Jairam is wrong: It isn’t mining that causes poverty


by  Jan 14, 2013

Crude generalisations may make for great polemics, particularly when they are backed by ideological rigidity, but they don’t always make for informed political or economic discourse.

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh is guilty of both crude generalisations and ideological rigidity when he says, with breezy disregard for nuance and even a callous disdain for facts, that “mining only leads to poverty.” Addressing tribal populations in Lanjigarh in Odisha, Ramesh claimed that mining would not do away with the widespread poverty that the tribal-inhabited areas in the State were susceptible to. “The Central government believes that poverty can be reduced only through agriculture and rural development,” Ramesh added. (More here)

Ramesh’s choice of turf to articulate his ruminations on mining, poverty and rural development isn’t entirely without significance. This was after all the ‘hallowed’ ground where Rahul Gandhi had in 2010 given rare voice to his perspective (such as it is on) on developmental economics – with yet more of the same crude and ill-informed generalisations.

Friend of the tribals or just misguided? PTI

Rahul Gandhi had said then that he would serve as a “soldier in Delhi” waging battle on behalf of the tribal people of Kalahandi and against the interests of mining corporates that were looking to harness minerals from this resource-rich region. Ramesh had, as Environment Minister, refused clearance for mining activity in the region, as part of an elaborate mapping of go/no-go areas that clearly went overboard in its reach.

As columnist Dhiraj Nayyar noted last year, that decision by Ramesh cost the country substantially more than the Rs 1.86 lakh crore that was cited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General as the notional loss to the exchequer from the coal scandal.

The Indian economy paid a high price in terms of the 10-15 per cent shortage in power supply year after year, added Nayyar. And that shortage came about not because power generating capacity had not been added, but because of a crippling shortage of coal to fire the power plants. And over the next five years, that shortage will likely more than double.

In other words, what keeps the tribal people of Odisha’s mineral-rich area in poverty is not mining activity but the singular lack of imagination of successive governments, right down to the UPA 2 government of Manmohan Singh, to bring even the rudiments of development to these region. It bears mention that Odisha’s Kalahandi district was in the news during Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership in 1986 for the starvation deaths there that prompted a tribal mother to sell her daughter for food. Until then, the Congress had been in power at the Centre for all but three years – and yet, the tribal communities had not benefited from even the faintest whiff of development and continued to wallow in poverty.

Even today, the UPA government’s anti-poverty measures only find expression in throwing good money after bad on welfare programmes that leak like a sieve, rather than in permitting responsible mining activity that would have propelled the economy and uplifted local populations from poverty while simultaneously limiting environmental degradation.

Successful models overseas offer an illustration of the economic multiplier effect, including in lifting indigenous populations from poverty, from responsible mining overseen by proactive governments. In Australia, for instance, the mining boom during the past decade effectively meant that the contribution of mining and mining services industries to Australia’s economy more than doubled from less than 10 per cent of GDP in 2002-03 to 20 per cent of GDP in 2011-12. (More here)

The Australian government also oversaw a partnership between the minerals industry and the indigenous communities, including Aboriginal communities, under which the industry expanded accesss to employment and business development opportunities to indigenous people and communities in mining regions.

In other words, the federal government worked alongside the minerals industry, yet held it accountable for responsible mining practices, and simultaneously leveraged the industry to catalyse the economy in rural and remote parts of Australia both directly through employment and enterprise development, and indirectly by supporting broader economic opportunities.

Similar successful models of responsible mining that uplifted economies exist in other resource-rich countries, including Mongolia. Entire communities benefited from the mining boom, with no significant damage to the environment.

In India, on the other hand, polemicists like Jairam Ramesh and Rahul Gandhi have made a virtue of economic stagnation for decades, in the name of protecting tribal communities from mining corporates. And having contributed thus to a crippling loss of coal for power generation, inflicting a heavy economic burden on the economy, the Manmohan Singhgovernment gave away mining licences recklessly precipitating what is arguably the biggest resources scam in India’s independent history. Today, the selfsame Jairam Ramesh suggests with no trace of irony that it is mining that keeps tribal communities in poverty.

No, Mr Ramesh, what keeps tribal communities in poverty is your ecological evangelism (which acknowledges no middle ground) – and your government’s laissez faire grant of licence that feeds monumental corruption – rather than promote responsible mining that can lift up economies and benefit everyone, including tribal populations, without environmental degradation. It is the singular lack of imagination on the part of the government of which you are a part that has inhibited the Indian economy from realizing its potential and allowed the plunder of national resources, while keeping tribal communities in poverty.


‘Don’t take Niyamgiri o videshi’ #Vedanta

By , TNN | Jan 14, 2013,

LANJIGARH: The congregation of about 500 Dongria and Kutia tribals to greet Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh with their traditional song and dance at Lanjigarh had no clue who the minister was or what was the purpose of his visit.

