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Archives for : DNA

Right to Free Speech “butchered” by Team Modi- DNA article Vanishes #Censorship #WTFnews

modi-aricle-img

On April 29, one of the most widely shared news on the Indian Internet scene – pictures of Digvijay Singh romancing a journalist notwithstanding of course – was an article on DNA titled “Mamata Banerjee calls Narendra Modi ‘butcher of Gujarat’; here are 9 myth busters on 2002 post-Godhra riots”. The article, according to the author, “proud Congress supporter” Shehzad Poonawalla, was essentially a nine-point listicle “busting nine myths” about Gujarat “perpetrated by Narendra Modi’s PR machinery”.

The short piece, written in less than an hour according to Poonawala, is based on several findings by independent commissions and newspaper reports – most of them published in the mid-2000s, just after the riots in 2002. In terms of new and fresh facts, there is very little Poonawalla’s article brings to the table. Which is why it’s odd that it gathered as much traction as it did.

But it did.

The story, which was aggressively shared on social media by the usual suspects, however, didn’t survive to see the light of the next day. Clicking on the link of the article now leads to a blank page.

 

Expectedly, India’s paragons of free speech raised a huge hue about the platform where all great minds meet – twitter. It was conspiracy theories galore.

 

Newslaundry got in touch with the involved parties to get their side (whoever was willing to give one that is). In a telephonic interview with Newslaundry, Poonawala said, “Narendra Modi’s PR machinery took the article down since they’re uncomfortable that every point I made was backed with facts.” To Newslaundry’s enquiry if DNA intimated him before taking the article was taken down, he said, “I got in touch with them in the morning but I don’t grudge them since they are obliged to function within certain constraints and limitations. The person from DNA I was coordinating with for the story, did everything within his capacity to keep the article up but it was beyond him.” Poonawala, however, refused to divulge the name of the person he was in touch with from DNA since it would “compromise” him. He did send us an email though, where he gave a detailed version of his side of the story:

Right to Free Speech “butchered” by Team Modi…

Yesterday, I wrote a piece for the DNA (I regularly write for their online portal) called “Between Myths and Truths” that busted 9 myths being perpetrated by Mr Narendra Modi wrt 2002 riots. These 9 myth busters were not my opinions but statements of facts that were culled from institutional records like Supreme Court, NHRC report, etc. (see below) This article was posted at 1pm and within few hours it got over 1000 + shares on facebook, twitter and spread like wild fire, drawing reactions from Modi supporters and his opponents. Even the likes of Sidharth Vardarajan & Shashi Tharoor shared the piece and tweeted about it. DNA, as you can see, itself tweeted about the article three times since it was a Top Story!

 

This morning , without notice, the article was forced to be pulled down. Now if you visit the linkhttp://www.dnaindia.com/node/1983270, it says “The requested page cannot be found”.

I have been told that Narenda Modi’s team was so rattled that they instantly ordered the pulling down of the article. The article for the first time compiled the myth-busting answers to all of Mr Modi’s perpetrated falsehoods on Gujarat 2002 – how he failed to stop the rioting in 2-3 days as is claimed, how he communalised the air with his speeches, how his police acted in a partisan manner, how he applied for a US visa and was rejected one, how his government scuttled the process of law…

All I can say, like I said in my piece, this is the defeat of Truth by Falsehoods and whenever Truth becomes a victim to falsehoods, there is just one, long sigh that reverberates in our collective conscience “Hey Ram”!

Newslaundry’s multiple attempts to get in touch with Kunal Majumdar, Associate Editor (Digital) at Zee Media – who is responsible for DNA’s online content according to his Twitter bio – have proved futile. Majumdar didn’t respond to any of our multiple calls, tweets or email.

The reaction of the third party involved in the episode, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), varied from person to person. Vineet Goenka, the co-convenor of the BJP’s IT Cell, refused to comment on the matter saying that he was not authorised to. He instead directed me to the party’s spokespersons, Nirmala Sitharaman and Meenakshi Lekhi. Sitharaman claimed ignorance and said, “I have come to Hyderabad to cast my vote – I’m not in the know of what transpired. Meenakshi Lekhi, who seems to be busy fire-fighting Modi’s selfie-gaffe, didn’t take our calls.

The BJP though, in spite of all its social media-savviness, still appears to be ignorant of the Internet’s grammar. Anything that goes up on the internet stays on the internet. Any move to muzzle it only does the opposite. Here’s the link to a cached copy of the article, saved for posterity.
Feel free to share it.

 

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#India – Call for developing DNA identification cards

DNA

DNA (Photo credit: Steven2005)

Hyderabad: DNA identification cards can be developed for Indian citizens to serve as a single comprehensive identity cards, said speakers at a conference on DNA here Saturday.Such DNA fingerprinting card with unique marker can not only be a single comprehensive identity card for all purposes but can also help in offering better medical care for everybody, they said.

Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan urged the scientists to put together their heads and come out with single card to do away with multiple cards.

