‘Criminal negligence’ of Narendra Modi Govt behind water problems


Firstpost, April 8, 2013

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Parivartan Party(GPP) on Monday alleged that Chief Minister Narendra Modi, by targeting the Centre over the Narmada Dam issue, was shielding his “criminal negligence” of the past 12 years in non-completion of canal construction works.

“During BJP’s foundation Day function chief minister had claimed people are facing water problem because the Central Government had been refusing permission to build

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. AP

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. AP

gates on Narmada Dam. This is a ploy to cover up his criminal negligence of not completing the construction work of Narmada canals for the past 12 years,” GPP General Secretary Gordhan Zadafia said while addressing the media in Ahmedabad.

Since 2006, height of Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river has reached 121.92 meters and that was enough for the storage of water which could have been used for irrigation in 10 lakh hectares of agriculture land and to provide drinking water to 11,000 villages and cities, he said.

“But because of criminal negligence of this Government people of Gujarat had been deprived of water for the past seven years. And to cover up his failure, chief minister is now blaming the Central Government.”

The former minister alleged that since last September, the state government was aware of deficient rains in the monsoon season. Still, it did not devise a plan to avoid the water problem which people are now facing.

“To give a strong voice to the people’s problems, GPP is going to launch a state-wide programme in the coming days,” Zadafia said.

PTI

#India Jobs Program Scam Pays Wages to Dead Workers


By Andrew MacAskill, Unni Krishnan & Tushar Dhara – Apr 5, 2013 , Bloomberg

The corpse of Indian farmer Bengali Singh burned to ash atop a blazing funeral pyre on the banks of the river Ganges in 2006.

Five years later, the dead man was recorded as being paid by India’s $33 billion rural jobs program to dig an irrigation canal in Jharkhand state. Officials in his village and the surrounding region used at least 500 identities, including those of Singh, a disabled child of eight and a blind 94-year-old man, to fake work logs and steal wages, according to police reports.

Elderly villagers work at a site as part of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act at Nazir ka Mandir in the Karauli district of Rajasthan in Feb. 2011. Photographer: Sanjit Das/Panos

$10 Billion Graft Revealed in Indian Jobs Program

1:36

April 5 (Bloomberg) — Records for India’s $33 billion rural jobs program show local officials have used tactics such as ghost workers, fake projects and over-billing to steal about $10 billion of funds intended to help impoverished villages. Bloomberg’s Baden Campbell reports. (Source: Bloomberg)

Laborers try to revive a dried lake under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme at Ibrahimpatnam on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, on June 16, 2009. Photographer: Mahesh Kumar A./AP

Rajendar Singh holds up his father Bengali Singh’s photo in Bishanpur, India. Bengali Singh’s name was used by officials to steal wages after his death. Photographer: Unni Krishnan/Bloomberg

Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, center, watches as Jairam Ramesh, rural development minister, right, hands an award to Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress Party and chairman of the national advisory council, for her to present to the award’s recipient during the inauguration of the 6th Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in New Delhi, on Feb. 2, 2012. Photographer:Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

“It’s an insult to a man who lived a life of dignity,” Rajendar Singh said, sitting next to the parched canal his father supposedly excavated in their village, Bishanpur, about six hours’ drive northwest of Kolkata. “He’s been wronged.”

District administrators and village heads have used tactics such as ghost workers, fake projects and over-billing to embezzle about $10 billion from the world’s largest workfare initiative, an investigation by Bloomberg News shows. The fraud in the seven-year-old program underscores the challenge of reducing poverty in India as graft permeates everything from food aid for children to the distribution of public grain stockpiles and debt relief for struggling farmers.

Embezzlement remains an intractable issue in the rural employment push, according to D.H. Pai Panandiker, president of the RPG Foundation, a New Delhi-based economic research group.

“The bulk of the spending is a complete waste of money,” he said in an interview. “There is so much corruption and the assets being built are either worthless or not durable. The government cannot afford to throw money away like this.”

Police Reports

Bloomberg News compiled hundreds of pages of police documents and interviewed dozens of people from January through March across three states to examine the looting in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s flagship welfare program.

The premier is trying to stem the losses to help rein in India’sbudget deficit. The opposition has also attacked the government over graft before a general election due by May 2014.

When he implemented the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 2006, Singh said it would give “hope to those who had all but lost their hope.

Police are probing more than 2,000 cases of corruption spanning 100 projects in just one district of Jharkhand, close to the Bangladesh border. They include funds for a well to be used by only one landowner and payments toward an irrigation canal that was never constructed. Dry earth, cracked by the sun, covers the area where the channel was supposed to be, near Bishanpur.

$730,000 Bribe

At least 60 percent of the expenditure in Jharkhand under the act has been pilfered, according to Nishikant Dubey, the member of parliament in New Delhi for Godda, one of the state’s districts. That amounts to more than $115 million in the fiscal year ending March 2013 alone, based on governmentdata.

“It’s a tragedy, it’s happening everywhere,” Dubey, a member of the main federal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said in an interview in his office in New Delhi. “I keep telling my officials that this is money for the poor so please don’t steal from it, but they don’t listen.”

