Courts should carefully scrutinise rape victims’ evidence, says Supreme Court

Courts should carefully scrutinise rape victims’ evidence, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has said that courts must carefully examine the evidence of a rape victim to ascertain its trustworthiness as it alone was sufficient to convict a rape accused and sentence him to life imprisonment.

Holding that the rape victim’s evidence is placed on such a high pedestal that it alone was sufficient to arrive at the conviction of an accused, a bench of Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice J. Chelameswar said:”…it is the duty of the court to scrutinize it carefully, because in a given case on that lone evidence a man can be sentenced to life imprisonment”.

“The court must, therefore, with its rich experience evaluate such evidence with care and circumspection and only after its conscience is satisfied about its creditworthiness rely upon it” said Justice Desai in a judgment Friday.

Pointing to weightage that is given to evidence by rape victim, the court said: “In a case involving charge of rape, the evidence of the prosecutrix is most vital. If it is found credible; if it inspires total confidence, it can be relied upon even sans corroboration.”

The court concerned may, however, if it is hesitant to place implicit reliance on this, look into other evidence to lend assurance to it short of corroboration required in the case of an accomplice, the judgment said.

“Such weight is given to the prosecutrix’s evidence because her evidence is on par with the evidence of an injured witness which seldom fails to inspire confidence,” the court said.

The apex court said this while setting aside a judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court upholding a trial court order convicting Hem Raj for rape of his neighbour in 1999.

Hem Raj was convicted by the additional sessions judge, Faridabad on Aug 3, 2001, on charges of rape and trespassing for committing an offence and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for seven years and two years respectively which were to run concurrently.

Pointing to the conflicting versions in the alleged rape victim’s statements including the retraction of the allegation of rape and admission that as neighbours, they knew each other and she even wrote letters to Hem Raj, the apex court said: “It would be extremely dangerous to rely on such evidence… Our conscience would not permit us to rely on such evidence. It would be hazardous to confirm the conviction on the prosecutrix’s sole testimony.”

Referring to the evidence produced by the prosecution, the court noted that prosecution failed to examine Dr. Anjali Shah who had medically examined the alleged victim.

Describing it as a “serious lapse” on the part of the prosecution, the court said: “We are aware that lapses on the part of the prosecution should not lead to unmerited acquittals.

“This is, however, subject to the rider that in such a situation the evidence on record must be clinching so that the lapses of the prosecution could be condoned.”

Pointing out that the medico-legal report does suggest that the hymen of the prosecutrix was torn and forensic report shows that that human semen was detected on her salwar and on the underwear of the accused, the court said: “However, it is difficult to infer from this that the prosecutrix was raped by the appellant.”

Setting aside the high court verdict, the apex court said that the victim had herself vacillated on being raped and her evidence is so infirm that it deserves to be rejected.



Hungry for votes, but no neta to fix malnutrition problem Politicians Call It A ‘Shame’, But Do Little To Cure Ills That Plague System

Hungry for votes, but no neta to fix malnutrition problem

Politicians Call It A ‘Shame’, But Do Little To Cure Ills That Plague System

In January 2012, PM Manmohan Singh declared half of India’s children were malnourished and that was a national shame. Yet since then, not a single comprehensive national survey was conducted to determine the acuteness of the problem or measure progress, if any, of steps initiated to address malnutrition. Worse, the issue figures in a token manner in the election discourse of political parties and candidates.
The 2005-06 National Family Health Survey was the last one conducted and it found 48% of children suffered chronic malnourishment — of them, 20% acute malnourishment. The survey concluded that over half the women were anaemic and 36% underweight. The Global Hunger Index, released in October 2013, placed India among a group of countries with ‘alarming’ levels of hunger, figuring at the bottom of the heap, below China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and several in sub-Saharan Africa.
Key interventions to boost nutrition levels include the targeted public distribution system (TPDS), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and the school midday meal scheme (MDMS).
Despite increased food production and procurement for TDPS, food insecurity persists and is a chronic problem linked to poor delivery. The large number of ineligible or fake ration cards issued — a serious problem in some states, usually those that need TPDS the most — has caused huge leakages. The TPDS has glaring exclusion errors. About 20% of the estimated 90 crore eligible benefi ciariesare denied subsidized grain as they have no ration card, while 20% of the not-poor do. TPDS remains restricted to wheat and rice that would alleviate hunger, but not address malnutrition. No recommendation to include pulses, oil and nutritious millets
has been implemented. Even the food security Act — that UPA counts among its mega achievements — focuses on rice and wheat. Had the Act included higher procurement of millets, pulses, fruits and vegetables, it would have incentivized production of these, instead of just rice and wheat that are water-intensive crops.
ICDS was meant to counter malnutrition in children between 0 and 6 years and pregnant women. Government allocation, including states’ share, increased from over Rs 5,200 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 13,700 crore in 2013-14 and the number of anganwadi centres (AWCs) has increased from 10.1 lakh to 13.1 lakh in 2012-13.
Though almost 90% anganwadis are operational, the ICDS scheme reaches about 47% of eligible children, reported a CAG audit. Coverage in states varies from about 75% in Odisha to 18% in Bihar. Most AWCs lack infrastructure. In 2011-12, only 57% had drinking water on the premises, 47% had toilets and only 25% had a kitchen.
ICDS is meant to provide supplementary nutrition 300 days a year, or 25 days a month. But the number of days the programme worked ranged from 180-250, a CAG audit found. The audit revealed irregularities such as insuffi cient monitoring, suspected misappropriation of supplies, badly-trained anganwadi workers and shortfall in expenditure on supplementary nutrition, which meant lower per benefi ciary expenditure. For a fl agship programme that addresses a “national shame” the ICDS programme leaves much to be desired.
Allocation for the midday meal scheme is up from Rs 6,700cr to over Rs 10,300cr between 2007-08 and 2011-12. But many states aren’t meeting yearly targets of number of meals served. The scheme’s plagued by reports of children falling ill from eating poor quality or spoiled food. Many states are yet to achieve standards set to run it: constructing a kitchen shed, timely lifting of grains, proper food storage. Women employed as midday meal cooks remain underpaid.
While proportion of malnourished children has fallen since 2005-06, not only has the decline been slow, from 46% malnourished to about 33% by 2013, it’s been uneven with a few states and districts getting worse. But with poor tracking of the schemes’ implementation, or of the population’s nutritional status, no one seems sure if the situation has become any better or worse. And that’s the national shame.
HUNGER POLITICS | Aug 2012 | Modi quoted in interview blaming malnutrition in Gujarat on its “by and large vegetarian diet”. Because it’s a middle-class state, Gujarat is “more beauty conscious than health conscious”
Media reports laid bare the bluff: His contentions didn’t square with data whichever way it was spliced. Haryana, even more vegetarian than Gujarat, has better nutritional figures
NSSO data (2009-2010) showed poverty behind state’s poor nutritional indices
SERVED DEATH | Scams plague the mid-day meal scheme. Last July 27 village children died in Bihar’s Chapra after having the meal. Nitish Kumar cried conspiracy – that they were poisoned. Fact was, there was no monitoring, and the principal ran a racket, serving kids substandard fare

