#India – Why Narendra Modi behaves like larger-than-life Rambo


This Pic is by Amir Rizvi

This Pic is by Amir Rizvi

Economic Times, Kigshuk Nag, 28 Jun, 2013
Narendra Modi hasn’t formally studied economics or sociology, but he sure has intimate knowledge about the theory of expectations.

In essence, the theory suggests that a person will decide to act in a way that will lead to the fulfilment of what he expects to happen.

So, Modi knows that if electors can be convinced to believe that he will win in 2014, they will actually vote for him. Thus, his whole effort now is to convince theelector that he alone will be the victor.

Though given to talking big for a long time – lately earning him the epithet of feku – this is the real reason for Modi for projecting himself as a Rambo who rescued 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims from Uttarakhand in a day.

The logic works like this: if a particular elector believes that electors in general are convinced that Modi is a Rambo, he will expect them to vote for the Gujarat chief minister and make him the winner.

This, in turn, will induce this particular voter to be in tune with the general mood and plump for Modi (unless he has specific reservations).

Expand this particular voter to the universe of all voters and it is easy to figure out how a general expectation that Modi will win can lead to his actual victory.

Of course, the reverse is also true. A general belief that he cannot win will induce non-committed voters to cast their franchise for someone else. Modi is also using the expectation theory when he warns CBI officers that the government could change in the near future. Read this as, proceed gingerly in the Ishrat Jahan case and do not cross me because tomorrow I willbe your boss.

As a matter of strategy, Modi is also using the theory of expectations along with the public mood in the country that is for “change”. The mood for change first became clear from the massive support garnered by Anna Hazare in 2010-11. Hazare’s enormous popularity was because people saw him as the change agent. But this was short-lived because people soon realised that Hazare could not deliver on the change that they wanted. Actually, the people also do not know the “change” that they seek.

Modi is cognisant of this and is offering himself as the change agent.

The task of Modi’s spin doctors will be to build more attributes for the man, so that they tend to align with the change that the people want. Some changes that people want are fairly clear: they want an honest, transparent regime.

That such a revolution cannot take place in India through our defective electoral system – where loads of moolah is needed – may be known to analysts but not to the common man.

Thus, Modi’s men will project him as clear-as-a-crystal leader who delivers on his promises without fear and prejudice. At the same time, they will de-emphasise some of the attributes that have stuck to Modi.

The most obvious of them is his being anti-minority. To counter this, BJP proposes to produce a vision document for minorities.

Slowly, Modi is also being seen as a handmaiden of big business. As evidence of this, last week, a huge crowd of farmers rode into Ahmedabad in trucks, tractors and trailers protesting the Modi government move to forcibly acquire 50,887 hectares of farm land for a special investment region. Expect Modi nowto become pro-farmer.

Modi’s biggest apprehension, however, is that the 2014 elections becoming a referendum on him. This is in spite of Modi revelling in being perpetually in public gaze and nothing can be a bigger ego-booster than a national election exclusively focused on him. A poll where Modi is pitted against Rahul Gandhi or Manmohan Singh is less difficult for him to manage considering the Congress’ two-term anti-incumbency effect.

But a battle that becomes a choice, want Modi or don’t want him, can become an almost insurmountable obstacle for Modi to cross.

This is because many who prefer Modi to Rahul will pause and evaluate carefully whether they want Modi at all. Many who will give the thumbs down to Rahul will not approve of Modi in isolation because they know he is a feku, projecting a larger-than-life image of himself.

The writer is resident editor, Hyderabad, The Times of India

 

#India : Death in detention of Mr. Safiqul Haque and acts of intimidation against Family


 

Case IND 280613
Allegations of torture and ill-treatment/ Arbitrary detention/ Judicial harassment/ Death in detention/ No proper investigation/ Risk of impunity

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in India/ West Bengal.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network, about acts of intimidation and judicial harassment against the family of Mr. Safiqul Haque, a 51 year-old man from Bilbari Village, after the family lodged a complaint alleging that Mr. Safiqul Haque had died in detention due to torture and lack of proper medical care. OMCT is particularly concerned about the arrest and alleged false charges brought against his son, Mr. Rafikul Alam, 22 year-old, and the lack of proper investigation into the death in detention of Mr. Safiqul Haque.

According to the information received, Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family has been continuously threatened by the Nabagram police after lodging a complaint in relation to the death in detention of Mr. Safiqul Haque (see background information hereunder). In a recent event, on 11 May 2013, at about 5:00 am, the Officer in charge of Nabagram Police Station, along with other 12 policemen, entered Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family house and arrested without any arrest warrant Mr. Rafikul Alam, son of Mr. Safiqul Haque, after the family refused to sign on blank papers. Mr. Rafikul Alam was illegally detained during two days. During his detention, he allegedly suffered verbal abuses, repeated threats and intimidation. He was also allegedly deprived of adequate food and proper sleep.

On 13 May 2013, Mr. Rafikul Alam was reportedly falsely charged in Nabagram Police Station Case no. 20/2013 under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (armed with deadly weapon), 149 (member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of Indian Penal Code and Section 3 of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984. According to the same information, on 14 May 2013, Mr. Rafikul Alam’s mother lodged a written complaint to denounce the aforementioned events before the District Magistrate. To date, there has been reportedly no investigation carried out into the aforementioned events.

Background information

According to the same information received, on 7 December 2012 at about 5:00 pm, Mr. Safiqul Haque was praying at Bilbari Boro Mosque, in Bilbari Village, when he was apprehended, together with Mr. Ismail Seikh, Mr. Jarman Seikh and Mr. Anawar Hossan, by Superintendent of Police of Murshidabab district, Mr. Humayun Kabir, who came with about 500 police personnel. The police entered the mosque and started brutally assaulting Mr. Safiqul Haque and his acquaintances. Mr. Safiqul Haque, Mr. Ismail Seikh, Mr. Jarman Seikh and Mr. Anawar Hossan were reportedly tied and dragged by force to the police prison vans parked outside the mosque, where they were again beaten and verbally abused.

On 8 December 2012, Mr. Safiqul Haque’s wife reportedly received a phone call from an unknown person who informed her that her husband, together with Mr. Ismail Seikh and Mr. Jarman Seikh, had been brought to Lalbagh Court accused of murder. She went to Lalbagh Court where she found out that her husband and the two men were detained in the court lock up and that they had been tortured during the whole night by the police personnel who beat them with their boots and with wooden sticks. After rejection of their bail petition on 8 December 2012, Mr. Safiqul Haque, Mr. Ismail Seikh and Mr. Jarman Seikh were detained in Bhagwangola Police Station until 12 December 2012 when they were brought to the Additional Second Court Special Judge, Berhempur and implicated in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) case 1117/12. Mr. Safiqul Haque esd then moved to Bharampur Central Correctional Home where his family was not allowed to visit him. The police personnel allegedly tortured Mr. Safiqul Haque again during this detention causing him several injuries.

According to the same information, it was not till 7 January 2013 when Mr. Safiqul Haque was admitted to the Berhempur Sub-District Hospital to be treated from the injuries inflicted. Despite the advise of the doctor to move him to Kolkata Hospital for better treatment, the officials in charge did not do so. On 7 January 2013 Mr. Safiqul Haque reportedly died in Berhempur Sub-District Hospital without getting any proper treatment. The police did not inform Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family about his death. On 11 January 2013, Mr. Safiqul Haque’s wife lodged a complaint before the district Magistrate, in Murshidabad. On 14 February 2013 MASUM made a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission. However, to date, no action has been taken and there has been reportedly no investigation carried out into the aforementioned events. As for Mr. Ismail Seikh, Mr. Jarman Seikh and Mr. Anawar Hossan, they have been released on bail.

The International Secretariat of OMCT expresses its concern about the safety and physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family, particularly of his son, Mr. Rafikul Alam. OMCT is also gravely concerned about the circumstances surrounding the detention and death in detention of Mr. Safiqul Haque. OMCT urges the competent authorities to guarantee Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family physical and psychological integrity at all times, notably by immediately putting in place adequate protection measures for them, and by suspending the police personnel believed to be responsible for the allegations of torture and ill-treatment, pending an investigation.

OMCT recalls that the authorities have to fulfil their obligations under the Indian Constitution and under international human rights law to protect the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the right to liberty and security, to consider seriously any allegations of ill-treatment and arbitrary arrest, and to undertake a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation in this regard, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them to trial and apply adequate sanctions. OMCT also recalls that victims must be ensured the right to an effective remedy for the human rights violations suffered as well as the right to full redress, including compensation and rehabilitation.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in India urging them to:

1. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family, particularly of his son, Mr. Rafikul Alam;
2. Immediately put in place adequate protection measures for the family of Mr. Safiqul Haque;
3. Immediately put an end to acts of intimidation and judicial harassment against the family of Mr. Safiqul Haque;
4. Carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into the alleged acts of ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and alleged false charges against Mr. Rafikul Alam, Mr. Ismail Seikh and Mr. Jarman Seikh and into the death in custody of Mr. Safiqul Haque, the result of which must be made public, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
5. Ensure that adequate, effective and prompt reparation including adequate compensation and rehabilitation is granted to Mr. Safiqul Haque’s family, Mr. Rafikul Alam, Mr. Ismail Seikh and Mr. Jarman Seikh;
6. Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.

Addresses

  • Mr. Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office, Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi, India. Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in;
  • Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979;
  • Justice Altamas Kabir, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, Tilak Marg, New Delhi -1, India. Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in;
  • Justice K. G. Balkrishnan, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, India. Fax: +91 11 2334 0016 / 2338 4863, Email: covdnhrc@nic.inionhrc@nic.in;
  • Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly, Chairperson, West Bengal Human Rights Commission, Bhabani Bhaban, Alipur, Kolkata -27. Fax +91 33 2479 9633 / 2479 7750, Email: wbhrc8@bsnl.in
  • Governor, West Bengal, Raj Bhaban, Kolkata – 62, Phone: +91 33-2479 7259, Fax: +91 33 2479 9633 / 2479 7750, Email: secy-gov-wb@nic.in
  • Miss Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, Government of West Bengal, Writers’ Buildings, BBD Bagh, Kolkata – 1, Fax – +91 33 22145480, Email: cm@wb.gov.insechome@wb.gov.in;
  • H.E. Mr. Dilip Sinha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations (Geneva), Rue du Valais 9, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: +41 22 906 86 86, Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India in your respective country.
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

Geneva, 28 June 2013

 

 

#India – Activist, PMRD fellow, being victimised in Gadchiroli mining row #TISS #WTFnews


Gadchiroli, June 25, 2013

Pavan Dahat, The Hindu 

The mining row, which saw a senior executive of a company and two others being killed by the Naxals last week, has taken a new twist with the police now targeting an activist and a Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) for alleged links with the Naxals.

