In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Ensure ‘noticeably fair’ probe into Zakia’s complaint: Bhatt to Raghavan
- ‘Modi govt orchestrated Akshardham attack, riots’
- CBI questions Amit Shah in Tulsiram Prajapati case
- SIT nails Gujarat government’s lie on Ishrat ‘encounter’
- Malegaon blast: NIA opposes Sadhvi Pragya’s bail
- Khaki terror compensation: Saga of mistakes ends on error
- 6 Sri Ram Sene members held for hoisting Pak flag
- ‘MP cow slaughter law may be misused’
- NRHM irregularities: CBI registers 5 new cases
- ED summons Ramdev aide Balkrishna for foriegn exchange violation
Opinions & Editorials
- SIT – Fair or Unfair – By Sayema Sahar
- End Of The Marquee – By Anuradha Raman
- The corrupt rule the roost – By Arun Kumar
- Strange Notion of Communal Harmony: Madhya Pradesh’s law banning cow slaughter is discriminatory and arbitrary – Editorial
- Aadhaar: time to disown the idea – By R. Ramakumar
- Quota alone cannot rid Muslims of their woes – By Aditya Menon
Carrom strikes communal amity in Shahpur pockets (Jan 8, 2012, Times of India)
When the streetlights illuminated eight-odd carrom boards in Shahpur along with halogen lights, the people in the crowd who were cheering up their favourite players were not Hindus or Muslims, but lovers of the game. They were witnessing a unique event where prominent players from both the communities got together to mark a new age of friendship in communally-sensitive areas. It was a unique initiative by city police officials to bring together youngsters from both the communities. The city police organized a carrom tournament on Friday and blood donation camp on Saturday in association with local community leaders.
Talking about the initiative, Ajay Tomar, joint commissioner of police, Sector I, told TOI that carrom is an extremely popular night-time game for the residents of Shahpur and thus police decided to use the game as an instrument in the peace process. “Many youths and carrom players entered the local tournaments and we got 16 top-notch players from both the communities who clashed in a high-voltage meet on Friday night. Large crowds have gathered on Friday but this time, police were not monitoring them, but were enjoying the game mingling with them,” said Tomar.
He added that the tournament brought together people from both the communities. “We found quality of the game to be very high. They have potential to go to state and national level tournaments. We have assured them of all help if they make a mark in such events or want to participate and doesn’t have resources,” said Tomar.
The next day saw a blood donation camp being organized at various places notorious for bloodshed. “Why shed blood when you can donate it? – was the motto of the camp organized by city police officials where along with local residents, police personnel also donated their blood. More than 150 persons attended the event. Local leaders were very supportive and asked for more such activities in the future that can bring together the communities which, otherwise are at loggerheads,” said a Shahpur police official.
Ensure ‘noticeably fair’ probe into Zakia’s complaint: Bhatt to Raghavan (Jan 7, 2012, Indian Express)
Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt has written another letter to R K Raghavan, who heads the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team for the 2002 riots, requesting him to carry out a “noticeably fair and impartial” probe against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 others. This comes a day after former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta wrote to Raghavan to similar effect.
In the letter, Bhatt says, “It seems that the SIT, for some inexplicable reason, is continuing to intentionally disregard very important aspects of the investigation into the complaint of Zakia Nasim Ahesan Jafri, dated June 8, 2006. Nothing illustrates this better than the deliberate reluctance of the SIT to examine witnesses who would be able to provide very vital information about the meeting held at the residence of the Chief Minister Mr Narendra Modi on the late night of February 27, 2002.”
Referring to the evidence which the SIT should probe into in connection with Jafri’s complaint, he writes, “â€¦you are requested to effectively shield your officers from all possible allurements or pressures being mounted by the high and mighty criminals who are firmly ensconced in the Government of Gujarat, and ensure that the SIT carries out a noticeably fair and impartial probe into the complaintâ€¦”
“This, to my mind, is the barest minimum that you should be doing even at this stage, by way of an honest and sincere attempt to redeem and justify the tremendous faith reposed in you by the Honourable Supreme Court of India,” Bhatt adds.
- Four months on, SIT yet to file report in Jakia Jafri case (Jan 6, 2012, DNA India)
- Bhatt produces ‘alert’ that warned of riots (Jan 5, 2012, Indian Express)
- SIT reluctant to examine key-witnesses in riot cases: Sanjiv Bhatt (Jan 6, 2012, DNA India)
- Sanjiv Bhatt seeks access to state IB records again (Jan 4, 2012, Hindustan Times)
‘Modi govt orchestrated Akshardham attack, riots’ (Jan 5, 2012, Indian Express)
Congress stalwart Shankersinh Vaghela today accused the Narendra Modi government of orchestrating the terrorist attack on Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar and communal events in the recent history of Gujarat, including the Godhara train carnage.
“Hamna na communal ghatno ni pachal koi nahi pan haal na saatdhisho no haath che. Aa ghatnao jem ke Godhra ane Akhardham tenma emnu je karelo che mato ni rajneeti mate (Communal events of recent past have been orchestrated by those in power at present. Events like Godhara carnage and Akshardham attack (in 2002) were orchestrated by them for vote-bank politics,” Vaghela said at the start of the party’s Sardar Sandesh Yatra at Veraval in Junagadh district.
Many other senior Congress leaders, including Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil, state party unit president Arjun Modhwadia and Narhari Amin, also took a dig at the BJP and Modi for allegedly playing politics in the name of religion.
“Somnath temple, which was destroyed by invader Ghazni, was restored by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a Congress man. Now Modi and former CM Keshubhai Patel have come on board to play politics. It is difficult to understand how come they call themselves Chote Sardar,” said Gohil, who empahsised, “Sardar Patel, who had nothing to do with politics of vote, cannot be in any manner linked to the BJP.”
He also accused the government of befooling locals like fishermen. “Projects and compensations of several crores have been announced by the government for this community. But they are waiting for compensation till date,” said Gohil.
- BJP uses ‘terror’ tactics to get votes: Shankarsinh Vaghela (Jan 5, 2012, DNA India)
- Vaghela takes a dig at CM for opposing quota (Jan 6, 2012, Indian Express)
- SIT should quiz superiors of KD Panth: Sanjiv Bhatt (Jan 7, 2012, DNA India)
- Dwarka seer slams Modi move to rein in trusts, NGOs (Jan 7, 2012, Indian Express)
CBI questions Amit Shah in Tulsiram Prajapati case (Jan 3, 2012, Times of India)
Gujarat’s former junior home minister Amit Shah has been questioned by CBI in the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case. Shah was earlier arrested by the probe agency on charges of masterminding the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. The questioning was carried out under a veil of secrecy at Delhi last week. After being arrested in the Sohrabuddin case, Shah has been directed by the Supreme Court not to enter Gujarat. CBI officials met him in Delhi.