Illegal discos thrive in Delhi as police claim just SIX have an actual licence

Illegal discos thrive in Delhi as police claim just SIX have an actual licence

How many discotheques are there in Delhi? Only six – at least officially.

It’s a fact that is not just shocking but also highlights an illegal and unchecked network of party hotspots in the national capital.

According to sources in the Delhi Police’s Licencing Unit, about 50 discotheques are currently running in the city without licences, and “with the connivance of local police officials”.

Many of these are said to be operating illegally from leading hotels and pubs in upscale South Delhi localities.

“Till March 18, only six discotheques – Club BNB Restaurant, Peppers Forte Grand in Chanakya Puri, Kittysu in The Lalit, Agni in The Park Hotel, Café Uno Island in Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel and Capitol in The Ashoka Hotel – were given licences by the Licensing Unit of Delhi Police,” an official posted with the unit said. 

The official said there were about 30 discotheques running illegally in Delhi in 2009.

“Few months ago, a survey was conducted by the Licencing Unit after they received several complaints about illegal discos. The survey revealed there are 50 discotheques that are being run without licence,” the official said.

It also came to light that owners of some of the eating joints run their discotheques during the weekends and sometimes when there is a huge crowd.

“The entry fee of illegal discotheques is less as compared to legal discotheques. These unauthorised places are not following norms and most of them have not even verified security personnel.”

The chunk of these unlicenced discos are based in Saket, Vasant Vihar, Vasant Kunj, Mahipalpu and Rajouri Garden, the official said, adding that Dwarka and Rohini are emerging as the new hotspots for parties.

An official of the Delhi Fire Services said there is a possibility that the discotheques running without licence from the Delhi Police may not have fire safety certificate as well.

“Anybody who comes to us for NOC, we issue them after inspection of the unit. Many discotheques are very compact with little space. In the absence of fire safety arrangement, they are prone to fire incidents,” he said.

Talking about the procedure of obtaining a licence for a discotheque, a senior official of the Licensing Unit said the owner has to obtain NOC from various agencies such as power department, building department of civic agency, health and sanitation department, fire department, traffic police and local police.

According to a Crime Branch official, several discotheques are under scanner on suspicion of serving drugs.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2604587/Illegal-discos-thrive-Delhi-police-claim-just-SIX-actual-licence.html#ixzz2yw5M7pOB 
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Supreme Court calls for scientific methods in crime detection

Supreme Court calls for scientific methods in crime detection

The Supreme Court has asked investigating agencies to adopt scientific methods in crime detection to save the judicial system from low conviction rates.

“The criminal judicial system in this country is at a crossroads,” a Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri said. “Reliable, trustworthy, credible witnesses to the crime seldom come forward to depose before the court and even hardened criminals get away from the clutches of the law. Even reliable witnesses for the prosecution turn hostile due to intimidation, fear and a host of other reasons. Investigating agency has, therefore, to look for other ways and means to improve the quality of investigation, which can only be through the collection of scientific evidence.”

‘Strengthen forensic science’

Writing the judgment, Justice Radhakrishnan said there was a need to strengthen forensic science for crime detection. The judiciary needed to be equipped to understand and deal with such scientific materials. “People think that practices and principles that served in the past must give way to innovative and creative methods, if we want to save our criminal justice system. Emergence of new types of crimes and their level of sophistication have made traditional methods and tools outdated,” he said.

The Bench gave this ruling while modifying the death sentence awarded to Dharam Deo Yadav, who murdered Diana Clare Routley, a 22-year-old girl from New Zealand who visited Varanasi in 1997. The trial court had awarded death sentence and it was confirmed by the Allahabad High Court.

The Bench said: “We have no eyewitness version in the instant case and the entire case rests upon circumstantial evidence. Due to lack of any evidence with regard to the manner in which the crime was committed, the case will not fall under the rarest of rare category.

