#Manipur- Upholding the right to life #AFSPA

April 11, 2013, The Hindu


In northeastern India, Manipur remains the State worst affected by insurgency. The Assam Rifles, the Army and other security forces have a tough job on their hands. But admittedly, nothing can justify the scale and extent of the fallout of that fight — what the Supreme Court has described, possibly in an understatement imbued with a touch of irony, as “a pattern of carelessness.” It was referring to the findings of the Santosh Hegde Committee appointed by the court, on a public interest petition that sought to highlight mass killings in the State over the last decade. The committee found that seven killings in six instances were the consequence of fake encounters. The petitioners had claimed over 1,500 such deaths. The findings now add force to widespread complaints of human rights violations, reinforced over time by some striking incidents including the assault and killing of Manorama Devi in 2004. The Central government has told the court the Hegde report would be considered at the highest level. But given past experience, it is unlikely that the Centre would act on its own to make a meaningful difference on the ground. The court, which expressed a sense of sorrow and helplessness, must ensure the most precious of all rights — the right to life. The committee having recommended the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act with respect to Manipur, the court may need to take a call on that contentious question as well — including, crucially, whether the Act is meant to aid civil powers or substitute for them.

The National Human Rights Commission’s plea, in response to the report, to ensure that all encounter incidents be thoroughly investigated under the terms of its guidelines, is a sensible one. That will involve reporting incidents promptly to the NHRC and holding detailed and systematic magisterial inquiries within three months. But all this will add up to nothing if the Centre is unwilling to ensure that security personnel, be they from the Army or the paramiltaries, are held to account for any illegal use of force on their part. Soon after Manorama’s killing at the hands of the Assam Rifles in 2004, the Justice Upendra Commission was set up to probe the incident. Nearly nine years later, its report has yet to see the light of day, let alone be acted upon. It is this culture of pervasive impunity that allows innocent persons to be killed in staged encounters. Coming out with a list of “dos and don’ts for the security forces,” as the government has promised it would do, will hardly suffice. A similar list ensued the last time the apex court heard a major case on the role of the armed forces in the northeast. That was in 1997. This time, it must do more.

#India- Clinical Trials offer no security to clinical trial participants


Trial and error

Kundan Pandey
Issue Date:

Recent notifications offer no security to clinical trial participants

Trial and errorVICTORIn the past eight years, 2,868 deaths have occurred during clinical drug trials across India. But only 89 have been attributed to such trials and compensation has been paid in 45 cases, said the Union health minister on March 5 in Parliament. Considering the Supreme Court’s recent observation that uncontrolled clinical trials “are causing havoc to human life”, Ghulam Nabi Azad’s speech only highlights the poor state of regulations for clinical drug trials.

To tighten guidelines for conducting these trials, the health minstry had amended the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules by passing three not ifications between January and Febr uary. The notifications specify procedures for compensation and functioning of the ethics committee, which is constituted by an institution conducting the trial.

Health activists say the notifications are rife with loopholes. The first one deals with compensation in case of injury or death during clinical trial but the onus of deciding the injury continues to be with those carrying out the trial. S Srinivasan of All India Drug Action Network says, “The notification does not define injury. How does one  prove that an injury is related to the trial? Who is the appellate body in case the compensation is not satisfactory?” Amar Jesani, editor of Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, says it is important that arbitration boards are created at local and regional levels to arbitrate on the quantum of compensation a provision that was present in the draft but is missing in the notification.

Claiming compensation continues to be difficult. As per the first notification, the Drugs Controller Gen eral of India (DCGI) will be the final authority to determine cause of injury and compensation amo unt. There is a provision that the victim, if not satisfied with the compensation decision, can approach the Centre. How ever, it is not clear which Central body should be approached. In the abs ence of an appellate body, the final auth ority should have been a neutral body, say activists.

