Thursday, 31 August 2017

Three more rangers killed in a deadly month around the world for wildlife defenders

Three rangers have been killed in separate countries in a deadly month for wildlife defenders.
A ranger at Serra da Capivara national park, in Brazil’s north-eastern Piaui region, was killed by hunters on 18 August. Edilson Aparecido dos Santos and two other colleagues were patrolling the park when they were ambushed by a group of four armed men who are believed to have been hunting in the park illegally. Dos Santos was killed in the shootout that followed, while the other two rangers were injured.

They were protecting the Serra da Capivara park, a Unesco world heritage site home to 25,000-year-old rock paintings. Dos Santos was a contractor from the company Thor, working for the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). ICMBio said in a statement that “both ICMBio and Thor are taking steps to provide support to staff and their families, and are collaborating with police authorities to clarify the facts”.

In a separate incident in Mexico, Gabriel Ramos Olivera, a ranger at the Chacahua national park in Oaxaca, was shot and killed by suspected poachers. His body was found on the morning of 18 August. The 37-year-old biologist worked as a guard protecting the conservation area of the Chacahua lagoons, home to endangered leatherback turtles and crocodiles.

The same week in Mali, Corporal Souleyman Tangara of the country’s combined army/ranger anti-poaching brigade, died along with a UN peacekeeper at the hands of jihadists in Douentza on 14 August. Tangara’s brigade, tasked with protecting the country’s last desert elephants, were responding to a call to assist the United Nations whose base was under attack in what the UN has described as an act of terrorism. Two of the gunmen died in the violence. “This gives a clear picture of the hazards the brigade, trainers and indeed people of this area face on a day-to-day basis,” said Nigel Kuhn, combat tracking trainer at Chengeta Wildlife, an NGO based in Mali… read more:

Seamus Heaney’s Advice to the Young. BY MARIA POPOVA

“The true and durable path into and through experience involves being true … to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge.” Seamus Heaney

“you’ve got to tell the world how to treat you [because] if the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble” - James Baldwin
In his spectacular Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the Irish poet, playwright, and translator Seamus Heaney (April 13, 1939–August 30, 2013) celebrated poetry’s singular power to “remind us that we are hunters and gatherers of values” and to “persuade that vulnerable part of our consciousness.” It’s a task that poetry shares perhaps most directly with an unlikely cultural counterpart - the commence-ment address, aimed at equipping the young, most vulnerable in their consciousness, with values.

Seamus Heaney by Felix Clay
Seamus Heaney by Felix Clay

This might be why poets make such fine commencement speakers - from Adrienne Rich’s beautiful case for the true value of education to Joseph Brodsky’s six rules for winning at the game of life.
Heaney himself was no stranger to the genre and made several additions to the greatest commencement addresses of all time in his lifetime, lending the young his lucid and luminous wisdom on life. In May of 1996, months after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature, 57-year-old Heaney took the podium before the graduating class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and delivered an extraordinary speech later included in Take This Advice (public library) — the compendium of timelessly rewarding commencement addresses that also gave us Toni Morrison on how to be your own story. Between verses of poetry, Heaney observes:

Getting started, keeping going, getting started again - in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival, the ground of convinced action, the basis of self-esteem and the guarantee of credibility in your lives, credibility to yourselves as well as to others. Echoing James Baldwin’s admonition that “you’ve got to tell the world how to treat you [because] if the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble,” Heaney adds:

This rhythm … is something I would want each one of you to experience in the years ahead, and experience not only in your professional life, whatever that may be, but in your emotional and spiritual lives as well — because unless that underground level of the self is preserved as a verified and verifying element in your make-up, you are going to be in danger of settling into whatever profile the world prepares for you and accepting whatever profile the world provides for you. You’ll be in danger of molding yourselves in accordance with laws of growth other than those of your own intuitive being. ...

Modi, the RSS and incompetents like Khattar and Adityanath. By Swati Chaturvedi

Both Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of India's largest state Uttar Pradesh, and ML Khattar, chief minister of Haryana, have several things in common. Both have zero administrative experience - the price for which is being paid by the blood of little children in UP as the horrific deaths in the BRD hospital continue unabated (61 children died again in the BRD college in the past 72 hours), and Khattar's serial mishandling of three major crises during his tenure, which has led to the death of nearly a 100 people.

The latest being the violence that set Haryana on the edge as 36 people died in the rioting that wrecked the state after Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of rape last Friday. Last year, Khattar had mishandled the Jat quota agitation, which led to 30 deaths in three days as Haryana burnt. Before that, another cult head Rampal had a violent standoff with Haryana police in 2014, when six people died.

The other commonality the two greenhorn administrators share is that they have been anointed to their jobs by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is at the insistence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Sangh Parivar mothership, that "normalising" the Sangh cadre in top jobs in the government is going on, and that is the reason for imposing Sangh full-timers (pracharaks) at crucial positions, such as CMs.

The RSS has decreed that pracharaks need to be in public life irrespective of the consequences.
I spoke to several BJP and RSS leaders while researching for this piece, and RSS leaders had a steadfast belief that a full-time pracharak could do any political and administrative job with absolute competence. Currently, the country is paying a price for this core belief but, it is an article of faith with the Sangh that cannot be trifled with. That, along with perhaps the steadfast refusal of the various BJP-led governments to accept any mistakes on their part which would entail a sacking and thereby an admission of incompetence, has saved their jobs.

The RSS, which was shunned and treated like a pariah for many decades since Independence, is now revelling in its ascendancy at the top of the political structure. It has its man in Rashtrapati Bhavan, while the vice president is M Venkaiah Naidu – a former RSS full-timer, who has described Modi as an "avatar of God" and the BJP as his "mother". The sense of arrival will be complete when the last edifice of the Nehruvian structure – the bureaucracy – is made to submit to its cadres.

Similar is the insistence that all foreign dignitaries who come to India pay a ritual visit to the RSS-founded and Ram Madhav-led India Foundation, which is constantly organising seminars and dinners for visiting heads of state. It's completely mandatory for the cabinet to be in attendance and the invitees don't really have the option of saying no. This is also normalising the RSS as part of the diplomatic establishment, in fact putting it at the heart of India’s consular outreach.