“So far as this case is concerned, the DNA sample from the skeleton matched with the blood sample of the father of the deceased and all the sampling and testing was done by experts whose scientific knowledge and experience have not been doubted in these proceedings. The prosecution has, therefore, succeeded in showing that the skeleton recovered from the house of the accused was that of Diana, daughter of Allen Jack Routley and it was none other than the accused who had strangulated Diana to death and buried the dead body in his house.”

Consequently, the Bench said that it was commuting the death sentence to life and awarding 20 years of rigorous imprisonment, over and above the period already served by the accused, without any remission. “This in our view will meet the ends of justice,” the Bench added.



SC to hear BCCI plea for transcripts of Dhoni, Srinivasan statements

SC to hear BCCI plea for transcripts of Dhoni, Srinivasan statements

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday said that it will hear, April 11, the plea by the BCCI seeking the transcript of depositions by team India captain M.S.Dhoni, N. Srinivasan and chief IPL operator Sundar Raman before the Mukul Mudgal committee probing allegations of betting and spot fixing in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

A bench headed by Justice A.K.Patnaik said that it would hear plea by the BCCI April 11 as senior counsel C.A.Sundaram said that the cricketing body needed the transcript of the audio tapes of the deposition before the hearing of the matter by the court on April 16.

The senior counsel told the court that a lot of things are being stated in the media on this count.

The Mudgal Committee has submitted the details of the statements in a sealed cover to the apex court and that has not been made public.

Appointing legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar as its interim president on March 28, in place of incumbent N. Srinivasan who is under cloud, the apex court had said that it would hold further hearing on the Mudgal Committee report and its recommendations on April 16.

While appointing Gavaskar as interim president of the BCCI, the bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifullahad said that Gavaskar would only be in charge of the seventh edition of the IPL starting April 16 in the UAE.

The court entrusted the senior moist vice-president of BCCI Shivlal Yadav to oversee the rest of the work of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).



Rs.8.5-crore cash seized in Karnataka

Rs.8.5-crore cash seized in Karnataka

Bangalore, April 12 (IANS) Around Rs.8.5-crore in cash was seized Saturday in a raid on a financier’s house in north Karnataka’s Bellary town, police said.

“We raided the house of Babu Lal, a financier-cum-transporter, in the town late Friday and found cash bundles of Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 notes in many trunks equivalent to Rs.8.7 crore,” Bellary Additional Superintendent of Police C.K. Baba told IANS Saturday.

The raid also led to the recovery of several cheques collectively equivalent to Rs.4.5 crore and share certificates and debentures valued at Rs.5 crore.

“We have booked a case against Babu Lal and are interrogating him to ascertain the source of cash and cheques, as we learnt that the currency notes in trunks are intended to be distributed to voters in the elections next week,” Baba said.

Polling for Bellary Lok Sabha reserved (SC) constituency will be held April 17, in which the BJP has fielded B.R. Sriramaulu to fight for the seat his sister J. Shanta won in the 2009 general elections.

“Election materials, including pamphlets with lotus printed on them (party symbol of the BJP) were found along with cash in the trunks that had polling booth numbers marked for distribution on or before the polling date,” Baba noted.

In another raid at Hospet, about 70 km from Bellary, police seized unaccounted cash worth Rs.1.2 crore from a businessman’s house and are questioning him to ascertain its source and purpose.

“Though both the recoveries are not related, we are trying to find out their source and for what or whom they are meant as the cash has not been accounted so far,” Baba added.

Meanwhile, state Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha told IANS that his officials were yet to confirm if the cash seized at Bellary-Hospet were connected with elections.

“I am waiting for a report from the district deputy commissioner (Amlan Aditya Biswas), who is the returning officer for the Bellary parliamentary poll. The cash haul, however, is the biggest till date in this election,” Jha said.

The mining town shot to fame for its mineral resources, especially iron ore, and the notoriety it earned from multi-crore rupee illegal mining and exports, for which local mining baron and former Bharatiya Janata Party minister G. Janardhan Reddy was jailed in September 2011.



Fake voter ids seized in Bengal under scanner

Fake voter ids seized in Bengal under scanner

Kolkata, April 14 (IANS) The Election Commission Monday said the district election officer of West Bengal’s Coochbehar district is “thoroughly investigating” the seizure of fake voter identity cards in the area.

“We have received a complaint regarding fake voter ids. We are keeping a strict vigil so that such incidents do not happen in the future,” assistant chief electoral officer Amitjyoti Bhattacharya told reporters here.

“The guilty will be punished according to law,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India-Marxist has lodged a complaint with the Commission against the state Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra in connnection with the state government order of reinstating the eight officers who were removed from poll duty to their original posts after the election process gets over.

“The complaint will be sent to the Commission in Delhi,” said Bhattacharya.

The Election Commission last week ordered transfer of eight officials including five district police chiefs and one district magistrate from their posts.

Initially against executing the order, state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later relented. However, she termed the order “political vendetta”, and said the officers will be reinstated after the polls.



Corruption issue to resonate among Indians in the elections: Gallup poll

Corruption issue to resonate among Indians in the elections: Gallup poll

Washington, April 15 (IANS) A majority of Indians of all generations see corruption as a widespread problem that they don’t think the current government is doing enough to combat, according to a new US poll, which says the issue will “resonate” in these elections.