Shah, said CBI sources, was questioned on his numerous telephonic conversations with two IPS officers linked to the Tulsiram shooting in December 2006. Shah’s mobile phone records show that he was in constant touch with deputy inspector general (DIG) of police, D G Vanzara and superintendent of police, Rajkumar Pandian. Both have already been arrested in Sohrabuddin case. Shah has denied all the charges and has told the CBI that he had spoken to the two IPS officers in connection with absconding robber Kirit Dhoom. Pandian, who was back then posted in the ATS, was supervising interception of Kirit’s calls. Shah denied that he had any knowledge about the Tulsiram encounter prior to the incident.
CBI also questioned Shah why he had transferred Vanzara just 13 days before the Tulsiram encounter. Vanzara was then transferred from ATS to the post of DIG (border range) in Kutch. Tulsiram was gunned in the fake encounter in Banaskantha which falls under the Border Range DIG’s jurisdiction. Shah has claimed that the transfer was an administrative move and was in no way connected to the Tulsiram encounter. The CBI team probing this case will reach Gandhingar on Tuesday. “Some more people will be summoned after this for questioning. Some other cops, who are already behind bars, will be questioned in jail,” said CBI sources.
- CBI calls Shah to Delhi for questioning in Prajapati case (Jan 9, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- CBI to question Singhal in Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram cases (Jan 6, 2012, Times of India)
- Reports on Hemraj’s offer to yield makes sleuths probing Sohrab case curious (Jan 9, 2012, Ahmedabad Mirror)
- Haren Pandya’s wife says he could not have been shot in his car (Jan 5, 2012, The Hindu)
SIT nails Gujarat government’s lie on Ishrat ‘encounter’ (Jan 4, 2012, India Today)
Contradicting every claim made in the Ahmedabad crime branch’s first FIR, which was filed immediately after the Ishrat Jahan encounter in 2004, a 22-page report by the special investigation team (SIT) revealed that Ishrat and her three companions were not only gunned down in a fake encounter, but the killing was a “wellplanned, brutally executed murder”. On December 1, 2011, the Gujarat High Court declared that the SIT had discovered that the murder of the Mumbai teenager and her companions – Javed Shaikh, Zeeshan Johan and Amjad Ali – was executed in a “not genuine” encounter by the notorious Ahmedabad crime branch, with the defamed D. G. Vanzara at the helm of affairs.
The division bench, comprising justices Abhilasha Kumari, also declared that the fake encounter would be probed by the CBI. The SIT was assigned to hand over the probe within two weeks to the central probe agency. Additional DGP and SIT chairman R. R. Verma on December 15 handed over the 22- page FIR to the CBI, following which the agency filed a fresh FIR in Mumbai against 20 Gujarat Police officers. The SIT report clearly revealed how the crime branch officers killed Ishrat and her friends and then carried out a coverup operation through a concocted story.
The state police had noted that Ishrat, Javed, Amjad and Zeeshan had arrived in Ahmedabad early on June 15, 2004, to assassinate chief minister Narendra police claimed they had been killed in “retaliatory fire”. But the SIT concluded that police inspector N. K. Amin ordered the firing without provocation. The blue Indica carrying Ishrat and her friends could have been stopped merely by blocking the road, it added.
According to the crime branch FIR, Amin followed the car for almost 21 km before ordering a constable to open fire. When the car’s occupants started indiscriminate firing, retaliatory fire by the crime branch officers killed all the four passengers. But the SIT found many loopholes in this version – from the constable succeeding in hitting the target the first time to the bullet holes on the car being inconsistent with the crime branch story. The police had claimed to have acted upon intelligence inputs that some LeT operatives were planning Modi’s assassination but the SIT’s investigations found no substance in these claims.
- CBI takes charge of probe in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter (Jan 6, 2012, Indian Express)
- 2011: A year of important verdicts in Gujarat (Jan 4, 2012, Economic Times)
- ATS wants state govt to increase tenure of officers (Jan 4, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Banners to warn about fake cops in Ahmedabad (Jan 3, 2012, DNA India)
Malegaon blast: NIA opposes Sadhvi Pragya’s bail (Jan 7, 2012, IBN)
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has opposed the bail plea of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, saying she has a direct role in the 2008 Malegaon Blasts.
Her motorcycle was allegedly used to plant the bomb. The agency also says there is strong incriminating evidence against her. The case will now be heard on January 21.
Sadhvi Pragya is the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast that killed 6 people and injured 100 others. In October 2011, the Supreme Court had rejected her bail application.
- Malegaon case: Stay against interrogation of Purohit extended (Jan 4, 2012, The Hindu)
- Trio arrested by ATS gets clean chit in 13/7 case (Jan 9, 2012, Times of India)
- Forbesganj firing: Bihar rejects NCM suggestions (Jan 6, 2012, Indian Express)
- Bhopal Gas victims plan indefinite dharna (Jan 3, 2012, The Hindu)
Khaki terror compensation: Saga of mistakes ends on error (Jan 6, 2012, Twocircles.net)
The Andhra Pradesh government’s program to provide compensation to the Muslim youths ended in a photo-op session. Despite protests from several acquitted youths whose names were not in the government list, the state government went ahead and concluded the program in such a hurry, that looks like that compensation issue must have been a huge liability on them. In response to the huge cry from many Muslim organizations to review the list and include some more names, district collector of Hyderabad Mr. Natrajan Gulzar released a new review list but in this list no additional name was included, rather one more Muslim youth was excluded from the list. Mohd Rayeesuddin’s name was there in the earlier list, but now it was excluded and the reason given is he has a case pending against him. TCN spoke to Rayeesuddin about it. He said, “Govt has played a dirty joke against me and my family, first my name was included, now it is being excluded in the new list made by the collector. The reason given is my name is there in the charge sheet of the case of DGP office encounter, in which N.K. Ameen, a Gujarat police officer gunned down a Hyderabadi youth in front of the DGP office. My name is also included in the charge sheet under sec 307, and Narender Ameen is booked under sec 302, but Ameen is in Gujarat prison for the Shorabuddin fake encounter case, so until he is not prosecuted my case won’t start, so till the case won’t end I am not eligible for compensation”.
But amidst all these controversies, the government went ahead with the programme at 4 p.m today. The program was convened by Mohd Ilyas Razvi, managing director of APMFC, and it was presided by Mohd Ali Rafat, head of minority welfare department while minister for minority affairs Mohd Ahmedullah was the chief guest. But what is interesting is that the invitation which was given to the press included the names of 5 ministers from the state as the chief guests, but no minister except the minority affairs turned up for the program. However, many MLAs of MIM were also present on the occasion. The program started by the presidential address of Mohd Ali Rafat. He said today’s program is the acknowledgement of the mistakes done by the police. He said the amount provided by the government can’t compensate their grievances properly but still it will give them the lost status in the society. He further said the A.P police are not going to exactly providing the character certificate, but it will be a proof that the respectable youths were not involved in any criminal cases.