“We are spending thousands of crores on identification cards every other day and then saying it is useless card. It happened in case of citizenship card, PAN card, voter identity card and now they are coming to Aadhaar card,” said Narasimhan at the inaugural session of fifth international conference on ’emerging trends in applied biology, biomedicines and bioforensics’.

Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, vice chancellor, University of Hyderabad, said DNA analysis had become so cheap that within a few years instead of an Aadhaar card, one can have whole DNA sequence with unique marker.

“Adhar card is only 16 digit identifier of your identity but with a few thousand rupees, everybody’s entire DNA sequence can be put on a card,” he said.

He said with the DNA sequencing card, better medical facilities could be offered to everyone. This technology would also help in understand how populations originate, grow and spread and also the similarities between DNA of different people. The governor stressed the need for creating national database for DNA fingerprinting to tackle crime and various other issues. Noting that forensic tests were taking a long time, he also called for setting up a facility to look into emergent cases. Narasimhan, a former head of the Intelligence Bureau, advised the scientists to discuss potential health hazard for a person who undergoes forensic tests.

He questioned the reliability of polygraph test and also stressed the need for debate on whether Narco analysis is an intrusion into one’s health.

Director General of Police B. Prasada Rao said the advances in DNA technology had opened new vistas of research in biology, biomedicines and bioforensics.

He pointed out that Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory (APFSL) was able to identify all 44 victims of a bus fire in Mahabubnagar district within seven days. The bodies were charred beyond recognition but the APFSL identified them by DNA profiling and handed them over to their relatives.

The conference jointly organized by APFSL, BioAxis DNA Research Centre and C.R. Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (AIMSCS) is being attended by officials from investigating agencies, judicial agencies, police departments and scientists.

Sharada Avadhanam, director, APFSL, V. K. Saraswat, president, C.R. Rao AIMSCS and others addressed the conference.

IANS

 

First Published: Saturday, November 30, 2013, 19:10

 

 

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#India – Central Bureau of Imagination (CBI) – Araushi Murder Case #Vaw #mustread

Mumbai Mirror | Nov 7, 2013,
Central Bureau of Imagination
The Talwars are facing trial in the murders of their daughter Aarushi and help Hemraj
Avirook Sen

If you were incredibly foolish, then the CBI would have you believe this about the Aarushi-Hemraj murders:

* That Hemraj, the Talwars’ servant, was having sex with Aarushi while still wearing his slippers. When his body was found, a day after the Aarushi’s, on May 17, 2008, two days after he was killed, the slippers were on him. His post-mortem doctor, a witness for the CBI, has told the trial court this.

* That her father, Dr Rajesh Talwar saw this; was gravely, and suddenly, provoked. He went looking for a golf club, and finding one in the servant’s room, where it had been lying for the previous four months, came back and bludgeoned the two to death. Then, he went to his bar, pulled out a bottle of Ballantine’s and, according to the chief investigating officer AGL Kaul, took neat swigs of whiskey with the blood of two dead people on his hands.

* The CBI will also have you believe that Hemraj was carried to the terrace by Aarushi’s parents, Nupur and Rajesh Talwar, and dragged so as to hide the body.

They will also have you believe that Chunnilal Gautam, the first forensic expert on the scene, charged with the responsibility of collecting fingerprints and taking the first photographs after the murders, never actually took the trouble to take one flight of stairs up to the terrace to record vital parts of the crime scene on May 16, 2008, the day Aarushi was found murdered. This, despite the fact that three CBI witnesses claim that they had told the police they had seen blood on the stairs.

The defence demonstrated that Chunnilal Gautam, and the CBI counsel, committed one of the many acts of perjury in this case. Having claimed through the trial that there Gautam hadn’t been up the stairs leading up to the terrace where Hemraj’s body lay, the CBI was confronted with a document of their own. A document in which Gautam records how he recovered fingerprints from the stairs and the lock on the terrace door on 16 May, day 1 of the crime scene. It is part of the court record, but the CBI’s assumption is that no one reads them.

The circumstance of sex in slippers is unusual, to say the least. It is one of the reasons why an All India Institute of Scineces (AIIMS) expert committee concluded in 2008 that Hemraj was killed on the terrace; not dragged there when he was as good as dead.

This particular circumstance goes to the very heart of how the crime took place. If Hemraj walked up the stairs, how does the CBI’s “grave and sudden provocation” theory hold up? In two words: it doesn’t. No one with any instinct for survival would allow himself to be walked up a flight of stairs, followed by a madman with a golf club and a sharp weapon intent on killing him when they got there.

This scenario was too outlandish even by the CBI’s standards. This is why they went with the lie that Hemraj’s blood was found in Aarushi’s room. That is wasn’t has been demonstrated repeatedly at the trial court using the CBI’s own documents. But this hasn’t made the CBI counsel any less enthusiastic about the falsehood.

