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Archives for : November2018

In A First, TISS Panel Recommends Action Against Male-on-male Sexual Assaulter

The survivor stated in his testimony that “as young queer folks, who are exploring our sexuality, and politics, we often tend to stay quiet, and let people of power exploit us”.
Image Courtesy: DNA India

On November 28, an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) instituted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) issued recommendations against an individual accused of sexually assaulting a former male student in its Mumbai campus.

The incident had allegedly occurred in early 2017, and the survivor reported it to the TISS authorities after the Supreme Court judgement of September 6 striking down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The individual who allegedly committed the assault, Abhijan Gupta, is associated with an international art forum, and was visiting the institute for a conference when the incident reportedly took place.

According to the ICC’s recommendations, Gupta has been “debarred for life” from entry into the TISS campuses, and form associations and collaborations with TISS projects, conferences and seminars, and must submit a letter of apology to the survivor. The committee has also recommended action against a faculty member who was reportedly informed of the assault, but failed to bring it to the notice of the proper authorities. This is the first instance of such a university committee taking up a case of sexual assault of a man.

Gupta was in TISS to attend a conference titled “Aesthetics and the Political in Contemporary India: Deleuzian Explorations” that was organised by the institute’s Centre for Social Theory in February 2017 when he and the survivor reportedly connected on a social media application. According to testimony submitted by the survivor to the committee, he went to meet Gupta in the hall where the conference was taking place, and Gupta invited him to the building’s terrace. On the terrace, Gupta forced himself on the survivor. He allegedly forcefully penetrated the survivor, and left him with multiple bruises and torn clothes, according to the testimony. The survivor was reportedly found by two of his friends, both members of the TISS Queer Collective, who are believed to have taken him to a flat off-campus to administer first aid. He reportedly told both his friends an account of what had happened, which both corroborated to this reporter. Gupta also reportedly messaged him on the social media application soon after the incident, enquiring about his well-being, and apologising when told that his actions were violent. This reporter has seen screenshots of these text messages, exchanged minutes after the assault. In an email that Gupta later sent to the survivor, he reportedly apologised once again. He was quoted by The Indian Express as saying “I did not realise that my advances were not wanted.”

The survivor reportedly went on to inform a faculty member – Prof P Mondal – who had organised the conference, about the incident. The professor allegedly advised him not to file a legal complaint however, for fear of himself facing action under Section 377, and informed him that he would “blacklist” Gupta.

In an email sent to the survivor after he reported the issue, Mondal reportedly apologised for his actions. The committee’s recommendations state that “a memo will be issued by the [institute] Director to the mentioned faculty [Mondal] for not taking a serious note of the incident, not bringing it to the notice of the Gender Amity Committee, to his Dean or any Institute authority. This failure of the faculty in not following the necessary procedure puts the Institute in breach of its statutory obligations. Resultant appropriate proceedings as per service rules ought to follow.”

When contacted, TISS authorities declined to comment. The survivor, who had stated in his testimony that “as young queer folks, who are exploring our sexuality, and politics, we often tend to stay quiet, and let people of power exploit us”, told this reporter that he is satisfied with the committee’s recommendations.

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PUCL demands Azam Khan, witness in the Sohrabuddin Murder case, should not be shifted to Ajmer Prison

Please do not move the prisoner Azam Khan, presently in Udaipur Jail, to Ajmer Jail as the matter is seized by the Jodhpur High Court demands PUCL Rajasthan

Image result for Azam Khan, presently in Udaipur Jail,

In a letter to DG Prisons , the letter states that Azam Khan, a crucial witness in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh murder case, has approached the Rajasthan High Court (S.B. Criminal Writ No.416/2018) for protection as he was threatened that he would be shifted to the high security jail at Ajmer and would be harmed along the way like Tulsiram Prajapati, who was a victim of a fake encounter. Despite the pendency of this petition, the next date of hearing for which is 17 December, the administration is now transferring Azam Khan to Ajmer jail from Udaipur jail. There are no cases against him in Ajmer, only in Udaipur.

As such there is no good reason for him to be shifted to Ajmer apart from creating fear and intimidation. In light of the threat to Azam Khan’s life, we appeal to the administration to not do so and to take all possible measures to ensure his safety.

The pretext of moving is that there is a threat to his life in the Udaipur Jail aa there maybe a gang war with the hostile group. It is our contention that there are no hostile gang members in Udaipur jail, as per Azam’s wife and lawyer.

The mother of Azam Khan has filed an application for the same to the Superintendent of the Udaipur Prison this morning itself. Please find attached as annexures the Jodhpur High Court Order, the synopsis of the petition and the letter written by the mother.

Please do not move Azam Khan, despite the police party having reached Udaipur from Ajmer.

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Manifesto of Indian Farmers / भारतीय किसानों का घोषणापत्र #mustshare


Adopted by an assembly representing the farmers of India on the occasion of the historic Kisan Mukti March organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee
Delhi, 30 November 2018

The producers of primary agricultural commodities;
Including Women, Dalit, Nomadic and Adivasi farmers;
Landowners, Tenants, Sharecroppers, Agricultural Labourers and Plantation Workers;
Fishworkers, Milk Producers, Poultry Farmers, Livestock Rearers, Pastoralists, and Collectors of Minor Forest Produce; and,
Everyone engaged in crop cultivation, shifting cultivation, apiculture, sericulture, vermiculture, and agro-forestry;

Wellbeing of farmers is not just about economic survival of a majority of Indian households, it is about retaining our national dignity and our civilizational heritage;
Farmers are not just a residue from our past; farmers, agriculture and village community are integral to the future of India and the world; and,
The demands of the farmers’ movements are fully consistent with our Constitutional vision, Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy;

As honest hard workers who face numerous odds;
As bearers of historical knowledge, skills and culture;
As agents of food safety, security and sovereignty; and
As guardians of biodiversity and ecological sustainability;

Economic viability;
Ecological sustainability; and
Equality with social and economic justice;

Economic, ecological, social and existential crisis of Indian agriculture;
Ecological degradation and destruction affecting farmers and their livelihoods;
Unprecedented increase in diversion and destruction of agricultural land, privatization of water, forced displacement, deprivation and migration affecting security of food and livelihood;
Persistent state of neglect of agriculture and discrimination against farming communities;
Increasing vulnerability of farmers to extortion by the village powerful and government officials;
Deepening penetration of large, predatory and profiteering corporations that are already in control of significant sectors of Indian agriculture;
Spate of farmers’ suicides across the country and unbearable burden of indebtedness;
Widening disparities between farmers and other sectors in our society; and,
Growing attack of the governments on the farmers’ struggles;

Life and dignified livelihood;
Social security and protection against natural and other calamities;
Land, water, forest and all natural resources including common property resources;
Diversity in seeds, food systems and sustainable technological choices; and,
Freedom of expression, organisation, representation and struggle through constitutional means for realisation of our demands and shaping our future;


Hold a Special Session to address the agrarian crisis by passing and enacting the two Kisan Mukti Bills that are of, by and for the farmers of India, namely,
1. The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018; and
2. The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018.


