Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Labour officer blows whistle on graft

New Delhi, June 21: With student leader Kanhaiya Kumar by his side, an officer, till recently based in the Regional Labour Commissioner's office in Ranchi, has alleged that he was being targeted for exposing violations in wage and safety regulations by companies in Jharkhand.

Labour enforcement officer (central) Pawan Kumar told the media here today that he was being forced to go public as he had escaped an attempt on his life and was under political pressure to turn a blind eye to industrial crimes.
"Four staffers of the Regional Labour Commissioner (central) office attacked me on May 3 and even tried to strangle me. Instead of acting against them, I have been transferred to Chennai," he said.

"These staffers attacked me as they were transferred out on my complaints that they were working at the behest of companies by informing them of raids and working as brokers for them to decrease fines imposed for violation of labour laws," Pawan, who read sociology in JNU more than a decade ago, told reporters at the Press Club of India here.

Pawan went on to allege that after he filed a complaint at Ranchi's Jagannathpur police station, BJP mandal adhyaksh Ramji Prasad filed a counter complaint against him on the party's letterhead for attacking the employees.

JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar explained why he was with Pawan. "We stand with him in solidarity. I feel that his life is in danger as he has dug out several important documents. He came to us in a very disturbed state and is talking about suicide. We stand with him in his fight against corruption," the JNU leader told The Telegraph.

Pawan's family is settled in Ranchi where he graduated from St Xavier's College.
His troubles began when he took on his father's former employer, PSU Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC) for withholding gratuity dues of more than Rs 2 crore.

After a complaint was forwarded by the PMO in 2013, Pawan inspected HEC's records in Ranchi and found that at least 1,000 employees had not been given their dues.
After no action was taken, Pawan said, he wrote to chief labour commissioner A.K. Nayak in January, saying that his parents were being harassed by the HEC management.

Last year, Pawan claims to have uncovered a more serious violation, that of blatant flouting of safety norms by a mining company belonging to the Aditya Birla Group.
"On a spot inquiry of Hindalco bauxite mines in Lohardaga and Gumla in October last year, we found that labourers were carrying magazines of explosives with their hands. They had not been trained to do the job and were being paid the wages of unskilled labour for a skilled job," he alleged.

Pawan's report on the findings, a copy of which is with this paper, says that even first aid boxes were missing in the mines.
"Regional Labour Commissioner G.S. Doraiburu told me not to file a report that showed the company in poor light. I filed the report on October 15, 2015, and on the same day he filed a false case (against me) under the Prevention of Atrocities against SC/ST Act," Pawan said.

Doraiburu disconnected his cellphone once this reporter identified himself. He did not respond to subsequent text messages from The Telegraph too.
Pawan, who is now in Delhi to lobby against his "unfair" transfer, claimed he has written several letters to Union labour and employment minister Bandaru Dattatreya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee, demanding a judicial inquiry into corruption in his department.

Is Religion A Gigantic Fraud?

