How does govt justify ‘Aadhaar’ when its foundation has crashed? #UID


Mathew Thomas, deccan herald

UID – ‘Aadhaar’ was touted out as a ‘transformational’ initiative — one that would change the face of India, make it the most digitised nation in the world, with the biggest data base of demographic information anywhere and so forth.

‘Aadhaar,’ which means ‘support’ or ‘foundation,’ was to be the platform on which all government programmes and many commercial applications were to be built.

The rejection by the parliament’s standing committee (PSC) of both the NIA bill to ‘regularise’ UIDAI’s actions and the UID scheme itself, has brought the Aadhaar foundation crashing down to earth.

The rejection must have come as a shock to many, but for those who were closely following the developments, it was expected. The most important aspect of the committee’s report is that it has gone beyond a mere examination of the bill. It looked at the UID scheme in considerable detail.

The report is hence, not just a view on the bill’s legality, but on the UID project itself, its dangers, utility and feasibility also. It examined expert witnesses and provided adequate opportunity to UIDAI authorities to rebut criticism. But UIDAI seems to have failed miserably in convincing the committee.

There is near unanimity on the report, as 28 of the 31 members agreed with it. Of the three dissenting notes, one said that he was new and hence, not aware of the details. Another senior Congress member dissented without giving any reason.

Besides, the home ministry has raised concerns on national security. The finance ministry has questioned aspects of the expenditure. It is easy to dismiss these as turf wars within government. The committee, however, gave credence to objections of both ministries.

In fact, the committee has rejected the scheme on seven major counts and consequently concluded that the bill in its present form is unacceptable. It urged the government to reconsider and review the UID scheme and the bill, in all its ramifications.

The seven grounds on which the committee based its report were: lack of feasibility study, hasty approval, threats to national security, being directionless, using unreliable technology, need for privacy and data-protection and lack of coordination among government agencies involved.

The committee also questioned the legality and ethics of implementing the scheme without statutory authority. Some of the observations of the committee are scathing.

For example, it said, “The UID scheme has been conceptualised with no clarity of purpose and is being implemented in a directionless way and may end up being dependent on private agencies.”

UIDAI has contracted for biometric technology from a former US company, L1 Identity Solutions, with close links to US intelligence agencies. It is now a subsidiary of Safran of France. UIDAI has not disclosed the terms of the technology contract. From available information, it appears that L1 does the de-duplication of biometric data.

Continued dependence
The system integration contractor is another foreign company, Accenture PLC. The entire national demographic data base would be stored in foreign, private company systems, apart from continued dependence on them for identification. In these days of cyber wars, if this does not raise concerns of national security, what will?

If Huawei and Devas were considered security threats, why not L1 be thought so too? The lack of a feasibility study for such a project is indefensible. That the idea was the brainchild of an ex-corporate honcho, who should know the essentiality of feasibility studies before money is spent, makes UID’s implementation without it, astonishing.

Next, the committee talks of ‘hasty approval.’ The fact that a law was thought necessary is evident from the NIA bill tabled in the House. If a law was essential, why launch the project, without it?

This is the same government, which is at pains to uphold the sanctity of parliamentary processes, for the Lokpal bill. Why does it have double standards for UID project? The committee’s view that the UID project is ‘directionless’ has good justification. One need to see only how many times, the question has been asked, whether UIDAI would issue an ID card.

Even today, no one knows, whether Aadhaar is a card or a number in a data base. Orders were issued to print cards recently and then cancelled. UIDAI has been talking of opening up the ‘Aadhaar platform’ for building commercial applications. No one knows what this means.

There is a business portal on the UIDAI website. Is the government aware of the intention to use data gathered by spending public funds, for private businesses? While UIDAI confines itself to providing identity, it leaves its use to others, like the state government civil supplies departments. How this would lead to better targeting of the beneficiaries of Central subsidies is unclear.

The concept of UID is based on the assumption that lack of identity is the reason for inability of the poor to access welfare. This appears seriously flawed. It ignores the discretion vested in government officials in deciding eligibility. Extraneous considerations, such as caste and other prejudices and sheer helplessness of the poor are the real reasons for denial of welfare. Corruption by those who are to prevent leakage is the major cause. The government seems to have misplaced priorities.

Instead of spending on storage, preserving food grains, and streamlining the distribution system, it is embarking on a massive IT project to provide identities to people, ostensibly to target the poor.

The committee concluded that the NIA bill is unacceptable and  urged the government to review the project. Perhaps, wiser counsel would still prevail and the government may halt further expenditure on the project immediately and evaluate it properly.

(The writer is a civil activist)

 

#India- 15 -year-old ‘s great escape in Jaipur #Vaw #Rape


By Sudhanshu Mishra in Jaipur, Mailtoday

THE Delhi gang rape case may not have deterred criminals from attacking women, but it has definitely made girls more alert and conscious about protecting themselves.