“We don’t know who Jairam Ramesh is,” said Dadhi Pushika, a local tribal, who couldn’t spell out the name of the minister properly. He said they were asked by some local Congressmen to gather at the venue of the public meeting on Sunday and to perform their traditional music and dance.

The tribals, who were singing and dancing merrily before the minister arrived at the venue, however, stopped doing so as soon as hisentourage arrived. The shy tribals didn’t budge even as the minister urged them to continue singing.

“We were also asked to come with our traditional weapons to brandish during his (minister’s) visit. So I asked some of my friends in the village to come, who asked me if the guest was coming in a helicopter,” smiled another tribal Drenju Wikaka shyly. He said they were asked to sing a pro-Niyamgiri song. But when asked what the words of their songs were, Wikaka said they were singing, “‘Don’t take Niyamgiri o videshi'”.

“Every time a guest comes to our village on Niyamgiri issue, we are invited although after his return things remain the same. He makes some promises, which the local educated people make us understand. But our villagers are being tortured and treated like dogs by the local police on suspicion of being involved in Maoist activities and the leaders are not doing anything,” said Kalia Sikoka. He stressed Niyamgiri is everything for them and they won’t give an inch of it, questioning innocently why is there so much fuss about it.

Abducted Malkangiri collector Vineel Krishna, who is the private secretary to Ramesh at present, was also part of the visit. He said the security system has to improve in Maoist-infested districts to successfully complete developmental projects meant for tribals. “Maoists are instigating the innocent people and taking advantage of underdevelopment. In order to ensure development we need people’s support,” said Krishna. About his release from Maoist abductors in 2011, he said his release was possible only because of the support of local people.


Anonymous hacks MIT after Aaron Swartz’s suicide

Hacktivist group defaces university pages after the school promises a full investigation into MIT’s role in events leading up to the Internet activist taking his life.

Steven Musil

 January 13, 2013 9:34 PM PST

Anonymous‘ message on an MIT page (click for larger image).

(Credit: Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET)


Just hours after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pledged an investigation into its role in events leading up to the suicide of Aaron Swartz, online hacktivist group Anonymous defaced the school’s Web site.

Swartz, a Reddit cofounder who championed open access to documents on the Internet, committed suicide on Friday. The 26-year-old was arrested in July 2011 and accused of stealing 4 million documents from MIT and Jstor, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. He faced $4 million in fines and more than 50 years in prison if convicted.

After MIT President L. Rafael Reif issued a statement this afternoon promising a “thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present,” Anonymous targeted at least two MIT Web sites. Lacking the loose-knit group’s usual feisty language, the message posted on the Web site was a call for reform in the memory of the late Internet activist.

After calling the prosecution of Swartz “a grotesque miscarriage of justice” and “a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for,” Anonymous outlined its list of goals under a section reservedly labeled “Our wishes:”


  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.


CNET has contacted MIT for comment on the apparent hacking and will update this report when we learn more.

Critics of the prosecutors in the case say the feds were unfairly trying to make an example out of Swartz. “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” Swartz’s family said in a statement released yesterday. “It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

CNET has also contacted the U.S. Attorney’s office and will update this report when we hear back.



Global protests against #Vedanta

January 13, 2013 By 

People across the globe have registered their protests against Vedanta once again. On January 11, parallel demonstrations took place in Orissa, London and New York where activists in hundreds raised slogans and upheld placards to denounce the corporate annexations of  indigenous peoples’ lands.

From Niyamgiri hills, more than 500 people turned up at a rally which covered about two kilometers in the Bhawanipatna town. Resistance movements in Lanjigarh have also inspired tribal representatives of Karlapat region whose mountains are now being targeted by the mining companies. In this rally, several people who were cheated of their lands narrated the atrocities and tortures they faced from Vedanta highhandedness in Lanjigarh. They also gave an account of how the company goons and the local police routinely harass the women in the afflicted areas.


In solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Orissa, a loud group of protesters from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots groups mobbed the company’s Mayfair headquarters in London the same day. Holding a banner that read “FCA: de-list Vedanta”, the demonstrators called for the Financial Conduct Authority to remove Vedanta from the London Stock Exchange for poor corporate governance and human rights crimes.


Likewise, in New York City, protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters to highlight the company’s human rights crimes, displaying placards that read: “Our Mountain! Our Rights! Vedanta: Give Up!” and “Dongria Kond’s Niyamgiri: Hands Off!”

New York

Simultaneously, the Supreme Court of India has deferred its final verdict on Vedanta’s planned mega-mine until 21st January. If permission to mine is denied Vedanta is likely to close its Lanjigarh refinery due to lack of bauxite costing them billions. On Sunday the Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh plans to visit the threatened mountain to visit the Dongria Kond.