Intelligent men do not decide any subject until they have carefully examined both or all sides of it. Fools, cowards, and those too lazy to think, accept blindly, without examination, dogmas and doctrines imposed upon them in childhood by their parents, priests, and teachers, when their minds were immature and they could not reason.
[Some] 433,000,000 Mohammedans believe that the Koran was brought by an angel from heaven; 335,000,000 Hindus believe one of their gods, Siva, has six arms; 153,000,000 Buddhists believe they will be reincarnated; 904,000,000 Christians believe a god made the world in six days, Joshua stopped the sun by yelling at it, and Jesus was born of a virgin and nullified natural laws to perform miracles.
There is absolutely no scientific proof of any of these claims. Science has shown them to be contrary to all known facts. It is more intelligent to classify them as false. Religions are all based upon the primitive superstitions of ignorant, stone-age men who had no knowledge of science and thought the world was flat. The Catholic Church imprisoned Galileo for life and burned Bruno at the stake because they disagreed with these superstitious beliefs.
These primitive beliefs have been kept alive by a vast army of priests, preachers, and rabbis because it is to their great profit to promote them, first, by imposing them on the helpless brains of children, and second, by saturating the air, TV, press, and schools with their childish superstitions and unreasonable claims. They fool the ignorant and make the gullible and the intelligent alike pay tribute to them. Their multi-billion-dollar properties and incomes are exempt from taxes; they get half-fare on trains, busses, and planes; and receive billions of dollars in grants of taxpayers’ money to help build up their political power, wealth, and luxurious living. Taxes could be cut 10 percent if churches paid their just share. That would mean a probable saving of 20 billion dollars a year to the people of the U.S. every year of their lives. Some priests also indoctrinated with superstition from childhood probably believe what they preach. It pays them handsomely to do so.
Religious beliefs are against common sense. There is no god, just because priests say so. There are no angels, devils, heavens, hells, ghosts, witches, nor miracles. These superstitious beliefs are promoted for the purpose of making the gullible believe that by paying money to the priest-class, they will be favored by one of the gods. There is nothing supernatural — nothing contrary to natural law.
Religion has caused untold ignorance, murder, torture, fear, poverty, unhappiness, wars, and has kept the world 10,000 years behind the times. It still does, while the millions support the priestly loafers in comfort and ease. For ages the independent thinkers have been murdered, ostracized, tortured, and suppressed and their writings destroyed. Only in recent years have a few courageous thinkers been free to criticize religions.
Great thinkers and scientists — Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Charles Bradlaugh, Luther Burbank, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Henry L. Mencken, Charles Smith, Joseph Lewis, Rupert Hughes, Bertrand Russell, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Huxley, Clarence Darrow, Chapman Cohen, George McDonald, George Bernard Shaw, and hundreds of others — have discarded all or most of the religious beliefs.
This leaflet will be shocking to the unfortunate victim brain-whipped by religious indoctrination from childhood. But those who have a spark of intelligence will examine the facts, will stop paying tribute to the religious profiteers, and lose their fear of a mythical god and mythical hell.
If the gods which foolish people pray to were decent beings they would not permit innocent children to die of cancer, be blind, suffer from polio, muscular dystrophy, syphilis. A good god would not have manufactured fleas, bedbugs, chiggers, lice, rattlesnakes, sharks, deadly germs, sickness, diseased brains, idiots, and insanity. All these things are the result of blind, natural evolution. A just god would not cause some innocent people to die or be disabled for life in airplane, train, and ship disasters while others survived.
The Thinkers Club appeals to you to examine both sides so we may all escape from this religious oppression which degenerates the minds, forces all to pay tribute to the priestly parasites, and retards human progress.
James Hervey Johnson was an atheist and outspoken critic of organized religion. For nearly a quarter of a century he was owner/publisher and editor of The Truth Seeker from 1964 until his death in 1988. Through his efforts as an activist and benefactor, Johnson contributed significantly to freethought in the mid to late twentieth century.
Is religion a fraud?
If you listen to the brokers who propagate the various religions it would seem so. But is God a fraud. Here I beg to differ from James Harvey Johnson. He gives this example to disprove the existence of God-god for him.
If the gods which foolish people pray to were decent beings they would not permit innocent children to die of cancer, be blind, suffer from polio, muscular dystrophy, syphilis. A good god would not have manufactured fleas, bedbugs, chiggers, lice, rattlesnakes, sharks, deadly germs, sickness, diseased brains, idiots, and insanity. All these things are the result of blind, natural evolution. A just god would not cause some innocent people to die or be disabled for life in airplane, train, and ship disasters while others survived.
Johnson forgets that except for God who is Infinite, everything else in existence is finite. We, with our finite minds try to understand the Infinite - which is impossible. God has created everything by just the thought. He does not require anything to create something.These things which He creates pass through three stages, Birth, Growth and Death. The items he mentioned above are passing through the third stage.
He does not initiate the birth cycle. It is done though the male and female of any species and in some cases like cells and embryos, they reproduce by themselves.
The growth stage is helped by the parents of the species and the millions of other people and species which help each other to survive.
The death cycle is initiated by the various animals, insects, diseases, natural calamities which befall each one of us daily and we pass on to the next life. Even a murderer or terrorist is carrying out God's work when he kills someone for God wanted to end that life that way.
No one is beyond the above three stages, except God, who has no beginning and no end.
I agree, people who preach religion, no matter which religion, are thugs, just out to increase their numbers. But do deny the existence of God, in the name of "atheist" is idiocy.
I would request the atheist to make just one blade of grass without using any of the existing materials provided by God, leave alone making the whole Universe.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Like junk food? Acid reflux cancer on rise

Chennai: Deep fried samosas, oily bajjis and cheesy burgers washed down with sugar-loaded aerated drinks lead not just to a bulging waistline, but can increase risk of food pipe cancer.
Over the past 20 years, many hospitals across India have recorded a two-fold increase in cancer of the lower part of the food pipe caused by prolonged acid reflux disease linked to junk food.
"This kind of cancer is common in the west. Now we are seeing it more often in India. There is a link between high-fat, low-fibre food and cancer. Many people diagnosed with this type of cancer have been suffering from reflux," said Dr R Swaminathan, professor and head, biostatistics and cancer registry, Cancer Institute.
In people with reflux, the acid which the stomach uses to digest food escapes into the lower part of the food pipe. This constant backwash of acid can irritate the lining of the food pipe causing inflammation and scars leading to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The commonest symptom is heartburn or chest pain. In the last two decades, doctors say, reflux has reached epidemic proportions.
Over a period of time, reflux can cause a kind of cancer called adenocarcinoma that develops in the gland cells. The Cancer Institute, Chennai, which maintains the Madras Metropolitan Tumour registry, has now decided to do a pilot study and register types and sites of foodpipe cancer for the city registry and national registry.
"This type of cancer occurs only in the bottommost part of the food pipe," Dr Swaminathan said.
In the 90s, gastroenterologists saw a rise in squamous cell cancer, mostly in the top and middle parts of the foodpipe, which is mainly caused by smoking or chewing tobacco. Now, nearly a quarter of foodpipe cancers are at the bottom of the food pipe. In some hospitals, the number is even higher. For instance in Coimbatore, gastroenterologists say at least 40% to 50% of food pipe cancers are caused by GERD. "In the mid-1990s, only 10% to 15% of cancers were adenocarcinoma. Last year we saw the trend nearly reverse," said the founder and chairman of Gem Hospitals, Dr C Palanivelu.
Senior gastroenterologists say dietary habits have played a huge role in pushing up cancer of the foodpipe. Two years ago, an ongoing study by Government General Hospital's department of surgical gastroenterology linked smoked meat - red meat or fish dipped in greasy oil, and covered with a mix of salt, chilli powder and spices before it is cooked directly over fire - to food pipe cancers.
Besides the fast food mentioned above, there is another major cause which causes acid reflux. Sleeping within an hour of having a heavy meal, especially on your right side. As you grow older the problem aggravates as like other parts of the body the valves in different parts of the body become slow in operation. The epiglottis which prevents from food entering the wind pipe also weakens and you will find that you have more frequent attacks of food entering the wind pipe. Similarly, the valve which seals the food from reentering the food canal weakens and thus acid from the stomach flows back into the wind pipe, causing acid reflux. This is all because of aging and nothing  can be done about it. You have to just eat slower and eat light at night and sleep on your left side.
I speak from first hand experience.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Free education for poor Assam students