Dubey recounted how his home phone rang at 3 a.m. the day after an anti-graft panel he heads scrapped $1.3 million of rural works projects in Godda in 2009, on suspicion of fraud. The voice at the other end offered a bribe of $730,000 to help reverse the decision, he said.

In certain areas the program suffers from corruption and the government is overhauling it, according to Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, who oversees the workfare initiative.

‘Police Inspector’

Fighting such graft — as well as making sure that legitimate workers get paid — is mostly up to India’s 28 states, as the federal government’s role is restricted to funding, monitoring and auditing, he said.

“I’m not a police inspector,” Ramesh said in a February interview in his office in New Delhi. “Ultimately, the officials are not accountable to us. They are accountable to the state governments. I’m not looking at how much corruption there is in this program. That’s not my job. I don’t come here to sniff around.”

The government has made changes since 2011 to try to reduce looting from the rural works initiative. The steps have included efforts to improve financial audits at state and federal levels and the establishment of so-called social audit units to help village officials collect, verify and air claims of graft.

Starvation Buffer

The program is meant to be a buffer against starvation and improve rural livelihoods and public infrastructure in a nation where 824 million people live on less than $2 per day, according to World Bank data.

It guarantees 100 days’ work each financial year in projects from road building to water management to every household whose adult members offer themselves for unskilled manual work. The daily wage starts at 135 rupees ($2.48).

About 30 percent of India’s 168 million rural households have been provided with employment under the initiative each year since 2008, Rural Development Ministry figures show.

Some states, such as Andhra Pradesh in India’s south, are tackling the graft in the jobs act. There, a team of auditors visits every eight months on average and hears complaints at public hearings from those who say they’ve been victimized. The auditors then follow up if necessary.

The workfare push is part of a wider rise in welfare spending by the Congress party that helped propel it to re- election in 2009.

The expenditure has also stoked inflation and contributed to India’s $100 billion budget deficit. The shortfall, the largest in major emerging nations as a portion of the economy, equaled 5.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2012-2013.

Fake Cards

India’s Rural Development Ministry estimates 30 percent of the 1.8 trillion rupees spent nationally since the program began has been lost through graft. The budget on Feb. 28 allocated a further 330 billion rupees for the fiscal year through March 2014.

The alleged scam in Godda, where Bishanpur is located, used fake job cards to claim wages for imaginary labor, according to the police report.

One of the identities stolen was of 94-year-old Akal Sah, who is deaf and blind. Using a stick, Sah limped from his hut down a dirt path to the center of Bishanpur, then collapsed to the ground, exhausted by the short walk. Villagers hauled him to his feet before explaining how his name was misused.

The records of the jobs program have Sah spending eight hours a day for a week in 2011 shoveling earth from a pit. One of his co-workers was a disabled eight-year-old child, Suvitha Devi. Frail and malnourished, Devi struggles to lift her right arm or speak clearly after a bout of meningitis at an early age.

Most Vulnerable

“How can she possibly have done any of this work?” said her father, Prakash Singh, whose sunken cheeks and creased face showed his 65 years. He was speaking in an interview near their home, built of mud and topped with a thatched roof.

Mohammad Idris, the husband of the deputy head of Bishanpur and an informal village leader himself, found Devi’s and Sah’s names while investigating project records after residents complained to him they weren’t getting paid. He reported his discovery to the police.

“The most vulnerable people are targeted as they are the least likely to complain,” Idris said, standing next to a barren field where records show an irrigation ditch should have been built. “It’s all too easy.”

Police in December accused Ghulam Rasool, a wiry farmer with thick black glasses, and his wife Zubeida Khatoon, the village headwoman, of orchestrating the fraud in Bishanpur. Post-office workers created the job cards and a village secretary and a computer operator also aided the scam, according to the charges.

Thumb Prints

The chargesheet, obtained by Bloomberg News from district officials, says the pair ordered postal staff to withdraw money in the name of dead or fake workers. False finger and thumb prints were used in payment receipts to enable the fraud. The money was then divided among the perpetrators, including the village headwoman and other officials, according to the chargesheet. It didn’t detail how much was stolen.

Rasool and Khatoon haven’t been arrested.

Rasool denied theft in an interview in his home, which was sparsely furnished with plastic chairs and an old bed.

“We’re guilty only of negligence,” he said during an hour-long defense of his actions. “It was impossible to keep track of everyone.”

The top Jharkhand government bureaucrat in the district of Godda, K. Ravi Kumar, sought to downplay the police’s case, saying the issue of dead and phantom workers is a trivial one.

‘Kind of Leakage’

“Scam is a very big word,” Kumar said in an interview in his office in a shabby two-story government building, an hour’s drive from Bishanpur. “It’s not a scam. It’s more a kind of leakage.”

The leakages — village by village, district by district, state by state — add up to billions of dollars, government records show.

Only 42 percent to 56 percent of the employment reported by the jobs program is confirmed by data from India’s National Sample Survey Office, a joint study by Princeton University and the Paris School of Economics shows. That suggests about half the work is genuine.

One-fifth of rural works planned under the jobs act in the 12 months through March 2012 were completed in that period, and the figure has never exceeded 51 percent in any fiscal year, according to a paper co-written by Raghav Gaiha, who taught public policy at the University of Delhi.