1. Increase the number of guaranteed employment days under MGNREGS to 200 days per family, and ensure wage payment within the period guaranteed by statute and at par with legal minimum wages for unskilled farm labour;

2. Reduce the cost of inputs for farmers either by regulating industry price or offering subsidy directly to farmers;

3. Provide comprehensive social security for all farm households including pension @ at least Rs. 5,000 per month per farmer above the age of 60;

4. Universalize the benefits of the Public Distribution System including cereals and nutri-cereals, pulses, sugar and oils without linking it to Aadhar or biometric identification and without shifting to direct cash transfer;

5. Address the menace of stray animals by removing all legal and vigilante-imposed restrictions on cattle trade, compensating farmers for destruction of crops by wild and stray animals and supporting animal shelters;

6. Stop land acquisition or land pooling without informed consent of the farmers; no acquisition or diversion of agricultural land for commercial land development or for creation of land banks; prevent the bypassing or dilution of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 at the state level; and evolve land use and agricultural land protection policy;

7. Mandate the sugar mills to pay interest @ 15% p.a. if cane dues are not paid to the cane-growers within 14 days of the delivery of cane;  FRP of cane to be fixed by linking it to 9.5% recovery of sugar;

8. Withdraw pesticides that have been banned elsewhere and not approve GM seeds without a comprehensive needs, alternatives and impact assessment;

9. Disallow Foreign Direct Investment in agriculture and food processing, and remove agriculture from Free Trade Agreements, including the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP);

10. Require identification and registration of all real cultivators including tenant farmers, sharecroppers, women farmers, lessee cultivators and rural workers etc. for purposes of accessing benefits of all government schemes; and

11. Stop uprooting adivasi farmers in the name of afforestation, ensure strict implementation without dilution of Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and Forests Rights Act, 2006;


12. Provide land and livelihood rights to the landless, including agricultural and homestead land, water for fishing, mining of minor minerals etc;

13. Ensure timely, effective and adequate compensation for crop loss due to natural disasters; implement a comprehensive crop insurance that benefits farmers and not just insurance companies and that covers all types of risks for all crops and for all farmers, with individual farm as the unit of damage assessment; reverse anti-farmer changes in the Manual for Drought Management;

14. Build assured protective irrigation through sustainable means for farmers, especially in the rain-fed areas;

15. Ensure remunerative guaranteed prices for milk and its procurement for dairies and to supplement nutritional security through Mid Day Meal Scheme and Integrated Child Development Scheme etc;

16. Waive off all outstanding agricultural loans of farmers from suicide-affected families and provide special opportunities to children of such families;

17. Protect the farmers from corporate plunder in the name of contract farming by reviewing the Contract Farming Act 2018;

18. Promote procurement, processing and marketing under Farmer Producer Organisations and Peasant Cooperatives instead of corporatisation of agriculture and takeover by MNCs; and

19. Promote an agro-ecology paradigm that is based on suitable cropping patterns and local seed diversity revival, so as to build economically viable, ecologically sustainable, autonomous and climate resilient agriculture.


भारतीय किसानों का घोषणापत्र


अखिल भारतीय किसान संघर्ष समन्वय समिति द्वारा आयोजित ऐतिहासिक किसान मुक्ति मार्च के अवसर पर किसानों की प्रतिनिधि सभा में अंगीकृत

दिल्ली30 नवंबर 2018

हमभारत के किसान,

प्राथमिक कृषि-जिन्सों के उत्पादक;

जिसमें महिला, दलित, घुमन्तू और आदिवासी किसान शामिल हैं;

भूस्वामी, पट्टेदार, बंटाईदार, खेतिहर मजदूर तथा बागान श्रमिक;

मछुआरे, दुग्ध-उत्पादक, मुर्गीपालक, पशुपालक, पशुचारक तथा लघु वनोपज को एकत्र करने वाले; और,

वे सभी जो फसल उगाने, झूम की कृषि करने, मधुमक्खी पालन , रेशम-कीट के पालन, कृमिपालन तथा कृषि-वानिकी के काम में लगे हैं;


दृढ़ मत से मानते हैं कि-

किसानों के कल्याण का अर्थ भारत के अधिसंख्य परिवारों की आर्थिक उत्तरजीविता तक सीमित नहीं, बल्कि इसमें अपनी राष्ट्रीय गरिमा तथा अपनी सभ्यतागत विरासत को धारण करना शामिल है;

किसान कोई अतीत के भग्नावशेष नहीं;

कृषक, कृषि तथा ग्राम-समुदाय भारत और विश्व के भविष्य का अनिवार्य अंश हैं; और,

किसान-आंदोलनों की मांगें हमारे संविधान के स्वप्न, मौलिक अधिकार तथा राज्य के नीति-निर्देशक तत्वों के मेल में है;


अपने उत्तरदायित्व की पहचान करते हुए

एक ईमानदार कर्मठ कामगार के रुप में जिसे अनगिनत बाधाओं का सामना करना पड़ता है;

ऐतिहासिक ज्ञान-राशि, कौशल तथा संस्कृति के धारक के रुप में;

खाद्य-सुरक्षा, संरक्षा, संप्रभुता के संदेहवाह के रुप में; और

जैव-विविधता तथा पारिस्थिकीगत टिकाऊपन के संरक्षक के रुप में ;


उन सिद्धांतों को याद करते हुए- 

जिनमें आर्थिक व्यवहार्यता;

पारिस्थिकीय टिकाऊपन; और

सामाजिक-आर्थिक न्याय के साथ समानता की बात कही गई है;

चिन्तित और शंकित हैं-

भारतीय कृषि के आर्थिक, पारिस्थितिकीय, ,सामाजिक तथा अस्तित्वगत संकट से;

किसानों तथा उनकी जीविका को पारिस्थितिकी के अपक्षय तथा विनाश के कारण होते नुकसान से;

कृषि-भूमि के अप्रत्याशित परिवर्तन और विनाश , पानी के निजीकरण , बलात् विस्थापन , वंचना और पलायन के जरिए खाद्य सुरक्षा और जीविका पर पड़ती चोट से;