Various grassroots groups including Phulbari Solidarity Group, Japan Against Nuclear, Tamil Solidarity and London Mining Network, along with Foil Vedanta gathered at Vedanta’s London headquarters to add their voice to recent pressure for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for its poor corporate governance, illegal operations and major human rights violations. They shouted ‘Vedanta out of London’ and blew horns and whistles. Several parliamentarians and the former CBI Director Richard LambertLondon have highlighted how Vedanta’s listing is used for legal immunity to hide their corporate crimes.

At the Supreme Court in Delhi today lawyers for Vedanta dwelled on the ongoing demonstrations in London, asking why people are protesting there, and claiming that India is suffering because of this. Judges noted that this is not relevant to the case and pointed out that people have a right to protest. Foil Vedanta’s spokesperson reacted:

“Vedanta is a London listed company and profits from this affiliation. It is typical of Vedanta to assume they are above the law and above public accountability. We will continue to draw attention to their corporate crimes here in London”.

Activists at the rally in Bhawanipatna chanted “Vedanta go back: water, land and forest ours. We are Supreme people of the supreme court” while dalit leader Surendra Nag spoke about the loss of land and livelihood for local people, some of whom have ended up as beggars. One man spoke of how his whole family had been tortured by company goons and they had lost 6 acres of land to the company without compensation.

The project has been racked with controversy from the start, as a spate of recent coverage points out: The Lanjigarh refinery built to process the bauxite from the hills was illegally constructed, the court case presided over by a judge with shares in the company, and the refinery should never have been given permission without including the associated mega mine in impact assessments. The Delhi High Court is also currently investigating the large donations from Vedanta to India’s two main political parties which could be deemed illegal as Vedanta is a foreign (British) company.

A cover story in major Indian glossy Open Magazine in December details evidence of corruption and collusion between Vedanta and the Orissa state government, local officials, judges and the police to force the project through. Meanwhile Vedanta’s chairman and 56.7% owner Anil Agarwal has launched a rare PR crusade claiming that Vedanta ‘have not cut one tree’ and respects and preserves the rights of the protesting indigenous tribe living on the threatened mountain. He sets out his extractive philosophy for India – suggesting that exploration should be drastically increased and regulation decreased to provide for the domestic market for metals and oil.

If Vedanta loses the case to allow state owned company Orissa Mining Corporation to mine the mountain on their behalf they may have to close the dependent Lanjigarh refinery costing them billions. Under enormous pressure from Vedanta the Orissa government has suggested alternative bauxite supplies from a deposit located in a major wildlife sanctuary and tribal area at Karlapat arousing anger and opposition from grassroots groups.

The court’s decision rests on whether the Green Bench of India’s Supreme Court rules the rights of forest dwellers to be ‘inalienable or compensatory’. In view of this, India’s Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has asked the Environment Minister to ensure the rights of forest dwellers is protected in the spirit of the Forest Dwellers Act.

Speaking about the verdict, Dongria Kond activist Lado Sikaka states: “We will continue our fight even if Vedanta gets permission. Are these Judges above the Law? In effect, they act as if they are. Niyamgiri belongs to us. We are fighting because We are part of it. Our women are harassed and we are called by the police and threatened not to go to rallies. Last month they have been working like Vedanta’s servants.”

Foil Vedanta’s Samarendra Das says:

“Vedanta is not the only mining company that should be de-listed for their corporate crimes. Infamous London listed offenders Lonmin in South Africa, Monterrico in Peru, GCM in Phulbari and Bumi in Indonesia should also be investigated for extensive human rights atrocities.”


An unsung Nirbhaya in Kandhamal #delhigangrape #Vaw

by  on JANUARY 13, 2013 · http://www.dalitweb.org/

Asha Kowtal

She was young and carefree, exploring life and trying to live it to the fullest. As a young girl she wanted to look beautiful, study well and become an independent and confident woman. She used to enjoy her time with her friends and looked forward to go out and watch a movie with her male friend.

Late one evening, the thrill and the excitement of the movie ended in the brutal gang rape and death of the young girl.

This is not the recent story of Delhi’s braveheart . . .

This is the story of a young girl in a remote village in Kandhamal district of Odisha. On Oct. 26, 2012, she went to watch a movie with her male friends from her village during the Dussera celebrations. She was brutally assaulted, gang raped and murdered. The next morning, her body was found in the bushes nearby.

This case resembles the recent Delhi case in all aspects, except that the ‘outrage’ expressed from all corners of the country differs vastly.

None of the politicians apologized to the country, none of the media persons demanded an answer for the crime, none of the Bollywood personalities shed tears for her, none of the feminists wore black for her, none of the students’ groups held protests and candle marches for her.

There is no memorial for this girl. There never will be. Her life is over; she is snuffed out – not just from this world but from our memory and conscience as well. Did we even let her into our memory and conscience?

How do we her value life? While Rs. 15,00,00 has been offered as compensation for Nirbhaya, the Tehsildhar has given Rs.10,000 to this girl’s family in Kandhamal.

Is it a coincidence that her family is Dalit, landless and extremely poor?

