Sunday, April 30, 2017

Bihar van driver attacked for honking at a cow, may lose sight in one eye

SAHARSA: Amid rising incidents of cow vigilantism, a driver of a pick-van is suspected to have been blinded in his left eye after he was attacked for allegedly scaring a cow by honking the horn in north Bihar’s Saharsa district.
The incident took place at Maina village in Sonbarsa Raj police station area, 250 km north of state capital Patna, on Thursday evening.
Police said driver Ganesh Mandal, 30, was returning home at Bochahi village in neighbouring Bhagalpur district from Saharsa when he came across a cow roaming on national highway-107. “Mandal honked the horn so that the cow could get out of his way. Instead, the bovine panicked and ran away. This made the owner of the cow, who was nearby, furious and he rained baton blows on Mandal,” the police said. The cow owner has been identified as Ram Dular Yadav, they added.
Mandal fell unconscious after being hit on his left eye and was rushed to the nearby primary health centre (PHC), police said. On regaining consciousness Mandal complained that he was unable to see with his left eye, the doctor at the PHC referred him to the government hospital at Saharsa. “The patient was bleeding profusely from his left eye and the possibility of his losing vision could not be ruled out,” the PHC doctor said.
While Saharsa civil surgeon Ashok Kumar Singh was not in the town, deputy superintendent of the district hospital said the patient has been taken to Bhagalpur for treatment at the medical college hospital there.
Ram Dular Yadav, meanwhile, denied the charge that his cow was roaming on the highway. “I was, in fact, milking the cow when the driver scared it by honking the horn,” he told reporters.
Sonbarsa Raj police station SHO Mohammad Izhar Alam said an FIR had been registered on the basis of the complaint by Mandal.

'No space for goons' (won't apply to stage)

Lucknow, April 29: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath today said there was "no space for criminals" in his state, the assertion coming from a stage he shared with a murder accused who sat a few seats away.
Amanmani Tripathi, accused of murdering his wife Sara Singh but out on bail since March 9, was seen walking up to the BJP leader and touching his feet.

Amanmani's father Amarmani Tripathi and mother Madhu Mani are both murder convicts, serving life terms for the 2003 killing of Madhumita Shukla, a Lucknow-based poetess.
Adityanath's assertion came during a government event at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gorakhpur University, where the chief minister, who is also the mahant of Gorakhnath temple, announced several development projects for east Uttar Pradesh.

"There is no space for criminals in Uttar Pradesh," Adityanath, who was at the programme for about 45 minutes, said.
"Either they should leave the state or the law would soon start taking its course," Adityanath, who is on a two-day tour of Gorakhpur, 300km east of Lucknow, added.
Amanmani, who won the recent Assembly elections as an Independent candidate from Nautanwa in Maharajganj district, was on the dais throughout.

This is not the first time Adityanath has warned criminal elements in the state since taking over as chief minister last month. He had earlier been quoted as saying they would either have to run away from Uttar Pradesh or get prepared to be put behind bars.
"Criminals must not think about continuing their activities in the state. There are only two places for them - one is jail and the other... they know what is the other place for them," he had said an hour after taking oath on March 19.
Amanmani is accused of strangulating his wife Sara and then cooking up a car accident scene on a national highway in Firozabad. The CBI is probing the July 2015 case.

Sara's mother Seema Singh said the BJP must stay away from her daughter's alleged killer. "I have heard that he was trying to get entry into the BJP, where he has many sympathisers," she said. "But it is disappointing for those who expect clean governance under Yogi."
Sources in the BJP said Amanmani had offered prayers at Gorakhnath temple on March 12 and taken Adityanath's blessings.

A BJP leader, who asked not to be named, said Amarmani, the senior Tripathi, was in Gorakhpur jail in 2007 when Adityanath had been lodged there for over a week for inciting communal violence. "Amarmani had helped him a lot at that time. We are not surprised if Yogi is obliged and wants to help his son," the leader added.
Dwijendra Tripathi, spokesperson for the Uttar Pradesh Congress, said: "When Yogi says criminals should get out of UP, he only means the criminals of the Samajwadi Party.... Those criminals of the SP who have joined the BJP would also be free from any fear of law. Yogi is out and out into lip-service politics."