राजसत्ता की ओर से कृषि की निरंतर होती उपेक्षा और किसान-समुदाय के साथ हो रहे भेदभाव के बरताव से;

गांव के ताकतवर लोगों और सरकारी अधिकारियों की लूट के आगे किसानों की लगातार बढ़ती बेबसी से;

बड़े, आखेट-वृत्ति तथा लाभ के लोभी कारपोरेशनों से जिनका अब भारतीय कृषि के एक व्यापक हिस्से पर नियंत्रण हो चला है;

देश भर में जारी किसान-आत्महत्याओं तथा कर्जे के बढ़ते दुर्वह बोझ से;

किसानों तथा समाज के अन्य तबकों के बीच बढ़ती जा रही असमानता;  तथा,

किसान-संघर्षों पर सरकार के बढ़ते हमलों से;


सत्यनिष्ठा-पूर्वक अपने संविधान-प्रदत्त-

जीवन और गरिमायुक्त जीविका के अधिकार;

सामाजिक सुरक्षा तथा प्राकृतिक एवं अन्य आपदाओं से बचाव के अधिकार ;

जमीन, जल, जंगल तथा सामुदायिक संपदा-संसाधन समेत प्राकृतिक संसाधनों के अधिकार;

बीज और आहार-प्रणाली में विविधता तथा टिकाऊ प्रौद्योगिक विकल्पों के चयन के अधिकार; तथा,

अपने मांगों को साकार करने एवं अपने भविष्य गढ़ने के निमित्त अभिव्यक्ति, संगठन, प्रतिनिधित्व तथा संघर्ष के अधिकार की

घोषणा करते हैं; और


इसी कारणभारत की संसद का आह्वान करते हैं कि

कृषि-संकट के समाधान के लिए तत्काल एक विशेष सत्र बुलाया जाय जिसमें भारत के किसानों के लिए, भारत के किसानों के हाथो तैयार किसानी के उन दो विधेयकों को पारित और क्रियान्वित किया जाय. जिनके नाम हैं:

  1. किसान कर्ज-मुक्ति विधेयक, 2018; तथा
  2. कृषि-उत्पाद पर गारंटीशुदा लाभकारी न्यूनतम समर्थन मूल्य का अधिकार(किसान) विधेयक, 2018.

साथ ही, हम मांग करते हैं कि भारत सरकार निम्नलिखित की अनिवार्य तौर पर पूर्ति करे:

  1. महात्मा गांधी राष्ट्रीय ग्रामीण रोजगार गारंटी योजना के तंहत गारंटीशुदा रोजगार की अवधि प्रति परिवार बढ़ाकर 200 दिन की जाय, और कानून में निर्दिष्ट समय-सीमा के भीतर पारिश्रमिक का भुगतान हो तथा पारिश्रमिक अकुशल खेतिहर मजदूरी के लिए कानून में निर्धारित न्यूनतम मजदूरी के संगत हो;
  1. औद्योगिक मूल्यों के नियंत्रण के जरिए या फिर प्रत्यक्ष अनुदान के जरिए किसानों के लागत-मूल्य में कमी लायी जाय;
  1. सभी खेतिहर परिवारों को व्यापक सामाजिक सुरक्षा मुहैया की जाय जिसमें 60 साल से ज्यादा उम्र के हर किसान को 5000 रुपये प्रति माह पेंशन देना शामिल है;
  1. आधार अथवा बायोमीट्रिक सत्यापन से बगैर लिंकित किए और प्रत्यक्ष नकदी हस्तांतरण की राह ना अपनाते हुए सार्वजनिक वितरण प्रणाली के लाभों को जिसमें खाद्यान्न तथा मोटहन(पोषक अनाज), दाल, चीनी तथा तेल शामिल है–सार्विक किया जाय;
  1. कानून अथवा सामाजिक निगरानी के मार्फत पशुओं के व्यापार पर आयद सभी प्रतिबंधों को हटाते हुए अवारा पशुओं से पैदा खतरे का समाधान किया जाय, किसानों को जंगली तथा आवारा पशुओं से फसलों को पहुंचे नुकसान की भरपायी हो तथा पशुशाला के निर्माण में मदद मुहैया करायी जाय;
  1. किसान की सचेत सहमति के बगैर भूमि-अधिग्रहण और भूमि-समुच्चयन ना हो; व्यावसायिक भूमि के विकास अथवा भूमि-बैंक के निर्माण के लिए कृषि-भूमि का अधिग्रहण या उसके उपयोग में बदलाव ना किया जाय; भूमि-अधिग्रहण, पुनर्वास तथा पुनर्स्थापना अधिनियम 2013 में वर्णित उचित मुआवजे तथा पारदर्शिता संबंधी अधिकार के राज्य स्तर पर हो रहे हनन या इस कानून के उल्लंघन को रोका जाय; भूमि के उपयोग तथा कृषि-भूमि की सुरक्षा के निमित्त नीति बनायी जाय;
  1. चीनी मिलों को आदेश दिया जाय कि गन्ना किसानों को गन्ने की बिक्री के 14 दिनों के भीतर अगर वे बकाया नहीं चुकाते तो बकाये की रकम पर 15 फीसद की सालाना दर से सूद दें; गन्ने की एफआरपी चीनी की 9.5 प्रतिशत रिकवरी से जोड़ते हुए निर्धारित की जाय;
  1. जिन कीटनाशकों को अन्यत्र प्रतिबंधित कर दिया गया है उन्हें वापस ले लिया जाय और बगैर व्यापक जरुरत, विकल्प तथा प्रभाव के आकलन के जीन-संवर्धित बीजों को अनुमति ना दी जाय;
  1. खेती तथा खाद्य-प्रसंस्करण में प्रत्यक्ष विदेशी निवेश की अनुमति ना दी जाय, खेती को मुक्त व्यापार समझौते -जिसमें प्रस्तावित रिजनल कंप्रेहेंसिव इकॉनॉमिक पार्टनरशिप(आरसीईपी) भी शामिल है- से हटा लिया जाय;
  1. सरकारी योजनाओं के लाभ प्राप्त करने के निमित्त सभी वास्तविक किसानों का, जिसमें बंटाईदार किसान, महिला किसान, किराये पर खेती करने वाले किसान, पट्टे पर खेती करने वाले किसान तथा ग्रामीण श्रमिक आदि शामिल हैं- पंजीकरण और सत्यापन अनिवार्य हो; तथा
  1. निर्वनीकरण के नाम पर आदिवासियों किसानों को उजाड़ना बंद हो,पंचायत(अनुसूचित क्षेत्रों तक विस्तार) अधिनियम तथा वनाधिकार अधिनियम, 2006 को बिना कमजोर किये सख्ती से लागू किया जाय;