The blankness in the faces of her parents and siblings expresses the fact that Justice Verma Committee and its recommendations will remain just as unknown and distant to them, resembling the sorrow of the loss of their dear girl, which remains unknown and distant to the rest of the world.

Please read about many more unsung Nirbhayas in Kandhamal:  report  below which gives a glimpse of the myriad struggles of the rape survivors. Their struggles reveal the deeply structural nature of patriarchal hostility deployed towards the survivors and victims of sexual crimes, and towards redress and rehabiliation processes. All systems, from Child Protection Services to Police to Courts that are meant to ensure the safety and well being of all women citizens are completely dysfunctional for girls and women from the most vulnerable sections.

I am in solidarity with ALL rape survivors and victims. But believe strongly that without unraveling the intersections of caste and patriarchy, no legislation will have any meaning in the lives of Dalit women. Dismantling institutions that reek of patriarchy and caste discrimination is a long haul for anti-caste feminism and all women – from the margins to the center, from the poorest to the most empowered women – stand to live in a better world if that’s done..


Fact finding team’s visit to investigate the recent cases of rapes in Kandhamal district.

Fact finding report of gang rape and murder of young Dalit girl in Kandhamal


It is shameful that heinous crimes including gang rapes and murder of young Dalit girls in Kandhamal is excluded from the discourse on rape in our country, says Asha Kowtal, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch

Bhubaneswar, January 11, 2013 – The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights with allied organizations like NAWO, Odisha Forum for Social Action, human rights activists and journalists conducted a fact finding visit to investigate into the recent cases of rapes in Kandhamal district, addressed the media today at Red Cross, Bhubaneswar.

On January 10, 2013, the fact finding team visited five villages ( Tiangia, Simanbadi, Daringbadi, Badagaon, Sarangoda and Tikabali ) in Kandhamal district. In each village, the team has met the rape survivor, the family, community members and the investigating police officers at the police station. Finally, the fact-finding team has met the District Collector in Kandhamal and shared the findings and recommendations.

The members of the team express their shock and anguish over the gruesome cases of rape and murder of Dalit Christian girls in the recent months at Kandhamal and at the same time are angered with the fact that these cases never figure in the recent discussions on sexual violence and rape in India. Dalit girls living in remote tribal areas of India with little access to livelihood and life are battered brutally and killed, and yet this is not enough for the Orissa Government to hang its head in shame.

In Kandhamal, if at all given, a rape case is given Rs. 5000 and rape and murder is given Rs. 10,000 as compensation and in Delhi the recent much publicized case was announced Rs. 15,00,000 (Fifteen Lakh rupees) !!! This shows the apathy of the Government and clear exclusion of issues of Dalit and minority girls. The discussion with the District Collector in Kandhamal has revealed that the district administration has no money for rehabilitation of rape survivors and their families. He said, “I have no money for the compensation and rehabilitation of minority (Dalit Christian) girl survivors of rape.”

Delays in investigation, serious lapse in role of police, zero support from district administration and total break down of statutory bodies is clearly visible in every case that has been investigated. The entire child protection system, including CWC, JJB, Child line has not played any role in support of the victims as well the minor accused in the cases that we have investigated, says Manju Prabha, NAWO

Bogus baba’s and fake leaders like Bhagwat have been issuing baseless statements to the media and we condemn them as anti-human and misogynist ideas. The impunity enjoyed by a few in our country has instigated such people and others to get away scot-free. Such is the case in Kandhamal as well, where community control has been dismantled and hence people and officials are shocked to witness such horrific crimes in the area.

The Chief Minister of Orissa claims to have stayed away from New Year celebrations, in solidarity with the recent victim of rape in Delhi, but we wonder what he has done in response to these five inhuman acts of sexual violence on young Dalit girls in Kandhamal? , says Namrata Daniel, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights

The families of the rape victims live in abject poverty conditions, without access to basic entitlements. Absence of job cards, access to PDS and other flag- ship programmes was clearly visible in all cases.

Key observations of the fact-finding team:

All the five cases reported to the fact-finding team was found to be authentic and the alleged crimes were truly reported. The detail of each case is attached.

All the acts of sexual violence were intentional and pre-planned to victimize the girl by raping and murder.

Rape survivors and family members do not have any knowledge about their legal rights and steps to be taken towards access to justice.

SC/ST PoA has not been invoked in Tikabali case and hence the accused have been roaming scot-free for more than 5 months. No compensation, no protection and no justice for this young girl who was raped and almost lost her life because the accused slit her neck with sharp knives.

The team observed that that local police did not registered FIR immediately and even those case registered police not supply free FIR copy to the victims

Severe gaps in investigation were observed particularly allegations relating to the police forcing the victims to change the statements.

Filing of Charge sheets has been delayed inordinately in all the cases. Police were not able to give a justification for this.

Filing of false / counter cases on family members of victims has been observed.