A team of the Gadchiroli police’s special anti-Naxal unit — C-60 — claimed to have raided a village, Kovunwarsi, in Etapalli tehsil of the district on June 20 and arrested Sunil Yeshu Hichami (27) and Paika Majhi Pungati (45) over the allegation of collecting funds for the Naxals.

Police also claimed that Mahesh Raut, a PMRDF, and Harshali Potdar, an activist from Mumbai, were present in the village when they arrested the Naxals.

A leading English newspaper on Sunday reported that Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had been booked under Sections 13, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

But Aheri Additional Superintendent of Police Rahul Shreerame said that both of them were just questioned for some time and let off. Mr. Shreerame denied having registered any offence against Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut.

Contrastingly, Superintendent of Police (SP) Suvez Haque said the police had, in fact, booked them under various offences “because they were found in the same village from where other two Naxals were arrested.”

However, Gadchiroli police PRO Dharmendra Joshi told The Hindu that both Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had been let off after some “preliminary questioning.”

A top district official of Gadchiroli told The Hindu on the condition of anonymity that the police had not registered any offence as reported by the English newspaper and as claimed by the SP.

This district official also questioned as to why both Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut had not been taken into custody if the police booked them for such serious offences.

But Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut (both alumni of Tata Institute of Social Sciences) and the villagers of Kowanwarsi had an entire different chain of events to narrate.

“As a PMRD Fellow, I often visit these interior areas. On June 20 also, I went to visit these villages one by one. Harshali, who is studying the environmental threat caused by the proposed mining projects in this area, also accompanied me to these villages. At around 9.00 a.m., we reached Kovunwarsi and decided to take a nap at the house of the village Patil. At 10.00 a.m., a team of C-60 came to the village and arrested some people. They asked for our identity cards and told us to proceed with our work,” Mr. Raut told The Hindu .

“When we were returning to Allapalli in the evening, the police stopped us and took us to the Pranhita Police Headquarters where they questioned us for more than 30 hours,” he added.

Police alleged that Ms. Potdar and Mr. Rauthad gone to Kovunwarsi village to meet senior Naxal leader Narmada Akka.

But Ms. Potdar, Mr. Raut and the villagers have denied these claims.

“They came to inspect village infrastructure. They were sleeping in my house when the police arrested some Naxals from another house,” said Joga Buklu Hedau, the village Patil.

Even the District Collector of Gadchiroli, Abhishekh Krishna, said that Mr. Raut often visited interior areas in the Aheri division for his work.

“His work has been the best among all other PMRD fellows who work under me,” said Mr. Krishna.

According to Amol Marakwar, a Zila Parishad member of Gadchiroli, Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut were being targeted for their “visible opposition” to the proposed mining projects in Surajagad Gatta range.

“Harshali had very strongly raised objections to these projects in a public hearing in Allapalli last month. Now she has been harassed for publicly opposing it” said Mr. Marakwar.

Mr. Haque did question Ms. Potdar and Mr. Raut’s open opposition to the proposed mining projects in this area.

“How can they oppose the government’s projects despite being a part of the government?” asked the SP.

Ms. Potdar confirmed that the majority of questions addressed to her were related to mining.

“They even asked me why we had two CDs of Kabira Kala Manch and why I saved some of the contacts in my mobile phone as ‘Comrades’. They even had problem with some people greeting me with Lal Salam and Jai Bhim . They searched our house and our laptop is with them now,” said Ms. Potdar.

Presently, the police at Aheri headquarters calls the duo for questioning on a regular basis. Some times Ms. Potdar is asked to come to the police station even after 6.00 p.m.

The duo has not been told if they have been booked or not.

“They asked us to sign on a blank paper, but we refused” said Mr. Raut.

Mr. Marakwar called the police exercise “an attempt to destroy roadblocks against the proposed mining projects in the area” and a “blatant violation of Human Rights.”

 

What’s going on at Kudankulam?


M. RAMESH, The Hindu

It’s going to take some more time for Kudankulam to get started.
It’s going to take some more time for Kudankulam to get started.
 

What’s holding up the commissioning? Is it a problem with the valves and cables? Or something more?

The Site Director at the Kudankulam nuclear power project, R.S. Sundar, is a man apparently wizened by experience.

When Business Line asked him if the project would really start producing power in July (the latest revised deadline), his response was as honest as it was terse: “We hope.”

One cannot fault Sundar for his lack of conviction. A man no less than the Prime Minister of the country assured his Russian counterpart in December 2011 that the project would be commissioned in “two weeks” and said exactly the same thing again to the same individual three months ago.

The project was originally scheduled to be commissioned in December 2007. We Indians have learned to live with such timeline misses; frustration over project delays does not manifest itself in much more than puckered lips. Given the issues, such as faulty valves and cabling, it looks like there is no way the plant will be commissioned any time soon.

What’s happening?

But more frustrating than the five-and-half-year delay in the Kudankulam project is the lack of transparency in matters around the project.

Technical people in responsible positions engaged in the construction of the project have been telling this correspondent for well over a year that everything is ready for commissioning and they did not know what was causing the delay.

Their conjecture — which could be erroneous — has been that the entire establishment is awaiting word from the Prime Minister’s office to yank the lever.

It is well over a month since the Supreme Court gave its clearance for the project. Ask Sundar, he will tell you that “preparations and review process are going on”.

The project has already suffered a cost overrun of Rs 4,000 crore. In December 2011, when protestors had stopped work at the project, his predecessor, Kasinath Balaji, famously lamented that each day of delay cost a revenue loss of Rs 3 crore. But now there is a resounding silence.

Valves and cables

Something is happening inside that black box called Kudankulam. Nobody says what.

In this information vacuum, the most contextually credible perspective provided by down-the-line engineering staff and technically knowledgeable observers is that the delay is due to the valves scare.

It goes like this: some valves supplied by the Russian company Zio Podolsk have been found to be sub-standard and who knows how many other valves are defective?

Some of these other valves are inside the sealed reactor and cannot be easily removed. They are probably safe enough, but the shrillness of the anti-nuclear, anti-Kudankulam protests has reached such a crescendo that even a minor safety incident would inevitably result in a flare-up.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) would not want to end up with egg on its face by giving clearance for the commissioning.

So, they are going into the manufacturing log books of the Russians, component by component, to make sure things are alright. But the problem with this approach is, it is still not fool-proof. And everybody knows that.

What is not helping matters is the manner in which information was withheld when news about the faulty valves broke out.

When it was a matter of public record that a Special Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy, A.P. Joshi, visited Zio Podolsk in July 2012, five months after the arrest of Sergei Shutov, the Procurement Director of the company, for fraud and corruption and supply of shoddy products to reactors, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India came up with the claim in February 2013 that “no information regarding any investigation against Zio Podolsk is available to NPCIL.”

And now there is talk of faulty cabling. In an article, A. Gopalakrishnan, a former Chairman of AERB, has said that large tracts of cabling would need to be re-done and this could take several months.

Could these faulty valves and cables (and God knows what else) set the project commissioning further behind? Nobody knows.

Misinformation thrives in this information-gap. One fails to understand why the nuclear establishment does not come clean and tell people what exactly is happening.

It apparently does not want to. S.P. Udaykumar, who is leading the protests against the nuclear plant, says that despite an order of the Central Information Commissioner, NPCIL has refused to share the ‘safety analysis report’ and the ‘site evaluation report’.

Incidentally, the Commission in its order tellingly noted thus: the Commission repeatedly asked the PIO to identify and explain the specific interest which might be affected….he gave no reasons whatsoever for claiming that the security, strategic and scientific interests of the State would be prejudicially affected if the Reports were disclosed.

Udaykumar has consequently filed a case with the Delhi High Court asking for the reports.

Why the silence?

Elsewhere in the world, reports such as these are freely shared with the public.

In one of his articles, Gopalakrishnan noted that “the contrast between how nuclear regulators in the best of democracies openly interact with their peoples and how the DAE and the AERB shrink from the public is quite apparent to all and this is increasing the disaffection and distrust of the Indian public for all nuclear operations and their safety.”

At a time when the country is suffering from an unprecedented power crisis — worst experienced by Tamil Nadu which is the chief beneficiary of the project — the monstrous delay in the project is going unexplained.

People ought to be told what exactly the issue is, whether there are faulty components and if so, the seriousness of the problem and the remedies available.

Those responsible for the delay, be it individuals or companies of Indian or foreign origin, should be brought to account.

#India – The Naxal, the Tribal, and the Doctor


naxalarea

June 19, 2013 ,

 Recent news reports state that the Chhattisgarh government has asked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to suspend its operations in the Bijapur district where it had operated for the past two and a half years. ICRC had been providing medical help to violence hit people in the tribal dominated area. This order of suspension raises important questions about (a) the duty and ability of the state to provide medical services to the tribal population in that area, and (b) the willingness of the state to allow medical services to affected people in an area affected by Maoist violence.

 

Bastar district is a predominantly tribal area, with more than two-thirds of the population belonging to the Scheduled Tribes category. Ninety percent of the population is rural, more than 87% of the population is employed only seasonally, and literacy levels are among the lowest in Chhattisgarh. Two thirds of the Village Reports, or Jan Rapats prepared by the villagers themselves (Jan Rapats are prepared by all villages in Chhattisgarh, and reflect the needs and views of the villagers) state that health facilities in these areas are very poor.

“Most villages emphasise that the availability of medicines, appointment of health personnel, improvement in the quality of health care, Government aid, and the availability of clean drinking water are areas that require attention.”

