Thursday, August 25, 2011

The 'unwanted'

The discrimination against the girl child knows no bounds. The Times of India reports that in a shocking incident, the District Health Administration in Satara District of Maharashtra has identified 222 girls in the age group of 0 – 16 with names “Nakoshi” (meaning ‘Unwanted”, in Marathi) who will be rechristened and given ‘regular’ names so that they are able to carry out their lives normally.

Many of the developed countries have laws which permit or prohibit what name a child can be given. For example, New Zealand has a list of 102 names, which include “Adolf Hitler” which are banned. Portugal bans ‘Mona Lisa’, while in Norway, there is a ban on ‘swear and sex words, illnesses and negative names’. In Australia, Registrars can refuse to register a name which is considered ‘obscene, offensive, too long, consists of symbols without phonetic significance or is contrary to public interest’. In the USA, ‘numbers are not allowed’, while in Denmark, prohibited names include ‘monkey’ and Japan bans ‘Akuma’ (which means Devil).

India’s problem is however, different and no such law is likely to solve it. As parents of these 222 children would vouch, a girl child simply is ‘nakoshi’, whatever name she may be called with. The latest census data shows that the child sex ratio in India has deteriorated over the last 10 years. ‘Progressive’ and prosperous states like Maharashtra fare significantly worse than the National average and sit at the bottom of the National rankings.

Child population in the age group of 0 – 6 years:
Females per 1000 males
All India
1.4 %
3.3 %
(Source: Census of India, 2011)

A recent paper predicted that India would have 20% more men than women in the next two decades due to sex-selective abortion and craze for male child. Clearly, hundreds of girls are being in killed our country even before, or soon after they are born. This is mass murder at the highest scale. It is estimated 8 million female fetuses may have been aborted in India in the past one decade alone.

Little is being done to arrest this trend. The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act was passed in 1994, which makes sex determination of the child before birth illegal. But there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that abortion of the female fetus continues with impunity. The number of convictions under the PC & PNDT Act are minimal, with only 13 convictions across the entire country in 2010 and only 2 in Maharashtra.

Ironically, the rapid rise in the number of Sonography Centres in recent years might have contributed to this disturbing trend. For example, in 2004, there were 4,345 such centres in Maharashtra, a number that has swelled to 7,939 by 2010-11. A study conducted in 2004 observes that higher the number of Sonography centres in a region; poorer is the sex ratio. Selective sex abortion is now a Rs.1000 crore industry. The Maharashtra Government is now working on a system of compulsory online registration of every sonography conducted by a Sonography centre in the state. But it is doubtful how successful the experiment will be.

Policing can only do this much. What is needed is for attitudes to change. And until that happens, hundreds of Nakoshis will continue to be killed even before they are born. And many of those who are lucky enough to be born will be left to suffer a lifetime of discrimination and injustice. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Difference between the two Lokpal Bills

The Government’s Lokpal Bill has rightly been termed as “Jokepal”, as it seeks to create one more rubber stamp, powerless and totally dependent on the Government, who can only push files from one place to another without achieving anything meaningful. Inclusion of the Prime Minister is not the only, not even the most important point of difference between the Government’s and the Civil Society’s Lokpal Bills. The key need today is to urgently create an investigating body which is independent of the politician’s control, since all corruption originates at the politician’s doorstep. And this is precisely why the Government is opposing the Jan Lokpal Bill. So long as the investigator reports to the Government, no meaningful investigation can be carried out against the misdeeds of those in power.

The table below shows the differences between the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill and the Lokpal Bill introduced by the Government in Parliament.

Jan Lokpal
To conduct independent investigations and present cases before special fast track courts constituted by the High Court
Just one more investigating agency totally dependent on and controlled by the Government. No fast track procedure
Participatory and transparent selection, funding and removal process, independent of the government
Government dominated selection, removal and funding by government
Time bound punishment with stricter punishment for higher officers and politicians
No such provision
Prime Minister
PM can be investigated, though there will be special safeguards to prevent frivolous complaints against PM
PM can be investigated by bodies which are controlled by the PMO itself. No independent investigating body
Can be investigated if suspected of taking bribes to speak / vote in Parliament
No such investigation permitted
Permission to investigate corrupt and criminal charges against Judges
No such provision
State Government, Municipal Corporation, Panchayat staff
Included, as the Bill also creates Lok Ayuktas simultaneously
No provision to investigate State, Municipal and other employees
Department Vigilance, CVC and CBI
Departmental Vigilance in each government department, CVC and Anti-Corruption Wing of the CBI should be merged under Independent Lokpal
Government should have control over anti-corruption investigation
Lower bureaucracy
Included in the ambit of Lokpal
Excluded. Only 60,000 class I officers of Centre included
Public Grievance redressal
Fixed timeframe for services. In case of purposeful delay in performance of duty, penalties and prosecution
No citizen charters, penalty or prosecution
What if Lokpal becomes corrupt?
Complaints against Lokpal staff will be investigated by an independent authority - SC bench and special bench. Strict punishment within 2 months
Complaints against Lokpal staff will be heard by the Lokpal itself

As can be seen, the Government’s version has more exclusions than inclusions in its purview. The Government Lokpal cannot take up any corruption case of the Police, Road Traffic Police, Ration Card, Water Department, Municipal Corporation, State Government, etc.  Had Government Lokpal been already present, none of the current scams such as 2G scam, CWG Scam, Adarsh Housing Society scam, Mining Scam etc would have been within the purview of such Lokpal.