The entire child protection system is a total failure and has not been linked with any of the case yet inspite of several complaint letters and phone calls. None of the concerned members have supported. In addition, the girl was denied rehabilitation support by the administration.

After the rape and murder of young girls, Siblings of victim’s family and other girls in the villages have dropped out from school in fear.

The victims are living a life of extreme poverty and have not access to life and livelihood. The team observe that financial assistances not given immediately after the cases. In one case Rs. 10,000 was given in case of gang rape and murder and Rs. 5000 for rape was given.

District administration and police have not taken serious steps and it seems are purposefully neglecting the cases of violence against dalit and minority girls

Human Rights Commissions and other statutory bodies have failed completely in addressing the life security and protection of dalit girls and women in Orissa. No committee working in the district such as Women and child development committee and District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (DVMC) under SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989 and Rule 1995.


1. The Orissa Government should ensure speedy trial for all the cases immediately.

2. Fast track courts should be set up for these trials.

3. Ensure filing of charge sheet immediately for the investigated cases.

4. Review of enforcement of SC/ST PoA Act at district and state level should be taken up the state and include SCST minorities to be included in the PoA Act as they are targeted with the same prejudices biases.

5. Full rehabilitation plan for the survivors and families should be made for the survivor and family. Provide a job for the family member, residential school for the survivor and compensation of Rs. 15,00,00 for rape and murder case.

6. Panchayat standing committee should be activated and take serious action in these cases of violence.

7. Health department (NRHM) has not taken any action in any of the cases. Trauma counselling and medical treatment for the survivors and the witness should be provided immediately

8. Education department ( SSA ) should ensure that the girls go back to school.

9. Minority Commission to be set up in the district and Orissa State level to look into all matters concerning minority groups

10. Residential school for minority girl children should be set up to ensure quality education, safety and security of the children.

11. The child protection system ( ICPS ) should be strengthened and activated with continuous monitoring and follow up.

12. The district administration to take steps to generate awareness of legal rights in particular for women and young girls.

13. Sensitization on Gender and exclusion issues – training of police and other district officials should be conducted in

Asha Kotwal Manjuprava Dhal

General Secretary, Member

AlDMAM-NCDHR, New Delhi NAWO, Orissa Chapter

For further information:

Orissa Forum for Social Action

Jugal Kishore 08895210713 jugalkishore_ranjit@yahoo.com

Divya 08895441954 divyaraphael@gmail.com

Asha Kowtal 09560100442 asha.kowtal@ncdhr.org.in


#Chhattisgarh- Tribal Girls’ Rape: Two Education Dept Officials Held #Vaw


RAIPUR | Jan 14,2013,
Two officials of Chattisgarh education department were today arrested in connection with the rape of minor inmates of a government-run residential school for tribal girls at Jhaliyamari village in Kanker district.

With today’s arrests, the total number of those held in this connection so far has reached eight, including two teachers.

“Block Education Officer (BEO) S S Navarji and Additional Block Education Officer (ABEO) Jitendra Kumar Nayak were booked for inaction against the rape accused when the incident came to light in November last year,” Superintendent of Police Rahul Bhagat told PTI.

“Deputy Sarpanch of Jhaliyamari village Sukalu Ram Netam had informed Navarji about the alleged sexual assault on inmates in the residential school following which the officer directed Nayak to probe the matter,” Bhagat said.

“After the investigation, rape on minor inmates was confirmed but no action was taken against the accused and even they (BEO and ABEO) did not inform the police,” he said.

Both will be produced in a local court of Kanker today, the SP said.

The incident of sexual assault on minor inmates of the government-run residential school for tribal girls in Jhaliyamari village of Kanker district was reported to police on January 6, following which two people including contract teacher – Mannu Ram Gota (24) – and school watchman – Deenaram – were arrested.

Later Superintendent of the residential school Babita Markam, Deputy Sarpanch of the village Sukalu Ram Netam and a villager Lachhu Ram were held for abetment.

The incident sparked outrage across the state and in view of this, the state government has directed to conduct inspection of all residential schools and hostels.

The main Opposition Congress has claimed that more such incidents can come to light after the inspection.


#Chhattisgarh- Many Monkies on our Back… #Vaw

By- Jamuna Inamdar
The final number of districts that make up the Indian state of Chattisgarh, located approximately in the center of India, is 27 as of today.  (*A district (Zilā) is an administrative division of an Indian state or territory.)  Here is a map that depicts all 27 districts.

Many existing districts were further divided and as many as 9 new districts were added last year.  And even today, Chattisgarh is being divided into newer districts.  Very soon, the above map will have to be updated.

I only hope we finally know how many districts there are! Or because of the constant change and addition everyone will lose track of how many districts there were and how many there are currently and how they look on the map.

I also happen to now be more well versed (even though still abysmally inadequate) with facts about Chattisgarh state where I started working 9 months ago than about the state of Maharashtra where I was born and lived for 3 decades.