And what about that swig of whiskey? The bottle had what resembled fingerprints on it. DNA tests revealed that the blood of both victims was on the bottles. The murderer had touched the bottle…

But the fingerprints didn’t match the Talwars. Or, according to Chunnilal Gautam, any of the other suspects.

And here is the nub of the story: the CBI’s case is that no “outsider” would take dare to take a swig of whiskey after having committed the horrific crimes. But if there were prints, whose were they? It is established that they didn’t come from the Talwars–by the CBI.

And what about about the Talwars dragging Hemraj’s body across the terrace? The CBI contends this vehemently as a circumstance that displays the conduct of the guilty: ‘the do it, then they try and hide it’. The agency claims that is carried out a “scientific experiment” (with fake blood, and unfortunate volunteers) to see how the dragging actually took place.

But Kaul and his geniuses got this one especially wrong. The evidence the CBI has placed on record is this:

UP police: Hemraj was dragged east to west MS Dahiya (the CBI’s crime scene analyst): The body was dragged west to east

Rajinder Singh Dangi (the scientist who simulated the dragging): Hemraj was dragged north to south.

This is all part of the “evidence” that the CBI relies upon. And yes, you would have to be incredibly foolish to believe that all three statements were true. Even if we assume that Hemraj was actually dragged across the terrace, he could have only been dragged in one of three directions. Ergo, at least two of the CBI’s witnesses must be lying.

Having been on the case for a year and a half, I can say with certainty that they aren’t the only two.

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U.S Supreme Court Says Human Gene Cannot Be Patented in Myriad Case #Goodnews

Mixed Ruling on BRCA1 Mutation Linked to Breast Cancer

‘My DNA’: Lisa Schlager addresses protesters outside the Supreme Court. The court issued a mixed ruling in a case involving patenting of human genes.

‘My DNA’: Lisa Schlager addresses protesters outside the Supreme Court. The court issued a mixed ruling in a case involving patenting of human genes.

courtesy of lisa schlager
‘My DNA: Lisa Schlager addresses protesters outside the Supreme Court. The court issued a mixed ruling in a case involving patenting of human genes.

By Reuters

Published June 13, 2013.

In a first of its kind ruling on human genes, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday decided that synthetically produced genetic material can be patented but naturally occurring DNA extracted from the human body cannot.

The nine justices handed a partial victory to Salt Lake City, Utah-based biotechnology company Myriad Genetics Inc , which holds the patents in question. But the rights group that challenged the patents also found reason to be pleased.

The biotechnology industry had warned that an expansive ruling against Myriad could threaten billions of dollars of investment.

The contentious, uniquely 21st century question before the court was whether any human genes can ever be patented – meaning the holders have exclusive rights to their intellectual property for a defined period.

The court, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled that a synthetically produced genetic material made by scientists, known as cDNA, can be patented but that genes extracted from the human body, known as isolated DNA, do not merit the same legal protections.

The compromise outcome, which was urged by the Obama administration, will have less impact on Myriad. The Myriad patents in dispute will all expire by 2015.

Myriad’s shares jumped 10 percent to $37.47 after the ruling was issued.

The ruling means some of Myriad’s patents involving cDNA will likely survive, but the parties disagreed on that point.

The case arose when a group of medical researchers, associations and patients – represented by the American Civil Liberties Union – filed suit in 2009, saying human genes, including synthetically produced material, should not be patented.

They challenged seven patents owned by or licensed to Myriad on two genes – called BRCA1 and BRCA2 – linked to breast and ovarian cancer. A federal judge said the patents were invalid. An appeals court overruled that decision, and the case landed at the Supreme Court.

“Today, the court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation,” said Sandra Park of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them. Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents on at least 4,000 human genes to companies, universities and others that have discovered and decoded them. Patents now cover some 40 percent of the human genome, according to one study.

ANGELINA JOLIE MASTECTOMY

The question was whether the genes Myriad patented concerned its successful isolation of the two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Mutations detected in the genes can help determine heightened risk of breast cancer. Myriad’s work in the area, including a screening test, gained worldwide attention this year when actress Angelina Jolie announced she had a double mastectomy after undergoing a test and finding she had a risk of developing breast cancer.

In the court’s opinion, Thomas wrote that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was wrong to find that isolated human DNA and cDNA were both patent eligible.

Under the federal Patent Act, an inventor can obtain a patent on various new processes and products but “laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas” are not patentable.

Thomas wrote that cDNA “does not present the same obstacles to patentability as naturally occurring isolated DNA segments.”

In examining the differences between the two, Thomas concluded that cDNA is not naturally occurring. A laboratory technician, he wrote, “unquestionably creates something new when cDNA is made.”

Thomas noted so-called method patents, which concern technical procedures for carrying out a certain process, are not affected by the ruling.

The decision will stop the practice of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granting patents to companies that isolate DNA but will allow patents for firms that build DNA from its basic chemicals, said Ed Reines, of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

“The patent office was granting patents on isolated biological composition, such as DNA (for years). That will not be happening in the future,” Reines said.

