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Archives for : June2018

21 Year Old Paramedic Razan Al-Najjar Killed In Gaza

Israeli elites failed in their support of terrorists in Syria and were unable to bring down a resurgent Iran (just look at rising science citation index for Iran and compare it to Arab countries!). This failure was o be compensated with by massacres in Gaza: murdering 125 protestors at the borders; injuring thousands; testing new weapons on a captive poipulation; bombing Gaza’s remaining infrastructure; and attacking and seizing boats carrying students and injured people trying to leave Gaza to Cyprus [what is the excuse here?]. The latest victim of this Israeli onslaugt was a 21 year old paramedic Razan Al-Najjar killed while aiding injured peaceful protesters. She was a beautiful inspiring girl. I am haunted by the side-by-side pictures one of her smiling in her white uniform next to it a picture of her grieving mother. Imagine this your family!

The Yemen and Gaza genocides thus continue while Trump and his administration play with the media on their on again off again meeting with the North Korean leader. A simple resolution at the UN Security Council to provide protection to the civilian population and initiate an independent investigation was vetoed by the Israeli occupied US government at the UN yesterday! The weak international position and the US Zionist administration are both complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel continues to act in

murderous ways with impunity and with support from the world Jewish organizations and all of Israel’s elites. So the question is what are WE to do?

Muslims in this holy month of Ramadan have a responsibility to challenge the collaborative governments whether in the US or “Saudi” Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates. Prayers are not enough. ALL PEOPLE have to act! Please contact all decision makers and media and ensure that you tweak their conscience (if there is any that is left). People are doing actions around the world. No one will be safe if we allow colonial settlers to act with impunity against civilians and against International norms and laws.

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor, Founder, and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine

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India – Muslims Fear Losing Citizenship in State of Assam



Bimala Begum is among nearly three million married women in India’s northeastern state of Assam who have been asked to prove their citizenship.

More than 7 million people, including 2.9 million married women, asked to prove citizenship as part of massive exercise.

GUWAHATI — Bimala Begum is worried. She is among nearly three million married women in India’s northeastern state of Assam who have been asked to prove their citizenship.

“Since I received the notice, I have gone to two neighbours and asked them what to do. I am really worried,” said Begum, 37, showing the two-page government notice in the local Assamese language.

The state is currently updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) – the first time since 1951 – as part of a government campaign to identify undocumented immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The 2.9 million women, most of whom are Muslim, and nearly 4.5 million others are part of about 13 million people who were left out from the first draft NRC published on December 31 last year.

The authenticity of documents submitted by more than 7 million people, including 2.9 million married women, are now being verified by authorities to decide whether they are Indian citizens or immigrants.

The first list designated about 19 million people as legal citizens out of the total population of 32 million.

The country’s Supreme Court (SC), which is supervising the entire process, has set June 30 as the deadline to verify the documents.

But activists accuse officials of creating hurdles in the verification process.

“Women who used the panchayat certificate are being subjected to harassment,” said Rejaul Karim Sarkar, president, All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU).

“Though all the communities have to fill up the form for the NRC updating, the verification process has particularly been made very tough for Muslims and Bengali Hindus,” he said.

Marzina Bibi, 26, who said she was detained last year on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, weaves a bamboo mat outside her house in Fofonga village in Goalpara district in Assam on January 2, 2018. — Reuters

The state’s indigenous communities are exempted from the rigorous documentation process.

Rohingya-like situation?

Sarkar fears a large number of genuine Indian citizens might be dropped from the NRC list, which is slated to be published next month.

“If actual foreigners are weeded out, no one will oppose… But if genuine Indian citizen’s names are dropped in such a large number, people will come to the streets and start a movement,” he said.

Activists say the NRC is not going to decide on the fate of more than 300,000 people who have either been declared foreigners or have cases pending against them in special courts called as Foreigners Tribunal (FT).

Abdul Batin Khandakar, an activist based in the capital, Guwahati, pointed out that their family members will also be excluded from the NRC process.

A total of 245,057 cases are pending in FTs, while 90,206 people have been declared foreigners, according to government data.

“An amendment to the Citizenship Act in 2003 said that for a person born in India both the parents must be legal Indian citizens,” Khandakar, executive president of the Brahmaputra Valley Civil Society, said.

Activists and experts fear that tens of thousands who do not find their names in the NRC list will be thrown in detention centres and may be rendered stateless – similar to the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

“We want the process to be judicious and as per guidelines. There is every likelihood of the creation of new humanitarian crisis in this part of India,” Khandakar said.

Like most people in riverine areas, Begum is a farmer and never went to school. In the absence of school certificates or any other government certificates, they obtained domicile certificates from the panchayat (village council).

But initially, the authorities refused to admit the panchayat certificate as a legal document, after which the country’s top court had to intervene.

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How sex toys are being redesigned to help survivors of sexual assault #Vaw

A healthy sex life can feel unattainable for survivors of sexual assault. But new products, from brushes to non-penetrative tools, are giving women a powerful way to reclaim their bodies

A Sexual Healing prototype by Nienke Helder.

For many survivors of sexual assault, a happy sex life feels out of reach. While much of the treatment on offer is focused on emotional and psychological healing, people are often left to work out for themselves what sex after trauma looks like for them.

But some people are working to change that, and are reconfiguring and reappropriating sex toys as tools for healing. Last year, the Dutch designer Nienke Helder created a range of objects to help survivors reprogramme how they deal with physical sensations. Drawing on her own experience, she wanted to redress what she saw as the “clinical” approach to recovery currently employed. “The tools are an opportunity to explore your personal sexual recovery,” she says. Her collection, titled Sexual Healing, includes a horsehair brush to explore touch and tickling, a mirror designed to help you better view your vulva, as well as a pelvic device that vibrates when your muscles are too tense, and a bean-shaped sensor that lights up if you’re breathing too fast, to remind you to slow down and relax. “By getting biofeedback through the tools, you can visualise what kind of processes are happening inside your body, which can help you understand in which situations your body reacts with a reflex.”