 

Though 6.25% of Chhattisgarh’s population is based in the Bastar district, the area had 3 hospitals, no dispensaries, and 57 Primary Health Care centres as of 2001. Forty percent of the population had no access to toilet facilities, safe drinking water, and electricity as of 2001.

(Human Development Report Chhattisgarh, 2005. Available here.)

 

Bastar has also been in the news recently owing to the naxal attack on Congress’ Parivartan Yatra convoy on May 25, 2013, during which senior Chhattisgarh Congress functionaries and security personnel were killed.

ICRC first expressed its willingness to enter Naxal affected areas in Chhattisgarh in 2008, and was welcomed by Chief Minister Raman Singh (Sourced from here):

“Certainly, ICRC plays a vital role in mitigating the sufferings of people in conflict zones across the globe. With the kind of resources and expertise ICRC has at its command, its presence will benefit the poor tribals of the region where a huge population is suffering and hundreds of children have been orphaned in the conflict…”

Interestingly, he went on to say,

“We have no problem even if such organisations provide medical assistance to Naxalites injured in encounters with security forces…We also do the same thing. Whenever Naxalites are injured, they are hospitalised so that they can be punished by a court of law for their crimes.”

 

Since 2010, ICRC has run a Primary Health Care centre, mobile clinics, and a hand-pump rehabilitation programme to ensure safe drinking water for the tribal population. According to another Times of India story, international agencies have helped play a crucial role in providing essential health care facilities in the region:

“Last year, when a diarrhoea epidemic broke out in South Bastar, killing nearly 100 people, Bijapur administration had enlisted the support of MSF and UNICEF, apart from calling doctors from other districts. But in Dantewada, in the absence of such an intervention, and in the face of an acute shortage of doctors, a large unknown number of people died without medical support.”

Then why the order of suspension?

The order of suspension has ostensibly been given by the district administration because “…ICRC is yet to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government” regarding its work in the region. State government sources have said that since ICRC is an international organization, it needs “certain clearances from the centre” for carrying out its operations.

If ICRC has operated in Bastar since 2010, how was it able to function without obtaining clearances from the central and state governments for almost three years? How was it able to bring in medical equipment, and (presumably) foreign personnel into a security sensitive area, and operate without the required permissions for all this time? Does the state and district administration seriously expect people to believe that they allowed ICRC to work in a Naxal dominated area for close to three years without the proper paperwork?

 

News reports indicate that other reasons may also be at play here. In 2011, the police in south Bastar and Dantewada had alleged that ICRC, along with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) which had been operating there since before ICRC started working there, was facilitating the treatment of Maoist rebels. Two Maoist rebels who had been arrested claimed that they were being treated by ICRC and MSF.

“These two organisations are deliberately going to Maoist camps and spending weeks. The foreign doctors should know what they are doing. I am from an enforcement agency and can’t welcome them having extra love for Maoists, but not for people injured in Maoist brutalities.” – Senior Superintendent of Police, Dantewada (Sourced from here)

 

According to him, people from the two organisations could be prosecuted under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act that prohibits direct or indirect contact with Maoists.

 

The recent order of suspension, coming soon after the Maoist attack on May 25 can then also be seen through the lens of an overzealous state and district administration irked by the fact that ICRC is treating Maoist rebels. If in fact this is the case, several questions beg to be asked: What prevents doctors from treating Maoist rebels injured in conflict, especially after the Chief Minister himself expressly stated that he would be fine with such treatment? Does the duty of a doctor to treat injured people depend on whether a person is suspected of being an insurgent or terrorist? Does such treatment in itself make a doctor an accomplice in the crimes the injured is suspected of having committed? If yes, should lawyers representing suspected terrorists also be made accomplices to crimes committed by their clients?

 

The central government has repeatedly touted its plan of combining development with improving law and order as a solution to Naxalism in these regions. ICRC is one of the most reputed health care agencies operating in Bastar, an area with a clearly documented lack of health care facilities. The administration at all levels clearly needs to reconcile its twin goals of development and security enforcement in a transparent, and rational way. Essential health care for tribals in a conflict-ridden area, and the work of doctors cannot be left to the alternating prioritization of security enforcement and development. This is especially so when the Jan Rapats reveal how miserably the state has failed in meeting the expectations of the local population.

SOURCE- http://polityinindia.wordpress.com/

 

 

Madhu Mausi, Namo Mamu and the Ghost of Uncle Pepper


JUNE 18, 2013
t
by , kafila.org

I’ve been thinking a lot about magic lately. The kind of magic that gets pulled at fairgrounds and birthday parties, or on stage, where the impossible is made to appear possible, where material objects dematerialize and specters appear, tantalizing us into suspending our disbelief. Some magicians, including those I would like to think of as friends, do what they can with consummate skill, so that we attain a state of wonder while they effect transformations using ordinary things for extraordinary purposes. They make us inhabit parallel universes on a table top. There is a kind of poetry and grace in that kind of magic. That is the kind of magic that makes men out of god-men, and re-affirms even a non-patriot’s faith in the ‘waters of India’.

There is another kind of magic, a bag of tricks that relies on the cheapening of our impulses, on our addictions to false premises, on our giving in to our basest instincts. And because sometimes old cliches are useful, we could call this kind black magic. The greatest practitioner of this art, at this moment, seems to me to  be none other than the man who is setting himself up as the caudillo of the future, the chief minister of Gujarat, our prime-minister in waiting, Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi. We,a stunned would be electorate, are the rabbit he is aiming to pull out of his hat.

Magic works on simple principles, sleight of hand and sleight of mind, mainly to do with the magician doing the obvious under your nose, while you are distracted by his banter. Then, your expectations are played along, your fears, anxieties and desires are manipulated so that you see what the magician wants you to see, cleverly disguising what you overlooked while he did his thing.

One of the cleverest magic tricks is called Pepper’s Ghost – a nineteenth century technique for ‘materializing’ specters and apparitions on stage. Crucially, it requires the presence of chamber hidden in darkness, where an illusion can be staged and then reflected on to a revealed chamber – the stage –  adjoining it through cleverly angled twin mirrors. Sometimes, this effect is aided by generous amounts of smoke  – thereby giving us the expression – ‘smoke and mirrors’ -as shorthand for any elaborate con job.

What I am suggesting is simply this, NaMo Mamu, together with his extensive PR machinery, of which Madhu Mausi is now an important adjunct, is conducting a large scale Pepper’s Ghost-style Psy-Ops on the Indian electorate. I like to thinks of this as the Ghost of Uncle Pepper (If Madhu Mausi and NaMo Mamu, why not Uncle Pepper?)

This is not just a matter of NaMo being spectrally present and distributed (as he likes to be, through holographic projection in many places at once) but also a matter of the deliberate sleights of hand that produce the ‘lists’ of awards, distinctions and glowing testimonies to his regime.

What it conceals is a state that under-performs on many social indicators. (This has been highlighted in Kafila earlier, so I will not detail it here) What it concerns is the fact that the Modi government spends less than Goa or Karnataks on primary education, and administers some of the lowest minimum wages for agricultural and informal labour. All this while it claims to be generating huge amounts of revenue, through increased investment. If the investment is indeed as large as the Gujarat government claims it is, then the fact that the indicators of inequality are stable or rising means that in Gujarat, increased investment has not lead to a decrease in social inequalities. Is this the model of governance that Madhu Mausi wants for the rest of the country? That the rich grow richer, at the expense of everyone else?

The truth is, NaMo at the helm of the NDA is unlikely to come close to winning an absolute majority in the elections that will be held next year. If anything the mandate will be fractured giving neither the malgoverning UPA, nor the ambitious NDA, nor anyone else anything close to a shot at power by themselves. It is then that the jockeying for the minor players and parties will begin. A large faction of Corporate India, with its suitcases full of cash, emboldened by the kind of crony capitalism (the Adani-Ambani model of Public Private Partnership) that Modi presides over in Gujarat, will then make its bid. And if Namo Mamu wins, it will be because he, will have the backers with the fatter suitcase.

In that event, we will need many justifications to rationalize the sleight of hand that will bring NaMo into power. The Pepper’s Ghost spectacle that we are witnessing today, which seek to distract our attention from the darkness in Gujarat and direct it towards the bright lights that produce NaMo’s mirrored spectre is part of that game. Madhu Mausi, the magician’s faithful aide, is playing it, to the best of her ability.

Madhu Kishwar re-iterated her case for Narendra Modi and the ‘Gujarat Model of Development’ in a lengthy rejoinder to Zahir Janmohammed, which was published in Kafila (along with a response to the rejoinder by Janmohammed) last month.

In that text, Madhu Mausi (I am calling her Mausi, because she has tweeted about being more comfortable these days with people who, following ‘Bharatiya’ tradition, apply familial suffixes to women’s names, as a mark of their respect, rather than to those she considers to be ‘inauthentic’, deracinated feminists) has offered many reasons for why she thinks that Muslims in Gujarat have now decided to root for NaMo Mamu (if Madhu is Mausi, then, in the spirit of bhaichara, NaMo – Narendra Modi – must be Mamu, must he not? ). Part of her argument rests on what she did or did not see and hear in her walks and conversations in Ahmedabad, particularly in the Muslim neighborhood of Juhapura.

Kafila has carried responses to Madhu Mausi’s defense of NaMo Mamu by Aditya Nigam and Zahir Janmohammed and Dilip D’Souza.

My purpose is not to repeat the points that have been made in these other contributions, which have all been cogently argued. I intend to focus on the fact that in her defense of NaMo Mamu and the Gujarat Model of Development in Kafila, Madhu Mausi (other than her cheerful anecdotes about young women and men having cold drinks at night on the streets of Ahmedabad, and her observations born out of her ‘unguided’ tour of Juhapura) has basically one set of facts on offer. These are a long list of 21 awards, honors and distinctions that Gujarat has been lauded with in the past few years. I became curious about this long list of awards and laurels, and decided to try and find out what makes them so persuasive as evidence for the distinctions that Madhu Mausi claims for Gujarat.