What is the use of such a Lokpal?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How long can you fast? The remarkable story of Irom Sharmila Chanu

With Anna Hazare giving a new lease of life to Gandhigiri, fasting as a means of peaceful protest is back in vogue. But how long can one fast? What happens if one continues to fast but the demands are not met by the powers that be? Read the remarkable story of Irom Sharmila Chanu of Manipur, who has been on a hunger strike since 3rd November 2000 and has not taken any solid food or water since then. It’s been more than 10 years now.

Manipur has been fighting insurgency since the 1970s. The state was granted autonomy when the British left India in 1947, but it merged with India two years later. But many believe that the treaty was forced upon their king. This, and the continued neglect of the North Eastern states by the politicians in Delhi has bred resentment among its population towards New Delhi’s rule, leading to insurgency and separatist movements.

On 2nd November, 2000, ten civilians were allegedly shot and killed by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state, while waiting at a bus stop in the town of Malom. The incident later came to be known as the "Malom Massacre". The draconian power granted to the armed forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, was blamed for the attack. The Act provides powers to the Armed forces to detain any civilian on mere suspicion of being a rebel, or to search, arrest or use force against civilians. 

The next day, Sharmila, then 28 years old, started her indefinite fast demanding repeal of the AFSPA. She has been fasting since then and has not taken any solid food or water for more than ten years.

Sharmila has been adamant that she will continue with her hunger strike until the AFSPA has been repealed. Under Indian Law, she has been charged with “attempt to commit suicide’ which is unlawful under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code and carries a maximum punishment of ‘simple imprisonment’ of 1 year. She has been arrested several times in the past one decade, held for a year, released and then arrested again. Under arrest, she has been kept alive by a process called nasogastric intubation”, i.e. force feeding her a mixture of liquefied carbohydrates and proteins through a nasal tube, three times a day.

It’s been more than ten years now. Her struggle continues, unfortunately largely ignored by the mainstream media. It is said she spends her time reading and writing poetry.

You can read more details about her struggle here or here or here

(Note: Images may be copyrights of their respective owners)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Is the government now trying to buy the judiciary?

At a time when the judiciary is emerging as the only hope for the people of this country, one suspects whether the government is now trying to buy the judges too.

A report suggests the Andaman & Nicobar Administration has appointed Mr. Deep Chaim Kabir, son of Supreme Court judge Altamas Kabir to ‘assist’ the Public Prosecutor in certain cases. It is alleged that Mr. Deep Kabir is ineligible for the appointment as he has only four years of experience where  ten years is required and there are several other eligible advocates who could have been appointed. Mr.  Deep Kabir will be paid a fee of Rs.30,000 per day, whereas the Public Prosecutor himself gets just Rs.25,000 per month. Plus, Mr. Kabir being based in Kolkata, the administration will also bear the expenses of his travel from Kolkata to Port Blair, accommodation, food etc.

The Andaman & Nicobar Islands Bar Association has been boycotting the court proceedings since July 29, 2011 on the issue. Detailed reports are available here and  here.

Justice Altamas Kabir is hearing a key petition in the Supreme Court regarding the constituting of the SIT (Special Investigating Team) to monitor all black money cases in India. He is also tipped to be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Error in Aarakshan

Following error was observed in Hindi movie 'Aarakshan': 

Deepak (Saif Ali Khan) is in the U.S. to do his Ph.D. from Cornell University. There, he learns that Dr. Prakash Anand (Amitabh Bachchan), Principal of the college in India where he studied and later taught, has resigned. Deepak calls Poorbi (Deepika Padukone) who is his girlfriend and Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter. When Deepika’s phone rings, the caller id on her mobile phone is displayed as +9122…….

Deepak calls from U.S. but the caller id on Poorbi’s phone shows +9122……… which is a Mumbai landline number!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to tap a mobile phone

We have been hearing a lot about phone tapping these days. But ever wondered how to tap a mobile phone? You might be forgiven for thinking it’s a complicated technical operation, but it’s quite simple really.

When the security agencies want to tap someone’s phone, they simply get another SIM for the same number (as the target person's number) issued from the service provider and insert it into a phone. Now, every time the target phone rings, this phone will also ring and they can simply pick up the phone and listen. The phone should be kept on mute mode; else even the slightest sound will let the target know someone is listening. Or the phone can be connected to a computer to record the conversations and listened to later. Even the SMSes sent to the target number can be received this way. The security agencies and the mobile phone companies use this method all the time, officially or unofficially, to tap phones of suspects such as politicians, industrialists, criminals etc. (what’s the difference, by the way?)

If one has access to the target person’s (such as the spouse or teenage daughter) mobile, the task is even easier. A variety of phone tapping software are available easily on the net, such as this one. Many of these software require installation on the target person’s mobile phone, and then activation from another (your own) phone. You can then easily listen to what’s happening.

Note that tapping phones this way without the knowledge of the other person is not legal, of course. So remember that you are doing it on your own risk. But then, when you want to, a polite “may I tap your phone from tomorrow?” is unlikely to be of much help. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Joke for the day

Teacher: Agar ek deewar banane mein Rs. 10,000 ka kharcha aata hai to 2 deewar banane mein kitna kharcha aayega?
Student: 10 lakh
Teacher: Nalaayak, kya naam hai tera?


Mind Blowing Gujju love letter -
Mari dear, u r que tea, luv lee, sack sea, on nest, a tract thief, cheer fool, soup pub, & u r my most press yes lower, Taro cumless......


Wife: Kya kr rahe ho ?
Husband: Makhiya mar raha hu
Wife: Kitni mari
Husband: 3 male 2 female...
Wife: Unka gender kaise pata chala ?
Husband: 3 Beer bottle pe thi aur 2 Phone se chipki thi.