Is Right to Information a threat to Right to Life?

I was born in a free country, a country where I was guaranteed the freedom of speech and expression, where I could question any political agenda and where I could rely on a free and objective media. Unfortunately, there are certain individuals who are aiming to take these rights way from me. No, the constitution is not being amended. But the close nexus between mafia, politicians and corrupt officials is ensuring that anyone who seeks to gather information against them is killed.

When the government passed a significant legislation Right to Information Act in year 2005, it assured that the Act would promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. But no one ever imagined that it could become a constant threat to life for those who choose to voicing out their concerns. The objective of the Act was to ensure to “furnish certain information to the citizens who desire to have it.” However it provided no provisions for protection of those who desired to seek this disclosure. A number of public-spirited individuals filed applications under the Act.

The information could have proved vital in exposing a number of political scams in the country. Resultantly, these activists were socially boycotted, harrassed, threatened, tortured, implicated in false cases or killed.

Ones who lost their lives

1. RTI activist Shehla Masood shot dead near her residence on 16 August 2011 in Bhopal.

2. Uttar Pradesh Police Homeguard Mr. Babbu Singh was allegedly killed while he was seeking information regarding government funds in his village.

3. Amit Jethwa who attempted to expose the illegal mining activities in Gir forest was shot dead by two assiliants on motorbike in July 2010.

4. Another RTI activist Shashidhar Mishra was killed for exposing several scams in welfare schemes in Bihar.

According to the Asian Centre of Human rights, there were around eight other RTI activists who have been murdered since 2010.

Police Protection

The RTI Act doesn’t include any provisions for protection. However police protection can be obtained under the provisions of Police Act, IPC and Crpc. Presently, the person who wants to seek protection must submit an application for the same to the police. In case the police fail to provide the same, the aggrieved party may approach the High Court under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Article 226 of the Constitution. The court can issue a writ of mandamus directing the police authorities to give protection to the person if it is satisfied that:

1. there is a threat to this person and

2. the authorities have failed to perform their duties

The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, 2010

Commonly known as the Whistleblower’s Bill seeks to protect persons who file complaints relating to disclosure on any allegation of corruption, willful misuse of power or discretion against any public servant. Clauses Related to Protection of Complainants • Any public servant or any other person including a non-governmental organization may make such a disclosure to the Central or State Vigilance Commission.

• The identity of the complainant must be contained in the complaint. It specifically bars inclusion of anonymous complaints.

• The identity of the complainant shall not be disclosed by the Vigilance Commission except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary. Any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant either negligently or due to mala fide reasons can be imposed a penality of 3 years and fine upto Rs. 50,000.

• Unlike other countries such as US, UK, and Canada the bill does not define victimisation. There is no penalty against the public servant who victimizes the complainant. Moreover the bill has no provision stating the burden of proof lies on which party on issues relating to victimization.

• The Vigilance Commission may give directions to a concerned public servant or authority to protect a complainant or witness either on an application by the complainant or suo moto.

• If the Commission is satisfied that the complainant needs protection it shall issue directions to the concerned government authorities for the same.

Conclusion

The police have been hesitant in providing protection to these activists. Unfortunately our police is influenced and controlled by money and political power. Shockingly, there have been instances where police officers have deliberately harassed or framed false charges against RTI activists. As stated above, if the police fail to take any action the recourse is through the court but even the protection provided under CRPC has a very limited scope.

Moreover, the RTI application form requires the applicant to provide their permanent address, photo identification and father/spouse names .The availability of these details makes the applicant susceptible to attacks. An amendment should be made in the RTI act itself to provide protection to applicants. The Whistleblower Bill doesn’t entirely protect the interests of the activists either. The bill bars all complaints against police and armed forces. To seek ‘disclosure’ the complainant is required to demonstrate loss to the government or gain to the public servant as a result of the act in question. The bill should specifically deal with private whistleblowers i.e. the RTI activists.

The civil society should take up the matter on a large scale. The parliament has been reluctant to address the issue. The public authorities should be asked to make pro-active disclosures. Cases relating to the death of RTI activists should be heard in fast track courts.

The murders of RTI activists shake my faith in the notion of democracy. If the situation continues we would soon be governed by those who possess gun power.

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The corruption news you are relying upon is sponsored by another corrupt politician

It has been a long time since my last post was published on Legal Drift. I got mails, facebook messages and a number of reminders from my readers who were waiting to read something new. Due to some other professional commitments, I was unable publish any new article. I apologize to all my readers for the delay in posts and assure them that this would never re-occur.

Presently, everyone is worried about the growing corruption in the nation. Where does this corruption hail from? Politicians; Who elects them? We, the citizens of India; How do these politicians convince us to vote for them? By paying news channels which in turn focus on publicizing these people before masses.