Contending political parties’ promises of tackling the country’s graft “likely resonate with Indian voters, including the estimated 150 million young people who will be casting a ballot for the first time,” according to Gallup, a leading US public opinion organisation.

Three-fourths of Indian adults aged 18 to 34 said in 2013 that corruption is widespread in their government, nearly identical to the percentages of similarly minded adults aged 35 to 54 (76 percent) and 55 or older (72 percent), it said.

Voters in the North may be somewhat more receptive to anti-corruption messages than those in the South, Gallup said noting nearly nine in 10 Indians in the North believe corruption is widespread in their government, compared with 65 percent in the South.

However, as recently as 2012, 82 percent in the South saw government corruption as pervasive, suggesting the issue is likely not far from their minds.

A slim majority of Indians (51 percent) do not believe the current government is doing enough to fight corruption, which could cost the governing Congress party some votes, Gallup said.

This includes 54 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds, who have the potential to be a potent political force because of their numbers.

Regionally, the East gives the Congress party-led government the most credit for fighting corruption; 50 percent say the government is doing enough to fight corruption, while 26 percent say it is not.

In the North, 80 percent say the government is not doing enough.

These differences could reflect the efforts of local governments in fighting corruption and may not necessarily represent views of the national government, even though the survey question wording specifies “the government of your country,” Gallup said.

Young Indians are currently divided in their perceptions of the honesty of elections, with 46 percent saying they are confident in the process and 43 percent saying they are not, Gallup said.

Older Indians are more likely to say they are confident in the honesty of elections than not.

Confidence in the honesty of elections also varies by region, with the North leading the country in terms of electoral pessimism.

Less than a fifth of residents in the North say the electoral system is honest, while majorities in the South (52 percent), West (64 percent), East (63 percent) and central part of India (67 percent) are more confident.

Gallup said survey results are based on face-to-face interviews with 3,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted September-October 2013 in India.

Before 2013, results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 2,000 to 5,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted 2008-2012 in India.

The margin of sampling error is ±2.2 percentage points, according to Gallup.



Sowjanya parents seek support for CPI(M) candidate

Sowjanya parents seek support for CPI(M) candidate

BELTHANGADY : Kusumavathi and Chandappa Gowda, parents of Sowjanya who was raped and murdered at Pangala near Dharmasthala a year ago, have appealed to the electorate to support K Yadava Shetty the candidate from CPI(M) which has always stood for the cause of Sowjanya even at a time when the ruling parties delayed justice in the case.
“It were only CPI(M) leaders who constantly stood in support of us throughout our fight for justice in Sowjanya case, even at a time when we hesitated to march ahead for the cause, “they said and requested the people to support the party and teach a lesson to those parties which never came to the help of the Sowjanya family.
At the same time the couple has clarified that they do not intend to join politics.



Explosives case : Prime accused Biju still at large

Explosives case : Prime accused Biju still at large

KARKALA : Biju Thomas of Kerala origin said to be the prime accused behind the huge cache of explosives including ammonium nitrate seized from various places of Karkala taluk recently, has still evaded arrest despite the police launching a manhunt for him.
It is believed that Biju who had made Kukkundur his place of stay used to supply the explosives to quarries and had extended his network after he was out on bail following arrest a year ago.
Annamalai, the new DySP of Karkala had initiated the raid at several places which netted explosive materials worth over Rs 2 crores.
But even two weeks after the raids, there is no trace of Biju Thomas



Transfer policemen from Surathkal: Bava urges CM

Transfer policemen from Surathkal: Bava urges CM


Mangalore, Apr 15: Mangalore North MLA Mohiuddin Bava has demanded the chief minister to replace old policemen in Surathkal police station with efficient ones.

Addressing a press meet here on Monday, Mr Bava said that transfer of policemen was necessary to establish peace in the area. “I have already requested the CM to change the policemen in Surathkal during his recent visit to the district,” he said.

He lamented that the several police personnel are working for the past 10 years in the region. “Transfers have been within the police commissionerate area. There is a need to send personnel outside the commissionerate area,” he suggested.

The MLA also said that he pressurized the police to arrest the miscreants who molested an MCC councillor after waylaying her recently.



Citizens rally for Teesta Setalvad and others

Citizens rally for Teesta Setalvad and others


Saturday 5th April 2014! A day many will surely never forget! The Mehdi Nawaz Jung  Hall in the Paldi area of Ahmedabad, which has a capacity of just about 250, was bursting at its seams, as more than a thousand citizens  had come in.


They had gathered together under the aegis of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties(PUCL) to protest against the vindictive actions, the intimidation and harassment being meted out to human rights stalwarts Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand and to victim –survivors from Gulberg Society Salimbhai Sandhi, Firoz Gulzar and Tanveer Jafri.


The Public meeting brought in people from all walks of life: victim-survivors of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 and human rights activists; politicians and bureaucrats; intellectuals, academics, lawyers and journalists- in fact several prominent citizens of the city.  The unexpected huge turn –out was a clear sign that they were not going to take things lying down, any more!


Speaker after speaker strongly condemned the vindictive actions to which Teesta and the others were subjected to; they commended Teesta for her resoluteness , her dogged perseverance in ensuring justice in several cases of 2002;for her generosity and large-heartedness for helping those in need; everyone was clear about who were behind the false cases that were being foisted. They strongly felt that all like-minded citizens and groups should unite as fast as possible in order to make their voice heard! We need to tell  those responsible for these heinous and divisive acts that “enough is enough!”,that we will no longer tolerate these despicable acts.