Amarmani is considered close to many BJP leaders. But his friendship with Samajwadi patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav is no secret either.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

IMA gets into semantics to beat code on generic drugs

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's resolve to ensure that doctors prescribe only generic medicines is being undone by some creative interpretation of the Medical Council of India's (MCI's) "code" for doctors, which ostensibly makes it mandatory to prescribe using generic names. Reacting to the MCI injunction that doctors should prescribe generic drugs, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said "should means may and may means optional or preferable".

Meanwhile, doctors demanded that the PM ban companies from manufacturing any generic medicine with a trade name and ensure they produced only high-quality generics. Though the PM said he would bring a legal framework to prescribe generics, there is as yet no new law, either for the pharma industry or for doctors and chemists.

All that has happened after his announcement is that MCI has issued a notification reiterating an existing clause in its code of ethics regulations. The clause, which had earlier stated that "every physician should, as far as possible, prescribe drugs with generic names" was amended in October 2016 to "every physician should prescribe drugs with generic names", indicating the intention to make it mandatory. However, the IMA has pounced on the fact that the letter of the clause uses "should" instead of "shall" to argue that it is not mandatory. IMA president K K Aggarwal's statement on the issue further pointed out that the clause did not say doctors can prescribe "only" with generic names. So, IMA has advised doctors that they can write the generic name and add the name of the company that manufactures the drug.

"Nobody can stop you choosing the company for quality assurance," said the IMA statement. IMA advised doctors to choose drugs from the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) as they are cheaper and of assured quality. "When writing non-NLEM, take consent. When prescribing, write the cheapest available medicine and that will always be the generic version of that company," advised IMA.

The All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), a civil society group working on drug pricing and accessibility, issued a statement pointing out that the proposal to make prescribing generics mandatory for doctors would be a useless, counterproductive step as a standalone measure. "This is because in India no manufacturer markets medicines in the retail market under generic names and hence medicines are not available under generic names in the Indian retail pharmacy shops," it pointed out.

AIDAN said that unless manufacturers (except those who are marketing medicines still under patent protection) are made to market medicines under generic names for the retail market, consumers would not get the benefit of "generic medicines".

Can doctors be forced to prescribe generic medicines? Is it advisable?
I'll mention two very frequently used medicines.
Saridon, which is a combination of three drugs Paracetamol, Caffeine, & Propylphenazone.

It is made by two companies whose respective price per tablet is shown in brackets.
Abbot Healthcare Pvt Ltd (Rs 1.82) & Libra Drugs( Rs 1.50)

Let us take another medicine, Ecospirin which consists of Aspirin & whose generic name is Acetyl Salicylic Acid.
This is made by 24 companies and their price varies from Rs 0.18 (Cosme Farma Laboratories) and Rs 4.50 (Torrent Pharmaceuticals) - 25 times higher.

Do you expect a doctor to write Paracetamol, Caffeine, & Propylphenazone or Acetyl Salicylic Acid.

Further most chemists will not stock the medicines of all 24 companies in the second case for the consumer to make his selection.

I have been using the site for getting alternate medicines to what the doctor prescribes.

For my cholesterol I was prescribed Rozucor ASP kit made by Torrent Pharma which was priced at Rs 11.80 per capsule. The active ingredients in this are Aspirin 75 mg & Rosuvastatin 10 mg 
On checking up with the site I found that there were two other companies, Unichem (Unistar 10+75 for  Rs 4.90 each ) and Innovative Pharma Rs (Rosutop A for Rs 13.50 each).
Since Unichem is an equally famous company as Torrent, I switched over to Unistar 10+75, without consulting the doctor and have been using it for the last three years.
During one of my recent visits to my doctor, when I informed him that I was taking Unistar 10+75, he advised that I should go back to Rozucor ASP kit, but I have not.
Doctors are given incentives to promote specific brands.

Plain Rozucor 10 (Rosuvastatin) is made by Torrent Pharmaceuticals costs Rs 11.80 each

This is made by 63 companies and the price varies from Rs 0.90 each  (Healthcare Lifesciences) to Rs 30.00 each (Dr Reddy Laboratories)
Now what could be the reason for such a large price difference?