United Nations Sasakawa Award in 2003 for outstanding work in the field of disaster management and risk reduction.

Best Investment Environment and Most Economic Freedom Award by India Today in 2005.

Best Bio State Award, 2007.

Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Conservation Award 2006, by Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India.

E-governance award for the e-dhara project (aimed at computerization of land records).

CAPAM Gold Award from Commonwealth Associations for Innovation in Governance.

Asian Innovation Award in 2006 at Singapore from Wall Street Journal and the Financial Express for Chiranjeevi Yojana (initiative for reducing maternal and infant mortality rate)

India Tech Excellence Award in 2009 by India Tech Foundation for Power sector reforms and initiatives.

Nirmal Gram Award in 2010 to a village in Rajkot district in Gujarat by Government of India for sanitation facilities.

ELITEX 2007- Best E-government State Award from Government of India

Gujarat tops among 35 states of the country in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan

Gujarat ranks 1st in the country in “Implementation of the 20 Point Programme” in 2010.

UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award in 2005 for reconstruction of a Gurudwara damaged during the earthquake.

Modi was voted No. 1 Chief Minister by the people, thrice consecutively in five years in the India Today-ORG MARG Survey (a unique recognition ever achieved by any CM in the country)

Gujarat ranks No. 1 in The Economic Freedom Index instituted by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in 2005. However, the then Director, Bibek Debroy was forced to resign from his post because the Congress High Command got enraged at an institution presided over by the Nehru Dynasty finding anything praiseworthy in Modi’s Gujarat.

United Nation Public Service Award in 2010 for its role in transforming the delivery of public services and attention to grievances by application of technology.

Innovation for India Award in 2010 in the public services category for “Jyotigram Yojana” for power and irrigation reform. The award was instituted by the Marico Innovation Foundation.

Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd bagged an award in the category of “Best Renewable Energy Project in India and the World for 2012” for its 214 MW solar park, the largest solar farm in Asia.

Award in “Top Investment and Infrastructure Excellent State in Energy and Power” category for 5 consecutive times since 2008 when the category was first introduced.

Scope Award by Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Government of India 2008

National Award for Excellence in Cost Management in 2007 by the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India.

National Award to Power Utilities of Gujarat in 2011 by Ministry of Power, Government of India.

Award for Excellence in 2007 by Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India.

This list of 21 honors is long and impressive. Until one begins looking at them closely. And then you realize that they are the kind of awards that state government bodies get from Central Government ministries and bodies and various national and international foundations and organizations. I looked at eight of these twenty one awards and realized the following.

The United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Management and Preparedness which was won by the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority in 2003 (the GSDMA was set up by Modi’s bete-noire Keshubhai Patel during his tenure as Gujarat CM in the wake of the Bhuj earthquake) was also won, for instance, by the Bhubaneshwar Municipal Corporation in 2011. And yet, no one is plugging Naveen Patnaik for the post of prime minister.

The Nirmal Gram Puraskar (awarded to villages and settlements which eradicate open defecation by the Ministry of Sanitation of the Government of India) was awarded not as Madhu Mausi says to a village in Rajkot district in Gujarat, but  to 2808 village panchayats all over india in 2010. Of these Gujarat accounted for 189, while Maharashtra accounted for 694, Madhya Pradesh accounted for 344, Tamil Nadu accounted for 237. If one looks at a break up of Nirmal Gram Puraskars across states from 2005 – 2011, then we get 9523 NGP awards for villages in Maharashtra, 2385 awards for villages in Tamil Nadu and 2281 awards for villages in Gujarat. As of 2011, Sikkim became the first state to be free of open defecation. Himachal Pradesh and Kerala are set to follow suit in 2012-13. No one is talking about the chief ministers of Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu as potential prime ministerial candidates.

Madhu Mausi tells us that Gujarat ranks No. 1 in the The Economic Freedom Index instituted by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. This index is a measure of a state government’s willingness to go down the road of neo-liberal economic policies. It is not, and cannot be considered to be an index of choice or liberty for the general population, rather, it is often a measure of how clearly allied the policies of a state are to big corporations. However, even in this instance, the distinction is not Gujarat’s alone. Tamil Nadu, for instance has been ranked as No.1, not once, but twice in the same time period, in the same index, by the same organization. And yet, Madhu Mausi thinks that it is the chief minister of Gujarat and not of Tamil Nadu who should merit our attention.

The United Nations Public Service Award has been awarded not just to the Government of Gujarat, but also to the Government of Kerala and Delhi on different occasions in recent years. But Oommen Chandy or Shiela Dikshit do not quite cut it for Madhu Mausi in the same way as NaMo Mamu does.

The Innovation for India award instituted by the Marico Foundation was given to the Government of Gujarat for its Jyoti Gram Yojana, but it had already been given earlier to the Government of Kerala for its Kudumbashree Programme, begun while the LDF under E.K. Nayanar was in power in Kerala.

Madhu Mausi tells us that Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd bagged an award in the category of “Best Renewable Energy Project in India and the World for 2012” for its 214 MW solar park, the largest solar farm in Asia. What she does not tell us is who gave the award, and perhaps why. The award is actually the ENERTIA award, given by ENERTIA a trade journal in the power sector. The journal and the award are both backed by Patel Engineering Ltd. a Mumbai based Engineering firm. In 2007-08, Patel Engineering acquired 96% stakes in Patel Energy, which then entered into an MOU with the Gujarat Power Corporation, Government of Gujarat for establishing a 1,200 MW imported coal-power based power project in Ghogha, Bhavnagar. The ENERTIA award looks more like a quid-pro-quo, by way of recognition for services rendered (apparently) in renewable energy in exchange of a generous contract in fossil fuel based non-renewable energy.

Madhu Mausi informs us that the Government of Gujarat won an Award of Excellence presented by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. That is true, so did many other state governments and bodies over the years. For instance, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation won it in one year. But no one now thinks of the now disgraced Yedurappa, or any other recent Karnataka Chief Minister as a potential Prime Ministerial Candidate.

I have taken just eight of the 21 ‘honors’ that Madhu Mausi lists, to demonstrate how hollow her claims are, and the information that I have found on them is readily available in the Public Domain, barely a few google-clicks away. If they are so inclined, insomniac Kafila readers can go through the remaining 13 honors to see what they are worth. Some may want to go a step further and Google some more and find out that every state wins many such awards every year. Perhaps that would give us a better indication of the distance that remains between illusion and reality when it comes to Madhu Mausi, Namo Mamu and Gujarat.

 

#India- Neither Ready nor Steady for #Aadhaar #UID #DBT #mustread


TRANSITION  FAILURE

Jun 30, 2013 |DowntoErath

Author(s): Jitendra @jitendrachoube1 Aparna Pallavi @AparnaPallavi1 Akshay Deshmane @DeshmaneAkshay Alok Gupta @alok227 M Suchitra

 Down to Earth- Cover Story

With an eye on the 2014 general election, the UPA government is expanding its ambitious Direct Benefit Transfer programme that promises welfare as cash in bank accounts. But without any groundwork it is only creating more trouble for beneficiaries

image

election 2014Come July 1, the UPA government will roll out the second phase of its ambitious programme, Direct Benefit Transfer or DBT. The programme aims to transfer welfare benefits, such as scholarship, pension and subsidies, directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. When the government kicked off the first phase in 43 districts in January this year, it hyped DBT as a “game changer” in the way it provides benefits to the people.

The controversy-hit UPA sees the programme as its trump card for the 2014 general election. It plans to expand DBT to 78 districts, covering almost a fifth of the country.

At the core of the scheme are bank accounts that have to be “seeded”—paired in lay lexicon—with a biometric-based Aadhaar card that assigns a unique identification number. As Down To Earth reporters travel to five states under DBT they report that thousands of beneficiaries are left out of the DBT coverage at every step of opening the Aadhaar-paired account

‘WHAT’S ACCOUNT SEEDING?’

JHARKHANDWhen it comes to percolation of benefits through the UPA government’s ambitious direct benefit transfer (DBT) programme, Jharkhand fares the worst among states that Down To Earth visited. The programme remains a nonstarter in all the four districts in the state where it was rolled out in the first phase. And it is not difficult to figure out why.

Senior officials of the districts open up the discussion on DBT with a fundamental question: “What is seeding of bank account?” To the uninitiated, it means integrating one’s bank account with his or her unique identity (UID), or Aadhaar number. This helps the government access the details of the beneficiary and transfer welfare benefits as cash to his or her bank account. Thus, it is the single most important procedure to roll out DBT.

This ignorance among government officials is indicative of the state’s progress in implementing the ambitious programme of the UPA government. Seraikella-Kharsawan, the first district in the state under DBT since January, has more than 46,500 beneficiaries of different schemes. Only 500 are receiving the benefits.

In state capital Ranchi, District Information Officer Deepak Kumar claims 53,671 people are benefitting from 11 schemes under DBT. But the figure does not remain this impressive when Kumar divulges that the government has so far disbursed only Rs 16,454. This means each beneficiary has received Rs 3.20. This is a serious mismatch.

Confusion over numbers also reigns in Hazaribagh. At a recent review meeting of DBT, state chief secretary lauded Hazaribagh for the maximum Aadhaar coverage in the state. District UID officer Neetu Bharti says her department has issued Aadhaar cards to 9,000 people in Hazaribagh and all of them have seeded the card number with their bank accounts. But she admits that only 2,023 are receiving benefits.

According to the status report of the National Payments Corporation of India, the gateway for payment under DBT, released in March this year, cash benefits have returned from the bank accounts of 10-15 per cent beneficiaries even though the accounts were integrated with Aadhaar.

Lack of expertise or vested interest?

Till date, the UPA government has brought 25 Centrally funded schemes under DBT. But in Jharkhand, most schemes under DBT are state government sponsored. The Hazaribagh district administration claims to have brought 14 Central schemes under DBT, but 80 per cent of the beneficiaries are those enrolled for the state-sponsored scholarship and pension schemes. The Seraikella-Kharsawan district administration is yet to bring any Central scheme under the programme.

