IAMC Weekly News Roundup – July 2nd, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

‘Modi shielding corrupt ministers’ (Jun 30, 2012, Indian Express)

Arvind Kejriwal, a key aide of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, on Friday accused Chief Minister Narendra Modi of protecting corrupt ministers like Purshotam Solanki (fisheries and animal husbandry minister) and Anandiben Patel (revenue and roads and building) and not appointing a Lokayukta in state. Kejriwal was in the state on Friday to participate in Graam Swaraj Satyagraha rally at Lavad village in Gandhinagar to protest the state government’s decision to write off vast tracts of grazing land for the proposed Raksha Shakti University.

“I read the Gujarat High Court’s order in the case of corruption charges against Purshotam Solanki. Despite a clear court order to allow the minister’s prosecution, the CM has denied permission, which shows he is protecting him. I also went through the documents of land scam involving senior minister Anandiben Patel. The documents received under the RTI indicate her role. These charges needs to be investigated in public interest. In Delhi, the PM is protecting his corrupt ministers while the CM is doing the same in Gujarat,” Kejriwal said.

“The Gujarat government has played only politics for the last nine years over Lokayukta’s appointment. Since there is no anti-graft watchdog in the state, no one can complain against corrupt ministers or officials,” he added. Kejriwal also raised the issue of murders of RTI activists and attacks on those who are fighting against the corruption. “If Modi has genuine intention of eliminating corruption from the state he, should come out with a strong Lokayukta law like the one former BJP CM Khanduri enacted in Uttarakhand. Gujarat’s Lokayukta Act is the weakest in the country. The CM is doing nothing to curb corruption,” he said, adding that India against Corruption’s Gujarat chapter will soon expose corrupt ministers in the state as it did at the Centre.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/968594/

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Gulberg case: SIT submits closure report in trial court (Jun 28, 2012, Indian Express)

The Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) that probed into a complaint by Zakia Jafri against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others, on Wednesday submitted its closure report before the special trial court for the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre case. The probe team however requested that the court to not open the files as they are planning to challenge the order that mandated them to produce the report before the trial court. Following this, the court adjourned the hearing till the next month.

Based on the application of some victims and witnesses, the trial court presided over by specially appointed judge B J Dhandha, had ordered SIT to submit a relevant portion of its closure report. Previously, SIT was pulled up by the trial court for it did not submit the report. On Wednesday, SIT complied with the order and submitted two sealed covers before the court. Soon after, SIT counsel RC Kodekar moved an application requesting the court not to open the covers.

SIT’s main objection for not submitting the closure report before the trial court was that the metropolitan court, where the original closure report has been submitted, is yet to take a decision. SIT believed that presenting portions of the same to the trial court for the Gulberg Society massacre case would lead to parallel judicial hearings. Also, if the court for the Gulberg Society massacre case passes an order on the basis of the report, it might lead to a prejudice amongst either parties in the case according to the SIT.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/967702/

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Post-Godhra, Vajpayee was not keen on Kalam’s Gujarat visit (Jun 30, 2012, Times of India)

In the aftermath of the 2002 riots in Gujarat, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appeared to be not keen on President APJ Abdul Kalam’s official visit to the state, according to a book. Giving an inkling of what the BJP stalwart thought about his visit in his soon-to-be-released book ” Turning Points”, Kalam said there were also suggestions at the ministry and bureaucratic level against his trip to Gujarat after the post-Godhra riots in which 1,200 people were killed, most of them Muslims. The former President recalls he decided to go to Gujarat as “my mission was not to look at what had happened, not to look at what was happening, but to focus on what should be done”.

But at the ministry and bureaucratic level, it was suggested that he should not venture into Gujarat at that point of time. “One of the main reasons was political. However, I made up my mind that I would go and preparations were in full swing at Rashtrapati Bhavan for my first visit as president,” he wrote “The prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asked me only one question, ‘Do you consider going to Gujarat at this time essential?’ “I told the PM, ‘I consider it an important duty so that I can be of some use to remove the pain, and also accelerate the relief activities, and bring about a unity of minds, which is my mission, as I stressed in my address during the swearing-in ceremony.”

He recollects that many apprehensions were expressed, among them that his visit might be boycotted by chief minister Narendra Modi, that he would receive a cold reception and that there would be protests from many sides. “But, to my great surprise when I landed at Gandhinagar, not only the chief minister, but his entire Cabinet and a large number of legislators, officials and members of the public were present at the airport.” “I visited 12 areas – three relief camps and nine riot-hit locations where the losses had been high. Narendra Modi, the chief minister, was with me throughout the visit. In one way, this helped me, as wherever I went, I received petitions and complaints and as he was with me I was able to suggest to him that action be taken as quickly as possible.”

Recalling an incident during one of his visits to a relief camp, Kalam writes, “A six-year-old boy came up to me, held both my hands and said, ‘Rashtrapatiji, I want my mother and father.’ I was speechless. There itself, I held a quick meeting with the district collector. The chief minister also assured me that the boy’s education and welfare would be taken care of by the government.” “While I was in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, people from all sections of society wished to talk to me and express their problems and views personally. In one such gathering, nearly 2,000 citizens of Ahmedabad surrounded me. The interaction was in Gujarati and a friend of mine translated. I was asked about fifty questions and received 150 petitions. “My visit to two important places in Ahmedabad was indeed significant, particularly in the light of the riots. I called on Pramukh Swamiji Maharaj at Akshardham where he welcomed me. I discussed with His Holiness the mission of achieving unity of minds and bringing a healing touch to Gujarat, which has given to the nation great human beings like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Vikram Sarabhai.”

Kalam also visited Sabarmati Ashram, where he met many ashramites and saw the agony writ large on their faces, even as they mechanically carried out their normal chores. “I witnessed similar sentiments at Akshardham as well. As I was wondering why, I realised that both these institutions, by virtue of their inherent love and respect of human beings and their spiritual environment, work to bring happiness, peace and progress to society and could therefore not accept a situation of inflicting avoidable pain. “I say this because in our land, with its heritage of a highly evolved civilization and where great men were born and stood tall as role models for the entire world, communal riots with their attendant tragedy are an aberration that should never happen.” After he finished his two-day tour, the media wanted a message from him. “I expressed my thoughts through a statement in which I urged the need for an intensified movement to completely eliminate communal and other forms of strife and bring about unity of minds.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/14531299.cms

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CBI says it has proof to show Tulsi case links (Jun 27, 2012, DNA India)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) finally has evidence to establish that the Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter cases were linked. Informed sources said the investigating agency will soon furnish substantial evidence and statements that prove the connection between both the cases . Sources said immediately after Sohrabuddin was killed in November 2005, the conspiracy to eliminate Tulsi was hatched. Tulsi Prajapati was killed in December 2006.