For one, since Dr. Reddy exports their products to the US market and the USFDA have very stringent quality requirements and if the company does not meet those requirement, an adverse note from USFDA may tank the price of the shares by as much as 50 % as we have seen lately. Good companies like Dr. Reddy, Divis Lab, Aurobindo Pharma and Lupin have tanked because of remarks from USFDA.

Companies which do not export to USA and European countries have no such fears and do not have to maintain quality and can keep their prices low.
Hence, making a law to use generic is not going to help unless you make all the companies meet certain minimum standards. 

Do we have the necessary infrastructure in place to inspect the plants of the thousands of drug manufacturers in India and issue then certificates from HONEST inspectors?

Unless you have, you are just fooling the public with another Jhumla.
Instead, it would be more beneficial if they stopped the unwanted tests conducted on patients and the kickback the doctors received from the tests.
Further, keeping of dead patients under the Ventilator just to increase the patient's bills which the relatives have to cough up before taking back the body is another dastardly act which these hospitals are doing regularly.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, was caught red-handed by the CBI on 22nd April, 2010 for taking a huge bribe from a private medical college allegedly in exchange of granting MCI recognition to admit MBBS students. Seven years later, criminal trial against Dr. Desai is still delayed on one ground or another as Desai roams free on bail. During this long delay in the justice delivery system, Desai also managed to recapture the coveted post of World Medical Association (WMA) president (with help from his unprincipled medical cronies in MCI/IMA) by virtue of which, the biggest medical mafia in Indian medicine attends conferences and delivers lectures on medical ethics and good medical practice. This is the irony for the “good” doctors and millions of hapless patients of India.
When the criminal case against Desai came up for hearing last month before the CBI court in Patiala House in Delhi, one of the co-accused in the same corruption case, Mr. J.P. Singh (who was allegedly involved as a conduit for bribing Dr. Desai) was allowed to travel to USA/UK on a personal ground and as such, the case was adjourned again to 25th May, 2017. The long and sordid saga of Dr. Ketan Desai and deep-rooted corruption in the MCI and IMA has not only damaged credibility of the entire medical community in India, it has also caused further erosion in public trust on doctors. We hope that the CBI will work harder to bring justice to all the corrupt individuals including Dr. Desai who are responsible for the present abysmal condition of medical education and healthcare delivery system in India.

Monday, April 17, 2017

It's not just Muslims, even Sikhs have to prove their patriotism now

It's not just Muslims. If you are a Sikh, your patriotism will be questioned if you do not toe the line of the Hindutva brigade. Even if you happen to be a decorated officer of the Indian Army.
Lieutenant General (retired) Harcharanjit Singh Panag is one of India's most distinguished army officers. A recipient of the Param Vishisht Seva Medal and the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, he has served as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command as well as the Central Command.
But in the past few days, right-wing trolls have crossed all limits in insulting this veteran of the 1971 War. They hurled unspeakable abuses at him and called for him to be thrashed, lynched and humiliated. Even worse, they called him a traitor, a terrorist sympathiser and of course, “Khalistani”.
All this because Lt Gen Panag tweeted that the image of a Kashmiri, tied in front of a military jeep will "haunt the army forever".
This was an extremely bold statement for a former armyman, that too one who has had five stints in Jammu and Kashmir and been the head of the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command. But it was also typical of Lt Gen Panag, given his track record as a soldier - he never shied away from speaking his mind and following his conscience. He is said to have ordered as many as 120 Courts of Inquiry into alleged corruption in the Army. Even last year, he wrote in favour of autonomy for Kashmir.
What followed his tweet on Saturday was a barrage of bile, abuse and accusations. But it wasn't just right-wing trolls but some prominent supporters of the BJP who targetted Lt Gen Panag.
Among the first off the block was former Infosys honcho TV Mohandas Pai, who fired a thread of rhetorical questions at Lt Gen Panag.
A number of officers spoke against the use of a civilian as a human shield and the complete alienation of Kashmiris from the military. But it was only Lt Gen Panag who was targetted by the right-wingers. It does seem that this was partly because of him being a Sikh. This is evident from the fact that part of the abuse, comprised "Khalistani" barbs. Take these distasteful tweets for instance:
Some even compared him to Shabeg Singh, the Indian Army Major General who joined forces with Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
It wasn't just Lt Gen Panag, even his family had to face similar slurs. This is a sample of what his son Sherbir Panag, a Delhi based lawyer, had to go through.
Unfortunately, the Aviator Anil Chopra, who "liked" a tweet calling Sherbir a Khalistani, happens to be a retired Air Marshal.
Even lawyer Navdeep Singh, a former military reservist, who fights cases for the welfare of soldiers, was abused for supporting Lt Gen Panag.
This is not the first time in the recent past that Sikhs are being targetted by the Hindutva brigade in this manner. Recently, Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur was hounded on social media and given death and rape threats for speaking against ABVP's hooliganism. Aam Aadmi Party leaders like HS Phoolka and Jarnail Singh have also been called Khalistani in the past.

