Tag Archive | United States

Chinese Help Sought For Sailors’ Release – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                             October 8, 2008

 

Chinese Help Sought For Sailors’ Release

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – The Chinese authorities were urged by an Indian woman today to help secure release of a Hong Kong-registered chemical tanker and its 22 crew members seized by Somali pirates in the Aden Gulf 24 days ago.

English:

(Photo: Wikipedia)

They said they would see what can be done to expedite matters, Seema Goyal, wife of Stolt Valor’s Captain, Prabhat Goyal, said in a telephone interview while she was on her way to Dehradun to be with her children.

Mrs Goyal met China’s Charge d’affaires in New Delhi, Ambassador Zhang Yan being away travelling.

The Japanese-owned tanker flying the Hong Kong flag was on way to Mumbai from Houston in the United States when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on September 15.

The pirates demanded $6 million– subsequently pared down to $2 million– for letting the ship sail.

The tanker is carrying phosphoric acid and lubricant oil for end-users, including Kandla-based Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited.’ Besides 18 Indians, the crew includes a Russian, a Bangladeshi and two Filipinos.

Nine of 22 hostage crew members on board have taken ill waiting for freedom from Somali captors holding out for the ransom, relatives say.

The hostages have been running low on water and food.

On Monday, Mrs Goyal met a Japanese Embassy official in New Delhi in an effort to build up pressure on the ship’s Japanese owners to secure a quick end to the crisis.

Mrs Goyal and other members of the group have been meeting Indian authorities– ministers, senior bureaucrats, politicians– to bring home the urgency of securing the sailors’ release.

Experts say much of the initiative in the matter rests with authorities in Hong Kong, where the ship is registered, or Japan, where the owners belong.

On Tuesday, Mrs Goyal addressed a rally of seafarers unions in Mumbai and was handed a petition for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging steps to ensure hostages’ safe return and preclude such acts.

UNI MJ MIR HT2137

9 Hostages Sick Aboard Seized Ship – Kin – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                                October 7, 2008

9 Hostages Sick Aboard Seized Ship: Kin

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – As many as nine of 22 hostage crew members aboard Stolt Valor have taken ill waiting for freedom from Somali captors holding out for a $2 million ransom, relatives said tonight.

The hostages, 18 of them Indian, have been running low on water and food in the captivity of Somali pirates who seized their Chemical tanker in the gulf of Aden on September 15.

Somali pirates in the 21st century (Photo: somaliareport.com)

Somali pirates in the 21st century (Photo: somaliareport.com)

In a telephone interview from Mumbai, Seema Goyal, wife of the tanker’s Captain, Prabhat Goyal, indicated ”no tangible headway” in the 23-day-old crisis.

She is visiting the key port city meeting Shipping officials– including Shipping Director General and Nautical Advisor M M Saggi– and addressing sailors’ unions and ”gathering support.”

Mrs Goyal, who addressed a rally organised by several seafarers unions, was handed over a petition for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging steps to ensure hostages’ safe return and preclude such acts.

On Tuesday, she met a Japanese Embassy official in New Delhi in an effort to build up pressure on the ship’s Japanese owners to secure a quick end to the crisis.

The Japanese-owned tanker flying the Hong Kong flag was on way to Mumbai from Houston in the United States when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on September 15.

The tanker is carrying phosphoric acid and lubricant oil for end-users, including Kandla-based Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited.’

Besides 18 Indians, the crew includes a Russian, a Bangladeshi and two Filipinos.

Mrs Goyal and other members of the group have been meeting Indian authorities– ministers, senior bureaucrats, politicians– to bring home the urgency of securing the sailors’ release.

They held a candle light vigil on Saturday night drawing attention to the seafarers’ plight.

The pirates had demanded $6 million– subsequently pared down to $2 million– for letting the ship sail.

Experts say much of the initiative in the matter rests with authorities in Hong Kong, where the ship is registered, or Japan, where the owners belong.

UNI MJ PK AS2221

 

 

Indian Hostages Running Short Of Water, Food: Captain’s Wife – By Mukesh Jhangiani

English: GULF OF ADEN (July 7, 2009) Coalition...

Gulf of Aden (Photo: Wikipedia)

                                                                                                                                    September 30, 2008

Indian Hostages Running Short Of Water, Food: Captain’s Wife

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – With 18 Indian seafarers reportedly running short of water and rations after their ship was seized by Somalian pirates 15 days ago, relatives and friends urged ‘immediate’ steps this evening to secure their release.

”Bring an end to the ordeal of these innocent seafarers,” Seema Goyal, wife of Captain Prabhat Goyal urged in a petition to Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister T R Baalu.
Chemical tanker Stolt Valor, a Japanese-owned ship flying the Hong Kong flag and manned by a crew of 22, was sailing from Houston, in the United States, to Bombay when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on September 15.
The tanker was carrying phosphoric acid and lubricating oil for Indian end-users, including Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited at Kandla.
As many as 18 of the 22, including Captain Goyal, are Indian, one Russian, one Bangladeshi and two Filipinos.
The hijackers appeared to have originally demanded six million dollars but lowered the demand to 2.5 million dollars, Mrs Goyal told a meeting at the Indian Society of International Law.
She said Capt Goyal and crew members have been in touch with her from the ship’s bridge, presumably using a satellite phone.
”For last 18 days, these 22 sailors are living under the shadow of guns with constant threat to their lives, and look upon the government of India as their last hope.
”Yesterday, a crew member telephoned me and said they will be out of fresh water in a day or two, and rations, in another 3-4 days,” Mrs Goyal said.
”I do not understand what the delay is about,” Ms Goyal said after submitting a petition in the Shipping Minister’s office.
Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1958, the Director General of Shipping, who licenses recruiters of Indian seamen and officers, is also responsible for the welfare of Indian seamen, experts say.
The post has been vacant since the last incumbent, Kiran Dhingra, was transferred to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation 19 days ago.
The delegation of seafarers’ relatives and friends she led also met some Society officers, including secretary general Rahmatullah Khan and former treasurer Joginder Singh Gill.
She has also requested a meeting with United Progressive Alliance chairman Sonia Gandhi.
As many as 55 ships have been attacked off the coast of Somalia since January and 11 were still being held for ransom, published accounts indicate.
The International Maritime Bureau has issued an advisory urging ships to stay 250 Nautical Miles away from the Somali coast.
The ship was reportedly in a corridor made ”safe” by a coalition of US, British and French forces.
An official for the recruiting agent declined to comment on negotiations under way.
UNI MJ AB SK KP2054

Use Norms – Not Discretion – To Punish Crime: ARC – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                         July 8, 2007

Use Norms – Not Discretion – To Punish Crime: ARC

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – Government experts have called for guidelines ”so that sentencing across the country for similar offences becomes broadly uniform.”