Guwahati, June 11: The Assam government has made education free from this academic session for plus two, degree and polytechnic students whose parents earn Rs 1 lakh or less annually.

The announcement was made by education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma here this afternoon. Sarma had said at a meeting of college principals here on Wednesday that the government would be taking a decision on waiving/reducing fees for girl/poor students within 48 hours.

The next phase will see similar benefits being extended to university, medical and engineering students, he said. The move suggests that the new government will continue to focus on the student/youth force.

"The government of Assam has decided that provincialised and government colleges in Assam will not take fees, including admission, tuition or any other kind, from students who will take admission in higher secondary or first year of the three-year degree course provided the income of their parents is Rs 1 lakh or below per annum from all sources. They also don't have to pay any fees in the second year," Sarma said.
There are 301 provincialised and government colleges in the state.

To claim the benefit, a student will have to submit his/her parents' income certificate to the principal.
"We have made it very easy for the students to claim the benefit. It would help 50,000 to 70,000 students. If the parents work for the government or the private sector, the monthly salary slip will do. If they are not working for either the public or the private sector, they can get the income certificate from the circle officer or the mouzadar," Sarma said.
Students who have already taken admission will get their money back, he added.

Today's decision is the first step towards implementing the BJP's vision document for students of the state released before the Assembly elections, he said. The decision also covers more students from what was initially planned vis-à-vis girl and poor students.

Dispur had earlier told the principals to make an assessment of the revenue loss before the move can be announced. According to the assessment, the colleges will lose around Rs 70 crore, which the minister said would be compensated within two months.

"After admission is over, the college will give a detailed account of the revenue loss to the director of higher education for reimbursement. The director will then submit the compensation proposal to the government," the minister said. The government has not included private colleges because "imposition could lead to litigation but I am sure they will be able to reduce their fees," Sarma said.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Wife roasted alive in Birbhum to pave way for fair bride

Suri, June 8: A young mother in Birbhum was burnt alive allegedly because she was dark-skinned and her in-laws wanted to get her husband a new bride with a fairer complexion.
Somera Bibi, 22, said in her dying statement to police that her husband, three brothers-in-law and mother-in-law locked her up in a room on June 3, sprinkled kerosene and set it ablaze, leaving her to die in the inferno. She succumbed to her injuries in hospital this morning.
Piecing together the accounts of the woman's family, it emerged that Somera had been threatened and abused and her family was forced to cough up cash, which she finally protested after years of subjugation.
Somera's husband, mason Nasir Sheikh, and in-laws are absconding. Her neighbours in Tarapith fear her two-year-old son was taken away by the family.
Nasir had agreed to marry Somera three years ago after her family gave him Rs 1 lakh and 10 cottahs of land. Several times that, Somera was forced to give money to Nasir and his family.
Six months ago, Nasir and his family had allegedly taken Rs 2 lakh from Somera, whose father is a farmer, to build a house. However, when Somera protested after her husband and in-laws allegedly demanded "whatever else her family had", she was set ablaze.
In the police complaint, Somera's family alleged that she used to be tortured regularly and they were forced to pay hefty sums of money on at least three occasions to keep the marriage intact.
Somera's mother Tandila Biwi alleged that Nasir's mother used to say that "we could have got a much better-looking girl for our son".
In her complaint, Tandila has alleged: " Tahara prokash korto je tui dekhte kalo. Tokey niye amra ghar-sansar korbona (they used to say 'you are dark. We don't want you in the family'.)"
Neighbours in Parun village had admitted Somera to Rampurhat subdivisional hospital after they broke into the house on seeing smoke and hearing her scream for help.
The police have started a murder case against Nasir, his mother Majlima Biwi and elder brothers Jamir Sheikh, Samir Sheikh and Akhirul Sheikh.
Somera's uncle Raosham Sheikh said today that at the time of marriage, Nasir's family had demanded a hefty dowry to "compensate" for her dark complexion. Dipping into their life's savings, Somera's father Piyar Baksh Sheikh and Tandila had given Nasir Rs 1 lakh and 10 cottahs.
Six months later, Nasir and his family demanded more money from Somera, again because of her dark complexion. Her parents managed to pay Rs 50,000.
Around six months ago, Nasir and his family demanded Rs 3 lakh, threatening to send her back to her parents in case of failure.
Piyar Baksh, Tandila and their son Khayer Hossain sold a part of their farmland and arranged for Rs 2 lakh, which they handed over to Somera's in-laws. They said they would not be able to give any more money, Khayer said.
Over the past two months, the in-laws kept telling Somera to get more cash from her parents or leave the house.
"For the first time, with her back to the wall, she started protesting. She said enough money had been given for the colour of her skin and there was none left to give. They wouldn't listen. They kept telling her to leave. They took her son away from her. They wanted to get Nasir married to someone fair," Khayer said.
During a fight on June 3, Nasir and his family allegedly locked Somera in a room, poured kerosene and set it on fire. Then they fled.
"We heard her screams. We saw the smoke. We ran to her rescue. It was too late. We did take her to hospital but she was so badly burnt that recovery seemed impossible," said Alauddin Sheikh, an elderly neighbour.
Alauddin said he had heard the in-laws fighting with Somera for money, but refused to say more.
Tandila, who lodged the police complaint while Somera was battling for her life in hospital, today said she would pursue the matter in court till the end and demand the maximum punishment for the accused.