Several Sikhs observed that the right wing brigade's frequent use of the "Khalistani" label to target Sikhs, has become a dangerous trend. They voiced their anguish at Sikhs being branded as traitors
The pattern is exactly like the manner in which the Hindutva brigade has targetted the Muslim community. Even in that case it labelled as traitors several prominent Muslims ranging from Vice-President Hamid Ansari, to Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Sania Mirza.

The message for the two communities is clear - you might be a Hamid Ansari or a HS Panag - no matter how much you have done for the country, you will be labelled a traitor if you don't submit yourself to the Hindutva Right. Minorities with a voice and a spine are not allowed.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Is the 30,000 level in the Sensex giving you a false sense of Well being?

The following is from Vivek Paul's Diary.

Dear Reader, 

With the stock market flirting with the 30,000 level and the proverbial question has popped up again: "If the stock market is doing well, why are you writing negative things on the economy?" a few readers have asked. 

In this Edition of the Diary, I answer the proverbial question and in the process show that the link between the state of the economy and the stock market is very weak. At least that is the way it is, these days. 

This piece first appeared in the Vivek Kaul Letter on April 7, 2017.

Happy Reading!

Note: The headline/title for today's piece is borrowed from an Urdu couplet written by the poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. He once said: "aur bhī dukh haiñ zamāne meñ mohabbat ke sivā," which when loosely translated into English basically means that there are other sorrows in life than being in love. 

As I write this, the Sensex is flirting with the 30,000 level and the proverbial question has popped up again: "If the stock market is doing well, why are you writing such negative things on the economy?" a few readers have asked. 

I guess it is a fair question coming from stock market investors who do not understand the difference between the stock market and the economy. 

There are basically two questions that need to be answered in order to answer the above question. First, is the stock market "really" doing well? Or rather more specifically, has the stock market done well over the last few years, given that any measure of performance is always backdated.

The second, and the more important question is, whether, the stock market is a reflection of the state of the economy. 

Let's look at Sensex returns first. Between January 8, 2008, and April 5, 2017, the Sensex has given an absolute return of around 43.6 per cent. This works out to a return of 4 per cent per year (3.98 per cent to be very precise). Of course, this does not take into account the dividend yield of the stocks that constitute the Sensex. You can add a percentage or two more for that, it won't make a material difference to the point I am trying to make. 

Even after adding the dividend yield, the Sensex returns have been minuscule since 2008. Again, you might come around to tell me that the Sensex was unusually flared up in January 2008. Yes, it was. But it's only fair to compare a peak to a peak, which is precisely what I am doing here. 

Of course, this does not mean in any way that investors have not made money from the stock market in the last ten years. 

I am sure they have. But that doesn't mean that the stock market has done well. They are two very different things. It is important to understand this crucial difference. 

Now let's get into the second point, whether the stock market is a reflection of the state of the economy. A few years back, I asked Professor Aswath Damodaran, a professor at the Stern School of Business, New York University, and a globally respected expert on equity valuation, how strong is the link between economic growth and stock marketsAnd this is what he had to say"It's getting weaker and weaker every year." 

A major reason for this lies in the fact that in the aftermath of the financial crisis that broke out in September 2008, there is a lot of easy money floating around all over the world. This money keeps finding its way into stock markets and bond markets all over the world. Take the case of India, the Sensex has rallied by 8.4 per cent since the end of January 2017. 