“Given recent Supreme Court skepticism in the patent area, it is not surprising,” he added. “There shouldn’t be much in this decision that surprises industry or the financial markets.”

 

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Complaint to NHRC on arrest of Maitree women activists in Kolkata #Vaw

To
The Chairman
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House
Copernicus Marg
New Delhi – 1

Respected Sir

I want to inform you that this morning members of a Kolkata based network of women’s group; Maitree, assembled peacefully outside the residence of Chief Minister; Ms. Mamata Bannerjee to submit memoranda on recent incidents of gang rapes on two students at Barasat and Krishnaganj; Nadia. The activists were assembled with few placards on their hands and clarified their intention to the police personnel; guarding the residence of the Chief Minister. The activist also tried to hand over the same on 10th of June at Writers Buildings, when the Chief Minister refused to met the delegation. This time the activists wanted to draw personal attention of the Chief Minister but instead of making the arrangements for the same and receiving the memoranda, the posted police authority arrested 13 women activists having ample social reputation. The arrestees were Ms. Anuradha Kapoor, Ms. Swapna, Ms. Kakoli Bhattacharya, Ms. Anchita GHatak, Ms. Shyamali Das, Ms. Ratnaboli Roy, Ms. Sharmistha Dutta Gupta, Ms. Shreya Sanghari, Ms. Madhura Chakroborty, Ms. Shreya Chakroborty, Ms. Sudeshna Basu and Ms. Aditi Basu. All the arrestees were whisked to Lalbazar Central Lock Up.

The act of the police having clear instances from the state government is not only infringement of article 19 (a) and (b) of Indian Constitution which clearly sated that – All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression; and to assemble peaceably and without arms; but again during the arrest the police violated the mandatory 11 point guidelines on arrest as directed by the honourable Supreme Court in the case of DK Basu versus State of West Bengal; while arresting not furnished the arrest memos at the time of arrest. Later, the arrestees and other civil society organisations came to know that the police arrested the persons for violating section 151 of Criminal Procedure Code. Again, section 151 of CR. P.C (Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences) clearly stated that ‘A police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest….’ the question is whether these persons were assembled there to commit any cognizable offence? The answer is no. Further, the Supreme Court in his judgement defined that in case of bailable offences, making an arrest is illegal. The said assemble of women activists was peaceful and they wish to met the Chief Minister and handed over her a memoranda, which was not an offence itself and otherwise well inside the domain of rights of the people.

While MASUM contacted the Lalbazar Central Lock Up at around 11.30 am and asked for the information of arrestees, the attending police officer only said that ‘yes there are few women activists inside the lock up but other relevant information is with Kalighat police station, we contacted the Kalighat police station just after, the attendant, one ASI, who was the duty officer at that time said the Officer in Charge only can put light on the arrest and subsequent detention and he has gone to Arambagh and will be back after an hour. The intention of police was evident that they don’t want to disseminate any information. When the last information came the bonds for release of the arrestees were getting ready at the Central Lock Up.

UN Declaration on HRD (2nd December 1998) states –
“Article 1
Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.
Article 2
1. Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political as well as other fields and the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually and in association with others, are able to enjoy all these rights and freedoms in practice.”
In this regard I want to recall you about your primary responsibility of promotion and expansion of human rights for the people and demand for:-

1. The Commission must take cognizance against the police and start a case on their own
2. Commission must inquire and investigate the incident on their own
3. The errant police must be booked under the law and be prosecuted
4. The arrestees must be compensated for their loss
Sincerely Yours

(Kirity Roy)
Secretary, MASUM
National Convenor, PACTI

 

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Memorandum to Chief Justice of Bombay High Court – Complaint of rape against Dr Rustom Soonawalla #Rape #Vaw

6th June 2013

To

The Chief Justice,

High Court,

Bombay

Reference: Concerns of women’s groups regarding the manner in which the complaint against Dr. Rustom Sonawala is dealt with. (Anticipatory Bail Application No. 578 of 2013)

Sir,

We, the members of women’s groups, organisations and individuals are concerned about developments in the complaint of rape filed against Dr. Rustom Sonawala at Khar Police Station on 17.05.2013.

We have been fighting for the rights of victims in cases of sexual assault in Mumbai and various parts of the country for many decades. In view of the increasing number of cases of sexual assault and brutal rapes, laws regarding rape and sexual assault have been recently amended to bring in stringent punishments. After the Justice Verma Committee report and the recent happenings in the country, we felt that the Courts too were taking the issue of violence against women more seriously and sensitively.

 

Background: A 26 year old woman, who was taking treatment from Dr. Rustom Sonawala since August 2012, filed a complaint of rape against him on the evening of 17th May, 2013. The filing of the first information report as well as the medical examination of the complainant was concluded by 7 am of the 18th of May.

After the complainant and her husband returned home on the same day, 18th May, the police called them to Dadar to identify the doctor, as they had located his whereabouts in Parsi colony.  On locating and identifying the accused doctor, the two police personnel accompanied him in his car, asking the complainant to take a taxi. While the complainant as well as the police personnel reached the Khar police station, the accused Doctor managed to abscond while he was being accompanied by the police.