Then Akbaruddin Owaisi, Opposition Leader (of MIM) in Andhra Assembly spoke. He said that government have accepted their wrong, now the wrong doers must be punished. He welcomed chief minister’s initiative for providing compensation, but criticized the Govt for not providing compensation to all the acquitted youths. He demanded that case which is still open of acquitted youths should be closed down immediately. He said pending cases against some youths in different issues should not become a hindrance to provide compensation to the youths who have suffered a lot. To the acquitted youths, he said this compensation can’t undo the wrong done with you, but it is a proof that you were innocent. Lastly while ending his speech he gave all the credit of this initiative of the government to his party MIM. Mohd Ahmedullah, minister for minority affairs was the last speaker. He spoke for just few minutes because of his limited and broken Urdu (his mother tongue is Telugu). He said A.P congress government is the first government in the whole country to take such kind of noble initiative. He said blasts have happened in many places and innocent Muslims were arrested in different cases but no government till now has repent and acknowledged there mistakes like the A.P government has done.
Next the cheque giving ceremony started. Only fifteen youths were provided cheques by the hand of Akbaruddin Owaisi and Mohd Ahmedullah. The rest were to get their cheques separately by the minority ministry officials. When some of the youths while receiving compensation cheque tried to tell their grievances to the minister, that their charge sheets are still open and those guilty police officers are threatening them not to speak, they were silenced by the minister saying that they will discuss this later. The character certificate which was promised to be given at the program was not given. Rather it was announced that interested youths can collect it tomorrow from MWD office. Shoaib Jagirdar and Syed Imraan Khan are both uncle and nephew. While Shoaib belongs to Maharashtra and Imraan belongs to Hyderabad. They were the first to get detained by the government in this case, both have spent nearly two years in jail, both were acquitted by the court later. But their names were not in list of acquitted persons to get the compensation and character certificate. They both were present at the venue. They put their grievances before Akbaruddin Owaisi who in turn said, he can’t do anything till the cases are pending against them, and asked them to meet him after two days, so he can see what he can do.
TCN spoke to both of them. Imraan said before implicating him in Mecca Masjid bomb blast case police put one more false case on both of them of making a fake passport. He said that case is still pending so they can’t receive the compensation. Shoaib said in his whole life he has not applied for the passport, like the other cases put by the police this is also fake, but police have not even submitted its charge sheet in the court to make it more delay for us and we can’t get eligible for compensation and good character certificate. Program ended with chaos in the hall when the left out youths started telling their grievances to the government officials and the politicians, but no one paid heave to them as soon as the photo-op session was finished politicians and the Govt officials left the venue. One can judge the seriousness of this program by this fact that even the banner put by the government officials on the stage, carried wrong spelling of Mecca Masjid, a reminder that the saga of mistakes and errors ended on another mistake.
- No action on erring police officials (Jan 6, 2012, The Hindu)
- Muslim youths need justice, not just compensation: CLMC (Jan 7, 2012, Siasat)
- Justice delayed, not denied (Jan 7, 2012, IBN)
- Serious flaws in AP Govt. compensation list of Muslim youths (Jan 6, 2012, Twocircles.net)
6 Sri Ram Sene members held for hoisting Pak flag (Jan 5, 2012, Rediff)
The Karnataka police have arrested six members of the youth wing of the Sri Ram Sene in connection with the hoisting of a Pakistani flag at the Sindgi town in Bijapur. It was alleged that some miscreants had hoisted a Pakistan flag over the Tahsildar’s office. As a result of this incident, there was violence in this area on January 1.
There was large scale damage as a result of the violence that erupted. A bandh call too was given by the Sri Ram Sene and also the Bajrang Dal. Superintendent of Police D C Rajappa has confirmed that all the arrested were the members of the student wing of Sri Ram Sene.
The accused have been identified as Rajesh Siddaramaiah Matha, Arun Vagmore, Parashu Rama Vagmore, Sunil Madivalappa Agasar, Eshwar Navi and Mallana Gowda Vijaya Kumar Patil. It is alleged that the incident was a conspiracy of Sri Ram Sene, which wanted to create communal tension in the town.
- CBI probe sought into hoisting of Pakistani flag (Jan 9, 2012, The Hindu)
- FIR against Togadia for violating election code (Jan 7, 2012, Times of India)
- Bajrang vigilantes cry cow-slaughter, beat, humiliate Muslim trader (Jan 7, 2012, Indian Express)
- BJP leader’s son shoots hawker over free newspaper (Jan 4, 2012, IBN)
‘MP cow slaughter law may be misused’ (Jan 5, 2012, Indian Express)
Madhya Pradesh’s amended legislation that allows raiding of any premises on the assumption that cow slaughter is likely to take place, or beef is likely to be stored or transported, could be misused, feel jurists, minorities and political parties. Besides increasing the maximum jail term for offences under the MP Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Vidhayak to seven years, the new law allows a head constable or senior police officials, or anyone authorised by a competent authority “to enter and inspect any premises within the local limits of his jurisdiction, where he has reasons to believe that an offence has been, is being or is likely to be committed and shall take necessary action (search and seizure).”
Former Supreme Court judge Justice Faizanuddin said, “Mere suspicion can’t be a basis for action, there has to be some material evidence.” He said the provision is not in contravention with the existing law, but there has to be checks and balances. “Minorities will be targeted just the way any anti-terror law is used to point fingers at Muslims,” he added. However, former SC judge Justice Ripusudan Dayal said that every law can be misused, but only the affected can challenge the provision. “You can’t strike down a law for merely having such a provision,” Dayal said.
Congress MLA Arif Aqueel, the dissenting voice when the law was being passed in the Assembly, said it would be used to target Muslims. “They should have brought a legislation to deal with proper disposal of skin and meat,” he said. Former Congress Home Minister Satyadev Katare said the power to inspect and act should not have been given to lower constabulary who are likely to misuse it at the ruling party’s instance. While spokesperson of MP Catholic Church Fr Anand Muttungal said the law would be misused just like the anti-conversion law, CPM state general secretary Badal Saroj termed it as fascist.
“The state does not have a laboratory that can tell the difference between cow meat and buffalo meat,” Saroj said, alleging that police officials and bureaucracy are already communal and the new legislation will give them unbridled powers to target the Muslims. Calling the BJP ‘hypocrites’, he said the party supported the 1992 presidential bid of G G Swell, former deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha and an MP from Shillong, who was vocal about his beef eating habits.
- ‘BJP trying to convert Madhya Pradesh into Hindu state’ (Jan 2, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Madhya Pradesh cow slaughter ban act gets Presidential nod (Jan 3, 2012, The Hindu)
- Yeddyurappa, Reddy brothers plan unity and dare BJP (Jan 7, 2012, India Today)
- BJP MLA’s supporters protest Khanduri’s nomination (Jan 4, 2012, Indian Express)
NRHM irregularities: CBI registers 5 new cases (Jan 4, 2012, The Hindu)
The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered five new cases, including one against the former Family Welfare Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Babu Singh Kushwaha, pertaining to alleged irregularities in the implementation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) funds, leading to a loss of Rs.28 crore to the exchequer. The investigating agency seized valuables, cash and documents during the searches conducted at 60 places in Delhi, U.P, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. Pursuant to the Allahabad High Court directions, the CBI, on November 19 last year, registered five preliminary enquiries in connection with alleged irregularities in utilising NRHM funds to the tune of Rs.10,000 crore allocated to the State government since 2005-06. Two of these enquiries have now culminated in registration of five cases.