The Special Investigating Team (SIT) of the CBI has collected a bunch of proofs and recorded seven important statements under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code which reveal an inter-connection between the encounters. Sources said the statements of the key people connected, directly or indirectly, with the Tulsi case have revealed the Tulsi killing was a cold-blooded murder. The CBI claims it has also got evidence which solves the mystery of the third person who was picked up along with Sobrabuddin and Kausarbi. Sources claim that person was Tulsi.

The state CID (Crime), which had investigated the Tulsi Prajapati case, had stated in its chargesheet that there was no connection between the Sohrab and Tulsi encounters. However, the CBI disagreed and, after being handed over the probe by the Supreme Court, it started investigations in this direction. Talking to DNA, sources close to the development said there was vital material evidence that the CBI had accessed during the Tulsi investigation which prove his killing was a fallout of the Sohrabuddin killing. The CBI has already submitted its chargesheet saying Sohrabuddin was killed in a fake encounter.

“If Sohrabuddin was not killed, Tulsi may still have been alive,” a source said. The CBI status report, which it will submit in the Supreme Court sometime this week, will include material evidence and statements establishing a connection between the two encounters.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1707377

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Senior cop held in kidnap-extortion case (Jun 26, 2012, Times of India)

Manoj Lohar, the additional superintendent of police who was wanted by the Jalgaon police in a kidnapping and extortion case for the past two years, was arrested from Thane by the city crime branch late Sunday evening. Manoj is one of the three Lohar brothers who were dismissed from police service in 2006 during the probe into the MPSC recruitment scam. All of them were reinstated in 2009 following court directives. Later that year, the kidnapping and extortion case was registered against Manoj. He had been absconding since 2010. According to sources, the state DGP’s office had issued a general alert in March to trace Manoj. The property cell of the crime branch kept a close watch on his house in Thane. On Sunday, officers from the property cell got information that Manoj was paying a secret visit to his flat. However, by the time they reached the spot, he had left in his car with his wife and children. Manoj and his family members went to a Chinese restaurant on Ghodbunder Road for dinner.

“One of our officers went inside the restaurant posing as a patron and looked for Manoj. We had a photograph of Manoj, which was key to identifying him first before cornering him,” said Himanshu Roy, JCP (crime). Around 9.45pm, when Manoj came out of the restaurant and was about to sit in his car, inspector Nandkumar Gopale and his team detained him. Manoj was then taken to the police headquarters. After his arrest by the Mumbai police, Lohar was handed over to the Jalgaon cops on Monday. He would be produced in court on Tuesday. Earlier, a complaint was lodged by Jalgaon zilla parishad member Uttam Mahajan, who alleged that Manojan – additional police superintendent then – had detained him for two days, called up his family and demanded money for his release.

There was reportedly some financial dispute between Mahajan and an educational institution . Based on the institution’s complaint, Manoj allegedly kidnapped Mahajan and sought to extort money from his family. Subsequently, Mahajan met the chief minister as well as home minister R R Patil, who ordered an inquiry. Two separate inquiries, which were conducted by DSP Santosh Rastogi and IGP (Amravati ) Dalbir Bharti, recommended criminal action against Manoj; a case was also registered against him with the Jalgaon police. Sunil, Manoj and Nitin Lohar, sons of former additional director general of police Prabhakar Lohar, were appointed deputy superintendents of police through the MPSC. Manoj was appointed in 1992, Nitin in 1998 and Sunil in 2001 The government terminated the services of all three brothers on January 24, 2006, after the MPSC withdrew its recommendation to appoint them as DSPs. The three then moved court.

A division bench ruled that the MPSC had violated the principles of natural justice as no hearing was granted to the officers during an internal inquiry into the recruitment scam. The court observed that though notices were served on the three Lohar brothers after completion of the inquiry, no chargesheet was filed in the matter. The three were not granted a hearing as well. The proceedings of the internal inquiry were also not made available to them. ACB submitted a report saying the complaint against the Lohars was false and registered on the basis of false facts and out of grudge. Sunil and Nitin later changed their surname, but Manoj continued to use Lohar.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/14401236.cms

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Gopalgarh violence, firing victims losing hope for justice (Jun 24, 2012, The Hindu)

Victims of the September 14, 2011, violence at Gopalgarh in Rajasthan, where 10 persons were killed and 30 injured in the firing and attack on a mosque, are gradually losing hope for justice with the Central Bureau of Investigation giving a clean chit to the top district officials and the State government failing to restore faith among Meo Muslims targeted by communal forces. A delegation comprising representatives of Muslim groups visited Gopalgarh earlier this week, nine months after the horrific violence, and found an atmosphere of fear and distrust in the town amid allegations that the CBI officers were threatening the Meo community leaders willing to depose as witnesses against the policemen and Gujjars who allegedly attacked the Jama Masjid.

The delegation visited the town in Bharatpur district under the banner of Rajasthan Muslim Forum on the repeated requests of the next of kin of the deceased. The victims complained of “prejudiced approach” of the CBI’s investigating officers and the ruling Congress’ “complete indifference” to their plight. The much-touted judicial inquiry into the violence is yet to begin. The CBI has arrested a local Muslim leader, Abdul Ghani, and his three sons on the basis of five first information reports and filed the charge-sheet in the court highlighting the police claim that if the policemen had not resorted to firing, there would have been large-scale violence. The 14 FIRs lodged by Muslims, identifying the policemen as accused, have been taken up for probe only recently.

The State government has since reinstated the then Collector, Krishna Kunal, and Superintendent of Police, Hinglaj Dan, who were suspended for dereliction of duty, after they obtained stay orders in their favour from the Central Administrative Tribunal. Muslim groups have accused Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot of deliberately leaving technical loopholes giving benefit to the suspended officers. The delegation comprised Irada Society president Mohammed Hasan, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind State president Khurshid Hussain and national secretary M. Salim Engineer and Forum members Nazimuddin and M. Alam Khan.

In a statement issued here, the Forum alleged that the CBI was trying to protect the accused and implicate Meo Muslims in the Gopalgarh case. By not clubbing the 14 FIRs with the initial five FIRs, the CBI has found an escape route for the Collector and the SP and ignored the evidence of their complicity in the crime, it said. “How is it possible that a premier investigating agency like the CBI could not notice the simple fact that for 24 hours after the police firing on the mosque, the police were in-charge of the site during the curfew when the bodies were dragged [out] and thrown into wells and cut into pieces and burnt,” stated the Forum. Mr. Gehlot had himself admitted two days after the firing that the policemen had fired 219 rounds, while claiming that it was done to contain a direct clash between Meos and Gujjars. It was later revealed after the curfew was relaxed that all the bullets were aimed at the mosque, which suffered extensive damage.