The process of jobs for these “RSS boys” is ironically an imitation of the earlier establishment created by the Congress, which PM Modi, with his self-professed disdain for "Lutyens’ Delhi", has sworn to dismantle. Instead, the Sangh has created its own. So Khattar, despite his serial missteps, will always be safe as the RSS has too much invested into its "project pracharak"... read more:

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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Delhi School of Economics refuses permission to students to hold panel discussion

NB: It is clear as daylight that the RSS and its student wing are holding India's universities and students to ransom by virtue of blatant intimidation and their proximity to government power. What else does it mean that 'security can't be provided' for anyone with dissenting opinions? Have the Delhi Police and DU administration surrendered their statutory duties to the Sangh Parivar? If so, they should say so openly: 'No one who differs from the RSS world view will be permitted to speak on campus'. May we speak in the lawns and streets gentlemen? Why not throw off the mask and substitute policemen and RSS pracharaks for teachers? 

As for the DSE authorities, all I can say is that your campus has been the fulcrum of free and passionate debate ever since my student days 50 years ago. For you to bend your knees to this shameless hooliganism is both tragic and treacherous. Recent events in Haryana have shown that there are still judges, lawyers and police officers who have performed their professional duties in defiance of this ideological tyranny. Are you afraid for your jobs? Do you want something more precious than the respect of your students? Sooner or later you will discover whatever you obtained from this cabal turning to ashes in your mouths. Shame on you. DS
The Delhi School of Economics has for the second time refused permission to students to hold a panel discussion. On Tuesday, Delhi University’s premier postgraduate centre refused a group of students permission to hold a panel discussion on the topic ‘Indian Constitution - Right to Privacy’.
The reason cited was that the panel was “not on an economics programme”.

DSE had earlier refused the same student group - DU Conversation - from holding a discussion on violence in Ramjas College earlier this year. DU Conversation, a group of independent students and teachers from the university, wanted to hold both programmes at the lecture theatre at DSE as part of celebrations on 70 years of Indian democracy. They wanted to invite some lawyers and petitioners who were part of the Supreme Court’s recent privacy judgement.

The note, signed by the Head of Economics department, Aditya Bhattacharjee, states it is “not an economics programme”, to which the Director, DSE, Pammi Dua adds: “As noted by the head Eco (sic).” Dua did not respond to queries from The Indian Express. Bhattacharjee said, “This has been a consistent policy of the department that the lecture theatre is only given for events related to academics. This was in no way related to it.” But some teachers criticised the move. “Students from across departments should be learning about the recent judgment on privacy. All these topics are related to each other and students should be aware of what is happening, even if it is not directly related to their curriculum,” said a teacher at the centre who did not wish to be named.

A third-year economics student said, “The reasons given are just to difficult for digest. Are universities not supposed to be open spaces to hold dialogue and debate?” On August 23, a programme organised by the group to celebrate 70 years of Indian democracy was cancelled. Students were told that the event must be postponed as they did not have a written communication from the police. Students wanted to shift the venue to the Arts Faculty, but alleged that a security officer of the university told them they could not “promise them security” as another group was holding a “shakti pradarshan” rally in South Campus the same day.
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Haunted by unification: A Bangladeshi view of partition

by Afsan Chowdhury

In Bangladesh, 1947 is a distant memory, erased by the bloody 1971 liberation war against Pakistan
It was May 16, 1971, when soldiers from the Pakistan army rounded up all the Hindu men in Jogisu village in the Rajshahi district, about 300km from Dhaka, the capital of what was then East Pakistan and is now Bangladesh. There were 42 in total. They were all shot dead and the Muslim villagers were ordered to dig a hole in which their bodies would be dumped.

Nine widows in white saris recounted the scene for a show I was filming on the atrocities committed during the Bangladesh war of independence, fought between Pakistan, then known as West Pakistan, and East Pakistan and India. “The soldiers then urinated on the grave,” one of the widows, 60-year-old Sri Shundar, recalled. Jogisu was one of the thousands of villages that faced such a fate.
But were the events of that year the product solely of the war of independence or could they be traced back to 1947 and the partition of British India? In Bangladesh, 1947 is a distant memory, erased by the much fresher bloody ones of 1971. The partition was experienced by India and Pakistan, but for Bangladesh, it is both partition and unification – of Punjab in the West and Bengal in the East to make Pakistan – that haunts its national consciousness. It is Pakistan’s birth that pains us.

Marginalised Bengalis: My father grew up in Kolkata but in 1948 found work in Dhaka, then the capital of East Pakistan. He was contemporaries with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led the Bangladeshi nationalist movement and went on to become the first president of independent Bangladesh, and Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, the country’s second president. They all stayed at the Baker hostel for Muslim graduate students in Kolkata in the early 1940s and all came from the rising Muslim middle class, which resented, but also respected, the Hindu elite against whom they had become competitors for jobs.

During the holidays, they would return to their East Bengal villages, where the peasants waited for the day when the British colonial rulers would go away and with them the zamindars (landlords). The peasant and the aspirant middle class shared a common dream: an end to British and Kolkata-Hindu domination in jobs and trade. This was not an issue of Hindu or Muslim identity but of economics.
After the Lahore resolution in 1940, which called for the creation of “two states” in the two majority clusters of Muslims (Punjab and Bengal) the future seemed better for my father. But the political future would not be controlled by Bengali Muslims. It was in the hands of the elite, Urdu-speaking North Indian politicians of the Muslim League and led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. There were no Bengalis, who were already being marginalised within India’s Muslim politics, in Jinnah’s circle of political friends.

Also see:

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar's book 'The Adivasi Will Not Dance', has been banned by the Government of Jharkhand - 29 August 2017
Solidarity with Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

We are bewildered and dismayed to learn about the recent banning of Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s collection of short stories, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, by the Government of Jharkhand. This ban is absurd and sets a dangerous precedent.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. The same article, admittedly, allows the state to make laws that impose “reasonable restrictions” on this fundamental right, but only based on specific grounds (such as national security or public order), none of which apply in this case.