No Work

Gaiha researched the jobs program for a forthcoming book, “Battling Corruption: Has NREGA Reached India’s Rural Poor?” He said in an interview in New Delhi that he crisscrossed four states to visit 35 work sites, finding no activity at any.

The program’s difficulties come as India’s economy slows and inflation accelerates. Consumer prices climbed almost 11 percent in February from a year earlier, one of the fastest rates in the world. Private investment in factories and machinery has declined.

The nation’s economy expanded 5 percent in 2012-2013, the weakest pace in a decade, according to the statistics agency.

Singh began policy changes in September to revive growth and trim the fiscal deficit, while shielding welfare expenditure from cuts to build support ahead of the general election.

The market-opening measures cost the coalition its parliamentary majority last year. A key ally withdrew support over a step to allow overseas retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) to invest in setting up supermarkets, on the concern that family-run stores would be forced to close.

Safety Net?

Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, the widow of assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, mentioned reports of corruption in the jobs program in a speech on Feb. 2, saying that such graft must be curbed.

Gandhi, a champion of rural workfare, chairs the National Advisory Council, which backed the initiative.

Prime Minister Singh has defended the jobs act, saying in a speech last year that it may be the coalition’s “most popular and successful” policy. It offers a safety net, boosts rural wages and has the potential to revitalize farming by creating “durable water assets,” he said.

Singh also said the government isn’t fully satisfied with the way the program is working and that gaps need to be fixed.

About $20 billion has been paid in wages to rural families and 50 million households have received employment every year on average since 2008, the government said in a report in 2012.

World’s Largest

It’s the more developed Indian states that are better positioned to control corruption in the jobs law, said Sandip Sukhtankar, an assistant economics professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

That’s partly because some states have more robust social audits, Sukhtankar said in a telephone interview. He specializes in corruption studies and described the rural jobs system as the world’s largest workfare program in an article last year.

In Andhra Pradesh, where per-capita income is 10 percent higher than the national average, the sixth round of audits since 2008 reached Narayankhed, about 145 kilometers (90 miles) northeast of the state capital, Hyderabad, in February.

About 300 people sat in a makeshift tent, mostly residents of nearby villages with complaints about the jobs program, alongside staff accused of the wrongdoing. A dozen policemen clutching cane batons stood nearby to keep order.

The auditors, after checking employment logs, receipts for building materials and construction work, aired charges of underpaid wages and incomplete projects.

Stolen Pay

By the end of the hearing, 15 cases were selected for further action, such as the recovery of stolen pay.

“It’s the first time that government officials have been held accountable for money owed to us,” said Peddi Ramaiah, who attended the audit and said he was underpaid wages.

Still, graft remains a problem in Andhra Pradesh.

At least 1.4 billion rupees has been lost through corruption in the jobs program in the state, and only 15 percent has been recovered, based on data from the local government. Just two-fifths of the 30,117 staff implicated have faced disciplinary action or suspension, according to the figures.

One of the villagers attending the audit, Malla Ganesh, pointed to a flaw in the process: the risk of reprisals against those who complain.

“A lot of the villagers haven’t come for the hearing for fear of retribution later,” said Ganesh, who lives in Narayankhed.

In Bishanpur, Rajendar Singh surveyed the bone-dry irrigation canal that is now among the cases being investigated.

The ditch fails to retain water and hasn’t been used since it was completed last year, he said. Excavated mud lies on one side and nearby fields, baked brown by the heat, aren’t being cultivated.

“The wrongdoers should be punished,” Singh said. “But the way things are now, I don’t think a lot will really change. Officials will carry on stealing from the jobs program. We will continue to struggle.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew MacAskill in New Delhi atamacaskill@bloomberg.net; Unni Krishnan in New Delhi at ukrishnan2@bloomberg.net; Tushar Dhara in New Delhi at tdhara1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg atphirschberg@bloomberg.net; Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net

Margaret Thatcher: Feminist icon?


“I hate feminism. It is poison,” she reportedly told her adviser Paul Johnson.

BY HELEN LEWIS PUBLISHED 08 APRIL 2013

Margaret Thatcher in 1975. Photo: Getty
Margaret Thatcher in 1975. Photo: Getty

There will be much discussion about Margaret Thatcher’s role as Britain’s first female prime minister in the coming days, and whether she can be considered a “feminist icon”. It’s probably worth remembering the Iron Lady’s own thoughts on the subject:

‘The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.’

– as said to her adviser (and one-time New Statesman editor) Paul Johnson, according to a 2011 piece he wrote for The Spectator.

Update: Sky’s political correspondent, Sophy Ridge, has written a blog about Thatcher’s legacy for women, adding two more pertinent quotes:

She sits uneasily as a feminist trailblazer, famously saying “the battle for women’s rights has largely been won” and “I owe nothing to women’s lib”.

The latter quote comes from a 1982 lecture. In full, it runs:

“The battle for women’s rights has largely been won. The days when they were demanded and discussed in strident tones should be gone forever. I hate those strident tones we hear from some Women’s Libbers.”

