IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 9th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


IAMC Responds to USCIRF’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom

Monday May 9, 2011

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – http://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has called on the Government of India as well as various state governments to take note of the 2011 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), that has placed India on a “Watch List” for the third year in succession.

“It is indeed unfortunate that India, with its long history of tolerance and multiculturalism, has now found a place in the list of countries where religious freedom is at risk”, said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President of IAMC. “However IAMC firmly believes that the recommendations of USCIRF are based on factual information. They represent legitimate concerns about the treatment of religious minorities in India, and should not be seen as an exercise in India-bashing”, added Mr. Khateeb.

IAMC wishes to reiterate that it is an organization of patriots, committed to secularism, pluralism and justice for all citizens regardless of their religion, caste or ethnic affiliations. IAMC is also committed to projecting an accurate picture of India internationally.

It was in pursuance of its patriotic duties that IAMC deemed it fit to accept USCIRF’s invitation to present a briefing on the status of religious minorities in India. IAMC accepted this recognition as a professional organization, and briefed the USCIRF commissioners and staff with information that would be helpful in it assessment of religious freedom in India.

IAMC specifically welcomes the USCIRF report’s recommendation about radical sectarian organizations in India. The report says:

“The activities of these groups, especially those with an extremist agenda or history of using violence against minorities, often negatively impact the status of religious freedom in the country. Many of these organizations exist under the banner of the Sangh Parivar, a ‘family’ of over 30 organizations that includes the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and the BJP. Sangh Parivar entities aggressively press for governmental policies to promote a Hindu nationalist agenda, and adhere in varying degrees to an ideology of Hindutva, which holds non-Hindus as foreign to India”.

IAMC resolves to continue its tireless efforts against violations of religious freedom as well as social injustices by actively engaging with civil society in India. IAMC is concerned about the jingoistic slant of some organizations that are preoccupied with whitewashing India’s human rights record, rather than working to improve it. IAMC believes that India can and should reclaim its pluralist and tolerant ethos by holding accountable the perpetrators of communal violence, fake encounters and miscarriages of justice, without regard to their political or social standing.

IAMC also welcomes the balanced position taken by the USCIRF report wherein several constructive steps taken by the Congress led central government to uplift minorities are cited. However, the report accurately highlights the culture of impunity in some states, exemplified by the fact that overwhelming evidence of premeditated killings in the Gujarat riots as well as the 1984 anti-Sikh riots have yet to result in the conviction of the masterminds behind these pogroms. Among several other recommendations, the report has specifically called for cases against Mr. Narendra Modi to be allowed to proceed in accordance with the law.

IAMC regrets that the plight of Muslims languishing in jail for the terror plots concocted by extremist Hindutva organizations, as confessed by Swami Aseemananda, was given insufficient coverage in the USCIRF report. The issue merits a full scale investigation as it highlights the demonstrable scale of anti-minority prejudice in the law enforcement agencies that inflicted unspeakable torture on innocent citizens they were charged to protect. Acquittal of the Muslim youth that have been unjustly charged with the terror blasts they had nothing to do with, would be an important step towards healing the wounds of communal violence.

IAMC notes with regret attempts by some organizations to undermine the legitimacy of the USCIRF’s report and its recommendations, by referring to instances of religious intolerance in the United States. While religious intolerance is admittedly a challenge for several countries around the world, criticism of India’s human rights record should be addressed by working to change the ground realities, rather than through attempts to obfuscate the issues.

IAMC remains committed to the strengthening of civil institutions and upholding the rule of law, and will continue to reach out to conscientious citizens of all faiths, who are concerned about the steady erosion of civil rights and religious freedom in India. We believe with certainty, that when these efforts come to fruition, India will be an example of tolerance, social justice and communal harmony.

Indian American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation. For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.


USCIRF 2011 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom – India Chapter

IMC-USA welcomes the appointment of Ms. Preeta Bansal to USCIRF

IMC-USA urges President Bush to attend Diwali celebrations; decries India League’s anti-Muslim statement

IMC-USA Welcomes the Visa Revocation of Pogrom Politician

IMC-USA welcomes the sentencing of killers of 1984 Anti-Sikh pogrom

Indian Muslim Council-USA condemns attack on US missionary

Shaheen Khateeb
phone: 1-800-839-7270
email: info@iamc.com

6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295
Morton Grove, IL 60053
phone: 1-800-839-7270
email: info@iamc.com

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SC snubs SIT, calls in amicus (May 6, 2011, Indian Express)

In an unprecedented stance since the Supreme Court started monitoring the Gujarat riots cases, the apex court on Thursday side-stepped its own Special Investigation Team (SIT) to directly ask amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran to “independently” consider whether there is evidence against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others in the Gulberg Society massacre case. Nearly 70 persons, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed by a rioting mob at the Gulberg housing society in Ahmedabad in 2002. Jafri’s widow, Zakia, had complained to the apex court for investigation into the roles of Modi and 61 others, mostly high functionaries of the state, for the murders.

On March 15, the Special Bench led by Justice DK Jain had told the SIT to “re-examine” the case when the amicus expressed dissatisfaction with the team’s probe results and pointed out several lacunae. “The SIT inferences and evidence do not match its findings,” the court had observed after going through the amicus’s note and the SIT report. For Justice Aftab Alam, one of the judges on the bench, the “inferences of the SIT did not seem to be backed by evidence” in the Gulberg case.

The decision to let the amicus steer the course in the case appears to be a natural corollary to the court’s mutual agreement evident on the March 15 hearing that it cannot “brush aside Ramachandran’s objections” to the SIT findings. The court told him that he was free to interact with the witnesses and police officers named in the status report. With this, the amicus will have direct contact with many crucial witnesses, most of them police officers and eye-witnesses, and recorded evidence in the Gulberg case. His brief is simple: “Bring to light any offences against anyone.” He has to give his report within the next eight weeks.

The development gains significance with the recent affidavit filed by Sanjiv Bhatt, a 1988 batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer, with the Supreme Court stating he was part of a late night meeting during which Modi asked the state police to ease up on the 2002 Godhra rioters and give them room to “vent out their anger”. However, the court refused to take on record Bhatt’s affidavit, that too on the advice of the amicus, who was the only other person the police officer addressed his affidavit to. Though the court raised apprehension of security for Bhatt, it was countered by the Gujarat counsel, who described it as a plea meant only for media consumption.



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Ghatlodia police inspector warns of threat to Sanjiv Bhatt (May 3, 2011, DNA India)

A letter written by the senior police inspector of Ghatlodia police station, to DCP Zone-1, clearly states that IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt faces a threat to his life from radical Hindu organisations like the RSS. For this reason, Bhatt should be provided ‘Y’-category security, the police inspector has stated in the letter. The letter contradicts the official press note issued by the DGP’s office claiming that there was no recommendation to provide Bhatt additional police security.

The letter dated April 30, 2011 (a copy of which is with DNA) written by police inspector SG Barochiya says that Bhatt and his family are under threat. Barochiya has gone on to recommend ‘Y’-category security for Bhatt and his family. In his letter, Barochiya has stated that Bhatt had deposed before SIT in 2009-10 and his statement had been leaked. The letter further says that the police had found that there was anger among the Sangh Parivar as well as other radical Hindu organisations over Bhatt’s deposition.

Giving the example of former home minister Haren Pandya who was assassinated, the letter says that Pandya was killed soon after he provided some vital information to the judges of Gujarat high court. Apart from that, Barochiya has also cited Bhatt’s role in the busting of RDX landing case in Porbandar and the arrest of Sattar Maulana and Naran Sudha under TADA. The police inspector’s further states that it is known that IB had given reports earlier, warning of threats to Bhatt from Muslim radicals too.

A similar report was allegedly also submitted by deputy commissioner of police, state IB, in the second week of March 2011 saying that there is a threat perception about Bhatt. However, the office of the director general of police stated in a letter released to the media on May 1, 2011, that there is no threat to Bhatt.



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Modi government trying to instil fear in witnesses: Sanjiv Bhatt (May 6, 2011, The Hindu)

Gujarat cadre IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, whose affidavit in the Supreme Court against Chief Minister Narendra Modi created a flutter, has accused the State government of trying to instil fear in witnesses to the 2002 communal riots. However, he said, he would not change his stand on deposing before constitutional authorities on the riots whenever called for. Mr. Bhatt declined to comment on the Supreme Court not agreeing to take his affidavit on record on Thursday.