Superficially, it may appear that one of these pre-specified grounds, “the interests of decency”, could be invoked to justify the ban. The book does include some sexually explicit scenes, but calling them “indecent” would be extreme prudishness. If books that include love-making scenes were to be banned, hundreds of thousands of novels would have to be banned, not to speak of the Kamasutra. 

Those who think of sex as indecent are free to read something else.

It has been argued that some stories in the book are “derogatory to Santhal women”, in particular a story where a Santhal woman consents to casual sex with a policeman in exchange for money. Even if it were true that this story is derogatory, that would not constitute a permissible ground for banning the book under Article 19. Further, the view that the story is derogatory overlooks the fact that it is a work of imagination. The imaginary incident described in the story does not cast any aspersions whatsoever on Santhal women. It is just possible that the story is inspired by some real-life event, but if that is so, it makes the story all the more legitimate.

The ban on The Adivasi Will Not Dance is not only deplorable in itself but also adds to a series of dangerous precedents of books being banned on flimsy grounds in India. This ban mania (also targeted at films, events, statements, tweets, foods, relationships and what not) is an ominous attack on freedom, democracy and rationality.

Aashish Xaxa (research scholar)
Abhay Xaxa (research scholar)
Agnes Murmu (retired teacher)
Ajitha George (researcher)
Akash Poyam (research scholar)
Alpa Shah (anthropologist)
Anjor Bhaskar (research scholar)
Ankita Aggarwal (independent researcher)
Anpa Marndi (assistant professor)
Anumeha Yadav (journalist)
Arundhati Roy (writer)
Ashish Birulee (photo-journalist)
Ashish Gupta (research scholar)
Balram (right to food campaign, Jharkhand)
Bani Hembrom (doctor)
Bela Bhatia (researcher and writer)
Chayanika Murmu (MBBS student)
Binod Murmu (concerned citizen)
Dheeraj Kumar (right to food campaign, Jharkhand)
Dula Besra (concerned citizen)
Dulal Kisku (concerned citizen)
Ghasiram Soren (literary activist)
Gladson Dungdung (human rights activist)
Gouri Chatterjee (journalist)
Gunjal Munda (concerned citizen)
Harivansh (member, Rajya Sabha)
Harsh Mander (activist and writer)
Ipil Alma Kisku (concerned citizen)
Jean Drèze (development economist)
Judith Hembrom (social worker)
Kalipda Tudu (concerned citizen)
Kanika Sharma (research scholar)
Kanuram Tudu (teacher)
Karamchand Hembrom (concerned citizen)
Kavita Krishnan (political activist)
Kavita Srivastava (human rights activist)
Khagen Hembram (concerned citizen)
Kritika Pandey (writer)
Kumar Rana (researcher)
Lipika Singh Darai (filmmaker)
Mangal Mandi (senior management)
Maroona Murmu (historian)
Mast Ram Soren (concerned citizen)
Meenakshi Munda (anthropologist)
Meghnath (filmmaker)
Miltee Horo (research scholar)
Nandini Sundar (sociologist)
Nayan Soren (research scholar)
Neel Mukherjee (writer)
Nilay Kumar Murmu (concerned citizen)
Niraj Lakra (concerned citizen)
Nora Samad (social worker)
Peter Martin (concerned citizen)
Philip Peacock (theologian)
Praveer Peter (social activist)
Prem Verma (convenor, Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas)
Priyanka Priyadarshini Marandi (research scholar)
Priyanka Purty (student)
Priyanka Sandilya (research scholar)
Reetika Khera (economist)
Remalia Hembrom (social worker)
Rimil Hembrom (research scholar)
Ruby Hembrom (publisher)
Sanjay Bosu-Mullick (rights activist and writer)
Santosh Kiro (journalist)
Savya Sachin Bankira (student)
Seral Murmu (filmmaker)
Shankar Mardi (concerned citizen)
Shivprasad Singh (Bagaicha)
Shyam C. Tudu (concerned citizen)
Shyamsunder Hansda (concerned citizen)
Sibdas Baskey (assistant professor)
Siraj Dutta (concerned citizen)
Sneha Mundari (filmmaker)
Sokhen Tudu (concerned citizen)
Sovan Hazra (concerned citizen)
Sripati Tudu (concerned citizen)
Stan Swamy (Bagaicha)
Sudha Bharadwaj (lawyer)
Sujit Kumar Soren (academician)
Susil Mandi (concerned citizen)
Thalko Majhi (concerned citizen)
Vijay Kekan (concerned citizen)
Virendra Majhi (concerned citizen)
Virginius Xaxa (sociologist)
Vivek Sidam (research scholar)
Xavier Dias (former editor)
Wilfred Topno (president, Adivasi Sahitya Sabha, Assam)
Wilson Hansda (concerned citizen)
Zoba Hansdah (research scholar)

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The verdict on privacy is a flood of sunshine in dark times. By Manini Chatterjee // Opening new doors by Upendra Baxi

Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia: Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” 
Benjamin Franklin: “A republic, if you can keep it.” (1797)
The verdict on privacy is a flood of sunshine in dark times
'Read as a whole, the verdict is truly remarkable on several counts: for the grand sweep of arguments that the honourable judges draw upon from previous legal cases both in India and abroad, from history and from philosophy to prove that privacy lies in the very essence of being human; for the clarity and lucidity with which it explains the real meaning and import of the rights outlined in the Indian Constitution; and most of all for the profound humanity and compassion it displays in upholding the liberty and dignity of each and every Indian citizen..'

