Tag Archive | Jantar Mantar

Crying Foul Over Violations, Secrecy In Games ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                                 October 01, 2010
Crying Foul Over Violations, Secrecy In Games !

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

women work2

Women At Work For No Pay ?
(Photo: nocwg2010)

New Delhi (UNI) – Violations of law that hit thousands of workers and drove thousands out of homes as New Delhi readied for Commonwealth games have yet to be remedied, activists say.

”Commonwealth Games hai! hai!”– cries of woe– rent the air as members of an Anti Commonwealth Games Front took to the streets on Friday, barely days before the event.

Such ”gross violations of human rights against Delhi’s poor and marginalised groups” called for a boycott of the 71-nation event on ethical grounds, a meeting at Jantar Mantar was told.

The protest coincided with the arrival of the ‘Queen’s Baton’ they dubbed ”a historical symbol of oppression and colonisation.”

They spoke of 200,000 now homeless and 300,000 without livelihood, not to mention labour law violations at CWG sites, beggars shipped out or young women trafficked in from States for sex work.

”In the run-up to the Commonwealth Games,” the Front, a coalition of 25 groups, said, ”the city has seen the most blatant violation of human rights of the urban poor.”

Many vendors, cart-pullers, waste-pickers, head-loaders, balloon sellers, cobblers, food stalls and eateries have simply been put out of work, it said in a statement.

The groups included Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Housing and Land Rights Network, Indo German Social Service Society, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and Beghar Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti.

”The government has completely lost its sense of priorities,” it said, citing Rs 70,000-100,000 crore– US$ 15-21 billion– spent on hosting the 12-day extravaganza.

They compared it, for instance, to Rs 11,270 crore allocated for housing projects for economically weaker citizens under Indira Awas Yojna 2010-11 and Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojana 2010-2011.

They said CWG decisions– from bidding for the event to reserving lanes for participants or a somersault on turning the village into a student hostel– were ”taken in secrecy,” against democratic norms.

English: CWG Opening Ceremony 2010

CWG 2010 Opening Ceremony (Photo: Wikipedia)

While CWG construction workers ought to have been paid wages in keeping with the international stature of the event, a spokesman for a signatory group said most were deprived of minimum wages even by Indian standards.

Workers at CWG construction sites have experienced some of the most widespread violation of human rights, spokesman Subhash Bhatnagar for Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam said.

Unskilled workers in Delhi are entitled to a minimum daily wage of Rs 203 but got only Rs 110-130, volunteers said.

Experts say laws provide for paltry fines at the end of litigation– itself slow– not jail terms which can deter violations.

According to PUDR, the State agencies flouting labour laws as principal employers in CWG-related construction range from Delhi Development Authority to Delhi University.

Calling CWG one of India’s biggest corruption scandals, the groups said instead of accounting for the financial irregularities, the government ”is focusing” on ”success of the Games under the garb of ‘national pride’.”

It questioned the idea of supporting ”a sporting event that is making a selected few richer.”

The protesters dismissed suggestions that hosting the CWG will improve India’s performance in sports as ”completely false.”

They said for many schools across India a playground was a distant dream for children and the plight of most athletes ”is dismal if not pathetic.”

A placard they held demanded ”schools, not stadiums.”

English: CWG Delhi 2010 OC Building

2010 CWG Organising Committee’s home (Photo: Wikipedia)

Noting that India has spent at least Rs 4,500 crore on renovating stadiums for the Games, it said ”this money could have been more wisely spent to improve facilities for sportspersons across the country.”

It said Delhi residents have been put through ”a lot of inconveniences” to host an event they were neither consulted about nor asked for– but ”will eventually pay for.”

Alluding to remarks made by Delhi Finance Minister A K Walia in March 2010, the groups said the Delhi Government has gone bankrupt because of ”wanton spending” in the name of the Games. ”The city has become much more expensive and taxes have increased.”

It demanded ”full accountability from all agencies and departments involved in the CWG, full public disclosure of funds, transparency of transactions, protection of human rights of Delhi’s citizens.”

It also demanded ”compensation for livelihoods lost, adequate rehabilitation of the displaced close to their places of work, a post-Games legacy plan and cost recovery plan, and prosecution of officials responsible for embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.”