Inconsistency in punishments judges award is among issues figuring in the latest report of the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission on Public Order.

English: An unfair administrator barnstar

Justice v Discretion – A matter of balance (Photo: Wikipedia)

”To effectively deter crime, penalties must not be discretionary,” Commission Chairman M Veerappa Moily told United News of India Special Correspondent Mukesh Jhangiani.

According to the findings Moily gave Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week, ”there is a view that in India there is a real problem arising from a lack of consistency in sentencing practices across the country.
”This is also compounded by broad executive discretion in commuting sentences and granting pardon,” the Commission said.
With Dr Singh’s approval, a 12-member Group of Ministers headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was set up three months ago to consider the recommendations.
Feedback is yet to come.
The first such Commission headed by Morarji Desai functioned during 1966-70, but some of its key recommendations are yet to be implemented.
The Moily Commission underscored that sentencing guilty persons is an important and ultimate phase of the criminal justice system.
The trouble, experts say, is that not all laws specify a minimum punishment, which gives judges the leeway to let the guilty off with a slap on the wrist– undermining deterrence.
Thus offences like bribery and cheating are punishable under the Indian Penal Code with imprisonment ”which may extend to one year.” The fact that they are among the commonest crimes is a reflection of the level of deterrence law effects.
The IPC was enacted in 1860. But even the Biological Diversity Act 2002 makes contravention punishable with imprisonment ”which may extend to five years.” No minimum punishment.
”Criminal laws normally provide for a maximum sentence that may be imposed if an offence is proved,” the Commission said, adding that a minimum punishment is prescribed in only ”a certain category of offences.
”The courts have a wide discretion in deciding the quantum of punishment,” according to the Commission.
Advocates of such discretion say it ”is necessary in order to enable the judge to impose a punishment depending upon the circumstances of each case.” They say criminal courts do not have ‘total discretion’ in deciding the sentence and, for subordinate courts, the rulings of the High courts and the Supreme Court also act as guidelines.
They also argue that in a big and diverse country like India it may not be possible to codify each and every situation, and may be best to leave it to the courts’ judgement.
But critics say ”there are instances when such wide discretion has resulted in varying punishments for similar crimes in similar circumstances.”
They say there should be statutorily-backed guidelines to help judges arrive at the quantum of punishment in each case.
The Commission has recommended that the Law Commission lay down guidelines for Trial Courts ”so that sentencing across the country for similar offences becomes broadly uniform.” It has also recommended strengthening the training for trial court judges ”to bring about greater uniformity in sentencing.”
Western experience is that guidelines help ensure ”certainty and fairness” and avoid ”disparities” among defendants with similar records and criminal conduct, while allowing flexibility for mitigating factors.
Britain, for instance, set up a Sentencing Guidelines Council to frame or revise sentencing guidelines to which ”every court must… have regard.” In the United States, a Sentencing Manual and Table lay down a range in months within which the court may sentence defendants based on nature of their offence and criminal history.
Originally mandatory, the guidelines were made discretionary two years ago by a US Supreme Court decision, which cited Americans’ constitutional right to trial by jury.
Starting June 2006, the 2nd Commission has so far submitted five Reports:
— Right to Information – Master Key to Good Governance;
— Unlocking Human Capital – Entitlements and Governance – a case study;
— Crisis Management;
— Ethics in Governance; and
— Public order.
The Commission proposes to submit nine more and has been given a 7-month extension by the Union Cabinet up to March 31, 2008.
UNI MJ

 

A 21st Century Dark Age Cries Out For Rule Of Law ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                   March 02, 2004

Persecution of witches

Persecution of ‘witches’ (Depiction: Wikipedia)

A 21st Century Dark Age Cries Out For Rule Of Law !*

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – Lives of helpless women branded as witches by men out to exploit them left a woman cop-turned-international civil servant almost speechless.

After watching a two hour film titled Jeet, Kiran Bedi said it made her wonder what she was doing flying to New York when there is so much to be done here.

Bedi, currently United Nations Civilian Police Adviser assigned to helping bring rule of law to UN Peacekeeping, was in New Delhi the past week. Almost impulsively she remarked that is work and service, too.

Efforts to quell complex conflicts over the past decade appear to have finally brought home to the UN that for peace to sustain, rule of law must be established first. To that end, the role of police officers– domestic and global– has taken on growing significance in the mandates of UN peacekeeping missions.

Rule of law– or its absence– was also the theme underlying the film at hand sponsored by the Human Resource Development Ministry’s National Literacy Mission screened at Habitat over the weekend.

It tells the story of a widow and her teenaged daughter preyed on by a village head and his henchman who is a ‘witch-doctor’ or ojha.

Both women are branded witches. One is burnt, the other dragged into the forest and gang-raped.

Emancipation comes from exposure to education brought to the village by a journalist-turned-teacher who exposes the exorcist with the help of a professional magician.

India, said Bedi, is broadly three worlds. At one end of the spectrum is the Infosys world, at the other, this. ”In between,” she told audience, ”it’s us.”

Clearly, she went on, there is a lot to be done. Watching the movie made her wonder how many times she would have to be reborn to do it all, she said.