Read the full text of the judgement

Justice Chelameswar: "I do not think that anybody in this country would like to have the officers of the State intruding into their homes or private property at will or soldiers quartered in their houses without their consent. I do not think that anybody would like to be told by the State as to what they should eat or how they should dress or whom they should be associated with either in their personal, social or political life." NB: RSS & Modi government please note the above observation. It is a forthright criticism of your totalitarian political project, your attempt to impose an ideological tyranny over the Indian public. DS

In a public discourse increasingly coarsened by shrill hyperbole, words such as "landmark", "path-breaking" and "historic" sound almost trite, bereft of any real meaning. Yet, each of these adjectives, singly and together, cannot quite describe the enormous significance and magnificent sweep of the Supreme Court verdict delivered on August 24 declaring individual privacy a fundamental right.

The unanimous verdict of the nine-judge bench of the apex court, overruling two previous judgments which had held that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution of India, declared that "the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution".

This simple one-line assertion comes at the end of a 547 page verdict that comprises six separate but concurring judgments. The first and the most substantial one running into 266 pages is written by the judge, D.Y. Chandrachud, on behalf of the chief justice, J.S. Khehar, and the judges R.K. Agarwal, S. Abdul Nazeer, and himself. Separate judgments of varying lengths were given by the judges J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, R.F. Nariman, Abhay Mohan Sapre and Sanjay Kishan Kaul.. read more:

Opening new doors by Upendra Baxi
So rarely do we come across unanimous Supreme Court judgments that the stunning verdict of the nine-justice bench concerning the right to privacy (R2P, hereafter) comes to us as a great gift. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud led a joint judgment on behalf of then Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, R.K. Agrawal, S. Abdul Nazeer and himself. Separate concurring opinions were provided by Justices J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, Abhay Manohar Sapre, Rohinton Fali Nariman and Sanjay Kishan Kaul. The separate concurring opinions are not disguised dissents.

The basic human right to privacy stands affirmed. What is more, the highest adjudicatory power stands defined as the power to re-interpret that which has been pre-interpreted; judicial review emerges as the power to co-govern the nation by feats of demosprudential adjudicatory leadership. This feat should cause constitutional happiness. If the 1973 Kesavananda Bharati inaugurated a daringly new constitutionalism for late 20th century India, the R2P affirms, for the 21st century, the vision of a “constitutional renaissance” (to borrow a phrase of Justice Dipak Misra in a 2015 decision). Both sets of decisions open new doors of constitutional perception.

Poignantly, Justice Chandrachud explicitly overrules the infamous habeas corpus decision validating human rights denialism during the Emergency which came to an end over four decades ago. Of course, two sterling justices — Yashwant Chandrachud and P.N. Bhagwati — had apologised to the nation later and the 44th Amendment preserved core fundamental human rights even during future Emergencies. But the formal overruling remains historically significant, as it amends the past.

Equally daring is the notion of “inalienable” natural rights. Justice Chandrachud maintains (for the court) that: “Natural rights are not bestowed by the state. They inhere in human beings because they are human. They exist equally in the individual, irrespective of class or strata, gender or orientation”.
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Lakes of fire The froth spewing from them in Bengaluru is a symptom of a pervasive urban problem. By Isher Judge Ahluwalia

Bellandur lake in Bengaluru has been much in the news in recent months for the surge of foam and froth from the polluted lake, and the rise of smoke and flames from the area surrounding it. Barely two weeks ago, in the midst of the city’s heaviest rains in a century, the stinking froth and foam (a mix of chemicals and untreated sewage) rose as high as 10 to 12 feet from Bellandur and spread onto the streets, endangering traffic and entering shops and homes across the road, causing huge inconvenience to those living in the area. Only a few months earlier, in February, the area was engulfed in smoke as garbage strewn around the lake was set ablaze.

In May 2015, the Bellandur lake itself was on fire, creating enormous fear and anxiety in the minds of the people living in the area. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) submitted a report to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, highlighting the sustained inflow of untreated sewage and industrial effluents as the principal forces behind the phenomena of froth and fire. Subsequently, an expert committee set up by the state government submitted its report on rejuvenation of the lake in October 2016.

How long would it take to get down to action? It is hard to believe that this is happening to the largest lake in the Silicon Valley of India, which has been known for its hundreds of lakes originally built in the 16th century by damming the natural valley systems. The National Green Tribunal turned its attention to the problems of the Bellandur lake in February, and expressed extreme dissatisfaction on the unhealthy condition of the lake in its successive hearings. The tribunal has issued a number of directions emphasising the need for removal of silt from the lake, treatment of municipal sewage which is going into the water body, closure of polluting industries, ban on dumping of municipal solid waste around the lake, penalty on apartment buildings in the area which are sending untreated sewage to the lake and an environmental fine of Rs 5 lakh on anyone found dumping waste in and around the lake. Most recently, the NGT has asked all departments of the government to work together to prepare an Action Plan by September 7 for cleaning up the lake.

Bellandur is only one example, although a major one, of what we are doing to most of our lakes, streams and rivers in urban India. Out of 480 million litres per day (MLD) of wastewater discharged to the lake, only 308 MLD is treated. According to the CPCB, 75 per cent of the measured pollution in our rivers from point sources is from municipal sewage and 25 per cent is from industrial effluents.

Indian cities and towns have abused their surface water bodies. Sewerage networks are supposed to ensure that sewage or wastewater is conveyed to a sewage treatment plant, treated and then discharged into water bodies. Bengaluru has 6,800 km of sewerage line and 14 sewage treatment plants. The capacity for sewage treatment in Bengaluru in 2015-16 was 51 per cent but actual sewage treatment was only 37 per cent of the sewage generated. This is still higher than the 30 per cent average for all Indian cities and towns. Since the “unofficial” groundwater that is used by city residents from private bore-wells is not included in the definition of water consumed by the city wastewater or sewage (estimated as 80 per cent of the water consumed in the city) is typically under-estimated. The situation with respect to sewage treatment is therefore worse than it appears for all cities. As the untreated wastewater or sewage finds its way to local waterbodies, it feeds the growth of water-weeds, which blankets surface water. .. read more:

Panic strikes Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College again, 61 children die in 3 days

Days after alleged disruption in oxygen supply resulted in deaths of over 30 children within 48 hours at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College, 61 children died there in the last 72 hours, spreading panic in the hospital again. The latest deaths were due to various ailments, including encephalitis, health complexities in newborns, pneumonia, sepsis etc, whose patients have been flooding the hospital, leading to overcrowding.