 Among those who addressed the large gathering were Mr Suresh Mehta, the former Chief Minister of Gujarat; Mr Gyasuddin Shaikh MLA, Mr. S. M. Peerzada retd. Sessions Judge,Mr R. B. Sreekumar the retd. Additional Director General of Police, Gujarat;Mr Iqbal Shaikh , Sr. Central Counsel Gujarat High Court: Ms Rupaben Mody  and Ms Sairaben Sandhi victim-survivors from Gulberg Society; Sophia Khan and Fr Cedric Prakash, human rights activists. The Municipal Councillor from Gomtipur Mr Iqbal Shiekh  led a huge procession to the hall carrying placards in defense of Teesta and condemning all that the Govt of Gujarat was doing to harass  those who were fighting for peace and justice.


The meeting ended with a clear statement “Don’t Intimidate those marching for Justice and Reparation”…and a pledge that until the false cases against Teesta and others, are not withdrawn- the struggle of the citizens of Gujarat , will only intensify in the coming days !



Senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam criticises Mulayam for rape remark

Senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam criticises Mulayam for rape remark

Mumbai: Public prosecutor in the Shakti Mills gang-rape case on Saturday criticised SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav for his rape remark saying that such statements would provoke criminals to commit serious crimes. 

“It is most unfortunate that Mulayam, being a politician of a tall stature, makes such a baseless and unwarranted statement that the boys who had been given death penalty in the Shakti Mill gang-rape case might have committed mistake,” special public prosecutor in the case Ujjwal Nikam said. 

If politicians make such statements, it would provoke young criminals to commit such serious crimes because of the support they were getting from the leaders of the country, he added.

Questioning the death sentence to three convicts in two gang-rapes in Mumbai, Mulayam Singh had asked, “Should rape cases be punished with hanging? 

Ladke, ladke hain. Galti ho jati hai (Boys are boys. Mistakes happen sometimes),” he had said in an election rally in Moradabad two days back. 

The SP leader had said there was a need to change the new rape law which provides for death sentence to repeat rape offenders. 

“Such statements were per se insulting not only to the poor and innocent victims in rape cases, but also to the womanhood,” Nikam said.

Nikam wondered whether Singh was aware of the facts of the gangrape case and also how and under what circumstances were the two innocent girls gangraped by the three criminals who were given death in the cases. 

“Rape is a heinous crime against women and the society ,and the laws have aptly prescribed death penalty in repeat rape cases. Such statements of politicians glorify rapists and amount to challenging the authority of law and indirectly trying to disturb the democratic system of the country,” Nikam said. 



In rural India, women want politicians to deliver

In rural India, women want politicians to deliver

Trudging property soon after a extended day harvesting wheat, Veena Devi has tiny time for the political workers swarming her northern Indian village seeking votes for their candidates.

“They come to us each and every time promising piped water, public toilets and factory jobs. But these political leaders will disappear following they win,” mentioned the gray-haired Devi, sitting outside her thatched-roof hut in Sarai, a village just outdoors the Hindu holy city of Varanasi.

Females type extra than 49 % of India’s 814 million voters, but quite a few of them, especially in rural India, really feel their concerns are not taken seriously by political parties, and that they take a back seat to guys in every little thing from health care to education to legal protection.

Nearly seven decades after independence from Britain in 1947, India has had lots of formidable female leaders. The ideal recognized, Indira Gandhi, was prime minister for 15 years. The existing leader of the ruling Congress celebration, Sonia Gandhi, is the widow of Indira’s son, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

India has had a woman president, a lady speaker of Parliament and females leaders of political parties. Two of India’s most significant states have girls chief ministers.

But couple of Indian women really feel these leaders have served them properly. And women leaders have rarely created women’s challenges a priority.

Girls in West Bengal have been particularly incensed last year when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the state’s leading elected leader, tried to play down a rash of rapes in the state and mentioned her administration was unable to speed up trials of rape situations that have been pending in courts, in some cases for decades.

Amendments to India’s constitution that would reserve for women a third of all seats in Parliament and state assemblies have been hanging for extra than a decade.

“Most girls leaders are careful not to recognize themselves with women’s causes. They worry they will be marginalized in their own parties,” stated Suniti Kumar, a shop manager from Varanasi. “In that, they are not so various from the men.”

For millions of Indian girls, the national elections that take spot each and every 5 years are merely a minor distraction in their quietly desperate lives.

Just about every day Devi, a 42-year-old widow, wakes properly ahead of dawn to accompany her teenage daughter to the nearby field they use as a toilet. They collect buckets of drinking water ahead of heading to perform in the landlord’s fields. On days when there is no farm operate readily available, she toils at a nearby brick kiln. The revenue Devi earns, and the pittance her daughter gets doing odd jobs, is just adequate to feed her and her 3 kids.

Though India has a growing middle class, tens of millions of females nonetheless struggle with illiteracy, poverty and little social status. For these girls, political possibilities are usually nonetheless created by their husbands or male community leaders.

Chaya Kumari, a field worker with a nongovernmental organization in Varanasi, makes her personal political alternatives, and knows she is in the minority.

“My husband wants me to vote for his candidate. I refused and there is tiny he can do about it,” she said, her voice filled with determination.

Kumari mentioned she can defy her husband simply because she holds a steady job and is not financially dependent on him.

For most Indian females, safety remains their largest concern.

Outrage seized India additional than a year ago when a young lady was gang-raped on a moving New Delhi bus and later died of her injuries, becoming a symbol of the dangers that millions of women face each and every time they leave their houses.