English: Witchmonument at Anda, in Gloppen, No...

Witch-hunt outlawed and consigned to history – a Norwegian monument in memory of victims (Photo: Wikipedia)

Another viewer, former Information and Broadcasting Minister Vasant Sathe, said he felt impelled to look within and think of superstition that abounds among India’s educated even in the 21st century.

According to film-maker Lavlin Thadani, witch branding takes a toll of several hundred victims year after year in Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and elsewhere.

The problem is a manifestation of failure to deliver on several fronts– education, health care and law and order.

”Violence against women is part of rural life, resorted to by the upper castes to keep the disadvantaged under economic and social subjugation and inflict political lessons,” she said.

”It is one of the ways for preservation of caste structure and upper caste hegemony, witch branding just being a cover for exploitative social arrangement.”

In absence of a proper medical support system, tribal communities rely on ojhas for magic spells to cure the sick. They enjoy power over the community. Many illnesses run their course and disappear.

When their mumbo-jumbo or potion fails to relieve a patient, a scapegoat is found, invariably in the poorest and most vulnerable women. Whether it is tuberculosis or any other virus, villagers readily believe it is a result of witchcraft.

At times, ojhas are used to target widows or single women who come into property or land. At times, because a woman has spurned a man’s advances. Given high levels of morbidity, blind faith and greed, ojhas have little trouble making a living.

Women accused of witchcraft are hounded, dragged into the forest and hacked, hanged or burned to death. Their teeth are knocked out, heads shaved or breasts chopped off, or they are forced to strip and walk naked through villages– anything to wreck their spirit.

Laws have been enacted but seldom result in convictions. Bihar, notorious in the matter, was reported to have passed a tough law requiring a three-month prison sentence for so much as calling a woman a witch.

One woman branded a witch by relatives, expelled from the village and rejected by her husband, fought back. She sued her kin, who were found guilty. The judge let them off as first-time offenders.

UNI MJ KS

Workers – Not To Be Toyed With ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                            December 01, ‎2011

Labour law concerns the inequality of bargaini...

Labour law concerns the inequality of bargaining power between employers and workers (Photo: Wikipedia)

Workers – Not To Be Toyed With !

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – A retiring High Court Chief Justice is paid a High Court Judge’s pension. The mistake is rectified– but not before a 15 year court battle.

An Indian Institute of Technology professor invokes his Right to Information– to know why his gratuity is withheld.

After a Japanese executive kicks a worker and tosses the turban of another one, 3,000 employees at a Gurgaon plant form a union– prompting dismissals. Protest brings brutal thrashing from Haryana police in full view of news cameras.

Fired en masse, 362 union-led newspaper employees spend 20 months in Delhi High Court without relief– only to start afresh before a labour tribunal.

Tens of thousands of farmers persuaded to borrow for modern tools, chemicals and seed incur a crop of debt they cannot cope with– and end their lives.

Hired on merit, a scheduled tribe teacher harassed at work goes to the Central Administrative Tribunal, the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court– her battle and hounding cut short by her death in the premature delivery of a stillborn.

Those are some glimpses of what India’s so-called strong labour laws are doing for– and to– some of its officially counted 400 million workforce Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls ‘toiling masses’.

Labour and Employment Ministry officials say India has 154 labour laws to ensure welfare of roughly 30 million organised workers and 370 million unorganised workers, including some 250 million farmers and farm hands.

Set up 36 years ago to research labour issues, V V Giri National Labour Institute has yet to produce a comprehensive study of workplace disputes, their causes and outcomes– that might have shown the way to reform.

As in instances cited at the outset, those guilty of making life miserable for some of India’s workmen and women seldom suffer personal consequences under the law.

That, experts acknowledge, defeats right there a key purpose of any legal system– to deter crime by instilling the fear of law in potential offenders.

“Where we fail is in punishing our crooks or offenders,” says former Calcutta High Court Chief Justice D S Tewatia, stressing the urgency of reforms to remedy the situation.

Knowing, for instance, that the worst consequence of denying employees’ wages is having to pay after 10 or 15 years, employers may take such recourse capriciously at the slightest pretext or even without any.

Quite unlike elsewhere in the civilised world, employers in India do not face jail or hefty punitive damages that may make them behave.

In the United States, for instance, former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling was given more than 24 years in prison for fraud and conspiracy involving more than US40 billion dollars debt, thousands of lost livelihoods and duped clients.

Before sentencing, an outraged Enron employee of 17 years, Kevin Hyatt, had asked the judge to ‘send a message’ to other corporate executives by giving Skilling the maximum sentence.

About labour legislation in India, a Western expert observes with an almost audible smirk, ”these laws are of little broad significance. They have long been circumvented in practice in most areas of the economy.”

Such laws as Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923, Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970, Industrial Disputes Act 1947, Factories Act 1948 and Minimum Wages Act 1948 provide imprisonment for violators.

But strangely the option to invoke those provisions is controlled by government officials.

Headquarters of the International Labour Organ...

International Labour Organisation – Presiding (United Nations Photo)

For any harassment they inflict on employees, employers cannot be prosecuted on those counts without express sanction of labour inspectors or commissioners.

Here are some examples:

— Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923 section 18A(2): No prosecution under this section shall be instituted except by or with the previous sanction of a Commissioner.

— Industrial Disputes Act 1947 Section 34(1): No Court shall take cognisance of any offence punishable under this Act or of the abetment of any such offence, save on complaint made by or under the authority of the appropriate government.

How that works out on the ground was indicated when Lok Sabha Members Sunil Khan, Basudeb Acharia, Amitava Nandy and Gurudas Das Gupta drew attention to labour law violations some years ago.

The Labour Ministry gave data on the violations handled in 2003-04 and 2004-05 by the Central Industrial Relations Machinery headed by the Chief Labour Commissioner.

Of 9,826 and 9,538 disputes received under the IDA, for instance, 3,533 and 3,583 were settled while ”FOC– failure of conciliation–reports (were) submitted” in 4,276 and 2,743 disputes respectively.