UNI MJ NK 1950

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Holding Sailors To Ransom ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                              March 10, 2011

English: Map showing the location of the Gulf ...

Gulf of Aden located between Yemen and Somalia. Nearby bodies of water include the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and the Bab-el-Mandeb strait (Photo: Wikipedia)

Holding Sailors To Ransom !

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – Two years after India’s Supreme Court questioned government handling of high sea piracy involving Indian lives, protesters again drew attention this evening to the plight of seamen held hostage by Somalis in the Gulf of Aden.

”Kuchh nahin! Kuchh nahin! (nothing! nothing!),” was how Sampa Arya, wife of an Indian hostage described Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s response to her pleadings to intervene in the situation.

An Egyptian cargo ship, Suez, was seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on August 2, 2010 despite barbed wire and fire hoses, not to mention three anti-piracy warships cruising within 40 miles.

The Panamanian-flagged ship with a crew of 24– six of them Indian– was eastbound towards the Suez Canal.

Wife of third officer Ravinder Singh Gulia, Mrs Arya broke down in a telephone interview when she was asked about any assurance she received from Dr Singh.

Sobbingly, she spoke of tortures inflicted on her husband and other hostages. ”They hit him on the knees. It is paralysing. He is not allowed even basics.”

Relatives and friends assembled at Jantar Mantar in the evening for a vigil discussed the passing deadline. The captors have demanded $4 million for release of the Indian hostages, they said.

”The deadline for Suez is over today. We are worried,” said second officer Akash Verma, adding with a touch of urgency that ”a solution must be found.”

Their key concern: the Indian authorities put pressure on the Egyptian owners of the cargo ship to pay up and free the hostages.

Barely a mile away, Parliament was told 49 ships were hijacked from international waters off the Indian Ocean in 2010 and that 38 Indian crew were still captive aboard four ships.

Answering Congress member from Kerala P J Kurien, Shipping Minister G K Vasan recited such steps as deploying naval ships, alerting other forces in the region and waging a multilateral campaign.

Three other ships Vasan listed: Iceberg-1 hijacked on March 29, 2010 with six Indian crew, Rak Afrikana, hijacked on April 11, 2010, with 11 Indian crew, and Asphalt Venture hijacked on September 29, 2010 with 15 Indian crew.

Somali acts have threatened international shipping over the past several years but experts say efforts to counter the sea brigands appear to suffer in more ways than one.

”The Somali situation does not seem to strictly qualify as piracy under the Law of the Sea convention 1982,” says former Additional Director General of Shipping and Nautical Adviser J S Gill, adding that the wording ”may hamper charging a person as a pirate.”

Mariners say Somali activity has spawned a whole new mostly-Western industry for insuring vessels at risk with ever-increasing premiums.

That and other factors such as the data intelligence Somalis seem to possess or lawyers quick to rise to their defence on arrest suggest a new dimension– of an ‘organised under-world.’

Far from being sea pirates hunting for victims, they sometimes seem well-informed about their potential targets to the point of knowing for instance the cargo on board and the exact number of hands a vessel set out with, seafarers say.

Seema Goyal, the wife of a former hostage, suggested the need to sanitise the Gulf of Aden– a suggestion echoed by several officers.

Captains I Solanki, T K Dhingra, P Sarin, P K Mittal and I Kharbanda stressed a cordon to ensure that brigands cannot come out to attack.

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Jailing Corrupt Politician, Officer Or Judge ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                   April 9, 2011

English: Hon. Anna Hazare in Nanded , Maharastra .

Anna Hazare (Photo: Wikipedia)

Jailing Corrupt Politician, Officer Or Judge !

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – With a 72-year-old fasting for five days, the government today announced a panel to draft within 83 days a Bill for Lok Pal– 45 years after it was conceived to regulate Indian governance.

Anna Hazare broke his fast amid euphoria at authorities yielding on an issue government after government has dodged for decades without discarding the idea outright.