Tags: Margaret Thatcher  feminism

Dalit minor raped in Bhiwani #Vaw



Tribune News Service

RAPE

Bhiwani, April 7
A Dalit minor girl (15) was raped by a man at Badrai village in Bhiwani. The girl had gone out of her house to answer the call of nature on the April 3 night, when Zile Singh (31) allegedly gagged her and took her away to some secluded place in his car. The accused raped the girl there and then left the victim in the village next morning. The hapless girl narrated the incident to her family, who decided to approach the police.

However, the village panchayat intervened and pressurised the family to settle the matter. A panchayat of elders was called where the accused was made to apologise for his act and the victim’s father was told to forgive the accused and forget the episode.

However, the persecution of the family continued and finally, they approached the police with a complaint today. Ramesh Kumar Alawadhi, SHO of the Badhra police station in Bhiwani, said the accused had been booked and arrested. He said the police acted swiftly after getting the complaint and recorded the girl’s statement in the presence of a woman advocate. The girl’s medical examination had confirmed rape.

Rape-accused Marathi writer, Laxman Mane, surrenders #Vaw


Laxman Mane, a runaway former lawmaker and Marathi writer accused by six women of rape, surrendered to police here Monday evening, an official said.

April 08, 2013
SATARA
IANS

“Mane surrendered in Satara rural police station. He has been arrested,” Satara Superintendent of Police K.M. Prasanna told IANS.

A fortnight ago, rape cases were registered against Mane after women working in an Ashram school complained to police. The school was being run by Mane in Jakatwadi village in Satara district, 250 km from Mumbai.

Mane, 63, a former Maharashtra legislative council member, will be presented before a court for remand, Prasanna said.

Laxman Mane surrenders
Laxman Mane surrenders at Satara rural police station. Pic/Raju Sanadi

Among the complainants are helpers, peons and cooks who were working in his school.

Mane was honoured with a Padma Shri four years ago and the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award for his autobiography “Upara” in 1981.

Police said that initially three married women aged between 30 and 35 alleged that the writer raped them on the pretext of making them permanent employees of his school, but later reneged on his word.

The trio had claimed that Mane raped them between 2003 and 2010 in the school, at his home in Satara, and at a guest house in Pune.

As the case got wide publicity, three more women came forward and registered complaints against him in the past few days.

After booking Mane for rape, police visited his home and other places in Pune and Mumbai, but he remained untraceable till he surrendered.

Mane’s family has denied the allegations and said that he was being framed.

#UID goof ups – e-Aadhaar download problems leave citizens frazzled


Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, April 08, 2013

 Last Updated: 21:26 IST(8/4/2013)

With the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) making electronic Aadhaar letter at par with printed letters, there is a sudden spurt in downloading resulting in frequent system failures.

The electronic Aadhaar is a system through which a person can download his or her Aadhaar letter after receiving the ‘automatic one-time password’. This has helped the UIDAI reduce complaints on account of residents not receiving Aadhaar letters through posts even months after enrollment.

As many government agencies were refusing to accept e-Aadhaar letters as valid documents to avail government services, the UIDAI recently clarified that the electronic letter was at par with the printed document.

“The issue has been considered and it has been decided that e-aadhaar is to be treated as a valid document in view of the fact that it has been digitally certified… The e-Aadhaar document is digitally signed using certificate issued by NIC (National Informatics Center), as per the IT Act, 2000,” said a circular issued by the authority

The UIDAI has also said that there is no difference between e-Aadhaar and printed Aadhaar letter as contents are exactly same. In fact, e-Aadhaar looks same as the printed version.

“I have been trying for over ten days but is unable to download my e-Aadhaar letter,” said Inderjit Singh, a resident of Janakpuri in west Delhi. “Every time I have tried it says the server is down.”

The UIDAI officials admitted of receiving a large number of complaints from residents of their inability to download Aadhaar letter from its special portal. “It was a problem. We have scaled up the system to cope with increased traffic,” a senior UIDAI official said.

On an average two to three lakh people visit the UIDAI’s public information portal every day to download the letter. “The traffic was less initially but it is on rise with coverage of Aadhaar enrollment increasing,” an official said.

The authority had enrolled over 31 crore people in 16 states and have issued around 25 crore Aadhaar numbers. By next year the authority is expected to enroll another 29 crore people. The remaining population will be enrolled by Home Ministry’s Census Commissioner under its National Population Register (NPR) programme.

#India -Supreme court directs Doctor to pay 15 lakh for causing mental retardation to child #disability


New Delhi: The Supreme Court has directed a Ayurveda medical practitioner to pay Rs 15 lakh compensation for prescribing wrong medicine to a child causing his mental retardation.

A bench headed by Justice GS Singhvi asked the Rishikesh-based medical practitioner to pay the amount to the child’s family within three months.

The bench enhanced the amount of compensation from five lakh, directed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, to Rs 15 lakh on a plea filed by the mother of the child.

Doctor to pay 15 lakh for causing mental retardation to childThe SC directed the doctor to pay the compensation for prescribing wrong medicine to the child causing his mental retardation.

“We, accordingly, set aside that part of the order passed by the National Commission and enhance the amount of compensation to Rs 15 lakhs for payment in favour of the appellant (the child’s family) with a direction to the respondents to pay the amount to the appellant within three months,” the bench said.