Pahlaj slur, Bolly support for Udta - Censor cuts challenged in tribunal

New Delhi, June 8: Chief censor Pahlaj Nihalani today accused Udta Punjab co-producer Anurag Kashyap of being paid by the Aam Aadmi Party "to portray Punjab and its people in a bad light", as the filmmakers appealed against the cuts ordered and Bollywood rallied behind the movie.

The censor board has sought over 80 cuts to the film, whose portrayal of the state's drug problem is said to have angered Punjab's ruling Akali Dal, a BJP ally. The filmmakers today challenged the board's order at the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, which is yet to fix a hearing.

Nihalani's allegation came on a day Amitabh Bachchan entered the debate in support of artistic creativity - "all I can say is that don't kill creativity" - and Aamir Khan warned against filmmakers' voice being "throttled".

"I have heard that Kashyap has taken a huge amount of money from the AAP to show Punjab neck-deep in drug trafficking. That is why he is so adamant not to make the changes we are recommending," Nihalani told The Telegraph .
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal had yesterday supported the film against the censors, only to draw a rebuff from Kashyap who asked them not to "colour my fight with any political affiliation".
"If he (Kashyap) has no relations with any political party and just wants to show a film to the people, why should he have a problem with our recommendations?" Nihalani said. "If he has problems with our suggestions, he is free to go to higher authorities, but why make such a hue and cry?"

Kashyap demanded an apology from Nihalani. "Why does he not come up with proof if he is so certain?" he told a news conference, flanked by fellow filmmakers Imtiaz Ali, Sudhir Mishra, Zoya Akhtar and Mahesh Bhatt.
"The real issue is: he is behaving like a dictator who thinks that the film fraternity is his subject and he can come up with any ridiculous decisions and charges. It is the matter of a filmmaker's right but he is trying to turn it into a political battle."
"We can't turn into a Saudi Arabia where there is opulence but no free thought in society," Bhatt said, demanding Nihalani's removal as chief censor.

Bachchan, in Calcutta to promote his thriller TE3N, said he was "not quite aware of what the issue really is" but added: "All I can say is that don't kill creativity. When you kill creativity, you kill our souls."

He went on: "All of us in the film industry, all of us have faced this issue... at some point. There has to be a concerted and joint effort by the industry to get over this. I hope that we can devise a system where there is certification rather than censorship."

Kejriwal, whose party hopes to do well in the upcoming Punjab election, waded into the debate again despite yesterday's snub from Kashyap.

"Pahlaj Nihalani's statement makes it amply clear that he has stopped the film on BJP's instructions," the Delhi chief minister tweeted.

His party spokesperson, Ashish Khetan, directly linked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to the censors' move.

"It (Nihalani's allegation) means that Nihalani has been told by the Prime Minister and Badal that the drug problem will become a big issue and the Akalis and the Badals will be in danger," he said.
Asked whether his party or any of its members had indeed given any money to the film's makers, Khetan ducked the question.

Officials in the information and broadcasting ministry, under which the censor board functions, distanced themselves from the controversy saying the film certification process was "independent".

Kashyap had told TV channels yesterday that he had earlier approached the ministry but the "film fraternity seems to be his (Jaitley's) last priority".

He had added that after he received a message from Jaitley's junior, Rajyavardhan Rathore, saying a joint secretary was looking into the matter, Nihalani "called up my partner and asked why we had approached the ministry".
A senior official in Jaitley's office said the minister had decided not to say anything on the subject as it was a matter between the censor board and the filmmakers.

"The process is quite clear that the filmmakers can approach the tribunal if they are not satisfied with the board's decisions," he said.