While I thought Chattisgarh might be the state with the highest number of districts at 27.  Turns out it is Uttar Pradesh with a whooping 70 districts. Uttar Pradesh is the 5th largest state in India but I believe it is the most populated.  The largest state in our country, Rajasthan, has 33 districts.

In October 2011, I read in Outlook India the text of a lecture by Jairam Ramesh, called the Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture.  Some excerpts from it regarding why the division of some states (Chattisgarh and the likes especially) into smaller districts might be the need of the hour:

The Union Government has identified 60 districts in seven states that are affected by left-wing extremism. Of these, 15 are in Orissa, 14 in Jharkhand, 10 in Chattisgarh, 8 in Madhya Pradesh, 7 in Bihar, 2 each in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and 1 each in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. 18 more districts are being considered for inclusion.

When you look at these 60 districts on a map of India , five characteristics stand out. I should, however, mention straightaway that the 7 districts of Bihar are an exception to these generalisations. Bihar has its own dynamics embedded in caste and land-related structures.
  • First, an overwhelming majority of these districts have substantial population of tribal communities.
  • Second, an overwhelming majority of these districts have significant area under good quality forest cover.
  • Third, a large number of these districts are rich in minerals like coal, bauxite and iron ore.
  • Fourth, in a number of states, these districts are remote from the seat of power and have large administrative units.
  • Fifth, a large number of districts are located in tri-junction areas of different states.
On the size of administrative units, recently on a visit to Chattisgarh I discovered that the size of some blocks (like Conta in Dantewada district and Orchha in Narayanpur district and Orgi in Surguja district) was equivalent to the size of some districts in some other states and indeed equivalent to the size of some other states themselves.(the highlights and italics are mine) Given poor connectivity and infrastructure to begin with, this is a huge handicap to contend with by administrators. Rationalisation of administrative units is entirely within the domain and powers of state governments. The Chattisgarh government has very recently decided to create five more districts in the Naxal-affected regions of the state and this is a good step.

While the above has been discussed in the context of curbing the Naxal struggle, I am thinking about it in the context of the recent rapes in a tribal school.

Since three days now, Kanker district of Chattisgarh is in the news.   In one of the Ashram schools in Kanker, meant for tribal girls, the teacher and watchman of the school were arrested for repeatedly raping the minor girls.  One of the girls has died as a result of a sexually transmitted disease that went untreated.

Kanker was essentially part of Bastar district in south Chattisgarh. In 1998 it got an identity of its own.  It is now a district on its own with its own district collectorate, child welfare committee, district institute of education and training (DIET) and the usual government set up that every district needs and has.

If Kanker has been separated as a district from Bastar (and is even called North Bastar) in a bid to make it more manageable, has that helped the state to manage it any better or does it still appear unwieldy to administrators?

In a district with (figures obtained from http://kanker.gov.in/) 7 tehsils or blocks and 1004 villages, how difficult is it for government officials especially appointed for the purpose to ensure that heinous and grave crimes such as repeated rapes of tribal girls in school hostels do not go unnoticed? Can this problem be attributed to insufficient government officials, too many schools in too many villages? Clearly not!

I have personally encountered and still work with district level education officials who have not seen the schools that fall under their jurisdiction – the blocks.  They have not made visits to the schools in these blocks.  Some schools have never seen a government official who is “in-charge” of hearing and offering a solution to their problems.  Are the villages and blocks that far flung that a district level official never reaches them?

Another challenge that exists is the division within government education officials – of those who look into administrative matters and those who look into academic  matters.  Whose concern becomes this case of sexual assault and rape?  Ideally everybody’s.. but..!

When asked why officials do not make visits to their assigned blocks and schools – the answer is often the resentment that they have to do so on their account using their own finances!

Had the district level officials, block level officials made regular visits to the school they were assigned to, elicited cooperation and accountability from the head teachers of schools, would repeated rapes of minor girls have gone unnoticed?

I understand it is not that simple or merely to do with administrative divisions – as block level officials have turned a blind eye to this atrocity even after becoming aware of it.  Making visits and keeping oneself abreast of what is happening is not sufficient from actually stopping something from happening.  There are many other dynamics at play – dynamics of dominant caste and oppressed tribes. As pointed out by a colleague, a very important point to be considered here will also be to find out if the rapist teacher and watchman belonged to the same tribal community or were they non-tribal?

What is also disturbing is the appeal of the villagers for help falling on deaf ears. What do people do when their plea for help falls on the ears of people who instead of protecting them are partners in crime?  Aren’t these situations when people have decided to then take the law into their own hands, reacting equally brutally and violently?  And does that not take us further away from being a civilized society?

And dividing states and districts and blocks for administrative efficacy is not even the answer for the basic apathy and narrow-mindedness and helplessness and inhuman side of human beings.