The controversy over his security guards, the termination of the services of a head constable in Kutch district only because he “praised” the IPS officer’s “courage” to speak up against Mr. Modi, and the government seeking wider publicity to Thursday’s development in the court – claiming it to be a sort of rebuff to Mr. Bhatt and the main petitioner, Zakia Jaffrey, wife of the slain former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffrey – were cited by Mr. Bhatt as examples of the government trying to “instil fear” in the witnesses.

For the first time, the Gujarat government’s Information Commissionerate in New Delhi issued a release detailing the court order on Ms. Jaffrrey’s petition, and it was forwarded to all media establishments here. In a surprise development, the services of head constable Naresh Brahmbhatt were terminated, ostensibly for union activities, after he issued a poster carrying his own and Mr. Bhatt’s pictures with a note congratulating the IPS officer on his “courage to stand up for the truth.” According to Kutch Superintendent of Police Jitendra Rajgor, Mr. Brahmbhatt was carrying on union activities “illegally” though he had been cautioned against doing so. He also admitted that the poster episode did not go down well with the superiors and that Mr. Brahmbhatt had been told not to do such things. But the head constable refused to pay heed.

Mr. Brahmbhatt disagreed that he had done anything wrong, and threatened to approach court if his appeal to the Director-General of Police Chittaranjan Singh to reconsider his termination was ignored. He claimed that the union he was running had already been validated by the Gujarat High Court though the State government was yet to recognise it. There was also nothing wrong in “saluting” Mr. Bhatt for the courage he had displayed. “How many officers in the department would dare disclose the wrongdoings?”

While Mr. Bhatt was again unhappy over “partial withdrawal” of his security guard, the DGP denied there was any rethink. He said Mr. Bhatt’s security cover was “doubled” from one armed constable to two a couple of days ago as per the government rules. According to the rules, four persons were to be detailed in two shifts but the Ahmedabad police, by mistake, had sent four additional armed guards to his Ahmedabad residence at a time, making the number five. The three additional armed guards were withdrawn the next morning as the mistake was noticed. There was no question of any further reduction of Mr. Bhatt’s security, Mr. Singh said.



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Tulsiram case: FIR covers Sohrab-Kauser murders (May 1, 2011, Times of India)

The CBI’s FIR in the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case has emphasized that the third person travelling with Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Kauserbi in the luxury bus from Hyderabad to Sangli was Tulsiram. The document deduces that the three murders were the execution of a single plot. The FIR mentions that the offences took place in “the state of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan”. Even the time of offence has been specifically mentioned in the FIR as “November 2005 onwards”, when the Sohrabuddin’s fake encounter took place. Tulsiram was killed on December 28, 2006.

While the CBI has repeatedly claimed that Tulsiram was the third person travelling with Sohrabuddin and Kauserbi, earlier investigating agency CID (crime) was silent on the issue. The state agency continued to maintain in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case that the third person abducted from the bus by Gujarat police was Kalimuddin, and not Tulsiram. The Gujarat police, however, made little efforts to trace Kalimuddin, who later became the symbol of differences between two investigating agencies during the bail hearings of former minister of state for home Amit Shah.

The FIR lodged at Mumbai was tendered before the additional chief judicial magistrate A I Rawal in Ahmedabad’s CBI court by the chief investigation officer, additional superintendent of police – Vinay Kumar. The FIR has been lodged against “police officials of Gujarat and Rajasthan, and others”, but does not mention specific names, though it has been registered on the basis of the writ petition by Tulsiram’s mother Narmadabai. The petition was filed before the Supreme Court and mentioned names of cops.

Moreover, a dozen cops, including two police officials currently in jail in the Sohrabuddin case, have been arrested in this case. Suspended cop Rajkumar Pandian has been shown as an accused but has not been arrested in this case. The charges levelled in the FIR are of criminal conspiracy, wrongful confinement, murder, wrongful restraint and destruction of evidence of offence or giving false information to screen offender. Sections 120B, 341, 342, 364, 365, 368, 302, 201 of IPC have been invoked in this case.



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SC stays SIT probe after accused policemen’s plea (May 4, 2011, Indian Express)

A group of 14 Gujarat policemen, both serving and retired, on Tuesday challenged the shrinking of the three-member SIT team formed by the Gujarat High Court to investigate the Ishrat Jahan encounter case into “one-man probe”, and that too by the very officer who, they said, had already “made up his mind that the encounter was fake”. The group led by IPS officer Girish Laxman Singhal fear they would be victimised by the SIT for their alleged involvement in the encounter and complain of “serious groupism and in-fighting among senior IPS officers” in the Gujarat Police.

Their urgent plea that the investigation be transferred to the CBI or an independent team of police officers from outside Gujarat, convinced a Supreme Court Bench led by Justice B Sudershan Reddy to order an immediate stay on the SIT’s investigation till May 11. The case will be heard in detail then. The Ishrat Jahan encounter case, a pressure-point against the BJP-led Narendra Modi government, was turned over to the SIT by the Gujarat High Court on September 24, 2010.

But within seven months, the high court on April 21, 2011 intervened again to divide the team after its leader Karnail Singh was posted to Mizoram. Mohan Jha was delegated only administrative duties and Satish Verma, a 1986-batch officer, given exclusive charge of the investigation. “It is a matter of record that the three officers of the SIT were not comfortable with each other,” the petition claims.

The policemen said their application before the high court to reconsider its decision, to divide the SIT team and hand over exclusive charge of the investigation to Verma, was not permitted an ‘urgent’ hearing. In January this year, Verma had filed an affidavit in the Gujarat High Court, stating that the encounter was fake.



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A police training school where recruits made ‘pregnant’ (May 5, 2011, Ttwocircles.net)

She had no idea when she enrolled as a trainee police constable that she will be assaulted and harassed by those training officers who are supposed to fight against evil of the society. She was on cloud nine when she heard the news of her final selection and that she will be trained at Kolhapur Police Training Academy. But life changed all of a sudden when she reached the academy for the training. The duration of the training was nine months, but she was praying to God for the early rather earliest accomplishment. She was afraid to share it with anyone but she could not hide the medical reports. The day when the pregnancy report positively confirmed that she is becoming a mother, she gathered some courage in her and lodged a complaint against Yuvraj Kamble at the Shahpuri police station. This is the story of Kumari (name changed), an unmarried trainee of the Kolhapur Police Training Academy. The incident happened when Yuvraj Kamble, trainer of new recruits, had allegedly invited one of the women constables to his house and promised to give her the question paper of the exam to be held the next morning. When she went to his house, he allegedly raped her. The scandal came to light when a routine medical test of 71 trainees revealed that two women are pregnant out of which one was unmarried. Kumari is not the only victim of insanity at the police training ground. A married woman constable got pregnant but according to sources she aborted the child.

In fact, there are 11 female trainee constables who have tested positive in the routine pregnancy test. And now the question arises: Apart from arresting Kamble, what else action has been taken? Why only one officer got transferred and two received suspension? Member of Parliament from Kolhapur constituency Sadashiv Rao Mandlik came down heavily on the DSP Yashasvi Yadav and alleged that, “Sexual exploitation of these women trainees is going on unabatedly for the past three years and it could well be a part of an organized crime syndicate. District superintendent of police Yashasvi Yadav is the key member of this syndicate and is involved in various illegal activities like extortion, Hafta wasooli and women trafficking.” Is Sadashiv Rao Mandlik’s allegation true? The MP also claimed that Yashasvi Yadav has 10 to 12 members in his team who are managing these criminal activities. “When the lady police training school had begun, 71 women constables had enrolled. He had selected beautiful constables and sexually exploited them” he further alleged. He also demanded CBI probe in this case. Defending the arrest of training instructor Yuvraj Maruti Kamble, Mandlik said “Kamble is a scapegoat; many high-profile people may be involved in it.” Mandlik raised doubt about the CID probe or inquiry by the Additional superintendent of police of Nasik. He said, “Maithili Jha is junior and she has very little power to tackle this case.”

