundra’s home and shot him in the leg. But Sori was spared”, readers are told. On what basis does the reporter conclude that Sori was “spared”? Was she in the house at the point when the attack took place, and did the Maoists not shoot her because she was one of them? Further, how is the attack on one’s family proof of the fact that one is a Maoist?
The other “proof” that the Sunday Express furnishes of Sori’s Maoist links is a quote from a local journalist and “family friend for years” who says “Madam was a bridge between Maoists and the local company contractors. She helped them levy taxes…” Readers are not told who this local journalist is, and whether Sori’s family also considers him a family friend. Given the extremely hostile working conditions of local journalists, where taking sides places them at immense risk and where they get paid for” not telling the truth”[iv], can their opinions be taken at face value?
The reporter appears to have based his story merely on hearsay, without probing deeper into any of the claims. For instance, when he states that the “Maoists recently issued a diktat forbidding her (Sori’s) relatives…from cultivating their land for three years…”, he does not state why the diktat was issued and how he is sure that it was a Maoist diktat. While the reporter does not use the word “allegedly” when talking about acts attributed to the Maoists, it comes into play when he mentions about police overtures/ atrocities. For instance “Kalluri (former Dantewada SSP) allegedly framed Sori…” and “These (Sori’s) letters detailed…how SP Ankit Garg allegedly stripped her…”
These are not the only blips undercutting the story though. The major assumption that seems to inform the reporter is the “us v/s them” syndrome. In this framework, a person has to side either with the Maoists or the State. Neutrality and an observance of ties with both sides not amounting to support of either is considered proof of culpability in heinous crimes.
The reporter ought to have pointed out how holding a neutral and independent position, like Sori was attempting to do, invites the wrath of both sides in the conflict; instead he flips her attempt at neutrality into one of being a double-crosser. Further, while introducing Sori, he does not mention that she was fighting to get minimum wages of tribal people raised from Rs. 60 to Rs. 120, and had kicked up a row about senior police officials pocketing huge sums from the illegal teak trade generated in the name of “jungle clearing” to thwart the Maoist movement, among other things[v]. She had, at the same time, saved the lives of CRPF jawans from a Maoist attack, as she says in this interview[vi]. These bits of information could entirely transform the readers’ perception of Sori up front.
Despite relying so heavily on people’s comments to construct his narrative, why did the reporter not speak to Sori’s father, or the deputy commander, CRPF, 51 Battalion, Mohan Prakash whom Sori claims to know very well?
This article is not arguing about Sori’s innocence; that probably she is; or her torture by the police, which also probably she has suffered. Neither is it asking how the media dare raise questions about Sori’s involvement with parties in the conflict. Such investigations are central to understanding how the Maoist conflict affects individuals in flesh and blood. Instead, it is trying to show how the investigation is biased, and how the media–when it tries to be critical–plays along the State/ corporate narrative on the issue.
In this context, it is pertinent to ask why the reporter did not raise the issue of systemic lapses in the full-page spread. Why are no questions raised about how hundreds of people such as Sori end up behind bars in conflict zones in the first place? Why does the reporter not talk about police lapses, administration excesses, and judicial delays? Why does he not ask why investigation has not been initiated against those accused of Sori’s custodial torture?
Instead, the reporter chooses to question why it took Sori 45 days to come out with the story of her being stripped naked and stones being inserted into her private parts. Perhaps, he ought to keep in mind that admitting that such things requires getting over the feelings of being shamed and violated. And when the victim happens to be a woman in a society as deeply patriarchal as ours, it doesn’t become any easier.
The Sunday Express also raises questions about how activists are using Sori. While that may very well be the case, the ground on which the reporter builds this argument is by pointing to the absence of anyone who agrees having carried the letters from Sori in jail to Delhi, where they “surfaced”. Has the reporter forgotten that Binayak Sen was in jail for over two years for this very reason: acting as a courier to an alleged Maoist? How then does he expect anybody to own up to carrying Sori’s letters out of jail?
“Soni’s Story”is an example of the media trying to cast a critical eye on the Maoist-state conflict, and examine how individuals are affected by it. Encouragingly, it tries to provide readers with a historical perspective, tracking Sori’s case over the last two years. This could have been the crucial context that’s missing in regular media coverage; it could have been the crucial frame that would make people’s lives in conflict zones intelligible. Instead, in the kind of questions it raises and in its ambivalence with facts, it only distorts the picture further. It is an example of how a story can be deeply problematic despite it appearing like an unbiased search for facts.

#Tata Mundra Project Under Investigation for Social and Environmental Policy Violations

Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti

Bhadreshwar, Mundra, Gujarat



Press Statement

New Delhi, August 6, 2012


Tata Mundra Project Under Investigation for Social and Environmental Policy Violations;

If Confirmed, Project Could Face Serious Repercussions


After a year of preliminary enquiry, and first of its kind in India for any projects, the recourse mechanism of International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) has ordered a full investigation into the serious social and environmental policy violations by the Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (CGPL – Tata Mundra project).  Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (MASS) welcomes the decision.