“Paid News”

I still remember the 2003 elections in Rajasthan. Everyone thought Gehlot would be re-elected as the Chief Minister. Hardly a few people were aware of the presence of Mrs. Vasundhra Raje Scindhiya as the candidate for the opposition. But then something happened that changed the entire course of things in a couple of months. The local media channels and newspapers started promoting BJP with all vigor. They conceptualized brilliant advertisements, banners and slogans to prove their point. Resultantly, congress lost the elections by a substantial margin. This is the power of “paid news”.

Back in 2003, paid news had played a less significant role in changing the outcome of elections but this culture of “purchasing news” became widespread in both Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana of 2009. Even though, the Election Commission through a circular in 2010 cautioned the chief electoral officers of all states and union territories about this mal-practice a lot is still required to be done in this regard.

Concept of Paid News:

Independence of media is considered most vital in a democratic set-up. An accountable and responsible media helps the citizens to make informed political decisions at all levels. Unfortunately, nowadays the concept of “paid news” is on a rise. Most of the political parties sponsor particular news channels (in cash or in kind) to purchase certain journalistic loyalties in return. This tradeoff between the political parties and media houses results in manipulation and filtration of relevant information which often leads the masses to make wrong choices.

Legal Perspective:

The Sections 77 and 123(6) of the (Representation of the People) Act prescribe accounting and ceiling of election expenses and exceeding these prescribed limits may be construed as a corrupt practice in elections. Any article or advertisement that either eulogise or denigrate a particular candidate or party may attract serious legal action against the publisher as well as the printer. It is compulsory for the publisher of an election advertisement and pamphlet to print his/her name and address as well as that of the printer under the provisions of Section 127 of the RPA, any default may result in imprisonment up to two years and/or a fine of Rs.2,000. Moreover, under Section 171-H of the Indian Penal Code, a fine of Rs 500 may be imposed if found guilty for making or accepting illegal payments for elections.

How effectively have we curbed the practice of paid news?

Even though over 100 show-cause notices have been served to the candidates no successful inquiries have been conducted yet. The circumstantial nature of the evidence has helped to cloak the deeds of both media houses as well as particular candidates and parties. Most of these transactions remain undisclosed and secretive. Interestingly the print media enjoys greater freedom than the electronic media. In a noted judgement of Supreme Court which came in 2004, the court observed that the ban on electronic media to refrain from broadcasting news related to election campaigns 48 hours before polling does not apply to print media. Hence the newspapers are allowed to publish campaign news even on the polling day.

What needs to be done?

States like Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal would be soon conducting assembly elections. An effective and efficient media regulatory mechanism is required to tackle this unethical and illegal practice. An independent regulatory body may be constituted which may consist members of Press Council of India. The previous efforts by the Election Commission to curb this practice have not proved very fruitful. The Election Commission should be given greater powers and responsibilities to tackle this problem.

Both substantive and procedural aspects of law relating to paid news must be revised. A higher monetary fine should be imposed on people involved in such transactions. The government is also planning to amend the Representation of People Act which would definitely prove useful. A duty to examine instances of paid news must be vested in responsible public officers like district collectors. This would ensure an external regulatory mechanism. Guidelines should be laid down for the news agencies to make special efforts to distinguish routine news from paid news. This would help readers to make informed decisions.

“Let no money color our opinion. For a responsible media we ourselves need to be responsible readers and above all responsible voters.”

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Faking it with help of Nepal, the truth behind the supply of fake notes in India

A five hundred rupee note was returned back to my friend by a cashier. When she inquired, she was informed that the note was fake. The cashier humbly said “Madam, the note is not genuine; you can be jailed for this. Since you have been a dedicated customer to us, I’m not tearing the note apart. Kindly try to use it elsewhere.”

His reply stunned me but then I thought why do situations like these arise and what should we and what do we actually do in such situations. Well the Section 489-c of the Indian Penal Code states that if any person is aware that he was/is in possession of the counterfeit currency, he may be imprisoned for up to 7 years, or shall be liable to fine or both. Thus, anyone who knowingly wants to pass off a fake currency can be penalized under the Indian laws.

The problem can be divided into two separate heads. Firstly, where does this counterfeit currency coming from? And Secondly, What should be done if you are in possession of such currency?

Origins of the fake currency

Recent police investigations have revealed that ISI is directly controlling the smuggling of fake currency in India. It is alleged that Pakistan is actively involved in such activities and the currency is sent to India via Nepal and Bangladesh.

India shares close diplomatic ties with Nepal. The citizens of both the nations are not required to have visas for travelling to each other’s country. On the other hand, although India and Bangladesh do not have such an arrangement but their geographical closeness between the two often helps people to cross-borders without any legal sanction behind it.

Both these conditions are favourable for our enemy country. The poverty in Nepal and Bangladesh can be conveniently exploited by ISI to ruin the Indian economy. The burden on the Indian authorities has increased manifold recently. There are large numbers of people who traverse to India from Bangladesh and Nepal through a various modes. To keep strict vigilance on all the visitors has proved very difficult in past.