The Ministry gave no account of how many violators, if any, went to jail.

“The Ministry and its machinery should be protecting labour– not employers,” was how Acharia, a Communist Marxist MP from Bankura, West Bengal, put it.

Asked then if he knew of any case in which an industrialist has had to go behind bars for breaking labour laws, Acharia said, “not one.”

As it is, given poverty and unemployment on one hand and the state of law and courts obtaining on the other, employees find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

The reverse appears to hold for affluent industrialists. Matters are filed in courts where they take years before it is time for appeals and more years.

How workmen or women survive without wages or relief may be hard to grasp for authorities not familiar with such hardship.

Thus it is that workers lose jobs while employers keep running industries and establishments– unmindful of consequences not in evidence. There is little to deter employers’ misconduct.

A published source says even West Bengal, the left bastion, saw 274 lockouts in 2000, more than half– 143– declared to reduce workforce on “the pretext of loss of economic viability.”

Short of sound laws and implementation, half measures abound.

The Institute of Company Secretaries of India proposed some time ago requiring independent professional assurance from practising company secretaries on labour law compliance.

But critics stress the importance of sound labour laws and effective enforcement.

Experts point out how professional auditors have for decades approved accounts without raising an eyebrow– while Swiss numbered accounts of Indians have grown.

Given such facts or data, it may appear natural that workers representatives agitate to rectify things.

Strangely, it is employers’ associations which have been demanding greater facility to hire and fire employees, a Labour Ministry statement noted some time ago.

“The employers have been vehemently pressing for labour reforms on the plea that these are necessary for making Indian industry globally competitive and for attracting more of foreign direct investment.

“The existing laws, it is contended by employers, slow down growth and job creation. They say that under the existing labour laws the churning of new skills is slower; companies lose cost cutting flexibility and ability to bounce out of recession quickly.

“The employers further contend that Labour Market will become more flexible with the amendments; more workers can be hired legitimately and can ask for better benefits including better work conditions, safety standards, welfare measures and health benefits,” the statement said.

Some of these arguments are backed by such institutions as the World Bank.

But critics ask how governments reconcile promises to workers of more jobs with bigger pay packets and better work conditions with promises held out to foreign investors of abundant cheap and skilled labour.

English: Official Portrait released by the Off...

Labour & Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge (Photo: Wikipedia)

At a conference in New Delhi, WB experts spoke of better work contracts.

Asked who will fix a contract if an employer breaks it, the experts promptly replied: the Courts.

Asked if it was fair for employees to have to go through years of litigation for wages of their work, the experts conceded the incongruity of the situation and spoke of judicial reforms.

They argued that reforms would follow in the legal system as pressure builds up. But that, critics say, is like putting the cart before the horse, especially considering some recent trends in labour-related adjudication and judicial orders.

On the other hand, experts say it is important to note that the associations seeking to change the rules are made up of industrialists who are themselves often subsidised by taxpayers in any number of ways.

Apart from receiving concessions in tax and costs of land and other public resources, many have been notorious in building up lakhs of crores of rupees of India’s Non Performing Assets– a euphemism for unrepaid loans.

Unlike tens of thousands of debt-ridden farmers who end their life unable to face the ignominy, no one appears to have heard of NPA defaulters making such choices.

Experts agree that the government must strike a balance. Citizens must not only be proclaimed to be equal, they must also be treated as equals. Just as workers must work, so must employers manage properly and pay wages.

Any failures or abuses, including manipulation of unions, must lead to consequences, they say.

Laws and fora must be put in place or firmed up to deliver justice in time– not at leisure, experts say.

UNI MJ TBA RP 1454

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TV Covered Polls For Viewers – Not Voters ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                                May 31, 2009

TV Covered Polls For Viewers – Not Voters !

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – Key social issues, law and governance took a back seat while television news channels focused on personalities and alliances in the 72-day run up to Poll 2009, a study reported today.