"Court guidelines too make it clear that in such matters, it is not for the I&B ministry to take matters in its own hands."
He said the ministry was trying to streamline the film certification process and that the first part of the recommendations of the Shyam Benegal committee was being "examined at the highest level".

The committee, formed this year after a series of controversial decisions by Nihalani's board, has suggested the board's role be restricted to categorising films, and not recommending changes or cuts, except in matters involving national security.

The filmmakers held a special screening of Udta Punjab for Benegal in Mumbai today. Benegal praised the film but said he had watched it in his individual capacity and not at the ministry's behest.

Independent India’s first Mr Universe, Manohar Aich: His Journey from a coconut vendor to World acclaim

Manohar Aich in 1951
From a coconut vendor at Sealdah station to world acclaim, it had been a long journey for the little big man. A journey with a dramatic beginning — in a military prison. Manohar Aich, who was the first from independent India to win the Mr Universe title, died at the age of 104 in Kolkata on Sunday, June 5. The centenarian won the Mr Universe title in 1952, in addition to three gold medals in bodybuilding at the Asian Games. “He was on a liquid diet for the last 10-15 days. He succumbed to age-related complications,” said Manoj, Aich’s son. Aich is survived by his two sons and two daughters.
When The Indian Express team met him on the eve of his 100th birthday, Aich had said: “It was 1942 and the Quit India movement had gathered considerable momentum. I had been working as a physical instructor in the Royal Indian Air Force, when I protested against the British oppression at the camp. I slapped a British officer, who made an offensive remark against the Indians during the interrogation. A court-martial and jail time ensued but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The jailor had been very kind and allowed me to train. In fact, he encouraged it. Then, I was shifted to the Alipore Presidency Jail but release followed as India won her freedom. I decided to settle in Kolkata.”
Soon, Manohar was released from Alipore Jail as India won her freedom. His next favourite place was Jogeshwar Paul’s akhara, where he used to drop in each day before working as a coconut vendor in Sealdah station. As time passed by, this little man achieved fame and Mr Universe happened. In 1951, Mr Universe contest approached, while Aich became popular by then by doing private bodybuilding shows to raise money so that he could make his way to England.
“I had a failed attempt in 1951 but decided to stay back in London, for I was determined to win it next term. Thankfully, I got a job in the British Rail which helped me live my dream. I returned home only after winning the 1952 competition,” Aich had said to the Indian Express team.
That was the beginning of the legend. Aich, at 4ft 11in, towered over the rest to earn the sobriquet ‘Pocket Hercules’. He went on to win the Asian Bodybuilding Championships. “He (Aich) was an inspiration to everyone, young and old. Death is inevitable but Manohar Aich will be remembered by all, across every sporting discipline,” legendary footballer Chuni Goswami told The Indian Express.
Aich always believed that “Our body is a temple that we must worship. Exercise is the only way to stay healthy.” The reason why the boy from Comilla, now in Bangladesh, took great interest in bodybuilding. Four years ago, in 2013 on one sunny March afternoon, he flexed his wrinkled muscles but what made him sad is that he could no longer hit the gym. This was because he had suffered a stroke a year before on 2012, which restricted his movement.
“Pocket Hercules” he was called due to his short stature of 4.11 ft. He started his training in 1942 after he joined the British Royal Air Force. Aich had also won the World Championship of Spring Pulling by tearing a spring of 275 pounds tension.
Aich took a little interest in politics as well and when in 1997 general elections, BJP came calling, he lost that contest. Four years later, in 2000 (Y2K), he lost his wife Jyotika, who had made silent contributions behind his success.
Today, the Legend’s legacy lives through his students. National bodybuilding champion for the eighth time Satya Paul and former Mr Universe Premchand Dogra, and plenty others flock to Bishnu Manohar Aich’s Fitness Centre & Multigym to follow the footsteps of their favourite idol.
Manohar Aich  - now, just before death