A 15- year- old school girl showed extraordinary presence of mind and courage in saving herself from four unidentified men who tried to abduct her from a notso- secluded stretch in Jaipur.

While none of the passersby came to her rescue, the girl pulled out a small knife she had started carrying in her bag ever since the Delhi gang rape shook the nation, and managed to force the four goons to flee.

Around 6.30 pm on Friday, the Class X student, was walking towards her coaching institute, half- a- kilometre from her residence in Shyam Nagar, when she noticed a man charging towards her while pointing her out to someone behind her.

Before she could comprehend the situation, two men grabbed her arm and pushed her into a white Mitsubishi Pajero parked on the road.

Two other miscreants were already sitting on the front seats. Before the men who abducted her could settle on the backseat, the girl kicked one of them “ below the belly”. So strong was the kick that the man fell on the road making way for her to jump out of the vehicle. This prompted the three to come out of the vehicle and try to grab her again.

The girl screamed at the top of her voice and flashed the knife, which stopped the four from pouncing on her. Whether it was her call for help or the sharpness of the blade is a matter of conjecture, but it was sufficient to make the criminals get back into the car and escape.

After returning home from the coaching institute, the braveheart narrated the incident to her parents and brother who immediately lodged a complaint with the Shyam Nagar police station.

The police had not been able to identify and locate the miscreants till Saturday evening, said station house officer Bhopal Singh. The girl could not note down the vehicle’s number but has told the police the series of the car number and its colour, Singh said.

The girl’s mother said she has been receiving self- defence training from her brother for some time now.

Talking to M AIL T ODAY , the girl, who wants to join the army, said she had a grouse with Jaipurites. “ I was shocked to see that none of the five or six people nearby came to help me.

None of them even bothered to inform the police,” she said, adding that she had never seen any of her attackers before.

Pushed into a car by four men, the 15- year- old who is trained in self defence kicked them away

 

Voices from Bangladesh- Youth Power #Sundayreading


 

 Shayantani,

In Bangladesh political parties are mired in corruption. Amongst ordinary people, there is little hope of achieving positive change through party politics. The brutal stabbing of Bishwajit in December 2012 in front of hundreds of people reveals this to be a country deeply divided by communal tensions. The destruction of Ramu in late 2012 show that this is a countr­­y where religious fundamentalists dare to burn down an entire Buddhist village. This is a country where the murder of a journalist couple in February 2012remains uninvestigated and the killers remain unpunished. This is a country where war criminals and perpetrators of genocide have the privilege of being members of parliament.
We, the youth, had almost forgotten that we are the strength of this country. For so long we forgot that Bangladesh was born as a secular, democratic country. We forgot that we have the power to change our future. We forgot how to stand up for justice. We, the people did not know how to raise our voice.
On the 5th of February 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) delivered a verdict on Abdul Quader Mulla. Widely known as ‘koshai Quader’ (butcher Quader), he is a leading member of the political party Jamat Islaami and was prosecuted at the ICT for killing 344 people during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Abdul Quader Mulla was sentenced to life imprisonment. It was a day that has taken on special significance for my generation and for the history of Bangladesh. The first verdict passed by the ICT was against Mawlana Abul Kalam. Known as ‘Bachchu razakar,’ he was sentenced to death for killing one family during 1971. The question arose: if Bachchu gets life sentence for killing one family, why did Quader Mulla only receive lifetime imprisonment for killing hundreds of people and raping an eleven year old child? It smells of corruption.
Rumors began to circulate that the justice of the tribunal delivered such a verdict under the influence of a bribe or a threat. The people of Bangladesh were devastated. Would there never be justice for the heinous crimes committed in 1971? They lost all hope and they were angry. The crimes committed at the very birth of the nation need to be addressed if we are to change the corrupted system. If we cannot bring justice for the crime that has been committed 42 years ago, how will we demand justice for all other crimes in recent times? If we cannot bring those to justice who were against the birth of the nation and still working against the nation’s welfare, will there be any moral ground for fighting corruption and injustice?
Around 4 pm on 5th February, through social network sites and receiving phone calls from friends, we received news that a group of bloggers had gathered near Shahbag, the heart of Dhaka. Hearing that many passersby had stopped to support them I immediately felt like perhaps there was some hope for justice. I rushed to Shahbag to stand with them. There were about 50 people sitting on the street. I sat with them. Some of the bloggers instructed us to guard the periphery and by the evening, there were several hundreds of people gathered. The surprising part was that all these people were young. These were Bangladeshis who never saw war of liberation. They never saw the rape of women and children in 1971. But all of them were united for one purpose: the highest possible punishment under Bangladesh law for war criminals.
By the second day, thousands of people had gathered at Shahbag. With the help of press coverage and electronic media, across the nation people came to know about the protest at Shahbag and began to gather in their respective districts. Within 3 days, the number of people at Shahbag exceeded half a million and the number kept increasing.
So far, this has been the biggest social movement that I have seen in my life. It is the largest non violent movement since the birth of Bangladesh and globally it is one of the biggest uprisings against religious fundamentalism in recent history. The youth identified politics driven by Islamic fundamentalism as the root of the problem. Their anger focused in on the terror unleashed on Bangladesh by Jamaat-e-Islami and their student arm, Islami Chhatra Shibir. Members of these parties slaughter innocent people in the name of Islam. The youth identified ‘Jamaat-Shibir’ driven business, health, education and media organizations and vowed to boycott them. The youth demand the elimination of political parties based on religion. We demand that we proceed towards a secular Bangladesh.
Against all odds, Bangladesh won the war in 1971, which gave us independence. The youth of 1971 were fearless and patriotic. They fought till their last breath. They fought for justice. And now history is repeating itself. We are fighting a war now in 2013. Our weapons are candles, paint brushes, colors, music and our voices.
We have found our voice and we know now how to raise it. We stand up for justice and what’s right. At Shahbag we are building a platform from which we can stand up against crime and corruption. We are the strength of Bangladesh. In fact, we are the strength of the world.
visit her blog at -http://shayantani-twisha.blogspot.in/