Maharashtra Home Minister Mr R.R. Patil, who is known as a godfather of Police, seems to be sick. After the Kolhapur police academy’s shameful incident he promised that “We are serious and no one will be spared. The probe will be completed within next two to three days.” But after a week nothing much has been done. Mr Patil was very rude when opposition leader Eknath Khadse demanded his resignation. Ironically it’s the same Maharashtra government that has reserved 50 percent seats for women in the local self governments to empower them. But those who are fighting against evils of the society are feeling personally unsafe in the state. The case of sexual exploitation of 11 female constables undergoing training at Kolhapur Police Training School depicts the real state of women in Maharashtra. Denying all the allegations Amruta Kamble, wife of arrested officer Yuvraj Kamble blamed it all on the senior officers. She alleged, “Senior officers are involved and my husband is entrapped because he is a dalit.” Babant Kaka Sawant, President Bahujan Dalit Mahasangh also shared this allegation. He said, “We, Dalits, spend our life to educate the children and get them government jobs but upper cast officers discriminate against us.” Kamble is a dalit junior officer so he was entrapped, he further added. Sawant also informed that Kamble was suffering from Jaundice and was on leave for last 3 months and has joined duty a month earlier to this incidence. He demanded “the suspended officers must be punished and women should train women.” The state Government came into action when the political parties like BJP, Shiv Sena, Dalit Maha Sangh, Bharatiya Republican Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena started demonstration.

Additional superintendent of police of Nasik and investigating officer of this case, Maithili Jha said “I am in a primary stage of investigation and only one lady constable had complained but I am trying to meet personally to all of them.” Jha also complained that some police officers are not cooperating as well. When asked if it means our police system has failed, she replied “it’s an isolated case and we cannot blame the whole system.” But in December, 2010, the 1983 batch officer of Maharashtra Police, Arun Borude, was dismissed after his name cropped up in rape case of a 15-year-old girl. The officer committed suicide when her mother complained about it after the girl got pregnant. It is clear that morale of the Maharashtra police department has gone down and calls for dynamic change. Maharashtra police website states that “Every policeman is duty bound to ensure that women are treated with due respect. There is no exception to this rule.”

Frequent incidents like this are raising questions on CRPC 197, which makes actions against police officers very difficult. Also the fear of police harassment makes one to remain silent on such incidents and this is visible in this incident where the Police officers threatened trainees that they will not be selected if they complained. Majid Memon, senior advocate, Bombay High Court said,” when police commits crime the situation is grave and calls for greater pondering.” He also accepted that it’s common that people are scared of Police and don’t complaint against it. He also demanded amendments in CRPC 197 to facilitate actions against guilty officers. Renowned social activist, Teesta Setalvad, said, “It’s a failure of our system that male police officers could not provide security to their female counterparts.” She also demanded that not only the policies but real actions must be taken to prevent such incidents.” She said guilty officers must be punished so severely to make a precedent for others. In a developing nation like India, where the woman is emerging as a powerful and respected part of nation’s structure, incidents like this are a shame for the government and administration. If it still does not ring the bell, tomorrow we may hardly find a lady police officer!



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18 yrs later, Madarsa teacher acquitted in 1993 riots case (May 5, 2011, Mumbai Mirror)

The scar on his forehead will remain with Noor ul Huda for life, a reminder of the Sunday afternoon the police burst into his room looking for terrorists and shooting and assaulting everyone in sight. It was January 1993; the incident was the infamous raid on Suleman Usman Bakery led by then Jt CP Ram Deo Tyagi and his Special Operations Squad. Noor ul Huda was then, as now, a teacher in the Madarsa Dar-ul-uloom Imdadiya situated adjacent to the bakery. Eight persons died in that raid; no terrorists or arms were recovered. Seventy-eight were arrested on the spot and charged with rioting and other offences (CR 46/93, Dongri Police Station). Noor ul Huda, bleeding from the assault with a rifle butt on his forehead, was one of them.

In 1998, Justice B N Srikrishna indicted Tyagi and his SOS for the raid, describing it as one in which “the police acted in a manner not befitting the police force of any civilized, democratic state.” On Wednesday, Justice J P Sondur Baldota discharged Huda and seven others of all offences. It was the culmination of a long legal battle in which Huda and another accused Ashfaque Ahmed, stayed put, backed by lawyers Yusuf Mucchala, Vijay Pradhan and Javed Patel, working free of charge. “Though belatedly, justice has been done,” said Advocate Mucchala, after the order was pronounced. “At least in one case of the ’92-93 riots, innocents made to suffer a false prosecution have got some relief.” Added Adv Patel, “Disbelieving the police version, the court has delivered justice to the poor workers of the bakery and madarsa.”

The Srikrishna Commission report discredited Tyagi’s version – that he and his men raided the bakery after having been shot at by terrorists form its rooftop. It was thought then that the Congress-NCP government which came to power in 1999, would withdraw the case against those rounded up from the bakery and madarsa. That did not happen. In 2000, under pressure from the Supreme Court, then Home Minister Chhagan Bhujbal set up the Special Task Force (STF) to act on the Srikrishna Commission report. The STF filed a case of murder against Tyagi and 17 policemen (CR 198/2001, Pydhonie Police Station). The statement of STF Inspector Mirza Beg, which formed the FIR of this CR against the policemen, stated that the original case filed against those arrested during the Suleman Usman Bakery raid, was a bogus one, intended to cover up the unnecessary firing carried out by the SOS.

Despite that, the government refused to listen to appeals to withdraw this case against the victims of the raid, described as bogus by its own police force. It was on the basis of this second FIR, filed against the police, that the judge discharged Huda and his co-accused. Of the original 78 accused, only eight continued to make the rounds of the court. In 2003, Tyagi and eight other policemen were discharged from the murder case, leaving eight other policemen, who actually fired during the raid, as accused. In 2005, these policemen, accused of murdering innocents inside the bakery and madarsa, managed to get their case transferred to the same court which was hearing the case against their victims, the Muslims arrested from the spot. Neither was any notice issued to the victims, nor did the STF object to this. It was at this point that Huda and another accused Ashfaque Ahmed, decided to file for discharge.

Though he had deposed before the Srikrishna Commission, Huda, a heart patient, was initially reluctant to get involved in any fight thereafter. But Tyagi’s discharge in 2003 left him outraged. He appealed against it in the High Court, where he lost, and then in the Supreme Court, where the decision is awaited. On Wednesday, neither he nor Ashfaque Ahmed were in court to hear the order setting them free of the wrong charges that have haunted them the last 18 years. Huda is currently in his hometown in UP; Ahmed was untraceable.



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12 people injured in communal clashes in Ahmedabad (May 2, 2011, IBN)

Over 15 people were detained and around 12 sustained injuries after communal clashes broke out in Mahavpura area of the city here tonight, police said. The incident took place near Idagha locality where two groups of different communities indulged in stone pelting and arsoning over petty matters, they said.

Two shops, one garage, two cars, two auto rickshaws, three motorcycles were set on fire by the angry mob, police said, adding that there was communal tension in the area since last night. Over two dozen tear gas shells were fired to control the mob. “The clashes occurred due to internal rivalry between two groups of miscreants,” DCP, Zone II, S M Katara told PTI.

Over 15 people have been detained and Rapid Action Force (RAF) has been deployed in the area, he said. Patrolling in the area has been increased and an additional force has been deployed there, police said adding the situation is now under control.



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2G: ED issues summons to Kanimozhi, 4 others (May 3, 2011, The Hindu)

The Enforcement Directorate has issued summons under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to DMK MP Kanimozhi and four others named in the CBI charge sheet in the 2G spectrum allocation scam. Sources said besides Ms. Kanimozhi, summons were issued to DMK—owned Kalaignar TV Managing Director Sharad Kumar, Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa’s cousin Asif Balwa, Director of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd Rajeev Agarwal, and Karim Murani of Cineyug Films (Pvt) Ltd.

They said the ED has also asked the persons summoned to provide documents related to their funding, income and properties. Former Telecom Minister A. Raja and eight others including former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura and three telecom companies were indicted by the CBI in its first charge sheet filed on April 2 in the 2G scam. CBI has attributed the loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer to alleged irregularities in distribution of the spectrum.

The companies named in the charge sheet included Reliance Telecom, Unitech Wireless and Swan Telecom. The investigating agency had on April 25 named Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, Asif, Kumar, Rajiv and Murani in its second charge sheet filed before Special judge O.P. Saini.



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Girl who exposed pani-puri vendor lodges FIR against BJP leader (May 6, 2011, Hindustan Times)

The 19 –year-old Thane resident, who exposed the pani-puri vendor urinating in his utensils, filed a police complaint against senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Raj Purohit on Thursday, for allegedly making derogatory remarks against her. Complainant Ankita Rane said that Purohit had questioned her character for recording a video of Rajdev Chauhan, the pani-puri vendor, while he was urinating.