With this, the first Ultra Mega Power Project in India to get clearance, Tata Mundra, which is running the risk of turning financially non-viable due to the decision of Indonesian government for revising its coal export pricing structure, which effectively doubled prices, is on dock for its poor social and environmental track-record, something which they camouflage behind claims of ‘responsible corporate citizen’. In the case of full investigation confirming the policy breaches, the project could face serious repercussions.


The key focus of the investigation, among others, will be on:


·         whether the IFC exercised due diligence in reviewing CGPL’s environmental and social assessments

·         whether IFC gave adequate consideration to the cumulative impacts o Adani Power and the construction of the Mundra West Port

·         whether IFC’s assessment of community support for the project was adequate, and

·         whether policies of IFC was correctly applied with regard to the complainants’ seasonal fishing settlements and fish drying areas


In June 2011, the people’s movement of fishing communities , MASS lodged a complaint with the CAO, raising the issues of failure to recognize large number of people as affected, loss of livelihood of thousands of fishworkers, pollution and health hazards due to fly ash, colossal destruction of mangroves and violation of environmental clearance.


“We are happy that CAO recognized the serious violations and have ordered a full investigation into it. We hope that they will go to the bottom of issues, investigate impartially and stop financing this project which is threatening the livelihood of thousands of fishworkers and the fragile ecology of Kutch”, said Bharat Patel, General Secretary of MASS.


While CAO identified key issues for investigation, we are disappointed that they decided not to look into the issues of salt-pan workers and grazers, who are also seriously impacted by the project, citing a technical reason that MASS raised these issues only in the rejoinder to the original complaint. Considering the capacity of local communities, whose access to detailed and timely information is seriously impaired, CAO should have looked into all impacts of the project, irrespective from where the information came in and when. After IFC financing a project, destroying lives of people, the onus of identifying all negative impacts should not be on the affected communities. We hope CAO will look at the issues comprehensively and not in piecemeal.


CAO in its report says about IFC being satisfied with the additional clearances the company obtained for changing the closed cycle cooling system into open cycle cooling system, in which the water is released to the sea at higher temperature than normal, which is detrimental to fish and other aquatic life. Any change of technology should have warranted a new Environmental Impact Assessment, including public hearings. We are not aware of any such. We hope CAO will enquire about the process which preceded change of technology.


Last month an eminent panel, after an independent fact finding visit to the affected areas and after extensive discussion with the company as well as communities, released its report, confirming serious social and environmental issues, depletion of fish catch since the project was commissioned, possibility of high radiation from fly ash, the company’s failure to conduct a cumulative impact assessment, communities were not adequately consulted and the project has blocked the access to fishing and grazing grounds. The panel recommended to the government to declare a moratorium on all projects in the region and recommended IFC to stop financing the project, until a comprehensive review is conducted.


The project is financed by IFC, Asian Development Bank, Korean ExIm Bank, State Bank of India, India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd, and other Indian banks.


Contact: Bharat Patel – +91-9426469803


#Nestle NAN H.A. 1 Gold baby formula ‘making children sick’

HA 1 Gold_00103

Nestle‘s NAN H.A. 1 Gold. Picture: Nestle

Harry Paganin

Robert Paganin fed the new formula to his six-month-old son Harry for four weeks before discovering it was making his son sick. Picture: Supplied

Constant crying, rashes, dark green watery poo, dehydration and vomiting are among the symptoms babies have been experiencing since Nestle’s NAN H.A. 1 Gold switched to a “new improved” recipe.

Sarah Wells from Launceston in Tasmania put her 10-week-old son Oliver on the new formula and said she immediately noticed the bad side effects.

“A week after being on the formula, and the second can, Oliver’s face broke out in nasty eczema,” Ms Wells told

Ms Wells contacted Nestle, and was told by a customer service representative that babies often have reactions when switching to a new formula, then offered a $50 gift voucher.

Robert Paganin from Blackburn North in Victoria fed the new formula to his six-month-old son Harry for four weeks before he discovered it was making his son sick.

“Within 48 hours of changing he was fine, he was drinking the bigger bottle and finishing it, whereas on the other one he was refusing to drink,” Mr Paganin said.

“I am extremely disappointed and disgusted in Nestle playing with our babies’ wellbeing.”

Nestle external relations manager Margaret Stuart said the company ran tests when it switched calcium chloride for potassium chloride in the formula recipe.

“This testing did not show anything that could cause the reactions that parents are describing,” Ms Stuart said.

Ms Stuart said that the company takes concerns from parents very seriously, and in response to comments Nestle is running further testing using an independent laboratory in Australia.

“While we do not yet have final results, preliminary results of the microbiological profile indicate no food safety issue,” she said.

In the past six weeks, more than 100 reviews and comments have been posted by angry parents on consumer website Product Review.

“Old recipe was fantastic, new and improved a total disgrace , after 3-4 feeds of Nan H.A. Gold1 my baby was producing dark green liquid poo, excessive wind and restlessness,” posted Brett4646.

Meanwhile Joy16 posted: “We haven’t had such terrible days and nights like this before. Our twins cried constantly for 6 hours.”

“It is terrible!! It’s even worse when u ring the company and tell them and they still don’t take you seriously! My son smells revolting! He cries non stop!,” posted 4babies.

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