This rally has primarily been because of the foreign institutional investors investing more than Rs 40,000 crore in Indian stocks, since the beginning of February 2017. During the same period, the domestic institutional investors have sold stocks worth more than Rs 3,600 crore. 

There has been no fundamental change in the Indian economy over the last two months. At least, the domestic institutional investors seem to think so and have sold stocks on the whole. But the foreign money has still come in, largely in expectation of the Bhartiya Janata Party winning the state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and it has continued to come in since the win. The hope is that after winning Uttar Pradesh, the Party might finally push some economic reforms through the Indian Parliament. 

Let's take a look at a few recent events to establish how weak the link between the stock market and the economy is. Every month around one million young Indians enter the workforce. So, what India badly needs are jobs and these jobs need to be low-end jobs which can employ the largely unskilled Indian workforce. 

One reason for India's largely unskilled workforce lies in the fact that the Indian education system has never had a vocational focus. Over and above this, the learning outcomes of even those who have gone to school have been hopeless and have fallen over the years. 

Madhav Chavan, of the Pratham Education Foundation estimates that in the period of the ten years up to 2015, 10 crore children completed primary school without the ability to do some basic reading and mathematics. Given this, what we produce is a largely unskilled workforce, and that is hardly surprising. 

A recent report titled OECD Economic Surveys India puts the rate of unemployment among India's youth between the ages of 15 and 29 at more than 30 per cent. These youth are neither employed nor in education or training. Indeed, this is a very worrying factor for the Indian economy. Of course, the official rate of unemployment is at a very low 5 per cent. But as I had explained in a Letter in October 2016, this number cannot be taken seriously. There is an inherent flaw with the way it is calculated. 

The larger point here is that the way things are currently going on, India's much talked about demographic dividend is likely to turn into a demographic disaster. The stock market isn't bothered about this. What it is bothered about, at least in the long-term, are the earnings of the companies listed in the stock market, and pretty much nothing else. 

In fact, instead of creating jobs we are busy destroying them. Take the recent case of the Supreme Court banning liquor sales within 500 metres of national and state highways. I am not getting into the right or the wrong of it, but this decision is bound to have some impact on the economy. 

An editorial in The Hindu Business Line points out that the ban is expected to hurt some 35,000 restaurants. Estimates suggest that state governments could lose Rs 50,000 crore in overall tax revenues. Of course, many jobs would be lost as well. The Hindu Business Line estimates that around 15 lakh jobs will be lost. Assuming, an average family size of five, this means that 75 lakh people will be affected directly by this decision. 

These jobs are a part of India's informal sector. It doesn't take much skill to work at a booze shop on a highway. All you need to do is serve the brand of alcohol being asked for, open the bottle, pour the liquor into the glass/mug if asked for and then be able to collect money from those who have been served. Such jobs work well for India's largely unskilled workforce, which is going to be impacted with this Supreme Court decision. 

Having said that, this Supreme Court decision has barely had any impact on the stock market, other than pushing down the stock prices of a few liquor stocks. Along similar lines, the many jobs lost during the first few months of demonetisation barely had any impact on the stock market. 

A major reason for the disconnect between the Indian economy and the stock market lies in the fact that India has a large informal economy. Before we get into anything else it is important to define the meaning of the term "informal economy". Here is a basic definition. It is that part of the economy which is not really monitored by the government and hence, it is not taxed. 

As economist Jim Walker of Asianomics wrote in a research note: "There is nothing intrinsic that says that the informal economy is a less effective or beneficial source of activity than the formal economy." 

A major reason many Indian businesses operate in the informal sector is because going formal will make them totally unviable having to follow way too many rules and regulations that govern businesses in India. 

The National Manufacturing Policy of 2011 estimates that, on an average, a manufacturing unit needs to comply with nearly 70 laws and regulations. At the same time, these units sometimes need to file as many as 100 returns a year. Further, India has 150 state level-labour laws and 44 central-level labour laws, making things extremely complicated for any firm which wants to operate in a legitimate way. 