Rane, accompanied by several Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers, lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against Purohit at Azad Maidan police station. “He (Purohit) said that I had no shame as a woman, for recording something like that, even though it was done with the intention of exposing what he (Chauhan) had been doing,” Rane said.

“We have lodged an FIR against Purohit under section 509 (Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code and investigations are on, said Senior Police Inspector Bhaurao Bhawale, Azad Maidan police station.

MNS party workers also demanded stricter action against Purohit for the alleged use of inappropriate language against Rane. “Purohit should not have questioned Rane’s character. She has done a great public service by exposing Chauhan, said Shalini Thackeray, vice-president of the MNS’ women’s wing.

When contacted, Purohit held that he had not said anything against Rane. “I don’t even know her. They have misunderstood my words. However, if I have unknowingly offended her, then I apologise,” Purohit said.



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Opinions and Editorials

Haunted by the past – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (May 7, 2011, Frontline)

On April 22, 2011, the ladies’ wing of the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised a women entrepreneurs’ exhibition in Surat, where Hindi film actor Sherlyn Chopra was one of the guests. Speaking on the sidelines of the programme, the actor gushed that Chief Minister “Narendra Modi is the most dynamic person” she had “ever met”, and “given a chance” she “would like to be his personal assistant”. Sherlyn Chopra went on to add that Modi spoke with style and confidence and that he spoke all the time about progress and a shining India. Other Modi fans, including many in the blogosphere, picked up the actor’s statement to come up with laudatory comments highlighting how a range of personalities from different strata of society, from anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare to actor Sherlyn Chopra, were endorsing Modi, his politics and his style of functioning. The thematic premise of all this commendation was “Modi’s commitment to progress and development”. However, news that emerged that evening from New Delhi once again drew attention to certain areas of Modi’s political personality that go beyond “commitment to progress and development”. The news was about the affidavit filed by a senior Gujarat police officer, Sanjiv Rajendra Bhatt, in the Supreme Court, accusing Modi of instigating Hindus in 2002 to “teach a lesson” to Muslims. This instigation, the affidavit asserted, preceded the genocide of Muslims in the State. Naturally, this served to bring down the excitement Chopra’s praise generated. This sequence of events, which unfolded over a period of around eight hours, signified a roller coaster of sorts for the Modi image. This is not the first time Modi has found himself in such a situation. Time and again, the Gujarat Chief Minister and his supporters have sought to underplay or even obliterate his association with the 2002 carnage and present him as the “leader who created a new, progress-oriented Gujarat, which is waiting to be replicated at the national level under his consummate leadership”. Such has been the force of the campaign that it packs sustained assertions that even large sections of the Muslim minority community are now Modi supporters on account of his development initiatives.

It is not as though this campaign has not had its successes. It has indeed spread far and wide, particularly among a section of the urban middle class. Despite all that, Modi’s role in the 2002 carnage has come back to haunt him and his Hindutva-oriented political organisation repeatedly in one forum or the other. The unambiguous message from each of these episodes has been that Modi and his party will find it impossible to live down the Gujarat carnage however much they may try. In fact, references to the carnage have come up most forcefully when Modi and his supporters have sought to advance the “development man” image aggressively. The BJP’s National Executive meeting held in Patna in June 2010 is a case in point. A number of his close supporters had earmarked this conclave as the starting point of an aggressive campaign to project him as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). As part of this campaign, advertisements were placed in several newspapers in Bihar extolling Modi’s governance skills and personal virtues. These hailed him as a model administrator whose record in Gujarat was worthy of emulation in Bihar and the rest of the country. The message was clear: here is your future Prime Minister. One advertisement made a special reference to Gujarat’s contribution towards relief work for the victims of the floods in the Kosi river and went on to suggest that Modi had taken care to wipe Bihar’s tears too when the State suffered. Another full page advertisement had the picture of Muslim girls in burqas working on computers and the slogan that the Muslim community in Gujarat was advancing much faster than in other parts of India. Barely a day after the publication of the advertisement, it was revealed that the picture was actually taken from a college in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh. In others words, it was a blatant trick.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made his displeasure clear at what was going on. He perceived the advertisement relating to the Kosi floods as a direct affront and a challenge to his own administrative skills. As regards the advertisement with the picture of Muslim girls, he lampooned it as a third-rate gimmick. The Janata Dal (United) leader even went to the extent of cancelling the dinner he had planned in honour of his NDA ally’s leadership. A couple of days later Nitish Kumar also returned to the Gujarat government the Rs.5 crore grant it had given for flood relief. Nitish Kumar followed this up with instructions that Modi should not come to campaign in Bihar during the Assembly elections, which were held in October-November 2010. His contention was that Modi’s presence would alienate the considerable Muslim support base that the JD(U) had in the State. He also highlighted the advertisement trick using a photograph of Muslim girls to buttress his argument. Ultimately, Modi and the BJP were forced to comply with this direction. Modi’s anti-minority image once again came into sharp focus during the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the Sohrabuddin Sheikh Murder case and particularly after the July 2010 arrest of Amit Shah, his trusted associate and the then Minister of State for Home. Shah was the first Minister to be arrested in the country in a case of fake encounter. Revelations that a senior Minister of Modi’s Cabinet had allegedly taken part in organising an encounter killing of a small-time criminal and his wife, who had no role in any crime, brought back memories of the 2002 carnage and Modi’s alleged complicity in it.

All these developments, which signified the return of the 2002 carnage as a major point of discussion in the polity, did cause problems and place impediments in the assiduous image-building exercise that Modi and his associates undertook. The latest in this series, Sanjiv Bhatt’s affidavit, delineates Modi’s alleged complicity in the 2002 carnage in concrete terms. Social activists who have tried to bring justice to the victims and survivors of the carnage over the past nine years believe that Bhatt’s affidavit will impart greater strength to the legal points against Modi with regard to his alleged involvement in the carnage. Social activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been in the forefront of efforts to bring justice to the riot victims and survivors, points out that from time to time conscientious people have decided to end their silence on the carnage and come out with what they know. “Bhatt’s action also needs to be seen in this light, she told Frontline (see interview). At a broader level, the revelations that have harked back to the 2002 carnage have also underlined the general anti-Muslim thrust of the politics and policies of Narendra Modi and his government. Bhatt’s affidavit has brought into sharp focus this thrust. An important point of discussion has been a recent study on “Relative Development of Gujarat and Socio-Religious Differentials” carried out by Dr Abusaleh Shariff, Chief Economist of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and member-secretary of the Sachar Committee, which prepared a comprehensive report on the state of Muslims in the country. Shariff’s study points out that Gujarat’s Muslims fare badly on parameters of poverty, hunger, education and vulnerability on security issues. According to the study, levels of hunger are as high in Gujarat as they are in Orissa and Bihar. It also points out that the poverty of Gujarat’s Muslims is eight times more than that of high-caste Hindus and 50 per cent more than that of Other Backward Class (OBC) communities. Twelve per cent of the Muslims have bank accounts, but only 2.6 per cent get bank loans. The study also states that Muslims in Gujarat face high levels of discrimination, even in their enrolment for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

In the context of this study, questions have also been raised about Gujarat’s claims about vibrant growth in other areas such as infrastructure development and industrialisation. In the midst of all this, Modi and his associates have sought to launch a strong counter-attack against Bhatt, highlighting the senior police officer’s alleged misdemeanours in service. Central to this counter-attack are certain official proceedings against Sanjiv Bhatt, which allege a recruitment scam while he was chairman of a district police recruitment board. It is pointed out that Bhatt was charge-sheeted on December 12, 2010, as part of a departmental inquiry into police recruitment that took place in May 1996. It is also pointed out that through a “Confidential” Memorandum, the Home Department had served a show-cause notice on Bhatt on December 29, 2010. A case that came up against him in Rajasthan is also highlighted as part of the counter-attack. It involves allegations by a section of lawyers of Rajasthan that Bhatt had falsely implicated one of their colleagues in a narcotics case in 1996. Bhatt was charge-sheeted in this case by the Rajasthan Police’s Crime Branch before a trial court in Jodhpur on April 13, 2000. The IPS officer’s appeal against the charges is pending before the Supreme Court. The argument of the BJP leadership, as also Modi’s supporters, is that Bhatt has sought to implicate Modi in the 2002 carnage only to cover up his own culpability in many cases and escape punishment. “In any case, an officer who has been thus implicated and charge-sheeted has no moral authority to raise charges against the Chief Minister. We are sure that his affidavit will not stand up to a good judicial scrutiny,” Prakash Javadekar, BJP spokesperson, told Frontline. Notwithstanding such assertions, the fact remains that the return of the ghost of the 2002 Gujarat carnage signifies yet another round of political battles and legal wrangling for the BJP, and particularly for Narendra Modi, who continues to cherish an elevation to the top leadership in national politics before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.