Mr. Salim Engineer pointed out that the Meos whose houses and shops were looted and burnt had refused to accept the paltry amount of Rs.3,000 to Rs.4,000 each offered by the State government. The total damage of property, caused by fearless rioters during curfew when the Meo families had vacated the town, is estimated at Rs.2 crore. The Forum took strong exception to the State government’s attempt to protect Mr. Kunal and Mr. Dan and demanded that a fearless atmosphere be created in Gopalgarh to enable the victims to get their statements recorded. A demand was also placed for a fair survey of damage to property, followed by adequate compensation and rehabilitation of victims.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/article3564641.ece

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Samjhauta blast: HC adjourns Chauhan’s petition for hearing on July 3 (Jun 27, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday adjourned the petition filed by Kamal Chauhan, co-accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express bomb blast case, who had challenged Panchkula National Investigation Agency (NIA) special court’s May 9 orders of extending his judicial custody period from 90 to 180 days, for hearing on July 3 before the regular bench.

The petition came up for hearing before the vacation bench headed by justice KC Puri which was of the view that there was no urgency in the case as there were serious allegations against the accused Chauhan which needed to be thoroughly investigation. Hence, the bench directed that instead of the vacation bench, the case needed to be heard by the regular bench after the summer vacations were over on July 3.

Chauhan was arrested at the NIA camp office, Noida (UP) on February 12 and he is at present behind the bars in Ambala central jail. He had allegedly planted one of the four bombs in Samjhauta Express train bound for Lahore. Due to two explosions 68 passengers had died on February 18, 2007 near Diwana railway station, Panipat. The two other co-accused in the case locked up in Ambala central jail are Lokesh Sharma and Swami Aseemanand.

Chauhan had submitted that his custody of 90 days was going to expire on May 11 but on May 9 the NIA in order to defeat his right to be released on bail moved an application for extension of period of investigation from 90 days to 180 which was allowed by the NIA special court Panchkula without issuing any notice to the petitioner. Whereas, the NIA had countered his allegation stating that the trial court had passed the orders as per law after following the due procedure.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/879759.aspx

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4,000 Quran copies ordered by madrasa stuck at port for three yrs (Jun 30, 2012, Indian Express)

More than three years have passed since 4,000 copies of the Holy Quran reached the Mundra port and are yet to be delivered to the consignee at Gorevali village in Banni area of the Kutch district. The consignment was meant for for Jamia Darul Masiha, a madrasa at Gorevali run by Mufti Abdul Qayyum Khan. The copies of the Quran along with 500 CDs containing speeches on various aspects of religion, were sent from Dubai by Khan’s father who works in Dubai.

According to Khan, he made numerous trips to meet the customs officials at Mundra but all efforts went in vain. Khan asserts that the consignment was sent legally and that he paid Rs 8,000 as shipment charges. The problem arose when some custom officials suspected it to be “objectionable literature”. Khan was allegedly interrogated by customs officials and state and central intelligence officials. “They asked me lot of questions but they were not satisfied. I told the customs and intelligence officials to get the copies of the literature examined by some Arabic experts of their own choice,” said Khan.

An Arabic expert found no objectionable material, but when Khan asked for the release of the shipment, he was asked to pay a demurrage charge of Rs 2.98 lakh in 2010. Khan, however, refused to pay, blaming the Customs department for the inordinate delay. Moreover, he said the material was not for business purposes and were donated by Indian Muslims in Dubai and was meant for free distribution in the madrasa and among the Muslims in Kutch district. “I can’t be forced to pay for the incompetency of the government officials,” he said.

The demurrage charges have doubled since 2010, according to an official of Trans Asia Shipping Services Ltd which provided the container for the shipment. “We cannot release the consignment till the demurrage payment is cleared,” said the official. “I have asked the consignee to come personally and discuss the issue with me so that a solution could be found,” said Deputy Commissioner of Customs at Mundra M Uma Shankar. Religious literature like the Quran, Gita and Bible are not levied customs duties, added Shankar.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/968599/

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Security forces kill 19 Maoists in Chhattisgarh ‘liberated zone’ (Jun 29, 2012, Deccan Herald)

Security forces entered the Maoist den in the “liberated zone” of Chhattisgarh, and engaged the ultras at two different places in dense jungles of unapproachable Dantewada. In the firing, 19 suspected Maoists were killed.

Six jawans of Central Reserve Police Force’s (CRPF’s) commando unit, Cobra, which conducted the operation jointly with the state police, were also injured. The operation started at 7 pm. About 300 cops armed with latest weapons and location finders were pressed into action.

This is the second coordinated attempt by the security forces to launch operation on the Maoists in Chhattisgarh, first being Ambujmad. A CRPF officer said that the armed ultras have acquired an impression that security forces are reluctant to target them in their stronghold.

Working on a tip off that Maoists have got together at their training camp in Silger village near Basaguda, three separate joint teams were formed to launch a counter offensive on Thursday. One team left Basaguda in Bijapur district, the other moved from Chintalnar and the third from Jagarguda area to corner them from three different directions.

But, barely the first team had moved three kilometers from Basaguda, the commandos were intercepted by armed Maoists leading to a fierce encounter in the pitch dark night. Six Cobra commandos and three Maoists were injured in the gun fight and they were airlifted by a helicopter to Raipur for medical help. However, during the early morning combing operation, the forces came across 16 bodies which they claim is that of suspected Naxalites.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/260522/20-naxals-killed-encounter-crpf.html

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Pipli Dalit gangrape: Tainted doctors demand cleansing of names (Jun 27, 2012, Indian Express)

Nearly a fortnight after submission of chargesheet against three government doctors, including a teaching doctor in the Pipili gangrape and murder case, the doctors- community in Odisha has now taken up cudgels to protect their tainted colleagues. Threatening to go on cease-work, different associations of doctors are now demanding that the crime branch police should immediately drop charges against the three doctors, saying the provisions under which they have been charged are “illogical and arbitrary”.

The crime branch police, after repeated prod from Orissa High Court, on June 12 this year filed a supplementary charge sheet in the sensational case before a court at Pipili. Demanding trial against SCB medical college and hospital superintendent D N Moharana and two other doctors of Capital Hospital in Bhubaneswar, Milan Mitra and K C Sahu, the crime branch sleuths accused them of neglect in treatment to the dalit girl involved in the case. They were booked under section 4 of SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Terming the charges against the trio as “ridiculous”, members of Odisha Medical Teachers’ Association (OMTA), Odisha Medical Services Association (OMSA) and Junior Doctors’ Association (JDA) pointed out that the doctors treat a patient according to the symptoms and not according to caste. How charges of atrocities to a dalit patient can be made out against a treating doctor of a referral hospital when the concerned doctor has no scope to know the caste of the patient who is unconscious asked J P Biswal of OMSA demanding dropping of charges against Moharana, Mitra and Sahu.