A count by CMS Media Lab shows that six of India’s leading news channels between them spent 25,266 minutes or about 421 hours airing election news in their 7PM-11PM slots between March 1 and May 11.
Analysing bulletins, the Lab found DD News, Aaj Tak, NDTV 24X7, Zee News, CNN-IBN and Star News spent more airtime on politics than on entertainment and sports– mainstays for ratings and revenues.
”Even though TV remains the popular medium of communication,” it appeared ”largely unsuccessful in shaping public opinion,” the study said.
It pointed out, for instance, how a campaign by some major media houses urging citizens to vote failed to motivate, keeping voter turnout low.
Issues Indians struggle with day in and day out– affordable food, housing, jobs, water, unbridled crime– blue-collar and white-collar, health, and social, economic and judicial inequities—barely got much attention.
Consider:
— Notwithstanding green revolution or claims of self-sufficiency, affordable food remains an issue. Foodgrain availability has fallen to 152 kg per capita, 23 kg less than in the 1990s, an e-source says. Some 47 per cent of Indian children, the nation’s future, are estimated to suffer from under-nutrition. India ”accounts for 21 per cent of the under-five children dying in the world… (and) is home to nearly 40 per cent of all low birth weight babies in the developing World.” In eradicating hunger, India ranked 66th among 88 developing and transition nations two months ago. A Hunger Index 2008 published under the auspices of Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute highlighted ”the continued overall severity of the hunger situation in India. Most States have a ‘serious’ hunger problem, and one State, Madhya Pradesh, has an ‘extremely alarming’ hunger problem.” At least one manifesto pledged to enact a Right to Food law that guarantees citizens access to sufficient food.
— With experts estimating that barely six per cent of heinous offences end in convictions– letting 94 per cent offenders walk free while law-abiding victims suffer, crime is a major concern. A serious example of white-collar crime in a company curiously named Satyam surfaced shortly before elections when its founder proclaimed himself a fraud, possibly to escape severer jurisdictions. The revelation raises questions about inept regulatory system– be it boards of directors, auditors or registrars of companies, not to mention investigators. Indeed, authorities have yet to make clear their response or consequences for such perpetrators.
— Given a billion plus citizenry, the government acknowledges a deficit of 22.4 million houses. Authoritative sources say even 180 million dwellings in existence include 108 million in a dilapidated condition– unfit for healthy living. A television jingle some months ago cited the soaring prices of Delhi Development Authority flats as an accomplishment– rather than a criminal failure to ensure adequate housing. As the Law Commission recently pointed out, former President Zail Singh once suggested that no person in India be allowed to have more than one house– any extra houses given to the needy on installments.
Issues abound. Critics say when it comes to parity and justice, Indian governance, no matter the political label, has been long on talk, short on delivery.
But little of all that showed up in the election campaign or related coverage.
The study said the channels spent more airtime on politics but the bulk of it was ‘superficial,’ not hard news that might have informed, educated or influenced voters.
The channels gave politics 42.75 per cent news time– against usual 10-12 per cent, or 33 per cent in 2004 elections– but ”a major chunk of it remained superficial.”
Almost a third or 30.87 per cent of this time– 7,801 minutes or about 130 hours– was devoted to political personalities and another 10.62 per cent– 2,683 minutes or 45 hours– to alliance prospects.
Instant replays, trivialisation and reality formats– gimmicks to drive entertainment or sport viewership or television rating points and ad revenues– were liberally evident. The channels also played up hate speeches, verbal duels and bickering.
The overall coverage of elections ”bordered on entertainment” as issues were trivialized– instead of being clarified to help broaden perspectives and build opinion in public interest.
The study said the channels spent 10.62 per cent news time reporting political formations or breakups but barely 4.82 per cent on security, nuclear deal, jobs, development, governance, recession, farmers’ suicides and amenities.
Many key issues made just fleeting appearances– in talk shows and debates.
”Communication that could empower voters with vital information needed to make an informed decision was negligible,” it said.
Attention given to voting added up to 1,786 minutes or almost 30 hours or 7.07 per cent.
There was virtually no television coverage about electronic voting machines although there have been some complaints of possible malfunction or tampering.
‘’There was not even a cursory debate on the subject,’’ Lab spokesman Prabhakar told United News of India Special Correspondent Mukesh Jhangiani.
”Broadly stating,” the study said, ”there was a clear disconnect between the voters and the media, which was apparent in the coverage priorities of news channels.”
Skewed distribution of news time meant that insignificant issues ate up precious minutes that might have been used to air such pressing concerns as health, environment, water, electricity or roads.
The study showed the time spent on basic concerns– jobs, crime, housing, price rise, justice– was miniscule. Governance, education, infrastructure, not to mention the controversial nuclear deal with the United States, figured even less.
The six channels between them spent 414 minutes– 1.64 per cent– of airtime on corruption, an issue raised nationwide in the 1970s by veteran socialist Jayaprakash Narayan– and yet to be taken care of.
Even word that Indians have trillions of rupees stashed in secret Swiss accounts, posed as a poll issue by a novice party, Youth for Equality, failed to fire up coverage.
Almost equally little attention was paid to two of the most serious menaces– terrorism and criminalisation of politics– 314 minutes and 313 minutes– or 1.24 per cent of the coverage.
This, notwithstanding the spate of incidents, including the ghastly 26/11 Mumbai raid, nor the rising clamour against allowing lawbreakers to blend in with lawmakers.
Airtime spent on candidate selection or ticket distribution stories: 572 minutes or 2.26 per cent of the total.
A quick check by an activist group, Election Watch News, shows the number of electees facing criminal charges went up on May 16 from 128 in the 14th Lok Sabha to 153 in the 15th Lok Sabha.
As many as nine of them were appointed United Progressive Alliance Ministers.
A ‘positive’ aspect of the coverage, the study said, was DD news, NDTV 24X7 and Star News highlighting some serious neighbourhood issues– 7.37 per cent airtime.
The channels spent 1,361 minutes reporting on the Election Commission, 1,344 minutes, on opinion polls, 1,276 minutes, on parties’ campaigns and 605 minutes, on their strategies.
UNI MJ ATI AS1109

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Snags in Hiring More Judges To Dispense Justice ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                    November 3, 2002

Snags in Hiring More Judges To Dispense Justice !

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – Notwithstanding Supreme Court directives, States claim they have ”serious difficulties” in raising the strength of judges to dispense justice to the wronged, whose ranks continue to swell.

Informed sources say the matter also figured at the Chief Ministers’ conference in the past fortnight and the Centre has been requested to make ”necessary submissions” before the apex court on financial constraints in implementing its judgement.