Facts:

1. According to an Intelligence Bureau Report (2008) fake currency worth more than Rs. 1,70,000 crore is in circulation in India.

2. About 22 people who possessed fake Indian currency were arrested in Nepal in 2010 alone.

3. In January, 2010 Younus Ansari, son of Salim Ansari (Former Forest Minister, Nepal) was arrested with fake notes worth Rs. 25,000.

4. The smugglers have now started using more sofisticated and innovative technologies to counterfiet currency. Moreover, instead of carrying large amounts as earlier (70-90 lacks); they prefer smuggling lesser chunks of money (say 10-15 lacks).

Problem

The Week in one of its investigative articles contended that Pakistan is now manufacturing “super fake notes” to India. The notes are allegedly produced in government-run facilities in Pakistan. It is very difficult to distinguish such notes from genuine currency.

Only 95% of Indian currency paper is imported from 11 firms in Europe. Most of the security features are incorporated when the paper is produced. This includes engraving of watermark and magnetic properties to the currency. However, specific features like micro-lettering, placing of Mahatma Gandhi portrait, signature of RBI governor etc are incorporated at the printing stage i.e. in India.

Almost all the South-Asian countries subscribe to these European Firms for the supply of paper for their currencies. The functioning of the foreign firms is also under a suspicion.

Conclusion

Nepal has recently constituted a Central Investigation Bureau to look into the increasing supply of fake currency to India via Nepal which would definitely prove useful in the longer run. But the problem needs to be addressed at various stages by us aswell.

1. The involvement of the European firms must be checked an their tenders must be cancelled in case their conduct is found faulty.

2. Diplomatic pressure should be build on all the three countries i.e. Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

3. New recruitments should be made in the Border Security Forces. Moreover, the Airport staff and other police officers should be trained and made well-acquainted with the new techniques used by the smugglers.

4. The currency awareness programs in the past have not attained much success in the past. A better option would be to include educational institutions and educate the students in this regard.

(This post deals with why and how the counterfeit currency is reaching in India. The second part of the problem i.e. the attitude of Indians towards fake currency would be dealt in the subsequent post)

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Sri Lanka becomes a Dictatorship: A Mockery of Democratic Nation

The termination of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) did not mark the end of miseries in Sri Lanka. When most of the countries in the world are favoring democracy; Sri Lanka recently opted to be governed by dictatorship. On 8 September 2010; the Parliament headed by Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa passed the much criticized 18th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution. The amendment makes substantial changes in the political structure of Sri Lanka transforming it into a de-facto dictatorship. Criticism of the 18th Amendment

1. The Amendment not only uplifted the restrictions posed on the president by the 17th Amendment but also abolished the two-term limit on presidency. Thus a president may contest elections any number of times.

2. The President is given wide-discretionary powers to make political and constitutional appointments.

3. He has the power to appoint the Chairman and members of all independent commissions including the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, , Finance Commission, National Police Commission, Attorney General, Auditor General, Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court, the President and Judges of the Court of Appeal, Members of the Judicial Service Commission, Human Rights Commission and Secretary General of Parliament.

4. President has power to attend the parliament regularly and exercise his powers and privileges.

5. The Constitutional Council has been replaced by the Parliamentary Council which is accountable no other institution.

The amendment grants absolute power to the President. In fact, the President would control all the wings of the state. The unlimited power in the hands of the President may result in dangerous consequences. The government in past has been alleged to be involved in mass killings of the Tamilians in Sri Lanka.

Presently, three important political positions are headed by President’s brothers. It is feared that the powers bestowed by the amendment would further worsen the situation. The most disturbing part is that the opposition did not play a constructive rule in criticizing the bill. The opposition leader remained absent from the parliamentary debates regarding the 18 Amendment.

Conclusion

Replacement of democracy with a dictatorship would further harm the interests of the people in Sri Lanka. The irresponsible attitude of the opposition and the haste of the government clearly demonstrate that both the government and the opposition conspired against their own people.

The people on the other hand have resorted to peaceful protests. Organizations like Bar Association and National Peace Council have supported these protests.

It is not the corruption and concentration of power that concerns the Sri Lankan population today. From the past one year several attrocities are being carried on the people. During the war against L.T.T.E thousands of innocent Tamil civilians went missing. The armed forces misuse their excessive powers to traumatize the ethnic minorities in the state.

The main opponent of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Presidential elections was arrested and convicted by military court on grounds of fraud. Empowering the President to make judicial appointments would further worsen the situation. The judges so appointed may have colored opinions which would defeat the very purpose of independent judicial system.

Sri Lankans deserve a democratic and accountable government. The cause needs support of other countries around the world. The steps taken by Rajaskpa should not only be criticized but he should also be diplomatically pressurized to revive democracy in the country.

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Nobel Peace Prize Given to Chinese Human Rights Activist but the question remains are there human rights in China?