The bench held the self proclaimed doctor RK Gupta guilty of unfair trade practice and unfair method and deceptive practice. “We hold that both Prashant (the child) and the appellant (mother) suffered physical and mental injury due to the misleading advertisement, unfair trade practice and negligence of the respondents. The appellant and Prashant thus are entitled to an enhanced compensation for the injury suffered by them,” the bench said.

#Mumbai -Why is Medha Patkar on Indefinite #HungerStrike since April 4th, 2013 at Golibar #mustshare


The Golibar SRA, Demolitions, Indefinite Hunger Strike by Medha Patkar
from April 4, 2013 at Golibar, Mumbai.

medha

What’s the big issue?

The corruption and nexus between the Government and Builders under the
cover of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) in Mumbai, that has
led to lakhs of slum-dwellers struggling for the basic right to a
house. The most recent example is collapse of a 8 storey building in
Mumbra, constructed within a span of 2-3 months leading to death of
more than 70 people.

What’s wrong with SRA?

SRA authorises private builders to redevelop slum land. The
slum-dwellers are moved into vertical establishments, and the land
that is thus freed up, becomes available as a free-sale component in
the property market. Privatisation also means that the government is
not responsible for maintaining transparency and quality. Since the
money to be made from new land sales in Mumbai is extremely high,
there is a vicious competition amongst the builders to woo the slum
residents.

Moreover, SRA only authorises a house to those people who can show
their citizenship until 1995. It also gives the power of go-ahead to
the Builder if they can attain approval of 70% of the people in a
society. These 2 facts are exploited by the Builders to practise
extortion, fraud and forgery at the ground level, and have become the
common practise to lure societies into signing a deal with them.

A date based cut-off to the Right to a House, and limited
participation of a government agency, have made the SRA into a
pro-Builder scheme. This needs to be rectified.

But why redevelop slums? Aren’t they illegal in the first place?

Today 60% of the population of Mumbai lives in slums. Those recognised
under SRA have paid Assessment Tax to the government. The people
living here comprise the major part of the people working in the
service industry and small-scale industries. Slums are not a result of
squatting, but instead because of a lack of low-cost housing options.
This big gap in housing development has left only very high-cost
options that the poorer people cannot afford.

So is SRA the only scheme for redevelopment?

It is the most prominent one in place to resettle slums. Others look
into Project Affected People (PAP) – people forced to move because of
development of Highways, high-tech parks etc. For settlements that
came into being after the cut-off date of 1995, there are currently no
schemes at all.

Why now? What’s the urgency?

This is not a recent struggle. People of the slums have been fighting
for their rights since 2004, when vast areas of slums in Mumbai were
razed to the ground by the Vilasrao Deshmukh government to convert
Mumbai to Shanghai. The Adarsh Housing Scam, Hiranandani Developers
Land grab are examples of the extent to which a handful of powerful
people are robbing the common man of a basic right to shelter.

Another such instance is the history of ‘redevelopment’ in Khar
Golibar, wherein 140 acres of land- home to 46 societies and over
26,000 families – has been literally gifted to a single private
company – Shivalik Ventures, by invoking a special clause – 3K- of the
SRA. This clause gives a single builder complete rights to redevelop a
large slum without inviting tenders.

A small society of 323 houses in Golibar – Ganesh Krupa – has become
the flash point for the struggle between the SRA/Builder nexus and the
Slum dwellers, ever since it slapped a case of fraud and forgery on
Shivalik Ventures, the builder that forcefully undertook the rights to
their development. 6 forced demolition drives over the past 1 year led
to the society appealing to Medhatai Patkar and ‘Ghar Bachao Ghar
Banao’ for help.

She undertook a 9 day hunger strike in May 2011, which resulted in
formation of two committees to look in to the irregularities and
corruption in SRA schemes and another to look in to regularisation on
slums. However, none of these committees were made functional under
pressure from builder lobby.

Once again, when the whole world was celebrating the beginning of a
new year, working class of Mumbai dwelling in bastis marched for two
days to continue their camp in Azad Maidan for ten days which resulted
in another investigation committee under Principal Secretary, Housing,
Government of Maharashtra to look in corruption and irregularities. It
was also said that no evictions and demolitions would be undertaken
while the investigations are on, but on April 2 – 3rd, in presence of
hundreds of policemen and bouncers of Shivalik builders, demolitions
were carried on in Ganesh Krupa Housing Society.

On April 2nd even Union Minister for Housing and Poverty Alleviation
Ministry, Mr. Ajay Maken wrote a detailed letter, asking Maharashtra
government to not go ahead with demolitions but even then 43 houses
were demolished. Why, when the Ministry of Environment and Forest
ordered demolition of Adarsh Housing Society, over illegalities even
then it stands tall on Mumbai’s coast, working class of Mumbai asks ?

CM Shri Prithviraj Chauhan on several occasions assured Medhatai
Patkar and Andolan of an inquiry into the matter of Golibar
demolitions, and the larger issue of redevelopment of slums in Mumbai,
no action has been taken over. This has forced Medhatai to go on an
indefinite fast to get justice once again, within a span of two years.

What’s the history of Ganesh Krupa Society?