Khauri Pradhan Devi of Dugdha gram panchayat in Seraikella-Kharsawan is one of the 10 people who are receiving benefits through DBT. Another 440 are waitingKhauri Pradhan Devi of Dugdha gram panchayat in Seraikella-Kharsawan is one of the 10 people who are receiving benefits through DBT. Another 440 are waitingAnalysts say such biased implementation could be politically motivated. The district is the Assembly constituency of Chief Minister Arjun Munda who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the opposition at the Centre.

The district authorities fail to give a clear answer for the tardy implementation of DBT. Sangram Besra, deputy development commissioner of Seraikella-Kharsawan, blames it on poor Aadhaar coverage. “Kuchai and Rajnagar blocks of the district that have seen Maoist violence in the past have not been even visited by UID teams. This is when there are 357 UID enrolment centres across the state,” says Besra. “I have no qualms in revealing that the 16,162 people enrolled for UID in the district, belong to urban and semi urban areas, not rural areas.” Until Aadhaar cards are made, Besra plans to use the database of workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to disburse benefits.

Recently at a press conference in Ranchi, Nandan Nilekani, chairperson of the UID Authority of India, claimed that 20 million of a total 32.4 million people in the state have been enrolled for Aadhaar card. He also said every day about 69,000 people in Jharkhand are enrolling in Aadhaar. This means, within a year every resident of Jharkhand will have an Aadhaar card. But Nilekani evaded one crucial number, which is how many Aadhaar cards have been delivered to people and especially to those living in the hinterlands.

In Seraikella-Kharsawan’s Dugdha gram panchayat all the 450 tribals have enrolled in Aadhaar. Only 10 of them have received the card and are receiving old age pension through DBT. The rest are waiting for the card. And they are not the only ones. People in Maharashtra are also facing this problem.

Counted, discounted

MAHARASHTRA*Only Post-Matric scholarship beneficiaries from Scheduled Castes and Other Backward ClassesOn record, Wardha, Maharashtra’s pilot district for DBT, has the highest percentage of Aadhaar registrations for any district in the country. According to the Unique Identification Authority of India, 1.08 million Aadhaar cards (84.6 per cent) have been generated against a population of 1.3 million. Some 360,000 beneficiaries have linked their bank accounts with Aadhaar and the district administration has disbursed Rs 2.07 crore to these accounts.

The district administration now showcases an award it received in January from management consulting firm Skoch Development Foundation for successful transfer of funds under Janani Suraksha Yojana to mothers’ bank accounts through DBT (see ‘Suraksha compromised’). But the situation is not as hunky-dory as it appears.

Despite high number of enrolments and generation of Aadhaar IDs, cards are yet to reach many in the district. Worse, the administration has no clue about the number of missing cards and the reason they are missing.

Consider Seloo tehsil. With 88 per cent cards generated, the tehsil tops in Aadhaar coverage in the district. But in Seloo’s Yelakeli gram panchayat, nearly 50 per cent of the population of 6,000 do not have Aadhaar cards. “Only 15 per cent of them had failed to enrol in Aadhaar. The rest are waiting for the cards despite enrolment for some six months now,” says sarpanch Bandu Gawhale. “In April we sent a plea to the district collector to organise an Aadhaar camp in Yelakeli, but we are yet to hear from him,” Gawhale says.

The situation is baffling in neighbouring Paonar village where people have not received Aadhaar cards even after two years. The large number of missing Aadhaar cards means equal deprivation of entitlements covered under DBT. Since January, nine Central schemes, including Janani Suraksha Yojana, education scholarships and pension for the old and widows, are under the DBT regime in Wardha.

A poster in Wardha giving information on the linkage of cooking gas subsidy with Aadhaar from June 1A poster in Wardha giving information on the linkage of cooking gas subsidy with Aadhaar from June 1 (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)

In Yelakeli, 70-year-old Kaushalyabai Shete has stopped receiving old age pension since January after she failed to produce her Aadhaar card. In nearby Babhulgaon village, 17-year-old Sonali Hajare informs that six students, including her, did not receive scholarship for want of the card.

A sense of panic grips people as the district has begun disbursing important subsidies like those for cooking gas through DBT from June 1. Plans to disburse MGNREGA wages and fertiliser subsidy through Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts are also in the pipeline. These schemes target a larger mass of people. As the kharif season approaches, the greatest anxiety is regarding fertiliser subsidies.

“I could not enrol when the Aadhaar camp was organised in my village. I was visiting my relatives,” says 68-year-old Moreshwar Lonkar from Yelakeli. “Now the camp is over. The sowing season is very close and we will have to pay double the price for fertiliser, which we can ill afford,” says he.

District collector N Nawin Sona admits that the Aadhaar enrolment drive did not turn out as it should have been. The district started with 35 UID machines and is now left with only 17. “With most of the works done here, the machines have been moved to other districts,” says Sona.

Social activists and panchayat members give a different reason for the poor Aadhaar coverage. They say camps were held without proper awareness among people about the programme and without any coordination with panchayats. “The UID team shut camps and left when they pleased, regardless of whether all people in the village had been enrolled or not,” says Aruna Bahadure, panchayat member of Yelakeli.

Card or no card, one thing that worries everyone is whether the subsidies that are proposed to be DBT-linked will really be credited to the bank account, and in time. “Once the linkage is made, the price of fertilisers will double,” says Pilaram Champatrao Raut, a farmer from Ghorad village, one of the showcase villages of the district administration for DBT implementation. If subsidy reaches late, farmers will be in deep trouble, says farmer Ambadas Chambhare. “It will not make fertilisers any cheaper. What is wrong with the subsidy system?” he asks.

Input dealers are equally apprehensive. “Once the subsidised supply stops we will have to make a higher investment to procure stocks,” says Pankaj Kamdi, a dealer from Seloo. “We will not be able to give farmers the informal loan because of high risks. It will impact farmer’s economy as well as our business,” he adds.

Sona says his administration is

making all efforts to ensure that subsidies are credited to the beneficiary’s account within 24 hours. However, at this moment, assurances are cold comfort. The poor of Wardha have their fingers crossed.

“How can a government, which is not able to transfer welfare benefits even after months, credit subsidies within 24 hours?” asks Pushpa Behade of Ghorad. Behade, a farm hand, has not received widow pension since January, although she has an Aadhaar card and a bank account. It appears Behade’s Aadhaar number has not been integrated with her bank account. This lack of knowledge has left thousands of beneficiaries like Behade bereft of their dues, particularly in Rajasthan.

Suraksha compromised

imageNo bank account meant no benefit for Deepali Thakre (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)The Wardha district administration has been much lauded for its prompt implementation of Janani Suraksha Yojana through DBT. It was one of the first schemes to be brought under DBT in Wardha. The administration held camps to enrol pregnant women all over the district and roped in anganwadi workers and auxiliary nurse midwives to open their bank accounts. Anupam Hivlekar, medical officer of Wardha Civil Hospital, says there were initial hitches in transferring the benefits due to lack of Aadhaar cards. But that has been sorted out. “We now have the district collector’s instruction to pay all beneficiaries regardless of Aadhaar. Women who do not have bank accounts are being paid through account payee cheques,” says Hivlekar.

But everyone appears to have missed out the fact that a disturbingly large number of women do not have bank accounts, a must for encashing account payee cheques. The civil hospital’s own figures show 1,718 of the 1,873 beneficiaries were paid through account payee cheques till May 23. The cheques have a validity of three months. Bearer cheque option has been stopped since DBT was introduced.

Even the cash-on-bedside through micro-ATM option works only for account holders. The civil hospital’s report mentions that beneficiaries paid through cheques could not cash them in the absence of bank accounts, but provides no numbers. There is no explanation why such a situation has arisen. When Down To Earth shared the report with district collector N Nawin Sona and Mohan Mahshankar, general manager of Bank of India, lead bank for DBT in Wardha, they expressed bewilderment. Sona said there may have been laxity in implementation, and that he would ask hospitals to refer all cases where cheques have been issued to the bank for action.

Cycle of despair

RAJASTHANUdaipur, Ajmer and Alwar of Rajasthan are among the first 20 districts in the country to roll out DBT in January. Five months on, many beneficiaries say they prefer the earlier system of payment through cash or bearer cheques. Their aversion is not unreasonable. Barely 23 per cent of the beneficiaries in these districts have received government benefits in their accounts since DBT was introduced. Of the rest, most have been left out of DBT as their accounts are not seeded with Aadhaar. As of April, 24,000 of the 33,000 beneficiaries in Udaipur were not receiving benefits due to this reason.

Those who have Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts also face problems, mostly due to technical glitches at the bank. M P Dungarwal, manager of the Malwa Ka Choura branch of Punjab National Bank, that has been assigned to facilitate DBT, told Down To Earth that increasing workload without a robust technical backup is hindering the roll-out. Before DBT, the bank had 4,500 accounts. Now there are 15,000. All these accounts must be seeded with Aadhaar and linked to the electronic payment system. But the branch suffers from poor internet connectivity that cripples the programme, says Dungarwal. Incomplete information on the Aadhaar card is another problem. Many names do not have surnames. It is difficult to process such incomplete identity information from banking point of view, he adds.

People’s woes do not end here. The account opened for DBT does not accept cheques that the beneficiary receives under government schemes yet to be brought under the DBT regime.

Dharamchand Grecia, a banking correspondent of Punjab National Bank for Kyari panchayat in Udaipur, says he has helped people open some 200 DBT accounts. “But they have limited features and people end up opening another bank account by shelling out Rs 1,000 to encash government cheques.”

In February, Naveli Bai of Piparmal village in Udaipur received a cheque of Rs 1,400 under Janani Suraksha Yojana, which offers incentive for institutional delivery. “The cheque will lapse next month if I fail to open another account by then,” she says. Naveli already has an Aadhaar-enabled bank account.