Introduction

Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese Rights Activist was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The decision was applauded all around the world except in China, where Liu is serving an 11 year sentence for inciting subversion of state power.

About Liu Xiaobo :-

• He is a prolific writer, scholar and pro-democracy essayist.

• He was jailed for 21 months in 1989 due to his participation in the Tiananmen Square protests calling for the reform of China’s one-party Communist system.

• In 1996, he was put in a “re-education” camp for three years when he supported the release of prisoners jailed in the Tiananmen demonstrations.

• Because of his contribution to the drafting of “Charter ‘08,” a political manifesto proclaiming human and political rights in China; he is presently serving an 11-year sentence on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” imposed after an unfair trial.

The Ongoing Debate: Are there Human Rights in China?

In a way the recognition of Liu’s work by the Nobel Prize Peace Committee once again questions the existence of political and human rights in China.

The Chinese government maintains that Human Rights are a western concept and the very idea interferes with the political autonomy of the country. It further contends that the west promotes the concept of “pan-human rights” in order to pursue its vested economic interests. On the other hand, it is contended that the individuals in China are deprived of their basic political and human rights. China has been primarily criticized by west because:-

1. Death Penalty is awarded in closed trials. No official figures pertaining to death penalty are disclosed by the state.

2. The police have wide discretionary powers.

3. Death Penalty is awarded in 68 offences including the crime of corruption.

4. Through “re-education of labour” and other administrative detentions; a large number of people are detained without trials.

5. Immense restrictions of media and use of internet.

6. Repression of religious and spiritual leaders and human rights activists.

7. Gender Discrimination in areas of education, health care and employment.

8. Birth control regulations present in the country.

9. The ill-treatment and forceful deportation of North-Korean refugees.

10. China is in breach of a number of international covenants signed by it. The country does not grant the freedom of speech, assembly, association and press to its citizens as guaranteed under Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution. What needs to be done?

1. Disclosure on the part of the government is necessary in certain areas.

2. The reliance on extra-judicial system should be reduced and an effective legal system must be established.

3. Reforms are needed in areas of social work, health care management, social aid, female literacy and social security.

4. Accountability of the police must be enhanced.

5. Public Participation in policy formulation and decision making must be stressed.

6. The intra-party system needs to be improved.

7. The restrictions on the press should be uplifted to ensure constructive journalism.

Conclusion

Liu Xiaobo, is a name virtually unknown to the people of China. The media is banned from using is name. He was not even allowed to interact with the reporters once he received the award. Similar restrictions were imposed on his wife as well.

The opinion in China is divided on the issue. Some believe that Liu’s trial was fair and just as he had views were contrary to the Chinese culture and whereas others maintain that China needs to grant minimum political and civil rights to its citizens.

It is true that human rights is a western concept but is China justified to deprive human rights of its citizens on this sole basis?

The Chinese have right to take informed decisions about their own political future. Unfortunately, the government ensures that the people access only filtered information. It is not the west but the Chinese themselves who must make decisions on their internal autonomy but for this the people must be given a platform to voice out their concerns and considerations.

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Children as soldiers!!! Are you kidding me?

Introduction

Child abuse and Child labour are not the sole problems faced by the world today. There is an emerging global concern about the increasing participation of children in armed forces. According to Amnesty International, “Approximately 250,000 children under the age of 18 are thought to be fighting in conflicts around the world.”

• Over 50 countries currently recruit children under age 18 into their armed forces. • The Human Rights Watch Report (2008) states that a few under 18 soldiers in the UK were sent to Iran. • 30% of the child soldiers are girls. They are often sexually exploited by the commanders and military leaders. • Myanmar with over 70,000 recruits is said to have largest number of child soldiers serving its national military.

Who is a child soldier?

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) defines child soldiers as 1. “any child—boy or girl— 2. under eighteen years of age, 3. who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity.”

This age limit was established in 2002 by the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Prior to this fifteen years was globally recognized as the minimum age for participation in armed conflict.

History: Child Soldiers

1. About ten thousand children participated in the Children’s Crusade of 1212.

2. Nazi’s had employed child soldiers to carry out their underground operations.

3. In Ancient Greece young boys about seven years old were recruited in the military forces.

4. After the Second World War the British established various “Small Boy Units” in various colonies.

Reality

Thousands of children are recruited by both state and non-state actor military forces. The children are mostly “programmed” to act as mechanical soldiers by the military leaders. In countries like Uganda the child soldiers are often made habitual to tranquilizers including cocaine and other drugs. The LTTE leaders used young boys for their Karate practices. According to CNN correspondent Arwa Daman; the children in poor countries are shown bright colored images of female virgins and rivers of milk which depict a picture entirely different from their harsh realities.

Usually the young girls are treated as “sex-slaves” by the military leaders. In some countries, the villages are required to fulfill certain recruitment quota. At times these children are kidnapped from streets, homes, play grounds and parks on gun point. In order to increase their courage they are often asked to participate in brutal crimes like rape, murder and abduction; occasionally against their own family members.