SC’s search engine: A 22-strong force of men and women in grey


On Mondays and Fridays, amidst the bustle and whirl of the Supreme Court’s narrow corridors, a row of men and women in grey safari suits and saris weave their way efficiently through the crowds, carrying piles of heavy tomes.
Like light-footed spirits, they delicately negotiate the swirling mass of lawyers, litigants, security personnel, clerks and reporters. As they pass through the winding corridors of the court, the single file of grey breaks up and reassembles, as one of them ducks into a courtroom. The courtrooms are often packed and claustrophobic, but this does not deter these men and women who expertly push their way to the front where the judges’ staff wait anxiously for the knowledge they bring.
Once the court staff get hold of the heavy volumes containing cases or judicial precedents — delivered by the Supreme Court for over 60 years — they hand them over to the judges in perfect timing, as lawyers refer to a precedent, which may mean life or death for the litigant. On Mondays and Fridays, when fresh cases come up for hearing in the highest court, this group of 22 is called upon to perform its extraordinary task in one of Asia’s largest law libraries — the Judges’ Library — situated in the recesses of the Supreme Court building.
Professional librarians
Of the 22, five are professional librarians from the legislative arm of the library, recruited by the Supreme Court. The other 17 include clerks, attendants and peons, handpicked for their vast experience gained through years of serving in courtrooms and in the judges’ residential libraries. Their specialised services, accuracy and knowledge of every book and its location in the library, which boasts of over 3,50,000 law books and law reports, is vital to the smooth working of the process. These men and women are fondly called the “dancing librarians” of the Supreme Court.
Former Chief Justice of India and current National Human Rights Commission Chairperson, Justice H.L. Dattu, after his retirement in December 2015, told The Hindu about the dedication and accuracy of the staff in the judges’ library.
The dancing librarians are “extraordinary,” he says, in the cause of justice delivery.
“Making the judges’ library state-of-art was one of my pet projects. [When] I talked to the staff, some of them complained of feeling stagnant in their jobs. I sent some staff to the best libraries in India, gave promotions, incentives. On the day Iwas retiring, the first place I went to say goodbye was the library. I thanked them for their dedication, for being quick on their feet. They thanked me for giving them a free hand,” Justice Dattu recalled.
On their toes
“For three to four hours on Mondays and Fridays, they are on their toes as telephonic requests for law books and citations of cases are passed on from courtrooms,” a Supreme Court source said.
Speed is of the essence and as soon as a request is received from a courtroom, the librarians dive into the corners of the three-tiered library. The requested volume is located in seconds and what follows is a relay as it is thrown from one pair of waiting hands to the next; the relevant pages are flagged, marked and the reference then starts its journey from the library, through the corridors, to the court.
A recent Doordarshan documentary on the Supreme Court titled Truth Alone I Uphold, records for posterity the contributions of the Judges’ Library staff.
It depicts the library as the backbone of the justice delivery system in the apex court, which is based on the ‘Doctrine of Precedent’.
“At least 800 to 900 books are issued daily.” The computerised library also caters to the judges’ residential libraries and hosts 22 legal databases. Parliamentary debates, foreign journals and every written law of the land — Acts, Manuals, Rules, by-laws, notifications, Gazettes of Centre, States and Union Territories — are in the library of India’s highest judiciary.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What Trump And Modi Have In Common

It's so unlikely you have to pinch yourself to believe it. Donald Trump, a property billionaire and reality TV star with no political experience, loud, vulgar and with a preposterous hairstyle, is well on his way to becoming the Republican party's presidential candidate.

He's storming into Super Tuesday, when 11 US states vote in primaries or similar contests, as the frontrunner, with three successive victories. In Nevada, he got more support from Republicans than his two key challengers, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, combined.

The ruder he is, the more his support base rally to his standard - the less he sounds like a conventional politician, the more he is championed as the man who will punch the Washington political establishment on the nose.

He described Mexicans as rapists and wants to build a wall across that vast southern border to keep out  illegal migrants - yet in Nevada, Latinos too plumped for him. He suggested that a woman TV anchor was tough on him because she was menstruating - but women remain the bedrock of his support.

Donald Trump is the epitome of the "anti-politics" politician, the man who offers authenticity over political artifice. That shorthand is too simple, of course. Trump is proving himself to be a very effective communicator and campaigner - far from turning his back on the political system, he is playing it better than anyone else around. And he has that key ingredient which really helps in American politics - almost boundless personal wealth.

And it's not just Trump who represents the rise of the insurgent candidate and the outsider politician. Bernie Sanders - a self-declared socialist in a political landscape where even "liberal" is a dirty word - has deeply unsettled the Democratic party power brokers. He's up against Hillary Clinton, a much more formidable opponent than Trump's rivals, and so far has held his own.

At 74, he's getting on a bit - but the young, those impatient for change, are his most fervent supporters.

A 20-year-old Sanders supporter, a woman, explained to me the other day why she isn't out there campaigning for the first woman to have a serious chance of being elected to the White House. "Hilary wants power for its own sake - she doesn't know what she wants to do with it," she said. "But Bernie, he wants power to change America."

Across the Atlantic, there's a lot of scoffing at the absurdity of American politics. But in Britain as well, the standalone outsider is making the political weather across parties.

Take the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson - superficially, his only point of similarity with Trump is a non-conventional haircut. He's from a well-connected family, educated at Eton and Oxford, and is a politician to his fingertips. But he has managed to create the aura of being an anti-machine politician, with his bloke-ish irreverence - the common man's common sense Conservative. It's a political conjuring act, but it's worked.

Johnson has now spectacularly broken ranks with his own Prime Minister and is campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union - there's a referendum being held in June.

And the Labour opposition has in 66-year-old Jeremy Corbyn a British version of Bernie Sanders - a habitual left-wing rebel who has challenged conventional wisdom by being elected party leader.

In both Britain and the US, the rise of these political outliers is in part about the long years of economic difficulty which has jolted the confidence of the middle-class and upset traditional political loyalties.
The aftermath of the Iraq war - and now Syria's civil war, the rise of Islamic State and the huge flow of refugees - has provoked a sense of insecurity. That encourages support for politicians who appear to have answers rather than simply restating the problem.