Maternity benefit programmes are losing appeal since DBT was rolled out in Rajasthan. Consider Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana. The scheme promises Rs 4,000 to a pregnant woman after she attains a certain nutrition status and receives vaccinations before and after delivery. Documents available at the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) office of Jhadol block in Udaipur show only 10 of the 35 pregnant women registered under the scheme have availed the incentive since January 2013. Maya Parmar, supervisor of Mahila Bal Vikas Kendra under Jhadol ICDS, says, “We have been asked to provide benefits to only those who have Aadhaar cards. But very few have the card.” Most do not have the required documents like voter identity cards and other residential proofs to get themselves enrolled in Aadhaar. It is difficult for expecting mothers to stand in the long queue for enrolment, she adds.

Middlemen continue to rule the roost

imageBhagwan Choudhury from Kotasim block buys diesel for lighting his house after government stopped providing kerosene through PDS as an experiment to disburse subsidies through DBT (Photo: Jitendra)Kotasim block in Alwar district hosts India’s first experiment to directly transfer cash subsidy instead of distributing kerosene through the public distribution system (PDS). This is supposed to be an experiment that will craft the government’s future plan to disburse subsidies through direct benefit transfer (DBT).

Started in December 2011, the experiment suffers from the same glitches that DBT faces in other areas. Ram Avtaar Yadav, a 60-year-old, partially blind resident of Kanherka village, has a regular question to any stranger he thinks is a government official: “Why have I not received kerosene subsidy in my account?” For the past seven months Yadav has been buying kerosene from open market as the government has stopped supplying it through PDS. Since the cost of kerosene is more than that of diesel, many people like Yadav have started using diesel for lighting their houses.

Says Mukesh Sharma, manager of Rajasthan Rural Bank, “Earlier, PDS dealers acted as middlemen. They kept ration cards of beneficiaries with them and filled them as per their wish. The system exists even now, though in a different way.” Sharma, whose bank is facilitating DBT in Kotasim, elaborates: instead of ration card, beneficiaries submit a bank account number at the fair price shop while buying kerosene. The shop owner must share the account number with the bank along with the bill so that the beneficiary receives the subsidy in his account. But shop owners often write their account numbers or that of their kins on the bill. Sharma suggests that the government should rope in gram sevaks (village development officer) and patwaris (village accountants) to check this practice.

Metro malaise

Aadhaar card a dream in Mumbai

imageApplicant Yash Rathod may have to wait for months for Aadhaar cardThe urban poor is worse off than his rural counterpart when it comes to getting benefits through DBT. Mumbai’s poor have redefined DBT to Delayed Benefits Transfer, and twisted UPA’s slogan aapka paisa, aapke haath (your money in your hands) into aapka paisa, Aadhaar bharose (your money depends on Aadhaar). They have a reason. Most of them have stopped benefitting from government schemes since the launch of DBT. Mumbai City and Mumbai Suburban fare the lowest when it comes to distributing Aadhaar cards to the target sections. The worst affected are students belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes and other backward sections who receive scholarships. It provides for the course fees and a nominal grant for students’ expenses.

Pratik Jadhav, a student of South Mumbai’s Siddharth College, says he did not receive the Post-Matric scholarship for SCs this year as he does not have an Aadhaar card. “My father had to take loans for paying the fee,” he says. At Shindewadi municipal school, Kiran Rathod was taken aback when the school authorities told her that her children would not receive Pre-Matric scholarship this year. The scheme supports education of children whose parents are engaged in occupations such as manual scavenging and tanning. When asked why the children were deprived of the benefits, an official from the Social Justice and Special Assistance Department says, inadequate Central grants for scholarship schemes is always a problem. Unavailability of Aadhaar cards is making it worse. Since the introduction of DBT, only 2,471 of the 10,920 SC students and 1,459 of the 8,796 Other Backward Class students have received the annual scholarship. Of the 8,405 beneficiaries from manual scavenging and tanning professions, the administration could reach only 689. Though the Rathods have applied for Aadhaar cards, officials say it would take them four to five months to issue the cards.

What is complicating the scenario is the state’s changing decision. “Soon after launching DBT, the government made Aadhaar card mandatory for all schemes. However, when questions were raised in the Assembly about the inconvenience to people, the government relaxed it in last week of March. Now it has again made it mandatory.

Only tall claims

delhiThe Delhi government claims 95 per cent success in providing an Aadhaar number to citizens. But its achievement does not seem to be trickling down to the poor of the national capital.

According to Dharampal, divisional commissioner of Delhi and nodal officer of DBT for the state, Delhi has brought nine Central schemes under DBT. Though 22,000 beneficiaries have Aadhaar cards and their UID numbers seeded with bank accounts, only 9,000 are receiving benefits. Dharampal says the state-sponsored Annshree Yojana is doing well in comparison to the Central schemes under DBT. All the 45,000 identified beneficiaries of Annshree Yojana are receiving benefits. Their number would increase to 100,000 in next couple of months, he claims. Ground realities paint a different picture.

All 50 Bengali Muslim families living in Shahbad Dairy slum in North Delhi earn their bread by ragpicking on the streets. They are eligible for Annshree, under which a BPL family without a ration card receives Rs 600 a month for food. Almost all of them have enrolled themselves in Aadhaar and have seeded their UID number with their bank accounts.

imageMurshid Bibi is a chance beneficiary of Annshree in Shahbad Dairy slum (Photo: Jitendra)Yet they are running from pillar to post to avail the benefits. So far, only seven families have received the benefits. One of them is Murshid Bibi’s family.

In April, Bibi’s account was credited with Rs 7,199. But her relatives Hadisa Bibi and Tojila Bibi are yet to receive the benefit. In January, they had spent Rs 1,000 each for opening new accounts after bank officials told them that their old accounts cannot be integrated with Aadhaar. But their hopes have turned into frustration.

Gas gamble

ANDHRA PRADESH*Only scholarship and pension beneficiariesAndhra Pradesh is arguably the only state that was prepared to roll out DBT. It ran a two-year campaign to enroll people under Aadhaar and also experimented with models to implement DBT. In the first phase, the state selected five districts where it had already implemented a state-initiated cash transfer programme for scholarship and pension schemes. According to M V S Rami Reddy, deputy director general of UIDAI, Andhra Pradesh, about 75 million of the 85 million population in the state have been enrolled in the programme as of May 15. More than 58 million cards have been generated. The five first-phase districts have a population of 27.5 million, of which 90 per cent have been enrolled in Aadhaar. Reddy says the postal department is now grappling with the problem of delivering the huge volume of cards.

The state launched Aadhaar-linked scholarship in Hyderabad, Chittoor and East Godavari on May 1 on a pilot basis. And it was a cake walk. The state was already making scholarship payments through bank accounts and had streamlined the process. “We do not see a distinct value-addition in Aadhaar linkage in terms of disbursement, because we had cleaned the data system and almost eliminated duplicates and bogus holders,” says P V Ramesh, principal secretary, finance, and nodal officer for implementing DBT. However, Ramesh says, Aadhaar is certainly one more check. Every year the state government disburses Rs 5,000 crore as scholarship to 2.7 million students. Even before DBT was launched, 80-85 per cent of scholarship holders had seeded their Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts. In East Godavari, the seeding percentage is 90 per cent, says Ramesh.

Yerra Ravi of Rangareddy says he first needs cash to buy gas cylinderYerra Ravi of Rangareddy says he first needs cash to buy gas cylinder (Photo: M Suchitra)Housalla Bhujappa, a security guard in Malkapur village in Rangareddy district, whose two daughters receive scholarships, says there will not be much difference if scholarship is linked to Aadhaar since it is already being disbursed through banks. Pension is the other programme that was brought under DBT on May 1. It was rightly launched in Chittoor district as a pilot project. In Chittoor, post-office linked disbursement of pension through women’s self-help groups (SHGs) was already in place. SHG members are given hand-held devices linked with the bank or post office accounts. The pensioners go to the SHGs and give their thumb impression and get the money. After introduction of DBT all they had to do was link their Aadhaar numbers with the bank accounts.

The state’s real test began on June 1 when it brought subsidies for cooking gas under DBT. It has to cater to 4.6 million cooking gas consumers in the five DBT districts. Though 80 per cent of them are enrolled in Aadhaar, the challenge lies in linking their Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts as well as with the database of gas agencies. As of May, 55 per cent of the consumers had got their Aadhaar numbers seeded with gas companies but only 25 per cent with their bank accounts. Sensing a big trouble the government has extended the the deadline till August.

People are rushing to get their Aadhaar numbers integrated with gas agencies and bank accounts. But they are apprehensive about the new scheme, under which one has to buy cooking gas at unsubsidised rate and the Rs 435 subsidy will be credited to their accounts later. “No one knows how many days the government will take to credit the subsidy in our accounts,” says N D N Kishore, a stationery shop owner in Hyderabad. M Sathyanarayana, an internet cafe owner in the city, prefers the earlier system of getting subsidised cylinders. Both Kishore and Sathyanarayana point out that there is a possibility of the subsidy being capped and prices of cooking gas going up.

Neither ready nor steady

Challenges ahead are immense

image(Photo: Soumik Mukherjee)UPA’s political leadership has focused all its attention on DBT. The ruling alliance is only a few months away from the general election and its two other big-ticket initiatives—the Right to Food Bill and the Land Acquisition Bill—are uncertain. But the first phase of DBT is unfolding more like a nightmare than a sweet political dream. At the core of the mess are poor banking coverage and lack of foolproof planning before launching the ambitious programme.

DBT aims at reducing the administrative cost of delivering benefits and weeding out siphoning off of benefits (see ‘Kind to cash’, Down To Earth, February 1-15, 2011). It does so by pairing the unique identity number in the Aadhaar card with the bank account of a person. This enables the government to identify the right beneficiary and to send monetised benefits directly to his or her account. The International Monetary Fund has estimated the impact DBT can have in India, and according to it, the combination of cash transfer and the Aadhaar system of identification will reduce wrongful diversion of benefits in welfare programmes by 15 per cent. This can save the government Rs 56,859 crore in 2013-14 which is more than half the rural development budget.