 

Rumours on Kudan­kulam radiation leak trigger scare


Deccan Chronicle | AR. Meyyammai | 17th Feb 2013

MaduraiPanic gripped the fishing hamlets and other villages in the coastal districts of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and other seaside hamlets in Kerala since the midnight hours of Saturday following a bout of wild rumours on radiation leak from Kudan­kulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).

Church bells tolled at intermittent hours since midnight and public address systems blared warnings asking the people to assemble at open spaces in their villages since mid night. Fear stricken fishermen and villagers with their families fled their houses half-awake and panicked.

Many, fraught with terror that they would be wiped out at one go if the radiation reached their villages, assembled at the common fast site at Idinthakarai village when the church bells tolled as warnings.

They made frantic calls in their mobiles to their friends and relatives who also rushed to the places to evacuate them. Many had left their villages in available trucks and vehicles to distant towns such as Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Kanya­kumari, Nagercoil and Kollam and Tiruvana­nt­hapuram in Kerala.

KNPP site director R.S.Sundar told Deccan Chronicle, “There is no radiation leak whatsoever. About 4000 people were inside the plant today. It is unfortunate that such rumours are being floated and people believe them.”

With the authorities pointing fingers at the anti-nuke activists for the rumours, People’s Mov­ement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) said conflicting statements from central ministers and plant officials had triggered the alarm among the fishermen. Sundar, however, reacting to the charges of technical faults in the plant, said, “We cannot say technically everything is alright.

Integrated checks on several components of the plant are being conducted and we are finetuning the testing process. It will take some more days for the tests to be completed after which the work would be audited by regulators.”

 

Jaitapur nuclear power plant :A very expensive proposition


 

A very expensive proposition
MV Ramana and Suvrat Raju
February 12, 2013, HT
During his visit to India this week, French President Francois Hollande is likely to urge the government to conclude a questionable deal to purchase six nuclear European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) from the French company Areva for Jaitapur (Maharashtra). Though marketed as “the most advanced”

reactor, the EPR is commercially immature; not a single reactor has been commissioned anywhere in the world. Moreover at the construction sites at Olkiluoto (Finland) and Flamanville (France) costs and time have escalated dramatically from the initial projected figures, suggesting that each reactor will cost about Rs. 60,000 crore. So six could cost in excess of Rs. 3.5 lakh crore.To put this figure in perspective, each of the two reactors that Areva is hoping to sell in the next five years is larger than Maharashtra’s annual plan for 2012 (Rs 45,000 crore). Shockingly, the government agreed to purchase the reactors from Areva without a nominal competitive bidding process. The procurement rules in any branch of the government, including the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), mandate public tenders for any purchase aboveRs. 10 lakh.

Cables revealed by Wikileaks suggest that this peremptory decision was made in 2007. The government’s rationale was laid out by former DAE secretary Anil Kakodkar. In an article in 2011, Kakodkar wrote: “We also have to keep in mind the commercial interests of foreign countries and of the companies there… America, Russia and France were the countries we made mediators in these efforts to lift sanctions, and hence, for the nurturing of their business interests, we made deals with them for nuclear projects.” Indian officials are aware that this attitude is costly. In another cable, the general manager of the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL) admitted that India had “paid a ‘high’ price for French reactors from Areva”.