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Loot in Bellary – By Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed (May 7, 2011, Frontline)

The issue of illegal mining in Karnataka and the large-scale corruption in political and public life resulting from it refuses to stay away from the headlines. The sordid tale of mining-linked corruption (Cover Story; Frontline, July 16, 2010) has had a few recurring characters – a beleaguered but defiant Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa; the Bellary billionaires G. Janardhana Reddy, G. Karunakara Reddy and G. Somashekara Reddy and their associate B. Sriramulu; the Lokayukta, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, and his team; and some dedicated activists who have been brave enough to ask questions. The people of the State find the audacity of the Reddy brothers, two of them Ministers in the State Cabinet and one the Chairman of the Karnataka Milk Federation, and the helplessness of Yeddyurappa in reining in his party colleagues incredulous, even as they watch with hope the dogged efforts of the Lokayukta, the old-fashioned crusader against corruption, whose final report on illegal mining is expected to be submitted soon. The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which submitted its interim report on April 15, has vindicated, in clear and forceful language, the general perception of “colossal” illegal mining in Karnataka, particularly in Bellary district. The first part of the Lokayukta report submitted to the State government in 2008 had pointed to many of the issues raised by the CEC report, and subsequent investigations by journalists and vociferous demands by opposition leaders kept the issue alive although little was done to curb the mining.

The CEC was asked to investigate the issue on February 25, 2011, when a writ petition (WP – CIVIL No. 562 of 2009) filed by Samaj Parivartana Samudaya (Society Improvement Organisation), a Dharwad-based non-governmental organisation headed by S.R. Hiremath, came up for hearing. Hiremath told Frontline that he petitioned the Supreme Court because of the large-scale damage done to the environment and the lack of social justice caused by illegal mining in Bellary, and, at a smaller level, in Anantpur district in Andhra Pradesh. “Our organisation has worked in Bellary and we have seen the total breakdown in governance that illegal mining has caused in Karnataka. From the time the iron ore is mined until it reaches the various ports there is absolutely no law binding their activities. We went ahead with the writ petition also because of the failure of the opposition parties to deal with the problem constructively,” Hiremath said. The three-member CEC team, comprising P.V. Jayakrishnan (Chairman), M.K. Jiwrajka (Member-Secretary) and Mahendra Vyas, submitted its interim report after consultations with several officials in Karnataka and personal investigation into the questions raised in the writ petition. According to the Lokayukta, the team also had a meeting with him to discuss the methods adopted in his investigation, and his findings. The CEC report is significant in that it was ordered by the Supreme Court and that swift action has followed its submission. Karnataka filed an affidavit in response to the CEC’s findings. A 1,000-word report prepared by the State as part of the affidavit was submitted to the court on April 21. For the first time, the Chief Minister went on record to say that there were instances of illegal mining in Karnataka. Yeddyurappa had earlier denied the existence of illegal mining operations, especially after he had banned the export of iron ore from the State in July 2010, but refused to concede the demand for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry.

Yeddyurappa’s reluctant confession might have resulted from the fact that the Lokayukta’s investigations have shown that iron ore is continuing to be extracted from the mines in Bellary. When Frontline asked the Lokayukta whether the ban on the export of iron ore had had any impact, he said the quantity exported continued to be the same. “Earlier, when iron ore exports were allowed, the miners used ports on the coast of Karnataka, like Mangalore, but now since the ban, all they do is use less frequented routes through the forests bordering Bellary before they enter Andhra Pradesh and then use the ports on the eastern coast such as Visakhapatnam and Chennai. Money was being made by officials in Karnataka earlier; now money is being made by officials in Andhra Pradesh,” he said. His grim assessment is backed by the teams of investigators with whom the Lokayukta is continuously in touch. This state of affairs is brought out vividly in the CEC’s report. According to information provided in the report, there are 266 iron ore mines in Karnataka, of which 134 are located in forest areas, while the rest are in non-forest areas. Bellary district, which is often pejoratively described as the ‘Republic of Bellary’ run by the Reddy brothers, has 148 mines, of which 98 are in the forest area. The total iron ore reserves in Karnataka are estimated to be 1,148 million tonnes, according to figures provided by the Indian Bureau of Mines in 2005. At the official rate of extraction, these resources are expected to last for 20 years, but the report makes a grim assessment when it says that “if the figures of illegal mining is added, which is substantial, the resources will get exhausted in a much shorter period and raises serious questions of inter-generation equity”.

A similar point was made by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, an independent journalist who has made a documentary film titled “Blood and Iron” on the connection between criminality, illegal mining and politics in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. He said: “Once the iron ore is taken away, it is never going to be replenished. If you look at the 2G scam, of course, the sum is huge, but it is a notional loss. But illegal mining is causing a serious and real loss to the exchequer. There is no doubt that this is the biggest case of natural resources being looted in the country.” Thakurta’s film has been screened in Bangalore, at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi, and on a major television news channel. It is gaining popularity for its unique method of chronicling the serious situation prevailing in Karnataka and in a few districts of Andhra Pradesh. It has been translated into Malayalam, Kannada and Bengali to cater to a large audience. A large part of iron ore mining in Karnataka is illegal because it is practised in clear violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957; and the Karnataka Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1994. The CEC’s report dwells mainly on how mining is causing serious damage to the environment. It also comments on how there is no regulation of the extent of iron ore that can be extracted and how it is leading to an unsustainable load on the supporting infrastructure, including roads. It states: “The present system of allowing individual mines to decide their level of production, without any linkages to overall mineral availability, status of roads, maximum number of trucks that should be permitted, requirement of the industries in the State and also the adjoining States, is not a very effective way of operating a valuable mineral which very soon may become scarce. Similarly, a firm policy about the extent of mineral that could be allowed to be exported from the State/specific areas needs to be taken.”

The report also emphasises how the State boundary between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka passing through the Bellary Reserve Forest has been tampered with. “A number of iron ore mines are operating in the areas adjoining the disputed inter-State boundary,” says the report. The first part of the Lokayukta report, submitted in December 2008, also made similar observations about how Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC, owned by the Reddy brothers), which had a mining lease in Andhra Pradesh, in an area bordering Bellary district, encroached into Karnataka by entering into a raising contract agreement (RCA) with Hind Traders, a mining lessee on the Karnataka side of the border. An RCA, as described in the Lokayukta report, is “an agreement entered into between the holder of a mining lease/quarrying lease and a contractor providing entrustment of work for carrying out mining of minerals/quarrying of minor minerals and to sell them or to use them for self-consumption on payment of premium or consideration to the holder of the mining lease/quarrying lease”. This concept is not recognised in any piece of legislation relating to mining. The CEC report also makes a reference to the report of the Lokayukta and says how no follow-up action or corrective measures were taken on its findings. It reiterated that illegal mining was done by raising contracts, illegal granting of temporary transport permits, committing large-scale illegalities in the transportation of iron ore, granting stock yard licences and through ineffective transport permit systems and improper attendance in court cases pertaining to instances of illegal mining. …



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The Tunnel’s Last Mile – By Neelabh Mishra (May 2, 2011, Outlook)

I am not unduly worried by the muck being hurled at non-government members of the government-notified drafting panel for the Lokpal Bill and recall the beginning of the village-based RTI movement in 1996 in Rajasthan. One of the ridiculous allegations against the agitation leaders was that they had received a hefty commission from a Japanese manufacturer of photocopiers who would profit hugely from the demand for photocopied panchayat documents if RTI came about. Yet, the movement didn’t lose focus, and the RTI Act eventually became a reality, not only in Rajasthan but at the national level, the result of widespread public networking and consultation with citizens’ groups, jurists, journalists, political parties, the Press Council of India, and even government institutions like the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy for Administration and the National Institute of Rural Development.