The announcement listed ten members, five each representing the United Progressive Alliance government and the activists, with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as chairman and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, as co-chairman.
”The Joint Drafting Committee shall complete its work latest by 30th June, 2011,” the announcement by the Law and Justice Ministry said.
The members include Home Minister P Chidambaram, Law and Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and Water Resources and Minority Minister Salman Khursheed on one hand, and septuagenarian Hazare, Justice N Santosh Hedge, advocate Prashant Bhushan and activist Arvind Kejriwal on the other.
Dr Moily has been named convenor.
Experts hailed the development but were cautious about expectations.
”What we have witnessed over the past week is anger, real anger of people, reflecting injustices that have been building and must be redressed and the guilty punished,” said former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah. ”This anger must be properly channelised for national and public good.”
A document titled Salient Features of Jan Lok Pal Bill circulated by activists who pitched their camp at Jantar Mantar on Tuesday spelt out some of the ideas they brought to root out corrupt.
— Creating an institution called Lok Pal at the centre and Lokayukta in each State so ”completely transparent” that any complaint against even its own members is investigated and a guilty ”officer dismissed within two months;”
— ”Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments” so that ”no minister or bureaucrat will be able to influence their investigations;”
— Giving Lok Pal complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician;
— Recovering any public exchequer or government loss caused by a corrupt act from the perpetrator at the time of conviction;
— Imposing financial penalty on officers guilty of not doing ”any work” of a citizen in prescribed time and giving it to complainant as compensation;
— Ensuring cases against corrupt do not linger– giving a year for investgation and another year for trial– so that ”corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years;”
— Lok Pal members to be selected by citizens, besides judges and constitutional authorities– not politicians– through ”a completely transparent and participatory process” to preclude induction of corrupt or weak individuals;
— Merging anti-corruption agencies– vigilance commissioners and anti-corrupt investigators– into Lok Pal;
— Requiring Lok Pal to provide protection to those victimized for raising their voice against corruption.
Activists say citizens denied ration or voter cards or passports could turn to a Lok Pal as could those having difficulty lodging complaints with police, for instance.
Anyone with complaints about, say, the quality of roads or abuse of public parks or other works could also request investigation into possible corruption by elected  or other officials. ”The guilty will go to jail within two years.”
Although Lok Pal, as a political ombudsman was conceived 45 years ago, it is still nowhere around.
”We have been misled completely,” Gandhian Satyagraha Brigade spokesman Shambhu Dutta Sharma, who, too, has been campaigning for a Lok Pal said of government failure to pass a law. ”We cannot trust any longer.”
The concept of Lok Pal– inspired by Sweden’s ombudsman– grew out of an interim report on redressal of citizens’ grievances submitted in 1966 by the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Morarji Desai.
Two years later, the Lok Pal and the Lok Ayuktas Bill, 1968 was introduced in the 4th Lok Sabha, when late Mrs Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister.
It was considered by a joint committee of the two Houses of Parliament and passed by the Lok Sabha in 1969. It was pending in the Rajya Sabha when the Lok Sabha was dissolved. The bill lapsed.
Resistance to the bill appears manifest in the fact that even after being tabled seven more times– in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2001– it has never again been put to vote.
While authorities did not enact a Lok Pal they certainly did not reject it– possibly because doing so might have placed on them the onus to find a substitute.
Indeed, in 2007, a second Administrative Reforms Commission recommended appointing a national ombudsman called Rashtriya Lok Ayukta instead of Lok Pal.
Critics say corruption in public life has been sinking lower and lower, compounded by a virtually unaccountable governance.
Agencies or institutions once created in public interest appear to have become part of the problem instead of being instrumental in finding solutions.
The past year or so has seen unprecedented– in sheer size– allegations of financial irregularities levelled at the UPA government.
Public mind has been disillusioned by one scam after another whether it is 2G– underselling mobile phone licences at public cost notionally estimated at Rs 1.75 lakh crores– or Rs 70,000 crore extravagance in organising Commonwealth games.
”Hopefully,” Justice Shah said, ”there will be a proper bill. But at the same time before any Bill is put to vote there must be a thorough public debate about it in which citizens not just experts or authoritative figures should be heard on their opinions, questions, concerns and suggestions. No doubt we need a strong Lok Pal, but we also need a strong executive, legislature and judiciary.”
For rule of law to find a sound footing in India, the nation must attend to a lot more legislative reform, experts acknowledge.
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