During protests that were being held against the doctor opposite his clinic, one of the neighbours informed some of the protestors, that the same doctor had also molested their daughter in the past.

This has raises several questions:

1.       Why did the police go to arrest the doctor in a taxi for which the complainant was made to pay and not in a police van?

2.       Why has no action been taken against the concerned police personnel and why have they not been suspended?

3.       Given the complicity of the entire machinery with the accused, how do we ensure a fair trial?

4.       How do we ensure that even the forensic and medical reports are not tampered with?

Further, the accused who had not been arrested and was absconding even after 10 days of the crime, on 29th May, 2013, moved the High Court seeking anticipatory bail, even as his application for anticipatory bail was pending before the Sessions Court at Greater Bombay, Mumbai. In the anticipatory bail application, the accused said through his lawyer that his blood and semen sample may be collected and he be given protection from arrest till the anticipatory bail application is finally decided in the Sessions Court. The victim’s advocate argued that the accused was absconding and in his absence no reliefs should be granted to him.
On 29th May, 2013 the Hon’ble Court passed an order directing the accused to deposit his passport and appear before the Khar Police Station. The Assistant Public Prosecutor was asked whether the court should pass an order of not arresting the accused or she would give an undertaking. The Assistant Public Prosecutor said that she would give an undertaking of not arresting the accused till his anticipatory bail was decided by the Hon’ble Sessions Court. The court asked by when they would do the medical examination and the Assistant Public Prosecutor said that there is no provision in law by which this medical examination can be done prior to arrest.  After her refusal to agree to do the medical test the court said it will hear the matter after vacation, that is, on 11th June, 2013 and till then the accused is protected, as the Assistant Public Prosecutor has given an undertaking regarding the same.

Sec. 54  of the Code of Criminal Procedure allows medical examination of the accused at the instance of the accused, if the examination of his body will afford evidence which will disprove commission by him of any offence or which will establish the commission by any other person of any offence against his body.

But the section is very clear that it is after arrest and that the accused will have to make an application to the Magistrate.

We fear that the Order of the Hon’ble High Court sets a wrong and dangerous precedent in terms of rape matters for many reasons.

The Accused was not present before the court and yet he was granted relief, which is never done, especially in rape matters. The medical evidence of semen, blood, injuries cannot be the sole basis of deciding whether rape was committed.  At present the law defines rape by penetration, [that is, penetration is enough to prove rape,]; nowhere does it say that it has to be coupled with the presence of DNA.

The FIR states that there was penetration; the presence of DNA and other factors is corroborative evidence.

If this order becomes final it not only  means that the rape accused can approach the courts to seek this kind of protection, but it will also mean that cases will be closed on the basis of DNA reports. And given the circumstances related above, one cannot be sure that these reports cannot not doctored or tampered with. DNA test can be evaluated during trial.

This also takes us to the conclusion that if traces of semen are not found, there is no rape. This goes counter to the recent Criminal Amendment Act, 2013.

The current situation also gives the accused the freedom to tamper with the evidence and witnesses considering the fact he was able to connive with police and abscond right in their presence.

The Hon’ble Court before giving relief to the Doctor ought to have considered the fact that the Doctor is a fugitive from Justice.

In fact he has obstructed the legal system by conniving with police personnel. It is obvious that in some way he was able to exercise undue influence on the police and thereby he could go absconding right in presence of the policemen.

The Hon’ble Court instead of granting him relief should have instructed him to first submit himself before the investigating team and also should have directed that a complaint be registered against the Doctor as well as the police for subverting the process by using undue influence.

It is indeed a question before all us citizens and women specifically, whether Justice is the prerogative of rich people only.

It is a worrying thought that this sort of judgment will act as a precedent in future cases. This goes counter to the present ethos after the 16th December 2012 rape case and its aftermath.
We hope you will relook at the judgment and do the needful.

Yours sincerely

Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai

Aawaaz-E-Niswan

Akshara

SAKHYA (women’s guidance cell)

Women Research and Action Group (WRAG)

SNEHA

VACHA

CORO (for literacy)

YUVA

Samajwadi Mahila Sabha

Stree Mukti Sanghatana

Anagha Sarpotdar

Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Address: 29, Bhatia Bhuvan, Babrekar Marg, Off Gokhale Road, Dadar (West), Bombay – 400 028

Email: faowindia@yahoo.co.in

cc- Home Minister R R Patil

 

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Mumbai – Errant #Aadhaar contractors paid Rs 5.5cr fine: RTI #UID

200 px

Thursday, May 2, 2013, 8:00 IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

The state has charged penalties of more than Rs5.5 crore from various contractors authorised for Aadhaar card enrollment.

 

The state has charged penalties of more than Rs5.5 crore from various contractors authorised for Aadhaar card enrollment.  The details were made available through a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Anand Pargaonkar.