Mr. Kushwaha, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday, has been named an accused in the first case related to upgrade of 134 district hospitals for Rs.13.4 crore by the Construction & Design Services (C&DS), a unit of the U.P. Jal Nigam. Some papers that were part of the 1,500-page document submitted to the CBI on December 30 by BJP national secretary Kirit Somaiya have also been included in the case. According to the CBI, investigations so far revealed that the work was given to a company named Surgicoin on forged documents and the materials installed at the hospitals were found to be of an inferior quality. The former Director-General (Family Welfare), S.P. Ram, and C&DS general manager P.K. Jain have also been named in the case.
“Searches were conducted at the residential and official premises of the accused, including two places belonging to Mr. Kushwaha and one of his associates in Gwalior. Three kg of gold and Rs.1.1 crore in cash were found in the bank locker of P.K. Jain. A 300-member team conducted searches on the Ghaziabad premises of Surgicoin,” said a spokesperson. Four other cases were registered in connection with alleged irregularities in awarding contracts for procurement of medicine and medicinal equipment and expenses on publicity material by the former Director-General (Family Welfare). The procurements were done through State-owned public sector units at “exorbitant rates,” four to five times more than the prevailing market rates.
In one such case, the agency found that the contract for purchasing medical equipment worth Rs.4.42 crore was awarded to Guru Kripa (Moradabad) and Kapil Medical Agency (Moradabad) in a “pre-decided” manner. The CBI claimed that it led to a loss of Rs.1.5 crore to the exchequer. In another case, tenders for procurement of publicity material were awarded at “exorbitant prices” to Sidhi Traders (Moradabad) for Rs.13.7 crore, causing a loss of Rs.8 crore to the exchequer. In the fourth case, a contract for purchase of medical kits was awarded at exorbitant rates to Surgicoin (Ghaziabad) for Rs.31.59 crore. “It led to a loss of Rs.10 crore,” said a CBI official. In the fifth case pertaining to purchase of computers by the State Health Society through Shreeton India Limited, the PSU had allegedly paid advance money to one Radhey Shyam Enterprises and Axis Marketing even before tender was invited by them. It purportedly caused a loss of Rs.2.93 crore.
While the five cases were registered on January 2, the three other preliminary enquiries are still under way. The CBI has been directed to complete the enquiries in four months. The CBI had quizzed Mr. Kushwaha and the former Health Minister, Anant Kumar Mishra, in connection with the mysterious death of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Y.S. Sachan – an accused in the murder of CMO’s Vinod Arya in October 2010 and his successor B. P. Singh in April last year – inside a Lucknow jail, soon after he was arrested by the police in connection with the NRHM scam. According to the CBI, Dr. Sachan apparently committed suicide.
- Kushwaha induction: It’s RSS vs BJP now (Jan 5, 2012, IBN)
- Congress slams BJP for inducting Kushwaha (Jan 4, 2012, The Hindu)
- Digvijaya dares RSS to show ‘guts’ (Jan 8, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- NRHM scam: Former UP bureaucrat arrested (Jan 5, 2012, IBN)
ED summons Ramdev aide Balkrishna for foriegn exchange violation (Jan 3, 2012, Indian Express)
Widening its probe into the finances of yoga guru Ramdev, the Enforcement Directorate has summoned his aide Balkrishna in connection with a foreign exchange violation case registered against their trusts. The agency, according to sources, has asked Balkrishna or an authorised representative on his behalf to be present before agency officials here on January 10. The representative also has been asked to bring along documents and letters related to the firms run by Ramdev’s trusts.
The Directorate had registered a case on the basis of a report from the RBI for “export outstanding” of a few crores by the trusts run by Ramdev and inputs by some banks which were instrumental in channelising transactions of these firms. Also under the scanner of the agency is the Little Cumbrae Island, off the fishing town of Largs in Scotland, which serves as Ramdev’s base overseas and also as a wellness centre.
The agency is ascertaining the status of transactions that were done by these trusts while exporting consignments of Ayurvedic medicines to foreign countries. According to sources, the ED is probing receipt of payments with regard to sale of these consignments and ascertaining if these were in consonance with forex rules laid down by RBI.
- CBI grills Jagan aide Vijay Sai Reddy on financial dealings (Jan 5, 2012, Rediff)
- Delhi govt issues notice to Agnivesh on unspent NGO grant (Jan 4, 2012, IBN)
- Fed up with official apathy, woman puts daughters for ‘sale’ (Jan 6, 2012, The Hindu)
- Cong dubs Lokpal’s RS scuttle as BJP’s conspiracy to save CMs (Jan 4, 2012, Indian Express)
Opinions and Editorials
SIT – Fair or Unfair – By Sayema Sahar (Jan 7, 2012, Twocircles.net)
Any clean chit to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2002 riot cases would be a “big worry” for democracy and criminal justice system of the country, former CM Suresh Mehta said on Thursday, in a letter to R K Raghavan, Chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing some of the post-Godhra riot cases. He also said a clean chit to the BJP stalwart will also be a critical reflection on the agency. Further to Mehta’s letter, Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, on 6th January 2012, has also written to the SIT chief alleging that the agency is not conducting a fair investigation.
Mr. Bhatt had earlier on Dec 9, 2011, written a letter to the SIT chief R K Raghavan urging him to record his testimony before a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC since he feared “distortion” of his earlier recorded statements on the riots. This request and as many as 5 other letters of Bhatt to SIT went unanswered. Not just this, officer Bhatt went ahead alleging certain SIT officials of twisting his statement and leaking it to the media. Is SIT really proceeding with fair investigation? The Honorable Supreme Court while appointing the SIT, had observed, “Communal harmony is the hallmark of democracy… If in the name of religion people are killed, that is a slur and blot on democracy.”
The very inception of SIT at the Supreme Court, therefore was to conduct an independent and fair investigation, for which it was assigned extraordinary powers. SIT was enabled to provide full protection to witnesses and to monitor the trials, ensuring that the conduct of the courts was judicious. SIT, however, has miserably failed to protect the witnesses of the carnage from threats and intimidation. The utterly brazen manner in which the SIT chief ignored the repeated request and plea of one of the key witnesses Sanjiv Bhatt to beef up his security, speaks volumes about the attitude of the agency. A major faction of aware society is of the opinion that SIT has entirely failed in its responsibility to the apex court. It has failed in its duty to oversee a professional and non-partisan investigation in Gujarat. Right from the start there was marked hostility towards those eyewitnesses and survivors whose petition in the apex court had led to the constitution of the SIT in the first place.
The approach of the investigating officers, deputed by SIT, was more like a defense counsel, towards the witnesses while recording their statements and least like an impartial investigating agency. Representatives from the civil society had urged the SIT chief, to record statements of key witnesses, before a judicial magistrate, to reduce the chances of a witness turning hostile. The SIT chief however saw no merit in the suggestion. Witnesses have also complained against the senior officers who are spearheading the entire investigation, that they were never available to hear their complaints. This is not all as far the credibility and fairness of SIT goes. SIT saw no merit in the affidavits of eyewitnesses and survivors, which was admitted in the apex court.