So, the government in that sense is largely responsible for the informal sector operating at such a huge level in India. Ritika Mankar Mukherjee and Sumit Shekhar of Ambit Capital wrote in a recent research note: "India's informal sector is large and labour-intensive. The informal sector accounts for ~40% of India's GDP and employs close to ~75% of the Indian labour force." 

Hence, the informal sector creates most of the jobs in India. As the Economic Survey of 2015-2016 points out: "The informal sector should... be credited with creating jobs and keeping unemployment low." What this tells us is that the government before cracking down on the informal sector should keep the basic fact that it employs millions of people, into account. Also, efforts should be made to ease the rules and regulations to an extent which allows these enterprises working in the informal sector to gradually become a part of the formal sector. 

As mentioned earlier, the informal sector forms a significant portion of India's economy and employs three fourths of India's workforce. There are other estimates which say that the informal sector employs more than 75 per cent of India's workforce. As I write in my new book India's Big Government-The Informal State and How It is Hurting Us: "Almost 92 per cent of the workforce works in the informal sector, with a large proportion of them having low earnings and almost no social security. This basically means that only around 8 per cent of the workforce has regular full-time jobs and access to some sort of a social security system. Even within this bracket, upper caste Hindus and other minorities like Christians, Jains and Sikhs have a disproportionate share of good jobs, given their higher educational attainments." 

Hence, any impact on the sector has an impact on the overall economy. But the same cannot be said about the stock market, except the price of Fast Moving Consumer Goods stocks, which sometimes do get impacted because lower earnings in the informal sector has an impact on the earnings of the companies that operate in this sector. 

Now take the case of the decision of the Uttar Pradesh government to stop "illegal" slaughterhouses from operating in Uttar Pradesh. As a report in The Hindustan Times points out: "In economic terms, UP accounts for nearly 50% of India's total meat exports, a huge industry that provides livelihood to 25 lakh people, directly or indirectly... Of the 72 government-approved abattoirs across the country, 38 are in Uttar Pradesh.

This move will have a considerable impact on the economy of Uttar Pradesh. The report in The Hindustan Times quotes the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters' Association as saying that Indian meat exports are at Rs 27,000 crore, of which Rs 15,000 crore comes from Uttar Pradesh. Of course, this move barely had any impact on the stock market, given that slaughterhouses are not listed. But you cannot take away the fact that the sector provides jobs to many people. 

While, the Uttar Pradesh government may have ignored the fact that the slaughterhouses, many of them informal, provide jobs to many people, the Allahabad High Court has taken note of this fact. "To provide an immediate check on unlawful activity should be simultaneous with facilitating the carrying of lawful activity, particularly that relating to food, food habits and vending thereof that is undisputedly connected with the right to life and livelihood," the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court said on April 3, 2017. 

The point I was trying to make in today's Letter is that the Indian stock market is not a reflection of the Indian economy. 

And this is primarily because of India's informal businesses and informal labour force. 

There are occasions when the stock market and the economy go against each other. Take the case of public sector banks. Between 2009 and now, the government has pumped more than Rs 1,30,000 crore to keep these banks going. Every time the government decides to pump more money into these banks, the stock prices of these banks rally. But the decision does not work well for the overall economy given that money pumped into these banks is money taken away from other areas like education, health, infrastructure etc. 

At the same time, every time the government pumps money into these banks, it effectively tells the people who run these banks that come what may the government will keep rescuing these banks. And that again is not a healthy incentive to promote either for the bank or for the economy. 

Also, it is important to point out here that investing in the stock market forms a very meagre part of the household financial savings in India. Shares and debentures formed a minuscule of 1.65 per cent of the total household financial savings in India. Within shares and debentures, mutual funds accounted for 0.93 per cent of the total household financial savings. Hence, direct investment in the stocks by individuals in India is less than one per cent of household financial savings. It's probably around 0.5-0.6 per cent. 

Of course, mutual funds also invest in stocks. Over and above this, the life insurance companies formed 21.18 per cent of the total household financial savings. Life insurance companies also invest a part of the premium collected in stocks. But an estimate for that is not available. Also, in most cases, people who buy equity-oriented life insurance plans, have themselves got no idea that their money is going to be invested in stocks. All in all, a very small portion of India's household financial savings make it to the stock market. 