Reasons :-

1. Poverty and lack of education

2. Vulnerability of Children particularly from displaced families and Third World Nations.

3. Some of the terrorist organizations recruit kidnapped children in their forces (L.T.T.E was one such kind).

4. The sophisticated modern day weapons can be easily operated by a child.

5. Children constitute cheap military force that can be comfortably manipulated by the commanders.

Child Soldiers: India

Child Soldiers are recruited in several parts of the country including J&K, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andra Pradesh and Karnataka. The children are mostly used in tribal communities and insurgents. Most of them (both boys and girls) are below the age of 14 years. They live in poor conditions and are usually given “food” as a reward for work. They are treated as “safe carriers” of arms, ammunitions and information..

Recommendations:

1. Governments should ratify, implement and enforce the standards of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

2. Governments should ensure the protection of displaced and orphan children.

3. The former child soldiers must be properly rehabilitated.

4. The governments must ensure universal birth registration which would help in age verification.

5. Proper training and education must be provided to army personnel to prevent such recruitments.

6. Psychiatric and Medical help along with education and vocational training must be given to former child soldiers.

7. The recruitment of children in non-state armed forces need be checked by the respective state parties.

8. Constitution of separate independent agencies to deal with the situation of child soldiers in various countries.

9. The countries must alter their respective domestic laws to make under-age recruitments punishable criminal offence.

10. Generally when a minor is caught by the state agencies; his age is exaggerated in the official records to facilitate harsh punishments. Such practices must be discouraged.

Conclusion

The lack of political will on part of people and government have helped the perpetrators to change innocent youth into blood sucking monsters. It would not be wrong to say that “child soldiers” are not only a threat to the society but also a threat to themselves.

They are exploited sexually, emotionally and psychology by the same forces which they pledged to serve. Their trauma holds them back to lead a perfectly normal life in future. There is an urgent need to address the issue on both national and international front.

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Corrupt India

We received a comment from Mr Osuri Devendra Phanikar, a social activist from Andra Pradesh. To ensure maximum visibility and effective discussion on the critical issue, we are publishing his comment as a post.

Our democracy is standing on three legs of the constitution of India, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The corruption has eaten away most of the two legs the Legislature, the Executive. And we are limping on only leg that is judiciary. The demon of corruption is trying to expand its fangs in to Judiciary too. If that happens, our democracy will be crippled and become a corpse.

Now a day, Government jobs have become very lucrative and very profitable business for those who got in to them. If there are no givers, there will be no takers. Those who encourage corruption and getting their things done by bribing officials are more dangerous than the actual corrupt officials. If people who are in responsible positions become onlookers and remain mum over corrupt practices of the concerned, it is as though they are abetting the corruption.

The virus of corruption has been eating into vital organs of our democracy, the executive and the legislature and it is ready to spread in to judiciary as well. The demon of corruption has become so powerful that it gobbles up any person who moves even an inch forward to resist it.

The rampant and unchecked corruption in our society is giving birth to extremism and unrest in the country. Bureaucrats and people’s representatives, by abusing their official positions, are using the corruption as a tool in their hands to do the businesses of minting easy money very much to the knowledge of the public.

The public are not coming forward to giving information about corruption to investigating agencies concerned as they failed to give protection to them from the corrupt. It is very unfortunate to state that the evil of corruption with its obscurity is turning very honest officials in to very corrupt ones.

The most affected lot are the middle class and the poor among the society as welfare schemes meant for them are being eaten away the corrupt officials and politicians.

The corruption has been hissing in such a way that it has started challenging very fabric of our democracy. If this menace is not bridled and checked, the people of Republic of India will loose faith in one of the best democracies in the world and will turn to other means. Now, citizens of our country are more interested in corruption free administration than they are in democracy.

There are tales of woe from the people affected by the rampant corruption which have not been heeded by the concerned let alone redressing them. The intellect and the public spirited citizens have almost started to give up their efforts to check the corruption as they feel that it has gone out of proportions and almost impossible task to have a go at it. Such frustration is not encouraging and good for democracy as a whole. Some non governmental organizations should have to instill a ray of hope in to them, so that their crusade against the corruption will not be eroded and diluted.

The best way to arm the investigating agencies like ACB, CBI, CVC and Lokayukatas in our country is to grant autonomy to them. Right now, they have become mere recommendatory authorities working under clout of the legislature and the executive. These agencies should have complete judicial powers as that of a court of law.

The intellect in our country shall have to see that representatives of people in the country are convinced and talked into introducing necessary and comprehensive bills in their Assemblies or Parliament to empower the already existing investigating agencies with powers necessary to weed out corruption from the public life.

Modus operandi of the corrupt who tasted ill-gotten wealth is that they go all out to protect their ill-gotten assets. In the process, they stoop down to any level including spending part of their ill-gotten money for harassing the persons who try to unearth their graft and threatening them with dire sequences. Every citizen in this country wants to live peacefully and no one likes to take any initiative in the eradication of corruption which in their view involves a lot of risks.