औरआगे सरकार से जोर देकर कहना चाहते हैं कि वह ऐसी नीतियां बनायें जो

  1. भूमिहीनों को भूमि तथा जीविका का अधिकार प्रदान करे जिसमें खेती की जमीन तथा घर की जमीन, मछली मारने के लिए पानी तथा मामूली खनिजों का खनन आदि शामिल है, तथा;
  1. सुनिश्चित हो कि प्राकृतिक आपदा से फसल को हुए नुकसान की भरपायी पर्याप्त, समय पर और कारगर तरीके से होगी; ऐसी व्यापक फसल बीमा अमल में आये जो किसानों को लाभ पहुंचाये ना कि सिर्फ बीमा कंपनियों को और इसमें हर किसान को सभी फसलों के हर किस्म के जोखिम से कवर प्रदान किया जाय, इस फसल बीमा में नुकसान के आकलन के लिए हर खेत को एक इकाई माना जाय, सूखा प्रबंधन से संबंधित नियमावली में हुए किसान-विरोधी परिवर्तनों को वापस लिया जाय;
  1. किसानों के लिए टिकाऊ साधनों के मार्फत सुनिश्चित सुरक्षाकारी सिंचाई की व्यवस्था हो, खासकर वर्षासिंचित इलाकों में;
  1. डेयरी के लिए दूध का उपार्जन तथा दूध पर गारंटीशुदा लाभकारी मूल्य सुनिश्चित हो और मिड डे मील तथा समेकित बाल विकास कार्यक्रम आदि के जरिए पूरक पोषाहार दिया जाय;
  1. आत्महत्या से प्रभावित किसान-परिवारों के सभी कर्ज माफ हों और ऐसे परिवारों के बच्चों को विशेष अवसर मुहैया कराये जायें;
  1. अनुबंध कृषि अधिनियम(कांट्रैक्ट फार्मिंग एक्ट 2018) का पुनरावलोकन हो और इसके नाम पर हो रही कारपोरेट लूट से किसानों को बचाया जाय;
  1. कृषि के कारपोरेटीकरण तथा कृषि पर बहुराष्ट्रीय निगमों का दबदबा बढ़ाने की जगह कृषक उत्पादक संगठनों तथा कृषक सहकारी समितियों के तहत उपार्जन, प्रसंस्करण तथा विपणन को बढ़ावा दिया जाय; और
  1. खेती-बाड़ी को लेकर एक पारिस्थिकीगत विचार-परिवेश बने जो उपयुक्त फसल-चक्र पर आधारित तथा स्थानीय बीज-विविधता को बढ़ावा देने वाला हो ताकि आर्थिक रुप से व्यवहार्य, पारिस्थिकीय रुप से टिकाऊ, स्वायत्त तथा जलवायु-संबंधी बदलावों को सह सकने में सक्षम कृषि का मार्ग प्रशस्त हो सके.


The above Charter is released by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) on the occasion of the historic Kisan Mukti March in Delhi, 29-30 November 2018.

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An Irreparable Loss for the Broader Health Movement Globally and in India: PHM

People’s Health Movement’s tribute to Dr Amit Sengupta
amit sengupta

It is with extreme sadness that we announce the passing away of our dear comrade Dr. Amit Sengupta, a beloved colleague, friend, mentor and activist. Amit passed away on November 28, 2018, in a swimming accident in Goa, India.

Amit was a founding member of the People’s Health Movement (PHM) at its creation in 2000 in Savar, Bangladesh.

Trained as a medical doctor, Amit dedicated his life to the struggle for universal access to health, and worked on issues related to public health, pharmaceuticals policy and intellectual property rights. He led several research projects in the area of public health and medicines policy, and was associated with several civil society platforms and networks, including the All India People’s Science Network. He was the Associate Global Coordinator PHM and coordinated the editorial group of the Global Health Watch and the WHO Watch. He was the Co-Convenor of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), the Indian Chapter of PHM. He wrote regularly for journals and newspapers across India and the world.

Amit played a key role in the recently concluded People’s Health Assembly in Dhaka where more than 1,400 people from around 73 countries came together to share their struggles and plan for coordinated action for health and social justice.

Amit brought his enormous political, organisational and leadership capacity to PHM. We were privileged to have him as a co-traveller. He leaves us a wonderful legacy: the magic of his life, his intelligence, warmth, honesty, joy, wry humour and his steadfast commitment to a just and equitable world.

The untimely demise of this special comrade and friend is an irreparable loss to all of us personally, Amit’s family and for the broader health movement globally and in India.

We offer our condolences and solidarity to Amit’s wife Tripta and son Arijit. PHM and JSA will continue to carry forward Amit’s vision of strengthening the public health movement towards health for all.

Thank you comrade Amit.

Adios, Red Salute, Laal Salaam!

Long Live Amit Sengupta!

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India – Ideas as Crime in a Majoritarian Democracy

The argument of the ‘hurt sentiment brigade’ seems to be that if anybody — an individual or even an institution like the Supreme Court — dares to disagree with what they perceive to be right, then they will have to face the consequences.
30 Nov 2018
idea as crime in democracy
Image Courtesy: Vappingo

To such a degree has Religion fuelled conflict, complicated politics, retarded social development and impaired human relations across the world, that one is often tempted to propose that Religion is innately an enemy of Humanity, if not indeed of itself a crime against Humanity … it is time that the world adopted a position that refuses to countenance Religion as an acceptable justification for, excuse or extenuation of – crimes against Humanity.

-Wole Soyinka

A modern critique of Sacred Books of any religion — which are worshipped by its followers — is an act which is full of dilemmas.

What should one say if they have references about burning of infidels, permitting a man to marry many women, instructing the rulers to cut somebody’s tongue or pour hot lead into somebody’s ears if s/he sings/listens to religious hymns, ordering a particular section of its devotees to be kept aloof even from places of worship or spotting a ‘divine figure’ engaged in abusing one’s own daughter or harassing women.

Should a critical intellectual just look the other way, pretending that s/he does not see, decide to keep quiet or rationalise such acts to further re-ensure her/his faith or say few things, albeit in a mild tone, that such acts do not match modern values?

And what should a modern state — which claims to be not based on faith — do in such a case? Facilitate flourishing of such critiques or allow faith merchants/fanatics of different shades to criminalise such acts taking recourse to its own statue books.