On August 27, 28 and 29, 61 deaths were recorded at the hospital — 11 in the encephalitis ward, 25 in neonatal intensive care unit (NNICU) and another 25 in the general pediatric ward. Local doctors said the number of deaths will increase in the coming days due to heavy rainfall, floods and water-logging which foster the spread of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES).

While BRD principal Dr P K Singh did not respond to repeated calls, Dr R N Singh, a paediatrician, who has worked extensively in the field of encephalitis, said: “Insufficient homework was done to control the outspread of AES in January, and thereafter the entire machinery remained busy in the UP elections.” “Secondly, heavy monsoon also accounts for a large number of cases among children,” Singh said, adding that measures like fogging to kill mosquitoes (JE host), de-silting, vaccination and chlorination of water were not done in time.

After the death of over 30 children on August 10 and 11, the state government increased the strength of doctors and paramedical staff in the hospital. But due to the large inflow of infected children, the wards are packed and three to four children are adjusted on one bed. The medical college receives patients from 36 eastern UP districts and Nepal and at any given time has about 500 such patients.

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The princess myth: Hilary Mantel on Diana

It takes a lot a lot of know-how and behind-the-scenes sweat to transform Cinderella from dust-maid to belle. Fairytales do not describe the day after the wedding, when the young wife lost in the corridors of the palace sees her reflection splinter, and turns in panicked circles looking for a mirror that recognises her. Prince Charles’s attitude of anxious perplexity seems to have concealed an obtuseness about what the marriage meant to his bride. The usual young woman of the era had a job, sexual experience, friends who stayed within her circle – her wedding was simply a big party, and she probably didn’t even move house. But Diana’s experience as daughter of a landed family did not prepare her for Buckingham Palace, any more than Schönbrunn prepared the teenage Marie Antoinette for Versailles. It was Diana’s complaint that no one helped her or saw her need. Fermoy had expressed doubts before the marriage. “Darling, you must understand that their sense of humour and their lifestyle are different …” The bathos is superb. “Mind how you go,” say the elders, as they tip off the dragon and chain the virgin to the mossy rock.

What would have happened to Diana if she had made the sort of marriage her friends made? You can picture her stabled in the shires with a husband untroubled by brains: furnishing a cold house with good pieces, skiing annually, hosting shoots, stuffing the children off to board: spending more on replenishing the ancestral linen cupboard than on her own back. With not too much face-paint, jacket sleeves too short for her long arms, vital organs shielded by a stout bag bought at a country show, she would have ossified into convention; no one would have suspected her of being a beauty. Like many women in mid-life, she would have lived in a mist of discontent, struggling to define something owing, something that had eluded her. But in her case the “something” would have been the throne.

Even in childhood photos Diana seems to pose, as if watching her own show. Her gaze flits sideways, as if to check everyone is looking at her. One “friend” told a TV crew that as a teenager, “whenever you saw her alone she would have picked up some trashy romantic novel”. Leave aside the casual denigration of women’s taste: if Diana imagined herself – the least and youngest daughter – as magnificent, all-conquering, a queen, she had a means of turning her daydream into fact. Diana claimed that she and the prince met only 13 times before their wedding. Did she keep a note? She lacked self-awareness, but had strong instincts. It must have been child’s play – because she was anxious to please, or because she was crafty – to seem to share his visions and concerns. An earnest look, a shy silence, job done. Chaste maids were not too plentiful in the 1980s. The prince took advice: snap her up, sir… read more:

Spies Like Us: Sarah Lyall interviews two masters of espionage - A Conversation With John le Carré and Ben Macintyre

Their subject is spying. Their obsessions are secrecy and betrayal. They are Englishmen of a certain background, old friends and admirers of each other’s work. One writes novels; the other, nonfiction. They speak in practically perfect sentences. Conversations between John le Carré and Ben Macintyre are inevitably warm, interesting, witty, discursive, conspiratorial and gossipy, although their gossip is often espionage-related and more rarefied than yours or mine. They met for lunch recently, on a desultorily sunny weekday in a private dining room at a boutique hotel in Bristol. Le Carré, 85, had been driven from his home in Cornwall (he also lives in London) by his family’s “outdoor man,” responsible for yardwork and other outside-the-house tasks; Macintyre, 53, had come by train from Winchester, where he had been speaking at a literary festival. As usual, they were in the midst of a flurry of projects, finishing things up and starting new ones. Le Carré, who over a 56-year career has virtually single-handedly elevated spy novels from genre fiction into works of high literature, has a new book, “A Legacy of Spies,” coming out in September. Thrillingly for his admirers, it is a coda of sorts to “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” (1963), the third of his two dozen novels and the one that for many readers serves as the gateway drug to full-blown le Carré addiction.

Macintyre, meanwhile, is a longtime columnist for The Times of London and the author of 11 elegant, authoritative and dryly humorous nonfiction works, focusing most recently on 20th-century British espionage. He has a deep appreciation for the amusing and the absurd. His most recent book is “Rogue Heroes,” about the origins of the British special forces unit; he is working on a new one, about a Cold War spy case.

Early in his writing, le Carré introduced the subversive hypothesis that the spies of East and West were two sides of the same tarnished coin, each as bad as the other. It was a stunning idea, espionage painted not in black and white but in shades of gray. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the author lost the scaffolding for his fiction. His later books are angrier, more polemical, their worldview darker, reflecting the chaotic morality of the post-Soviet era and often presenting the United States — with its exceptionalism, its flouting of international norms, as he sees it — as the villain in the post-Cold War era.

“A Legacy of Spies” returns to the past from the vantage point of the present. Elderly and retired to France, the ex-spy Peter Guillam, an old acquaintance of the attentive le Carré reader, is made to answer for long-buried sins when the adult children of the two principal casualties in “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” suddenly bring a lawsuit against the security services. Guillam is forced to revisit the dubious setup and muddy justification for that operation, answering awkward questions from humorless young officials who have no patience for or understanding of how the agency operated in the old days. Even George Smiley himself makes an appearance.