The court judgement on March 21 favoured a ten per cent annual increase in judges strength over the next five years, which is estimated by Law and Justice Ministry officials as likely to cost thousands of crores of Rupees.
Considering population, India is rated by experts to have among the lowest number of judges in the world, only 10.5 per million people in India as against 50.9 in Britain, 57.7 in Australia, 75.2 in Canada, and 107 in the United States.
The never-ending pendencies and all too frequent adjournments– which delay and proverbially deny justice– symptomise the teetering state of the country’s judicial system. It may have unseated a prime minister but it is known to routinely let common criminals– blue collar and white collar– slip away.
Top law professionals acknowledge that the shockingly low– 6.5 per cent– conviction rate in serious crimes tells potential law-breakers they have a 93.5 per cent chance of getting away.
”That,” says Prof Satyaranjan Sathe, Honorary Director of Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, a Pune-based private research group, ”is one of our biggest worries– there is not much out there to deter a violator.”
— January 2, 1975: An explosion at a public function at Samastipur, Bihar kills India’s Railways Minister. The case is transferred to nine judges, statements of two of seven accused have been recorded and key witnesses dropped– as untraceable or not having come forward.
— January 10, 1999: A reckless driver in the Capital mows down six human lives in a night. The accused is pursuing Business Administration studies abroad while the trial continues.
— July 25, 2001: Driving home from Parliament during lunch break, a Member is shot dead in broad daylight as she arrives at her official residence barely a kilometre away. Eleven men charged are in jail, awaiting trial.
— February 23, 2002: A co-accused in shooting a bartender in May 2000 for not serving a drink is arrested as prime accused in the murder of a young man who dances with his sister at a wedding. The first trial is on. The accused is in judicial custody in the second matter, charges for which are yet to be framed.
Not just thugs or criminals, even professionals, administrators or businessmen are not afraid to break the law.
— August 21, 1989: Political foes allegedly plant a report in leading newspapers about huge offshore accounts supposedly held by a future Prime Minister. Leading politicians are named conspirators, but not one is convicted in 13 years. The simplest thing might have been to start by nailing those who planted the story. As an on line critic put it, the Press ”played a nefarious role in broadcasting these forgeries” and should bring out these names.
— March 12, 1993: Explosions rock several areas in Mumbai, killing 300, with RDX smuggled into the country by bribing a customs official Rs 20 lakhs to look away. The trial continues.
— August 8, 1995: A judge orders Delhi Municipal Corporation to compensate survivors of an employee who died after 15 years of abuse, and deduct the payment from the salary of ”the responsible officer.” Lawyers say the system is lazy and ill-equipped to punish officers in such cases; Taxpayers usually end up paying. No lessons are learnt.
— November 19, 1999: An industrialist owning more than one companies is allowed by a court to shut down one of them– a soft drink plant– reportedly after denying wages to hundreds of workers for eight months. Fired employees are in courts seeking statutory wages.
— January 4, 2000: A list made public unmasks thousands of big-spending industrialists defaulting on huge borrowings from State-owned banks, creating non-performing assets now touching Rs 110,000 crore. Cases continue, at further expense to taxpayers.
Examples abound. Years pass before trials take place, giving the guilty ample time to manipulate evidence or break witnesses. After a while memories may fade anyway, making testimonies easier to shake.
Critics argue that such a legal system is itself the best bet for an offender trying to escape punishment.
Even in India’s trumpeted labour laws, for instance, ”deterrent punishment is usually not provided. But even where it is provided, Courts tend to take a lenient view of offences,” said a veteran labour administrator, requesting anonymity.
Labour tribunals, the Government official went on, may help employees against small employers, but ”when we face big employers, we are stuck in technicalities that consume years.”
The chilling reality was spelt out matter-of-factly by an employer to an employee considering legal recourse over years of harassment. ”Remember, I have the organisation behind me, I won’t even have to go to Court. Our lawyers will do that. I will just hand over the file to them. You, on the other hand, will be on your own– whether it takes five years or seven years or longer!”
Lawyers with decades of experience say such attitudes are not altogether uncommon, nor such threats empty.
Critics say India’s judicial system is in a mess, with cases going on and on for years, giving little respite to the wronged and plenty of leeway to wrongers. The issue has often figured in Parliament.
India’s senior and subordinate judiciaries between them have less than 13,000 officers ranging from Munsifs to the Chief Justice and almost 24 million cases pending.
More than a fourth of them– 26.7 per cent– or 5.3 million cases have been in courts longer than three years, Home Ministry officials say.
Worse. More than half a million cases have been pending for over a decade– the bulk in the High Courts of Allahabad, 2,88,472; Calcutta, 1,27,190; Punjab and Haryana, 49,951; Bombay, 28,131; and the Capital, 35,865.
But the figures do not even begin to tell the impact on millions of lives at the receiving end of such dispensation.
Forty-eight years after a complainant filed a petition, Madhya Pradesh High Court was yet to deliver the verdict. Bihar High Court had a 47-year-old case pending, Calcutta High Court, a 43-year-old case, and Rajasthan High Court, a 42-year-old case pending.
Judgements in hundreds of cases are being delivered long after the hearing is over. At one count, Madras High Court alone had judgements pending in 566 cases, 229 of them six months after the hearing. A far cry, indeed, from what victims need !
”The consumer of justice,” India’s Chief Justice once observed, ”wants unpolluted, expeditious and inexpensive justice. In the absence of it, instead of taking recourse to law, he may be tempted to take the law in his own hands.”
In lay man’s terms: One should be able to walk into a court and walk out with a verdict within at most a few months.
Knowing that justice would be swift and punishment severe should deter perhaps a large many potential violators, reducing burden on courts and the exchequer and ending the prevailing cynicism.
Currently, experts fault mainly two key factors– complex and inefficacious laws and procedures and shortage of judges and courts.
They say Indian laws, procedures and practices tend to be cumbersome and ineffective.
The 93-year-old Code of Civil Procedures just amended seeks to compress the time frame for disposal of all civil cases within one year by setting a time limit for every stage of litigation and allowing at most three adjournments.
But it is yet to be seen how the changes work in practice.
On reforms in criminal justice system, a committee set up by the Home Ministry in November 2000 has yet to submit its findings. Its Chairman, V S Malimath, a retired judge who once served as a High Court Chief Justice in Karnataka and then in Kerala, has been busy the last two years writing effective procedures to punish crime.
The Judge recently told a conference of professionals that people ”have by and large lost confidence in the criminal justice system. Wherever I go people ask:
— How is it that when everyone around knows that the accused has committed the offence, the Courts find reason to acquit him?
— Why is it that when one Court finds the accused guilty, the High Court says he is not, and the Supreme Court says he is guilty?
— Why is it that it takes so many years, sometimes decades to dispose of criminal cases?
— How is it that the rich and the powerful who commit serious crimes are seldom punished?”
The paucity of courts is another key problem, experts say. And it’s compounded by vacancies. India’s 21 High Courts with a strength of nearly 650 judges have almost 150 vacancies and 12,000 plus subordinate courts have 1,684 vacancies. Almost a third of labour courts also remain unfilled.
Fifteen years ago, the Law Commission of India in its report titled ‘Manpower Planning in Judiciary: A Blueprint’ recommended raising the strength to at least 50 judges per million citizens.
As the Commission put it, India was persisting in a pattern of conscious judicial under-staffing followed by the British rulers in keeping with their colonial interests.
The findings were shelved. The case arrears kept mounting.
Some eighteen months ago, the authorities launched so-called Fast Track Courts to deal with long pending cases of heinous crimes and those involving undertrials in prison, the idea being that no one should be in prison longer than necessary.
More than 800 Fast Track Courts now working are reported to have cleared nearly 64,000 cases.
Experts say they see no reason why fast Track Courts should not cover undertrials on bail– to put them where they belong. They say the move has either not been considered or has been dismissed not to inconvenience those resourceful enough to obtain bail in heinous offences.
Imagine the effect, if the high and mighty on bail found guilty were sent behind bars– not walking free.
Seven months ago, on March 21, the apex court ordered a phased increase in the strength of judges over the next five years.
In mid-July, the Union Government announced it had ”initiated necessary action” to increase the strength of Judges in Union Territories in compliance with the judgement.
The first sign of trouble, sources say, came at a meeting convened by Finance Minister Jaswant Singh on September seven at which State Finance Ministers voiced ”serious difficulties regarding the Constitutional, financial and administrative issues involved in implementing the Supreme Court judgement of 21-3-2002.”
On an average, a court costs Rs 25 lakhs to set up– Rs 15 lakhs to build the court room, Rs five lakh to furnish it and install computers and another Rs five lakhs to build judges’ residence– and Rs 11 lakhs a year to run.
Officials estimate that the cost of adding the numbers of judges as per the apex court directive may exceed Rs 10,000 crores.
The State Finance Ministers expressed difficulties pertaining to pay scales and other service conditions of subordinate judiciary ”including increase in judge strength and all other matters related thereto.”
The States’ financial woes and fears of going ”broke” trying to implement the judgement, were mentioned by Law and Justice Minister K Jana Krishnamurthi at a news conference on the eve of the Chief Ministers’ conference. He indicated that ”we are having talks” with the States authorities after which the apex court would be approached for directions.
On October 18, the Chief Ministers’ conference ratified the Finance Ministers’ findings without making any counter proposals, leaving it to the Centre to find a cure.
According to sources, Senior officials in the Home Ministry are giving final touches to proposals setting afresh ”additional judge strength required as per pendency and workload,” taking into account existing judicial vacancies.
Sources say the proposals estimate that the number of additional judges needed on the basis of the pendency and the judges’ average case disposal rate is 1,314. Cost estimate: Rs 700 crores.
UNI MJ RP GC1010