A Sexual Healing prototype by Neinke Helder.
 A Sexual Healing prototype by Neinke Helder. Photograph: Nicole Marnati

Although Helder’s designs are still prototypes (she hopes to get them manufactured and sold soon), there are places where survivors can go to find existing tools. Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium in east London is a female-focused sex shop with an extensive education and outreach programme. It consults with the NHS to recommend products for women who have been through trauma. “Unfortunately, many health professionals are still not comfortable talking about sex,” says Renée Denyer, the shop’s manager and in-house sex educator. She is also a facilitator for Cafe V, part of My Body Back Project, a support group for women who have experienced sexual violence. “For survivors of sexual assault and rape, their body is taken away from them. But when women are ready to start thinking about sex, after they’ve had therapy and counselling, there is nowhere to go, so we made that space.”

According to Denyer, using sex toys is a powerful way for survivors to reclaim their body. “Especially for those who experienced abuse from childhood, they very early on learned to tune out when any sort of sexual touch is happening,” she says. “Even later in life when they are with a chosen partner, they’ll dissociate because that’s what they’ve been conditioned to do. We work on trying to fix that.”

Many of the recommended products focus on non-fleshy, non-phallic and non-penetrative tools, whilst also encouraging the use of things such as flavoured lube so survivors are not triggered by the smell of genitalia. But it seems that the most important thing is to grant women permission to explore sex again in a healthy way, in a safe environment and without the time or physical pressure that can come with having sex with a partner.

Though there is still a long way to go to improve the recovery process, using a more sex-positive approach is bringing many survivors one step closer to a happy sex life

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The Problems of J & K (Jawan and Kisan)

By- Retd Major General S.G. Vombatkere

Both J & K have come to the end of their tether

 The Kannada saying “murthi chikkadaadaru keerthi doddadu” (meaning that even if the physical form is diminutive, the virtue is great), applies to Lal Bahadur Shastri who, as prime minister, led India with remarkable initiative and verve in the 1965 war against Pakistan. It was he who coined the slogan “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan”, in the full understanding that the Jawan provides border security (since then he has also been providing internal security due to failure of governance) and the Kisan provides food security. But since then, over subsequent decades, both Jawan and Kisan (J & K, if you wish) have been neglected, marginalised and degraded. Matters appear to have come to a head at this time of writing, concerning both J & K.

India’s military (meaning the Armed Forces or Defence Forces or Defence Services) has always been under civilian control as it should be. But rather than being under control of the elected union Executive, the military has been made subordinate to the bureaucracy.

The reason for this primary degradation is a combination of apathy, lack of understanding and lack of vision of successive generations of politicians being made use of, by a self-serving bureaucracy. The effect of “Ji Huzoor” by successive chiefs of the three services (with honourable exceptions) who had an eye on post-retirement benefits must not be discounted in this degradation.

While previous governments did injustice to the Jawan (here meaning all ranks of the army, navy and air force) by neglect and acts of omission, the current union government appears to have done injustice by acts of commission. In recent times, there have been multiple slights and insults heaped on the Jawan, affecting his izzat adversely. The serving Jawan cannot – and rightly so – protest because of the constraints of his service under military law, and his military superiors who have contact with government are apparently not doing much about it.

Noting that every surviving Jawan becomes a Veteran, it must be understood that every slight on military Veterans reflects on the morale of the serving Jawan. After decades of holding back and restricting themselves to petitioning successive governments, Veterans formed the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) in 2008 to demand their rightful pension dues.

They have petitioned the President of India and the Prime Minister but have not been heard. They have protested peacefully in a dignified manner at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, now for over 1,000 days, and were slighted by being manhandled by police acting under instructions of the union home ministry. Government has raised the status of the CAPF above that of the military, and bureaucrats serving in Guwahati earn more hardship allowance than the Jawan on the border.

The Jawan has had to lay yoga mats and clean garbage left by tourists, tasks which rightly should be done by other government agencies. To add insult to injury, the defence ministry’s Department of Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare challenged court or AFT orders favourable to Veterans in the Supreme Court, apparently as a matter of policy. And there have been slights, perhaps unintentional, by the prime minister himself and by a defence minister, but they are slights nevertheless.

The list can go on, and the Jawan is non-plussed why the military top brass appears not to have summoned up the courage to speak plainly to their civilian masters about the insults to the profession of arms.

But matters came to a head when the defence minister abruptly opened cantonment roads to the public, causing a security threat to families of Jawans. The fact that in Pune, BJP workers distributed sweets and took out a “vijay yatra” procession celebrating the defence minister’s action, is a blow to the dignity of the Jawan.

The silence at top levels of BJP to this anti-Jawan celebration is understood as implicit agreement to civilian victory over the Jawan. Incensed wives of serving Jawans protested the opening of cantonment roads and went to meet the defence minister, who reportedly withdrew the order. But the damage to the relationship between Jawan and government has been done and, in the larger interest of our country, one only hopes that it is not irreversible.

The Jawan suffers from a sense that his discipline and his service in risky and difficult conditions are being exploited by the government. That much for the “J”.

The Kisan, for his part, is finally fed up with decades of neglect, especially beginning with India’s new economic policy (NEP-1991) a la Dr.Manmohan Singh, then union finance minister. The NEP gave precedence to industry over agriculture and the Kisan was neglected and seriously degraded, actually subjected to economic violence.

This resulted in a country-wide and on-going spate of farmer suicides due to unsuccessful farming (non-availability of credit, unremunerative produce, crop failure, unmanageable debt, faulty state and central government agriculture policies, etc). Fundamentally, their needs are to obtain fair and assured good prices for farm produce, and to have assurance of freedom from debt.

Matters have come to a head as Kisan organizations numbering over 100 across 22 states have come together under the banner of Rashtra Kisan Mahasangh, and announced 10 days of halla-bolstarting 01 June, during which they will ensure that farm produce is not delivered in urban areas. One farmer leader said that this is not targeted against urban dwellers and it is not a one-off strike, but it will be repeated until their demands are met. It is learned that they have four main demands, namely, farm loan waivers, MSP of 50% over cost, fixed MSP for milk and vegetables, and pension for farmers.