An outpouring of protests pushed the government, and political leaders of all hues, to join the result in. Considering the fact that then, voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of ladies have been produced criminal offenses, courts dealing with sex crimes have turn into quicker and men who are repeatedly convicted of rape have grow to be eligible for the death penalty.

Political parties also promised to discover techniques to empower women — even though have performed really tiny to stick to by way of. Except for the higher-profile female leaders, most parties field few females candidates. The last general election saw 59 ladies, or a little over 10 percent, elected to the lower home of Parliament, out of 543 members. India ranks 99th in the globe in terms of female representation amongst legislators.

Handful of ladies politicians have the dollars they need to fund campaigns, creating them dependent on parties for economic assistance. Fewer nevertheless get that assistance.

“The largest hurdle women in politics face is from within the political parties to which they belong,” said Sehba Farooqui, a New Delhi-based political activist.

Big parties are cautious to contain females in their platforms, even though the communists are the only one particular that favors setting aside a single-third of legislative seats for girls.

The Congress party says it will “provide women equal access to social, economic and political possibilities,” and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Celebration says it will “transform the top quality of life of ladies in rural India.” But the most significant attempts to attain ladies voters are carried out with no cost saris and pressure cookers.

“Women see through these ploys. They want politicians to deal with their real difficulties. They want jobs … if not for themselves, then for their young children,” Kumari said.

In Sarai, Devi’s woes stem from the abject poverty that grips the area, in Uttar Pradesh, India’s greatest state. Decades of poor governance have left literacy levels low, overall health care abysmal and other public services lacking.

Devi cooks over a tiny fire she tends to make with sticks, and gets water from a hand pump shared by nine families. Rusted pipes reaching from an irrigation canal some distance away finish abruptly close to the village, evidence of failed promises produced throughout a 2009 election.

“When politicians want our vote, they say: ‘Sister, we will get you water pipelines, we will get you larger wages,’” mentioned Devi.



The Gujarat muddle

The Gujarat muddle

Gujarat’s development achievements are moderate, largely predate Narendra Modi, and have as much to do with public action as with economic growth.

As the nation heads for the polling booths in the numbing hot winds of April, objective facts and rational enquiry are taking a holiday and the public relations industry is taking over.

Narendra Modi’s personality, for one, has been repackaged for mass approval. From an authoritarian character, steeped in the reactionary creed of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and probably complicit in the Gujarat massacre of 2002, he has become an almost avuncular figure — a good shepherd who is expected to lead the country out of the morass of corruption, inflation and unemployment. How he is supposed to accomplish this is left to our imagination — substance is not part of the promos. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), too, is being reinvented as the party of clean governance, overlooking the fact that there is little to distinguish it from the Congress as far as corruption is concerned.

Spruced up image

Similarly, Gujarat’s image has been spruced up for the occasion. Many voters are likely to go the polling booths under the impression that Gujarat resembles Japan, and that letting Mr. Modi take charge is a chance for the whole of India to follow suit.

Some of Mr. Modi’s admirers in the economics profession have readily supplied an explanation for Gujarat’s dazzling development performance: private enterprise and economic growth. This interpretation is popular in the business media. Indeed, it fits very well with the corporate sector’s own view that the primary role of the state is to promote business interests.

However, as more sober scholars (Raghuram Rajan, Ashok Kotwal, Maitreesh Ghatak, among other eminent economists) have shown, Gujarat’s development achievements are actually far from dazzling. Yes, the State has grown fast in the last twenty years. And anyone who travels around Gujarat is bound to notice the good roads, mushrooming factories, and regular power supply. But what about people’s living conditions? Whether we look at poverty, nutrition, education, health or related indicators, the dominant pattern is one of indifferent outcomes. Gujarat is doing a little better than the all-India average in many respects, but there is nothing there that justifies it being called a “model.” Anyone who doubts this can download the latest National Family Health Survey report, or the Raghuram Rajan Committee report, and verify the facts.

To this, the votaries of the Gujarat model respond that the right thing to look at is not the level of Gujarat’s social indicators, but how they have improved over time. Gujarat’s progress, they claim, has been faster than that of other States, especially under Mr. Modi. Alas, this claim too has been debunked. Indeed, Gujarat was doing quite well in comparison with other States in the 1980s. Since then, its relative position has remained much the same, and even deteriorated in some respects.

An illustration may help. The infant mortality rate in Gujarat is not very different from the all-India average: 38 and 42 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively. Nor is it the case that Gujarat is progressing faster than India in this respect; the gap (in favour of Gujarat) was a little larger twenty years ago — in both absolute and proportionate terms. For other indicators, the picture looks a little more or a little less favourable to Gujarat depending on the focus. Overall, no clear pattern of outstanding progress emerges from available data.

In short, Gujarat’s development record is not bad in comparative terms, but it is nothing like that of say Tamil Nadu or Himachal Pradesh, let alone Kerala. But there is another issue. Are Gujarat’s achievements really based on private enterprise and economic growth? This is only one part of the story.

When I visited Gujarat in the 1980s, I was quite impressed with many of the State’s social services and public facilities, certainly in comparison with the large north Indian states. For instance, Gujarat already had mid-day meals in primary schools at that time — decades later than Tamil Nadu, but decades earlier than the rest of India. It had a functional Public Distribution System — again not as effective as in Tamil Nadu, but much better than in north India. Gujarat also had the best system of drought relief works in the country, and, with Maharashtra, pioneered many of the provisions that were later included in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Gujarat’s achievements today build as much on its ability to put in place functional public services as on private enterprise and growth.