Snags in Hiring More Judges To Dispense Justice ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani – November 3, 2002

Pirates Force Hostages To Call Kin: Captain’s Wife – By Mukesh Jhangiani

October 2, 2008

Pirates Force Hostages To Call Kin: Captain’s Wife*

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – Somali pirates in the Aden
Gulf today forced some of 22 hostages to call home
to pressure the owners of the ship they seized 16
days ago for ransom, relatives reported tonight.

”They are asking some hostages at gun-point to speak
to their families,” Seema Goyal, wife of Captain Prabhat
Goyal, said hours after she was assured by Shipping,
Road Transport and Highways Minister T R Baalu of
”every effort” for their release.
Mrs Goyal said she learnt this from her husband who
telephoned her late in the afternoon from his ship’s bridge
and she was trying to convey it to the Shipping officials.
She said she also got telephone calls from some of the
families which had heard from sailors aboard the Chemical
tanker Stolt Valor, including Om Prakash Shukla and
Joginder Malik.
Earlier, Mrs Goyal met Mr Baalu and was assured that
”every effort” would be made to secure release of the
hostages. Also present were Shipping Secretary APVN
Sarma and Captain PVK Mohan, chairman of the National
Shipping Board.
She has also requested a meeting with United
Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
The delegation of seafarers’ relatives and friends also
included Captain Joginder Singh Gill, a member of
Company of Master Mariners, a body of experienced
nautical professionals.
She said ”we were told” by the representatives of the
ship owners and the manning company that delivery of
fresh water and medicine to the hostages was being
arranged. But Captain Goyal told her nothing had arrived
so far, she said.
On Tuesday, the 18 Indian seafarers were reported to be
running short of water and rations.
”Bring an end to the ordeal of these innocent seafarers,”
Mrs Goyal urged in a petition to Baalu.
The relatives and friends of the Indian hostages also
went on air to urge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to
hear them for just ”a few minutes.”
Rashmi Sood, who accompanied Mrs Goyal, said she
could not get over a call she attended from a crew member
aboard the ship whose wife is in hospital.
His words were not coherent but the desperation was
most clear, she said.
The Japanese-owned tanker flying the Hong Kong flag
and manned by a crew of 22 was on way to Mumbai from
Houston in the United States when it was hijacked in the
Gulf of Aden on September 15.
The tanker is carrying phosphoric acid and lubricating
oil for end-users, including Kandla-based Indian Farmers
Fertiliser Cooperative Limited.
As many as 18 of the 22 seamen, including Captain
Goyal, are Indian, one Russian, one Bangladeshi and two
Filipinos.
The hijackers appeared to have originally demanded $6
million since then pared down to $2.5 million, Mrs Goyal
told a meeting at the Indian Society of International Law.
She said Capt Goyal and crew members have been in
touch with her from the ship’s bridge, presumably using a
satellite phone.
”These 22 sailors are living under the shadow of guns
with constant threat to their lives, and look upon the
government of India as their last hope.
She said a crew member called her two days ago and
”said they will be out of fresh water in a day or two, and
rations, in another 3-4 days.”
Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1958, the Director
General of Shipping, who licenses recruiters of Indian
seamen and officers, is also responsible for the welfare of
Indian seamen, experts say.
As many as 55 ships have been attacked off the coast of
Somalia since January and 11 were still being held for
ransom, published accounts indicate.
The International Maritime Bureau has issued an
advisory urging ships to stay 250 Nautical Miles away
from the Somali coast.
The ship was reportedly in a corridor made ”safe” by a
coalition of US, British and French forces.
An official for the recruiting agent declined to comment
on negotiations under way.
UNI MJ AM VP0040

Pirates Force Hostages To Call Kin: Captain’s Wife* – By Mukesh Jhangiani – October 2, 2008

As Hostages Await Release, Seamen Suggest ‘Role For India’ – By Mukesh Jhangiani

October 5, 2008

As Hostages Await Release, Seamen Suggest ‘Role For India’*

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

New Delhi (UNI) – Relatives and friends held a candle
light vigil last night drawing attention to the plight of 22
seafarers– 18 of them Indian– being held hostage by
Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden over the past twenty
days.