Biswal claimed that adequate and proper treatment to the Pipili victim was given at the hospitals in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack when she was first brought to these hospitals in November last year. Biswal also went on to endorse the controversial administration of anti-venom serum to the patient saying it is a practice among doctors to give AVS to unconscious patients anticipating that the patient might have been bitten by a poisonous snake.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/967340/

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Opinions and Editorials

‘Supreme leader’ is fascist – By Ram Puniyani (Jun 26, 2012, Tehelka)

In the last few months, Narendra Modi has been much in news for his spectacular rise in BJP hierarchy and his projection as the BJP nominee for the future prime minister. On many a political debate on TV or other forum, when such charges are labelled, pat comes the reply: What about the Congress – the anti Sikh pogrom of 1984? It’s at the level of political process that these carnages, Gujarat and Delhi cannot be equated and have totally different politics behind them. There are carnages which are a part of deeper political processes, and there are other carnages which are accidental, revengeful and ‘one-off’ affairs. The Delhi massacre falls in the second category. On 30 January 1984, Indira Gandhi was walking in her compound when, right there, her Sikh bodyguards gunned her down. Indira Gandhi had been advised to remove Sikh guards in the wake of operation Blue Star. Mrs Gandhi refused, rhetorically asking: Are we not secular? After her murder, the atmosphere in Delhi got charged, the newly-sworn-in Prime Minister was glum, while the massacre started outside. Rajiv Gandhi at this point said that infamous sentence, ‘When a big tree falls, the earth shakes’. This was signal enough for the rioters, elements from the Congress, those shaken by Indira’s murder, and lumpens to carry on with the job. Rajiv Gandhi visited the riot-hit areas on the third day, the military was called and peace came in. There was no political agenda. Sikh politics, Akali politics kept going on its own steam. It was a sort of political insanity, momentary and tragic, painful and horrifying, which tormented the Sikh community. A political accident, so to say.

Gujarat is a different cup of tea. From the decade of 1990s, with a BJP government coming to power, all the wings of RSS combine, VHP, Bajrang Dal and their patriarch RSS came to full-scale unrestrained activity. RSS chief Rajendra Singh declared that Gujarat is the ‘Laboratory of Hindu Rashtra’. Different villages of Gujarat started putting up hoardings outside their villages. ‘Welcome to so-and-so village of Hindu Rashtra’. Adivasi areas started seeing the intimidation of Christians; Muslim youth were attacked for inter-religious marriages. BJP gradually started losing their grip on the electoral arena and in the forthcoming 2002 assembly elections; the fear was that the BJP may lose. Here came the Godhra, Sabarmati train burning: 58 kar sevaks, innocents, burnt alive. The local administration said it is not a pre-planned act. Modi had his own calculations; he instantly declared that it was a premeditated act by local Muslims in collaboration with the Pakistan’s ISI and international terrorists. The burnt bodies of kar sevaks were taken in a procession on Modi’s instructions. VHP called for a bandh and as per Citizens Tribunal report and the affidavit of Sanjiv Bhatt, Modi instructed the state administration to sit back and to let the Hindus vent their anger. Modi did not visit the riot-affected areas for weeks, till Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, gathered courage to visit the victims in Shah Alam camp and Modi accompanied him. The mayhem went on and on for months. Refugee camps run by the state were wound up. There was no rehabilitation, relief and remorse from the state machinery.

The polarisation process in the state, the ghettoisation of Muslims, is more or less complete by now and Muslims have been relegated to second-class citizenship in the state. While a few affluent Muslim businessmen are turning to Modi for their survival, the average Muslims are living the life of all round neglect. Those who were alleged to be part of leading the mobs, got rewarded, re-elected, though some of them are cooling their heels in the jails under different charges. The Gujarat carnage was one more – and most horrifying – in the chain of anti-Muslim violence which began from Jabalpur in 1961 and passing through the other horrific riots of Meerut Malyana, Bhagalpur, Bhivandi, Mumbai. Ninety percent of victims have been Muslims. In many of these, the inquiry commissions have showed the role of organisations affiliated to RSS or its ideology of Hindu Rashtra.

The carnage of Gujarat is part of the series of anti-Muslim violence being spearheaded by the divisive ideology of religion-based nationalism. The same ‘ideological violence’ has manifested itself against Christians, peaking in Kandhmal in August 2008. The issue of anti-Sikh violence, equally condemnable has also to be seen in a different light. While the anti-Muslim and anti-Christian violence is guided by the ideological agenda, the anti-Sikh violence was a political accident taken advantage of by the Congress. It left behind bitter social realities. The anti-Muslim anti-Christian violence is part of the slowly developing agenda of Hindu Rashtra, the goal of RSS in this country. This RSS agenda has an authoritarian streak. Social scientists look for analogies for analysing social-political phenomenon.

In the case of Modi, who is part of the RSS agenda at political level, their inner differences notwithstanding, the carnage of Gujarat is an expression of fascism, as politics of religion-based nationalism. Like fascism, it targets minorities (Jews in case of Germany). It asserts its supremacy as a race or religion and harps on the glorious past where the caste and gender hierarchies were the norms. Translated in contemporary times, it means abolition of democracy, abolition of liberal space, looking down upon the plural ethos of the nation and turning to the social stratification of earlier times. While the word fascism is used very often, what is it exactly? Dictatorship and massacre of minorities are the key ingredients. The other major pillar is intimidation of weaker sections through street violence, abolition of democracy and the creation of hysteria around the infallible leader. Hitler was one such, who wanted a nation of Aryans. He persecuted the Jews and then communists. He was glorified as the infallible leader, he usurped all the powers in his hands and did have an aggressive stance towards not only the ‘others’ in the country but also the ‘other nations. Hitler was also the favourite of big capitalists. Does it ring a bell about somebody gaining respectability in the Indian political scene?

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Fw260612Supreme.asp

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The biased Indian police & Muslims – By Syed Zubair Ahmad (Jun 28, 2012, Twocircles.net)

How biased the Indian police are for Muslims is no more a secret. At a time when anti-Muslim riots were common the Indian police wrote a history of barbarity and savagery. Instead of protecting the life and properties of the citizen it literally became a party against the Muslim community. No need to mention their role in communal riots of Jamshedpur, Bihar Sharif, Bhagalpur, Moradabad, Aligarh, Meerut, Hashimpura, Maliana, Mumbai and Ahmadabad etc. Sometimes the police become mute spectator, sometimes they encourage rioters to attack on Muslims locality, sometimes protect the rioters, sometimes they open fire indiscriminately on Muslims, sometimes collect Muslims youths, take them to an unknown destination and kill them en masse. It’s the bias of police that thousands of Muslims are languishing in prisons for years on minor charges. The framing of Muslim youths on flimsy ground in terror related cases is a different matter where many Muslim youths had to spend 5-14 years in prisons for a crime they never committed.