There were significant differences within citizens’ groups even then. One difference, to give an example, was over whether people could directly demand information and documents from business corporations and NGOs. The government successfully batted for the corporate and NGO sectors and managed to keep them out of the purview of the RTI Act. Had it not been so, there would have been more information about activists and NGOs in the public domain by now, restricting room for mischief by either side. Even in a less than ideal form, the RTI Act is a huge gain. The lessons for people wanting an effective ombudsman to restrain corruption is obvious: don’t lose focus; defeat mudslinging with transparency; well-meaning disagreements over substance and provisions only help evolve a better law; go for a wider public consultation spread out to bodies like the bar, media associations and political parties and various regions which often feel dictated to by metro-centric processes, especially regions as left out as Kashmir and the Northeast; have a deadline in mind but be open to reasonable flexibility; and even be prepared for a few alternative drafts which could give some more valuable inputs. It’s not the first time that a citizens’ movement has initiated the enactment of a law.

Apart from the RTI Act, the Domestic Violence Act, too, is a recent example wherein women’s groups took the lead in drafting a bill. Earlier too, trade unions have been consulted for various labour laws. I see no point in the criticism that the sovereignty vested by a democratic constitution in Parliament and an elected government is being usurped by involving non-government members in drafting the Lokpal Bill, for it will be finally approved by the cabinet and passed by Parliament. And don’t forget that ultimate sovereignty in a democracy lies with the people, and all democracies and their laws evolve by direct interventions by citizens from time to time if they perceive their institutions and laws as failing. The impact of the civil rights movement in the US is an example.

Why do I insist on wider consultations? Due to my reservations about the Jan Lokpal Bill, even in its latest 2.2 draft. (The government draft bill is not worth serious consideration.) I will just mention a few points, two as hypothetical questions arising from recent news. Will Binayak Sen be eligible for appointment as Lokpal even if he is ultimately acquitted at or before 70, the age limit for Lokpal? No, says, the Jan Lokpal Bill. Any person merely chargesheeted under IPC is not eligible. And what if Amar Singh had filed a complaint with purported evidence in the form of four CDs about Justice Sanghvi and Prashant Bhushan after the former reserved his order in Singh’s case? Would the Lokpal then be forced to investigate at least the veracity of the CDs, thereby helping subvert the judicial process, and wouldn’t Singh have gone into appeal in the Supreme Court against the Lokpal if it ruled against him? I also shudder to think of a policeman with judicial powers, including the power to haul you for contempt of court, the twin powers the Lokpal would have.

Others caution against an institution with absolute concentrated power with accountability only upwards in a bureaucratic-judicial structure. Why can’t there be periodic social audit (a valuable institution thrown up by the RTI movement for accountability to the people) of the Lokpal and why not a public hearing where the Lokpals could defend their selection? And why such a bias against the prime minister? Having him under the purview of Lokpal is okay, but why leave him out of the selection process and include two leaders of opposition who might have been previous prime ministers? Such deep suspicion of an elected government reflects a bureaucratic and corporate managerial bias against the democratic process and amounts to disdaining the wisdom of ordinary people.



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Can n-power be safe? – By Praful Bidwai (May 7, 2011, Frontline)

The Maharashtra government has plumbed yet another low by detaining and harassing 200-plus citizens from different parts of India who undertook a yatra (march) from Tarapur, the site of India’s first nuclear reactors, southwards to Jaitapur, in Ratnagiri district, where India’s newest nuclear project is being planned. The yatra began at Tarapur on April 23. It was to reach Pen the next morning, near the Mumbai-Goa Highway junction, and eventually, Jaitapur on April 25. The aim of the yatra, led by eminent citizens such as former Navy Chief Admiral L. Ramdas and former Supreme Court and Bombay High Court Judges P.B. Sawant and B.G. Kolse-Patil, was to express solidarity with the people who have fought the Jaitapur project for five years. The police decided to break up the yatra and detain the yatris near Tarapur for eight hours without stating the reason. They bullied the drivers of the two hired buses carrying the yatris into abandoning the trip. The yatris arrived at Pen at 6 a.m., bedraggled and starved. Some were arrested and all of them detained for the whole day – under ludicrous sections of the colonial Bombay Police Act. Eventually, the yatra was stopped at Mahad in Raigad district, way short of Jaitapur. The government’s apologists have defended the shameful episode by arguing that the state was right to guard the “fragile peace” in Jaitapur after the unprovoked firing on April 18 in which one person, Tabrez Sayekar, was killed and at least 15 persons were injured. But the yatra had forsworn violence and its leaders could be expected to exercise restraint. However, the government allowed Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray to stir up things when he visited Sayekar’s family on April 25.

The Maharashtra government has brought ignominy upon itself by abusing power and resorting to intimidation. It has dealt with the entire Jaitapur agitation over five years by harassing peaceful protesters with arbitrary arrests and detention and externment orders, confiscating their land, and threatening them. The area’s sub-divisional officer (SDO) Ajit Pawar has gained notoriety for threatening to break their necks and legs. Even worse, former Chief Minister and currently Industries Minister Narayan Rane, known to prefer strong-arm tactics, accused the agitators of being brainwashed by “outsiders”. The Jaitapur project, planned to be the world’s largest nuclear power station, can only go through with the use of the lathi, the bulldozer and, eventually, the gun. This would mock the very idea of development – officially regarded as something to be imposed upon unwilling populations, not as a process of deepening people’s rights and expanding their freedoms – and democracy itself. The official approach must be condemned by citizens, political parties and public-spirited experts. So far, the Left parties alone have issued such condemnations while opposing the Jaitapur project and warning against importing untested and potentially hazardous reactors. Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat now explicitly opposes not just Jaitapur but also the Haripur nuclear plant proposed for West Bengal. The Right, too, has got into the opposition act. The Shiv Sena, which had zealously supported the United States-India nuclear deal, now opposes its most tangible and visible outcome: Jaitapur. The Shiv Sena has no critique of nuclear power on grounds of safety, environmental sustainability or appropriateness, but opposes the project as a way of winning local support. But the autonomous grass-roots movement remains firmly outside its control.

In the early 1990s, the Shiv Sena had threatened to dump the Enron power project into the Arabian Sea. As soon as it came to power in Maharashtra, it was lobbied by Enron’s Rebecca Mark into tripling the project’s size! Much has been made of the Shiv Sena’s desperation to shore up its base in Ratnagiri. But the Congress, too, is desperate to recover the considerable ground it has lost there. Narayan Rane sees himself as the Konkan region’s unquestioned leader and a potential challenger to any Chief Minister. He foolishly thought the nuclear project would make the Congress popular. As the government weighs the options of imposing the project or putting it on hold, the public must reflect on the record of nuclear power generation in the quarter-century since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. Chernobyl, coming seven years after another core meltdown, at Three Mile Island in the United States, is the world’s worst-ever industrial accident, whose effects have unfolded gradually through radiation-induced cancers and leukaemias. Estimates of additional cancers, based on the conservative methods adopted by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, vary from 34,000 to 140,000, leading to 16,000 to 73,000 fatalities. This puts Chernobyl in a unique class. The global nuclear industry never fully recovered from its political, psychological and economic effects. In the U.S., which has the world’s highest number of reactors (104, followed by France’s 58 and Japan’s 55), the industry was already down in the dumps, having received no new reactor orders since 1973. Wall Street never embraced nuclear power despite low liability under the Price-Anderson Act. Nuclear power failed the market test. In Western Europe, not a single reactor has been built since Chernobyl.