The first notification ensures that compensation is received within six months. But what if the pharma company does not agree with DCGI’s decision? If it approaches a lower court, the decision could get prolonged indefinitely.

taleActivists say since the majority of the participants in clinical trials are poor, there should be provision that the aggrieved party can promptly approach the resp ective high court. This will fast track the case.

In view of the complications in obtaining compensation, activists have long been demanding that in case a participant starts showing signs of an adverse effect he or she be immediately paid half of the compensation. Although the draft had met this demand, the final version makes no such mention. Srinivasan says the compensation model needs clarity (see http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/clinical-trialsillogical-compensat… [1]).

Another sphere where government efforts have fallen short is in defining the role of ethics and expert committees in the third notification. Jesani, who has participated in many ethics committees, informs, “The notification on ethics committees is in response to the criticism that they are not registered with public authorities and there is no supervision over them.” The notification, however, does not satisfy on two counts. First, there is no information on how the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, which oversees pharma companies and clinical trials, will manage since it is short of staff and low on funds, says Jesani. Secondly, he says, unless all ethics committees adopt a uniform procedure for monitoring trials, their decisions would become arbitrary. “They also need to be independent of their institution’s interests.” Similarly, the third notification does not define the constitution of the expert committee, which is tasked to recommend quantum of compensation to DCGI in case of death. “On what basis will the expert committee recommend has also not been defined,” says Jesani.


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/trial-and-error


Margaret Thatcher dead: 10 key quotes from Glenda Jackson’s speech on the former PM #Video

10 Apr 2013 19:18

 The Labour MP ripped in to Margaret Thatcher’s record as Prime Minister during today’s Commons debate

 1. “Thatcherism wreaked the most heinous, social, economic and spiritual damage upon this country”

2. “It’s a pity she did not start building more and more social houses after she entered into the right to buy, so perhaps there would have been fewer homeless people than there were”

3. “During her era London became a city Hogarth would have recognised”

4. “We were told it was going to be called Care in the Community. What in effect it was was no care at all in the community”

5. “Everything I had been taught to regard as a vice – and I still regard them as vices – under Thatcherism was in fact a virtue”

6. “If we go back to the heyday of that era I think we will see replicated again the extraordinary human damage that we as a nation have suffered from”

7. “People knowing under those (Thatcher) years the price of everything and the value of nothing”

8. “I’m beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basis of the spiritual nature of this country, where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side”

9. “If we go back to the heyday of that era I think we will see replicated again the extraordinary human damage that we as a nation have suffered from”

10. “A woman (Thatcher) not on my terms”


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SC asks cos including Vedanta, Adani, Tata and Essar Steel to pay 50% entry fee tax demand by Odisha

Samanwaya Rautray, ET Bureau Apr 10, 2013,

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked a host of companies including VedantaAdani and Tata Steel and Essar Steel, to pay up 50% of the tax demanded by the state of Odisha by way of entry tax for now.

A bench, comprising Justices HL Dattu and JS Khehar, directed all the companies to pay 50% of the tax and interest amounts demanded/assessed by the state. But the penalty amount would be excluded from the amount, the court said.

Senior counsel Harish Salve argued the case for these companies. He was assisted by Tarun Gulati of Economic Laws Practice. Salve urged the court to restrict the deposit to 33% for now, but the court refused to do so, instead asking them to pay 50% of any demands made by the state.

Salve also urged that the penalty may be directed to be deposited as the case involves a constitutional challenge and that the assessees had already succeeded in the High Court in Reliance’s case.

The Bench agreed with Salve’s suggestion that the penalty amount should be excluded from the total deposits to be made by the companies.

But the bench noted the state was financially poor and that these companies were constrained to bring such goods from outside the state.

Odisha counsel Rakesh Dwivedi demanded that these companies deposit the whole of the tax liability which had arisen prior to filing of the petitions before the Orissa High Court. But Salve objected to this suggestion.