Unsurprisingly, the government has been reticent about discussing the modalities of the contract it is negotiating with Areva. It has failed to support its assertions that “the cost per unit of electricity from the Jaitapur plant will be competitive to the other power plants” with any substantive data on costs. When asked, it demurred, even in Parliament, with the excuse that “the detailed project proposals … are under finalisation.”

To check the veracity of the government’s claims, we recently used the best available public data on fuel prices and capital costs, assumed a substantial markdown to account for lower costs of labour in India and estimated the expected tariff from the EPR reactors. This calculation involves some rather detailed accounting, but the basic procedure for setting the electricity tariff from nuclear plants was laid out by NPCIL in 2008.

By adapting this procedure to the EPR  –  and using the most recent guidelines of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission  – we estimated that if NPCIL were to follow the regulations faithfully, the first-year tariff from the EPR would be about R14 per unit. This assumes that reactor construction starts next year and is completed on the same pattern as the Kudankulam I and II reactors, which, given the untested nature of the EPRs, is generous. The calculated tariff is a far cry from current or expected future tariffs from other base-load power projects.

Since it cannot pass on such a high tariff on to consumers, the government may absorb the loss and sell electricity at a lower price. However, every rupee of under-recovery will cost the exchequer about Rs. 1,000 crore per year. Just to halve the tariff from the first two reactors down to Rs. 7, the government may need to spend Rs. 14,000 crore per year.

This is in addition to indirect subsidies in the existing revenue model. For example, NPCIL plans to put in its equity early, and then let it lie idle with no return for the period of construction that may easily extend beyond a decade. The government may increase these handouts in various ways – for example, by putting pressure on public sector banks to provide cheap credit for the project. The issue here is not Maharashtra’s need for electricity. Rather it is why the government has chosen this particular company, and its overpriced technology, to meet this need.
MV Ramana and Suvrat Raju are physicists associated with the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace. Ramana is the author of The power of promise: Examining nuclear energy in India
The views expressed by the authors are personal

 

#India- The Doctor Only Knows Economics #Sundayreading


Lucknow In a daze, a poor couple bring their sick child to a government hospital, holding up a drip bottle. For many like them, private hospitals are out of reach. Care at government hospitals is poor.
HEALTH: SICK & SOLDOUT
This could be the UPA’s worst cut to its beloved aam admi. Healthcare has virtually been handed over to privateers.

Not For Those Who Need It Most
Govt seems to have abandoned healthcare to the private sector

Diagnosing An Ailing Republic

  • 70 per cent of India still lives in the villages, where only two per cent of qualified allopathic doctors are available
  • Due to lack of access to medical care, rural India relies on homoeopathy, Ayurveda, nature cure, and village doctors
  • While the world trend is to move towards public health systems, India is moving in the opposite direction: 80 per cent of healthcare is now in private sector
  • India faces a shortage of 65 lakh allied health workers. This is apart from the nurse-doctor shortage.
  • According to World Health Statistics,  2011, the density of doctors in India is 6 for a population of 10,000, while that of nurses and midwives is 13 per 10,000
  • India has a doctor: population ratio of 0.5: 1000 in comparison to 0.3 in Thailand, 0.4 in Sri Lanka, 1.6 in China, 5.4 in the UK, and 5.5 in the United States of America
  • Fifty-six per cent of all newborn deaths occur in five states: UP, Rajasthan, Orissa, MP and Andhra Pradesh
  • Forty-nine per cent of pregnant women still do not have three ante-natal visits to a doctor during pregnancy
  • An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 child deaths occur annually due to measles, a treatable disease
  • Uttar Pradesh, the most populated state in the country, does not have a single speciality hospital for cancer
  • The top three causes of death in India are malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea, all treatable
  • The WHO ranked India’s public healthcare system 112th on a roster of 190 countries
  • Post-independence India’s most noteworthy achievement in the public health arena has been the eradication of polio and smallpox

Affair of the states

***

India is taking firm steps to a certain health disaster. All of 80 per cent of healthcare is now privatised and caters to a minuscule, privileged section. The metros are better off: they have at least a few excellent public health facilities,  crowded though they might be. Tier II and III towns mostly have no public healthcare to speak of. As the government sector retreats, the private booms. In villages, if you are poor and sick, no one really cares, even if the government pretends to. You go to the untrained village “doctor”; you pray, you get better perhaps; all too often, you die of something curable. “India is the only country in the world that’s trying to have a health transition on the basis of a private healthcare that does not exist,” Amartya Sen said recently in Calcutta. “It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. We have an out-of-the-pocket system, occasionally supplemented by government hospitals, but the whole trend in the world is towards public health systems. Even the US has come partly under the so-called Obamacare.”