A few days ago when the TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) report pointing clearly to anti-Muslim bias of police came out, it was not a surprise. It only approved the Sachar Committee report finding that had said that only place where Muslims are overrepresented is Indian jails. Sachar Committee report also said that in Maharashtra, Muslims account for 10 .6 percent of the general population; yet they comprise 32.4 per cent of the prison population. The recent TISS study says that 96% of the respondents have not been held under preventive detention charges. It indicates that they are not viewed as a threat to law and order. The report based on the survey of 339 Muslims aged between 18 and 30 across 15 prisons of Maharashtra further says that most of the respondents do not have connections with criminal gangs or have any record which may be threat to law and order. About 25.4 percent of those imprisoned are so poor that they can’t afford lawyers to represent them. Of those interviewed 75.5 per cent were arrested for the first time and 25.5 per cent are repeat offenders. Most of those interviewed were complainants of the biased behavior of police. For example Murtaza, an agent in textile export, arrested under the Official Secrets act on charges of spying, told the TISS research team: “There are two types of law in this country. One is for Hindus and other if for Muslims. The policeman is first a Hindu and then a policeman. The judge is first a Hindu and then a judge and the lawyer is first a Hindu than a lawyer. People who work against the state, indulge in rioting, kill thousands of innocent people, and harass women and children roam free in this country. They are not punished. I am suffering only because I am a Muslim.”

In past hundreds of Gujarati Muslims were booked under TADA in connection with the cases of stabbing or if a home-made pistol or even a knife was found in their possessions. Police’s bias against Muslims led countless arrests under POTA, MCOCA, and under Official Secret Acts. Imagine a country where IPS officers of the rank of IG and DIG are found to be involved in fake encounter killing of Muslim youths only to get promotions and medals and get their names enlisted in the good book of Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr Narender Modi. More surprising is the fact that those fake encounters were executed on the tip-off given by our intelligence agencies. Amir Khan, the resident of old Delhi who after spending 14 years in prison was acquitted this year in January by court for the lack of evidence in connection with 17 bomb blast cases in three state . He was 16 years old when he was picked and implicated by Delhi police in 1998. In 2007 when he was transferred to Dasna jail in connection to a bomb blast case, the bar council of Ghaziabad decided to not take his case. An advocate from Delhi, N.D. Pancholi had to go to Ghaziabad to represent him. Similar incidents were reported in many cities. Sometimes the advocates who did not follow the bar council’s decision were attacked by their colleagues. In a meeting Amir told that while his mother wanted to meet him in court the old lady was pushed by police aside and denied a meeting with her son while Lt Colonel Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh were showered with flowers when they arrived at court. He also said while Colonel Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya were offered free services by many famous lawyers of this country, his case was boycotted by bar council.

Amir said that he was only accused but he was dealt like a criminal during long 14 years. Amir also told that in the name of investigation the police mentally tortured his relatives and harassed his neighbors. Thus his family had to face a complete social boycott. Has this happened with Hindutva terror suspects? Were the relatives of Swami Asimanand, Colonel Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya were harassed or arrested for investigation? The answer is No. The torture of Muslim prisoners by police, by jail staffs and by inmates is also very common in jails. In Sabarmati Central jail in March 2009, 22 Muslims were severely beaten and denied medical treatment. The relatives of the inmates alleged that the prison authorities were neither providing them treatment nor giving adequate food, thus allowing the condition of inmates getting from bad to worse. According to relatives, inmates were attacked when they were performing ‘salat’ or ‘namaz’ at around 5:15 p.m. and were in prostrating posture (sajda). According to the relatives, most of the inmates beaten up by jail and police staff have sustained head injuries and got their legs and hands fractured. And most of them were not in a position to stand and walk and even to go to toilet to answer the nature’s call. On 21st of September 2009, the day of Eidul-Fitr, in Jaipur jail 13, inmates were not allowed to offer Eid prayers, beaten up by the jail employees and other prisoners and the holy books were desecrated. Taking the incident seriously, the Rajasthan Government suspended Jailor Ashok Gaur.

On 28th June 2008 an under trial Prisoner Mohd Sohail Shaikh along with around 39 other Prisoners were assaulted brutally in Arthur Road Jail for almost two hours with batons, lathis, belts and stones. The assaulters who included Jail staffs (around 75 in number) and the gangsters and convicts lodged therein, kicked them mercilessly and punched them on their heads, beat the accused so much that they bled profusely, some got injured on head, some suffered fractures on their hands and legs and some were made to roll on the ground and thus some fell unconscious. They soaked in blood. Jail staff stopped beating them only when they assumed they were dead. Their fault was that they dared to question the jail authorities whether it has taken permission from the concerned court for their transfer. When their case was taken up in the Bombay high court by Jamiat Ulama Hind, then the court asked justice T V Nalvade to investigate the matter and submit a detailed report. The Principal Judge Nalvade visited the jail himself and prepared the report after detailed investigation of the incident. He rejected the sequence of the event made up by the jail authorities in their statements submitted before the court. Given the enormity of the terror cases being slapped against Muslims in several parts of the country, the community should take a leaf from Sikhs. During Khalistan movement when many innocent Sikhs were arrested and slapped with POTA, the leaders of Sikh community ordered all local Gurudawaras across the country to take up the cases of their area if the community members are arrested by police. For the accused who can’t afford legal cost of their case the fund of Zakat must be utilized as per the instruction of Holy Quran. Since the situation has got worsened spreading panic through the community the Muslim organizations should come forward to solve this problem on urgent basis.

http://twocircles.net/2012jun28/biased_indian_police_muslims.html

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Terrorist? Not Our Man – By Toral Varia Deshpande (Jul 9, 2012, Outlook)

Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit is a key player in the narrative of Hindutva terror. Believed to be the man at the heart of the extremist Hindu militia Abhinav Bharat, he was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) on November 5, 2008, for his role in the Malegaon blast on September 29 that year. On April 13, 2009, the Indian army instituted a court of inquiry (COI) against Purohit and four other army personnel. This, even as a national investigation into saffron terror continues and a criminal case is pending in a special MCOCA court in Mumbai. The army’s inquiry having come to an end, the board of officers, comprising three senior army personnel—a brigadier and two colonels—has forwarded its findings to the Southern Command. Close to 60 officers were examined as witnesses over a period of 37 months. Outlook has gained exclusive access to the testimonies of all the witnesses.