To conclude, as the famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz once said: "aur bhī dukh haiñ zamāne meñ mohabbat ke sivā," which when loosely translated basically means that there are other sorrows in life than being in love. I guess in the Indian context we can safely say: "aur bhī dukh haiñ zamāne meñ stock market ke sivā."

Moral cops bully pair

Lucknow, April 13: A mob of alleged BJP and VHP workers was accused of using physical force on a woman and thrashing her fiancé and his younger brother in Meerut city last night, first in the street and later inside a police station.
Police denied any beating in front of them but acknowledged locking up the brothers when "some BJP workers" brought them to the police station and accused them of "eve-teasing" on the streets.

Sangh parivar vigilantes and police working together to harass couples has become common since chief minister Yogi Adityanath asked the force to form an "anti-Romeo squad" to curb sexual harassment on the streets.
It appears the group had been prowling the streets last night looking out for couples when they saw the woman riding pillion on Harish Rana's scooter.

Harish says he was taking his fiancée home when a mob of "about 50 people" stopped them.
"They caught me by the arm and asked uncomfortable questions. Then they roughed up Harish," the woman, a bank employee, told local journalists today.
"His brother, Avanish, who was following us on another scooter, was roughed up too. The mob took them away and I somehow reached home. But when I came to know they had been beaten up and put inside a lock-up, I went to the police station."

She shouted at the cops for harassing the men "despite a specific instruction from the chief minister that couples shouldn't be harassed".
When both sets of parents too arrived and confirmed that Harish and the woman were engaged to be married, the police released the brothers.
"Some BJP workers had brought two youths, alleging they were eve-teasers. But we realised that it was not true when the woman arrived and lodged a complaint," Dharmendra Kumar, the station house officer at Medical College police station, told reporters.

The police have registered a case against Sagar Singh, Ankit Kumar and Vinod Kumar but not slapped charges of assault or harassment. Instead, they have been booked for "joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse", which carries a fine or a maximum jail sentence of six months. Since the charge is bailable, the accused have not been detained.
"The entire city knows that the attackers were BJP and VHP members. They put us in the lock-up and beat us badly in front of the police," Harish told local reporters.

"But the police booked only three of them, letting off those who were primarily involved in attacking us."
On Tuesday, members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini --- a vigilante group formed by Adityanath 15 years ago --- had barged into a house in Meerut's Shastri Nagar area and roughed up a young Muslim man and a girl belonging to another faith.
Media reports say that BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Vahini workers are "guiding" the police in "identifying street Romeos".
Javeed Ahmad, state director-general of police, has issued three circulars asking his force not to let "private people" harass couples in the name of the "anti-Romeo squad". Adityanath too said last week that couples mustn't be harassed.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

30 years for Indian's murder

London, April 12: A Latvian man who snatched an Indian woman off the streets as she was walking to work in a desolate area of London, assaulted her sexually, murdered her and then hid her body under a rubbish heap last year, was given a life sentence today with a recommendation that he serve at least 30 years in prison.

Passing the sentence on Vadims Ruskuls, 25, at the Old Bailey for the murder of 30-year-old hotel worker Pardeep Kaur, Judge Richard Marks QC commented: "This was a truly shocking and wicked offence of the utmost gravity."
"What a dreadful way for Pardeep Kaur, a decent, hard-working young woman, to die," he added. The judge ordered that the Latvian, who had not shown "one iota of remorse", be deported once he had served his sentence.

The downside of free movement of people allowed by the European Union is that a significant number of hardened criminals and gangs have slipped into Britain over the years and have been involved in everything from fraud to sex trafficking to murder. Some have been travelling between their home countries and the UK with complete abandon.
The court was told that it was unclear when Ruskuls had first arrived in Britain from his home country where he had four previous convictions for burglary and criminal damage.

The judge also told the killer: "It is apparent from the state of undress in which her body was found that the motive of this attack must have been sexual." Pardeep's husband Rachpal Singh sat in court as the jury delivered its verdict.
Pardeep worked at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel in Harlington while her husband had a job at Fresh Foods in Hayes. They worked six days a week to send money to their five-year-old daughter who lives with her grandparents in India.