Sadly, even the few initiatives the Indian state takes are badly implemented. Hear the story of Suresh, 45, who lost his younger sister to cancer, eight months ago. He’s a guard at the guesthouse of a pharmaceutical company in Mumbai and could not afford her treatment, so he sold some ancestral farmland in Gujarat. That money covered but a few months of bills from a private hospital. He then turned to a government hospital, but it didn’t have cancer care. It didn’t help in any way for Suresh that he worked for a pharmaceutical company: his job didn’t come with medical benefits. “We brought her back home, hoping that if we saved on the hospital bills, we would be able to buy her medication. Finally, the money I had was too little to provide her basic help. Maybe if I had been able to buy her medicines, she would have been alive today.”

But the state could have ensured that Suresh’s sister lived had he been able to utilise the ambitious health insurance scheme announced in Maharashtra in 1997. The Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana (RGJAY) is on paper supposed to provide for 972 surgeries, therapies or procedures, along with 121 follow-up packages in 30 specialised categories. It provides each family coverage of up to Rs 1.5 lakh in hospitalisation charges at empanelled hospitals. It even allows for treatment at private hospitals. But poor implementation has ensured Suresh and hundreds of families like his do not know of such a scheme. This is true of other schemes across the country too.


Photograph by Vivek Pateria
Bhopal At the Sultaniya Hospital, as at many hospitals in the Hindi belt, there just isn’t enough space for the patients who turn up. Those who attend on patients routinely brave the open.

Meanwhile, health statistics are terrifying. More than 40,000 people die every year of mosquito-borne diseases, which are easily preventable; a maternity death takes place every 10 minutes; every year, 1.8 million children (below 5 years of age) die of preventable diseases. “We are the only country in the world with such a huge percentage of privatised healthcare. Recent estimates suggest that approximately 39 million people are being pushed into poverty because of high out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare. In 1993-94, the figure was 26 million people,” says Dr Shakhtivel Selvaraj, a health economist.

So the state’s pretence of reaching out to the poor is really quite a farce. Consider what’s been happening between the Planning Commission and health ministry. In November, the battle between then health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and the Planning Commission came to light: Azad had pressed for increased spending on the public sector while the commission was intent on increasing private participation. This was a telling comment on the priorities of the UPA government. But with the 2014 elections in view, the government would like to present “health reforms” as a political tool. A framework for “universal health for all” is expected by April this year.

 

While talking always of the aam admi’s needs, the UPA has been handing healthcare over to the private sector.

According to the draft of the 12th Plan, the government will increase spending on health from 1.2 per cent of the GDP to 1.9 per cent, with greater emphasis on public-private partnership. While the expert group asked for scaling up public funding from the current 1.2 per cent of GDP to roughly 2.5 per cent by the 12th Plan-end (2017-18) and to roughly 3 per cent by the 13th Plan-end (2023-24), the government only relented a bit—enough to give it room to announce more populous aam admi schemes. D. Raja of the CPI believes that “through PPP (public-private-partnership), floated in the 12th Plan, the government is working as facilitator for private sector”, something that goes against the constitutional mandate of a welfare state. Former health secretary Sujata Rao says the state “cannot co-opt the private sector to provide healthcare for which government is paying money without framing stringent rules and norms.” More than 70 per cent of expenditure on health in the past five years has come from households. In its nine years in power, the UPA has overseen the shrinking of the public sector and the boom in the private. All the while, it has paid lip service to aam admi causes—even as it pushes people from the margins into the wilderness. In those five years, the well-to-do have obtained better healthcare than ever before. Both the Congress and the BJP have said in their party manifestos that they want to make India a “health tourism” destination. That has already happened. Would the UPA, champion of the aam admi’s interests, pat itself on the back for that? Meanwhile, most private facilities ignore a Supreme Court directive to reserve a certain percentage of their beds and treatment for the poor because they were given land at concessional rates. 

Barely 100 km from the national capital, the Kosi Kalan district of Uttar Pradesh, near Mathura, presents a pathetic picture of community health care. Four months ago, the primary health centre, which caters to more than 50,000 patients with two trained nurses and two doctors, was upgraded into a community health centre with a new building. However, doctors haven’t been posted at the new centre. Says Rajkumar, a doctor at the primary health centre, “We got the new building about four months ago. We are waiting for administrative sanctions”


Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
Gurgaon Subedar Gupta (right) has spent about Rs 30,000 at private hospitals for his wife’s treatment in one month. He feels the hospitals have made her undergo unnecessary tests.

It’s a familiar tale of rural India. But what is also significant is that in the post-liberalisation era, the government health sector has virtually vanished from Tier II and III urban centres. Subedar Gupta, 32-year-old commercial vehicle driver from Gurgaon, has discovered that the government sector is an empty shell. It’s the private sector that has fleeced him. His wife Chanda Devi has been complaining of severe bodyache, itching and weakness for the last five years and no one knows why. Gupta spent about Rs 30,000 last month at private hospitals. He is now broke. “They ask us for same tests—blood test, X-rays and ecg. She is continuously on medicines. They are sucking all the money out of us.”