Even before Fukushima, the global nuclear industry was in a structural crisis – some experts say, on “life support”. U.S. President George W. Bush tried to instigate a “nuclear renaissance” through subsidies. A decade later, this has turned sour. In fact, nuclear reactor start-ups have been in steady decline since the 1980s. Only China bucked the trend. But China, which has frozen all new projects since Fukushima, already has 4.5 times more installed wind power than nuclear capacity. In 2011, China will probably generate more electricity from wind than from nuclear reactors. World nuclear-generating capacity has stagnated for 20 years. The number of operating reactors this past April 1 was 437 – compared with 444 in April 2002. Nuclear power output has declined annually by 2 per cent over the past four years and now accounts for only about 13 per cent of the world’s electricity generation and 5.5 per cent of commercial primary energy. These facts have been detailed in the just-released World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2010-2011: Nuclear Power in a Post-Fukushima World. In a report preview, at an event in Berlin hosted by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, which I attended, Mycle Schneider, its lead author and an independent energy expert, observed: “When the history of the nuclear industry is written, Fukushima is likely to introduce its final chapter.” Renewable energy is growing rapidly worldwide. Says the report: “Annual renewables capacity additions have been outpacing nuclear start-ups for 15 years. In the U.S., the share of renewables in new capacity additions skyrocketed from 2 per cent in 2004 to 55 per cent in 2009, with no new nuclear coming on line.” In 2010, for the first time, “worldwide cumulated installed capacity of wind turbines (193 gigawatts), small hydropower (80 GW), biomass and waste-to-energy plants (65 GW), and solar power (43 GW) reached 381 GW, outpacing the installed nuclear capacity of 375 GW prior to the Fukushima disaster”. Total investment in renewable energy is estimated at $243 billion in 2010.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) currently lists 64 reactors as ‘under construction’ in 14 countries. By comparison, at the peak of the industry’s growth phase in 1979, there were 233 reactors being built concurrently. In 2008, for the first time since the beginning of the Nuclear Age, no new unit was started up, while two were added in 2009, five in 2010, and two in the first three months of 2011. During the same time period, 11 reactors were shut down.” In the European Union, 143 reactors were officially operational on April 1, down from the 1989 peak of 177. Western Europe’s first reactor under construction since Chernobyl, at Olkiluoto in Finland, is in deep crisis – four years behind schedule, 90 per cent over budget, and caught in bitter litigation and disputes. The reactor is none other than the French government-owned Areva’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) – the design to be installed in Jaitapur. Meanwhile, Fukushima has dealt a huge blow to the global nuclear industry. As the Swiss investment bank UBS puts it: “At [Fukushima], four reactors have been out of control for weeks – casting doubt on whether even an advanced economy can master nuclear safety.… We believe the Fukushima accident was the most serious ever for the credibility of nuclear power.” Fukushima will almost certainly exacerbate the global nuclear industry’s crisis and accelerate its decline. To imagine that nuclear power is the energy source of the future is to indulge in daydreaming. But India’s nuclear czars are doing just that while denying the gravity of the Fukushima crisis. Their rosy assumptions about Jaitapur ignore a cardinal fact: namely, the EPR has become the world’s most controversial reactor. Its capital costs have surged to $5,000 a kilowatt – compared with just over $1,000/kW for coal-based power and under $1,500 for wind in India. …



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Worrisome trend – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (May 7, 2011, Frontline)

When the provisional data from Census 2011 were released on March 31, the worst fears of those working in the area of women and child development were confirmed. The horror of a declining child sex ratio (CSR), which first came to light in Census 2001, returned once again, notwithstanding the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT), 1994, and various other measures both on paper and on the ground to build a more gender-sensitive and girl-child sensitive society. In fact, the jubilation experienced in some quarters about the improvement in the adult sex ratio was premature as it was evident that with the dangerous imbalance in the 0-6 category – termed the feeder category – any improvement in the adult sex ratio could only be temporary. Improvement in adult sex ratios is normally seen as having to do with greater life expectancy and reduced morbidity. As district-wise data emerge, it will become clear that even the minuscule improvement in the CSRs in some States is not uniformly distributed. This might require a different set of tools for interpretation and a review of those districts that have reported improvements. The national average of 914 girls in the 0-6 age group for every 1,000 males in the same age category shows a decline compared with the previous decade. This has been described as an all-time low by the provisional Census report. What is surprising is that many States that had CSRs above the national average have reported a decline; in some cases, the decline is marginal, in others significant. Interestingly, the States that have reported improvement but still remain far below the national average of 914 include Haryana (from 820 in 2001 to 830 in 2011); Punjab, which has seen an increase of 53 points, the highest rate of increase among all States (798 in 2001 to 846); Himachal Pradesh; Chandigarh; Gujarat; and Tamil Nadu. The top three States with the highest CSRs are Mizoram (971), Meghalaya (970) and Chhattisgarh (964).

What is of concern is that while the CSRs of most of the southern States are higher than the national average, with Kerala (959) leading the group, the projection for the northern States is dismal: a 26-point decrease in Rajasthan; a 16-point decline in Uttar Pradesh, a 34-point decline in Maharashtra, a 20-point slump in Uttarakhand, a 42-point decline in Sikkim (even though Sikkim’s CSR is much higher than the national average) and a 21-point decline in Madhya Pradesh. The decline has been sharper in some of the north-eastern States as well. The gap in Manipur went up by 27 points, Nagaland by 31 points and Tripura by 22 points. Among the Union Territories, Dadra & Nagar Haveli showed a very sharp fall – a 49-point drop from 979 in 2001; in Daman & Diu, the gap was not as dramatic but wide nevertheless at 16 points. The national capital remained below the national average, showing a marginal improvement of one point from 865 in 2001 to 866 in 2011. Overall, the CSR has declined in 27 States and Union Territories. It is also apparent that there is some correlation between high population levels and the CSR. Apart from the usual homilies regarding the decline in the CSR and the Union Health Ministry’s less than imaginative intervention to reconstitute the Central Supervisory Board (CSB) under the PCPNDT Act, the reasons for the decline, which go far beyond implementing the PCPNDT Act, have not been taken seriously. The CSB, which is supposed to meet once in six months on issues such as the sex ratio, had not met even once in the past three years, the All India Democratic Women’s Association pointed out in a statement. AIDWA said that most of the monitoring committees were dominated by those who were being monitored, while activists and experts were kept out.

According to data quoted in the United Nations “World Population Prospects 2008” on the 10 most populous countries and on the basis of the provisional censuses of Indonesia and Brazil, females outnumber males in the United States, the Russian Federation, Brazil and Japan. The sex ratios in Indonesia and Nigeria, which were above 1,000, saw a sharp decline over the last decade. The sex ratio was the highest in the Russian Federation. Among the most populous nations, which include China, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, India ranked the lowest, followed by Pakistan and Bangladesh. In South Asia, the sex ratios of Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka were over 1,000. The Indian Census report takes for granted what it calls the “historically negative” sex ratio in the country. From 970 females in 1901, the figure has declined in every successive decade, with a minor increase between 1970 and 1980, only to fall again by three points in 1991. The adult sex ratio has been improving but at a very slow pace – clearly, the discrimination at the feeder group stage which prevents many young girls from reaching adolescence or adulthood is still a strong factor. The emphasis on the small family, the recourse to the two-child norm by some States over the last decade (some of them abandoned such schemes owing to pressure from women’s organisations), did not affect the son preference among Indian families. The report draws solace from the fact that States/Union Territories such as Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh and Delhi, which had a historically low sex ratio, have shown improvements. It is, however, not clear whether this increase is because of migration for work or large-scale importation of girls for marriage from neighbouring States. The lowest sex ratios still persist in Haryana (877), Jammu and Kashmir (883) and Sikkim (889). All in all, the number of States with a sex ratio less than 916 has come down to 10 from 12. The States and Union Territories that showed a high sex ratio recorded increases in their population levels as well. Census 2011 concludes on a rather prematurely jubilant note that the overall increasing trend in the sex ratio has given a boost to the sex ratio of India. Haryana, which has a rather impressive growth rate, has recorded the lowest adult sex ratio and the lowest CSR. Interestingly, Jhajjar district, which has a high literacy rate of 80.8 per cent (71 per cent for females and 89.4 per cent for males), has the worst CSR at 774.

On the other hand, the Meo Muslim-dominated Mewat district in south-west Haryana has the lowest literacy rate, at 56.1 per cent (37.6 per cent for women), but has the highest CSR (903) and the highest sex ratio (906). This shows that if the sex ratio in the feeder cohort is balanced and healthy, it will reflect in the adult sex ratio. The adult sex ratio cannot be seen independent of the CSR. Mewat is the only district in Haryana to have a CSR above 900. While the CSR in three districts is over 850, four districts, including Rohtak, the home constituency of Chief Minister Bhupendra Singh Hooda, rank below 800. The CSR in Gurgaon, another prosperous district, has shown an improvement but remains low at 826. Sharp declines have been witnessed in Mahendargarh, Bhiwani and Rewari. A look at the district-wise data of the adult sex ratio of Uttarakhand shows that the better known and touristy districts such as Nainital, Dehra Dun, Udham Singh Nagar and Haridwar have lower sex ratios compared with the strictly hilly districts, where at least in seven the sex ratio has shown a favourable tilt towards women, crossing 1,000. In the more urbanised parts of the hill State, the sex ratio, higher than the national average barring Haridwar (879), seemed better than the rest of North India. The sex ratio on an average was high at 963, a one-point increase since 2001.