Rachpal said afterwards: "We hoped for a good life here with our daughter, but something terrible happened to us and now our dreams are shattered. The circumstances of Pardeep's death will always haunt me because Vadims Ruskuls has not given an explanation."
The judge referred to Rachpal when he said: "As her husband put it graphically in his victim impact statement, 'During this trial I have seen photos of her clothing in waste land. It has been six months since she was murdered but I have not forgotten her for even six seconds and I always think about what she must have gone through on that dark morning when she was killed.' "

On the morning of Monday October 17 last year, Ruskuls was caught on CCTV footage as he stalked his victim as she approached Harlington Bridge in west London. They disappeared from view for 25 minutes before his shadowy figure emerged dragging Pardeep's partly naked body on to waste ground, where she was hidden beneath branches and an old sleeping bag.

Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC had told jurors that Pardeep had scratched her assailant's face in a desperate attempt to get away but her screams were drowned out by the traffic. The ground where her body was dumped was a "bleak spot" used by rough sleepers, drunks and drug addicts, he said.

Pardeep's badly decomposed body was discovered almost a week later by a visiting Norwegian detective chief inspector, Kenneth Berg, who spotted a human foot sticking out.
Police initially suspected the husband because he lied saying he had seen her the morning she went missing when he had yet to return from a night shift. He had feared police would discover he was working without a permit. It was only after he came clean that the investigation "quickly moved on".

Ruskuls was caught after a local police constable, Richard Lewis, recognised the stooped figure in the CCTV footage as the man he had spoken to the day after Pardeep's disappearance.
The officer found the suspect walking barefoot with scratches to his left cheek and neck, the court heard.
Following his arrest for Pardeep's murder, Ruskuls's DNA was found on the victim's ankle, sock and the left cup of her bra with a probability of "one in a billion", jurors were told.

The defendant, who denied murder, refused to make any comment in police interviews and declined to give evidence in court.
Detective inspector Jamie Stevenson said: "This has been a truly shocking and horrendous case and Ruskuls has proved himself to be a violent and dangerous rapist and murderer. Pardeep was walking to work, as she did every day, when she suffered a horrific fate at the hands of Ruskuls, who sexually attacked and killed his defenceless victim before leaving her body in woodland. It is everybody's worst nightmare."

Poll panel invite to all: hack EVMs if you can

New Delhi, April 12: The Election Commission today invited scientists, engineers and political parties to try and hack electronic voting machines, confident that they were tamper-proof and hoping for a repeat of 2009 when none could crack the code at a similar open challenge.

The commission's move followed a slew of complaints from across the country that votes polled for all parties were landing in the BJP's kitty.
As the complaints gained currency, they triggered a united front of parties - all of them against the use of EVMs without a paper trail.
While details are being worked out, commission officials confirmed the "open challenge" would be held in the first week of May.

The debate on whether EVMs could be manipulated or not had in August 2009 prompted the EC to take what it said was the "extraordinary measure" of inviting sceptics to tamper with any one of 100 machines made available to them.
The outcome of the exercise, the commission had said, was that none of the persons who were given the opportunity could demonstrate "any tamperability of the EVM in any of the 100 machines on display".
"They either failed or chose not to demonstrate," the commission said.

It was, ironically, the BJP that had fired the first salvo against EVMs following the party's defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Last month, however, as the Uttar Pradesh results unfolded, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati told a news conference: "It seems EVMs did not accept votes polled for any party other than the BJP."
Earlier this week, the Congress led a delegation of 17 opposition parties to mount pressure on the poll panel to review its stand that EVMs cannot be manipulated.

While some parties are now demanding a return to paper ballots, much of the clamour among the others is to mount pressure on the government to implement the Supreme Court's 2013 order to provide a paper trail to each and every EVM used in the country.
According to the commission, Rs 3,100 crore is needed to acquire 15.5 lakh voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines, basically printer-like devices that generate receipts when votes are cast. The commission has around 55,000 VVPAT machines now.

Since May 2014, the commission has written a dozen letters to the law ministry, while the chief election commissioner has even sent an SOS letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention for early release of funds to acquire VVPAT machines, but in vain.
The Commission is facing two contempt notices for not implementing the Supreme Court's order on VVPAT machines.