Around 13 agencies are given the contract to enroll people for Aadhar cards. Details provided by the state’s IT department to Pargaonkar up to 2013, 11 of 13 agencies were fined Rs5,61,90,790.

Tera Software Ltd was levied the maximum penalty of Rs1.85 crore for delay in uploading the packet (data) as per UIDAI guidelines. Others were fined for similar reasons.

The second highest, Rs87.68 lakh, was levied on Strategic Outsourcing Services, followed by GSS America Infotech Ltd – Rs 65.67 lakh – and Mahaonline Ltd – Rs64.11 lakh.

“Suspension or cancellation of licences depends on various aspects. It could be lack of better crowd control or supervisors to check how the enrollment is being done, or too many people being given slips at the same time, or the quality of bio-metric data collected,” state IT secretary Rajesh Aggarwal said. “When we cancel contracts, we inform the UIDAI to stop receiving packets from those agencies. Contracts are suspended as a preventive measure, sometimes till the time corrective measures are taken.”

Pargaonkar said the state needs to spruce up services. “Despite fines and suspension of contracts at centres. people continue to have a bad time. They have to stand in queues for long hours or are sent back home without a proper response.

 

 

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#India – Centre’s report indicates Nuclear plant not safe for Jaitapur

Sunday, Apr 28, 2013, | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

A section of the Jaitapur nuclear plant site selection committee’s report that was withheld by the government and was recently retrieved by a local Premanand Tiwarkar through the Right to Information Act (RTI) contradicts Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited‘s (NPCIL) claim that the site is fit for a nuclear plant.

A section of the Jaitapur nuclear plant site selection committee’s report that was withheld by the government and was recently retrieved by a local Premanand Tiwarkar through the Right to Information Act (RTI) contradicts Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’s (NPCIL) claim that the site is fit for a nuclear plant.

In the past there have been other studies on the region that have stated that the area is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. However, some pages of the September 2002 ‘Report no 3 Assessment of sites for locating nuclear plants’, which was kept confidential by Centre’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is the first report made public by the government that states the site is unsafe for a nuclear plant.

The NPCIL had earlier assured locals that the 90-ft high plateau would be adequate to protect the plant in event of a tsunami but the DAE report contradicts NPCIL’s claim. The DAE states that the plateau is made of laterites which is derived from basaltic rock that make the site dangerous.

The report also states, “The seacoast at the Jaitapur site is prone to erosion by breaker (waves) as evidenced by the large number of boulders strewn below the cliff.”

Activists opposed to the nuclear site also say that DAE had initially stated that the construction of the plant would not require excavation. However, they have recently informed the locals that 20 to 30 metres of the lateritic cover and the underlying weathered zone would have to be excavated. This would make the plant susceptible to tsunamis. A 1972 study by the Site Selection Committee of the DAE also stated, “Tectonic features in the region can be regarded as potential sources of earthquakes as some of them may get reactivated at any point….”

 

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Story behind the ‘Lost Case”- despite social legal support #Vaw #Justice

Mumbai, Majlis Team , March 31,, 2013

As  fourteen year old Priya  had not been getting her periods for some months, her mother took her to Shatabdi, a  public Hospital in the nearby area, for a check up.  During examination it came to light that the child was five months pregnant! A case was not filed, but Priya and her mother were referred to the hospital’s counselling centre where two very young social work students were placed. The students knew about Majlis’ Socio Legal Support for Survivors of Sexual Assault programme.

So, it was by sheer luck that Priya and her mother Anju reached our office. I was one of the first people to speak to Priya after she discovered she was pregnant. With large fluid eyes and a scared look on her face, she revealed that she and her friends would often go to a Pramuk’s  (leader) house to help his wife with house work. About six months ago, when his wife was not at home, this 50 year old man raped her.  He threatened her that if she ever spoke to anyone about it, he would kill her. She had no idea about the consequences which might befall on her, and hence kept silent, and did not even confide in her mother.  It was poignant to watch the child, who had just realised that she was pregnant, trying to cover her stomach with her dupatta.

Anju is an illiterate single mother trying desperately to manage her family by earning a meagre amount as a domestic maid. She is extremely naïve and had never stepped out of her local area. She, and her mother before her, have lived in the same slum their entire lifetime. When faced with the news,  Anju’s only concern was how to quietly get an abortion and end the story. She was extremely afraid that if her son found out all hell would break loose. The pramukh was influential and she did not want any hassles with the police. We tried our best to assure her that if she wanted to complain we would support her in her pursuit of justice… but these words did not make any sense to her.

We asked her to think about what she wanted to do and promised to meet her the next day at the hospital (she did not want us to come home). But the next day Anju did not turn up. Our team were rid with fear at what she would have done with her daughter in order to cover up the incident. Priya’s pregnancy was well past the statutory limit permitting an abortion and we were scared about the danger to her life. There was no way of contacting Anju as she had not given us a number or an address.