These affidavits and testimonies were completely ignored by the ‘impartial investigating agency’ obviously these affidavits could not find a mention in the charge sheet filed by SIT. Further ahead SIT’s deliberate reluctance to investigate the documentary evidence, including phone call records, mobile van records, control room registers and fire brigade registers only goes on to say that they are NOT BEING FAIR TO THE TRUST OF THE APEX COURT in the team. The Supreme Court of India had ordered the SIT “to take steps as required in Law”. The question whether the team is living up or would live up to the order of the Highest Court of the land, however remains unanswered. The victims of the ‘blood bath’ of 2002 however are losing their trust in this so called impartial investigating agency.
- Desperate Yeddy Gets Set for a Final Gamble – By Imran Khan (Jan 14, 2012, Tehelka)
- Nanavati – A commission of Omission – By Sayema Sahar (Jan 5, 2012, Twocircles.net)
- Terror plot: Probe, don’t politicise it – Editorial (Dec 2, 2011, Asian Age)
End Of The Marquee – By Anuradha Raman (Jan 16, 2012, Outlook)
Suddenly, there is a lot of New Year cheer in the air. The corporates don’t want to sound gloomy. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has urged Indians to eschew negativity. And with elections in the air, members of Parliament across the board are wary of striking the wrong note. Which is why they have moved on after putting off the agonising decision on the Lokpal bill for another day. In this climate, where do Anna Hazare and his band of generals stand? Will the movement survive the overwhelming mood of hope? The Delhi chill seemed to have found its way into the reception of Anna’s announcement of a three-day fast. Only a few thousands turned out in support at Mumbai’s MMRDA grounds on December 27, while the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, thronged by lakhs just four months ago, wore an equally desolate look. Uneasiness with the Lokpal bill, evident both within the Congress and its allies, played itself out in a dramatic midnight twist in the Rajya Sabha. The Trinamool Congress had given a hint of its commitment to the bill when the standing committee deliberated the issue. “We have to see whether the provisions of the Lokpal bill are constitutionally feasible,” one of its MPs had said. There was an encore performance at the all-party meeting called by the prime minister on December 14, when almost all political parties advised caution. Of course, all of them, with the sole exception of the Shiv Sena, wanted a strong Lokpal bill.
As the MPs held forth, and as it became evident that a requiem for the Lokpal bill was imminent, the organisers of the movement against corruption called off Anna’s fast after a day. Anna’s health too became a matter of concern and his rallying cry of ‘jail bharo’ too fell silent. Public enthusiasm had ebbed and the bill had been successfully scuttled. Had Team Anna’s movement come undone? The core committee will be meeting in the next few days both to introspect on what went wrong and on the course ahead. “Several factors were responsible for the thin attendance,” says Arvind Kejriwal. The choice of venue, the role of the state government in scuttling the movement are being touted as some of the reasons. Prashant Bhushan is more candid when he says, “Perhaps our preoccupation with the political parties to discuss the legal consequences of the bill led to the neglect of our volunteers. Unlike August, where we had spent considerable time mobilising people, organising referendums in key constituencies, this time around, we were not able to engage with them. We need to go back to ensure that the energy levels of our volunteers are utilised.” “We will be meeting soon,” says Kejriwal, “after Annaji recovers, and decide on our future course of action.”
Some of the proposals likely to come up at the core committee’s meeting are: Should the movement turn overtly political and ask Anna to campaign in the states that will be going to the polls? If so, should the discussion remain focussed on the Lokpal bill or include a basket of issues? There is some confusion here. Says Arvind Kejriwal: “Core committee members have expressed views ranging from staying away from the poll-bound states to keeping the issue of Jan Lokpal alive. We will take a call when Anna recovers.” Alternatively, should the team stay away from the poll-bound states? Should Anna, health permitting, address a rally in each of the poll-bound states? Or, should the task be left to Kejriwal and other members? Should a CD (showing how the UPA government betrayed the corruption cause) be circulated in the states where elections are going to be held? Also to be considered is the proposal of going to the Deoband seminary in an attempt to make the movement more inclusive and to counter the often-hurled charge of being pro-Hindutva. But in doing so, is there the risk of being alienated from the more moderate sections of society?
Each of these proposals comes with its attendant problems. As sources point out, if Team Anna goes to polls, whom will they rail against? “Each of the political parties has played its part in scuttling the bill,” says a team member. “To attack only the Congress would mean Team Anna doesn’t have issues with the BJP, SP, BSP and RJD, not to mention the TMC.” Besides, those spearheading the anti-corruption campaign are only too aware that campaigning against the Congress in states like Uttarakhand (the BJP government there has cleared a Jan Lokpal-like bill) and Punjab (where the government is supportive of it) may be pointless since the governments in power are battling anti-incumbency. Then again, in the keenly-watched Uttar Pradesh elections, campaigning against the Congress could be perilous since Team Anna will then be charged with siding with the BJP.
Says core committee member Prashant Bhushan, “We do not want to enter into a campaign, but we are being forced to do so in the light of what the Congress and the others did. Willy nilly, you have to hurt them electorally. We have to hurt them where it hurts the most, but is this (Lokpal) the only issue we should talk about? That needs to be debated by the core committee.” Anna’s absence is also telling on the committee, as it finds itself unable to move a step forward without his nod. So, is there reason for some cheer for those who spearheaded the campaign against corruption? The manner in which political parties came together to scuttle the bill in the Rajya Sabha was clearly a letdown. Even the position taken by some TV channels and newspapers is a matter of concern. Cynicism will stay and the actions of political parties and the government is likely to reinforce this in 2012.
- Their Winter of Discontent – By Revati Laul (Jan 14, 2012, Tehelka)
- The Circus is in Town – Editorial (Jan 7, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- The saga of the Lokpal Bill – Editorial (Jan 2, 2012, The Hindu)
- ‘An independent CBI director can still be held answerable and accountable’ – Justice Rajindar Sachar tells Ashish Khetan (Jan 14, 2012, Tehelka)
The corrupt rule the roost – By Arun Kumar (Jan 7, 2012, The Hindu)
The Lokpal Bill failed to become law in 2011. The Lok Sabha passed it after some acrimony, but the Rajya Sabha did not even vote on it. Three views emerged during the debate inside and outside Parliament. First, it is a weak Bill not worth passing in its present form. Secondly, it is better to have some sort of Lokpal even if it is not what it ought to be. Lastly, the Bill would create a monstrous institution that will undermine Indian democracy, especially as it would affect the functioning of legislators and the Prime Minister. Many parliamentarians (publicly and/or privately) understandably supported the third view, given that either they themselves or some of their party colleagues face charges of corruption. They argue that Indian democracy is one of the best in the world: so why disturb it by creating a new institution that would have powers over the people’s representatives. While this argument has some merit, perhaps their real worry relates to the possible truncation of their capacity to wheel and deal. Do they not see that the public is angry with the politicians because it believes they undermine democracy? A Chief Minister resigns over corruption charges, but installs his wife as Chief Minister. Many who are accused of corruption have become Chief Ministers or Ministers. Politicians often make public statements, only to deny them later, showing utter disregard for public opinion. The public has reacted by increasingly becoming contemptuous of them.