Misleading model

To sum up, the “Gujarat model” story, recently embellished for the elections, is misleading in at least three ways. First, it exaggerates Gujarat’s development achievements. Second, it fails to recognise that many of these achievements have little to do with Narendra Modi. Third, it casually attributes these achievements to private enterprise and economic growth. All this is without going into murkier aspects of Gujarat’s experience, such as environmental destruction or state repression.

At the end of the day, Gujarat poses an interesting puzzle: why does it have indifferent social indicators, in spite of having enjoyed runaway economic growth for so long, as well as relatively high standards of governance? Perhaps this has something to do with economic and social inequality (including highly unequal gender relations), or with the outdated nature of some of India’s social statistics, or with a slackening of Gujarat’s earlier commitment to effective public services. Resolving this puzzle would be a far more useful application of mind than cheap propaganda for NaMo.



Commandos on duty leave Palika Bazaar before time, suspended

Commandos on duty leave Palika Bazaar before time, suspended

Five Delhi Police commandos stationed at Palika Bazaar in Connaught Place have been suspended for leaving the place before their duty hours ended, police said.

The commandos had been stationed at the underground market, popular with foreign tourists, for over two years.

Sources said the commandos, armed with AK-47s, were deployed at the market as part of the area security plan of the Delhi Police.

For some time now, shopkeepers at Palika Bazaar had been complaining that the commandos were leaving the place at least an hour before their duty hours ended. The commandos were reportedly providing security at five entry and exit points to the underground market between 11 am and 8 pm.

On Saturday, the Station House Officer (SHO) of Connaught Place, on an inspection round, noticed that not one, but all the five commandos had left the premises with at least an hour of duty still left. A report was submitted to the district DCP and other senior officers at the Police Headquarters.

Police said action was taken immediately and the commandos suspended. Sources said the commandos admitted that they had violated duty rules. They were suspended with a warning that in future, if they did it again, strict action would be taken.

“The commandos had been stationed to deal with any kind of contingency. They are deputed as a deterrent and are the first responders to any unfolding emergency. They are specially trained in counter-terror measures. They should have been more responsible,” a senior police officer said.

DCP (New Delhi) SBS Tyagi said, “The SHO noticed that the commandos had left much before their duty hours were to end and, therefore, they were suspended.”



Mother, daughters found buried inside shop

Mother, daughters found buried inside shop


The bodies of a woman and her two minor daughters were found buried deep inside a shop in the congested Ekbalpore area in the western part of the city on Sunday.

This brings down the curtain on the mysterious disappearance of the family for a fortnight now. Pushpa Singh and her two daughters had been missing since March 29.

Four people have been arrested in connection with the crime, the police said.

An alleged property dispute between Mrs Singh and Sikandar, one of the accused, could be behind the gruesome incident, the police added. Sikandar had reportedly shown keen interest in buying the flat in which Mrs Singh was staying with her daughters. It is believed that he had paid money to her to vacate the flat.

According to the police, on the night of March 29, when the girls were alone, Sikandar and three other accused entered the house posing as electricians. After hitting the girls on the head with a hammer and strangling them to death, the accused waited for Mrs Singh to return. As she entered the house little later, she too was strangulated.

The bodies were wrapped in plastic sheets and stuffed into a steel trunk. Late into the night, the bodies were taken to a shop, reportedly owned by Sikandar, the police said.

A pit — four feet deep — was dug to dispose of the bodies inside the shop, located in a heavily populated lane in the area. A layer of concrete was also laid above the pit to ensure the floor did not look mismatched. It is learnt that Mrs Singh had lost her husband to a train accident a few years ago.

Mrs Singh’s father was the first one to realise something was amiss when he failed to get through his daughter’s phone number despite repeated attempts. He contacted the Ekbalpore police station on phone from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh on March 30.

A written complaint was lodged the next day by the woman’s relatives.

Police officers tracked down the four accused and were detained on Saturday night. They have reportedly confessed to their crime.



Court order puts NIA, Delhi Police in a spot

Court order puts NIA, Delhi Police in a spot

A recent Delhi High Court directive requiring personal appearance of the Union Home Secretary to explain which of the two agencies, Delhi Police or National Investigation Agency (NIA), is probing the “larger conspiracy” of Indian Mujahideen of fomenting terrorism, has triggered heated discussions in the corridors of the North Block.

Court directs Union Home Secretary to appear and explain

According to sources, the agencies have been advised to take necessary measures through legal consultations to ensure that the issue is resolved without bringing the Union Home Secretary into the picture.

For its part, the NIA is perturbed over the “factually incorrect and one-sided” reporting of facts pertaining to the High Court order dated March 20 in a section of the media.

The High Court, in its latest order, has recorded the NIA submission that pursuant to an order in June 2012, it had registered a case against some terror suspects. A month later, the Delhi Police Special Cell registered a separate case on similar facts, after which the NIA wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) requesting merger of both the cases and transfer of probe to the NIA. The Ministry finally decided in favour of a merger and directed the Special Cell to hand over papers to the NIA. Despite repeated reminders, no case files were transferred.

Instead, in December 2012, the Delhi Police approached the MHA requesting to reconsider the decision and, were told that it would lead to legal complications.

While the Delhi Police filed a charge sheet in the case, the NIA was later made party to the court proceedings. This after two of the accused arrested by the Special Cell moved a bail application. The NIA submitted before the court that it had not probed the case, whereas the police said the case had been transferred to the NIA. “The same shows callous attitude on the part of the Delhi Police,” said the High Court order.