These reveal that Purohit will in all likelihood be held guilty for his association with organisations not recognised under the army. However, he may very well get a clean chit as far as being involved in activity that could be termed “terrorist” or “anti-national”. This internal inquiry is unlikely to be made public. Besides Purohit, the COI was convened to look into charges against four other personnel: Lt Col B.P. Dhar, Captain Sood, Major D.P. Sudhir and Subedar Pawar. All of them were linked to Purohit, though he remains the only one behind bars. The terms of reference set for the inquiry were primarily to establish the veracity of six allegations, most of which can be covered under what is known as “dereliction of duty” in army parlance. Purohit has been proceeded against for the following:

For reportedly proceeding on leave or temporary duty without approval from his seniors, thereby absenting himself from duty. For allegedly being a member of Abhinav Bharat, an organisation not recognised by the armed forces of the Union. For the illegal sale of a non-service pattern weapon. For having initiated procedures to get bulletproof jackets, debugging equipment and mini bug detectors for personal gains using his official position. For allegedly swapping ammunition from the army. For allegedly being involved in illegal or undesirable terrorist activity. The last ground for investigating Purohit would suggest the army is also looking into the Malegaon blast case. In reality, however, the force is looking only into his antecedents. As Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor of NIA, says, “The army inquiry has no bearing on the case before the special judge. These are two completely different investigations done by two completely different agencies.”

None of the 60 witnesses before the COI, Outlook has learnt, has corroborated the charge of Purohit being a terrorist. Several witnesses have instead used epithets like “motivated officer” and “good field operator” for him. His peers too reportedly describe him as an officer who could cultivate sources with ease. Sudhakar Chaturvedi was one such source he was cultivating, according to the argument being presented; it was he who led him to Abhinav Bharat.

This version is at odds with the ATS’s allegation of Purohit being Abhinav Bharat’s leader. In the picture that emerges from the COI testimonies, Sudhakar, currently an accused in the case, worked for Abhinav Bharat and kept feeding Purohit inputs on the right-wing group’s movements during the latter’s tenure as an intelligence officer of the Deolali unit in Maharashtra. Gradually, he became a key source and shortcut for Purohit to infiltrate right-wing groups. After Purohit was posted to Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh, he handed over the “source” to his unit, handled for a short while by the now retired Subedar Pawar.

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?281471

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Looking for values – By Bhaskar Ghose (Jun 30, 2012, Frontline)

Mirror, mirror on the wall, / Who’s the fairest of us all? Sometimes it is not a bad thing to look into the mirror because we often forget what we are or what we have become. This is a time, more than any other, when we need to look very carefully into the mirror. What we see there may not be very nice. We may see, for instance, that we have accepted corruption and vice, theft and bribery as attributes that have little to do with the popularity a political personality may have. We have only to look at the recent elections to the State Assembly in Uttar Pradesh and, even more recently, at the byelections in Andhra Pradesh. In the first instance, the Samajwadi Party (S.P.), a party that was known for having among its leaders persons facing criminal charges, was brought back to power by a very large margin. True, the party was given a new face by its chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, in the shape of his son Akhilesh Yadav, who has a clean record and was widely known to have blocked the entry to the party of persons with criminal records; in fact Akhilesh Yadav was then anointed the Chief Minister of the State. But did the people vote for the S.P. candidates because they were convinced that this party had reformed itself and was now a model of a clean and honest political party, or was it because they were disillusioned by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief, Mayawati, and the other contenders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress?

And similarly, we have seen, recently in Andhra Pradesh, Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress win 15 of the 18 Assembly byelections. The point is that Jaganmohan Reddy is known to have begun whatever business he had some years ago, before his father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy became Chief Minister, with assets he himself had declared to be some Rs.10 or 15 lakh, if memory serves one right, and now he has declared his assets to be in excess of Rs.300 crore. No one has questioned the sudden increase in his wealth; it has nothing to do, it would appear, with his popularity. There are similar instances all over the country. The gods have smiled on the Badal family in Punjab, and their wealth has increased by very large amounts; in Karnataka, where the Lok Ayukta has found former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa guilty of corrupt practices, and where he had to step down as Chief Minister, and even go to jail, he still has a large following among the Members of the Legislative Assembly and, by implication, among the people; and in Tamil Nadu A. Raja, who had to relinquish the post of Union Minister of Telecommunications, and who then spent over a year in jail, came out on bail to a hero’s welcome in Chennai.

So where does all this leave us? What do we find in the mirror? Is it a reflection of a people, fragmented and divided though they may be, united in the assumption that allegations of stealing public money, even killing people, are of no consequence? None of these people has done even a fraction of what Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has done for the people of Bihar. Somewhere, in the years since we were led to freedom by people who believed in the value of moral principles in public life, we have lost sight of those ideals. The generations that came after found easy money too tempting to pass by, and they passed on their beliefs not just to others in their parties but to their families. Sons and daughters were given the best education possible in the United States, Britain and in other centres of learning and academic excellence elsewhere, and are now doubtless doing well, bringing up their children in the best schools and colleges.

This may be seen as outrageous by many of us in the middle classes; but to the people, the poor and those barely able to make ends meet, it does not seem to matter. When the social activist Anna Hazare stages a fast, the crowds that go there are middle-class people protesting against corruption; do the poor go there? No. They go to the rallies called by leaders who are perceived to be corrupt and criminal. The polarisation is too obvious to miss. Principles and power. The middle class and the poor. These are what the mirror will show us – one cannot resist quoting Shakespeare on how actors hold a mirror up to nature, a mirror that shows “virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” The age and body of the time – our time, any time – will be seen for what it is in the mirror held up to nature, to ourselves. It is time we recognised this, and moved beyond outrage and indignation. Somewhere there must be people who may not be the tall leaders of old but who can at least carry forward their ideals and principles – there are some one has heard of, whose work is known and respected – but there needs to be many such. Not the “activists”, of whom one has become quite weary, but those who do things, however small, to build their little milieu into a better place.