The middle position prevailed in the Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha. The argument is that it is better to have some kind of Lokpal than none. A middle path is favoured over extreme positions. However, can the position midway between two incorrect positions be automatically considered correct, or even that which is midway between an incorrect and a correct position be a correct one? It was argued, for instance, that even if the Central Bureau of Investigation remains under government control it may be granted more autonomy. The moot question is whether such a CBI can be effective. Some people suggest that the absence of constitutional status would weaken the Lokpal. It is true that constitutional status rather than statutory status is better. But how would that by itself make the Lokpal effective? It is argued that a government that is unhappy with a Lokpal can remove the body, as happened in the case of the Punjab and Haryana Lokayukta, or have the Bill modified through a simple majority in Parliament. However, in today’s environment this would be difficult since anti-corruption movements are stronger than earlier. The moot question is: how would constitutional status help curb corruption if the Lokpal itself is weak because of the inadequate provisions in the Bill? India has several constitutional authorities, such as the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Central Vigilance Commissioner, to check malpractices. Yet, illegality has only grown.
Is it the case that because the Election Commission is a constitutional body it is successful? Elections to five States have been announced. In this season to fight corruption, the Commission has announced steps to reduce the role of black money in elections. Income tax officers will be posted to monitor expenditure, bank accounts will have to be opened by candidates to route funds, and so on. These seem timely since much black money is used in elections, resulting in the forging of ties between politicians and the corrupt. Most candidates spend way above the election expenditure limit since they buy votes, hire workers, travel, organise meetings, and so on. The politicians accepting funds know that a quid pro quo is involved. There are also the wealthy fighting elections using their own unaccounted funds. They pay off the party leadership to get nominations. They may not be obliged to others but their motive is not selfless service, rather the furthering of their business interests. Election Commissions have tried to curb the role of black money in elections, but the politicians have proved cleverer and circumvented it all. T.N. Seshan as Chief Election Commissioner cracked the whip, but many politicians have said in private that he only succeeded in driving spending underground. There are reports of large cash movements during election-time. It is good that this would be monitored, but will that be effective? One election organiser of a candidate in the last parliamentary elections admitted that money came in sacks. Apparently, counting machines were installed in safe houses where cash was counted and distributed.
In the last two decades, no Election Commissioner has been accused of being corrupt, though there have been accusations of bias. Yet, the Commission has not been successful in checking malpractices that result in the compromised getting elected – who then claim legitimacy and propagate corruption with impunity. Instances of booth-capturing have declined, but new forms of grabbing votes have emerged. There are election expenditure limits but these are hardly kept. Parties and candidates are supposed to get their accounts audited, but how can unrecorded transactions be audited? The failure of a constitutional body like the Election Commission to check the growing scale of corrupt practices has important lessons for the reform of the existing watchdog institutions and the Lokpal. India has a multitude of watchdog institutions, constitutional and statutory. What is their experience? The CAG audits government departments to track malpractices, but those in power have found ways to get around it. Intelligence agencies (the Intelligence Bureau, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and so on) keep tabs on important people and their wheeling and dealing and hold vast amounts of information, but illegality has only grown. There are the CVC, the CBI and various police agencies. Government departments have their vigilance wings. There are agencies to protect the environment, but the powerful violate environmental laws with impunity. There are regulatory authorities (such as the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to check private business activity, but they could not prevent the 2G scam or insider trading in the stock markets. The Reserve Bank of India regulates financial institutions, but it has been found wanting, as in the Harshad Mehta scam, the failure of cooperative banks, and so on.
The Information Commission oversees the Right to Information. It has shown some success, but increasingly the whistle-blowers are being eliminated and its success has remained limited to the highly literate. The media have exposed innumerable cases of corruption, but now sections of them are entangled in the vice of paid news. Some media stars have been found to be hobnobbing with the powerful and the compromised. The judiciary is an independent constitutional body, yet the number of cases of alleged corruption against judges is increasing. Cases are piling up in courts, and the number of pending cases has crossed four crore. This has resulted in miscarriage of justice in many instances. … Democracy has become formalistic. Legislatures should check corruption but it would not be so if the elected are beholden to the corrupt or are themselves corrupt. The problem is political; it cannot be resolved through technical fixes or by having more laws – these are anyway being circumvented. A weak democracy presents a no-win situation: if a democracy is weak, the corrupt get elected and misuse their autonomy; if the legislators’ autonomy is curbed, democracy weakens. Only a conscious public, not rules and laws, can deliver autonomous and incorruptible legislators.That is why today there is a need for political movements that can change the national consciousness, a task being addressed by the movement against corruption and for Lokpal. So, the question is, can there be strong watchdogs in a weak democracy?
- Corruption and Fairy Tale Elections – Editorial (Jan 7, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Political Panchadoshas – By Neelabh Mishra (Jan 16, 2012, Outlook)
- Lokpal Bill: Lessons from the Karnataka Lokayukta’s Performance – By Narayana A, Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Vikas Kumar (Jan 7, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
Strange Notion of Communal Harmony: Madhya Pradesh’s law banning cow slaughter is discriminatory and arbitrary – Editorial (Jan 14, 2012, Economic &Political Weekly)
The Madhya Pradesh (MP) government has put forward a strange reason for amending the Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Act or cow slaughter law to introduce far more stringent provisions than the earlier Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act 2004. It believes that this is in the interest of communal harmony in the state. The amended Act provides for harsh punishment and grants the police extremely arbitrary powers. It essentially criminalises the eating habits of millions of citizens, especially Muslims, Christians, dalits, and a large number of Hindus too. The punishment now for cow (and calf) slaughter will carry a minimum of one year and maximum seven years’ imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 5,000. Even storing or transporting beef will now be punishable with a minimum term of six months, which can be extended up to three years. The most contentious provision in the law is that a “competent authority” has been empowered to “enter and inspect any premises” where he has “reason to believe that an offence under this Act has been, is being, or is likely to be committed”, and take necessary action. More importantly, the onus is on the accused to prove his or her innocence. Given the way the police and the legal system function, such a provision is more than likely to be abused as it allows scope for wide interpretation. Add to this the fact that the present MP government has a history of targeting the state’ s religious minorities, one can see that far from helping communal harmony, the law is likely to inflame passions.