One articulate Kisan complained that when we have bumper crop of sugarcane in India and sugarcane farmers are being paid prices lower than production cost and that too delayed by months, government importing of sugar is criminal.

Another Kisan asked, “When lakhs of crores are given to industrialists by exemption of taxes (revenue foregone) and corporates’ NPAs of more lakhs of crores are written off, why is government not waiving farmers’ loans?”

Today’s Kisan may not have formal education but he is clearly well informed. He is no fool, having learned in the hard school of years of personal suffering and being treated as inferior. He is objecting to being taken for granted, for being neglected, for being exploited.

PM Shastri’s rousing slogan of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan”, giving primacy to the soldier and the farmer in the interest of the security of our nation, is long forgotten. On the other hand these very Jawans and Kisans are disgusted with the attitude of government to their sacrifices.

That both J & K have come to the end of their tether at this time is certainly coincidental. But it is precisely such coincidences which are the writing on the wall for the politicians and bureaucrats who run our country. It may be the sign of a turning tide in an electoral sense and also in a social context.

The country should beware if J & K have moved from hardship borne with patience and gentleness to anger and agitation.

A verse in Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam reads:

The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on

Nor all thy piety nor wit can lure it back to cancel half a line

Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.

(Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, retired as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG’s Branch. His area of interest is strategic and development-related issues).–K-Jawan-and-Kisan

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How a Village in Maharashtra is Showing the Way to Fight Illegal Sand Mining #mustshare

by- Ankush P Aware

Residents of Panegoan village in the Nevasa taluka of Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra have been taking on the government and illegal sand miners without a formal organisation or leadership. 

Panegoan is located on the right bank of the river Mula while Manjari village in Rahuri taluka is situated on the left bank. Panegoan must be perhaps among the very few villages on the banks of a river, in Maharashtra or in India, that has preserved its sand so abundantly (see photograph). This means that a sand track of between 20km and 21 km in length, 100 metres in width and about 80 feet to 100 feet depth, has been preserved in the village.

The villagers are fighting to preserve the ecosystem by not only preventing governmental agencies from auctioning off the sand but also deterring illegal sand miners from pillaging the riverbed.

Agriculture is a vital source of income for the Panegoan villagers. The village is a part of the sugar cane belt of Ahmednagar district and sugar cane is the major crop that is cultivated. Apart from agriculture, other sources of livelihood have not emerged due to its locational disadvantage since it is far away from the district headquarters, the  Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and is also not located on any of the national or state highways. This non-availability of other avenues of employment has made the land owners as well as landless highly dependent on the agrarian economy, and the river Mula plays an important role in this scheme of things. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the economy of the village is linked with the fate of the river.


Sand plays a vital role in retaining the water-holding capacity of river and sand mining thus is a threat to the ecosystem as it not only disturbs the river flow but also affects the groundwater level. The role of  the river Mula and its sand as aquifer is vital for agriculture-dependent villages like Panegoan, and has united the people of Panegoan and led them towards collective action, through which they have succeeded in protecting the riverbed from sand looters. As a result, the whole ecosystem of the village is being preserved as of now.

In 1997, the then circle officer announced an auction of the sand in Panegoan which was awarded to a contractor for Rs 10 lakh. However, realising and witnessing the perils faced by the neighbouring villages, which had allowed sand mining, the villagers of Panegoan decided not to allow extraction of sand from the riverbed. They immediately passed a resolution in the village gramsabha, banning any kind of sand extraction from the river. They also  moved the Aurangabad bench of the Mumbai High Court. They are also seeking a permanent ban on sand auctioning in the village (Gudadhe; Personal Interview: 10 October 2016).

Since the waters of the Mula  and the Mula dam have made it possible to cultivate water-consuming crops like sugar cane in the region, it has flourished due to the co-operative sugar factories  located therein.  The boom in construction in Ahmednagar and surrounding areas gave an impetus for legal and illegal sand mining in the bed of the Mula. The lifeline of the region was thus myopically exploited for sand and that from the riverbed in Valan, Pimpri, Khedale was extracted in large quantities. This led to the groundwater level getting depleted very quickly; the water-holding capacity of the river diminished. Groundwater level depleted to 300 feet in Valan.

In the month of October or November, the water in wells and tube wells is exhausted. Sand mining not only affected agriculture but it also disturbed the social peace and harmony in these villages. Easy money from sand mining has attracted the youth towards illegal activities that precipitated crimes in these villages, and on the other hand the permanent and assured source of agrarian income was jeopardised due to scarcity of water. The crime rate and severity of crimes have increased in the village since the extraction of sand (Adhav; Personal Interview: 20 October 2016). Criminalisation and sand mining are very much interlinked!

However, due to their collective struggle, a sand track spread over 20km to 21 km with 100 meter width and about 80 feet to 100 feet depth has been preserved in the village. In Panegoan tube wells get water at mere 50 feet to 60 feet underground whereas in the places where sand was excessively extracted water level has gone below 300 feet and there is no assurance of finding water too. Even though there was drought for four consecutive years—between 2012 and 2016—the village did not ask for water tankers for drinking water (Jangale; Personal Interview: 18 November 2016).

A rotation of water from Mula dam also enhances water-holding capacity of the village; water in the wells lasts for more than three to four months. Several check dams have been built on the river Mula. Sand plays a vital role in percolation of water, as percolation rate of water in the Panegoan area is extremely high, whereas villages which have extracted sand experience no percolation as rocks in the riverbed are exposed. No sand, no percolation!

Lack of sand and direct exposure to rocks makes it difficult for water to percolate and the water-holding capacity of riverbeds diminish due to deficiency of sand. Water flows rapidly in the riverbed devoid of sand, and the speed of water also precipitates soil erosion and siltation of riverbed. A riverbed full of sand avoids all these havocs and helps in preserving water.