Using the Planning Commission’s data on DBT, Down To Earth (DTE) calculated the current status of the programme’s actual reach in the 43 districts covered in the first phase. The findings are a harsh verdict on its progress. In the past four months, of the estimated 1.6 million beneficiaries of some 25 schemes, only 4 per cent have been able to get benefits in their accounts (see ‘Not so direct’ ). The benefits include mostly old age pension and cash incentives for institutional delivery. In fact, in the five states DTE travelled to not all schemes have been implemented under DBT. This is despite the fact that states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh have almost two years of experience in direct benefit transfer.

imageIllustration: Anirban Bora

There are three key reasons for this dismal performance which are also fundamental to a cash transfer programme. They are: low coverage of formal banking system; Aadhaar enrollment not keeping pace with the rolling out of the programme; and significantly low level of pairing of beneficiaries’ accounts with their Aadhaar numbers.

Currently, there is one bank branch for every 12,100 people, making India one of the least covered countries. DBT increases the demand for coverage by several times. The government either has to set up new branches or increase the existing branches’ capacity. Going by the state of banking in rural areas, one rural branch has the capacity to open up not more than 15 accounts in a day. But DBT experience in various states shows that a branch has to manage 70-90 accounts a day. In October 2011, the government made it compulsory for banks to open branches in all habitations with a population of 5,000 or more. There were 3,925 such habitations to be covered. By April 2013, nearly 15 per cent habitations were yet to have a bank. Then, there are not enough ATMs for people to access their money easily. According to RBI’S estimate, the country needs at least 34,668 on-site ATMs but only 1,097 ATMs could be opened till April. This has affected DBT’s outreach because absence of ATMs means the already overburdened banks have to handle the withdrawal transactions as well.

Opening an account under DBT is a little different. For this people require enrolment with Aadhaar. This presents the next obstacle. Only half of the beneficiaries have enrolled with Aadhaar till date and one-third have opened the account. Importantly, there is hardly any visible effort to pair the accounts with the Aadhaar numbers, thus, leaving out 96 per cent of the beneficiaries.

The recently launched cooking gas subsidy transfer also faces this problem, with added intensity. An LPG consumer has to pair his Aadhaar number with not only the bank account but also the service provider. Soon after bringing LPG under DBT, the government celebrated a million transactions by June end. But there are widespread complaints also. Only 20 per cent of the consumers had paired their numbers with accounts, while about 58 per cent paired with service providers. This is despite the fact that the 20 districts where LPG was brought under DBT have more than 90 per cent Aadhaar coverage. Sujata Chaturvedi, deputy director general of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), says, “Some states started late, so they lagged. We want to keep pace but problems like lack of machines, staff and awareness among people came to the fore.” She warns, “The process of seeding of account would be another uphill task.”

On April 29, the Planning Commission convened a meeting to take stock of DBT’s progress. Collectors of all the 121 districts to be covered under the programme from July 1 and other key players attended the meeting. Sources inform that to the shock of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, the banks and district officials blamed each other for the shortcomings, reflecting a sorry state of affairs. Notable was the absence of any representative from the DBT gateway, National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), which came under severe criticism at the meeting.

It seems nobody wants to take responsibility (see ‘Initial hiccups…’). The Union Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) blames the banks for not expanding their reach. The ministry is implementing a pilot programme of direct cash transfer of wages under the rural employment guarantee programme in five states. It is using the national electronic fund transfer system, the usual money transfer one does electronically using individual account. Since its launch in October 2012 it has transferred Rs 389 crore till the end of May this year. “The value addition under DBT will be when the money is paid at the doorstep. It is only possible if banks recruit business correspondents in every panchayat with micro-ATM,” suggests Rajesh Bhushan, joint secretary of MoRD. But banks informally blame the Aadhaar system and the high administrative cost of the programme that is not adequately compensated. DTE reached out to many banks but none of them agreed to speak on the subject.

Banks also refuse to take responsibility for the identity generated under the Aadhaar number. All banks are supposed to keep a record of their customers’ identity under RBI’s “know your customer” rules. UIDAI has refused to take the responsibility, saying its job is only to create the identification number.

The troubles do not end there. “Many accounts seeded with Aadhaar numbers still do not get direct payment,” points out Vaibhav Galeria, district collector of Ajmer. “There is lack of coordination among different agencies, largely between banks and NPCI.” A P Hota, managing director and CEO of NPCI, blames banks for the glitches. Responding to DTE queries, Hota denies any technical problem at the gateway. “For felicitating DBT, NPCI maintains the Aadhaar Mapper (software that keeps all the subscribers’ data). This Mapper is updated remotely by banks by logging into the NPCI system. If banks do not update the Mapper, the transactions are likely to be returned unprocessed. Therefore, it is necessary that banks update the Mapper on a day-to-day basis.”

The problems are set to multiply as the government rolls out the second phase of DBT with 78 more districts from July 1. In June, it launched transfer of subsidy for cooking gas. In October, the rural employment guarantee programme will be brought under DBT. From 1.6 million beneficiaries at present the programme will cover close to 25 million beneficiaries by July. With coverage of MGNREGA, the number of beneficiaries will jump to 34 million. That the government is nervous is visible. Since April, there have been hectic attempts to salvage the situation, with the Prime Minister’s Office taking direct charge of DBT monitoring.

However, there are pertinent lessons for the government to make the future transfers smooth. The experiences of transferring pension in Andhra Pradesh and transferring wage under the rural employment programme in Rajasthan are instructive. In both the cases, the government embarked on a preparatory stage. This resulted in innovation. In Andhra Pradesh, the pension receivers go to the local self-help group and give thumb impression to a hand-held device for verification to get pension right there. This device is linked to the person’s account in post office or the local bank. In Jharkhand, government simply used the electronic transfer system to give wages. There are merits in these experiments in terms of simplifying the system. But these experiments may not be leakage-proof. Teething problems like delay in benefit transfer and absence of value addition in DBT also need to be addressed innovatively.

But the question that still needs to be asked and answered is whether the country is prepared for this roll-out? If not, will this election initiative backfire on the ruling UPA? Clearly, god is in the details, and the details are missing.

DBT: Initial hiccups or a mistake in haste?

Rajesh BhushanDifferent schemes Have different challenges

Rajesh Bhushan,
Joint Secretary,
Ministry of Rural Development

Till date, the 25 schemes rolled out under DBT are Centrally funded. So it has been easy to send money directly to the beneficiaries’ accounts. But implementing those pension schemes that have state budgets as well is going to be tough. The finance ministry is the key body for such schemes, but it is unable to send money directly to the beneficiary’s account because of varying structures of schemes across states. I believe the scheme will be effective if payment is made at the doorstep. And this can be made possible by recruiting millions of business correspondents of banks in every panchayat with Micro-ATM

Sujata ChaturvediAadhaar Should Have Been Implemented Years Ago

Sujata Chaturvedi,
Deputy Director General,
UIDAI

The idea of providing unique identity number should have been implemented 25 years ago. We have registered nearly 300 million people under Aadhaar. It is the duty of the state government to organise camps to enrol its people. Sometimes seasonal problems like floods and festivals slow the enrolment process. I agree that the process of seeding of Aadhaar numbers with bank accounts would be another uphill task

A P HotaBlame Banks For The Glitches And Non-Cooperation

A P Hota,
Managing Director,
National Payment Corporation of India (gateway for payment under DBT)

There is no technical problem at the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI). For facilitating DBT, NPCI maintains the Aadhaar Mapper. Banks update this Mapper remotely by logging into the NPCI system. If the banks do not do so, the transactions are likely to be returned unprocessed. Therefore, it is necessary that banks update the Mapper on a day-to-day basis

Nidhi KhareSeeding Of Accounts Taking Time

Nidhi Khare,
Advisor (DBT),
Planning Commission of India

There is a delay in enrolments under Aadhaar and seeding of accounts. It is a time-consuming exercise. But the fact is there is a growing acceptance of cash incentives offered through DBT

Nikhil DeyDon’t replace goods and Services with cash

Nikhil Dey,
Activist,
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan

We are not against the idea of Aadhaar-related cash transfer. Our main concern is replacement of goods and services with cash. Government’s own data shows that DBT has failed to benefit the poor. Pension scheme is good option for cash transfer. Janani Surksha Yojana is successful without technology

Montek Singh AhluwaliaThings Will Be Good

Montek Singh Ahluwalia
Deputy Chairperson,
Planning Commission of India

I agree that there is lack of coordination among different agencies. Even the prime minister is working on it. The glitches and delays are all transitional issues. It will definitely be sorted out in the coming months

Jitendra reported from Rajasthan and Delhi; Aparna Pallavi and Akshay Deshmane from Maharashtra; Alok Gupta from Jharkhand and M Suchitra from Andhra Pradesh

 

#India – Execution of Prof. Bhullar deferred #deathpenalty


 

By 

New Delhi, India (June 19, 2013): It is learnt that citing the “bad physical and mental health” of Sikh political prisoner Prof. Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, the office of the Delhi Lt. Governor of Delhi have deferred his execution.

According to a news reported by Indian Express (IE): “[t]his decision, a source said, was taken after scrutiny of the report submitted by the medical board formed by the Delhi government to ascertain Bhullar’s condition. The file has been forwarded to the office of the Director General (Prisons), Tihar Jail, the source said”.

“An objective, compassionate and humane view of the case has been taken after considering the deteriorating physical and mental health of Devinderpal Singh Bhullar and it has been decided to defer the matter. This decision was taken after scrutinising the report submitted by the medical board. Subsequently, he will be examined by a medical board again and the matter will be re-examined, the source said”, the news reported by IE reads further.

In its report, the medical board is learnt to have stated that Bhullar suffers from severe depression with psychotic symptoms. The jail manual states that a death row convict has to be declared physically and mentally fit before execution.

The file stating the L-G’s views has reportedly been recently forwarded to the office of the DG, Tihar, which will now send it to the home ministry before it is finally sent to the Delhi government.

It is notable that there was strong opposition to the execution of death sentence lashed upon Prof. Bhullar by Indian courts. Prof. Bhullar is sentenced to death in a highly contested manner by the Indian courts, and the Supreme Court of India repeatedly upheld his execution in a surprisingly controversial manner, where the the presiding judge of three judges bench acquitted him but two other judges upheld his death sentence on strange reasoning ignoring the absence of evidence against Prof. Bhullar.