These taxes have been imposed on goods imported by them for their plants and services in Orissa between 2008 and 2012.

Odisha’s Entry Act, which allows levy of entry tax on imported goods, allows the state to levy a tax, not exceeding 12% of the purchase value, on entry of goods for consumption, use or sale in the state. The government levies different rates for different goods. Most states have similar Acts.

Petitions challenging them on the grounds of constitutional validity are now pending before the Supreme Court. Nineteen other companies including ACC and Hindalco Industries and Vedanta, have moved the top court against the Act. They claim that the power to impose a cross state levy only lies with the centre and states have no power to impose them.


Himachal BJP MLA says Nagas and Gorkhas should eat monkeys to maintain ecological balance #WTFnews

Gorkhas protest HP BJP MLA’s monkey-eating remark

Naresh K Thakur , Hindustan Times   Dharamsala, April 08, 2013

Perturbed over the statement of former minister and BJP legislator Ravinder Singh Ravi on Gorkhas, the community demanded the suspension of the saffron party leader from the state assembly here on Monday.

Moving a resolution in the assembly on the menace of stray animals, Ravi on April 5 had offered an “unusual” solution to tackle the menace of monkeys and stray dogs — deploying Naga and Gorkha regiments in the state from time to time as both the animals are their delicacies.

Holding a protest in Dharamsala and other parts of the state, the Gorkha community also demanded an unconditional public apology from Ravi.

 Raising their war cry, “Jai Mahakali Aayo Gorkhali”, the protesters also burnt an effigy of Ravi.

The representatives of the community also submitted a memorandum to governor of Himachal Pradesh Urmila Singh, chief minister Virbhadra Singh, speaker of the state assembly BB Butail, BJP national chief Rajnath Singh and state party president Satpal Singh Satti, demanding an action against the MLA.

“If the Gorkha or the Naga regiment is posted in different cantonments of the state from time to time, the population of monkeys would decline with passage of time,” Ravi was quoted as saying in media reports, adding that it would also help in maintaining the ecological balance.

The former irrigation and public health minister went on to say that some of the delicacies from the region to which these contingents belong were made from the meat of these animals.

“In the past, a regiment was posted in Holta (near Palampur town) and stayed there for three years and there was significant drop in the population of monkeys,” he had said and even urged the government to take up the matter with the defence ministry for the posting of these regiments in the state.

Meanwhile, expressing shock and pain and terming the statement as racist jibe against the Gorkhas, president of the Himachal and Punjab Gorkha Association Bhupinder Singh Gurung said it had not only hurt the sentiments of the Gorkha community, but also was inhuman and against animals.

Gurung said Ravi’s illegal suggestion was tantamount to contempt of court’s verdict and demanded Ravi’s disqualification from the Himachal assembly and requested the assembly speaker to expunge the remarks from the proceedings of the house.

“Apologise before the Gorkha community publically and in the Himachal assembly before the closure of the budget session on April 9 or be ready to face the music,” Gurung warned Ravi.
Terming Ravi’s statement as derogatory and defamatory, another Gorkha leader, Col RS Karki (retd) said such remarks by a seasoned politician tantamount to casting aspersions on the finest fighting force of the Indian Army affecting their moral as well.

He said the Gorkhas worship dogs on Diwali as a mark of reverence and worship monkeys considering them as God Hanumana.


Plea against Aadhaar, Delhi HC asks govt to respond #UID

Apr 10, 2013

New Delhi: Delhi High Court today asked the city government to respond to a plea seeking quashing of its executive orders that made Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) or ‘Aadhaar’ compulsory for availing various public services here. Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued the notice to the Delhi government on a plea of Ashutosh Chandola that Aadhaar card, which was made optional by the Planning Commission, has now been made mandatory for availing benefits and public services in the national capital.