But it is not just from the point of view of minority rights that this Act seems discriminatory. Those protesting against Karnataka’s Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2010 (which also has stringent provisions) have pointed out how it is anti-farmer and anti-poor. Farmers, including those who do not eat beef themselves, usually sell old cows to the butcher in order to buy new cattle stock. This not only provides meat to many families who find beef an affordable source of protein but also services the indigenous leather industry that supports a large workforce. In fact, dalit organisations in Karnataka (where there is also a BJP government) have been in the forefront of the protest against this bill becoming law. They have consistently pointed out that in the face of rising food prices, banning cow slaughter and thus beef would be akin to violating the fundamental rights of the dalits. The Karnataka Bill also goes further than the earlier law by prohibiting the slaughter of she-buffaloes, their calves, bulls and male and female buffaloes. On the other hand, the existing Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964 stipulates conditions for killing calves (including those of female buffaloes) and cows. Only buffaloes, bulls and bullocks that are 12 years old or more, or not fit for breeding or milking, are permitted to be slaughtered under the 1964 law.
In the long and ever simmering debate on cow slaughter and beef eating, the lines have always been drawn between the religious minorities, dalits and lower caste Hindus on one side and the (mostly, though not always) upper caste Hindus on the other. History has been repeatedly roped in to prove either side’s contention. Historians like R S Sharma and D N Jha have thrown the weight of their research in support of those who say that beef eating was routine in the Vedic period. It was the later and growing nod to caste consciousness that termed meat eating, particularly beef eating, as unclean.
States like Gujarat, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh already have laws against cow slaughter, while Orissa and Andhra Pradesh permit the killing of cattle other than cows if the animals are not fit for any other purpose. There are minimal restrictions in other states and none in West Bengal and Kerala. While the right wing and Hindutva parties make no bones about their assertion that a total ban on cow slaughter is their aim, the Congress too has time and again played the cow protection card especially in the north. Yet in Karnataka, the non-BJP opposition has come out strongly against the new bill on cow slaughter even though this is an issue that most political parties prefer to shy away from. Above all, what the changes in the law in BJP-ruled states like MP and Karnataka bring out is the BJP governments’ lack of concern for anyone who does not endorse the party’s set of beliefs. By criminalising people’s choice in something as personal as what they choose to eat, these governments are demonstrating their total lack of respect for diversity and their cavalier disregard of rights guaranteed to everyone, including the minorities, in a democratic system such as the one that prevails in India.
- Using the cow – By Javed Anand (Jan 5, 2012, Indian Express)
- In the Name of Cow – the Holy Fraud – By A.J. Philip (Jan 9, 2012, Indian Currents)
Aadhaar: time to disown the idea – By R. Ramakumar (Dec 16, 2011, The Hindu)
“…The Committee categorically convey their unacceptability of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010…The Committee would, thus, urge the Government to reconsider and review the UID scheme.…” This was the conclusion of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance (SCoF), which examined the Bill to convert the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) into a statutory authority. With this categorical rebuff, the SCoF dealt a body blow to the Aadhaar project, which is being implemented from September 2010 without Parliament’s approval. Technically speaking, the SCoF report asked the government to bring forth fresh legislation before Parliament. However, a careful examination of the report shows that it does not just reject the Bill, it also raises serious questions about the idea of Aadhaar itself. In fact, the report so comprehensively questions the idea that any effort to introduce fresh legislation would require, as a prerequisite, a re-look at the foundational principles on which the project was conceived. There are broadly five important arguments in the SCoF report. First, it contains scathing criticism of the government for beginning Aadhaar enrolment without Parliament’s approval for the Bill. Currently, UIDAI enjoys only executive authority, and no statutory authority. The justification that the government presented before the SCoF was as follows: the powers of the executive are co-extensive with the legislative powers of the government, and this allows the government to exercise executive powers in spheres not regulated by legislation. The government also cited the Attorney-General’s advice, which noted that “executive power operates independently” of Parliament and that “there is nothing in law that prevents the [UIDAI] from functioning under the Executive Authorisation.” The SoF rejects this position, and states that the government’s legal justification “does not satisfy the Committee.” The legal position upheld by the SCoF is that co-extensiveness of powers does not permit the executive to do what it pleases; when constitutional rights and protections are potentially violated, the powers of the executive remain circumscribed by those of the legislature.
Secondly, the SCoF raises serious questions about the enrolment process followed for Aadhaar numbers. The issue of Aadhaar numbers “is riddled with serious lacunae,” and this problem can be traced to conceptualisation “with no clarity of purpose” and implementation in “a directionless way with a lot of confusion.” For instance, the Ministry of Finance felt that there was “lack of coordination” across the six agencies collecting personal information, leading to “duplication of efforts and expenditure.” The Ministry of Home raised “serious security concerns” over the introducer model used to enrol persons without any proof of residence. The report concludes that the enrolment process “compromises the security and confidentiality of information of Aadhaar number holders,” and has “far reaching consequences for national security.” The reason: “the possibility of possession of Aadhaar numbers by illegal residents through false affidavits/introducer system.” Thirdly, the SCoF comes down heavily on the government for proceeding with the project without “enactment of a national data protection law,” which is a “pre-requisite for any law that deals with large-scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate databases.”
In its submission to the SCoF, the government had taken a dismissive view of the right to privacy of individuals. It noted that “collection of information without a privacy law in place does not violate the right to privacy of the individual.” The SCoF rejects this view, and notes that in the absence of legislation for data protection, “it would be difficult to deal with the issues like access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of databases and securing confidentiality of information.” Fourthly, the report strongly disapproves of “the hasty manner” in which the project was cleared. It concludes that a “comprehensive feasibility study…ought to have been done before approving such an expensive scheme.” This conclusion follows the government’s admission to the SCoF that “no committee has been constituted to study the financial implications of the UID scheme,” and that “comparative costs of the Aadhaar number and various existing ID documents are also not available.” The total cost of the Aadhaar project would run into multiples of ten thousand crore of rupees. For just Phase 1 and 2, where 10 crore residents were to be enrolled, the allocation was Rs. 3,170 crore. For Phase 3, where another 10 crore residents are to be enrolled, the allocation is Rs. 8,861 crore. In a rough extrapolation, for 120 crore residents the total cost would then be over Rs. 72,000 crore. Is the Comptroller and Auditor General listening?
Fifthly, the report tears apart the faith placed on biometrics to prove the unique identity of individuals. It notes that “the scheme is full of uncertainty in technology” and is built upon “untested, unreliable technology.” It criticises the UIDAI for disregarding (a) the warnings of its Biometrics Standards Committee about high error rates in fingerprint collection; (b) the inability of Proof of Concept studies to promise low error rates when 1.2 billion persons are enrolled; and (c) the reservations within the government on “the necessity of collection of IRIS image.” The report concludes that, given the limitations of biometrics, “it is unlikely that the proposed objectives of the UID scheme could be achieved.” The SCoF report cites the experience from the United Kingdom, where a similar ID scheme was shelved. It dismisses the government’s contention that “comparison between developed countries…versus India…is not a reasonable one.” It states that “there are lessons from the global experience to be learnt,” which the government has “ignored completely.” It cites issues of cost overruns, fallacies of technology and risks to the safety of citizens, and notes: “as these findings are very much relevant and applicable to the UID scheme, they should have been seriously considered.” The SCoF report has invited sharp reactions from the business press and pro-business lobbies. One report argued that, after the Foreign Direct Investment-in-retail fiasco, it is “another Indian reform massacre;” for another, it is a “setback to the government’s attempts to revive faltering economic reforms;” and for yet another, the title was “UPA reforms agenda hit again.”