Then three days later Anju contacted us. All hell had broken loose as her son found out. The police was informed and an FIR was lodged. The accused was taken into custody, required medical tests were done and statements were recorded. Priya was produced before the Child Welfare Committee and was taken to a shelter home.

Our first challenge was to ensure Priya’s health and well being were being taken care of in the shelter home. We would accompany Anju every week to visit Priya in the shelter home. We counselled Priya to cope with her situation. Priya was not comfortable at the government shelter home,  so we requested the CWC to move her to a home for unwed mothers run by Christian Missionary Sisters in the Western suburbs. The request was granted.

We also counselled Anju and her son to help them cope with the situation. When Priya delivered her baby we were there. Anju could not reach the hospital as she could not travel alone late in the night. Anju still  feels bad that she would not be with her daughter during her delivery. Given Priya’s tender age and Anju’s financial condition, there was no question of keeping  the baby. We had to repeatedly remind the police to collect the blood samples of  the baby, so that the child could be put up for adoption.

Priya returned home and Anju was keen to care for her daughter. But she soon realised that due to sniggering and humiliation from neighbours it was impossible to keep her daughter with her. Everything had changed. Priyas was forced to live in the village where poverty was worse and she was not even given basic nutrition. Anju was desperately trying to collect money to move to another slum. Multiple vulnerabilities were  at play here. Since we do not have a financial assistance project and the State Victim Compensation Scheme was not in place, we could not offer any financial support to the family.

But on the other hand, the case was progressing smoothly. We followed up with the police to ensure that the investigation was on track and the charge sheet filed in a timely manner. Within two and half months of the incident the charge sheet was filed and the matter was committed to the Sessions Court. This was an open and shut case, we were confident of a conviction. This was one of the few cases we have come across where the statements were  recorded by the police without any loopholes, DNA proof was there…. So imagine our shock and utter dismay when the DNA report came negative.

The blood samples of the accused did not match that of the child. The police called Anju to the Police Station and shouted and abused her for two-three hours. We rushed to the Police Station and impressed upon the officer that his duty was only to submit the DNA report to the court and not pass any value judgment.

We met Priya and tried to probe if there was any other person. But Priya, all of fourteen and having gone through the ordeal, with utmost conviction reassured us, that he alone was the  culprit. We believed her.

The Public Prosecutor (PP) accused Priya of having a boyfriend. You cannot trust these teenaged girls, I think this case is ‘fishy’, she said. Her entire approach towards the case changed dramatically after the DNA report. But if Priya had a boyfriend, the news would have spread as this is a thickly populated slum with huts adjacent to each other. Nothing misses the keenly watchful eyes of the  neighbours.

We were extremely worried how the PP, whose job is to defend Priya would conduct the trial. We watched the PP like hawks on every date to ensure she was doing her job.

Priya was brilliant in her examination and cross. We were there by her side to support her. The PP ofcourse did not even bother to meet her before the trial and prepare her.

The defence lawyer used all kinds of underhand tactics during Anju’s cross. He accused her of being a woman of loose character and being greedy and wanting to extract money from the accused. But before he could ask any more embarrassing questions, the presiding officer, a sensitive lady judge, stopped him. This judge is known to follow Sakshi Guidelines, not allow unnecessary questions and most of all, she makes the witness comfortable in court. All this helps bring the best evidence before the Court.

The final arguments were a disaster. The PP argued with absolute lack of interest (She may not have even argued if we were not there). She submitted the case laws and the written arguments that we had prepared, because we insisted. The Defence Counsel argued at length about how the DNA Report was negative and therefore it was clear that the accused had been framed to take revenge because the victim’s mother was not allocated a tenement under the slum rehabilitation scheme.

Judgment: “Not guilty, the prosecution has failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt”. The judge also commented that the plea of the defence about revenge appears to be probable!

Immediately after passing the judgement, in an informal tone, the Judge asked our lawyer whether we take up all cases or only ‘genuine’ cases. Before we could recover from the absurdity of this question, the PP replied “Oh, they take up any case that comes to them”.

We would have liked to answer that “not proving a case beyond reasonable doubt does not amount to a ‘false’ case.”  We would also liked to have responded to the  PP, “it is not your job to be judge… just do your best to prove your case, like you would if you were defending the accused in a murder trial, as a private lawyer.” But we kept silent as we have many other rape cases which are pending trial in this court.

We had the difficult task of informing Anju about the judgement. She was calm and took it in her stride. She told us that she was not interested in filing an appeal. She had changed her residence,  Priya was back at school and they were making every attempt to get over this trauma. We felt that despite the set back in court, we had empowered them to cope with the system and move on without leaving deep scars of revictimisation upon their psyche. This, in itself, was a victory! After all, conviction or acquittal is not in our hands. We are here to ensure that fair trial process has been followed.

Ideally, this narrative must end here, but it has a postscript. A few days later, a visibly shattered Anju came to our office. There was a story in the newspaper accusing Anju of filing a false case to frame the accused to get a tenement in the SRA scheme. It is this incident that broke Anju.  She wanted to file a case against the lawyer and the newspaper.  But since no names were mentioned there was nothing we could do. Anju told us that Priya had threatened to commit suicide after seeing the newspaper article. The society finally had its revenge.