A picture of the riverbed in Valan where sand was extracted excessively


The Panegoan villagers even blocked the tractors that were being used to transport sand (Jangale; Personal Interview: 19 November 2016) as also some tempos and dumper trucks. Word spread in the region that Panegoan does not allow sand mining and this began to deter the  sand mafia members from dredging sand from the riverbed there. Only  Panegoan residents are allowed to lift sand from the riverbed  but with the condition that it must be done only in bullock carts and it should not be hoarded. Tractors and dumper trucks are not permitted to carry sand from the riverbed.
The uniqueness of the Panegoan’s movement is that it was spontaneous  but has sustained itself  for the last 19 years, without any external aid or support. People are contributing money for the pursuit of legal matter according to their financial capacity.

The Panegoan movement has also shown the way for other villages located on the banks of a river. Many villages have also passed resolutions at gramsabhas, preventing sand mining in any part of the river going through their villages. This ripple effect of the Panegoan movement is being felt in adjoining villages on the riverbanks of Mula and Pravara in the Ahmednagar district (Dainik Loksatta; Ahmednagar: 22 November 2016). More than 12 villages have moved to court seeking ban on legal sand extraction and through vigilance they are preventing illegal sand looting.

Villagers are using democratic and legal tools to protect rivers and riverbed from environmental poachers. A deep sense is prevalent among villagers that health of river is interlinked with the health of their agrarian economy. Despite knowing the hazards of sand mining, government is doing auction of sand for meagre revenue whereas the environment cost of sand extraction is exorbitant (Dainik Pudhari; Ahmednagar: 24 Nov. 2016). However, people are thwarting all efforts of the government agencies and sand mafias. Thus, it is a unique movement in a sense which is trying to prevent growing environmental degradation at the ground level.

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Sterlite/Vedanta, Coal India and POSCO are among 17 Indian companies blacklisted by Norway from investment of its pension funds

by- Venkatesh Nayak
Readers may recall the gory incidents that took place at Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu in the southern part of India on 22 May,
2018. 13 protesters died on the spot when the police opened fire to disperse an assemblage of thousands of local residents and representatives of civil society groups. They were protesting against the adverse environmental impact of the industrial operations of Sterlite Copper which runs a copper smelter plant in the area. Accusations against the company have ranged from polluting local water resources to plans for expanding the installed capacity of the plant without the necessary environmental clearances. A ground report published in The Wire recently, mentions the decision taken by Norges Bank a few years ago to not invest funds from Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) in Sterlite “due to an unacceptable risk of complicity in current and future severe environmental damage and systematic human rights violations.
This decision and the materials provided by the Norwegian Council on Ethics established for the purpose of guiding GPFG investment decisions are all publicly accessible on Norwegian websites. The objective of this email alert is to place in the public domain facts and materials that are publicly available on Norwegian regulatory websites, in order to encourage more informed debate on the developments around the incidents in Thoothukudi. The purpose of this email is not to defame any company but to point out that investor pressure does help improve the track record of at least some errant companies. As on date, GPFG funds are invested in 275 public and private sector enterprises in India and Vedanta/Sterlite is not one of them.
What is Norway’s GPFG?
Norges Bank (NB) is responsible for managing Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG). GPFG is described in the following simple terms on NB’s website:
” The Government Pension Fund Global is saving for future generations in Norway. One day the oil will run out, but the return on the fund will continue to benefit the Norwegian population.”
I wish our political leaders displayed similar levels of wisdom with due care for future generations in India.
GPFG comprises of Norway’s earnings from the country’s oil wealthGPFG is said to be worth Norwegian Kroner 8,436 billion which is equal to  USD 1,026 billion or INR 69,285 billionNB claims to have invested these funds in 9,146 companies operating in 72 countries around the world of which 1.4% are listed companies world-wide and 2.4% are listed in Europe alone.  According to the Bank, GPFG funds are invested for the long termSome well known global companies in which GPFG has invested are- Apple Inc., Microsoft, Nestle and, Novartis and Samsung. This is unlike many other portfolio investors who invest in stocks for the short term seeking to make a quick buck with their billions and often end up ruining small investors’ fortunes and entire national economies. India and S.E. Asian economies have experienced such predatory investments in the past.
Some companies with India operations blacklisted from receiving GPFG funds
According to the website of Norges Bank, the following public sector and private sector corporations in India have been excluded from receiving GPFG funds because of their adverse track record relating to environmental damage or human rights violations or engaging in operations that are unacceptable to the ethical principles that inform their investment decisions. Vedanta/Sterlite is one of the companies mentioned on this list.
Public sector corporations excluded from GPFG investment with dates and reasons (as mentioned on GPFG website):
1) BHEL Ltd. (May 2017 – severe environmental damage)
2) Coal India Ltd. (April 2016- more than 30% operations relate to thermal coal)
3Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Ltd. (April 2016- more than 30% operations relate to thermal coal)