The times through which we are passing — which have been characterised as a period of explosion of religiosities — one is witness to increasing stigmatisation of such critiques, which have even led to planned murders, assassinations of writers, rationalists, cultural workers, bombing of cultural festivals, suicide squads attack on shrines which celebrate compositeness of our cultures etc.

This part of South Asia is becoming increasingly (in)famous for such acts.

The latest in the series happens to be the case filed by the ruling dispensation against a noted writer and cultural critic, Kuldeep Kumar, for an article and the newspaper, National Herald, where it was duly carried. The said article tries to discuss few of the epics to look at the questionable behaviour of ‘divine figures’ vis-a-vis women.

No doubt disagreements over the article would always be welcomed, but why criminalise any critical/alternate reading of the epics. Perhaps, it would be repeating the obvious that this is not the first incident of its kind, rather it should be emphasised that with ascent of Hindutva Supremacist forces at the Centre and many states, filing of such cases has seen a quantum jump.

Things have reached such a maddening proportion that even the Supreme Court was forced to sound a warning bell when a case was filed against Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a well-known cricketer, for ‘hurting religious sentiments’ when he was depicted as Lord Vishnu on a magazine cover.

Rejecting the petition filed against him, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar said:

“Insults to religion offered unwittingly or carelessly or without any deliberate or malicious intention to outrage the religious feelings of that class” should not be charged with hurting religious sentiments.

It is a different matter that there has been no tempering of voices. Now, the Supreme Court itself has been charged with hurting ‘sentiments of Hindus’ for deferring  the Ayodhya title dispute case because it had ‘more important issues’. A very senior leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi had no qualms in saying that by doing this, the highest Court hurt sentiments of Hindus.

One heard similar voices over SC’s intervention in the Sabarimala issue when, in a majority judgement, it ruled that not allowing women in their “menstruating years” into Sabarimala is ultra vires the Constitution, and all women should be allowed to enter the temple. Leader after leader of the RSS and its plethora of affiliated organisations have questioned this judgement and said that it should have also considered traditions as well.

And this feeling of ‘hurt’ is not limited to the majority community only.

Recently, Kerala was in the news because Muslim organisations protested when in a school play in Kozhikode, a girl character gave azaan. According to the Muslim organisations, the play “insults the Muslim way of life,” as calling out the azaan is a ritual performed by a male Muezzin. The irony of the situation was that the play, which had earned much praise and awards, is was now being stigmatised.

Thus, the crux of the argument of this ‘hurt sentiment brigade’ seems to be that if anybody — may be an individual or even an institution like the Supreme Court — dares to disagree with what they perceive to be right, then they will have to face the consequences.

As things stand today, any critique of epics is a ‘no go’ area in the present scheme of things.

One can recall how A K Ramanujan’s seminal essay on Three Hundred Ramayanas was banished from Delhi University earlier, or how Wendy Doniger’s well-known book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, was dumped when exclusivist forces threatened to engage in violence. This was at a time when they were still far away from holding reins of power at the Centre. Today, the stint of power at Centre has further emboldened them and they seem to be going full steam ahead on the strength of state patronage as well as street power.

And the focus now is not limited to (unofficial) ban on any alternate reading of epics, it has even expanded to how the marginalised, the exploited would like to describe themselves.

We know how the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had on August 7, issued (close on the heels of a high court order) a circular ‘advising’ the media to refrain from using the word “Dalit” while referring to those belonging to Scheduled Castes. It had directed that the Constitutional term ‘Scheduled Caste’ in English, and its translation in other national languages should alone be used for all official transaction, matters, dealings, certificates etc. for denoting the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes.

While the ‘arbitrary, irrational, unreasonable, discriminatory decision’ which goes against fundamental rights to equality (Article 14), non-discrimination (Article 15), various freedoms (Article 19) and life and liberty (Article 21) guaranteed under the Constitution have been challenged in the SC but it exhibited the mindset of the people in power who were even wary of a ‘self-chosen name’ by the socially oppressed which has been for them a “positive self-identifier and as a political identity”.

Perhaps the majoritarian understanding of democracy which they approve, has no space for such expressions.

The ‘prescription of identity’ is not limited to Dalits only. It extends to tribals and other oppressed categories as well. Instead of the much popular term Adivasi — original inhabitants — the dominant discourse paints/portrays them in a much-sanitised version ‘Vanvasis’ or forest dwellers.

Such prescription also extends to how they perceive their life experiences, and how they look back at the religion which they supposedly belonged to and the way it treated them.

And it is not a coincidence that right from attempts at targeting ‘Joothan’ by Omprakash Valmiki or curbing Perumal Murugan’s or Sowendra Hansda Sekhar’s freedom of expression or to banning ‘Why I am not a Hindu’ and other books by Kancha Ilaiah from the Delhi University curriculum , people are increasingly being told how to even comprehend one’s life experiences.

The whole process reminds one of Jayant Lele talk about the ‘three essential characteristics of Hindutva. According to him, it is ‘hegemonic, homogenising and pedagogic, all at the same time and in complexly interrelated ways’. (Hindutva, The Emergence of the Right)

As this regime enters its final year, one gets a feeling that perhaps we have entered the dystopian world depicted by George Orwell in his classic novel ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’. Written in different times and under a different context, one is now discovering Orwell’s classic novel which lampoons authoritarian regimes, is finding strange resonance in today’s India. Readers may be reminded that the ministry of truth also called ‘minitrue’ — one of the four ministries in Oceania, the fantasy land in the novel, whose job is ‘to engage in any necessary falsification of historical events, has few slogans written on its wall. It unashamedly declares ‘War Is Peace’, ‘Freedom is Slavery’, ‘Ignorance is Strength’.

And the most pertinent concept popularised by the novel was that of thoughtcrime — which is another way to describe illegal thought. Thoughtcrime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question Ingsoc, the ruling party. The novel discusses how the government attempts to control not only speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects.

Welcome, to the dystopian world of Hindu Rashtra!


( First published here :

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Mumbai -The Hindu Journalist thrown out of Azad Maidan, CM seeks report

‘I was pushed out of Azad Maidan’

The melee outside Azad Maidan after the incident on Tuesday night.The melee outside Azad Maidan after the incident on Tuesday night.

The Hindu journalist describes how police refused to let him cover protest

I wasn’t supposed to be a part of this story.

It was 10 p.m. on what appeared to be a regular workday. Just before I wound up, I decided to make a quick trip to Azad Maidan, where a protest was in progress against the proposed oil refinery in Ratnagiri’s Nanar village. I had got wind of a potential stand-off between police and protesters, and decided to head there.