The slum housing the Ganesh Krupa Society consists of 324 tenements.
The slum was declared in 1997 and the rehabilitation scheme was
approved in favour of M/s Madhu Construction Company, to which the
slum dwellers were amenable. The Slum Rehabilitation Authority had
issued a Letter of Intent bearing No. SRAIENG/819/HE/PULOI dated 3rd
October 2004 in favour of Madhu Constructions, however due to
financial constraints and pressure from big companies, Madhu
Constructions could not undertake the project and hence entered into a
Joint Venture Agreement with Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. on 3rd March
2008, without the knowledge of the slum dwellers. Thereafter Shivalik
Ventures indulged in forging documents to procure the Letter of Intent
bearing No. SRA/ENG/1188/HE/ML/LOI dated 20th August 2009. The crucial
resolution dated 7th February 2009 of the Society approving of and
giving consent to the company to carry out the development itself has
been fabricated by Shivalik Ventures, in respect of which criminal
proceedings initiated by the slum dwellers are pending. However,
relying on the fraudulent document and consequential actions Shivalik
has succeeded in obtaining favourable orders from the Courts and began
forcible and illegal demolition of houses in the slum. While 167
families have voluntarily shifted, but 48 houses were demolished in
January 2011, and on 19th and 20th May 2011, 24 houses in total were
demolished, and 43 houses on April 2-3, 2013..

The slum dwellers have already initiated criminal action in regard to
the fraudulent document purported to be the General Body Resolution
dated 7th February 2009 and can always avail of the necessary civil
remedies available to them, there is one another important aspect that
is of mammoth proportions and consequences, and this being the link of
this, and other projects of Shivalik Ventures, to the 2G scam.

Who is Shivalik Ventures?

Unitech owns 50% of shares of Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. even as per
its own website and Annual Report 2009-10 (page 52). The Annual Report
2009-10 of Unitech further provides under the heading “Capital
Commitment” that:

“Investment in 10,00,000 equity shares of Rs. 10 each at a premium of
Rs. 9990/-per share aggregating of Rs. 1000 crore has been made in
joint venture company, Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. An Amount of Rs.
442.77 crore has been paid against the allotment of fully paid-up
shares. The balance securities premium of Rs.557.23 crores will be
accounted for on payment.”

As pointed above, Shivalik Ventures, in turn, has entered into an
agreement of Joint Venture on 2nd March 2008 with M/s Madhu
Construction Company to jointly develop Ganesh Krupa slum at Golibar.

It is important to highlight the period during which Unitech has
entered into re-development of slums in Mumbai since it corresponds to
the period during which it illegally secured thousands of crores in
the 2G scam. The Director of Unitech has been included in the charge
sheet filed by CBI and has been under arrest since then. And as per
the CAG report, Unitech after availing the Spectrum licence in
September – October 2008 for Rs 1658 crores subsequently sold it off
to Telenor company at the rate of Rs 6120 crores. According to CBI,
Unitech was alloted Unified Access Service licenses in 22 circles for
Rs.1,658 crores, 60% of which it offloaded to Norway’s Telenor even
before roll-out.

We are apprehensive that this illegal gratification enjoyed by the
Company has been diverted and invested in its 50% equity at the
Shivalik Ventures Pvt. Ltd. and the same is being channeled into the
developmental projects of Shivalik Ventures including the slum
projects in Golibar.

Why is Medha Tai Patkar on an indefinite fast again ?

Previous attempts to initiate corrective action from the government’s
side have met with no success. Along with Medhatai, a large delegation
of 10,000 strong from different slums in Mumbai had even marched to
Azad Maidan in January to raise the issue of redevelopment. Despite
this, the police and builders men entered Ganesh Krupa with impunity
and razed it to the ground with a bulldozer. An indefinite fast is now
the only alternative left. These are the demands:

Right to Housing
HALT evictions and demolitions until the investigations by Principal
Secretary, Housing Mr. Debashish Chakravarty is completed.
Slum Rehabilitation Authority Scheme projects in Mumbai are full of
flaws, frauds and corruption leading to atrocities against the slum
dwellers. Thousands are made shelterless and sent on rent which is
discontinued and others decay in transit camps for years.
Hence, Revoke 3k clause and thus cancel the agreements between
builders and SRA for the 6 projects where 3k has been applied.
including Shivalik – a part of 2G spectrum scam.
Review SRA scheme itself and modify it to allow Self-development as an option.
Revive the two Independent Enquiry Committees which had members from
civil society as well and were formed in May 2011 to investigate SRA
projects where conflict and protest has arisen between the people and
authorities.
Implement Rajiv Aawas Yojna across the slums in Mumbai, which promises
a house to everyone without one, irrespective of a cut off date
through the model of self development.
Implement Slum Act and declare unauthorised colonies as ‘Slums’ to
carry on slum improvement with basic amenities.
After revoking Urban Land Ceiling Act, 30,000 Acres land should have
become available, which can still be acquired by State Government and
distributed amongst urban poor and middle class cooperative societies
for housing.
No development plan should be without the free prior consent of the
Basti Sabha. Bring amendments or a new legislation to incorporate this
provision in the Nagar Raj Act.

Services to Urban Poor
Revoke all cut off dates in any existing policy or act for supply of
water, right to water is a fundamental right of everyone, as of now
the cut off date is year 1995.
Sanitation, electricity, and roads should be made available to all BPL
families at a priority basis.
Have a meeting with the Secretary, Minister, Controller and the Right
to Food State Adviser to implement the universal PDS with efficiency,
and without corruption.