And where a political wave would once have taken years to build, now social media can amplify a trend, provide a virtual sense of political community, and propel new figures and movements to centrestage in a matter of weeks.

The world's biggest democracy has not been immune from this global trend towards anti-establishment politics. The spectacular rise of the Aam Admi Party is one of the most emphatic aspects of this global phenomenon of insurgent populism.

So too is the success of Narendra Modi, who presented himself as the small town outsider, at a distance from Delhi and its tarnished institutions, and used new forms of campaigning - holograms, selfies, social media - to enthuse those previously not greatly engaged with the political process.

It would be foolish to stretch the analogy between Donald Trump and Narendra Modi too far. And there is one striking difference. Unlike Trump (or indeed Sanders, Johnson, Corbyn and the other outsider political aspirants), Mr Modi isn't just campaigning for the top job - he's got it.

(Andrew Whitehead, a former BBC Delhi correspondent, is an honorary professor at the University of Nottingham and at Queen Mary, University of London.)

Indian laws: Designed to protect and promote bribery all the time

Article Courtesy: R N Bhaskar, Firstpost
The law of unintended consequences seems to be at work again. The government has found that the Finmeccanica helicopter bribery scam has found other unexpected targets. The torpedo deal for the Scorpene submarines (that India had so proudly deployed recently) has got stuck. Reason: they were to be supplied by a firm which is a subsidiary of Finmeccanica.
This is what happened with the Bofors deal as well. The guns had been supplied. Then came the information that someone in India had received a bribe. Bofors was black-listed. As a result, one of the best guns that India had purchased could not be used, because the ammunition for these guns also came from Bofors.
By blacklisting the bribe-givers without first prosecuting and convicting the bribe-takers, India was, in effect, cutting its nose to spite its face.
Somewhere, somehow, India’s legislators have not applied their minds to the basic flaw in the legal framework and process at work. They have forgotten to ask the question: who is more guilty? Should it be the one who gives a bribe? Or should it be the one who takes it?
Callous or criminal?
Consider the first possibility. Let us assume that the one who gives the bribe is guilty. Somehow the law does not take into account the difference between two categories of bribe givers. There is a class of people who give bribes to subvert an existing process. They voluntarily offer bribes. But more unfortunate are those bribe givers who know that they have no choice but to give a bribe if they have to lead a simple hassle free life.
For instance most people know that they will never get their application for a ration card, or a driving licence, cleared easily unless they pay a tout who in turn pays the authorities. Should that kind of bribe be equal to the bribe a person gives to queer the system?
India’s lawmakers have never bothered to make this distinction, possibly because they know that they are unlikely to face that inconvenience and hassle that common men face. If that is indeed the case, it is a pity. It would show how disconnected India’s lawmakers are from the difficulties common people face.
But there could be another explanation. Could it be that a part of the bribe that the authorities take for giving a driving licence or a ration card eventually finds its way into the pockets of the lawmakers themselves? Could it be that this system is abetted by legislators and bureaucrats alike primarily because they are themselves beneficiaries? This is a question that =demands answers, because that would let people know whether India’s lawmakers are merely callous, or even criminal in their acts of commission and omission.
Extortion or exploitation?
Then take the second possibility Is the victim of an extortion bid a criminal? If that were indeed so, would be akin to saying that the girl who is raped is as guilty as the rapist, right?
If a ransom has been demanded by a kidnapper, and the ransom is paid, should the person who pays the ransom amount also be held guilty? If that is indeed the case, the swap deal that the government of India finalised with the Kandahar terrorists for releasing the hostages on the IC-184 was also a case of bribery, nothing else.
In fact, when it comes to petty bribery, most bribes are nothing but extortionist bids. That is what the common man must pay the police, the shops and establishment Act inspectors, the food inspectors, the octroi inspectors and even officials of municipalities and government departments.
All these are instances of exploitation. They are nothing short of extortion. Obviously, the man who pays cannot be held guilty, because his own life and well-being was at risk.
Speed money and the oath of office
Take the third possibility. As a sales person, my job is to sell. I know that the government official will be willing to push the file a little faster if I buy a gift for his son. So I decide to buy a gift for the son on his birthday, or at the time of festivities – like Diwali.
I may be wrong in trying to corrupt a government officer. But I need my job. The government won’t bail me out in case I am dismissed primarily because I could not get some work done by a government clerk.
But now look at the government employee. He is certainly not in the same boat as I am. I have a need. But he has a responsibility bound by an oath not to succumb to temptations, bribes or blandishments. If I do succeed in giving the gift, and the clerk accepts the gift, who is more guilty – the one who violates an oath of office, or the person who has made no such promise, and used this method just to clinch a deal?
Is the law an ass, or merely blind?
According to Indian laws, both the giver and the receiver of bribes is guilty. It remains (largely) silent on extortion, however.
As a result of this peculiar stand, everybody knows that neither will the bribe-giver come forward to complain, nor will the bribe taker admit that he has taken a bribe.
The giver of the bribe dare not complain because he know that he could get arrested for even saying that he has given a bribe. As a result he keeps quiet.
The receiver of the bribe too knows that it is best for him to keep quiet. After all, he has accepted the bribe. If he had objected to the bribe, and if he were a government servant, he could have filed charges against the bribe giver for trying to bribe a public officer. But he chose not to. That, by itself was a crime. And the fact that he has taken a bribe is also a crime. He will need to keep quiet, and even erase all traces of the bribe taken. You can be sure that he will not register a complaint, lest that complaint itself indicts him damningly.
The only time when things can take an ugly turn is when the bribe taker is being charged with something else – like owning assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. Upon sustained interrogation, he might confess that he has taken a bribe. At that time, if the bribe giver has concealed his tracks well, he will flatly deny the allegations. After all, it is his word against that of the squealing bribe taker.
If the charges fail to stick against the bribe giver, you can be sure that they will be dropped against the bribe taker as well. The only charge that will stick, however, is that of disproportionate assets. It will be a case of concealing sources of income. But the bribery charge will not longer be applicable.
Thus, you end up in a Kafka-esque world. This is where neither the bribe giver nor the bribe taker dare squeal against each other. The benefit invariably goes to the bribe taker – because he is left with money and benefits that he should not have.
In other words, Indian laws promote – even protect – bribery.
So what is the way out?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Like Ali, how many of our icons will take a punch for what they believe in?