4) NTPC Ltd. ( April 2016- severe environmental damage)
Some private sector corporations based in India or having operations through subsidiaries or partners in India with dates and reasons (as mentioned on GPFG website:
1) Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. ( April 2016- more than 30% operations relate to thermal coal )
2) Reliance Power Ltd.  ( April 2016- more than 30% operations relate to thermal coal )
3) The Tata Power Company Ltd. ( April 2016- more than 30% operations relate to thermal coal)
4) Imperial Brands and ITC Ltd. (January 2010 – tobacco production)
5) Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd. (April 2013- serious violation of human rights – employment of child labour)
6) POSCO (2015- severe environmental damage)
8) Cairn Energy Plc (June 2016- serious violation of fundamental ethical normsCairn India has since been taken over by Vedanta Ltd. and is fighting a tax evasion case in the Delhi High Court. The tax authorities had placed on Cairn India a capital gains tax demand of INR 20,495 crores in 2015)
9) ZTE Corp (January 2016- gross corruption – Indian subsidiary is ZTE Telecom Pvt. Ltd.)
11) Philip Morris International (January 2010 – production of tobacco. India operations are through Godfrey Philips Ltd. and K. K. Modi Investment and Financial Services Ltd.)
12) Honeywell International Inc. (January 2006- production of key components of nuclear weapons. Honeywell India is engaged in a range of sectors including aerospace and defence, home and building technologies, safety and productivity solutions among others).
13) BAE Systems (January 2018- production of key components of nuclear weapons– BAE partners with Indian counterparts in the defence industry sector in INdia)
Click on the links above to access the reasons for blacklisting these companies.
According to the Council on Ethics which guides the investment decisions of GPFG, the case against Vedanta’s exclusion is not just its operations in Thoothukudi but also its track record at the refinery near Mettur dam in Tamil Nadu, mining operations in Niyamgiri Odisha, and the refinery in Lanjigarh, Odisha and other operaitons. The decision to blacklist Sterlite and its sister companies was first taken in 2007.  Click here for the note prepared by the Council of Ethics recommending exclusion of Vedanta/Sterlite from the GPFG investment universe.
Vedanta is said to have advocated with GPFG/NB against the exclusion, but the decision to exclude them was reconfirmed on the basis of the recommendation received from the Council on Ethics in 2013.. I could not find this document on the GPFG website. So I did the next best thing. I placed a request for this document on the Norwegian Government’s electronic records website. The official recommendation to exclude which is in Norwegian is in the first attachment. An unofficial translation alongside the Norwegian text from the official document is in the 2nd attachment. The controversy continued until 2017. Related correspondence has been reproduced on the website of Mines and Communities. However I have not been able to find the original documents on the websites of GPFG/NB or the Council on Ethics.
Norges Bank has invested GPFG funds in 275 Indian public and private sector companies
In fact, despite blacklisting a handful of companies, Norges Bank has invested GPFG funds in 275 Indian companies operating in both the public and private sector. They have invested in the equities of banks such as Allahabad Bank, Andhra Bank, Bank of India, Canara Bank, IDBI Bank, J&K Bank, Punjab National Bank, State Bank of India, UCO Bank, Union Bank of India and Vijaya Bank in the public sector and in private sector banks like Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank Ltd., Indus Ind Bank and Yes Bank. Some of the well known public sector enterprises in which they have invested include, Bharat Electronics Ltd., BPCL, GAIL India, HPCL, Indraprastha Gas Ltd., NBCC, NHPC, Oil India, ONGC, Power Grid Corporation of India, Shipping Corporation of India, Ltd.
GPFG funds are invested in the sister companies of some of those which have been black listed. For example, they have invested in the equities of Reliance Industries Ltd., Reliance Capital Ltd., Reliance Communications Ltd., Tata Consultancy  Services, Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Chemicals etc. So it is the business and ethical practices of a specific company that matters to their investment decisions instead of its lineage or umbilical linkage.
Some other well known private sector companies in which GPFG funds are invested include- Adani Ports and SEZ, Apollo Hospitals, Apollo Tyres, Arvind Ltd., Ashok Leyland, Asian Paints, Aurobindo Pharma, Bajaj Auto, Bharti Airtel, Biocon, Bluedart Express, Britannia Industries, Cadila Healthcare, Chennai Superkings Cricket Ltd., Cipla Ltd., Coffee Day, Colgate Palmolive India Ltd., Dabur India, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Godrej Industries, Grasim Industries, DishTV, Idea Cellular, India Bulls, Infosys Ltd., JSW Steel, Larsen & Toubro Ltd., Mahindra Holidays & Resorts Ltd., Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., Maruti Suzuki Ltd., Monsanto India Ltd. Muthoot Finance Ltd., Piramal Enterprises, Raymond Ltd., Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Thermax Ltd., Thomas Cook India Ltd., Titan Co. Ltd., TV18 Broadcast Ltd., United Breweries Ltd.., Voltas, Wipro and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. to name a few (phew!).
Please click on India’s outline on GPFG’s global investment map to view the complete list of companies, the value of investment in each company in NOK and USD terms, the ownership and voting rights in each company. GPFG’s investment in Indian equities was valued at NOK 66.3 billion or USD 8.1 billion at the end of 2017.
For example, the investment in Infosys Ltd. is almost USD 289 million, while it is USD 227 million in SBI, USD 189 million in TCS Ltd., USD 170 million in Tata Motors, USD 169 million in Reliance Industries, USD 149 million in Indus Ind Bank, USD 144 million in Cipla Ltd., USD 130 million in Apollo Tyres, USD 89 million in Adani Ports and SEZ and USD 41 million in TV18, to name a few (double phew!!)