What can you do?

Join in large numbers at the dharna sthal in Golibar (nearest station
is Khar Road, Santacruz on Western line) stand in support of the
movement, spread the word to the wider public, media, and/or, cover
the story yourself.

You must also write to them to address this injustice and the way
lives of working class people are being put at stake in Mumbai and
their rights to housing denied.

1.

Shri Prithviraj Chavan,

Chief Minister,

Government of Maharashtra,

Mantrayala, Mumbai

Ph: 022-23634950

E-mail: chiefminister@maharashtra.gov.in,

ashish.valsa@gmail.com
Shri Debashish Chakrabarty,

Principal Secretary, Housing,

Government of Maharashtra,

Mantrayala, Mumbai

Ph: 022-22023036

E-mail: psec.housing@maharashtra.gov.in

2.Sh. Ajay Maken

Union Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation

Phone :011 – 23061928 / 42/ 23063989 Fax : 23061780

email :ajay.maken@nic.in

3. Justice K G Balakrishnan

Chaiperson, National Human Rights Commission Delhi.

Fax 91-11-23384012

email : covdnhrc@nic.in, ionhrc@nic.in

4. Prof. Shantha Sinha, Chairperson

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

23731583
23731584 (Fax), shantha.sinha@nic.in

5. Smt. Sonia Gandhi
10, Janpath, New Delhi.
Tel. (O) : 23792263, 23019080
Tel. (R) : 23014161, 23014481
Fax : 23018651

email : soniagandhi@sansad.nic.in

6. Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Oppsition

Ambala Cantt.(Haryana)
01123794344, 9868181930
sushma.swaraj@bjp.org

7. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi. India-110011.

Telephone: 91-11-23012312. Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857.

email : manmohan@sansad.nic.in

 

V Narayanasamy: A Failed Astrologer in the PMO


Industry and Lobbies, Media and Censorship
narayanasamy-300x192
Nityanand Jayaraman

Nityanand Jayaraman is an environmental researcher and activist based in Chennai.

Editor’s note: Nityanand Jayaraman compiled news mentions of Narayanasamy’s now famous predictions about Koodankulam. He ran out of patience around October, and stopped collecting them. The idea was to nominate him for a Guiness award. Here is the entry for DiaNuke.org:

Astrologer with the highest number of failed predictions about a single event

This is an entry for India’s Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office Mr. V. Narayanasamy as a record breaker for the largest number of failed predictions on the date of commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu. On at least 14 different occasions, Mr. Narayanasamy has predicted the imminent commissioning of the reactor. On all 14 occasions, his predictions did not materialise. Mr. Narayanasamy has continued to make such failed predictions without fear of earning the ridicule of people or the wrath of the judiciary. People protesting against the nuclear plant have referred to Mr. Narayanasamy’s periodic statements as a “weekend-comedy” while the Madras High Court failed to see anything funny in such predictions when the matter was being deliberated in court. Mr. Narayanasamy is the only individual who has the distinction of so many failed prophesies. The Department of Atomic Energy of the Government of India may be the only other contender who comes anywhere close to competing with the Minister. The DAE has been saying from as early as 1962 that nuclear power is India’s future, and that India will have 20,000 MW of nuclear power by 1987. This figure has periodically been reduced, increased and repeated ad nauseum. But as things stand, only 4780 MW of nuclear power has been installed, despite the fact that none of these pre-Fukushima nuclear programs invited any serious resistance from uninformed local people.

1. October 19, 2012
Kudankulam will open this financial year: Narayanasamy
http://in.christiantoday.com/articles/kudankulam-nuclear-plant-in-final-stage/7669.htm
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-10-19/india/34583535_1_first-unit-nuclear-plant-narayanasamy

2. September 22, 2012
Centre Committed for Early Commissioning of Plant: Narayanasamy
http://www.24dunia.com/english-news/shownews/0/Centre-committed-for-early-commissioning-of-plant-Narayanasamy/15272596.html

3. August 24, 2012
Kudankulam Unit 1 in advanced stage: Narayanasamy’s statement to Rajya Sabha
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/kudankulam-project-unit-1-in-advanced-stage-/484287/

4. August 10, 2012
Criticality by August 2012 and commercial production by October 2012
http://news.webindia123.com/news/articles/India/20120810/2041542.html

5. July 24, 2012
Plant likely to be commissioned on August 25
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3679290.ece
http://www.firstpost.com/topic/person/v-narayanasamy-kudankulam-plant-likely-to-be-commissioned-on-aug-25narayan-video-rfKv-fgJyzA-94962-1.html

6. June 13, 2012
Kudankulam work progressing apace: Can be commissioned 30-40 days from AERB approval
http://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/open-up-nuclear-power-sector-narayanasamy/article3523598.ece?css=print

7. June 1, 2012
Trial run with enriched uranium to begin in 10 days: Narayanasamy
http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/kudankulam-trial-run-to-begin-on-june-10/article3477298.ece

8. April 23, 2012
Kudankulam Nuclear Plant to be Commissioned in 40 days (PTI news story): Narayanasamy
http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Kudankulam-n-plant-to-be-commissioned-in-40-days/Article1-844957.aspx