No time for parties

No time for parties

(From top left) Soni Sori, Dayamani Barla, Medha Patkar.Photos: Suvojit Bagchi, Manob Chowdhury, PTI

The exhilarating process of elections has begun. There is genuine and understandable apprehension about the future. But there is also hope. Because in this election, an element has been injected that has attracted more interest in it than in several pervious general elections.

That new element is the kind of individual that has now entered electoral politics. There have been instances in the past when non-politicians have either joined mainstream political parties or stood as independents and fought elections. But this time, thanks largely to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the range of independent-minded non-political individuals in the fray is much larger.

I personally find the presence of three women to be particularly significant. There are many women who are contesting. And some, like those from the film fraternity, are drawing media attention. Nagma, Gul Panag, Kirron Kher, Smriti Irani and, of course, Rakhi Sawant, are a magnet for television cameras.

The three women I want to write about are also celebrities but in a completely different way. Their life and the struggles they have undertaken over decades have been appreciated. They have received awards. They have been extensively interviewed and written about.

Yet, their entry into the electoral race as AAP candidates marks a significant change. Whether they win or lose is not so important as the fact that people have a chance to see and hear women like them who have fought for change from outside the system.

The women I refer to are Soni Sori from Chhattisgarh, Dayamani Barla from Jharkhand and Medha Patkar from Maharashtra (although her work has been all over India).

The least known of the three is Soni Sori, a 39-year-old schoolteacher from Jabeli village in Dantewada, Bastar, in the state of Chhattisgarh. Soni shot into limelight when she was picked up by the police in 2011 allegedly for being a Maoist, was brutally tortured because she refused to sign a false confession that would have implicated others, and finally released on permanent bail by the Supreme Court earlier this year. Her account of what she went through during her time in jail, which included horrific sexual assault, is chilling. Four of the six cases against her have been dismissed. She still has two pending.

Elections cost money. Soni has only a few hundred rupees in her bank account, Rs.424 to be exact. But support for her from outside has gathered pace ever since her candidature was announced and the funds are coming in. Still, the total is nowhere near the Rs.70 lakhs per candidate permitted by the Election Commission. And given the size of her constituency of Bastar, she will certainly need that money to reach out to her constituents, even if just to inform them about her name, her party and the party symbol.

Another tribal woman, much better known, is the former journalist and human rights activist Dayamani Barla, also known as the Iron Lady of Jharkhand. Dayamani is the candidate from Khunti in Jharkhand and the “Iron Lady” tag comes from her battle against steel giant ArcelorMittal. She successfully scuttled plans by the company to build what would have been the world’s largest steel plant. Together with a captive power station, the plant would have displaced people living in 40 villages. Whether the people saved from eviction will actually vote for her in these elections remains to be seen. What is significant is that she has taken the step of moving from agitation from the outside to attempting to influence policy from the inside.

The third woman is Medha Patkar, who needs little introduction. Her decades-long fight against the Narmada dam might not have prevented the dam from being built. What it did do was bring into the conversation about development the concept of sustainability from the perspective of the environment and people.

Medha is the AAP candidate from Mumbai Northeast, a constituency with a mix of urban poor and middle class. Everyone ought to know of her given her presence in the public realm since the 1980s. Yet, a week before she filed her nomination papers, many people living in the slum settlement of Gautam Nagar, which falls within her constituency, had not heard of her or of AAP. Only those who watch television news recognised her, or at least knew of the party and its symbol.

Like the other two, Medha faces an uphill battle. She does not have the funds required to carpet-bomb her constituency with fliers, posters and banners. She does not have enough volunteers who can reach out to all the constituents. And her own time and strength is limited, given that she is also in great demand in other parts of India.

Yet, as I said earlier, it really does not matter whether these three women win or lose. Their presence is a relevant reminder that politics in a democracy is not the sole property of a handful of families and their progeny; it does not belong to crooks and criminals; or to those with a casteist or communal agenda. The very fact that people like Soni, Dayamani and Medha believe they should enter the election arena, represents a sliver of hope for the future of Indian democracy.



Delhi Police sub-inspector arrested in Ghaziabad for raping woman for four years

Delhi Police sub-inspector arrested in Ghaziabad for raping woman for four years

A 53-year-old sub-inspector of Delhi Police was today arrested for allegedly raping a woman for over four years after threatening to implicate her in a wrong case.

Based on the woman’s complaint, Ghaziabad Police arrested Preetam Singh, who is posted at Lajpat Nagar police station in Delhi, from Kavinagar area.

The 45-year-old woman has alleged in her complaint that in 2008 she was implicated in a case in Sangam Vihar area of the national Capital.

“Woman told police that the accused sub-inspector was the Investigating Officer of that case and used to threaten to implicate her in wrong case if she didn’t indulge in physical relations with him.

“She alleged that Singh raped her for several years,” said Arun, Station House Officer(SHO) of Kavinagar police station.

According to the police, the accused, who is married, is the resident of Chanderlok area of Delhi and woman presently lives in Sangam Vihar area in the national Capital.

Police said that the accused used to take her to a flat in Babudham area of Kavinagar in Ghaziabad.

“We have arrested the SI based on woman’s complaint and also sent the woman for medical examination. Further probe is on,” the officer said.

However, the accused claimed that he had known the woman for over five years and had a good friendship with her, which later went wrong.