”For the past few days,” said Seema Goyal, wife of Chemical
tanker Stolt Valor Captain Prabhat Goyal, ”they have been given
a little of rice and boiled potato.”
She was describing the conditions in which the seamen are
being kept by their captors who demanded $6 million–
subsequently pared down to $2 million– for letting the tanker
sail.
But a statement by the ship’s Japanese owners handed out at
the vigil quoted the Captain as having reported on Friday–
October 3– that ”all crew members were safe (and) there were
no injuries.”
The Japanese-owned tanker flying the Hong Kong flag and
manned by a crew of 22 was on way to Mumbai from Houston
in the United States when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden
on September 15.
The tanker is carrying phosphoric acid and lubricant oil for
end-users, including Kandla-based Indian Farmers Fertiliser
Cooperative Limited.’ Besides 18 Indians, the crew includes a
Russian, a Bangladeshi and two Filipinos.
Mrs Goyal and other members of the group have been
meeting Indian authorities– ministers, senior bureaucrats,
politicians– to bring home the urgency of securing the sailors’
release.
”I only want to know what is being done. What is going on,”
she said as she and other participants held the vigil near Jantar
Mantar, just off the Capital’s Parliament Street.
”These 22 sailors are living under the shadow of guns with
constant threat to their lives, and look upon the government of
India as their last hope.”
Experts say much of the initiative in the matter rests with
authorities in Hong Kong, where the ship is registered, or
Japan, where the owners belong.
One idea being pursued is Indian authorities sending a
‘neutral observer’ to the ongoing negotiations between the
Japanese owners and the hijackers, Mrs Goyal disclosed.
But wth a number of merchant naval officers taking part in
the vigil last night, the talk turned inevitably to a situation
many of them face at sea.
Although Indians constitute a bulk of seamen– more than a
half, one said– on merchant ships of various nationalities, and
the Indian government licenses recruiters on Indian soil,
recruits get little protection.
They pointed out how Americans, British and French, for
instance, have formed a coalition to work a ”safe” corridor in
the area and suggested similar effort by Indian forces.
An Indian coastal presence or participation will not only
”boost our spirits,” it would at the same time deter
trouble-makers, Captain Mukul Attri told United News of India
Special Correspondent Mukesh Jhangiani.
Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1958, the Director General
of Shipping, who licenses recruiters of Indian seamen and
officers, is also responsible for recruits’ welfare, experts say.
As many as 55 ships have been attacked off the coast of
Somalia since January and 11 were still being held for ransom,
published accounts indicate.
The International Maritime Bureau has issued an advisory
urging ships to stay 250 Nautical Miles away from the Somali
coast.
Another set of pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter
carrying tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition
claimed this week they are more ”like a coast guard.”
A New York Daily quoted a spokesman for the pirates as
saying they have been misundestood by the world.
The New York Times quoted spokesman Sugule Ali as saying,
”we don’t consider ourselves sea bandits.
”We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas
and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We
are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”
Such remarks, experts say, stray into ”grey areas” of the 1982
Law of the Sea Convention to which India is a party.
Even the International Criminal Court appears to offer no
remedy against piracy.
On the other hand, the statement by Stolt Valor’s Japanese
owners cited expert opinion that ”Somali hijackers are now
using ‘terror tactics’.”
It also contained word that the pirates ”are using” such tactics
as having crew members exaggerate hardships on board to
cause worry to families.
The statement appeared to confirm Mrs Goyal’s account three
days ago that the Somali pirates were forcing some of 22
hostages to call home to pressure the ship owners on ransom.
It said the ”owners continue to maintain contact with the
vessel on a regular basis and are making every effort to secure
the safe release of the crew” and have kept governments posted.
It discounted ideas of a rescue action, citing an unnamed
British expert that ”for every successful rescue attempt, many
more are unsuccesssful and result in dead hostages.”
It said ”the best hope for a safe resolution to the Stolt Valor
crisis is by calm communication, rather than aggressive
military action.”
Over the past few days, Mrs Goyal and her group has met
Shipping Minister T R Baalu and External Affairs Minister of
State Anand Sharma and senior officers of the Ministries and
All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi.
Baalu and others have assured her that ”every effort” would
be made to secure release of the hostages.
Mrs Goyal says her husband and crew members have been in
touch with her from the ship’s bridge, presumably using a
satellite phone.
Differing accounts and interpretations contribute to relatives’
anxieties.
On Tuesday, the 18 Indian seafarers were reported to be
running short of water and rations.
She said a crew member called her and ”said they will be out
of fresh water in a day or two, and rations, in another 3-4 days.”
She said ”we were told” by the representatives of the ship
owners and the manning company that delivery of fresh water
and medicine to the hostages was being arranged. But Captain
Goyal told her nothing had arrived,” she said.
The ship owners’ statement said that ”some crew members
who had been feeling unwell… received medicine on board.”
Rashmi Sood, who attended a call from a crew member
aboard the ship whose wife is in hospital, said his words were
not coherent but the desperation was most pronounced.
”Bring an end to the ordeal of these innocent seafarers,” Mrs
Goyal urged in a petition to Baalu.
During a televised interview, the relatives and friends of the
Indian hostages urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to
hear them for just ”a few minutes.”
UNI MJ RP KN1352

 

 

As Hostages Await Release, Seamen Suggest ‘Role For India’* – By Mukesh Jhangiani – October 5, 2008