 

In Tier II and Tier III towns, the public healthcare system is non-existent. Even the private hospitals here are inadequate.

Millions of Indians living in small towns go through the same agony–not knowing where to turn to in the absence of a good health system. Because of that, thousands travel to Delhi’s overburdened AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital, which are staffed with excellent doctors. The rest just pay for a private system designed to extract the maximum from each patient. “Public health is a big question in small cities. They have government hospitals, which are not well-equipped—in terms of infrastructure or adequate numbers of doctors and other staff.  There is also a shortage of woman doctors,” says Dr Rajesh Shukla, a consultant who has evaluated icds programmes in rural areas and studied medical care in small towns. 

A large number of swanky hospitals and clinics have come up in urban India. But that does not ensure good care. There is also the issue of all this being loaded in favour of a profit-seeking system. Take the Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojna, a government-supported health insurance scheme that rides on the private sector to provide medical care and surgical procedures at predetermined rates. Experts point to the dangers of induced demand and the prescription of unnecessary procedures to claim insurance benefits. Besides, the technology at private centres is often used to fleece patients rather than help them.

Dr Subhash Salunke, former director-general of health services, Goa, and currently director of the Public Health Federation of India, says the private sector is very scattered and unregulated, leading to lot of malpractices. This could have been checked to some extent had rules of the Clinical Establishment Act, 2010, been framed and implemented. Two years after the legislation was passed by Parliament, it hasn’t been implemented. The problem lies with the “stiff resistance from the private sector to the laying down of guidelines”.


Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee
Calcutta Nomita Pramanik, a domestic help, has asthma. She earns Rs 2,800. A hospital visit costs Rs 250-300. She calls free treatment at government hospitals a “curse even enemies shouldn’t suffer”.

The health sector is also crippled by a shortage of doctors and nurses (see graphic). So when the government says it is serious about training more doctors and nurses, by setting up six new AIIMSes, it makes for sound planning. But politics quickly shows up: one of the AIIMSes is planned in Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, Rae Bareli. Many doctors trained in excellent government medical colleges swiftly move to the private sector; they are even reluctant to take up rural jobs or postings. “Of the 1,400 doctors appointed after a proper selection process, only 900 joined the service,” disclosed a spokesman of the Uttar Pradesh health directorate. Because of the shortage of doctors in government hospitals, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) had started to recruit those trained in the Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha and homoeopathic streams, but the process was stalled by a Rs 5,000 crore scam.

So the poor continue to suffer. In a general ward of Krishnanagar Hospital in Nandia District, West Bengal, members of a patient’s family say that not a single doctor checked their ward for 24 hours after he was admitted with a cerebral condition. The doctor assigned to the hospital, who was in his chambers some 10 km away, had this to say when tracked down by Outlook, “I’m the only doctor for close to 500 patients. Is it possible for me to visit each and every patient? You have to understand my constraints. There is very little monetary incentive for doctors working in the rural areas. These are punishment postings. No one wants to come here. They want to work with rich patients and earn big money.”

As he spoke, there were close to 100 patients waiting in the visiting room to see him. They were all from the villages and small towns in Nandia district. Krishnanagar Hospital is the main district hospital and patients from all over Nadia are referred to this hospital. In Uttar Pradesh, modern private health services have yet to reach beyond a dozen key cities. The rest of the state has to depend on these 12 cities, a handful of which have facilities for tertiary care. Some facilities are available only in Lucknow, where the government has concentrated all the healthcare while the rest of the sprawling state—75 districts—goes without even secondary care. According to the NRHM’s fourth common review mission report, of the 515 community health centres in Uttar Pradesh, 308 were below norms laid down in the Indian Public Health Standards.

 

Andhra’s Rajiv Aarogyasri scheme, a brainchild of YSR, sounds perfect on paper. Only, the rich end up misusing it.

Even in states that are economically better off, such as Andhra Pradesh, it is an abject tale. Right from Seetampeta in north Srikakulam district to Utnoor in Adilabad, the public healthcare system is in a shambles. Adivasis simply have no access to potable drinking water and succumb easily to totally preventable diseases. If it’s gastroenteritis in Adilabad, it’s malaria in Paderu Agency of Visakhapatnam district. Anti-larval spraying operations are late and haphazard. Community health workers are badly trained. Human rights teams which visit these areas say the medicines provided are sometimes past the expiry date. “Deaths due to malaria are sought to be passed off as due to other diseases like cancer, heart stroke, old age or TB,” says V.S. Krishna of the Human Rights Foundation. Once touted as a model state for implementation of health insurance, Andhra Pradesh today faces a problem where the scheme is being misused by the rich. A qualified doctor himself, the late YSR, former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, launched the Rajiv Aarogyasri Scheme in 2006, providing medical cover of up to Rs 2 lakh for bpl families. Since corporate hospitals handle a bulk of the procedures, the scheme is misused. Says a cardiac surgeon at a leading Hyderabad hospital, “The rich come and seek heart procedures under Aarogyasri, casually whipping out white cards meant for bpl families. There are no checks.” 