I hope this incident will shake the district and block level officials into connecting with the people, the villages and truly becoming the protectors of peoples’ rights.  I hope they know that they cannot turn a blind eye to something gruesome happening in their very blocks, in the very schools they are responsible for, under their very noses.  I hope they are able to overcome caste and class barriers and offer protection and support to human beings who are made vulnerable and forced into helplessness.

I hope in the administrative sense, we learn to make the players of this system more accountable and design the system to succeed and not to fail!

  source -http://jamunainamdar.blogspot.in/

Jodie Foster Comes Out and Maybe Retires

In a surprise speech at the Golden Globes, Jodie Foster talks about her former partner, her new career path, and her loneliness.


JANUARY 13 2013

The biggest surprise at the Golden Globes on Sunday wasn’t the near shut out of Lincoln (which was a front-runner with seven nominations), but Jodie Foster’s speech after she was given the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award for her 47 years in the entertainment industry. The speech began a bit like a light-hearted comic interlude but was actually a serious and thoughtful combination of a coming out speech and a retirement goodbye.

“For all of you SNL fans, I’m 50!” shouted Foster triumphantly in front of a standing ovation.”I need to do that without this dress on, but maybe later. I was going to bring my walker tonight but it just didn’t go with the cleavage.”

Foster kept up the joking demeanor for a bit: “So I’m here being all confessional and I guess I just have the sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public, so a declaration that I’m a little nervous about. But maybe not quite as nervous as my publicist right now, huh Jennifer? Um, but uh, you know, I’m just gonna put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So I’m gonna need your support on this — I am single. Yes I am, I am single. No, I’m kidding. But I mean I’m not really kidding, but I am kind of kidding.”

It was a winking nod to her fans and followers who by now know that Foster is gay. But the actress turned director took a serious turn after that.

“I hope you’re not disappointed that there won’t be a big coming-out speech tonight, because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the stone age in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family, and co-workers and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met. But now apparently I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press confrence, a fragrance, and a prime-time reality show. You guys might be surprised,  but I am not Honey Boo Boo child. No, I’m sorry that’s just not me, never was, and it never will be…. But seriously, if you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler. If you had to fight a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe then you too would value privacy above all else — privacy. Someday in the future people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was. I have given everything up there from the time I was 3 years old. That’s reality show enough, don’t you think?”

(RELATED: 10 Reasons SheWired’s Editor Loves Jodie Foster)

The actress then talked about her family, including her two sons who were in attendance. “There is no way I could ever stand here without acknowledging one of the deepest loves of my life, my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life, my confessor… most beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard. Thank you Cyd. I am so proud of our modern family, our amazing sons Charlie and Kit, who are my reason to breath and to evolve, my blood and soul. And boys in case you didn’t know it, this song, all of this, this song is for you.”

Foster followed that up by saying she may never be up on that stage again, or any stage for that matter, and though she’d continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved, but “from now on I may be holding a different talking stick… maybe it won’t open on 3,000 screens, maybe it’ll be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle, but it will be my writing on the wall: Jodie Foster was here. I still am. And I want to be seen, to be understood deeply, and to be not so very lonely.”

Watch video of Foster’s speech below.


PRESS RELEASE-Indian Americans condemn culture of #hatespeech, call for uniform application of the law

English: Akbaruddin Owaisi


Friday January 12, 2013

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC –www.iamc.com ), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India‘s pluralist and tolerant ethos has expressed its unequivocal condemnation of the inflammatory and provocative language used by Mr. Akbaruddin Owaisi, a member of the Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly, at a public rally on December 24, 2012. IAMC has also called upon the state and central governments to apply the law uniformly to all such cases of speech that seeks to denigrate or ridicule any group of people, their religion or culture.

The right of free speech, guaranteed under article 19(1) of the Constitution of India, is subject to “reasonable restriction” under article 19(2). Such restrictions can be imposed in the interest of public order, decency or morality. Mr. Owaisi’s apparent ridiculing of Hindu deities not only threatens public order and breeches the norms of civil behavior, it also represents a violation of the Qur’anic injunction to desist from denigrating other religions.

Unfortunately, a culture of hate speech has been perpetuated for many years, due to the unwillingness of successive governments to confront this malaise in our public discourse. Mr. Praveen Togadia (VHP), Sadhvi Rithambara (RSS, Durga Vahini), Mr. L.K. Advani and Mr. Narendra Modi (BJP) and the late Mr. Bal Thackeray (Shiv Sena) are only a few among many that have persistently engaged in precisely the same kind of rabble-rousing rhetoric that Mr. Owaisi is being rightly pulled up for. Their words and actions have resulted in sectarian riots leading to the loss of thousands of lives, and the blighting of relations between communities, with no consequences to them on account of their actions.

“If hate speech had been consistently punished according to law, Mr. Owaisi would not have dared to engage in the kind of incendiary rhetoric that pits one community against another,” said Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC. “Absence of any prosecution against other hate-mongers will only reinforce the perception that the administration is active in invoking laws selectively, based on sectarian and political considerations,” added Mr. Khan.