These predictable reactions only reaffirm the widely held belief that Aadhaar is an integral component of the neo-liberal reform programme of UPA-2. In fact, the SCoF deserves praise for standing up to pressure from powerful quarters, and not allowing the moment to be hijacked by vested interests. Ironically, till last week, the same SCoF had come in for profuse praise from none other than Nandan Nilekani himself. He had said in August 2011: “I have had the occasion to…make a presentation on more than one occasion to the Standing Committee…let me tell you they do an extraordinarily thorough job. I am very, very impressed with the quality of questions, the homework, the due diligence, the seriousness that they view these things with. And it is very bipartisan, you can’t make out who is from which party because they all ask on the issue. So when you have such an excellent system of law-making…Let us respect that, let us give them the opportunity to call all the experts for and against and let them come out with something. They are the appropriate people, they are our representatives.” The “representatives” have now spoken. For the government, the most dignified way ahead is to pay heed to the SCoF’s views and suspend the Aadhaar project immediately. Each conclusion in the report should be discussed threadbare in the public domain. Biometrics should be withdrawn from government projects as a proof of identity. Alternative, and cheaper, measures to provide people with valid identity proofs should be explored. However, it would be a travesty of democratic principles if the government disregards the SCoF report and pushes the project in through the backdoor.
- More Sops, No Agenda – By S. P. Talukdar (Jan 9, 2012, Indian Currents)
- Chasing the vote in Uttar Pradesh – Editorial (Jan 2, 2012, The Hindu)
Quota alone cannot rid Muslims of their woes – By Aditya Menon (Jan 4, 2012, India Today)
The Mandalisation of Uttar Pradesh politics appears to have come full circle, with the Congress attempting to use quotas to undercut the original beneficiaries of reservation based politics. The introduction of sub-quotas within the 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), particularly the inclusion of backward sections among religious minorities, appears to be the grand old party’s trump card in the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. On Sunday, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Union Coal minister and three time MP from Kanpur, provided further evidence of the Congress’s attempts at beating OBC chieftains Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav at their own game. He said that the 4.5 per cent subquota that the Union Cabinet had cleared last month might be increased in accordance with the figures of the caste census, an exercise that the government reluctantly undertook in 2011 after being pressured by the two Yadav leaders. Jaiswal’s statement follows closely on the heels of the Congress rally in Saharanpur during which the two General Secretaries who are spearheading the party’s campaign in UP – Rahul Gandhi and Digvijaya Singh – promised the minorities six to eight per cent reservation in government jobs.
These could well be attempts at damage control as many Muslims considered the 4.5 per cent quota as too little, too late. The main problem here would appear to be the lack of sincerity on the part of the Congress. The party was being too clever by half by extending the paltry quota to all the religious minorities – clearly an attempt at wooing the backward sections among the Sikhs in poll-bound Punjab, in addition to Uttar Pradesh’s Muslims. This was completely unnecessary, as the lack of adequate representation in government jobs and educational institutions is a problem specific to the Muslim community and not other religious minorities like Sikhs, Christians, Jains or Parsis. The government should have ideally addressed the needs of the Muslim community through the Equal Opportunities Commission that the Sachar committee report had recommended. The report, which has become a key aspect of the political discourse in the Muslim community across the country, had recommended the setting up of such a body that would look into complaints of bias or the denial of equal opportunities to any deprived community, on the lines of the UK Race Relations Act, 1976. The consistent thrust of the committee was to suggest policies that provide redress to the Muslim community, within the framework of fighting backwardness in general. This effort at ‘mainstreaming’, however, is at odds with the dictates of vote bank politics, which naturally lead to quotas. Even if one were to accept that the government is sincere in helping Muslims, and that it would somehow prevent the 4.5 per cent seats being gobbled up by people from other religious minorities, the move will address the community’s backwardness only partially. The impact of reservation in government jobs and public-funded institutes of higher education would be limited for the simple reason that the bottleneck lies much lower.
Only 17 per cent of Muslims above the age of 17 have completed their matriculation, indicating an alarmingly high school dropout rate in the community. One in every four Muslims between six and 14 years of age has either never attended school or has dropped out – the highest percentage among all the socioreligious communities (SRCs) in the country. The Sachar report clearly states that school education is the main hurdle for Muslims. The report adds that once that is crossed, a Muslim is almost as likely as any other to complete his or her graduation. There are several other aspects to Muslim deprivation that a quota cannot address. For instance, the access to credit is substantially less when compared to other SRCs. The share of Muslims in the total outstanding amount in banks is a paltry 4.7 per cent, indicating a lesser share in the loans sanctioned. Compare this with the exceptionally high 6.5 per cent for other minorities, who are less than half of the Muslims’ share of population. If this doesn’t provide enough reason for the government to separate the Muslims from other religious minorities then it must examine the success of some of the other minority-based schemes. The Sachar report reveals that it is the non- Muslim minorities that have benefited out of the Reserve Bank of India’s efforts to extend banking and credit facilities for religious minorities in accordance with the Prime Minister’s 15 point programme, while the Muslims have been marginalised.
In Uttar Pradesh for instance, the average priority sector advances per account is about Rs.30,000 for Muslims, a little over half of the figure for other minorities. These are matters that cannot be resolved by quotas, but a body that addresses lack of opportunities for Muslims and possibly even cases of bias against them – something precisely like an equal opportunities commission. While it is important to understand that reservations are not a panacea for all the woes of a community, the reality of Indian politics is that they have been the preferred method of addressing social and economic inequalities. Therefore, the introduction of sub-quotas is justified and in fact desirable. This is particularly relevant in UP where the lion’s share of the OBC quota is grabbed by caste groups like Yadavs, Kurmis and Lodhs who are forward among the backwards. Some of the indicators of even general category Muslims are lower than that of Hindu OBCs, so there is absolutely no reason why the backward among Muslims should remain deprived of a sub-quota.
The Congress must take this process a step further by honouring its promise of a subquota for Most Backward Castes within the OBC quota, in line with the formula of former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur. Like the Muslims, the MBCs are a large socio-political group in Uttar Pradesh that is yet to express open support for any one political party. The recent expulsion of MBC leader Babu Singh Kushwaha from the Bahujan Samaj Party is an indicator of the erosion of the ruling party’s MBC base. The effective use of this formula by Bihar’s present incumbent Nitish Kumar is a model worth emulating for the Congress which is seeking to turn around its fortunes in the state. Nitish has even created a Mahadalit category to isolate the relatively elite Passi Dalits from the rest. This could easily be used against the Jatavs in UP, who are the caste of chief minister Mayawati and have gained most out of the reservation for Scheduled Castes. The Karpoori formula might be an even better option as it also accounted for the poor among Upper Castes. If Mandalisation is a reality, then quotas ought to be structured in such a way that they benefit those who truly need them.
- For Muslims, UPA-2 is just the opposite of UPA-1 – By Shakeel Ahmad (Jan 6, 2012, Twocircles.net)