The ailments of the poor often have nothing to do with the agendas of rich and powerful pharma companies. Are there lessons India can learn from the world? Experts say that the US has one of the worst public healthcare systems in the developed world. But in most countries, in Latin America or Europe, universal healthcare been achieved through governments. In Asia, Sri Lanka and Thailand can teach India some lessons on the health front. So India may be a powerful nation simply by dint of its size and market. But it is also a ‘sick’ nation, where there’s no help for the poor when they fall sick. It’s a country where a poor man can die on the pavement outside a gleaming state-of-the-art hospital with the best medical technology in the world.


By Amba Batra Bakshi & Lola Nayar with Sharat Pradhan, Madhavi Tata, Dola Mitra, Panini Anand, Chandrani Banerjee, Prarthna Gahilote and Prachi Pinglay-Plumber

 

Tata Steel to raise 13,000 cr in 6 mths for Kalinganagar project


13 Feb, 2013, 08.32PM IST, PTI

MUMBAI: Tata SteelBSE 0.47 % is going to raise up to Rs 13,000 crore within next six months for the first phase of its upcoming 6 million tonnes new steel mill in Odisha’s Kalinganagar, a top company official said today. 

“We are looking at closing our project financing for the Odisha project. It is an advanced stage… In phase-I, we will be funding around Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 13,000 crore on debt and then, after we complete (phase-I), we will take a call on (fund raising for) phase-II,” Tata Steel‘s group CFO Koushik Chatterjee said in a conference call.

The Kalinganagar project is the first integrated greenfield project for the company outside Jamshedpur in its over a century-old history.

The project has been divided into two equal phases of 3 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) and is estimated to require an investment of about Rs 35,000 crore.

The first phase of the project is expected to go on strea by June-July, Chatterjee said.

“Work is going on in full swing (at Kalinganagar project). We have significantly mobilised resources on-site and expecting to ramp up the same before the onset of monsoon season, some time in June-July,” he said, adding that the project is being funded at 50:50 debt-equity ratio.

He also said in the immediate future, Tata Steel is looking at only rupee loans but may go for foreign borrowings at a later stage.

Tata Steel has deployed more than 25,000 workers for the construction of the plant, which is being developed to produce flat steel products only.

The company had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Odisha government in 2004 only but due to protests at the site few years ago, in which 13 tribals were killed, had delayed the project.

Tata Steel is in possession of only 1700 acres of the land at present against a total requirement of over 5,000 acres for the full 6 MTPA capacity.

 

#India- Economically weaker section evictees face serious health problem


 

ByRhik Kundu, TNN | Feb 15, 2013,

 

BANGALORE: A month since over 2000 people in the EWS ( economically weaker sections) quarters of Ejipura were rendered homeless by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike‘s (BBMP) eviction drive, serious health and hygiene issues have surfaced in the peripheries of the area where over 200 evicted families have made temporary homes.

 

Diarrheal diseases, infections and other form of water borne and air borne disease, apart from severe mental trauma, are rampant at present says doctors attending patients from the area.

 

“There are no proper water or sanitation facilities available to them,” said Dr Sylvia Karpagam, co-convener, Karnataka chapter of Janaarogya Andolana, or People’s Health Movement network, who has been working with the homeless since the eviction was carried out last month.

 

“Several human rights of these helpless people – like right to water, right to dignity of life – were abolished by a single court order. This used to be a healthy community. Now they are struggling with diseases and have lost all confidence on the state to protect them,” Dr Karpagam added.

 

A visit to the slums in the periphery of the EWS quarters exposes the plight of the helpless people who seem to have lost everything. Families of five to six are seen living in makeshift homes that merely fits two persons. The area stinks of filth as there’s neither proper sanitation nor toilet facility. And then many say that they have been hungry for days at a stretch because they haven’t been able to get back to their regular jobs – mostly menial jobs that of domestic help, and labouring -as some have sustained severe injuries since the aftermaths of demolitions which they claim have been inflicted upon them by police and government officials while others are too scared to venture out in fear of losing their temporary homes.

 

“Our houses were demolished when we were at the Adugodi police station. We were taken there so that we didn’t see our houses getting bulldozed,” said Shabina Taj, who’s been living at the EWS for the past 25 years.