Additionally, GPFG has invested in fixed income schemes in India in both the private and public sector entities such as Reliance Industries- USD 94.4 million and Rural Electrification Corporation Ltd – USD 4.8 million. GPFG has invested USD 3.4 billion in Government of India bonds as well.

Advocacy opportunities involving GPFG
Many activists working at the community level to demand accountability for the adverse impact of the operations of domestic and multi national corporations (MNCs) on human rights, public health and environment would do well to think of investors like GPFG/NB as a target for advocacy. For example, in 2006, the Council on Ethics recommended that Monsanto Co. be excluded from its investment universe of GPFG for using child labour in the field of hybrid cotton seeds production in India. Click here to read the recommendaiton. However, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance decided to engage with Monsanto for a limited period through Norges Bank to use its ownership rights to try and get the company to reduce dependence on child labour. In 2008, the Council on Ethics found that Monsanto had indeed taken tangible steps in this direction and that active ownership through GPFG had paid off unlike any other investor in the company who had paid serious attention to this issue. So the Council on Ethics decided to withdraw its recommendation to exclude Monsanto from the GPFG investment universe. However, according to a 2008 press release published on its website the Council and Norges Bank continue to monitor Monsanto.
This case study shows that environmental and human rights activists can send to the Council on Ethics, evidence of violation of human rights, severe environmental damage or corruption relating to any company operating in India in which NB has invested GPFG funds. When domestic remedies are slow or ineffective, this strategy could be explored. Click here for the contact details of GPFG’s Council on Ethics.
Norwegian Government’s enviable track record of transparency
Norwegian Government is one of the best examples of how transparent a government and its agencies can be if there is political will and a culture of openness that pervades the bureaucracy. S. Asian and African countries that have enacted laws to guarantee access to information could do well by emulating the good practices adopted by Norway. Their Government volunteers a wealth of information about its working in the public domain.
In October 2013, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance a recommendation from the Council on Ethics to exclude Sesa Sterlite from the GPFG’s investment universe The title and date of receipt of this document are listed on Norwegian Government’s latest version of their Electronic Records Database- e-Innsyn. Until recently it used to be called OEP. Any person may access this database of electronic records held by the national and local governments in Norway and place an order for them just like one would buy a book or any other product from If the document is not covered by any exemption under Norway’s access to information law, it will be delivered free of charge by email. I had used this facility in the past and obtained documents relating to India. This time I sought a copy of the 2013 document that the Council of Ethics sent to the Finance Ministry. The Norwegian Ministry of Finance emailed me the document within less than 24 hours of making the online request (see 1st and 3rd attachment).
Section 4(1)(b) of India’s Right to Information Act, 2005 requires the Central and the State Governments to create such databases of hard copy and electronic records they hold in custody. Despite making tall claims about being an IT giant to anyone who is willing to listen, they have not deployed this technology to create a database like e-Innsyn. It does not cost the heaven and earth to create one. It does not have to be done in one day either. What is needed is a commitment to comply with a statutory obligation of proactive disclosure, a phased plan of action and some techies to create and maintain such a database.
End Note
The quick research behind this email alert was inspired by the piece published on The Wire about the aftermath of the Thoothukudi tragedy. Yes, I read articles published on this digital media platform, irrespective of the derision with which some “the country wants to know” choirboys of the establishment refer to it. Articles such as The Wire’s give real food for thought and guide towards action. Shouting matches of the kind telecast on several 24×7 private satellite TV news channels are best relegated to stadiums and fish markets.

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SC refuses anticipatory bail to BJP leader S Ve Shekher on derogatory Facebook post

The court asked Shekher to approach Egmore Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Tamil Nadu for regular bail as police had filed the charge sheet in the case.


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today refused to grant anticipatory bail to Tamil actor and BJP leader S Ve Shekher, against whom a case was lodged for sharing a Facebook post allegedly containing derogatory references to women journalists and the media.

The court asked Shekher to approach Egmore Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Tamil Nadu for regular bail as police had filed the charge sheet in the case.

A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and M M Shantanagoudar said that once the charge sheet is filed in a case, the accused can seek regular bail but not anticipatory bail.

“He is a very big actor.

You may not know but I know.

Nobody can be given any special treatment under the law.

You move trial court and seek regular bail,” Justice Rao said.

Advocate Balaji Srinivasan, appearing for the actor-turned- politician said that court can grant some relief to his client.

He said that the actor has already tendered an apology and deleted the post on the social networking site.

The bench said that law is very clear that once a charge sheet is filed after completion of investigation, the accused has to seek regular bail.

Counsel for Tamil Nadu informed the court that police has concluded its investigation and filed the charge sheet in the case.

The bench disposed of the plea of Shekher seeking anticipatory bail in the case.

On May 22, the apex court had granted interim protection from arrest till June 1 to Shekher and sought reply from the state government challenging the May 10 order of Madras High Court dismissing his petition seeking anticipatory bail in the case.

It had directed that no coercive action should be taken against Shekhar till then.

An FIR was registered against Shekher by the cyber crime cell for alleged offences under various sections of the IPC, including insult intended to provoke breach of peace, gesture and words intended to insult the modesty of a woman and under provisions of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Women Harassment Act.

He has claimed in his plea that he was not the author of the Facebook post and was not aware about its contents when he forwarded it after receiving it from one Tirumalai Sa.

He has also said that he had removed the post after he came to know about its content.

“I am no way connected to the said message, which was simply forwarded by me without reading the contents of the message only on the bona fide impression and over-confidence,” he had said in his plea filed in the high court.

He had claimed in the high court that the case was lodged against him by making baseless allegations and there was no iota of truth in it.

He had also said there was no intention on his part to defame or hurt anyone.

Journalists had condemned and staged protests against Shekher for the post, which he had later deleted.

The post had made alleged insinuations against the media and women journalists following the “patgate” row involving Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit.

The 78-year-old governor had last month patted a woman journalist on the cheek, apparently seeking to avoid answering a question she had asked.

The governor had later apologised to the women scribe.

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UP – 36 women die during childbirth every day #Vaw #WTFnews

 but 50% not reported

Shailvee Sharda| TNN 

LUCKNOW: As many as 36 women die in the process of childbirth in UP every day. These deaths add up to over 13,200 in a year, which is 30% of 44,000 maternal deaths that take place in India every year.
However, health authorities may not be able to tell the exact cause of these deaths as close to 50% cases are not even reported under the health management information systems. The two problems, which find mention in Union health ministry’s ‘Guidelines for Maternal Death Surveillance and Response’, speak for the gaps in maternal death monitoring system.

As per WHO, maternal death refers to the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.

The Indian government started the Maternal Death Review (MDR) process in 2010 to improve quality of obstetric care and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.

MDR provides detailed analysis on various factors at community, facility, district, regional and national level.

The introductory note in the guidelines, however, pointed out that though the system was implemented in different states in the last five years, the ‘mechanism for response’ lagged behind. In fact, three main problems were identified.

Firstly, less than 50% of estimated maternal deaths in India get reported under the health management information systems. Secondly, capacity to undertake quality review at various levels is weak. Thirdly, there was a problem in translating the key findings into action.

Based on the past learnings and feedback, the Union health ministry streamlined the process of Maternal Death Surveillance and Response (MDSR). The guidelines framed focus on ‘improving reporting of maternal deaths’ and ‘improving analysis and action planning’.

” MDSR is a continuous cycle of identification, notification and review of maternal deaths followed by actions to improve quality of care and prevent future deaths,” said Prashant Trivedi, principal secretary, health and family welfare. He added that the relevant committees to implement MDSR have been formed by the state government.

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Gauri Lankesh killed for ‘anti-Hindu views’: charge sheet: Suspects hid behind code words, fake names

Wife claims first accused K.T. Naveen Kumar was associated with ‘Sanatan Dharma Sanstha’

The charge sheet in the Gauri Lankesh murder case, a copy of which is with The Hindu, says the journalist and activist was killed for her ‘anti-Hindu views’.