Only a multitude of such people can make a difference, chiefly in creating an awareness of the horrifying consequences of condoning and even celebrating the evil of bribery and thuggery when it is coupled with power, and how it can be resisted, as one frail old man showed an earlier generation. He resisted the brute force of an alien state on the moral ground that its rule was wrong. Today, the need must be to resist what is wrong perhaps by the same means. There may be other solutions. But these have to be found soon. We can see how this already fragmented, disorganised country is being shaken by the forces of what one can only call immorality. And since we cannot just wait, eyes fixed on the heavens for a leader to emerge, we have to find small solutions at our own levels.

http://www.flonnet.com/fl2913/stories/20120713291309500.htm

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Cartoons and more – By Kancha Ilaiah (Jun 2012, Sabrang)

If we rework Shankar’s cartoon with, say, Mahatma Gandhi riding a bullock cart of democracy in his dwija (twice-born, or upper-caste) dress and Jawaharlal Nehru standing in his sanatan (upper-caste Hindu) pandit’s dress, a thread across his body, and Babasaheb Ambedkar in his suit, unhitching that cart, would Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar – former NCERT advisers – have included that cartoon for a lesson in democracy? I am sure they would not. In 1949 when Shankar drew that cartoon – wherein Ambedkar sits with a whip on a snail that is the Constitution and Nehru stands behind, also with a whip in his hand, while the masses watch the fun – Ambedkar’s role as chairman of the drafting committee had still not been appreciated by the Indian elite. The political elite in particular were cursing him. He also did not have high standing among the people at large. Only a very few educated Dalits treated him as their worthy representative. After Ambedkar joined Nehru’s cabinet, he was also seen as one who compromised himself for power. After he resigned from the cabinet in 1951 and after he embraced Buddhism five years later, his image and status transformed quite dramatically. And after the Mandal movement of 1990, Ambedkar’s stature assumed messianic proportions. The present Ambedkar is not a negotiator with Nehru or Gandhi. Rather, as a messiah of the large army of the oppressed people of this country, he is quite different from Gandhi and Nehru. While picking this cartoon from Shankar’s archives for the Class XI political science textbook, the editors should have understood this phenomenal change in perception, in the media, of the Dalit bahujan (majority).

Early in May, Dalit MPs cutting across party lines took up a cultural issue that related to the dignity and status of the most oppressed community and their icon. Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal did the right thing by apologising over the matter and promising immediate withdrawal of the textbook that carries the controversial cartoon. Questions like why this issue is being raked up seven years after the book’s publication or why this cartoon is being attacked 63 years after it was drawn need to be answered with sound reasoning and a proper understanding of the level of consciousness of the Dalit leadership itself. Do these questions not sound like yet another question, namely why make an issue of untouchability and caste, as they have, after all, been practised for 3,000 years? The answer lies in the changing consciousness as also the possible avenues that are opening up for fighting the matter out. If Ambedkar had not fought for the education of the lower castes as also for reservation in politics and jobs, there would not have been any Dalits in Parliament. Had it not been so, nobody would have asked any questions even if Ambedkar’s name was removed from Indian history altogether.

The consciousness of Mr Yadav and Mr Palshikar is couched in Lohiaite-Marxist-Gandhian politics which refuses to recognise the far greater transformative status of Ambedkar. In the intellectual realm, Mr Yadav represents a typical, symptomatic socialist transformation of Lohia – similar to what Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav do in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Somehow they are very uncomfortable with Ambedkar. This is reflected in the selection of this cartoon in the 21st century – a time when Ambedkar has overtaken Gandhi, Nehru and Lohia in stature. What Mr Yadav and Mr Palshikar refuse to recognise is that Ambedkar was not just a writer of the Indian Constitution, not just a nationalist leader and not just a theoretician; he was a prophetic figure who revived Buddhism which was driven out of India by a whole range of social forces over a period of several centuries. Thus in every Buddha Vihara today he sits alongside Buddha. The icon of the oppressed community cannot be compared with a god or goddess of the oppressors. Nor can the protest against the Ambedkar cartoon be seen on a par with the Hindutva protest against the painting of Goddess Saraswati by MF Husain. The May 11 protest in Parliament by Dalit MPs to remove the derogatory Ambedkar cartoon from the NCERT’s political science textbook is a demand that came from those representing the oppressed masses. This is the first ever major fight for the cultural transformation of Indian society. Earlier, Dalits were not seen as a people who could fight for their own cultural identity. They were seen as a people who fight for higher wages, reservation and scholarships. Shankar Pillai’s cartoons were friendly jokes for the upper-caste English-educated elite of the post-independence ruling class but certainly not for the Dalit/OBC (other backward classes)/Adivasi population.

Cartoons also carry with them the politics and culture of those who drew them. In fact, no cartoon is free from politics and caste/class bias. This is where the need arises for the emergence of a new brand of cartoonists from among the deprived sections, if only to induct Dalit culture into the realm of cartoons. Caste bias operates not only in religion, politics and economics but also in art, music and dance. Political scientists Mr Yadav and Mr Palshikar know this only too well. When NCERT textbooks were written by right-wing historians and political scientists, they were criticised by left-wing historians, political scientists and sociologists. Later, the left-wing secular academics undertook a rewriting of the textbooks. However, the problem with secular, democratic social scientists is that they are not caste-sensitive. They also do not include enough caste-sensitive Dalit-bahujan social scientists. Today any discussion on caste is seen as undemocratic; and Mr Yadav and Mr Palshikar thought Nehru belonged to the fast track democratic school whereas Ambedkar drove snail-paced Constitution drafting! This kind of senseless handling of democratic casteism must be checkmated and that is precisely what happened in the Indian Parliament on May 11.

One way to train our children in ideological politics is by making use of school textbooks. When the National Democratic Alliance was in power, it prepared school textbooks with an overdose of Hindutva ideology. Later on, the United Progressive Alliance government appointed a well-known educationist, Prof Krishna Kumar, as director of the NCERT. The textbooks that have sparked a controversy now were prepared under his directorship. By and large, the new team prepared much better schoolbooks. But the problem was that the left, secular and socialist social scientists never bothered to examine the Indian caste system. Most of these men treat Ambedkar simply as one of the nationalist leaders. They also do not seriously examine Ambedkar’s socio-spiritual status and the deep emotions of the oppressed masses that were built around his Buddhist spiritual existence. It is this status that is likely to lead to many self-assertive struggles by the Dalits. A national-level response to any desecration of Ambedkar’s statues and a similar response to remove a cartoon that depicted him in a derogatory manner are all part of an effort to put him on a different liberationist level from what an ordinary political scientist could comprehend. All the same, it is important that one respects in all humility the decision of Parliament. It is also important that one does not demonstrate an intellectual ‘Annagiri’ against Parliament. Parliament is supreme and can decide everything in this country.

http://www.sabrang.com/cc/archive/2012/june2012/controversy2.html

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Experiments with Aadhaar – Bharat Bhatti, Jean Drèze, Reetika Khera (Jun 27, 2012, The Hindu)

Within a few weeks of “Aadhaar-enabled” payments of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme wages being initiated in Jharkhand, earlier this year, glowing accounts of this experiment started appearing in the national media. Some of them also gave the impression, intentionally or otherwise, that this successful experiment covered most of Jharkhand. A fairly typical excerpt, which condenses five grand claims in a few lines, is as follows: “As the new system ensures payment of wages within a week, the demand for work under MGNREGS has gone up. Consequently, migration has been checked, families have been reunited and, no less important, some workers have a saving in the bank.” Enthused by these upbeat reports, we tried to trace the evidence behind them, but quickly reached a dead end. The authorities in Ranchi referred us to the website of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), but we did not find any evaluation of the experiment there or, for that matter, any details of it. There was no alternative, it seemed, than to check the facts for ourselves. We headed for the Ratu Block in Ranchi District, the source of most of the reports. It was, at that time (early March), one of the five Blocks where the experiment had been launched. On arrival, we found that only three gram panchayats (GPs) were involved, out of 14 in Ratu Block. The showpiece appeared to be Tigra GP, but it turned out that even there, only one worksite had enjoyed the blessings of Aadhaar-enabled wage payments. In the three GPs together, the system had been implemented at five worksites, employing a total of about 50 workers. We managed to interview 42 of them with the help of a small team of student volunteers.