Prof. Bhullar and his family are the victims of state-repression, as seven members of his family suffered severe custodial torture; whereas two from the family – Prof. Bhullar’s father and uncle, were secretly killed by Punjab police during enforced disappearance.

Delhi’s Lt. Governor’s decision is expected to brought a sigh of relief for Prof. Bhullar’s family as the decision has halted the execution of Prof. Bhullar for the time being but it must be remembered that the decision does not remove him from the death row permanently.

#India displaced women and children imprisoned for a month by #Vedanta and police #Vaw #WTFnews


Badapada:

Badapada: the jailed women and children tell their story

19th June.  This report, directly from a Foil Vedanta team on the ground in Niyamgiri, tells a shocking story of the month long imprisonment of a group of Dalit women and children displaced by Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery. The testimonies provide clear evidence of the collusion of Vedanta and police working as one, and show the callous nature of their outright disregard for human rights or basic morality. Foil Vedanta is now following this case up with local lawyers.

Please also see the video interview with Padma Tandi here.

On 10th June 2013, a team of three Foil Vedanta activists visited Badapada village in Lanjigarh. Badapada is a Dalit village, where the villagers had lost agricultural land to Vedanta when the company was establishing the Lanjigarh refinery. As a result of Vedanta not adhering to any of its resettlement promises, the villagers have registered an association called “Vedanta Land Loser’s Association”, to demand proper implementation of the rehabilitation processes and to seek accountability from Vedanta and the state for promises made to them before the refinery was set up on their land. Mr. Kumar, a retired school teacher, who is the President of the Vedanta Land Loser’s Association, told us,

 

Badapada women blockade the railway into Lanjigarh in May 2011

The agricultural lands of the Dalits in this village were taken away by Vedanta. We were promised Rs 3 lakh compensation, but the compensation provided to us has been a scam and very erratic, people have received varying amounts ranging from 25k to 1 lakh rupees. We have done so much Andolan. We have organised numerous demonstrations and rallies, we blocked the nearby railway line on one occasion. We have petitioned and submitted memorandums to everyone — the Chief Minister, the Governor, the Orissa Human Rights Commission, Jairam Ramesh, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Still there has been no solution. No-one is listening to the poor. Everyone one is the company’s ‘dalal’ (agent). We have had to face so much pain and hardship because of Vedanta, and we are constantly threatened and harassed. The company has completely destroyed our lives. Our villagers were promised jobs in the refinery, till date it has not given anyone in the village even a coolie’s job. This company is full of lies. We do not have our lands anymore, and we do not have any jobs. How are we supposed to survive? Who will listen to the poor? Everyone has been bought by the company”

 

An incident of blatant human and child rights violation emerged from the village, adding to a series of incidents so far. The villagers informed us that twelve women from the village had been arrested on false cases on 7th April 2013. They had been kept in jail for one month and three days. What was most shocking was that there were also two minor children, both of two years of age who had also been kept in custody with their mothers during this period of time. This is a very serious violation by the Odisha state police. We immediately had a impromptu meeting of the ten women who had been arrested. Initially, the women were scared to give any statements, given their harrowing experience in jail. However, on being persuaded by other villagers, they opened up and provided us with some very shocking testimonies.

 

I am a widow, whose hardships have increased many fold ever since the company came here. I was walking around the refinery area, when I slipped and fell down, and hurt myself. The other women ran towards me to make sure that I was ok. Suddenly, several policemen arrived and started beating me. They also dragged and pulled the other women” —- Padma Tandi

 

We had ran to see if Padma was ok. Once the police arrived, they started manhandling us. There were two women police, but they were just standing by. The male policeman started dragging and pushing us, and pulled our hair. All of us were forcibly put inside a Vedanta vehicle. That was the most atrocious thing. Why was the state police dragging us into a Vedanta vehicle? If they had to arrest us, they should taken us in a police van, not in a Vedanta gaari! We were taken straight to the Bhawanipatna court.” – Kanchono Suna

 

They took two children also into jail. My son, Bulbul Nihal, two yrs and Aditya Nihal, son of Saraswati Nayak, also two yrs – were in jail with us. What crimes have these little children, who have just learnt to speak, committed? The police and company have no right to keep kids in jail like this!” – Doini Nihal

 

“ We have no proper information about the court case that has been registered against us. We saw our lawyer being paid money in the police station. The police and lawyers have been bought by the company. There is no-one to listen to the cries of the poor. When the police had taken us in the Vedanta vehicle on 7th April, which was a Sunday, we were told that we would be released by the following Tuesday, the 9th. However, we stayed in jail for a whole month and three days. The police and company is trying to scare us, to intimidate us, so that they can break our will, our voice and our struggle.” – Jamuna Durga

 

Following are the names of the women and children arrested by the police, as recalled by the villagers:

  1. Suryamukhi Tandey
  2. Saraswati Nayak and 2 year old child, Aditya Nayak
  3. Jamuna Durga
  4. Kanchona Suna
  5. Savita Harijan
  6. Babuli Harijan
  7. Maya Suni
  8. Guloni Harijan
  9. Neela Batisona
  10. Gourimoni Tandi
  11. Doini Nihal, and 2year old child, Bulbul Nihal

 

The women were also not provided the free legal aid they are legally supposed to have access to as Dalits. They stressed how they do not have the financial resources to engage with the legal process, and hence it is used a pressure tactic by Vedanta to silence voices.

 

Foil Vedanta members are now trying to get access to court documents on this incident, and we will be updating very soon in this regard.

 

Posted:  June 19th, 2013

 

Vedanta’s #CSR : Resettlement ‘prison’ and false arrests at Lanjigarh #WTFnews


18th June, 2013.  This report comes direct from members of the Foil Vedanta team on the ground in Niyamgiri:

Vedanta’s resettlment colony at Lanjigarh with Niyamgiri

Vedanta Raj- Age of New License Raj and Draconian Policing

On 7th June 2013, a four member team visited the Vedanta re-settlement colony in Lanjigarh, known as Vedanta Nagar, to interview a few people people settled there. As soon as we entered the colony, Vedanta’s Public Relations Officer – Mr. Siddharth Behera, and the Associate officer in charge of the colony – Mr Srikant Bohidar appeared riding a motorcycle, and started questioning us about what we were doing there and who we were. One of our team was a journalist with a press card, when he showed this one of the officers looked particularly worried. He started calling up higher level officials.

 

While two of us talked to these purveyors of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, the other two rushed to the house of Tula Dei whom we knew from before. Tula Dei and her family, from Sindhabahili village, was among the people who had vehemently resisted Vedanta when the refinery was being built in Lanjigarh, for which twelve villages were cleared. She and her family had refused to vacate their house and did not succumb to the pressure and force tactics applied by Vedanta. When we met Tula Dei, she informed us that they had to ultimately vacate their house and accept Vedanta’s resettlement package, as the poisonous smoke and dust from the refinery were affecting her and her families’ health and made it impossible to live there any longer. She complained how she still had not received her ‘patta’ and land document papers from Vedanta, and they had been not given the promised settlement money. She also informed us that her husband had been arrested by the police in January 2013, and has been in jail since then. She had not been provided any details by the police regarding what charges her husband had been arrested on –

Tula Dei resisting eviction from her old house

I have no idea why they arrested my husband. The police and lawyers do not give us any details. False charges must have been framed against my husband. They are constantly trying to intimidate and harass us. Whenever we raise our voice in protest, they frame some charge and arrest a family member. Our family’s livelihood has been completely destroyed. Vedanta has ruined our lives ever since it came here. Fear and injustice is all we have known since then”

 

As we were taking this interview with our video camera, the Vedanta official who was questioning us earlier, arrived at Tula Dei’s house, along with another CSR official. When we asked them why Tula Dei had not received any land documents yet, one of them replied saying,

 

These people came on the third and last phase, so their documentation is delayed. It should arrive in a week’s time. Initially they had resisted the company, but later on because of dust and other problems, they decided to accept the company’s package”.

 

This official however, denied having mentioned ‘dust and other problems’ when we interrogated him just seconds later about villagers around the refinery and resettled villagers, having TB and other diseases, —- “they drink too much, it has nothing to do with the refinery or pollution”, he said. We then asked them if we could get some documents about the rehabilitation process, at which we were told that we need to go to the Lanjigarh office for that.

 

Vedanta Aluminium‘s Jharsuguda resettlement colony

At this point, two of us left while the other two continued to face questions from the two employees of Vedanta. Siddharth Behera – who had introduced himself as the Public Relations Officer (PRO) for Vedanta began asking questions about the press card, calling the TV station to check that he really was a journalist. When this was confirmed he suggested they came to the Vedanta Aluminium office to speak to another PR Officer – Mr Bhagwan Hota. Later on we discovered that Mr Siddarth was not a company spokesperson but a local agent.

 

The other two of us were escorted to the bus stop outside Vedanta Nagar. We were prevented from talking to or meeting any more people in the resettlement colony. At the Lanjigarh bus-stop, two more senior employees of Vedanta’s CSR division arrived, making the number of people who had so far questioned us to four. While we were speaking to them, one of the senior employees took our photographs. They wanted us to show them our identity proofs and bombarded us with all sorts of questions regarding the purpose of our visit. In the end, one of the senior officials said, “Write a positive report, ok?”.

 

Lanjigarh refinery

This incident is indeed outrageous. Four CSR officials had come to question us within less than half an hour of our presence in the rehabilitation colony. Vedanta’s CSR is the establishment of a heinous system of surveillance and intimidation. The resettlement colony is like a fortress, where any ‘outsider’ presence is strictly monitored. This shows how scared Vedanta is of stories of its human rights violations and dubious rehabilitation reaching out to the public. This incident clearly elucidates that CSR officials of Vedanta are the company’s puppets, whose ‘responsibility’ is to police people, to hide the truth and to monotonously narrate lies of “Mining happiness”, of success stories of ‘development’ and ‘progress’. The resettlement complex is indeed Vedanta’s ‘colony’, where it has shamelessly set up mechanisms of draconian policing —- a neo-colonial License Raj on people who lie in fear at the margins and in whose name we call for ‘development’.

Posted:  June 18th, 2013   

 

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