The questions that haunt us at the end of this case are – yes, the case could not be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.  But it is also beyond doubt that a 14 year old vulnerable child had been violated and had to undergo the ordeal of childbirth and of giving up the child in adoption. Does the responsibility of the state end with the acquittal, or is there a responsibility beyond, to ensure the well being of this child.  Can state institutions entrusted with the responsibility of protecting children, brand her as ‘a liar’ and wash their hands off her, leaving her to deal with her fate, within the confines of her own vulnerabilities? We find no answers to these disturbing questions within the criminal legal system.

State of Maharashtra  v. Ramesh Dawle  Session Case  No. 349 of 2012

The matter was concluded within a year.

Majlis Legal Centre

A 4/2 Golden Valley, Kalina Kurla Road, Santacruz E, Mumbai 98

Tel: 022 26661252 / 26662394

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Maharashtra- From Drought to dhandha #Vaw

Published:  Sunday, Mar 31, 2013, 0:27 IST
By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Purnima Ahire speaks haltingly in English with a pronounced Marathi accent, an attempt that draws a round of laughter from the women huddled in a lane near Ashok Talkies outside Thane station.

“Kai English madam dhandha karayla aali ka kai (An English madam has come for sex work)?” says one of them, setting off the others again.

The 21-year-old from Umerga, Osmanabad, clams up. Her mentor Renuka Varahade, 34, puts an arm around her and tells her to ignore them. “Many who come for dhandha can’t even write or speak decent Marathi. Purnima has studied till Class 11, so they are envious,” she says.

Purinima’s sister’s wedding two years ago put her father in debt. Unable to withstand pressure from the local money lender after his crop failed, he drank a bottle of pesticide in January. Besides her mother, Purnima now has to support her sister and brother, so she decided to find work.

“Renukatai knew my mother. She told her I’d find work as a domestic help in Aurangabad. Once I found out the nature of the work, I called home to tell mother. She cried, but said I must cope to help the family,” says a blank-faced Purnima, whose family thinks she works as a maid. “If I keep crying, will that feed my family? Here Tai protects me and I get to send money home,” says Purnima.

Brothel-keeper Pushpa Malepu admits that new arrivals from drought-hit parts of Maharashtra have increased: “Earlier they came from poor families, but now even educated girls from families who have lost everything to crop failure in the last 2-3 years are taking to the sex trade.”

The profile of Mumbai’s sex workers is changing. At one time, 75% of sex workers in the city were from Nepal. Traffickers then shifted focus to Bangladesh where regular floods and poverty ensured new recruits. There came a point when one in every three sex workers in Mumbai was Bangladeshi.

Activists in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik admit that more educated Marathi-speaking girls are being pushed into the sex trade. This is like the situation following the drought of 1972, when 70% girls in the trade were from Maharashtra (Marathwada), Karnataka (Raichur-Gulbarga), and Andhra Pradesh (Rayalseema) — areas worst hit by drought.

“Now, there are more Marathi-speaking girls being pushed into the trade,” says Pravin Patkar, founder-chairman of Prerana, an organisation working with sex workers since 1986.

Patkar says the first signs of distress were seen last during Diwali, when sex workers started migrating to Mumbai from the drought-hit belts of Vidarbha and Marathwada: “With the overall drop in purchasing power, work became scarce, forcing them here. This shows the levels of distress. Unless interventions are put in place, the number of new recruits from these regions could rise rapidly.”

Indu Bhalerao, 36, is one such sex worker. She left Latur for Mumbai last September because of the lack of clients. “Here I can at least have food. In Latur, I didn’t have enough to provide for my family in my village, and was going hungry myself.”

Bharti Lad is a 23-year-old from Jalna district of Maharashtra. “Our family owned a sugarcane field which was divided after a family dispute. My father lost his share as he ran up huge debts paying off lawyers two years ago. We started working as labourers. Now, since there’s no water, there’s no work. We even had to sell the cow to the butchers,” she says in chaste Marathi. Bharti lives in a flat in Malad. “Regular customers mean I have enough to send at least Rs5,000 back home every month.”

The women waiting outside closed shop-fronts near Ashok Talkies are hungry and settle for a quick meal of bhurji-pao. “After 11pm, the police come… To avoid lafda (trouble), many of us head home,” says Purnima, who cannot resist checking herself in a broken mirror on the bhurji pao cart.

Renukatai hails an auto to take them to their hovel at the base of Parsik Hill at Kalwa (East), where two more girls stay. It’s past 11.30pm and the autowallah tries to get fresh. “Same place?” he leers in the rear-view mirror, eliciting a quick retort from the feisty Renuka, who spits out gutka and asks him: “Where else? Do you want to take us home to meet your mother?”

p_yogesh@dnaindia.net

@powerofyogesh

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