“Issue a writ in the nature of certiorari to quash executive orders…passed by the Delhi Government vide which Aadhaar has been mandatory for availing all public services from the Government of NCT of Delhi,” the petition said. It also said a direction be given to the government to accept other identity and address proofs such as voter I-Card, passport and other documents, prescribed by the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, for availing public services in Delhi.

The plea claimed that the Aadhar which is supposed to be optional has been made compulsory. AFP.

The plea claimed that the Aadhar which is supposed to be optional has been made compulsory. AFP.

“The entire (Aadhaar) project (of Planning Commission) is meant to be voluntary in nature and this is reflected in the Aadhaar enrolment form which clearly mentions that the Aadhaar enrolment is free and voluntary,” it said.

The project was launched to empower the poor, who lack ID proofs, in accessing various welfare and other services. The Government, however, issued executive orders and made Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining various certificates relating to “caste, domicile, income, death and birth.” Aadhaar has also been made necessary for registration of various documents relating to property, will and marriages, the petition said. It said the constitutional validity of UIDAI has been challenged in the Supreme Court and till the case is decided, “the burden of obtaining an Aadhaar should not be made mandatory on the public for availing public services.”



#India -BSF jawan allegedly rapes mentally challenged girl #Vaw #Disability

IE, 30-32013

MolestationA case of rape was registered against a 26-year-old Border Security Force (BSF) jawan on Friday, after a man lodged a complaint that the jawan had sexually assaulted his mentally unsound daughter and impregnated her.
The incident took place at Kulakcharla police limits in Ranga Reddy district. The accused is absconding.

The 22-year-old woman was shifted to a government hospital for medical examination, based on which action will be initiated against the accused.

According to police, the victim, who is a resident of Hyderabad, used to visit her grandmother’s house in Kulakcharla frequently. Naresh, the jawan, is the grandmother’s neighbour.

Deputy superintendent of police, Chevella, K Silpa Valli told Express,

“The woman has been staying at her grandmother’s place since the last 15 months. During this time, Naresh absued her.”

When the girl fell ill, her family members admitted her to a private hospital. The doctors who examined her declared her pregnant.

The victim’s father, Kishan Singh, rushed to Kulkachrala, after which the girl told him that Naresh was abusing her sexually. She also said that he had threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the act.

Singh and the victim approached the Kulkacharla police and lodged a complaint.

A police team visited Naresh’s house to question him and his family in connection with the case. However, cops found the house locked, with no sign of their inmates.

The locals, however, told them that Naresh had recently left the place after receiving a call from BSF officials to resume his duties.

Meanwhile, a team was formed a team to nab Naresh’s family members. Police have also contacted higher officials at the BSF to collect details about Naresh.

via The New Indian Express.


West Bengal – Inhuman torture by BSF, false police case

9 April 2013


The Chairman

National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House

Copernicus Marg

New Delhi-110001

Respected Sir,

I want to draw your kind attention regarding the matter of physical torture and false implication into criminal charges upon the victim Mr. Sariful Islam from District-Murshidabad, West Bengal by the perpetrator BSF personnel. The victim was physically assaulted, verbally abused by the perpetrator BSF personnel without any reason and cash of Rs. 2230/- and one mobile set was arbitrarily seized from his possession by the perpetrator BSF personnel on the date of the incident. Our attached fact finding report gives the details of the incident. The victim lodged a written complaint to the Superintendent of Police, Murshidabad informing the whole incident of physical torture and false implication committed upon him by the perpetrator BSF personnel. But no actions have been taken against the perpetrator BSF personnel by the higher authority. The victim is now living under fear after getting warnings and threats from police and BSF personnel to withdraw his complaint against the BSF personnel lodged before the Superintendent of Police, Murshidabad.

Hence we seek your urgent intervention regarding the following matters: –

·       The whole incident must be investigated by the Commission’s own investigation wing.

·       The perpetrator BSF personnel must be booked under the law immediately and prosecuted under the criminal law in open court of law.