The publication of the new work is being treated as a major literary occasion in Britain. A reading and Q. and A. at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Sept. 7 will be broadcast live in theaters in Britain and Europe. In real life, le Carré is known as David Cornwell. He took his pen name to keep his day job — spying for Britain, which he did in the 1950s and early ’60s — separate from his writing identity. Over a bottle of white wine and, among other things, smoked salmon served under a glass from which clouds of smoke actually billowed out, he and Macintyre needed little prompting to speak. They all but interviewed themselves.

The interview has been edited and condensed.
S.L. Let’s talk about the new book, David. It’s been a long time since you wrote about the Cold War. Why did you want to revisit it now?
J.L.C. Because it seems to me, as Smiley says at the end of the book, that what happened then turns out to have been futile. Spies did not win the Cold War. They made absolutely no difference in the long run.

I wanted to take the characters and apply the experience of my own life, and examine what happened to them from a human, humanitarian dimension. And then place the whole story in this vacuum in which we live at the moment, which is occupied by really threatening forces. What marks the Cold War period is that at least we had a defining mission. At the moment our mission is survival. The thing that joins the West is fear. And everything else is up for grabs... read more:

Pratap Bhanu Mehta - Jaggi Vasudev’s ‘consciousness talk’ shows little understanding of the function of morality

Jaggi Vasudev’s column Beyond good and evil (IE, August 26), is a superficially attractive but ultimately insidious way of understanding the relationship between morality and consciousness. The confusions it contains have seriously distorted modern Indian intellectual, spiritual and political life and therefore need to be subject to more reflection.

There is something to Jaggi Vasudev’s starting point. A transformed consciousness can transform our sense of life and allow us to experience living in its fullness, not mutilated by arbitrary restrictions. The problem of consciousness is also the central problem of the Indian tradition. The question of how consciousness can make us aware of the ground of our own being, and overcome the limitations of our current selves, is a worthy quest to pursue. But to conclude from this that the demands of consciousness should supersede morality, is a mistake of the highest order.

It is a mistake partly for historical reasons. For starters, the contrast that Jaggi Vasudev draws between a West in the grip of a repetitive morality and an East that is the source of liberating consciousness is too crude to be taken seriously. As with any large and sophisticated body of thinking, whether in the East or West, there is a constant tension between strands of morality that are rule-bound, and ones that centre on the creation of a higher consciousness. Even within Christianity, the caricatured source of the guilt-ridden morality system, the contrast between Christ and the Pauline interpretation of Christ underscores this tension. In India you have to look no further than the obnoxiously repetitive and hierarchically constricting systems of Manu that make India’s intellectual achievements in the realm of consciousness seem like a bad joke. There are interesting differences in different traditions of thought. But the reinstatement of simplistic geographic divisions in the intellectual adventures of mankind is itself a move that constricts the development of consciousness.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Is the Modi government promoting corruption? How CVC and Health ministry together closed corruption cases that CBI had confirmed

How CVC and Health ministry together closed corruption cases that CBI had confirmed
The Central Vigilance Commission and the health ministry in tandem closed four corruption cases involving senior officials. This, despite the fact that CBI had investigated the cases and found illegalities. The cases were closed in violation of the regulations. The Union health minister Mr J P Nadda had earlier asked for suspension of these investigations

Express investigation: Chhattisgarh land grab

Four cases of alleged high-level corruption involving senior officials of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi have been recommended for closure by the Central Vigilance Commission in 2016-’17, in violation of regulations. The commission is an independent body that is meant to investigate and make recommendations on cases of corruption involving central government officials. But it closed these cases going by the advice of the Union health ministry, ignoring the rules that clearly define other institutions and officials as the competent authority to shut such cases.

After conducting detailed investigations in these cases, the Central Bureau of Investigation had recommended different levels of action against the AIIMS officials. It had found that rules had been broken or there was clear evidence of corruption in all the four cases. In one instance, even decisions of previous health ministers were overturned to close the case. The vigilance commission also allowed one of the officials accused in these corruption cases – MC Mishra, the director of AIIMS – to sit in judgement on the performance of an officer, Sanjiv Chaturvedi, who had initiated the investigations in the first place. The deputy director of AIIMS under Mishra, Mishra himself, and the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare consequently gave a “zero rating” to Chaturvedi in January 2017 for the year 2015-’16 – the year Chaturvedi had continued to investigate allegations of corruption at AIIMS, Delhi. In 2014, Nadda, then only an MP, had asked for the closure of all these investigations and the removal of Chaturvedi as the investigating officer.

A zero rating of an All India Services officer, such as Chaturvedi, can lead to various levels of action that are detrimental to the officer’s career. All officials accused in these cases have consistently claimed innocence. reviewed the records of these cases with the Central Vigilance Commission, CBI, AIIMS and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The ministry did not respond to detailed queries. The Central Vigilance Commission did not reply to specific queries and instead said, “These cases were examined in the Commission and taken to their logical conclusion at the appropriate level. Since each of the cases involves other officers, it would be inappropriate to furnish the details, keeping in view their own privacy rights and confidentiality of the reports of the various investigating agencies.” see more:

GoI and Uttarakhand plan to build a dam in the upper Himalayas that will submerge a land the size of Chandigarh. The dam would be bigger than all the existing dams in the hill state. Hridayesh Joshi reports how farcical public hearings are being held to get the project an environmental clearance:  

New heart treatment is biggest breakthrough since statins, scientists say

Anti-inflammatory injections could lower the risk of heart attacks and may slow the progression of cancer, a study has found, in what researchers say is the biggest breakthrough since the discovery of statins. Heart attack survivors given injections of a targeted anti-inflammatory drug called canakinumab had fewer attacks in the future, scientists found. Cancer deaths were also halved in those treated with the drug, which is normally used only for rare inflammatory conditions.