In Tamil Nadu, some interesting patterns were observed. The districts were ranked according to the CSR. While there was not much change in the CSRs of Salem and Dharmapuri districts, which continue to be the lowest in the State but better than the national average, some worrisome trends were noted. For instance, Ramanathapuram, which was ranked fourth in the 2001Census, slipped to the 29th position (from 1,036 in 2001 to 977 in 2011). Similarly, Cuddalore district slipped from the 19th to the 27th position. Three other districts, which had a favourable CSR of over 1,000, witnessed a decline. The CSR of Sivaganga, which was 1,038 in 2001, dropped to 1,008. According to Satish Agnihotri, Director-General of the Shipping Corporation of India and former Secretary, Women and Child Development, in the Orissa government, the reasons for the dip in the juvenile sex ratio need to be studied in minute detail and differences across districts can tell a different story. He authored a book in 2000, titled Sex Ratio Patterns in the Indian Population: A Fresh Exploration. The rate of decline, he told Frontline, was what was important, and minor improvements did not signify anything big. He agrees that the overall improvement can be due to “structural impacts”, but if the improvements are patchy and inconsistent, they can be more than just a reporting error. The data, he said, had to be correlated with the Sample Registration System data and the Registration of Births and Deaths to see whether the improvements had been consistent. …



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Vidarbha’s Dying Fields And Farmer’s Suicides – By Vikram Jadav (May 3, 2011, Countercurrents)

While the government of India and Maharashtra, led-by Congress, which claims itself as a party of aam aadmi and one of the world’s fastest growing economies, only images of this new prosperity have reached the impoverished rural areas where two thirds of India’s 1.1 billion people live. Left behind by India’s soaring economic boom is Vidarbha, a region of hilly forests in the middle of India. It used to be known as India’s cotton belt – but now captures headlines as its suicide belt – that’s an average one suicide every eight hours. Vidarbha farmers face a grim reality of crop failures, sinking global cotton prices and crushing debts. Farmers in default at the bank frequently resort to illegal moneylenders who charge up to 100 per cent interest. And, the government safety net – that once kept cotton prices closer to the cost of production – has all but disappeared. Under India’s new free trade policies, Vidarbha’s 3.2 million cotton farmers – most of them small landholders – must compete in a global market that includes formidable, often subsidized rivals, including American cotton farmers. At a moment when India is enjoying record economic growth, Vidarbha’s four million cotton farmers who have been left behind, struggling to survive on less than Rs 100 a day. Kishor Tiwari, former businessman turned farmer advocate, whose tiny office in the heart of Vidarbha, the cotton-growing region, functions as the archive and watchdog for the suicide epidemic; traveling salesmen hawking genetically modified – and costly – cotton seeds that require irrigation that few Vidarbha farmers have; the last rites of a farmer who couldn’t pay his debts; a tour of the poison ward at the local hospital, where beds are always filled; and even Rahul Gandhi, the prime minister in waiting pays a visit during the election ‘season’ whom the farming widows beseech for help in convincing the government to forgive their debts. The farmers of Vidarbha are the target of the government, politicians and bureaucrats, for the reason they don’t know. On the event of International Labour Day and Maharashtra Day on May 1, 2011, over 300 cotton farmers went on a day-long hunger strike in Vidarbha demanding the lifting of the ban on cotton exports.

Speaking to THE VERDICT over telephone, Kishore Tiwari, president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), which is spearheading the agitation, said that the prices of cotton and pulses (tur dal) have fallen by more than 50 per cent in the last month due to what he said “anti-farmer export-import policies” of the centre. “The present ban on cotton exports is to protect the textile lobby of south India which is very close to some central ministers like Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran. This is responsible for the crises, including falling prices, gripping cotton farmers in Vidarbha,” Tiwari alleged. Moreover, he claimed that some bureaucrats were influenced by strong lobbying by the textile mill owners who wanted cheap raw material to increase their profit margins. Tiwari said that he has written to union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma taking strong objections to his statement that there is no immediate proposal to raise export quota for cotton. It may be recalled that during December 2010, citing the upward trend in cotton and yarn prices, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi urged Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to suspend cotton exports and cap cotton yarn exports as well as levy an export duty on it with immediate effect. In a letter to Manmohan Singh, a copy of which was released to the media, Karunanidhi – referring to the central government’s permission to export 55 lakh bales from November onwards – said: “Between last week of September 2010 and the last week of November 2010, cotton prices have increased almost by 20 percent. Further hectic buying indulged in by the exporters of cotton has resulted in arrivals to the market being woefully inadequate to meet the domestic consumption”. “Normally the period of 4-5 months after October witness a dip in cotton prices owing to fresh arrivals in the market. However, this year, the clearance given for exporting 55 lakh bales of cotton has resulted in a hand to mouth situation by which virtually no cotton is available in the market to build up cotton stocks,” he said. According to him, competing countries like China maintain a stock to use ratio of about 33 per cent as against India’s 17 per cent. Referring to the rise in cotton yarn prices due to increase in cotton exports, Karunanidhi has said yarn exports should be moderated so that value addition is possible downstream, “…so as to enable higher production of powerloom cloth, knitwear, handloom cloth, garments etc.” “The prices have plummeted to below Rs 4,500 a quintal during the last fortnight from a high of Rs 7,000. The situation can be salvaged by hiking the export quota to 15 million cotton bales from the existing 5.5 million,” alleged Tiwari.

He pointed out that the export restrictions are shocking, especially when there is good demand for cotton in the global markets which the country exploit and the farmers can made good their losses of the past one decade. “Floods have hit cotton crops in China and Pakistan while the crop area was slashed the US. It is a rare chance for the country to export cotton at very good prices. It is a mystery why the quota is not being increased this year when last year 8.3 million cotton bales (each bale at Rs 170 per kg) were exported,” Tiwari pointed out. The others who participated in the hunger strike included leading farm activists Kashinath Milmile, Ravindra Demapure, Rajendra Chawardol, Suvidhi Surana, Jagmohan Bojoria,Vijay Kondawar, Mohan Jadhav, Letuji Jughare, Chandrakant Patil, Tukaram Meshram, Mohan Mamiddwar and Moreshwar Watile. Meanwhile, on the occasion of the state celebrates its 51st year of formation and winding up golden jubilee ceremonies, with much fanfare, giving away awards and busy with felicitations and promises, attended by senior people, including the Maharashtra Governor and Chief Minister, the suicide rate in the backward Vidarbha region continued. According to Kishore Tiwari, four debt-ridden farmers committed suicide in the region in the first two days of May 2011.

Taking into account of these deaths, the toll has risen to 178 in the year 2011. The figure for last year was 748. In month of April alone, 41 farmers ended their lives in the region, according to the statistics compiled by the VJAS. Among the latest victims of the agrarian crisis, two were from Yavatmal district known as epicentre of the farmer suicides and one each from Buldhana and Amravati. The victims were identified as Rajanna Kayapalliwar (45) of Salburdi, Bhaurao Shendur (55) of Saikheda (both in Yavatmal district), Govind Ghule (32) of Dhanora in Buldhana and Budharam Sonwane (76) of Amla in Amravati district. All of them died after consuming pesticide, the reports added. Tiwari claimed that Bhaurao Shendur of Saikheda was the seventh victim from the village. “Hit by the failure in farming and unable to repay their loans, cotton farmers in these dry-lands seek escape in death,” he said. He also alleged that the special relief packages from the union and the state governments suffered from rampant corruption and lack of coordination among the implementing agencies.

“The prices of cotton and pulses (tur dal) had fallen by more than 50 per cent in the last month due to ‘anti-farmer export-import policies’ of the UPA government at Centre. He also alleged that the agricultural ministry led-by Sharad Pawar, is have their own hidden agenda and are in hand-in-gloves with racketeers controlling the cotton and food-grain market. The government, especially Sharad Pawar, is much interested in the ‘rich man’s game’ (cricket), which is watched by the industrialists, celebrities and rich politicians. They are not interested in the enlistment of farmers in Maharashtra, who are forced to commit suicide. They are interested in pouring money in to the valets of cricketers, deliberately forgetting the poor farmers,” said Tiwari. He also alleged that the Union Minister, who is instrumental in raining money on the players, has done little to arrest the suicide of the farmers by solving their problems. “The money the government and industrialists spends on cricket is only benefiting the players. It is not going to stop the farmers’ suicides, it is not going to solve the fertilizer shortage in the state and it will not solve the power and water shortage in the state,” added Tiwari.



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