·       The role of the police of Raninagar Police Station must be investigated regarding failure to act lawfully in the matter of the victim.

·       The victim must be relieved from the false charges and should be provided adequate compensation.

·       The family of the victim and the victim must be given adequate protection so that they do not come under threat or inducement.

·       BSF personnel obstructing villagers to cultivate their land be stopped without delay.

Thanking You

Yours truly

Kirity Roy

Secretary, MASUM


National Convener, PACTI




Name of the victim: – Mr. Sariful Islam, son of- Late Abdul Goni, aged about- 38 years, by faith- Muslim, residing at Village- Babla Bona-Bathan Para, Post Office- Ramnagar , Police Station- Raninagar, District- Murshidabad, West Bengal, India.

Name of the perpetrators: –

1.  Company-In-Charge of Kaharpara BSF BN. No-130 2. One officer Intelligence Branch of BSF and 3. to 8. Other six involved BSF jawans of Kaharpara BSF BN. No-130 under Raninagar Police Station; 9. Mr. Sumit Talukdar, the Officer-In-Charge of Raninagar Police Station

Date and time of the incident: – On 13.02.2013 at 1pm

Place of the occurrence: – In I.B.B Road at Kaharpara under Raninagar Police Station.


Case details: –

It is revealed during fact finding that the victim is living with his wife Ms. Habiba Sultana, aged about 30 years and with his two sons namely Mr. Sakhil Habib, aged about 14 years and Mr. Nur Alam, aged about 9 years. Cultivation and selling fodder are the ways to survive their livelihood. He is involved in various social works. He is also a victim of political rivalry.  The father of the victim was reportedly murdered as a result of political rivalry before few years back.

On the date of incident at 10 am, the victim went to his cultivation field which was situated in Radhakrishna Mouja Dag No- 1345-1349-1275 to observe the crops. At about 1pm, he was illegally restrained by six BSF jawans of Kaharpara BSF BN. No-130 while he was returning from the field. They asked the victim to show his voter identity card. After that they without sounding any reason started to brutally assault the victim by fists and blows. The perpetrator BSF personnel repeatedly slapped him on his ears and chest and forcibly snatched cash of Rs.2230/- from his possession and one mobile set from him. After that the perpetrator BSF personnel put him into life threat and tried to accuse him as a smuggler. The perpetrator BSF personnel also threatened him that he would be falsely implicated in a case if he refused to say that he has an involvement in smuggling. The victim was also verbally abused by the perpetrator BSF personnel and he was brutally assaulted again. Thereafter the victim was taken by the perpetrator BSF personnel to Raninagar Police Station by car. He was falsely implicated in a criminal case on the basis of a written complaint of the perpetrator BSF personnel which was treated as First Information Report (F.I.R) vide Raninagar Police Station Case No- 134/13 dated 13.02.2013 under sections 188 of Indian Penal Code and 12 of P. P. Act. In the said criminal case there was another co-accused namely Mr. Mahiriddin Seikh who was reportedly arrested by the BSF personnel on 12.03.2013.

On 14.02.2013, the victim was produced at Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, Lalbagh. He was released on bail. The Company-In-Charge and the officer of Intelligence Department (I.B.) of Kaharpara BSF BN. No-130 threatened the victim to implicate him false charges again and even to kill him if he dared to inform the incident of physical assault to anyone. On 15.2.2013 the victim got medical treatment from one local Doctor namely Mr. Nishir Kumar Sarkar who recorded the injuries sustained by the victim. The said doctor referred the victim to hospital for further treatment. Later he was medically treated in Berhampore General Hospital.

On 20.02.2013, the victim lodged a written complaint before the Superintendent of Police, Murshidabad through courier informing the whole incident of physical torture committed upon him by the perpetrator BSF personnel.  But till date no action was taken on the basis of his complaint.