 

Showing her plastered right foot, Shabina wonders why she and others were thrown out their homes despite having proper documents for their houses and later manhandled by police and officials.

“I was even arrested while protesting when I asked them to give me two months time to evict my house so that my children can finish their academic year in peace. Now I don’t have any house, and I have sent my children away, and I can’t even go to work because of my injured foot,” she woes.

Meanwhile, several former residents of EWS told this correspondent that volunteers, from the civil society, who were trying to provide them with food and water, were often threatened by officials while carrying out their relief work. TOI couldn’t independently verify this report. But, this hasn’t changed their mind to move out from the area.

 

“I have been living here for 22 years now, and I can’t be forced to leave as I have the proper documents verifying my claim to my house,” said Vijayalakshmi, a domestic help, who had earlier threatened the authorities that she would immolate herself in an act of protest.

 

Showing her injuries, which she claimed to have got from the police, the lady added,

 

“I have been promised a house by BBMP but I am yet to hear from them. I will not leave this place as long as justice is delivered to me.”

 

Among the evicted many have found refuge in the most unlikely of places like temples and bus stops, but they haven’t given up their dreams of getting their homes back yet.

 

“I am all alone since my daughter and son have married and moved away. My husband is suffering from a mental illness for the last 40 years,” said 75-year-old Shanti.

 

“All I want is a house where I can die peacefully,” she added.

 

Medha Patkar visit EWS

Social activist Medha Patkar, who visited the Ejipura EWS quarters on Thursday, said that the issue will be taken up to a higher level with the help of senior lawyers like Sanjay Parikh and Prashant Bhushan. The Narmada Bachao Andolan veteran, who was supposed to arrive at the location at about 1.15 pm, finally made her way at about 2.40 pm, and interacted with residents and the deprived lot of the area.

 

“What has happened here is clearly an example of land grabbing by the Maverick Holdings and Investments Private Limited. The demolished site sprawling across 15 acres of the land is worth about Rs 3,500 crore. It is indeed a robbery of Rs 3500 crore from state exchequer. What the state government has done is completely against the constitution and the judiciary has been misbriefed about the land dispute case,” she said.

 

 

 

Radiating Lies- A Report on Jadugoda


 

Although the company claims radiation stories as ” myths “, Headlines Today documents the evidence where the entire environment, community and the future generation has been put to risk by the sheer negligence of the company.

 

#India- Maharashtra records most custodial deaths in 10 years #torture


Shibu Thomas, TNN Feb 15, 2013, T

MUMBAI: City police commissioner Satya Pal Singh may not like human rights activists “interfering in cops’ job” but Maharashtra‘s abysmal record of custodial deaths points to the need for stricter enforcement of human rights in the state than anywhere else in the country. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of the home ministry, Maharashtra tops the list of custodial deaths in the country in the past 10 out of 12 years; in that entire period, it recorded about 23% of such deaths in the country.

Of the 1,242 custodial deaths recorded from 2000 to 2011, 297 was reported from Maharashtra. In 2011, the last year for which the data is available, most number of such deaths-40 out of 122-in the country are from the state. Among those 40, 32 of the accused had not been remanded in police custody by a court, pointing to alleged illegal detention by cops.

“The figures are shocking, especially for a developed state like Maharashtra, which boasts of a high level of literacy and is one of the wealthiest in the country,” said advocate Yug Chaudhry, who has fought for families of custodial death victims. Chaudhry is currently representing t he family of Julfar alias Rafiq Shaikh (35) who was allegedly tortured to death at the Dharavi police station on December 2, 2012.

The advocate says that in contrast to the 23% custodial deaths in 12 years, murder cases registered over the same period adds up to 8% of the national figure. “This could mean that while we have law-abiding citizens, our police believe in breaking the law,” Chaudhry said, adding that the almost zero conviction rate in custodial death cases in the past decade had fulled this blatant violation of human rights by the police.

Senior criminal lawyer Majeed Memon, too, voiced concern over the low conviction rate. “The Supreme Court repeatedly asserts that a custodial death is a graver crime than, perhaps, a case of murder. A person loses his life in the custody of an officer on whom the state has bestowed the duty to uphold law and protect every citizen.” He added that custodial deaths was the symptom of a larger malaise, the way police investigations tended to depend more on the use of third-degree methods instead of scientific procedures. “Such illegal methods are used not only to extract confessions, but also for the purpose of basic investigations or to recover incriminating material. This practice has to be condemned,” Memon said, adding that for effective prosecution of cops involved in custodial deaths, a strong political will, combined with help from the bureaucratic machinery as well as the police, was required. In the past decade, only four cases of judicial inquiry have been ordered into custody deaths in the state, while just 41 FIRs and 19 charge sheets have been filed.

 

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