Sankarshan Thakur

"I have a great one-two punch; the one hits a lot but the two hits a bunch."

Muhammad Ali to writer Norman Mailer in The Fight

That bunch Muhammad Ali hit fell well beyond the 16/25 feet of the boxing ring. They fell in the Establishment. They fell among the meek and the militarist. They fell among conformists and colluders. They fell among white supremacists and chauvinists of Christendom. They fell in media pens where they often dared his arrogance with hostility. They fell among the vanities that would have a provincial reputation relentlessly swelling to kingsize pricked down to a turncoat and a braggart, no more.

Ali fell like God on wanton critics, he flayed them for sport. "He ran a marathon everyday with his tongue," Norman Mailer wrote of Ali in The Fight, an elliptical personal narrative of the 1974 Ali-George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" bout in Kinshasa.

"Sure, and never stumbling over anyone else's thought. If a question were asked for which he had no reply, he would not hear it. Majestic was the snobbery of his ear."

Most lately the feared Ali punch fell on the Donald Trump bunch. It came swift and strong upon Trump's mid-campaign call to bar Muslims from entering the United States.

It came quite unhindered by Parkinson's, which had tarried Ali for three decades. "We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda," Ali said in a statement.
"Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people's views on what Islam really is." The upper cut had been rammed without Trump even being thought worthy of a mention by Ali.

He said it like it was, with all the visual vehemence he could bring to his Louisville lip.
• "You serious? I got to stay here and lead my people to the right man Elijah Muhammad,"- when asked why he doesn't flee America, because he had converted to Islam and turned down military conscription.

•  "I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong, I'm not going to no war with them Vietcong because no Vietcong never called me a nigger," - when he turned a conscientious objector and refused to be conscripted for the war in Vietnam in 1966.

•  "I calculated I've taken 29,000 punches. But I earned $57 million and I saved half of it. So I took a few hard knocks. Do you know how many black men are killed every year by guns and knives without a penny to their names?" - on why he did what he did all his life and how it may have reflected on race relations.

• "Everything good is supposed to be white. We look at Jesus, and we see a white with blond hair and blue eyes. Now, I'm sure there's a heaven in the sky and coloured folks die and go to heaven. Where are the coloured angels? They must be in the kitchen preparing milk and honey.

"We look at Miss America, we see white. We look at Miss World, we see white. We look at Miss Universe, we see white. Even Tarzan, the king of the jungle in black Africa, he's white. White Owl Cigars. White Swan soap. White Cloud tissue paper, White Rain hair rinse, White Tornado floor wax. All the good cowboys ride the white horses and wear white hats. Angel food cake is the white cake, but the devil's food cake is chocolate. When are we going to wake up as a people and end the lie that white is better than black?" - when fighting conscription across the US.
•  "I told you all, all of my critics, that I was the greatest of all time.... Never make me the underdog until I'm about 50 years old." - when he beat George Foreman in Kinshasa in October 1974.

•  "My name is known in Serbia, Pakistan, Morocco. These are countries that don't follow the Kentucky Derby,"- on the meaning of being Muhammad Ali in 1977.

•  "It's hard to be humble when you're as great as I am.... I am the greatest." Undated, but rightly so. Dates can't be put to that sort of thing. It must require cosmic courage to proclaim yourself "the greatest" to the world when you know how unaccepting the world can be of a black man and a Muslim. But that was Ali and the dare of being him, a panther in the jungle who had to roar in order that it was silenced.

It wasn't for nothing that William Rhoden, sports columnist on The New York Times wrote what he did of Ali in 2013: "Ali's actions changed my standard of what constituted an athlete's greatness. Possessing a killer jump shot or the ability to stop on a dime was no longer enough. What were you doing for the liberation of your people? What were you doing to help your country live up to the covenant of its founding principles?"

He had already brought the US an Olympic gold and was a home hero when the chains fell on him for refusing to be chained.