As I entered the main gate of Azad Maidan, which faces the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation headquarters, a police officer stopped me in my tracks and asked to check the bag I was carrying. I showed him the bag, told him I was a journalist, and showed him my State government accreditation card. The word ‘journalist’ appeared to have triggered him. He grabbed my shoulder and said I could not enter the ground. Surprised, I asked him why.

“Don’t ask questions. Do what I tell you. Journalists are not allowed,” he said. I quickly checked his identity. Jagnath Ganage, Sub Inspector, Azad Maidan police station.

I tried reasoning with him, but he pushed me with both hands and began to raise his voice: “Do not ask questions, just go away.” Four constables and another sub-inspector (I couldn’t read his name, in the melee) rushed to Mr. Ganage’s side. Things soon turned physical. Mr. Ganage pushed me out of the main gate, telling me that no one apart from protesters was allowed there. He asked me to call the senior inspector of Azad Maidan police station, Vasant Wakhare. “Wait for 30 minutes. Negotiations are on,” he said [The police was in the midst of negotiations with the protesters, asking them to leave the ground. They had earlier announced they would not leave until the Chief Minister had met them].

I asked him how negotiations can stop a journalist from entering the ground, but he refused to answer. A call to Mr. Wakhare didn’t help either.

The two sub-inspectors, in the meantime, kept trying to push me out. I asked them to show me the order barring journalists from the venue. The answer was, “There is none.”

For me, as perhaps for all journalists in the city, this was a first. A new low. Why would a journalist doing his job be stopped by the authorities so brazenly?

Senior police officers were unavailable for comment. In response to my tweet, the Mumbai police had this to say: “We are forwarding your complaint to the concerned Supervisory Officer.

Maharashtra CM seeks report on manhandling of The Hindu’s journalist

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday sought a report on policemen manhandling a journalist of The Hindu who was discharging his duty in covering protests against the proposed Nanar refinery in Ratnagiri district.

Mr. Fadnavis was speaking on the floor of State Legislative Assembly after the issue of Alok Deshpande, the journalist with The Hindu being manhandled by the police, was raised by the Leader of Opposition, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.

The Chief Minister announced that an inquiry would be conducted into the Tuesday night incident where Mr. Deshpande was stopped from entering Azad Maidan and misbehaved with by policemen and assured that action would be taken.

Mr. Deshpande was stopped at the main gate of Azad Maidan by police sub-inspector Jagnath Ganage on Tuesday night and prevented from entering the protest site. Four police constables and another sub-inspector also joined in and pushed Mr. Deshpande out using force.

The Mumbai Press Club, too, condemned the unlawful act of Azad Maidan police station officers.

“The police act is highly condemnable and warrants a disciplinary action against the officers involved,” it said in a statement.

When Mumbai Press Club and other journalists associations brought the unsavory and anti-freedom of press incident to his notice, CM Devendra Fadnavis made an immediate announcement in the Assembly that action would be taken against the erring police officers.

“As we welcome CM’s quick response, we appeal to him to tell the police force to stop browbeating working journalists and create an atmosphere of coexistence,” the Mumbai Press Club said in the statement

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Bring back Chandramukhi: Hyd transgender community to move HC for missing candidate


Chandramukhi, a transwoman contesting the Telangana elections on a Bahujan Left Front (BLF) ticket, has reportedly been missing since 8.25 am on Tuesday

Twenty hours after Chandramukhi, the transgender candidate contesting the Telangana elections on a Bahujan Left Front (BLF) ticket, went missing, the trans community in Hyderabad has stated that they will be filing a habeas corpus writ petition with the Hyderabad High Court on Wednesday. The community will also be filing a complaint with the Telangana Election Commission.

“We are trying to get a noon hearing. We are trying to put pressure on the police to take the matter seriously and hasten the investigation,” said Vaijayanthi Mowgli, the transgender activist who preparing the documents to file with the Election Commission and High Court, “We still have no clarity on her whereabouts as of now,” she added.

Chandramukhi has reportedly been missing since 8.25 am on Tuesday. A missing person’s complaint was filed, based on which an FIR was registered at the Banjara Hills Police Station. The police have formed a special team comprising around 15 to 20 officers to try and trace her.

The police on Tuesday reviewed CCTV footage of Chandramukhi’s residence and remain tight-lipped about their investigation.

“The last call she received was at 8.17 am on Tuesday and her phone was traced to somewhere around Yaramanzil Colony, around 2 to 3 km away from her residence in Banjara Hills, but is now switched off. She was noticed missing since 8.25 am and the door of her house has been locked from outside,” the Banjara Hills SHO told TNM on Tuesday.

The last person to call Chandramukhi has been identified as Raju, a BLF party worker.

“When the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Banjara Hills showed us the number, we identified the number to be that of Raju. The ACP then called Raju, who told the ACP that he had called Chandramukhi to talk about election-related issues,” said Sandhya, President, Progressive Organisation of Women (POW).

Chandramukhi, a well-known face in Hyderabad’s trans community, is contesting from the Goshamahal constituency in Hyderabad on a Bahujan Left Front (BLF) ticket. She will be taking on bigwigs such as the BJP’s Raja Singh and Congress’ Mukesh Goud.

“We fear for her safety and condemn the lack of safety measures organized for her and for other women and transgender candidates, which acts as a strong force that dissuades transgender persons and women from joining politics. Chandramukhi’s campaign kicked off just one day before she went missing,” a press release by the Telangana Hijra Trans Samiti said.

Chandramukhi is the first and the only transgender candidate out of 1,821 candidates contesting in the Telangana elections, scheduled to be held on December 7. In her interview with TNM earlier this week, she expressed her intention to fix the bare basics in Goshamahal.

“I’m not promising them the world and I won’t promise to provide each and every person with a job and that I will do everything. Road facility is terrible, roadside areas and by-lanes are in bad shape, housing schemes are bad; we don’t even have water facilities in some areas. Drainage collection is bad and there is a division between the rich and the poor. I will remove that first,” Chandramukhi had said, speaking to TNM.

Lets find Chandramukhi, BLF Candidate Ms. Chandramukhi, contesting from Goshamahal constituency in Telangana has been missing since 8.25 AM on 27th Nov 2018. An FIR was registered by her daughter Ms. Sonam Rathod at 4.30PM on 27th Nov 2018 at Banjara Hills Police Station with FIR No. 1131/2018. It is obvious that the opponents contesting in Goshamahal constituency are threatened by Chandramukhi owing to her clarity on issues of state and welfare of citizens. The officials’ laidback attitude on her disappearance need to be translated to action and start an immediate search to find her using the state police department.