Statins are the mainstay drugs for heart attack prevention and work primarily by lowering cholesterol levels. But a quarter of people who have one heart attack will suffer another within five years despite taking statins regularly. It is believed this is because of unchecked inflammation within the heart’s arteries. The research team, led from Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, tested whether targeting the inflammation with a potent anti-inflammatory agent would provide an extra benefit over statin treatment.

The researchers enrolled more than 10,000 patients who had had a heart attack and had a positive blood test for inflammation into the trial, known as the Cantos study. All patients received high doses of statins as well as either canakinumab or a placebo, both administered by injection every three months. The trial lasted for four years.

For patients who received the canakinumab injections the team reported a 15% reduction in the risk of a cardiovascular event, including fatal and non-fatal heart attacks and strokes. Also, the need for expensive interventional procedures, such as bypass surgery and inserting stents, was cut by more than 30%. There was no overall difference in death rates between patients on canakinumab and those given placebo injections, and the drug did not change cholesterol levels. Dr Paul Ridker, who led the research team, said the study “usher in a new era of therapeutics”. read more..

Progressive Muslims salute Muslim Women / By refusing to honour talaq verdict, India’s most influential Islamic body is harming Muslims

Press release: Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy:
Applauds SC verdict: in favour of Islam, against the patriarchal ulema
Salutes Muslim women for their gritty long march from Shah Bano to Shayara Bano. 
Felicitates Muslim women for breaching the dam of Male Supremacism
Accuses Maulana Mehmood Madni of inviting contempt of Supreme Court and fuelling Hindutva
Calls upon the ulema to realize that change will no longer remain in chains. Invites them to be partners in reform, not obstacles in the way.
Warns citizens against any attempt to communalise and/or politicize a secular verdict
IMSD applauds the majority 3:2 judgment of the Supreme Court, “setting aside” the practice of instant triple talaq among Indian Muslims. Two of the judges have held the practice to be “un-Constitutional” while a third has deemed it “un-Quranic”.

We welcome the fact that each one of the three separate judgments reflecting the views of all the 5 members on the constitutional bench have made it clear that the verdicts are concerned only with the practice of instant triple talaq (“talaq, talaq, talaq”). 

By resting heavily on religious texts, triple talaq verdict sets a troubling precedent
The verdict does not in any way interfere with other forms of talaq – talaq ahsan and talaq hasan -- which are based on reasonable grounds for separation, provide for a 3-month “cooling period” and stipulate genuine attempts at reconciliation. Clearly, therefore, the apex court’s verdict is not against Islam or the Quranic principle of divorce. It’s against the ulema who are perpetuating patriarchy in the name of Islam.

Slain journalist’s family next in line for justice / CBI officer who cracked Ram Rahim Singh case was asked to ‘close it' / BJP MP defends Ram Rahim Singh / Indian godmen and their ponzi schemes

NB: Whatever happens to this case in the coming weeks, all law-abiding Indians are indebted to the journalists, police officers and judges who pursued the evidence for 17 years to secure justice for the victims of Ram Rahim Singh. This saga of the deliberate obstruction of justice by officials and elected representatives indicates the corruption of our political culture, which permits rape and murder to go unpunished via ruthless misuse of power. I hope that the professionalism and courage of these officials will stiffen the commitment of more officers and judges in these troubled times, when the RSS-run government and its allies are undermining the rule of law in full light of day. DS

Ram Chander Chhatarpati remained hospitalised for 28 days after being shot five times, but his dying declaration was not recorded before a magistrate
Anshul’s father was a Sirsa-based journalist, who had launched his own evening newspaper Pura Sachh in 2000. When the issue of sexual exploitation and other suspicious activities in the dera came into picture, Chhatarparti started reporting the matter prominently in his newspaper. “The dera men started threatening my father. On October 24, 2002, my father was at home. The goons of the dera called him outside, and fired five bullets at him. He was admitted to the PGIMS in Rohtak, but the police did not try to record his statement before a magistrate despite the fact that he remained under treatment for 28 days before he finally died in Apollo Hospital of Delhi. Even my grandfather had made a written request to the then Deputy Commissioner of Sirsa in November 2002, urging that my father’s statement be recorded before a magistrate. He was fully conscious for about 15 days even after bullet injuries,” Anshul recalls.

The authority of the Indian state was trounced by the Dera. Is anyone surprised?
The INLD, which had facilitated the setting up of the dera in Sirsa, was in power at the time. “In his police statement, my father had clearly stated he was attacked on the directions of the dera chief. But the police did not include this para in his statement which was recorded in my presence,” said Chhatarpati. “The dera had full political patronage from the INLD government, like it enjoys during the current BJP government. It was the political pressure which did not let the Haryana police to conduct a fair probe. In December 2002, my family members met the then CM Om Prakash Chautala to seek a CBI probe into the matter because the police was shielding him. When nothing happened, we approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court which ultimately handed over the probe to CBI in the 2003,” says Anshul.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Two months into Doklam standoff, assessing China’s strength. By Praveen Swami

Loose-cannon special forces officer Leng Feng emerges from his seaside retreat, to the applause of a grateful nation, when a cartel of arms dealers and mercenaries begin to lay waste an impoverished African country. Fighting to save aid workers and innocent civilians, he fights his way past the enemy with underwater kung-fu, evades an armed drone and destroys battle tanks. The plot of China’s highest-grossing blockbuster, Wolf Warrior II, seems familiar, because it is: this is Rambo with Chinese characteristics.

Few in the audience today would recall Li Cunbao’s 1982 novel, Gaoshan xia de huahuan (‘Wreaths of flowers at the foot of the mountains’), which tells the story of the soldiers who fought China’s last real war. The brave company commander at the centre of the story leaves his wife and baby a frock, used uniforms, and a debt of $ 380 — 10 times his pay. Even fewer would have seen Tamen zheng nianqing (‘In their prime’), banned in 1986, a gritty anti-war film on soldiers holed up in a limestone cave, and their desperate battle to survive. The 12,192 soldiers killed in the China-Vietnam war, mainly the sons of poor peasant families, have no place in official Chinese history. The war revealed stark problems in China’s military, though, many of which continue to haunt the People’s Liberation Army.