The corrupt are more intelligent than any one in this world as they make things upside down with their maneuvering capacity and by camouflaging and misinterpreting the facts and they can talk the investigating authorities in to doing favours to them with ease. No one should be surprised if the corruption becomes fourth defacto wing of our constitution apart from the legislature, executive and the judiciary in the near future. The voices of great persons who raised voices against corruption had been choked. For example, in the state of Andhra Pradesh former vigilance commissioner Sree Ramachnadra Samal in his 56 pages report under caption ’ MY YEARS AS VIGILANCE COMMISSIONER OF ANDHRA PRADESH’ submitted a report on some of the corrupt offices of all India services. But he was dubbed as fanatic and mad. The corrupt launched vilification campaign against him. Till now, the report has not seen the light of the day.

The corrupt have succeeded in anchoring family clubs which consist of persons who encourage corruption and get things done by bribing the bureaucrats and politicians. Now, they would like to extend their activities in to their family trees.

Corruption has become a profession for some of the bureaucrats and politicians in the state of Andhra Pradesh and become a great threat to democracy. As control machinery in is in deep slumber, the state of Andhra Pradesh is hitting records in Corruption. The accumulation of wealth by dishonest bureaucrats particularly from All India Services has been scot-free and increasing as days go by. The control authority in Andhra Pradesh is badly undervaluing the assets of disproportionate assets of the corrupt officials in such way that that they are taking documentary value of assets only at the time of purchase although they have the option of valuating the assets by appropriate authority. Conducting artificial enquiries in to corrupt practices of the dishonest will not serve any purpose and on the other hand a lot of unnecessary expenditure will be incurred to the exchequer of Government of Andhra Pradesh.

I therefore pray that every public spirited citizen of my country be pleased to make efforts to weed out corruption from the public life without fear or favour.

OSURI DEVENDRA PHANIKAR Social worker S.V NILAYAM, OSURI MANSION NARSAPUR-534275 W, G,DT AP Cell-09346610749 Land-08814-274842

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You might Not be the Owner of the Land Registered in your Name – The Land Acquisition Act says so

Do you know a 100 year old Act may deprive you of your property in a couple of days?

The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 gives considerable power to the government to to acquire any land for “public purposes”. The Act is being misused by both State and Central governments to acquire multitude of lands specially in the rural areas in the illusion of development and urbanization.

Purpose of the Act

Acquisition of land was a primary requirement of the British in order to carry out some of their most ambitious projects such as railways, rural planning and development, construction of public offices, building establishments required by corporations and providing residence to the poor. Thus they enacted a draconian piece of legislation known as the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

Features of the Act

1. After the amendment of 1984, the act applies to whole of the country except the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Prior to this amendment; Rajasthan, Nagaland, Kerala and J&K had similar but separate land acquisition Acts.

2. The government may also acquire land under other certain acts such as Coal Bearing Act, Forests Act, Slum Areas Act, Delhi Development Act and Maharashtra Industrial Development Act.

Procedure under the Act

1. The government through publication notifies that the land in a particular locality is needed or may be needed for a public purpose or for a company. S. 4(1).

2. Authorized officers ascertain whether the said land is suitable for the purpose in view S. 4 (2).

3. Persons interested in the property may file their objections which would be enquired by Collector. S. 5-A.

4. Declaration and publication of intended acquisition by Government. S 6

5. The land is to be marked, measured and planned under the supervision of the Collector. Sections 7 & 8.

6. Issuance of public and individual notices to interested persons who may file their claims for compensation. S. 9.

7. Claims are to be enquired by the Collector. S. 11

8. Collector to award adequate compensation which would be awarded after the possession of land by the collector. Present Scenario The Act was heavily amended in 1984 by the Central Government. On one hand, amendment made provisions for efficient and adequate compensation but on the other it widened the scope of Sec.17 of the Act which deals with acquisition of land by companies. It is easier for government companies to acquire land vis-a-vis private enterprises.

The governments have always construed “public purposes” in liberal sense. They have succeeded in classifying any acquisition of land as being in public interest. With the emergence of SEZs and public-private partnerships eminent domain is being abused on a vast scale.

Unfortunately, the people who loose their lands have never been reasonably compensated. They are generally poor and uneducated and have no means to fight their cause. Ironically, the cost of development is borne by people who can hardly afford it.

Instances

1. Tata Nano Project:- After the protests Tata shifted its Nano Plant to Gujarat. But it still holds the lease of the disputed land for another 99 years.

2. Sanand The fertile land in Gujarat is being acquired to make space for the small wonder Nano. The government has already taken 5000 acres of land under its control.

3. Posco The iron-mining project has been delayed for 5 years as the farmers in Orissa are reluctant to surrender their fertile lands. Most of them have been killed or injured during the protests.

4. Reliance SEZ The Supreme Court rejected its special leave petition of Reliance to seek a stay order for land acquisition in Raigad, Maharashtra. However, it was able to acquire 1,150 Hectares of land near Navi Mumbai to accomplish its industrial and residential plans.

5. Arcelor Mittal Thousands of villagers of Jharkhand have contended that the government is selling land of tribals to non-tribals which violates the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act.

Deficient Bills

The government intends to amend the Act. The pending bills propose a number of changes such as re-defining ‘public purpose’; reduction in acquisition of land by private parties; formulation for Social Impact Assessment and establishment of National Rehabilitation Commission.

Although all references to companies have been deleted in the Amendment Bill, 2007; the new definition of “public purpose” includes acquisition for “a person” (Company is regarded as a person in law). The Rehabilitation Bill also has a number of flaws. The language of the bill gives discretionary powers to the government. The bill doesn’t impose only sanction on non-compliance of its laws. Conclusion

In India land is equity. People spend their entire life-savings to purchase a small piece land or any land for sale. Land resources are required by nations to progress. But at what cost? U.S.A and other countries follow a relatively more transparent procedure than India.

The powers of the government need to be restrained. The farmers should be given economic rights in their lands. If they are deprived of their lands, they must be recognized as stakeholders in the projects. Alternatively acquisition of land for commercial purposes must be discouraged. The Act must be abrogated and replaced by a new transparent legislation which sympathetic towards the land owners.

“The act empowers the government to transform an owner into a landless laborer overnight.”

I dedicate the post to my father Mr. A.K. Agarwal, who not only suggested the topic but also helped in research.

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10 MEASURES TO TACKLE THE ISSUE OF FARMER SUICIDES IN INDIA

I still remember my road trips from Jaipur to Delhi on weekends. My mother had to pack food everytime as there was no restaurant on the entire route. Now things have changed. NH8 has a number of malls and food chains including MC Donalds and CCD. These restaurants leisurely replaced the farm lands on the highway.

This depicts the plight of farmers more than anything else. The farmers near Delhi have an opportunity to sell their lands instead of killing themselves. But all Indian farmers are not that fortunate.

Aamir Khan’s Peepli Live is an apt satire on the current situation of Indian Farmers. The movie addresses a number of issues which need to be seen in the light of reality.

Indian Agricultural Setup

Indian Agriculture predominately dependent on nature. Any failure of nature adversely affects the farmers. Additionally our agricultural system is largely unorganized. The farmers work in an unsystematic manner. They lack technical support and institutionalized finance. Agriculture is treated as a seasonal occupation in the country. Farmers remain unemployed in some parts of the year.

There is barely any increase in the purchase price of the crops. However, the prices of inputs have hiked tremendously. This further contributes to the misery of an Indian farmer, who has no substantial income to meet his expenses.

Reasons for Farmer Suicides

Indebtedness is the major reason behind the farmer suicides. The loans taken by farmers can be divided into two categories:- personal and agricultural. The personal loans are taken generally to fulfill social obligations related to marriage and death. The agricultural loans are incurred for buying land, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and setting up a bio-gas plant.

In absence of institutionalized finance the farmers take loan from money lenders at high interest rates. Their agricultural profit is insufficient to recover debts. Thus, they are continuously harassed by the money lenders for the recovery of debts.

Government Schemes

The movie rightly points out that if an issue arises the legislators frame a “scheme”. But what about its implementation?

Presently the government offers a number of relief and insurance programs to the farmers. Under the said schemes the farmers are provided with loans on “low rate of interest” but ironically the benefits never reach them.

If a farmer defaults in payment of debts, the local police detains him for some time. The social embarrassment forces him to either sell his property or commit suicide. In Bundelkhand, farmers have even sold their wives and daughters to pay their debts.

It is largely contended that the schemes are implemented only on paper and not in reality. The benefits are availed solely by the rich farmers. The poor people are not even aware of the existence of such schemes. Issuance of a mere card or loan requires a number of formalities and documents. An uneducated farmer or a daily wage earner may not be able to successfully complete all these procedures.

Major Concerns

1. Farmer Suicides 2. Sale of farm lands for commercial purposes. 3. Change of occupation by the farmers 4. Over-emphasis on cash crops over food crops 5. Issue of Indebtedness 6. Effective Implementation of Governmental Policies Possible Solutions

1. Dependency of agriculture on nature should be reduced. This can be done by effective implementation of water management techniques by the government.

2. The institutionalized funds should be made available to the maximum farmers. The farmers must be monitored and advised with regard to the utilization of such funds.

3. The farmers should be provided with technical support to enhance the agricultural productivity.

4. The World Trade Organization forced the India to decrease its subsidies whereas the developed nations have been privileged to provide agricultural subsidies to their farmers. India definitely needs to take some diplomatic actions at the world forum to protects its farmers.

5. Organic farming must be encouraged. The government must subsidize organic fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers.

6. In 1998, World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced the government to replace farm saved seeds with corporate seeds. The Indian farmers are forced to buy the high-priced seeds manufactured by the multinationals.

7. Farmers with small land holdings must be encouraged to pursue community farming.

8. The farmers should be provided with direct instead of indirect subsidies.

9. The excessive powers of the money lenders must be checked.

10. There is a need for social and cultural awakening with in the village communities. This may be done by providing elementary education and vocational training to the farmers and their families.

Conclusion

Indian farmers have remained an ignored entity since 1991. Their hard work is seldom appreciated by their compatriots. Ironically the people who provide us with food and cloth, are deprived of it. Usually, a farmer is the only earning member in his family; his death leaves his family in destitution.

If the issue remains unaddressed it is a large possibility that India would soon emerge as a food deficient country. Probably we would have Mc. Donalds on national highways but would need to import wheat from aboard for our daily consumption.

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When will they celebrate their Independence? Common plight of Indian and Pakistani Fishermen

India and Pakistan share many things together. One such thing is their consecutive independence day. Today I thought of addressing an issue which is vital to both the countries. No, its not Kashmir. It is something more fundamental that concerns me today.The detention of Indian and Pakistani Fishermen cross border can no longer be ignored by us.

Official Statistics

According to the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum 159 Pakistani fishermen are detained in India on the other hand 547 Indian Fishermen have been detained in Pakistan. Moreover India has 200 Pakistani and Pakistan has about 350 Indian boats in their custody. It is a large possibility that the actual figures are much higher.

Why are the fishermen arrested?

Due to the Sir Creek border dispute between the nations, their sea borders are not clearly defined. Thus it is difficult for the fishermen to distinguish marine territories. Moreover, they have low understanding of maritime borders and protocols.

Seldom they cross the marine boundaries and have to pay huge price for it. Most of Indian fishermen who have been detained by Pakistan belong to Gujrat, Daman and Diu. The Gujrat CM Mr. Narendra Modi recently said that the Union Government is ignoring these arrests deliberately.

India shares cordial relations with Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan authorities and fishermen arrested in these countries are easily acquitted. But since India and Pakistan do not share cordial diplomatic ties, it is difficult for both the countries to protect their arrested fishermen.

Fishermen’s Plight

Most of the fishermen have been in jails for years.Their bona fide mistake costs them more than any crime they could have done. Their families are unaware of their presence. Generally a boat consists of all the fishermen from the same family. Any mistake may result in arrest of all the “earning male members” from a single family. In such situations their family suffers both emotionally and economically. The hope for return never dies but everyone is aware that the chances are negligible.

Laws and Punishment

In India illegal entrants in the country may be punished with imprisonment of 3.5 months to 5 years.

According to the Article 73 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, arrested vessels and crew are to be promptly released “upon the posting of reasonable bond or other security” and should not result in imprisonment or corporal punishment. The nations must invoke this article to ensure the early acquittal of the marine prisoners.

What is and What can be done?

The suspicion of terrorist activities forces the marine officers to do their duty diligently. Their work needs to be admired but once it is established that the arrested are not guilty of criminal tresspass, they must be released. This can be done only with the development of diplomatic understanding between the two nations.

In past both the nations have issued declaration of fishermen releases but things have never materialized. Most of them who have completed their sentences are not released either. Both the nations believe “we would release our prisoners only when they release theirs.” This diplomatic release game treats these prisoners as pawns. They are left of the mercy of their leaders to get what they lawfully deserve.

The ones who are released are in no good shape either. Generally, they are disillusioned, ill, infirm and depressed. A young lad returns as a feeble old man with grayed hair. He fails to be with his wife and family. His children become alien to him. His parents are no longer alive to meet him. His wife lived like a married widow all throughout her life.

Moreover, even if the countries release a prisoner they never release his vessel. A boat costs Rs 5 to 6 lakhs is usually bought on installments. A fishermen has virtually no resources to afford another vessel. Most of them are poor and uneducated can neither opt another career.

Conclusion

Action is required to be taken immediately. Indian and Pakistani Supreme Courts have realized the importance of the crucial issue.

In a dispute the Union government pleaded to detain the Pakistani fishermen in jail until Pakistan releases an equal number of Indian fishermen. However SC of India rightly held otherwise and ordered release of 16 Pakistani fishermen who had served their sentence.

In Pakistan no person can be kept in jail after 3 months of completion of his/her sentence. But the government sought permission to keep Indian fishermen in jail even when they had completed their sentence. The Pakistan SC has also taking cognizance of the matter has also ordered the release of Indian fishermen.

The courts in both the countries are performing the duties of the executive. But the implementation of these orders depend totally on the will of the governments. They have ignored the plight of the fishermen for 63 years which is no longer justified. Arrest of 800 fishermen affects 800 families in India and Pakistan.

Sadly, these fishermen can never cherish independence in the same sense as we do until some diplomatic actions are taken.

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