On 26.03.2013, the victim talked with our fact finding team and he informed that the Investigating Officer (I.O) of Raninagar Police Station of the above mentioned criminal case warned him that he would face grave problems for sending complaint letter to the Superintendent of Police, Murshidabad informing the whole incident of physical torture committed upon him by the perpetrator BSF personnel and also said that if he is implicated in a false case again then there would be none to survive him from that situation. The Investigating Officer of that said police station told the victim that if he did not withdraw the complaint which he lodged before the Superintendent of Police, Murshidabad, he would pay the grave consequences for that. The victim’s life now came under threat. At present the victim is living under fear after getting warning from the Investigating Officer (I.O) of Raninagar Police Station and BSF personnel. The victim till date did not get back his mobile set and cash of Rs. 2230/- which were arbitrarily seized from him by the perpetrator BSF personnel without issuing any seizure list.

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Maharashtra – Co-operative societies now come under RTI Act #mustshare


VINITA DESHMUKH | 10/04/2013 , Moneylife.in

Co-operatives make up for one-sixth of Maharashtra’s economy; they are also abodes of chronic corruption. No wonder, many are yet to digest the fact that co-operatives have now come under the RTI Act and so public disclosures of their functioning is mandatory

Vijay Kumbhar, a leading RTI (Right to Information) activist from Pune, has beenresearching on the aspect of co-operatives coming under the RTI Act after the enactment of the 97th amendment to the Constitution of India in March 2012. Now, “co-operativesocieties” have not only become a part of Article 19 of the Constitution of India making them one of the fundamental rights of a citizen, but have now also been given the status of local self-government in Part IX of the Constitution. This makes them accountable under the RTI Act. However, many a vested interest is trying to hoodwink this fact. A tete-a-tete with Kumbhar.
Why do you say that co-operative societies which were until recently out of the gambit of RTI Act, now come under it?
Vijay Kumbhar: With the enactment of the 97th amendment to the Constitution of India and its inclusion in Article 19 of the Constitution, formation of cooperative societieshas become one of the fundamental rights of an Indian citizen. Besides, they have been given the status of local self-government like rural and urban municipal bodies in Part 9 of the Constitution. Cooperative societies have thus come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
So, under what section of the RTI Act do co-operative societies come under?
Kumbhar: As per Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted—
(a) by or under the Constitution;
(b) by any other law made by Parliament;
(c) by any other law made by the State Legislature;
(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government, and now as per Section 2