Our demand is to search all the homes of Goshamahal constituency contestants and the homes of their related associates on a war footing. And also intensify the search operation as a state emergency.

Let’s do a telethon to put the line officials under pressure to start action. Here are some ideas.
Call the following officials using the following script

BLF Candidate Ms. Chandramukhi, contesting from Goshamahal constituency in Telangana has been missing since 8.25 AM on 27th Nov 2018. An FIR was registered by her daughter Ms. Sonam Rathod at 4.30PM on 27th Nov 2018 at Banjara Hills Police Station with FIR No. 1131/2018. It is obvious that the opponents contesting in Goshamahal constituency are threatened by Chandramukhi owing to her clarity on issues of state and welfare of citizens. Our demand is to search all the homes of Goshamahal constituency contestants and the homes of their related associates on a war footing. And also intensify the search operation as a state emergency.

  1. Call Chief Electoral Officer of Telangana Sri Rajat Kumar IAS at 040-29801521/29801523, Secretary – 9848144824, Jt. Secretary – 9949588353, Asst Secretary-9959090010, Control Room-040-29802897 / 29802895

  2. Call IG Women’s Safety Ms. Swati Lakra at 09490616001 / 040-23286722

  3. Call National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson Ms. Rekha Sharma at 011-26944808, 26944880, 26944883 (Delhi telephone numbers) and tweet the grievance to @sharmarekha and @NCWIndia with copy to @TelanganaDGP and @ IGWomenSafety from our individual Twitter handles with hashtag #FindChandramukhi#ProtectTransgenderElectoralCandidates (Can the social media team draft some crisp tweets for this?)

  4. Call Election Commissioner of India Toll-Free: 1800111950 (National Contact Centre) / 1950 (State Contact Centre)

Social Media team should draft a complaint on the above lines and register on

  1. National Commission for Women (NCW) website registration link

  2. Election Commissioner of India – Integrated Contact Centre- National Grievances Service Portal and call Toll-Free: 1800111950 (National Contact Centre) / 1950 (State Contact Centre)

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India – Are our epics replete with #MeToo sagas?

The swayamvar of Draupadi

Consent is the essence of the #MeToo campaign. At the core of the campaign is the entirely just and legitimate demand that a woman’s right to say ‘No’ or ‘Yes’ must be respected in all situations, that she should have the freedom to take her own decisions, and that she should not be forced to do anything against her will. In short, a woman should be accepted by the society as an independent, free and empowered individual, who can fully take care of herself. Unfortunately, this does not match with the existing social reality. One wonders if misogyny is deeply rooted in our religious, cultural and literary traditions and is an integral part of the social system and its ideology, known as patriarchy.

After prescribing that a girl is guarded by her father, a young woman by her husband and an old woman by her son, Manusmriti unequivocally declares that na stree svatantrayam arhati —“a woman does not deserve freedom”. It is obvious that the lawgiver is merely codifying a social attitude that has evolved over many centuries while, at the same time, also upholding it as an eternal social norm.

Manusmriti’s prescriptions may be known to only a learned few but their essence has percolated deep down so as to become common wisdom. However, our epics –Ramayana and Mahabharata – are very widely known all over the country and almost everybody is familiar with their main story and characters. Women have been consistently denied choice and their consent is never sought for anything. It is another matter that women themselves have internalised patriarchal values and treat other women accordingly. Draupadi’s is a case in point.

Her Swayamvara (choosing one’s husband) was itself a sham as she had no say in deciding about the condition of the Swayamvara: that only that archer whose arrow will pierce the eye of a rotating fish will be eligible to marry her. Although Arjuna had won the contest, his mother Kunti made Draupadi the wife of her other four sons too without her consent as all of them were lusting after her. She was publicly humiliated by her accidental husband Yudhishthira who staked her and lost in a game of dice. When an attempt to disrobe her was made at the Kaurava court and Karna and Duryodhana used vulgar language and gestures, calling her a “prostitute”, nobody rose in her defence. When she raised a point of law, even wise men like Bhishma and Vidura kept quiet. When the Pandavas were living in exile, Duryodhana’s brother-in-law Jayadratha tried to rape her. In all these shameful episodes, the guilty men did not attract any stigma and remained as respectable as ever.

Sita is the best-known example of how patriarchy treats a woman. It was not her but her foster father Janaka who had decided the condition for winning the Swayamvara contest. When Rama was exiled, she too went with him because she was his ardhangini (better half)

The story of Madhavi that occurs in the Udyoga Parva of the Mahabharata, is particularly heart-rending as she is turned into a sex-object. When sage Vishwamitra’s disciple Galava kept on insisting on offering guru-dakshina, Vishvamitra asked him to offer eight hundred horses of the finest breed whose body was white and one side of their ears of a dark colour. Galava went to King Yayati who, without listening to his demand, promised to meet it. When he heard the demand, he said he had no such horses and asked Galava to take his extremely beautiful daughter Madhavi to other kings and procure the horses.

And, kings Haryashva, Divodasa and Ushinara kept her with them, produced sons and returned her to Galava, each giving two hundred horses to him. He was still two hundred horses short. So Vishwamitra himself kept Madhavi with him, produced sons and released Galava from his debt. Then, Madhavi was returned to Yayati who held a Swayamvara for her. Here, for the first time, she was given the freedom to choose. And, she chose the life of renunciation and quietly walked out of the Swayamvara without saying a word. None of these men were ever indicted of any wrong-doings.

Sita is the best-known example of how patriarchy treats a woman. It was not her but her foster father Janaka who had decided the condition for winning the Swayamvara contest. When Rama was exiled, she too went with him because she was his ardhangini (better half). As Lakshman was not exiled and himself chose to accompany Rama, he did not allow his wife Urmila to come with him. After killing Ravana, Rama told Sita in front of everybody that he had defeated the Rakshasas only to avenge the insult that Ravana had heaped on him by abducting his wife, not to get Sita back and she was free to go anywhere she liked. Then he asked her to go through agnipariksha to prove her chastity. What worse insult a woman could suffer publicly! And, then, Rama abandoned a pregnant Sita in a forest full of wild animals at night. She could have died, had sage Valmiki not met her by chance. Little wonder that abandoning an innocent wife is not frowned upon even today.

None of the men who mistreated women was ever punished. The punishment was reserved for Ravan’s sister Suparnakha who gave expression to her sexuality and told Rama that she fancied him. Her nose and ears were cut off.

Is our present very different from our past?

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Activist Rehana Fathima arrested, accused of hurting religious sentiments in FB post #FOE

A case was filed against Rehana Fathima for her social media post that was claimed to be communally divisive in nature.