For weeks now, China has been threatening India with terrible retribution for what it claims is trespass into its lair on the Doklam plateau. There are more than a few in India genuinely worried by the aggression — part of a pattern of intimidation that has forced Japan to scramble its fighters more often than at the height of the Cold War, and sent Vietnam into the arms of arch-enemy United States. Like so much to do with military power, China’s great strength is part steel and part illusion. The dragon may indeed breathe fire - but it has enough teeth and claws missing to not want to fight.
When Beijing began to wake to modern warfare in the wake of the 1984-85 conflict, the PLA was a lumbering peasant army: its main tank was the 1950s-design T-55, the bloated 3.5 million-strong military lacked modern vehicles and arms, and the Air Force and Navy were barely capable of coastal defence.

The growth of the military budget - which, it bears mention, has consistently hovered around 2% of Gross Domestic Product, the global norm - has helped drag the PLA into the 20th century, but only just... read more:

Modi blows hot air at China at rally in Arunachal Pradesh - forgetting Vajpayee's surrender in 2003
Report on Tibet to the ICJ, 1959
Uyghur leader Dolkun Isa’s statement on India’s withdrawal of his visa // India denies visa to Tiananmen activist Lu Jinghua

SC Verdict is against mass surveillance makes Aadhaar Act an unjust black act

Supreme Court’s rare 9-Judge Bench rejects government’s position, upholds right to privacy as a fundamental right in biometric UID/Aadhaar number case

Verdict is against mass surveillance makes Aadhaar Act an unjust black act

UID/Aadhaar remains voluntary 

Pronouncing the verdict, in the 12 digit biometric Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar number project case, the Supreme Court’s rare 9-Judge Bench recognized that “The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution” of India. It further said that “Decisions (of the Court) subsequent to Kharak Singh which have enunciated the position” and “lay down the correct position in law.” In Kharak Singh v. State of U.P. & Others, AIR 1963 SC 1295, the decision was rendered by a Bench of six judges. It categorically stated that “The decision in Kharak Singh to the extent that it holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands over-ruled.” 

The order further reads, “The decision in M P Sharma which holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands over-ruled”. The decision in MP Sharma v. Satish Chandra, 1954 SCR 1077) was rendered by a Bench of eight judges.  The Court has pulverized the contention of Attorney General of India who advanced the controversial argument that the Indian Constitution does not specifically protect the right to privacy because of which Indians have been compelled, coerced and bulldozed to enroll for UID/Aadhaar number which has been rejected in countries like Germany, China, France, UK and USA. The verdict will have grave impact on the Aadhaar Act 2016 which empowers the government to deactivate the UID/Aadhaar numbers of Indians without their consent. It is likely that the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) of UID/Aadhaar numbers and Aadhaar Act will be declared as violative of citizens’ right to privacy.

Exploring the Shadows of America’s Security State. By Alfred W. McCoy

The drug traffic that supplied heroin for the U.S. troops fighting in South Vietnam was not exclusively the work of criminals. Once the opium left tribal poppy fields in Laos, the traffic required official complicity at every level. The helicopters of Air America, the airline the CIA then ran, carried raw opium out of the villages of its hill-tribe allies. The commander of the Royal Lao Army, a close American collaborator, operated the world’s largest heroin lab..

In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington pursued its elusive enemies across the landscapes of Asia and Africa, thanks in part to a massive expansion of its intelligence infrastructure, particularly of the emerging technologies for digital surveillance, agile drones, and biometric identification. In 2010, almost a decade into this secret war with its voracious appetite for information, the Washington Post reported that the national security state had swelled into a “fourth branch” of the federal government -- with 854,000 vetted officials, 263 security organizations, and over 3,000 intelligence units, issuing 50,000 special reports every year. Though stunning, these statistics only skimmed the visible surface of what had become history’s largest and most lethal clandestine apparatus. According to classified documents that Edward Snowden leaked in 2013, the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies alone had 107,035 employees and a combined “black budget” of $52.6 billion, the equivalent of 10% percent of the vast defense budget.

By sweeping the skies and probing the worldwide web’s undersea cables, the National Security Agency (NSA) could surgically penetrate the confidential communications of just about any leader on the planet, while simultaneously sweeping up billions of ordinary messages. For its classified missions, the CIA had access to the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, with 69,000 elite troops (Rangers, SEALs, Air Commandos) and their agile arsenal. In addition to this formidable paramilitary capacity, the CIA operated 30 Predator and Reaper drones responsible for more than 3,000 deaths in Pakistan and Yemen.

While Americans practiced a collective form of duck and cover as the Department of Homeland Security’s colored alerts pulsed nervously from yellow to red, few paused to ask the hard question: Was all this security really directed solely at enemies beyond our borders? After half a century of domestic security abuses -- from the “red scare” of the 1920s through the FBI’s illegal harassment of antiwar protesters in the 1960s and 1970s -- could we really be confident that there wasn’t a hidden cost to all these secret measures right here at home? Maybe, just maybe, all this security wasn’t really so benign when it came to us. From my own personal experience over the past half-century, and my family’s history over three generations, I’ve found out in the most personal way possible that there’s a real cost to entrusting our civil liberties to the discretion of secret agencies. Let me share just a few of my own “war” stories to explain how I’ve been forced to keep learning and relearning this uncomfortable lesson the hard way.

On the Heroin Trail: After finishing college in the late 1960s, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Japanese history and was pleasantly surprised when Yale Graduate School admitted me with a full fellowship. But the Ivy League in those days was no ivory tower. During my first year at Yale, the Justice Department indicted Black Panther leader Bobby Seale for a local murder and the May Day protests that filled the New Haven green also shut the campus for a week. Almost simultaneously, President Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia and student protests closed hundreds of campuses across America for the rest of the semester.

In the midst of all this tumult, the focus of my studies shifted from Japan to Southeast Asia, and from the past to the war in Vietnam. Yes, that war. So what did I do about the draft? … read more:

see also: