Thursday, September 20, 2018

Is Jharkhand Really Showing the Aadhaar-Way to Success in New India?

The Wire: Siraj Datta: Thursday, September 20, 2018.
A closer look at MGNREGA and NSAP in Jharkhand shows that Aadhaar is leading to substantial exclusion and violations of entitlements of workers and pensioners.
The state of Jharkhand was recently awarded by the rural development ministry for its performance in implementing ‘direct benefit transfer’ (DBT) in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the national social assistance pensions (NSAP) schemes.
In MGNREGA, the state stood first in the country while it came second in pensions. The irony is that if one were to give an award for the extent of havoc caused by DBT in welfare programmes, Jharkhand will be amongst the top performers in that list as well.
The term DBT itself is misleading. It is used by the government to refer to its strategy of linking recipients of various welfare programmes with their unique identity (UID) numbers and transferring the subsidies through Aadhaar-based payments bridge (APB). But what is often overlooked is that even before Aadhaar-based payments started, subsidies of several welfare programmes were already being transferred ‘directly’ to the bank/post office accounts of recipients.
The Jharkhand government has linked almost all pensioners’ accounts and MGNREGA job cards of active workers with their Aadhaar and most of the wages and pensions are paid through APB.
In February 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that DBT had helped in saving Rs 56,000 crores by removing crores of ‘fake’ beneficiaries from welfare programmes. The figure went up to Rs 90,000 crore in his speech on August 15, 2018. The government is yet to disclose how it arrived at these figures.
A closer look at MGNREGA and NSAP in Jharkhand reveals that these claims are definitely questionable, to say the least. It also shows that Aadhaar is leading to substantial exclusion and violations of entitlements of workers and pensioners.
Ghosts all around
In 2017-18, more than three lakh MGNREGA job cards were cancelled by the Jharkhand government. While the government claims that Aadhaar helped in removing ‘ghost’ workers, evidence from ground suggests that a staggering number of workers was deleted from the MGNREGA database as their UID numbers were not linked with their job cards. As a result, those workers are now denied their MGNREGA entitlements.
For example, Fulmait Devi of Lohardaga district could not get work as her job card was cancelled by the administration. Sukhni Devi of the same village is yet to be paid for the work done a few months back as her name was stuck off her family’s job card. In fact, it was done at a time when she was working in an MGNREGA scheme.
Interestingly, when the issue was flagged, the Block Programme Officer admitted that both their cards were cancelled as they were not linked with Aadhaar.
Response of BPO of Kisko block. Credit: The Wire
At a consultation meeting organised by the Rural Development Department in July 2017, several frontline functionaries and officers admitted that it was a general practice to cancel job cards that were not linked with Aadhaar to meet the target of 100% Aadhaar-seeding.
The Jharkhand government claimed in September 2017 that it had struck off three lakh ‘fake’ pensioners, with the help of Aadhaar, from the social security pensions list. According to the government’s response to a Right to Information (RTI) application, only 7% of the total deleted pensioners (of seven districts that shared the information) could be termed fraudulent. And the proportion of ‘fake’ beneficiaries in that list was miniscule.
Since 2016-17, several pensioners have been stuck off the pensions list as their UID numbers were not linked with the pension account. A survey of 103 deleted pensioners in Khunti district in December 2017 found 35% of them to be alive and genuine pensioners. For example, Bipta Nagesiya of Lohardaga was deleted from the list of old-age pensions as his pension scheme and bank account were not linked with Aadhaar.
The Jharkhand government claims that removal of ‘fake’ and ‘duplicate’ workers and pensioners led to a saving of Rs 204 crore in MGNREGA and Rs 200 crore in NSAP respectively. Interestingly several persons were deleted as part of a regular exercise of updating the lists by removing the ones who had died or permanently migrated.
Even though the method of calculation of these saving amounts was not shared, government sources have revealed how the figure of MGNREGA-savings was arrived at. The total number of cancelled cards was multiplied with the wage rate for that year (Rs 168 per day) and the average number of days of work that a household got (around 40 days) in that year. And not to mention, these figures constitute the ‘DBT-savings’ repeatedly cited by the Narendra Modi government.
The never-ending wait for wages and pensions
The government claims that Aadhaar simplified and fastened the transfer of cash entitlements to the intended recipient. But the experiences of pensioners and MGNREGA workers in Jharkhand show that Aadhaar-based payments have increased the uncertainty of getting wages or pensions on time.
A major reason for non-payment or delay in payment to MGNREGA workers is rejection of wage transactions. In the last few years, wages worth crores of rupees have been rejected by the electronic payment system because of issues related to Aadhaar and bank accounts such as mapping of incorrect bank account numbers with Aadhaar, linking of incorrect Aadhaar with job cards and so on. Most of the workers were not even aware about the reasons for delays in wage-payments or how to get the issues rectified.
Another increasingly common issue is the crediting of wages or pension to the wrong bank account linked to Aadhaar. In Aadhaar-based payments, the money is credited to the bank account that was linked last with a particular UID number. In several cases, wages are credited to accounts of workers that are hardly used by them and are different from the ones that they normally use. Often the workers are not even aware of the existence such accounts or how they were linked to their Aadhaar without their consent. In the recent past, wages worth several crores were credited to Airtel Payments bank accounts that were opened and linked with workers’ Aadhaar without their consent and knowledge.
There are many cases in which the wages or pension get credited to someone else’s account linked with the person’s Aadhaar. One of the most glaring examples is the case of 64-year-old Premani Kunwar who lived in absolute penury and died of starvation. She did not receive her old-age pension for the last two months before her death as it was credited to someone else’s account that got linked with her Aadhaar without her knowledge.
And the third issue that affects people, especially the elderly, is the failure of Aadhaar-based biometric authentication during withdrawal of pension or wages because of issues such as poor internet connectivity, failure of fingerprint authentication and so on. They often have to make multiple trips to bank or the customer service center to withdraw their money.
It must be added that the uncertainty in timely payment of wages and the hassles involved in withdrawing them are dissuading workers from working in MGNREGA.
Constructing truth for New India
The violations caused by Aadhaar are not just restricted to MGNREGA and NSAP. A large number of families of Jharkhand are regularly denied their grain entitlement in the public distribution system because of issues related to failure of Aadhaar-based biometric authentication at the ration shop, cancellation of ration cards not linked with Aadhaar and so on.
At least 14 persons have died of starvation and destitution in the last one year. All these families were denied their grain entitlements while some victims were denied pensions. Seven of these deaths happened because of issues related to Aadhaar.
It is worth mentioning that the state government, in 2017-18, claimed to have cancelled 11.64 lakh ‘fake’ and ‘duplicate’ ration cards with the help of Aadhaar. It reported savings of around 224 crores due to this move. As it turned out, the list included several genuine and alive persons who stopped receiving their grain entitlement. Eleven-year Santoshi, who died of starvation, was also denied ration as her family’s card was cancelled in the want of Aadhaar.
It is deeply worrying that while the performance in implementing DBT in MGNREGA and NSAP is being celebrated, there is negligible acknowledgement of the hardships caused by Aadhaar.
Siraj Dutta is based in Jharkhand and has been working on the MNREGA for the last six years.

Sarvodaya Has Launched a New National Awakening!

Slguardina: Laksiri Fernado: Sidney: Thursday, September 20, 2018.
The first act of Sarvodaya has gone into history, Ariyaratne taking forty students and twelve teachers from Nalanda College to the so-called outcaste (Rodiya) village at Kathaluwa, and helping the villagers to construct their dwellings, wells, toilets and roads.
Sarvodaya is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year with various new activities and strengthening their old ones. One of the important initiatives is the launching of the countrywide ‘Deshodaya’or the ‘national awakening’ programme. Although the name or even the programme is not completely new, it has taken a new focus and direction with a view to resist and overturn the existing corrupt political system, political culture and practices.
The Founder of Sarvodaya, Dr A. T. Ariyaratne, still active and vibrant, identifies the present day rotten political-economy as the main reason for the widespread decline in the country. The key factor in this decline, in his opinion, is the (adversarial) political party system that has even destroyed the sovereignty of the people. One cannot agree more.
He goes on saying, “Those who believe in political parties as religion, even indulge in crimes such as killings and destroying the environment, for the sake of achieving power, position, fame and money.” I am quoting and paraphrasing from his speech at the Deshodayaconvention in June 2018.
Sarvodaya Activities
Sarvodaya is not an unknown movement to anyone in the country and quite known among humanitarian organizations overseas for its goodwok. I first remember its inauguration (in 1958) when it was reported in the newspapers that a teacher at Nalanda College founding a Shramadana(voluntary work or gifting-labour) movement when we were young (13 years in my case) and looking for good deeds to follow or admire. Three of our key icons at that time were E. W. Adikaram, A. T. Ariyaratne and Abraham T. Kovoor (followed by Carlo Fonseka) for different reasons and purposes.
The first act of Sarvodaya has gone into history, Ariyaratne taking forty students and twelve teachers from Nalanda College to the so-called outcaste (Rodiya) village at Kathaluwa, and helping the villagers to construct their dwellings, wells, toilets and roads. More importantly they were motivated and trained for cultivation and self-employment.
During a casual meeting with A. T. Ariyaratnerecently he explained to me how he first ventured into ‘gifting his labour’ to others, when he started mathematics/science classes for his former fellow students at Gandara during weekends, where he was born, after he had the fortune to get admitted to the prestigious Mahinda College, Galle. His voice was eternally enthusiastic. Gifting labour is the meaning of Shramadana as he said. He didn’t fail to compliment Merrill J. Fernando (Dilmahcompany) who had gifted the first headquarters of Sarvodaya at Moratuwa.
Perhaps the peak of Sarvodaya activities in recent decades had been the aftermath of Tsunami disaster in the country. However in overall, they have covered more than 15, 000 villages out 38,000, throughout the country in their work. The war undoubtedly hampered their work in the North and the East, yet the activities have now restarted. The organization claims the overall beneficiaries to be mora than 10 million. This is one of the prominent people’s organizations working irrespective of caste, gender, ethnicity, religion, party or other distinctions.
Personal Experiences
When I was living in Sri Lanka at Koswatta, Thalangama, before 2011, the first person I encountered early morning in my walks was an elderly woman selling Kola Kanda (herbal porridge) at a boutique sponsored by Sarvodaya. I used to patronize the business almost daily.
During some visits to the North-East during the temporary CFA period (2002-2005) for peace building work, I have met former Sarvodaya workers and seen dilapidated Sarvodaya name boards evidenced of their prominent presence there before the war.
This time in Colombo,when I was travelling in a taxi, conversing with the driver-owner, Upul, he told me the following story. His father had died when he was three years and his mother had to take a big economic burden with four children. It was Sarvodaya who had come to their rescue, giving her a job and looking after the family.
In explaining the philosophy of Sarvodaya, its Executive Director Dr VinyaAriyaratnehas given the following explanation.
“Sarvodaya is a movement which promotes human development. The uniqueness of Sarvodaya lies in the fact that it promotes inner connections between people and communities which we call spirituality. That is the glue which keeps this holistic approach together.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6jn7azX-m8)
Holistic Activities
Sarvodaya programmes are not only about small-scale community and people’s activities. They have a strong propensity to promote enterprises in modern ways. Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) is one such innovative programmes. Along with public sector institutions and initiatives, they have contributed greatly to create enthusiasm and upgrade knowledge about information technology, particularly among the young, both urban and rural. This is one area Sri Lanka has progressed immensely in the last decade or so. A brief list of other activities goes as follows.
  1. Micro-Finance for Economic Empowerment.
  2. Rural Infrastructure Building for the Poor – water, sanitation and housing.
  3. Counselling and Leal Services for Environment Protection and Governance.
  4. Rapid Intervention in Disaster Management – looking after the internally displaced.
  5. Community Programmes on health, welfare, women’s issues and early childhood.
  6. Community Education/Training on development, ecology & environment.
  7. Programmes on social/spiritual awareness, meditation, reconciliation and peace.
  8. Community Tourism with benefits to the visitors and the locals.
Deshodaya (National Awakening)
Deshodaya is a revamped new initiative which might even become politically controversial, yet the Founder, the Executive Director and the Executive Committee appear to be determined and committed. They may keep a division of labour between Sarvodayaand Deshodaya, but both derive from the same source of integrated philosophy. Sarvodaya philosophy is strongly influenced by non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi. A. T. Ariyaratne is often called ‘Gandhi of Sri Lanka.’ (See Asianet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avYgWQz7SeU)
Deshodaya in essence intends a ‘peaceful total national revolution’ (ahinsavadipurnajathikaviplavayak). The intention is not power, but justice, and to createa political-economy that could serve the people. Deshodaya has to be understood as the fourth stage or step of their social reform process or the series of people’s awakenings. First is called Purushodaya(self-awakening), introducing a value system for individuals about civic conscience, righteousness, non-violence, environmental protection, rights and duties, and national reconciliation. Temperance is not excluded.
Second is Kutumbodaya meaning family awakening. The principles encompass simple and disciplined living, transforming Purushodaya values into family and domestic context, further emphasising cleanliness, health and mindfulness. Third is called Gramodaya (village awakening), the name apparently coinciding with several state initiatives and structures at village level. Sarvodaya objective however has been to mobilize people and local communities at village level for empowerment, self-reliance, human cooperation and conflict resolution, addressing the needs and requirements of the vulnerable communities in particular. The primary objective is to create Self-governing Villages (GramaSwarajya).
Objectives as Presently Declared
Deshodaya intends to work towardsa commonwealth of self-governing villages. The Founder and the President, A. T. Ariyaratne has unveiled 28 point programme for this task, and the merit of this program appears to be its critical analysis and alternative proposals addressing the widespread ailments of the present political system and the economy. Some of the salient features can be summarized as follows.
  • A primary objective of Deshodayais to change the present corrupt political party system with a more people’s participatory political system. As they say, it is a myth to consider that a democratic political system cannot operate without political parties. Political parties are at the root of the present divisions on caste, ethnicity, religion, class or even gender which prevents unity of people/s as one nation, in addition to corruption, waste, misuse of funds and nepotism.
  • Deshodaya is committed for a new constitution. However, such a constitution requires further discussions and agreements on basic fundamentals. Instead of vertical governance, more emphasis should be given to horizontal democracy and structures, and self-governing institutions beginning with village and or small units. This is a bottom-up approach akin to many notions of subsidiarity. They insist on a complete review of the provincial council system. The devolution should go further down, they say. Under the benefits of modern information technology, completely decentralized administration is a possibility.
  • Rule of law is of paramount importance. No one should be above the law. All universal human rights should be enshrined and enforced without discrimination. All wrong doers should be punished. The drug dealers and arms dealers should be severely punished. No politician should be allowed for undue privileges. Politics should be a voluntary service and should not be considered a profession or a job. Only expenses of the politicians should be covered by public funds.
  • Environmental protection is crucially important in a people centred economy and good governance. People’s future survival and physical/mental health would depend on the way the environment is protected and maintained. Animals also have rights to survive. The mania for ‘large scale development’ should be do away with. Those projects and schemes have already done a colossal damage to the environment.
  • People should aspire for a society without ‘poverty or affluence.’ Welfare is important. Fulfilling basic needs of all should be the bottom line. This is not about retribution against the rich, but make them understand that they can make good deeds by becoming philanthropists. The traditional wisdom of ‘earning wealth through righteous means; use one quarter for the day to day needs; utilize two quarters for the promotion of the business; and saving the remaining quarter for emergency needs’ might be the best advice to preach.
  • Deshodaya appears to believe in the wisdom of tradition, and national inheritance, while open to absorbing all modern knowledge and science. It is not about one tradition dominating or suppressing other traditions. ‘Open state’and ‘righteous citizens’ are its cardinal principles. It believes in one universal human family, while at present working on a national awakening in Sri Lanka. 
  • Complete non-violence, tolerance, peace, compassion and empathy are its working principles.
Conclusion
The declared visions and practices of Sarvodaya, including the Deshodaya programme, are worth considering and discussing, particularly under the present crisis situation in Sri Lanka’s polity and the economy. They do not seem to live in an ivory tower, although cultivating and promoting some ‘dreams’ or ideals. Some of the above interpretations are mine, perhaps not theirs.
Deshodaya movement does not limit to their declared policies or educating people on them. They have taken an active part in the constitutional reform process and their local groups have extensively participated at the people’s consultative process in early 2016. Many educational pamphlets had been issued and discussions held. However, they have become disillusioned about the way the process had evolved, with one sided approaches or dogmatic views.
With a view to influencing the decision making of the newly elected PradeshiyaSabhas on behalf of the people and the citizens, they have also formed what they call the ‘Shadow PradeshiyaSabhas’ in almost all localities. The progress of the work yet to be seen and evaluated.
Deshodya movement has also been working very closely with other people’s or civil society organizations, independent from major parties or governing groups. On the issues of free and fair elections, on the right to information which has now materialized in the RTI Act, and in the promotion of suitable candidates for local government elections, Deshodayahas worked with PAFFREL and with the ‘March 13 Movement’ and many other organizations. Simply said, Sarvodaya is not sectarian.

Journalists in Bangladesh up in arms over new cyber law.

UCA News: Rock Ronald Rozario and Stephan Uttom, Dhaka: Thursday, September 20, 2018.
Editors demand amendments to bill seen as further trampling on freedom of expression
Bangladeshi journalists have criticized the government in moving forward with a new cyber security law while ignoring their concerns about the curtailing of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
In a statement on Sept. 16, the Sampadak Parishad (Editors' Council), a forum of newspaper editors, expressed "surprise, disappointment and shock" at the final report issued five days earlier by a parliamentary standing committee on the draft Digital Security Act 2018.
"The report has totally ignored the protests and concerns expressed by journalists and media organizations," it said.
"We are forced to reject said report as it suggests no fundamental changes to Sections 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32, and 43 of the draft act, which pose serious threats to freedom of expression and the operations of the media," continued the statement, which was signed by the editors of 19 national dailies.
They welcomed the inclusion of the Right to Information Act (RTI) under Section 3 of the law, but expressed concern at the inclusion of the British colonial era Official Secrets, which they argued contradicts the RTI.
The statement claimed the ruling Awami League (AL) has ignored the concerns put forward by the media at three meetings between government officials and associations of journalists.
The new law tramples on people's constitutional right to freedom of expression, as well as other basic democratic rights, the editors said as they urged parliament not pass the bill until further amendments are made.
The Digital Security Bill 2018 has raised eyebrows since its inception some two years ago due to a number of controversial provisions.
Section 32 states that anyone who illegally enters the offices of the government, semi-government or autonomous bodies to gather information, and uses an electronic device to covertly record information, can face up to 14 years in jail, a fine of up to 2 million taka (US$24,000), or both.
Section 43 allows police to search and arrest anyone without a court warrant.
The government moved ahead with the new law after facing a barrage criticism both at home and abroad for the widespread abuse and harassment of journalists, dissidents and critics under the already repressive provisions of the Information and Communication Technology Act 2013. 
The government said the new cyber law aims to curb the recent spike in cyber crime and outbreaks of violent extremism fueled by digital platforms.
Father Augustine Bulbul Rebeiro, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Social Communication Commission, also expressed dismay over the law.
"In its current state, it threatens our basic freedoms and will discourage journalists from investigative reporting on issues such as corruption and irregularities," Father Rebeiro, editor of the Catholic weekly Pratibeshi (Neighbor), told ucanews.com.
"There's a high chance the police will use it to abuse their discretionary powers, and it would surely force journalists to censor themselves to avoid harassment," he said.
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"I think the law has created a sense of panic among the media community here. As such, the government needs to rethink it before moving to a final decision."
Syed Shukur Ali, secretary of Dhaka Reporters' Unity, a leading association of journalists in the country, echoed similar sentiments.
"Journalists can't play their role properly if they are under constant fear of abuse and harassment," Ali told ucanews.com. 
"The government needs to take into account the concerns of editors and journalists and make the necessary changes to the law to make it acceptable."

Arappor Iyakkam alleges scam in unloading of coal.

The Hindu: Chennai: Thursday, September 20, 2018.
NGO Arappor Iyakkam has submitted a complaint to the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption (DVAC), alleging a major scam in the award of contracts by State power utility Tangedco to a private company for unloading domestic coal over a period of 16 years. The NGO alleged that corruption to the tune of ₹2,500 crore had occurred.

Addressing a press conference in the city on Wednesday, Jayaram Venkatesan, convener, Arappor Iyakkam, said Tangedco [then TNEB] had reimbursed the contractor, South India Corporation Ltd., without obtaining necessary documentary evidence, thereby causing a huge loss to the exchequer. The NGO submitted a memorandum to the DVAC with documentary evidence received from Tangedco under the Right to Information Act (RTI).
Labour charges
The main allegation of Arappor Iyakkam is with regard to the difference in labour charges for temporary and permanent workers in the Vizag port for unloading the domestic coal from various coal mines belonging to Eastern Coalfileds, Bharat Coking Coal and Mahanadhi coalfields.
In his complaint, Mr. Jayaram said Tangedco reimbursed a claim of ₹1,267 crore for wages and levy to the private contractor, without obtaining adequate documentary evidence, against an actual payment of ₹239 crore made by the private contractor during the period between 2011 and 2016.
He said though the contract document, under purchase order no. 49, stated that reimbursement should be made based on actuals, the officials of the Electricity Department paid the amount without obtaining the original documents.
The alleged undue favours provided to the private contractor by Tangedco was also questioned by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the audit department of Tangedco. The CAG had also questioned the reimbursement of service tax to the private company.
The Arappor Iyakkam accused Tangedco of ‘awarding’ the contract to South India Corporation Ltd. for unloading coal at the Vizag port, without going for a tender to find a contractor ever since 2001.
Mr. Jayaraman claimed, even by a rough estimate, corruption to the tune of ₹2,500 crore has happened from 2001 to 2016 in unloading domestic coal by this private company. Even after this corruption has been brought to light, no steps have been taken by Tangedco to blacklist the contractor, he charged.
Daily Pioneer: T. N Raghunatha: Mumbai: Thursday, September 20, 2018.
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday issued notices to the Election Commission of India (EC), Maharashtra State Election Commission (SEC) and two public sector Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) manufacturing companies and others in a public interest litigation seeking investigations into the supply and use of EVMs manufactured by the two State-run companies and a stay on the use of the machines pending the probe.
A HC bench of Justice S.S. Kemkar and Justice S.V. Kotwal ordered issuance of notices to the EC, SEC, Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and others to file their say, while hearing a public interest litigation filed RTI activist by Manoranjan S Roy.
The others who were served notices are the Union Home Ministry, IT Department and Maharashtra Government.
The HC bench directed the Additional Solicitor-General of India and state Advocate-General to appear at the next hearing to be held after two weeks. 
In a petition filed on behalf of Roy in March this year, counsels SP Chaudhari P Pawar and Santosh Saroj has urged the high court for setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the supply of EVMs by the two companies. He has also rooted for a stay on the use of EVMs pending the completion of the investigations.
Among other things, the petitioners urged the high court to order seizure of all the EVMs in circulation across the country and take them into its possession, pending the investigations. 
In his petition, Roy brought to the attention of the court about the manner in which a large number of EVMs and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) were being ordered by the EC and various SECs and that there were huge contradictions in the figures of orders and supplies made by the two manufacturers.
Roy has based hispetition based on the information he received from the parties concerned under the RTI Act.
Roy told the court that according to information received by him under RTI Act, the Bengaluru-based BEL had despatched large quantities of electronic voting machines by ‘hand-delivery’ and ‘by post’ to various unidentified recipients.
Quoting the RTI replies, Roy stated that BEL had informed him that it had despatched 820 balloting units (BUs) of the machines in bulk packaging, and on two occasions in April (2017) it sent 245 (VVPAT) machines ‘By Hand’, to certain recipients and destinations.
Roy said that on both the occasions, BEL did not state to whom the consignments of BUs were ‘posted’ or from where the entire lot of the ‘hand-delivered’ VVPATs originated and whether they were received safely by the intended recipients.
Roy said that for the entire lot of 820 BUs sent through India Posts, there were only nine Docket Nos. assigned for the total consignment, which comprises two boxes with 50 BUs each and one box each with 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110 and 210 BUs.
“This is misleading as each box has a specific size depending on the dimensions of the BUs. The BEL’s reply shows the entire consignment was posted in only nine boxes, though the Indian Posts does not accept — nor is equipped to handle — such huge parcels,” the petitioner said.
Roy said that BEL had told him that on April 6 and April 10, 2017, that it delivered VVPATs in three parcels — 65, 70 and 110, respectively — ‘By Hand’ and ‘urgent delivery’ to avoid the regular logistics route.
Alluding to several discrepancies that he had noticed in the “indiscriminate” orders and deliveries of EVMs made by the two state-run companies, Roy said that between 1989-1990 to 2015-2016, BEL had supplied 125,149 EVMs to Karnataka, 169,975 to Bihar, 159,900 to Uttar Pradesh, 140,500 to Tamil Nadu, 87,325 to Andhra Pradesh, 50,850 to Gujarat, 50,050 to Rajasthan, 23,000 to Jharkhand, 10,000 to Delhi, 3,000 to Manipur and 2,000 to Sikkim.
Surprisingly, BEL also supplied 500 EVMs to Chandigarh, which is the only city to get its own machines. Normally, the EVMs go to the respective states from where they are distributed.
In his petition, Roy demanded that as to why the BEL and the Election Commission of India had used different yardstick in the supply of EVMs to Chandigarh.
Alluding to the supply of VVPATs to various states, the petitioner said that he had received information stating that BEL had during 2013-14 supplied the highest number of VVPATs — 2,455 — to Karnataka, followed by 2,275 to Bihar, 2,140 to Gujarat, 1,500 to Mizoram, 1,475 to Tamil Nadu, 130 to Delhi and 25 to EC.

1,420 Central Acts repealed by Modi government: RTI response.

Economic Times: IANS: New Delhi: thursday, Septembr 20, 2018.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre has done away with 1,420 laws, considered "redundant and obsolete", in the past four years, a reply to a query under the RTI Act has revealed. As per the information provided by the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Legislative Department to Lucknow-based activist Nutan Thakur, 1,420 Central laws have been repealed since 2014. 
The information says that initially 35 Acts were repealed through the Repealing and Amending Act, 2015. This was followed by 90 Acts being repealed in 2015 itself and 1,050 Acts in 2016. In 2017, 245 Acts were repealed

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Metro feels the summer heat : Shinjini Ghosh

The Hindu: New Delhi: Wednesday, September 19, 2018.
In the past six years, 798 patients have absconded from the civic-run TB Hospital in Sewri. The information was received through a response to an Right To Information (RTI) query by activist Chetan Kothari.
This year, so far 76 patients have absconded, which is the lowest in comparison to the previous years. In the past six years, 2016 marks the highest number of absconded patients at 163. The response was received by RTI activist Chetan Kothari.
According to the hospital authority, the number of absconders has reduced by 50 per cent. As per information received, 140 patients absconded in 2013, 153 in 2014, 151 in 2015, 163 in 2016, 115 in 2017, and 76 in this year so far.
Dr Lalitkumar Anande, Medical Superintendent, Group of TB Hospitals, said, "The cure for TB is a long drawn process and the patients who leave the treatment midway suffer from loneliness."
He added, "When close relatives abandon the patients, they lose any hope of recovery. Counseling also plays a very important role and a communication gap between doctors and patients could also be a factor."
If the patient does not turn up for more than three hours, we report it to the police. The number of patients who took Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) in the past six years stands at 3,613.
"Most of the patients who take DAMA, return later to continue treatment. It is usually the relatives who bring the patients back to the hospital," said Dr Anande.

798 patients absconded from Sewri TB Hospital in six years: RTI

DNA: Mumbai: Wednesday, September 19, 2018.
In the past six years, 798 patients have absconded from the civic-run TB Hospital in Sewri. The information was received through a response to an Right To Information (RTI) query by activist Chetan Kothari.
This year, so far 76 patients have absconded, which is the lowest in comparison to the previous years. In the past six years, 2016 marks the highest number of absconded patients at 163. The response was received by RTI activist Chetan Kothari.
According to the hospital authority, the number of absconders has reduced by 50 per cent. As per information received, 140 patients absconded in 2013, 153 in 2014, 151 in 2015, 163 in 2016, 115 in 2017, and 76 in this year so far.
Dr Lalitkumar Anande, Medical Superintendent, Group of TB Hospitals, said, "The cure for TB is a long drawn process and the patients who leave the treatment midway suffer from loneliness."
He added, "When close relatives abandon the patients, they lose any hope of recovery. Counseling also plays a very important role and a communication gap between doctors and patients could also be a factor."
If the patient does not turn up for more than three hours, we report it to the police. The number of patients who took Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) in the past six years stands at 3,613.
"Most of the patients who take DAMA, return later to continue treatment. It is usually the relatives who bring the patients back to the hospital," said Dr Anande.

‘Hawai Chappal To Hawai Jahaaz’ Indeed: Overwhelming Response To PM Modi’s UDAN Scheme

Swarajya: New Delhi: Wednesday, September 19, 2018.
Seven out of ten seats sold under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) known as Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) were sold to customers, The Hindu has reported. The information was accessed by the newspaper under the Right To Information (RTI) act. These figures pertain to the past 16 months since the scheme was launched in April 2017.
The UDAN scheme aims to take flight services to tier 1 and tier 2 cities of the country, thereby enabling the common man to access air travel. 428 routes were awarded to 17 airlines and helicopter operators under this scheme in two rounds of bidding. Of these, eight airlines have started flights on 96 routes. Helicopter services are yet to begin.
Under the scheme, airlines have to set aside half of the seats for a price of Rs 2,500 per hour of flight. In return, the airline participating in the scheme will get subsidies from the concerned state government and the central government.
Mumbai-Porbandar, Delhi-Kanpur- Delhi, Mumbai-Kandla-Mumbai have been the most successful routes with a passenger load factor (seat occupancy) of over 90 per cent. Shillong-Dimapur-Shillong, Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar-Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad-Jamnagar-Ahmedabad have seen the least passenger load factors among the functional routes.

DUSU president’s BA degree fake, says NSUI

Hindustan Times: New Delhi: Wednesday, September 19, 2018.
The National Students Union of India (NSUI) on Tuesday alleged that the newly elected Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) president Ankiv Baisoya of the RSS-backed Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) submitted fake documents to get admission in the University.
The ABVP has denied the allegations.
The NSUI, Congress’ student wing, initially claimed it had sought the information from the Tamil Nadu-based Thiruvalluvar University, from where Baisoya graduated in 2006, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
But when the ABVP pointed out the absence of any “reference number” and “date of issue” on the letter, the NSUI said they had written to the university to verify Baisoya’s academic record and did not file an RTI application.
The NSUI said Thiruvalluvar University responded in a letter, saying: “The copy of the certificate of the following candidate has been verified and found that it is not genuine. It is a fake certificate.”
However, K Murugan, vice-chancellor of Thiruvalluvar University, Vellore, said: “I will have a discussion with the registrar and controller of examination over the originality of that certificate. After that I will reveal the exact nature of that degree certificate.”
Baisoya, who is currently pursuing a masters degree from Delhi University’s Department of Buddhism Studies, did Bachelors in Arts (BA) from Thiruvalluvar University.
There was no official reaction from Delhi University on NSUI’s allegations. Vice-chancellor Yogesh Tyagi and registrar Tarun Das did not respond to phone calls and text messages.
The ABVP, however, termed the allegation as NSUI “propaganda”. “The DU gave admission to Ankiv Baisoya after due verification of its documents. It’s the process of the university. Even today, the university has all the right to verify documents of any student enrolled in university. But it is not the job of the NSUI to provide certificates to any person.” ABVP national media convener Monika Chaudhary said.
The ABVP questioned the authenticity of the letter saying, “There is no date of issue or reference number written on the letter the NSUI has circulated. It is nothing but propaganda by NSUI,” Chaudhary said.
Despite several attempts, Baisoya did not respond.
The ABVP bagged three out of four DU student union posts, including president, vice-president and joint secretary, this year. NSUI settled for a post of secretary.

Digitise notary records: CIC to Law Ministry

Outlook India: New Delhi: Wednesday, September 19, 2018.
The Central Information Commission has directed the Law Ministry secretary to expedite the digitisation of notary records across the country and place them on a website.
The directives came during a hearing after a Law Ministry official admitted before Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur that the records are not being catalogued and indexed properly and are being stored in the godowns in bundles.
"In this scenario, it is very difficult to locate the documents which are required from time to time. This state of record keeping is very perilous as far as implementation of the RTI Act is concerned," Mathur noted.
He asked the ministry to depute a nodal officer to submit a report within 90 days on the steps taken by it after past directives from the Delhi High Court and the Central Information Commission in this regard.
"The nodal officer should submit a report indicating the steps taken by them in every State/Union Territory with regard to digitisation process of notary records," Mathur said.
A notary is a lawyer appointed by the central or state government under the Notaries Act 1952 who attests documents, administers oath, etc.
The chief information commissioner said that notary register is a public record which should be made accessible to people.
Mathur underlined that a person approaching a notary for authentication of his documents expects not only to exercise reasonable care in "notarizing" the signature on a document, but also to be able to show evidence, often years after the date of the act, that the notarisation was performed in accordance with proper notarial procedures.
"It is in the larger public interest that every notarial act should be maintained properly in a notary register and to archive it securely and indefinitely, or at least for the retention period as prescribed, if any," he said.
He said the officer should inform the commission about the actions being taken for preservation/maintenance of these records.
"It is to be noted that the essence of transparency lies in proper maintenance of records. This cannot be compromised at the altar of lack of logistics," he said.
Directing the ministry to improve its record keeping, the Chief Information Commissioner said only properly maintained records ensure the accountability of the public authority for every stakeholder of the society.
"In the meantime, the public authority is directed to initiate the steps for keeping the records of notaries all across the country, duly catalogued and indexed as per provisions of Section 4(1)(a) of the RTI Act and this information should be put on their website," Mathur said.
He said the ministry should also ensure that the steps are taken to preserve the records in a secured manner so that at a latter stage these can be retrieved as and when required.
Mathur said the information is expected to be in the records of the ministry or else they can call records from the notary concerned.
"Further, the public authority is directed to implement the order(s) of this Commission in letter and spirit as the directions are issued as per the powers vested in the CIC under...the RTI Act," he said.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Aravali violation by authorities: Police institute built on notified land in Bhondsi around 14 years ago

Times of India: Gurugram: Tuesday, September 18, 2018.
A week after the Supreme Court came down heavily on the state government for turning a blind eye to ecological degradation of Aravalis and ordered demolition of structures built after August 18, 1992, at Faridabad’s Kant Enclave saying they were built on forest land, illegal construction by government authorities in notified forest land came to light through an RTI revelation. The police training & research institute of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) in Bhondsi has been built on a 395-acre land notified under sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), according to an RTI reply.
The requisite permission by the state forest department, however, has not been granted for acquisition or conversion of the land till date.
The building was constructed in 2004, while permission for the land conversion was sought by the IRB in 2017. After the IRB sought the permission, the forest department carried out an investigation, and found out that as many as 62,000 trees of (sheeham, kikar and other species) were felled to construct the building on the protected land. Also, Kadarpur check dam was built on the notified land.
“The area has IRB office, hostel and other buildings of the training centre, and the construction violates provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980… Apart from this, the training institute also has Kadarpur check dam, which is around 480 metres long,” states an investigation report a copy of which is with TOI prepared by the forest range officer, and submitted to the forest department.
Justifying the construction of the training centre, a letter a copy of which is also with TOI written by the inspector general, IRB, Gurugram, to the forest department says, “The proposed land is along Bhondsi Damdama-Rithoj road at a distance of three kilometres… Only the land to this project falls under sections 4&5 of PLPA, 1900, which is 160.97 hectares (around 397 acres).”
Moreover, a request by the forest department to provide land for compensatory plantation has not been looked into by IRB yet. “According to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the land for compensatory plantation is required if the forest land is being converted. The department had in July 2017 sent a letter to the IG, IRB, stating the training centre should provide name of the village, records, and ‘khasra’ number so that we can determine if the land is appropriate for compensatory plantation. However, we have not received any communication yet,” said a source in the forest department.
Ram Avtar Yadav, who filed the RTI application, said, “It is shocking that the authorities themselves are involved in illegal grabbing of the notified land. The area had over 62,000 trees. The forest department hasn’t noticed the violations all these years. The forest department only came to know about the violations in 2017 when the IRB applied for land conversion, around 15 years after the IRB building was built. Now, even after the violations came to light in 2017, the department has not taken any action against the offenders.”

The life and death of Kedar Singh Jindan, He was a crusader for Dalit rights and rattled Himachal Pradesh’s caste-ridden society.

Newslaundry: Shimla: Tuesday, September 18, 2018.
Sitting behind the polished wooden desk in his office, Sirmaur’s Superintendent of Police (SP) Rohit Malpani looked like a man who hadn’t had a good night's sleep in days but wore a look of slight satisfaction.
The Director General of Police had just left Sirmaur Police Station after holding a press conference earlier during the day. “This is the biggest case I’ve touched so far,” said Malpani, who has been an SP in Sirmaur for the past 14 months. “But only masala gets covered in Crime Patrol, so you won’t see this on TV. It is a proper UP-Bihar style murder: first hit him with sticks, then throw his body on the road and run a car over him frontwards, then backwards, and then frontwards over his face again—all of it in broad daylight at around noon. Even though there is a school nearby as well as a Block Education Office, not a single person is ready to speak.”
The case Malpani is referring to is the murder of Dalit RTI activist Kedar Singh Jindan (43) that took place on September 7 at Bakrash village in Sirmaur District’s Shillai Block, Himachal Pradesh, around noon. A ‘one-man army,’ Jindan, who was also a practising advocate at the Shimla High Court, worked for the rights of Scheduled Castes and Tribes as well as for those who brought their cases of inter-caste marriages to him. He had also contested last year’s Assembly elections from Shillai on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket.
Jindan, who belonged to the Koli community, had held a press conference earlier in June in Shimla, wherein, using the Right to Information (RTI) Act, he had claimed that Below Poverty Line (BPL) certificates were being tampered with in his native place of Shillai. He said certificates were being issued to people belonging to the upper castes, who not only have heavy incomes but also lead a well-to-do life adorned with houses, multiple vehicles, etc.
He alleged that Jai Prakash, the up-pradhan of Bakrash panchayat and a Rajput, had tampered with the BPL list and got a few of his family members’ names on it, thereby making them eligible to reap the benefits that should have rightfully gone to someone who was from SC/ST background. Following this, some members of Jai Prakash’s family lost their BPL privileges—something that they held Jindan solely responsible for. Also, to have a Dalit show you up in this manner, wasn’t something that sat well with the rest of the Rajputs in Bakras village.
In the June press conference, Jindan had also stated that his life was in danger. He had lodged a complaint with the NHRC for an incident dating June 12, 2017. The “place of the incident” was “Shila area” and “Simla” and the case was “disposed with directions” on August 23 2017, stating that “the complaint be transmitted to the concerned authority for such action as deemed appropriate. The authority concerned is directed to take appropriate action within 8 weeks and to inform the complainant of the action taken in the matter.”
Jindan's wife said he was attacked last December as well. Hemalata  lives in Shimla, along with their two daughters, Vanshika and Dikshika, who study in Standard X and VII, respectively. She had met Jindan when she was 22 years old and studying in the first year of her B.A course. They both had a love marriage—Hemalata belonged to an upper caste from the town of Rohru village in Himachal Pradesh, and Jindan was a Dalit from Paab in Shillai.
“He was going to Shillai by bus and was dragged out of the front seat, where he was sitting when the bus reached Sataun village (in Kamrau Tehsil, Sirmaur) at around 4 pm. A mob of 50 men beat him up with sticks in the middle of the street, and no one came to his rescue. Sab tamasha dekh rahe the. Even the bus driver didn’t object or try to stop the act.” She further stated: “They hit him a lot…he was bleeding and very badly injured. The attackers then dropped six buckets of sand over him and left him to die.”
However, Jindan regained consciousness after 45 minutes, and in his bloody stupor, started shouting for water. “No one gave him a sip to drink,” said Hemalata. “He roamed the roads in his blood-stained clothes but no one gave him a lift. Maybe nobody recognised him. He was finally taken away in a police van to a hospital in Nahan.”
Hemalata also stated that Jindan had made a list of 35 names from whom he thought his life was in danger, and that this was submitted to police authorities as well. She also pointed out that Jai Prakash’s name was present in the list. “We used to be harassed when we lived in Shillai; people used to knock on our doors late at night and also give dhamkis over the phone. They said: ‘Sataun mein bach gaya, agli baar haddi bhi nahi milegi.’”
On September 7, Jindan was brutally beaten up with sticks and his face mutilated at the Block Primary Education Office (BPEO) in Bakrash village, Shillai, after which he was thrown onto the main road below and then crushed thrice by Jai Prakash’s Scorpio. Jai Prakash then himself called the Sirmaur police authorities and said he was involved in an accident. However, two people—who have now turned witness and are in police’s protective custody—saw the event unfold, or at least, are the only ones willing to come forward and say that they did. They are Raghuveer, son of Nain Singh, the local teacher at a school that is located right next to the BPEO in Bakrash where the incident took place. Nain Singh and his son are residents of Paab village—a remote and backward hilly village with no more than 10 houses—located above Kumrau tehsil in Shillai; the former, higher altitude area is where the Dalits live, while the latter lower-ground area is where the Rajputs reside.
Bakrash, where the murder took place, is only a few kilometres away down the curving mountain road, an area that can be seen from Paab. The other witness is Jindan’s nephew Suresh, who happened to be passing by the spot when Jindan was thrown onto the road.
According to Nain Singh, Jindan had arrived at his house in Paab the previous evening and had spent the night there. In the morning, while Nain Singh had gone to the fields, Jindan took off with Raghuveer on the motorbike for a ‘meeting’ at the BPEO office. Now, with his son Raghuveer turning witness in the case, Nain Singh puts on a brave front in the battering rainfall below his terrace roof in Paab village, but his fear is both, visible and justified. “If they can kill such a big leader in broad daylight, then what stops them from killing us?” he asked.
“This is a murder case—even the post-mortem report has found that,” said SP Malpani. “Three people have been arrested so far—Jai Prakash, Gopal Singh, and Karm Singh a.k.a Kaku.” SP Malpani also pointed out that Jai Prakash was an accused in another SC/ST atrocities case in Shillai earlier in March this year. He added: “Raghuveer’s 164 statement has been conducted on September 12; this is the testimony a witness gives in front of the court, as the statement given before police does not count in a court of law. We got his 164 done before a judicial magistrate in Paonta Sahib on Tuesday and his testimony is that it was a murder and that all three people who have been arrested, were involved.”
Malpani also confirmed that the prime accused, Jai Prakash, had initially tried to pass off the murder as an accident, but did not succeed. “The story that was recited by the accused was that it was an accident and that Jindal came under his vehicle, but after seeing the body, we knew this wasn’t an accident. The body was brutally murdered and face was crushed by the Scorpio. We have seen accidents: we investigate them daily. This was not a routine run-over by a vehicle.” He also said: “Jai Prakash has accepted that he has committed the murder—we didn't disclose this before because we wanted to corroborate information with our witnesses. He (Jai Prakash) did deny it, but later, when he was confronted and questioned, he admitted to doing it.”
However, when asked whether this was a caste-based atrocity—since Section 3 (2) (5) of the SC/ST atrocities act has been implemented on the case—SP Malpani said: “This is not really a caste-based violence; it is more of a personal enmity between the accused and the victim.”
Jindan’s older brothers’—Bahadur Singh and Hira Singh—who live in Paab, told Newslaundry that after Jindan had moved to Shimla with his wife and children more than eight years back, they had specifically warned him not to come back to the village.
“We felt there was some conspiracy being plotted against him that posed a threat to his life,” said Bahadur Singh. “When he came to the village on September 6, he didn’t stay here—he spent the night at Nain Singh’s house and went to the BPEO from there itself next morning,” said Hira Singh. “I was in the fields at the time when I got a call saying that Jindan had been killed and run over by a vehicle. I called the police authorities to provide me with protection so that I could go near the dead body, but the police had already taken the body away, that too without informing the family.”
When asked if Jindan had ever asked for police protection, Hira Singh said: “Every office knew that he had been threatened and there was a serious threat to his life. None of this would have happened if he had police protection.”
While the gruesome details of this murder have shaken the state of Himachal Pradesh, no politicians from national parties have commented on this atrocity. Out of the 68 MLAs present in the state, only Rakesh Singha of the CPI(M) has stood in solidarity with the deceased Jindan’s family—an act for which his effigies have been burnt across the state of Himachal. “I need the government’s help, but all I have been given till now are promises,” said Hemalata.
She wants the compensation provided to be Rs 20 lakh and not Rs 8.5 lakh as the SC/ST Act makes provisions for. “I want a job (she has an MA B.Ed) and a full education for both my daughters. We don’t have any money in our banks and are paying Rs 5,000 as rent for this house (in Shimla)—we need a house too.” A CBI probe too, is one of her demands, although a five-member SIT has already been assigned to the case, headed by ASP Virender Thakur.
The trans-Giri area of Sirmaur (known so because of the Giri river’s presence running through this remote and untouched part of Himachal Pradesh) is no stranger to caste-based discrimination and violence. Ashish Bharti (35), District General Secretary of the Dalit Shoshan Shakti Manch (DSSM) of Sirmaur Parishad, said there was a case that occurred in trans-Giri area earlier in August this year wherein a Dalit by the name of Rajender Singh had suffered 18 fractures on his body after he was beaten up by a mob of upper caste men. His crime? Entering the village temple. “The police tried to register only a case of violence here, but after DSSM built pressure, the SC/ST Atrocities Act was included,” he said.
Another case in trans-Giri area was that of a Dalit being beaten up at a marriage ceremony for eating at the same time as people belonging to the savrna group. Many villagers narrate incidents of how they often had to give goats in compensation for not turning up when summoned by the Rajputs, sometimes up to seven goats, with each goat costing around Rs 7-10,000 each. “Most of the people belonging to SC/ST in trans-Giri work in the fields of the Rajputs and so-called higher caste people. They are dependent on them for work and an income,” said Bharti.
Even in the case of Jindan’s murder, the Sirmaur police had first registered an FIR under Section 302 (Punishment for Murder) and not under the SC/ST Atrocities Act. It was only after an all-night protest march along with Jindan’s body on The Ridge in Shimla on the night of September 8 that the following morning the SC/ST Act was included.
Dr Tanwar Singh, Secretariat of the CPI(M) and President of Himachal Kisaan Sabha, who spearheaded the protest march of nearly 300 people that night, said: “At first, the case was only registered under IPC 302 but after we protested all night, the SCT/ST atrocities Act was included the next morning.”
Hemalata too doesn’t seem to trust the Sirmaur Police. “I wanted the post-mortem to be conducted in IGMC in Shimla because earlier when he (Jindan) was attacked in Sataun (in Shillai), the police had not taken any action. After his post-mortem was conducted in IGMC, I didn't even get a receipt intimating me of his release, and they (police) tried to take his body away back to Sirmaur.” That is when the protest broke out.
Three days after the death of Jindan, on September 10, a Rajput Sabha gathering was held in Shillai. SP Malpani was present in Shillai along with other police personnel at the time, to maintain law and order. “Nearly 500 people had assembled; their demands were varied,” he said. “They wanted the SC/ST Atrocities Act should be removed from the case, said that the death was due to an accident, that there was too much heavy a police force deployed in the village which was not required, and lastly, that MLA Rakesh Singha (CPIM) should not have come along with Jindan’s post-mortem body to Shillai to attend the cremation. I personally interacted with them (Rajput Sabha) and invited them to have a dialogue with me; I suggested they come and meet me, in as many numbers as they please, and have a dialogue with me.”
SP Malpani explained his reason for suggesting so: “If anger comes out in phases, it helps in maintaining the peace. I wanted to dissipate their anger in pieces so that it wouldn't all come down at one time—like in a typical mob mentality.”
When asked about the suspicions on police personnel in Sirmaur, Malpani dismissed these claims and said they had always treated this as a murder case and not tried to hide anything. “Our investigation is on the right track. We have done a good job. We have collected all material evidences—forensic reports, post-mortem reports, etc. There were two big challenges to the case: investigation, as well as maintaining law and order. We have managed to do both.” He also pointed out to the sheer strength of the police force deployed to maintain law and order in the area. “We went with 225 policemen; there were two reserves from Solan and two from the 6th battalion and two reserves from our own district Sirmaur, to Shillai with the dead body for cremation on September 9. These numbers are unprecedented—it is not a Mumbai or a Delhi.”
According to him, the last time such a heavy force was deployed in the area was around 10-12 years back, when there was a triple murder case in Paonta Sahib, Sirmour. “It was the impact of these high numbers of police personnel that got everyone scared; even the upper caste knew that we would arrest them if they tried to break the peace. We had planned that if anything speech was given in Sirmaur on that day, we would arrest people.” Speaking of the post-mortem incident that led to the protest, he said: “It is procedural for police officials to first hand over the body to doctors, and once the post-mortem is done, take it back from the doctors and then hand it over to the family.”
The five-member SIT team assigned to the case comprises SI Jeetram, the investigating officer from Paonta Sahib, SI Mohar Singh, the SHO from Majra, ASI Vidyasagar IO from Paonta Sahib, SI Virochen Negi who is the SHO from Sangda, and DSP Rajgarh Dushyant Sarpal— all led by additional SP Virendra Thakur, and supervised by SP Malpani.
Newslaundry also accompanied a seven-member independent fact-finding team of Human Rights Defenders and Activists visiting Shillai, in the Jindan murder case. The team comprised Kuldeep Verma, Birbal (Dalit Vikas Sangathan Sirmaur), Sukhdev Vishwapremi (Centre for Mountain Dalit Rights), Advocate Sanjay, Rajkumar (National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights & National Dalit Movement for Justice), Raja Velu from Human Rights Defenders Alert and Manshi Asher from Kangra Citizens Rights Group. The team interacted with members of the community including the Pradhaan of the Gundaha Panchayat (of which Paab is a part) as well as members of the administration and the police.
On September 14, the team published an interim statement and expressed some concerns: “…the police had not responded adequately to the repeated threats received by Jindan from different members of the community who were irked by his work. Last year too there was an attack on Jindan at Sattaun where he was pulled out of a bus and beaten up badly by people who were enraged that he supported an inter-caste marriage in the area. Jindan's family informed us that he was left buried in a heap of sand and left there to die. While he survived that attack, he had exposed that a large number of people from the area who were out to get him and they are all complicit in the murder according to the kin of Jindan. This needs to be investigated.”
Not so long ago, Kedar Singh Jindan used to run a Superlative Academy For Competition (SAC) in Shimla. A dusty old business card with his name emblazoned next to the SAC logo shows him as its Managing Director. The card reads: “What makes the difference between others and us? We create the talent, while others hunt for it.” The lines printed on the bottom of this piece of paper reads: “Every successful person has a painful story, and every painful story has a successful ending. Accept the pain and get ready for SUCCESS." Jindan was a crusader for all causes: he fought for the rights of the oppressed SC/ST community, favoured inter-caste marriages, and was a voice that rattled Himachal’s deeply caste-ridden society. His murder will not be an easy pain to accept for those he fought for and indeed his family.