The main role of Aadhaar in the Jharkhand experiment is to facilitate the implementation of the “business correspondent” (BC) model. Under this model, accredited agents provide doorstep banking services to MGNREGS workers using a micro-ATM. They act as extension counters of the local bank (in this case, Bank of India), disbursing wages close to people’s homes. Biometric authentication is meant to prevent identity fraud, e.g. someone’s wages being withdrawn by someone else. Aadhaar is one possible foundation of biometric identification, though not the only one. In this approach, wages are paid through Aadhaar-enabled accounts that are supposed to be opened at the time of UID enrolment. Authentication requires internet connectivity, so that workers’ fingerprints and Aadhaar numbers can be matched with the UIDAI’s Central Identities Data Repository. The BC model widens the reach of the banking system in rural areas. This, in turn, helps to bring more MGNREGS workers under the umbrella of the banking system, as opposed to post offices, where corruption (including identify fraud) is a serious problem. Doorstep banking facilities are also a significant convenience for workers in areas where bank offices are distant, overcrowded, or unfriendly. Coming back to Ratu, some aspects of the experiment were a little farcical. For instance, on one occasion, workers from Tigra were asked to collect their wages 10 kilometres away, so that Aadhaar-enabled payments could be done in front of a visiting Minister. On a more positive note, the system seemed to work, at least under close supervision. Further, most of the workers had a positive view of it. They appreciated being able to collect their wages closer to their homes, without the hassles of queuing in overcrowded banks or of depending on corrupt middlemen to extract their wages from the post office. They did not fully understand the new technology, but nor were they afraid or suspicious of it.

Having said this, there were problems too. Dependence on fingerprint recognition, internet connectivity, and the goodwill of the BC created new vulnerabilities. Fingerprint recognition problems alone affected 12 out of 42 respondents. Some workers did not have a UID number, and some had a UID number but no Aadhaar-enabled account. None of them had received bank passbooks, making it difficult for them to withdraw their wages from the bank when the Aadhaar system failed. Four respondents were yet to find a way of getting hold of their wages. Otherwise, the payment of wages was reasonably timely, but this had more to do with intensive supervision than with Aadhaar. It is important to understand that Aadhaar, on its own, is of limited help in reducing delays in MGNREGS wage payments. This is because the bulk of the delays occur before the banking system is involved – at the stage of submission of muster rolls, work measurement, preparation of payment advice, and so on. At every step, there is a lot of foot-dragging, and Aadhaar is not the answer. (According to the MGNREGA Commissioner in Jharkhand, quoted in one of the articles mentioned earlier, “Against one month now, payments will reach workers’ accounts in one week.” This statement is typical of the delusional mindset of the Jharkhand administration. Not only are current delays much longer than one month, the claim that Aadhaar will reduce them to one week has no basis.) What next? It is easy to envisage a certain way of extending this experiment that would turn it into a nightmare for MGNREGS workers. Three steps would be a potent recipe for chaos: depriving MGNREGS workers of bank passbooks, imposing the system even where there is no internet connectivity, and insisting on a single bank operating in each Block (the odd “one Block, one bank” rule). All this may seem far-fetched, but there are precedents of this sort of irresponsibility. Short of this, if the Aadhaar-based BC model is hastily extended without the system being ready (as happened earlier with the transition from cash to bank and post-office payments of MGNREGS wages), it could easily compound rather than alleviate other sources of delays in wage payments.

It is also possible to see a more constructive roll-out of the BC model across the country. In this constructive approach, the BC model would act as an additional facility for MGNREGS workers, supplementing ordinary bank procedures instead of becoming a compulsory alternative. This would enable labourers to bypass the BC in cases of fingerprint recognition problems, or when the BC is corrupt or unreliable. For this purpose, the first step is to issue bank passbooks to MGNREGS workers – this had not been done in Ratu. The question remains whether Aadhaar adds value to other versions of the BC model. In the adjacent Block of Itki, the BC model is being implemented without Aadhaar, in partnership with FINO, a private company. Workers’ fingerprints are stored on a smart card, used for authentication and tamper-proof record-keeping. This obviates the need for internet connectivity, an important advantage of the Itki system in areas like rural Jharkhand. Aadhaar, for its part, has two potential advantages. First, it facilitates multiple biometric applications based on single UID enrolment. Second, Aadhaar facilitates “inter-operability”, that is, linking of different UID-enabled databases. But the same features also have costs. For instance, dependence on a centralised enrolment system (as opposed to local biometrics) makes it much harder to correct or update the database, or to include workers who missed the initial enrolment drive.

Similarly, inter-operability raises a host of privacy and civil liberties issues. A brief exploratory visit to Itki did not uncover any obvious reason to prefer the Aadhaar system to local biometrics. It is also worth noting that the Jharkhand experiment is a very poor cousin of much earlier and larger efforts to implement the BC model in Andhra Pradesh. Unlike UIDAI, the government of Andhra Pradesh has conducted serious experiments with the BC model and learnt from them. Biometric micro-ATMs are now being installed at local post offices, an important idea for the whole country: micro-ATMs could give post offices a new lease of life as effective payment agencies. In short, Aadhaar-enabled payments for MGNREGS workers raise many issues that are yet to be properly examined and debated. The Ratu project, for one, looked more like a public relations exercise than a serious experiment. Incidentally, we learnt in June 2012 that Aadhaar-enabled wage payments had been discontinued in Tigra, due to resilient fingerprint recognition problems. That, of course, was not reported in the national media. Last but not the least, it is not clear why MGNREGS should be used as a testing ground for UID applications when other, more useful options are available. For instance, UID could be used quite easily to monitor office attendance of government employees. The social benefits are likely to be large, and this is a more natural setting for early UID applications than the jungles of Jharkhand. Any takers?

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article3573730.ece

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