9. April 7, 2012:
Narayanasamy seeks blessings of Madurai Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwarar for smooth commissioning of Kudankulam plant, and removal of all obstacles. Confident that it will be commissioned in 2 months.
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/kudankulam-plant-to-function-in-2-months-centre/246723-3.html

10. March 21, 2012
Koodankulam Plant to be commissioned in 2 months: Narayanasamy
http://www.24dunia.com/english-news/shownews/0/Kudankulam-plant-to-be-commissioned-in-2-months-Narayanasamy/13678922.html

11. March 3, 2012
Centre hopeful of opening K-plant very soon: Narayanasamy
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_centre-hopeful-of-opening-kudankulam-power-plant-very-soon_1657913

12. February 26, 2012
Koodankulam to be operational at the earliest: Narayasamy
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/kudankulam-to-be-operational-at-the-earliest/233926-3.html

13. January 14, 2012
Nuke plant to be commissioned soon: Narayanasamy
http://www.24dunia.com/english-news/shownews/0/Nuke-plant-will-be-commissioned-soon/12936079.html
14. October 18, 2010
Unstarred question in Rajya Sabha No. 933
Criticality and Power testing in Kudankulam 1 by December 2010
http://www.dae.nic.in/writereaddata/rs181110.pdf

 

The God Argument- Case against Religion and For Humanism


March 30, 2013

 

 

An Interview with A.C. Grayling

A.C. Grayling is Master of the New College of the Humanities (London). He
is the author of the acclaimed Among the Dead Cities: The History and
Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan,
Descartes: The Life and Times of a Genius, Toward the Light of Liberty:
The Struggles for Freedom and Rights That Made the Modern Western World,
and, most recently, The Good Book: A Humanist Bible. A former fellow of
the World Economic Forum at Davos and past chairman of the human rights
organization June Fourth, he contributes frequently to the Times,
Financial Times, Economist, New Statesman, and Prospect. Grayling´s play
“Grace,” co-written with Mick Gordon, was acclaimed in London and New
York. He is also an advisor to my nonprofit foundation, Project Reason.

Anthony´s new book is The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for
Humanism.

What is your religious background?

I was brought up in a non-religious household and was first presented with
religious ideas in school; they did not persuade me but on the contrary
seemed non-rational and misleading. In the study of history I became aware
of the effects of religious divisions and sectarianism on individuals and
societies, and came to think that freedom from religious influence is a
human rights issue. I am an atheist, a secularist and a humanist.

Perhaps you should clarify the differences between atheism, secularism,
and humanism.

The first is a metaphysical view about what the universe contains (about
what exists), the second is a commitment to separation of religious
organizations from state organizations, and the third is the ethical
outlook of any reflective person who does not have any religious beliefs
or commitments.

What are the roots of humanism, in your view?

The tradition of ethical thought stemming from classical antiquity is the
foundation of humanism (and is a thousand years older than
Christianity)-the study of these ideas suggests their living applicability
to life, and I have been keen to alert people to this fact. Often people
ask “what is the alternative to religion as a philosophy of life,” and the
emphatic answer is: humanism.

Humanism is a philosophical starting point for reflection on how one
should live, according to one´s own talents and interests and under the
government of respecting others and not doing them harm, allowing them
their own quest for an individual good life.

Do you think a person can be both a humanist and a person of faith?

No, religion and humanism are not consistent-unless you mean `humanism´ in
the Renaissance sense, where it denoted the study of classical literature.
But this study soon showed people that the ideas and outlook of classical
thought is at odds with religion, which is why humanism is now a secular
philosophy.

Do you have any advice on how to raise children as humanists in a world
where most people are religious?

Easy-make children conscious of their responsibilities to others, help
them to be clear-eyed and to think, question, always ask for the evidence
and arguments in support of any proposition-and explain how the legacy of
mankind´s ignorant past survives in religious beliefs and practices, and
what role these have in social life as a result of their historical
embedding.

What would you say to someone who argues that we need religion, whether or
not any religious doctrine is true, because religion gives us
spirituality, rituals, etc.?

I say that such pleasures and relaxations as a country walk, dinner with
friends, an afternoon in an art gallery, attending a concert or the
theatre, intimacy with a loved one, lying on a beach in the sun, reading
and learning, making things, are all “spiritual exercises” in their
refreshment, strengthening and promotion of connections with others and
the world-these are the only “rituals” and observances required for an
intelligent appreciation of what is good and possible in human life.

There´s one meme I find especially galling these days-it´s the claim that
atheists (or the “new atheists”) are just as dogmatic as religious
fundamentalists are. This is one of those zombie ideas that, no matter how
many times you kill it, it comes shambling back at you. I´m wondering what
your response to it is.

There are two components to the answer: One needs to explain what “dogma”
means, viz. a teaching to be accepted on authority not enquiry, and one
needs to explain that robust opposition to religion in its too-common
forms of bigotry, anti-science, anti-LGBT, anti-women, to say nothing of
terrorism (and to `moderate´ religion as the burka for all this, as you
point out), is justified, and cannot be effected by compromise and
soft-speaking. Slavery would never have been abolished by such means.

source-http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-god-argument

 

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