IAMC has also called upon liberal activists to introspect on the implications of defending insults against religion heaped by individuals like Tasleema Nasreen and Salman Rushdie under the guise of free speech, while condemning sectarian zealots for similar provocations. Ridiculing that which is held sacred by any group of people can only lead to alienation, acrimony and the tearing apart of the nation’s social fabric.

The sectarian hate espoused by Pravin Togadia, Narendra Modi, Varun Gandhi and Akbaruddin is not representative of the majority of India’s Hindus and Muslims, who share a long and rich tradition of peaceful coexistence. IAMC appeals to the public to reject the divisive agenda of hate-mongers, and to strengthen grassroots efforts that promote communal amity.

Indian-American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim CouncilUSA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.

For more information please visit our new website at: http://www.iamc.com

References:1.    Hate Speech: Akbaruddin Owaisi arrested, police begin questioning
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-08/hyderabad/36215317_1_akbaruddin-owaisi-mim-akbar-owaisi2.    Boycott Muslims In India Says Indian Hindu Extremist

3.    Praveen Togadia’s speech about Bhagyalakshmi Mandir at Charminar

4.    Praveen Togadia’s provocative speech against Muslims

5.   SP plans to drop cases against Varun, angers its own Muslim leaders

6.  Maharaja Dharmendra’s hate speech in Hyderabad


Indian American Muslim Council
Ishaq Syed
Phone: (800) 839-7270
6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053
phone/fax: 1-800-839-7270
email: info@iamc.com

UID/Aadhaar, a medicine possibly worse than the disease #mustshare

Moneylife Foundation’s seminar on

MONEYLIFE DIGITAL TEAM | 12/01/2013 04:07 PM

Moneylife Foundation, UID, Aadhaar, event, UIDAI, government, poor, Right to Information, RTI

The Aadhaar project was supposed to eliminate corruption in welfare schemes and provide the poor with an identity. It is now, however, clearly spreading into areas that dangerously intrude into our lives and rights. Read on to find out why Col (retd) Matthew Thomas believes Aadhaar to be conceptually flawed, deceitfully promoted, dangerously structured and ignorantly applied

At the 148th seminar of Moneylife Foundation, Colonel (retd) Matthew Thomas, a former defence services officer and missile scientist turned civic activist, spoke on the evils of the Aadhar project. Through the seminar, he explained why Aadhaar is a dangerous tool that is in the hands of people who are unknown, urged participants to question why the project was for residents and not for citizens and questioned the purpose of a national identity card, even as developed nations are doing away with biometrics. The UK National ID system, for example, was scrapped in 2009 when it was called the “worst of government, leading to intrusive bullying and an assault on personal liberty”. In Australia, too, the Australia card was scrapped in 2006.
Col Thomas said that it is not he alone who finds the UID system pointless. He said that, in fact, when The National Identification Authority of India, (NIDAI) Bill 2010 was referred to the Parliament Standing Committee on Finance, the committee called it directionless, lacking clarity of purpose and raising serious concerns regarding national security.
He said that the project was conceptually flawed because whereas it was created with the aim of eliminating corruption in welfare schemes in the Public Distribution System. However, it is unclear how this will be done. It was hinted that it would authenticate the buyer/customer of the LPG cylinder, for example. But it was not mentioned when the authentication would be done.
Instead of improving transparency, it has now become an identity card for all residents that can seriously intrude into your life. Col Thomas believes the risk of intrusion comes mainly from UIDAI’s decision to grant contracts to dubious companies. One of UIDAI’s contractors, for example, is L1 ID Solutions, which was formed by merging two entities, one of which was under investigation by US Securities and Exchange Commission for certain offenses.
Furthermore, the organization has ties to international intelligence agencies. When Col Thomas filed an RTI to find out about the contracts signed with these companies, his request was rejected as a non-disclosure agreement had been signed. This despite the fact that the money used to pay the contractors was public funds!
Col Thomas also described how Aadhaar is being misused. He said that when his son-in-law went to make his Aadhaar card, he refused permission for his UID to be linked to his bank account. However, when he received the authentication card, he found out that it was. He asked what the need for introducing a third party (UID) in a clear transaction between a customer and a bank. The trouble with introducing a third party, he says, is that you don’t know who is in control of the system.
Toward the end of his talk, Colonel Thomas discussed the fallibility of fingerprinting. He said that even experts acknowledge that it is easy to create fake fingerprints and that fully developed scanners are unable to capture definite matches. With this, he ended his speech and invited Jude D’Souza to begin his workshop on the flaws in biometrics.
Mr D’Souza, an expert in design and development of microprocessor-based embedded electronic systems, showed how a simple Fevicol mould, created either in collaboration with another or under deceitful circumstances, can be used for authentication. The seminar ended with a lively question and answer session.


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