(h) (a) of RTI Act, any cooperative society has become an ‘authority’ or ‘body’ or “institution of self-government” established or constituted by or under the Constitution and hence it comes  under the ambit of the RTI Act.
Could you elaborate on how co-operative societies came to be included in Article 19 of the 97th Amendment of the Constitution of India?
Kumbhar: Article 19 of the Constitution of India protects certain fundamental rights of the citizens. All citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression; to assemble peacefully and without arms; to form associations or unions; to move freely throughout the territory of India; to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. Now forming a cooperative society is also a fundamental right. (Moreover, as per Article 43B of Part IV it is now the duty of the states to promote voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control and professional management of cooperative societies to encourage economic activities of cooperatives which in turn would facilitate progress of rural India.)
Part IX of the Constitution comprise local self-governments; Part IX pertains to Panchayats; Part IX B is about municipalities and now with the insertion of Part IX C, co-operative societies have acquired the status of local self-governments. Correspondingly, cooperative societies have come under the RTI Act.
What are the institutions that come under the co-operative societies?
Kumbhar: Cooperative societies normally include co-operative banks, credit societies, sugar factories, handloom-power loom factories, distilleries, milk producing societies, water supply societies and so on. Henceforth, all such institutions will have to appoint Public Information Officers, Appellate Authorities and comply with all the provisions of the RTI Act. This is the most revolutionary event in the history of our country in the recent past.
So, weren’t co-operative societies accountable to the government and people before the 97th Amendment? What has changed?
Kumbhar: Normally there are three sectors of industries; public, private and cooperative. The first one is wholly owned by a state or the central government and the governments have complete control over its investments and management and it is accountable to the governments as well as to the public. Although the private sector abides by the laws, rules and regulations of the governments it is not answerable or accountable to the governments or the public for the losses/profits or management. It is accountable only to its owners or shareholders as per the law of the land. The cooperative sector was a blend of the public and private sectors. So far, it was enjoying the facilities available to the public sector such as loans, share capital from the state, etc but was not accountable to the state or the public. With the Part IX inclusion in the 97th amendment, the scenario has changed and the cooperative sector is now accountable to the state and the public.
Why is it that so far there was no clarity about the applicability of the RTI Act to cooperative societies?
Kumbhar: Several information commissions and courts had given contradictory verdicts on this matter. Cooperative societies were out of the ambit of the RTI Act because it was not an ‘authority’ or ‘body’ or an ‘institution’ of self-government established or constituted by or under the Constitution. Hence, attempts to bring a cooperative society under the RTI Act, claiming it to be an ‘institute’, a “body owned, controlled or substantially financed by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government” failed. In addition, authorities of these institutes always took the stand that they did not come under the RTI act. Now, they cannot escape as it has become the fundamental right of a citizen.
What about the fact that some experts say that the RTI Act for co-operativesocieties applies only to those that are established after the Constitutionalamendment in Article 19 and Part 9?
Kumbhar: This is just an eye-wash because this is not a new Co-operative Act that has been implemented but an amendment to the Act as per the amendment to the Constitution of India which already exists. Hence, every co-operative society no matter how old or new comes under the RTI Act.
What about the fact that there are some Supreme Court and high court judgments which have ruled that co-operative societies do not come under the RTI Act?
Kumbhar: Constitution of India is over and above any high court or Supreme Court judgment so now with the constitutional amendments, these judgments are irrelevant.
What would be the impact of co-operative societies coming under the RTI Act, particularly in Maharashtra?
Kumbhar: In reality, considerable part of the country’s economy is occupied by the cooperative sector. It is said that about 1/6th of Maharashtra’s economy comprises co-operative societies. A major part of Maharashtra politics is also influenced by the cooperative sector. The scale of illegalities, scams and corruption in this sector is also high. The cooperative sector including co-operative banks and credit co-operative societiesblock substantial government funds running into hundreds of crores. As of 2012, the unaccounted for amount is close to Rs15,000 crore.
The statistics of the department of cooperative societies of Maharashtra in 2009-10 show that there were 2,18,320 cooperative societies in Maharashtra and the total membership of these societies was 5.52 crore. One estimate of the number of societies is at about 2,30,000 with a membership of about 6.5 crore. For the entire country, this number could go up to 6.5 lakh societies with 30 crore members.
A giant sector such as this was uncontrolled and unaccountable till now. One can hope that this sector will move in a positive direction after the 97th amendment to the constitution.
So, has this amendment already been enacted?
Kumbhar:  After the amendment was enacted in 2012, a period of one year was given to the states to amend as well as repeal existing provisions of law to bring in line with the new provisions in the Constitution. Usually, state assemblies approve such amendment. However, as the assembly was not in session, the Government of Maharashtra introduced an ordinance on 15 February 2013 and thus these amendments have now become law.
What are the highlights of Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act after the amendments?
Kumbhar: The highlights of the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act and Rules after amendments are:
(i)                      Incorporation of cooperative societies on the principles of voluntary formation, democratic member control, member economic participation and autonomous functions;
(ii)                    Conduct of election of a cooperative society by an independent electoral authority;
(iii)                  A fixed term of five years for the office bearers of the cooperative society;
(iv)                Supersession of the board of a cooperative society for a period of not exceeding six months;
(v)                    Independent professional audit of the cooperative societies;
(vi)                  Convening of the general body meeting of every cooperative society within a period of six months of the close of the financial year;
(vii)                Access to every member of the society to the books, information and the accounts of the cooperative society;
(viii)              Filing of the returns by every cooperative society within six months of the close of every financial year;
(ix)                  Free, fair, impartial and timely elections of cooperative societies by independent body;
(x)                    Audit of the cooperative societies to be carried by the auditors from the government approved panel of auditors or firms;
(xi)                  Maximum number of 21 directors to be applicable to all cooperative societies irrespective of their size with two seats reserved for women; and
(xii)                Co-opted members not to be eligible to be elected as office-bearers of the board.
Also there are provisions of penalty for consistent defaults, acting against the interest of the institution, deadlock in the board of directors, not ordering elections within specified time, corruption, irregularities in duty, deliberately giving false information, disobeying orders of authorities, etc.
Is Article 19 of the 97th Amendment to the Constitution similar to the 74thAmendment which gave status of local government to Panchayats/municipalities/municipal corporations?
Kumbhar: Before 1992, panchayats and municipalities were also not bodies established by or under the Constitution. However, that did not mean that there were no panchayats or municipalities. However, due to their autonomous status, their functioning was arbitrary. They did not acquire the status and dignity of viable and responsive people’s bodies due to varied reasons including   absence of regular elections, prolonged supersession, insufficient representation of the weaker sections, etc.
Hence, to give certainty, continuity, and strength to Panchayat Raj with 73rd amendment, Part IX was inserted in the Constitution. Later as Urban Local Bodies were not able to perform effectively as vibrant democratic units of self-government, with the 74thAmendment, Part IX B was inserted to give municipalities a status. Now with the 97th Amendment, Part IX B has been inserted to give cooperative societies a status of local self-government.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)