“The accused were angry with her for speaking against Hindu dharma, Gods of Hindu dharma and insulting Hindu dharma,” said the Special Investigation Team in the 651-page charge sheet against K.T. Naveen Kumar, the first accused in the case.

However, the confession statements of Naveen Kumar and statements of his three friends from Maddur, made before a magistrate, have not been made public. According to sources, this was done on request by the SIT for fear that the publication of the statements would tip off other accused who are still at large.

‘On Dasara, he offered pooja to the pistol’

Though the charge sheet is silent on the organisational affiliations of Naveen Kumar, his wife Roopa C. N., a Group D employee with KPTCL in Birur, in her statement to the SIT, said he was associated with the ‘Sanatan Dharma Sanstha’ mostly in 2017.

In her statement, Ms. Roopa said that her husband took her for a programme in Shivamogga in 2017 where he introduced her to people from Sanatan Dharma Sanstha. He had procured a pistol and a few bullets, about three months before Dasara. When she complained, he said they were ‘dummy’ bullets to scare away monkeys.

“On Dasara festival, he offered pooja to the pistol,” her statement read.

Ms. Roopa recalled Naveen Kumar inviting a person from Sanatan Dharma to their house after Dasara. He stayed overnight.

She claimed that her husband said he was one of 400 Hindu activists selected for a Dharma Shikshana Sammelana in Goa, which he attended. Two months later, he attended a similar programme in Hubballi.

At one point, he booked an appointment for her at Sanatan Ashram in Mangaluru. The day after they reached the ashram, she saw on TV that Gauri Lankesh had been murdered.

Forensic reports on websites

The charge sheet includes a forensic report of websites and It notes that carried a report of a meeting purportedly held in Maddur on December 10, 2017. Police sources said that Naveen Kumar had attended this meeting.

However, the charge sheet does not name Sanatan Sanstha. “There is no evidence so far to indicate that the organisation itself as a whole was involved in the conspiracy,” a senior police officer said.

Bullets procured from Kalasipalya

The charge sheet accuses Naveen Kumar of supplying the bullets that were used to kill Gauri Lankesh in September 2017. It alleges they were from Bangalore Armoury, an ammunition store on N.R. Road. They were procured by Naveen Kumar about eight years ago.

Syed Shabbeer, 30, working in another ammunition store City Gun House in Kalasipalya, claimed to have sold 18 bullets to Naveen Kumar for ₹3,000. “About eight years ago, Naveen Kumar came to our shop and bought two air guns in a week for ₹3,500 each. He asked me to sell a pistol and bullets, though he did not have a licence. When I refused, he pleaded with me to sell at least the bullets, which he said he would only use to make a locket around his neck. I was in need of money. So, I asked my friend Amjad, working at Bangalore Armoury, to give me some testing wastage bullets. Three days later, Amjad gave me 18 bullets of 0.32 calibre wrapped in paper. I sold them to Naveen Kumar for ₹3,000,” Syed Shabbeer has told the SIT.

Maintaining notes on surveillance, using fake names and feature phones and multiple SIM cards and handsets — here’s what the four men arrested in connection with the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh did to hide their identities.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru | Updated: June 2, 2018 7:09:44 am

gauri lankesh, gauri lankesh murder case, gauri lankesh murder suspects, journalist gauri lankesh murdered, gauri lankesh police investigation, gauri lankesh latest news, indian expressLankesh was killed after four bullets were fired at her by an unidentified man wearing a helmet while she was opening the gate to her home after returning from work.From maintaining notes on surveillance to using fake names, feature phones and multiple SIM cards and handsets. The four men arrested in connection with the murder last year of journalist Gauri Lankesh, and for plotting the murder of Kannada writer and critic K S Bhagwan this year, made elaborate efforts to hide their identities, investigations have revealed.

The four, who are linked to a radical Hindutva organisation, were taken into custody Thursday by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Karnataka Police, which is probing the shooting of 55-year-old Lankesh outside her home in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017.

Police have identified the four as Sujeet Kumar alias Praveen alias Manjunath alias Sujeet S R, 37, from Udupi in Karnataka; Amol Kale alias Bhaisab alias Sanjay Bhansare, 37, from Pune; Amit Degwekar alias Amit alias Pradeep Mahajan, 38, from Ponda in Goa; and, Manohar Edave alias Manoj, 28, from Vijayapura in Karnataka.


Kale and Degwekar were linked to the Goa-based Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) a few years ago. Kale is reported to have been involved in HJS campaigns against the celebration of Valentine’s Day in colleges in Pune.

Degwekar is reported to have worked in a Sanatan Sanstha publication and was a roommate of Malgonda Patil, one of two activists of the outfit who died in a 2009 blast in Madgaon in Goa while trying to plant a bomb at the site of a religious celebration. Degwekar was initially detained by Goa Police in connection with the blast but then not charged.

Sujeet Kumar is reported to have attended annual conferences of the HJS in Goa. “In recent times, the four were not seen during routine activities and events of the outfit but they are suspected to have been engaged in some underground work,’’ police sources said.

Asked about the HJS links of some of the men accused in the Lankesh case, the outfit’s Karnataka spokesperson, Mohan Gowda, had said: “Some of the arrested men may have attended HJS programmes but hundreds of people come for our events.’’

According to investigators, detailed notes in code and regular language were found in diaries at the homes of three of the arrested, including on measures and precautions to be taken while carrying out surveillance and reconnaissance on targets.

A diary found at the home of Edave from Vijayapura, for instance, contains notes about steps to be taken during reconnaissance. The jottings suggest that among the tasks involved in reconnaissance is tracking CCTV cameras. Diary entries by two of the suspects refer to CCTV cameras in code language as “bulbs”.

The jottings also suggest that fake number plates have to be used on vehicles while carrying out surveillance, and that entry and exit points into a locality must be noted and sketched. The SIT has found the sketch of a map, in one of the seized diaries, that is suspected to indicate the location of Lankesh’s home in the Rajarajeshwari Nagar area of west Bengaluru.