Activist Rehana Fathima, who attempted to climb Sabarimala in October, has been arrested by the Pathanamthitta police on Tuesday. Rehana was arrested for her Facebook post, which allegedly hurt the sentiments of the Ayyappa devotees. She was arrested from Kochi by the Pathanamthitta police, and is currently being taken to the Pathanamthitta town police station for questioning.

On October 22, the Pathanamthitta police filed a case against Rehana Fatima for putting up social media posts that are allegedly communally divisive in nature. One of them was a photo of herself that Rehana had posted on her Facebook page, which several people took offence to. Rehana had posted a picture on Facebook on September 30, dressed as an Ayyappa devotee wearing a rudraksha and sporting a patta, with the caption ‘Thathvamasi’. The case was registered following a complaint filed by the Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi alleging that her social media posts have hurt their religious sentiments. The complaint was directly handed over to the District Police Chief of Pathanamthitta by the Sabarimala Samrakshana Samiti secretary P Padmakumar.

A case was registered under IPC section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), Pathanamthitta CI Sunil Kumar said. On October 30, Rehana moved the Kerala HC seeking anticipatory bail, which was rejected by the Kerala High Court on November 16. The High Court had further instructed the Kerala police to go ahead with necessary action against the activist, according to reports.

Rehana Fathima hit headlines as she was one of the six women who tried to enter the Sabarimala sanctum to offer her prayers to the deity. Rehana was given special protection by policemen who escorted her till the Nadapanthal, 500 metres away from the shrine. She was dressed like Ayyappa, in black clothes, carrying the irumudikettu (the two-layered sacred bundle without which devotees cannot enter the temple).

The model and activist has been in controvesies in social media circles in Kerala for being outspoken about her views. After her attempted Sabarimala climb, Rehana, who was employed at BSNL’s Kochi boat jetty branch as a phone mechanic, was transferred to Ravipuram to a role that reportedly did not require any direct contact or communication with customers.

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Aadhaar: PVC Cards Issued in a Camp under IDFC Banner. Bank Says It Did Not Organise the Camp!

Day by day, the nuisances of Aadhaar are becoming more and more bizarre. There was a camp organised by IDFC Bank in Bengaluru for providing plastic cards of Aadhaar. There were banners displaying the name of IDFC Bank. However, IDFC Bank denied organising any such camp. In addition, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) itself had barred the use of plastic or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Aadhaar cards. But more about it later.
Bengaluru-based Prem Balakrishnan, in a series of tweets has asked IDFC Bank whether it has the necessary permission to print Aadhaar data on a PVC card. He also asked UIDAI if private banks like IDFC Bank are allowed to collect Aadhaar data under pretext of printing an Aadhaar card on plastic or PVC.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter
Prem Balakrishnan

@IDFC_Bank Do you have permission to print data on PVC card? @UIDAI Are these private banks allowed to collect Aadhar data in the name of printing Aadhar on PVC card ? Isn’t it against Supreme court verdict????

Officials from IDFC Bank contacted Prem and told him that the said camp, where Aadhaar cards were being printed on plastic or PVC, was not organised by the Bank. The same was also confirmed by the bank in an email to Prem.

Prem Balakrishnan@premsight

Thank you @IDFC_Bank . Yes, your team had contacted me. Shockingly, they claim that the camp was NOT setup by IDFC Bank. I have requested for confirmation letter stating the same from bank authorities. Request your co-operation in averting a huge scam. @UIDAI @RBI @Aadhaar_Care

Prem Balakrishnan@premsight

Mail confirmation from IDFC bank.

View image on Twitter
The main question here is, if IDFC Bank has not organised the camp, then who organised it? How did the lender allow someone to use its name and logo on the banners displayed at the camp at Prestige Technology Park at Kadubeesanahalli in Bengaluru?
According to UIDAI collecting Aadhaar information for printing a plastic or PVC card or unauthorised printing of Aadhaar card or aiding such persons in any manner amounts to a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment under the Indian Penal Code and Aadhaar Act 2016.
UIDAI had also advised people to be watchful for the protection of their privacy and recommended not to share their Aadhaar number or personal details to unauthorised agencies for getting it laminated, or printed on plastic card.
Earlier in September 2018, the Supreme Court has barred banks, telecom companies and other private entities from using Aadhaar for identification. With the apex court declaring Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act as unconstitutional, bank account-holders, e-wallet or mobile wallet users and mobile subscribers are no longer required to use their Aadhaar number.
The Supreme Court has given a time limit to all private entities for deletion of all such e-know-your-customer (eKYC) data from their records. In a circular issued on 26 October 2018, the department of telecommunication (DoT) directed all unified license holders to discontinue the use of Aadhaar eKYC for issuing new SIM and re-verification of existing subscribers before 5 November 2018.
“…the use of Aadhaar authentication is not permissible for eKYC for verification of telecom subscribers, nor for issuing new mobile connections. In compliance with o the judgement of the Supreme Court, all licensees are to discontinue the use of Aadhaar eKYC service of UIDAI both for verification as well as for issuing new mobile connections. All TSPs shall ensure its implementation across the country in a time bound manner and compliance in this regard be submitted by 5 November 2018,” the telecom department said in the circular.
However, till today, there is no such action. In fact, TRAI and UIDAI are insisting that subscribers can use physical copy of their Aadhaar number for KYC. UIDAI had said, service providers can use offline verification tools like eAadhaar and QR code that leverage the unique ID without authentication, any access to biometrics, or revealing the 12-digit number. But there is no word on deletion of subscriber data from their servers as mandated by the apex court.
 The same IDFC Bank, which has denied having organised any camp for the plastic Aadhaar card, however continues to use the unique ID for opening a bank account through microATM. On its portal, IDFC Bank says, “Bringing paperless account opening to the under banked and unbanked areas, customers can open an account just by linking their Aadhaar Number and biometric authentication”.
Earlier in February this year, UIDAI had issued a clarification saying plastic or PVC Aadhaar smart cards are often not usable as the QR code commonly becomes dysfunctional during such unauthorised printing at some vendor or shop. Also, there could be a possibility of sharing Aadhaar details like personal sensitive demographic information without informed consent with some devious elements.
“The so-called Aadhaar Smart card is totally unnecessary and a waste as during such printing its QR code often becomes dysfunctional. The Aadhaar card or the downloaded Aadhaar card printed on ordinary paper or mAadhaar is perfectly valid for all kind of uses,” Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chief executive (CEO) of UIDAI, had said in a statement.

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