#India- Heaping abuse on the abused #sexualviolence #Vaw

Hindustan Times
April 10, 2013

The sharp contrast between public outrage and institutional mechanisms when it comes to crimes like rape was nowhere more evident than in the case of the 10-year-old victim from Bulandshahr. When the mother of the child, allegedly raped by an upper caste man, took courage into her hands and went

to the police station to report the crime, the traumatised child was locked up. This was in an all-women police station. The Supreme Court has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports on this issue and has sent a notice to the state government. Despite the public outrage after the Delhi gang rape, it is clear that things on the ground have not really changed for victims of rape.

The plight of sexually abused children is by far the most heart-rending. Incidents of sexual violence against children seem to be on the rise. In recent times, just before the Bulandshahr episode, a 45-year-old businessman was arrested for raping his 16-year-old daughter in Gurgaon. In Karnal, a father has been arrested for raping two of his minor daughters. This proves that stringent laws alone cannot be effective. The first port of call for a victim is the police. It is here that both sensitivity and speed in gathering evidence are essential. In cases of rape, medical evidence has to be recorded within 24 hours. In the case of children, it is absolutely vital that the child is not traumatised any further. Unfortunately, class, caste and socio-economic factors work against victims in many police stations. There is a great deal of social stigma attached to rape. It is the duty of the law to see that this does not deter victims from registering their complaints.

Along with strengthening laws, the police have to be taught to be more sensitive in the cases of child rape victims. The child’s testimony must be recorded in a conducive environment and she should not have to face her attacker unless absolutely necessary. Children of such abuses need long-term counselling. Unfortunately, in our conservative society, abuse at home by a father or male relative is often covered up to protect the family’s honour. The February report by Human Rights Watch titled ‘Breaking the Silence: Child Sex Abuse in India’ highlights how the government’s response to children who are sexually abused fails to protect the victims. In the Bulandshahr case, it is absolutely vital that the police persons who thought it fit to lock up the victim be bought to book. After the Delhi gang rape, there was a huge momentum for change. There cannot be such a glaring disconnect between public sentiment and police conduct.

Otherwise the gains made in the form of stronger laws will not really amount to either preventing rapes of children or minimising the trauma of child victims.


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