The four also seem to have used fake names to identify themselves to strangers and newcomers as part of their covert activities. Sujeet Kumar alias Praveen, suspected to be the head of the covert operations in Karnataka, identified himself only as Praveen to K T Naveen Kumar, 37, a Hindu Yuva Sena activist who is suspected to have provided logistics for the murder of Lankesh. Praveen was identified as Sujeet Kumar only after his arrest on May 19 in connection with the Bhagwan plot.

The SIT found that Naveen Kumar’s handler “Praveen” would call only from public pay phones and never from a personal phone making it difficult to ascertain his true identity.

Following the arrest of Sujeet Kumar, the SIT found in his possession four feature phones made by Y King, Itel, Hitech and Karbon, and seven SIM cards. The SIT has reported finding a total of 43 mobile phones from Sujeet Kumar (22 phones) and Kale (21 phones) since their arrests on May 19 and 20.

“All the phones are low cost feature phones which they seem to be using in a disposable manner to make only a few select calls,’’ police sources said.

SIT sources said they were now hopeful of finding the truth behind the Lankesh murder since investigators have been able to understand the modus operandi of the group after the recent arrests.

In a chargesheet filed against Naveen Kumar on May 30, the SIT quoted him as saying that the journalist-activist was killed for her “anti-Hindu views’’ and “criticism of Hindu Gods’’. The SIT in its chargesheet also said Naveen Kumar was part of a larger conspiracy. “There is a bigger network,’’ the SIT said in court documents.

Sources described the arrest of the four as a major breakthrough in investigations into the killings of rationalists and progressive thinkers since 2013 in Maharashtra and Karnataka. At least one key suspect involved in the murder plots in Karnataka, identified only as Dada and Nihal by the suspects arrested so far, is believed to be at large, said sources.

Lankesh was killed after four bullets were fired at her by an unidentified man wearing a helmet while she was opening the gate to her home after returning from work. The killer is suspected to have arrived on a motorcycle with an accomplice.

The Hindu, Indian Express

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JSA Statement on the High-Level Group on Health constituted by the Finance Commission

The fifteenth Finance Commission has constituted a High-Level Group “to examine the strengths and weaknesses for enabling balanced expansion of health sector”. Dr.Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS, New Delhi is appointed convenor with Dr. Devi Shetty, Chairman, Narayana Health City, Bengaluru, Dr. Dileep Govind Mhaisekar, Vice Chancellor, Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, Pune, Dr. Naresh Trehan, Medanta City, Gurgaon, Dr.Bhabatosh Biswas, Prof & HOD of Cardio Thoracic Surgery, R.G.Kar Medical College, Kolkata and Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President of Public Health Foundation of India as members.

The roles and responsibilities assigned to the group are:

·         “To evaluate the existing regulatory framework in the health sector and examine its strengths and weaknesses for enabling a balanced yet faster expansion of the health sector keeping in view India’s demographic profile;

·         To suggest ways and means to optimize the use of existing financial resources and to incentivize the state governments’ effort on fulfilment of well-defined health parameters in India; and

·         To holistically examine best international practices for the health sector and seek to benchmark our frameworks to these practices for optimizing benefits keeping in mind our local issues.”

The constitution of the group and its roles and functions raise many questions:


Who gave Finance Commission the Mandate?

Under the Constitution, Finance Commission has been given the responsibility to make recommendations to the government regarding the distribution of the net proceeds of taxes between the centre and the states and among the states, provision of grants in aid from the centre to the states, etc. Nowhere in the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the fifteenth Finance Commission, are there any specific references related to regulation of health sector. Previously, a High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) on universal health coverage was constituted under the Planning Commission by the UPA government. This was justified since it came under the purview of the Planning Commission’s mandate. Health is a state subject and the formation of the group under the aegis of the Finance Commission is clearly an overreach by the centre on states’ powers.

Why is the Private Sector represented so prominently?

The composition of the group is highly problematic. Out of the five members, two are extremely prominent names in the field of private corporate healthcare. This is a form of ‘regulatory capture’ where entities who need to be regulated capture regulatory institutions. Further, a majority of the group are clinicians specialised in tertiary care, and there is an absence of other health professionals. There are no representatives from either the central or the state health ministries or their agencies in this group. Neither is there representation of civil society organisations, media, activist, legal or consumer groups. All the members are male, exhibiting a clear gender bias.

Vague and ambiguous ToR

The first point in the ToR is about evaluation of the existing regulatory framework for the expansion of the health sector. The term “health sector” has a discernible market connotation and it is not clear whether this “expansion” is aimed at strengthening of the existing public health delivery system or is it directed at further strengthening the corporate health care industry. It is also not clear whether the regulatory framework here refers to the Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010 or similar state laws.

The second role assigned to the group is about incentivizing “the state government’s effort on fulfillment of well-defined health parameters” amounts to usurping the role of the central health ministry and it is unclear whether states will be consulted. Further, in the third point there are no clear indications whether the examination of the said “international best practices” are for the benefit of public health system or the private healthcare industry. There is also a mention of “our frameworks” and it is unclear whether this refers to the current regulatory framework which is the Clinical Establishment Act or a regulatory framework for health insurance or whether it refers to the need to revisit specific standards such as the Indian Public Health Standard (IPHS) or the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH).

The constitution of this group in an arbitrary manner and its skewed composition is very unfortunate and worrisome. Given the government’s recent initiative for an insurance based National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), we are concerned that this is an exercise in preparing the ground such that the private sector would benefit the most from its rollout.

That the formation of the committee with a mandate with wide-ranging consequences, has avoided media attention is also a matter of great concern. Jan Swasthya Abhiyan lodges a strong protest against the constitution of this group and urges the government to revoke this committee. Health is an important public policy matter and any committee constituted to frame policies or provide recommendations related to it should be representative of all interests and sections in the society. The finance commission is a constitutional body vested with specific powers related to financial devolution. It has no role in planning for health and should not be given any responsibility that would be an overreach of its powers.

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