Monday, February 28, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
"The Die is Caste"
Directed by Mr. Ranjan Kamath
Duration of film: 83 minutes
Language: Hindi with English Subtitles
Mr. Ranjan Kamath, Director will be present to interact with the audience after the screening.
Date: Friday, 18th February, 2011 at 6.00 p.m.
Tea will be served at 5:30 pm
About the film:
‘The Die is Caste' is an appraisal of three decades of the Naxalite (extreme left) movement in the state of Bihar, in eastern India. It examines the role of Naxalites (e.g. Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninst) Liberation, People's War Group and Maoist Communist Centre) as agents of socio-political change, employing violence.
Against the backdrop of Parliamentary and Legislative Assembly elections in Bihar, between 1999-2001, the film portrays the change - over 30 years - in social and political status of the Scheduled Castes (i.e. the lower castes including the Dalits or "Untouchables"); the benefits accruing to the middle castes engineered by the Mandal Commission and the emergence of Laloo Yadav and the consequent violent backlash from the upper-caste landlord militias like the Ranvir Sena.
‘The Die is Caste' is thus an exploration of caste dynamics in Bihar and raises the question as to whether any benefit has accrued to the Schedule Castes or are they mere pawns on the political chessboard.
Excerpt from the documentary " The Die Is Caste"
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Wayanad tribals are soft targets for sterilisation
BY SHAHINA KK
JANAKI KNOWS well that it is hard for her to rear more than four children. Yet she is not willing to go to the sterilisation camp. Her husband would be of no help in taking such a decision. “He drinks heavily, beats me up every day,” she says. Janaki is not able to express her fears in clear terms, but it is difficult to imagine her summoning up the courage or the strength to go to the camp voluntarily.
Janaki belongs to one of the most primitive tribes in Wayanad, a district in Kerala’s largest tribal belt. Tribals constitute 17 percent of the total population of the district, and are vulnerable to various health problems that scale up infant mortality, maternal mortality and communicable diseases, including sexually transmitted ones.
Adivasis in Wayanad are brought to sterilisation camps in large numbers by health workers. “We have sterilisation camps every week at block level,” says Dr Kunjikkannan, who is in charge of conducting camps in the district. “It is a fact that the majority brought to the camps are tribals.” Apart from the weekly camps, there are district-level camps every year if possible. The last camp was on 26 November 2010 in which 42 men underwent nonscalpel vasectomy (NSV) — 32 were from tribal communities. Government officials deny coercion or compulsion, but the boundary between the two is narrow.
“Official figures indicate that the number of tribals in Kerala is diminishing,” says CK Janu of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha, a prominent tribal movement. “Yet the sterilisation programme is in full swing. It has to be viewed in connection with the issue of land alienation and the ongoing land struggles by Adivasis. The government does not want to give the alienated land back to tribals.” However, it would be difficult to establish ‘ethnic cleansing’ as the intent of the government, as she alleges.
Wayanad district has the largest infant mortality and maternal death rates in Kerala. The state average of infant mortality is 13 per 1,000 but here it is 50 per 1,000. Last year, 86 infant deaths were reported of which 46 were from tribal communities. Similarly, of the eight maternal deaths reported, six were of Adivasi mothers.
Again, Kerala may record highest life expectancy for both men and women in India, but the average life expectancy of tribals in Wayanad is merely 45 years, equivalent to that of the poorest countries of the world. The prevalence of communicable diseases, malnutrition and anaemia is considerably high, as is the practice of giving birth at home. According to recent figures, Adivasi women in Wayanad constitute 85.1 percent of the total number of ‘home deliveries’ recorded.
“The prevalence of anaemia among mothers and expectant women is very alarming. In many cases, the haemoglobin count is below four. When you see the poor health of pregnant women and mothers among the tribals, the current rate of maternal mortality is in fact low,” says Dr Santhosh Kumar, a pediatrician at the government hospital in Mananthavady.
Recent figures set off yet another alarming signal. The prevalence of Hepatitis B is disproportionately high among tribals in Wayanad. In 2009, 13 cases were identified in the district hospital alone, with 11 being tribals. In 2010, the number of cases of Hepatitis B was 81, for tribals 47. “No study has been done with regard to this,” says Dr Santhosh. “Men and women are being taken to estates in Karnataka as contract labour. I assume this is the reason for Hepatitis B being rampant.”
DR GEETHA Vijayan, Wayanad’s District Medical Officer (DMO) says, “It is true that the tribal communities in Wayanad are highly vulnerable. We do understand their problems. “We have a target-free approach, we don’t force anybody,” she adds. “The junior public health nurses and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) go to the field and bring them to sterilisation camps, but we have given strict instruction not to force anybody.”
“Coercion need not be very direct,” counters Dr Kumar. He may be right, for the performance of ASHAworkers, who do not get salary, is assessed in the monthly review meeting conducted at district level. They work on commission basis. “One ASHA worker gets Rs. 50-100 when she/he brings a person for sterilisation. Obviously, they make the effort to bring as many people as possible,” says Dr Kumar.
Meenakshi, belonging to the Kattunaikkar colony in Batheri, has decided to undergo sterilisation, though her knowledge of the procedure, its side effects and its consequences is sketchy. “She (the promoter of the family welfare programme in her colony) comes frequently, she is asking me to do this operation.” That’s all Meenakshi knows. It is difficult to persuade such women to go in for intra-uterine devices, which work for five years, as they would have to maintain certain hygiene standards and then come back after five years for a fresh insertion.
Lakshmikutty, 65, a retired Anganwadi teacher who worked in family welfare over a couple of decades but is now an open critic, says, “We used all kinds of tactics, from appeasement to intimidation, to meet the target.” Health workers even mislead Adivasis by warning that they might not get the benefits and welfare schemes for tribals if they have more than two children.
A practising gynaecologist in a government hospital discloses that Adivasi women are sent back home as soon as possible after delivery to avoid the death of either the mother or the child in the hospital. The possibility is high because the women are severely anaemic.
Official records seem to corroborate this: post-partum sterilisation, the surgery conducted soon after delivery, is avoided on tribal woman. In 2008, this procedure was performed on 2,535 women, but only 322 were tribals. Instead, Adivasi women are usually brought to sterilisation camps after three or four months.
In contrast to their keenness to promote permanent sterilisation, the authorities display little interest in promoting temporary measures for birth control. “It is practically impossible,” says Dr Vijayan, expressing helplessness.
Field workers in the villages of Wayanad more or less share this view. They think that it is impractical to think of teaching the use of condoms in these areas due to social inhibitions among the populace.
Health activists, however, refute the claim that there are any such constraints. “The authorities are highly pre-occupied,” says Dr Prakash, an activist of the Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad, working at a rural hospital in Wayanad. “If they can mobilise people for permanent sterilisation, why can’t they do it for temporary birth control measures that are relatively less harmful?” The question that Dr Prakash raises remains unanswered.
The targeted tribals face other complications for which there is no accountability. Ponni’s fourth pregnancy was an accident, the result of failure of her husband Maniyan’s vasectomy. He had undergone the procedure after the birth of their third child. Six years after the surgery, Ponni gave birth to a baby girl. Suspecting Ponni’s fidelity, Maniyan left home, leaving his wife and children in abject poverty.
Kerala is the top-ranked state in terms of meeting the objectives of the national family welfare programme that dates back to 1951. But it smacks of discrimination if the state manages to achieve this status by sterilising the most vulnerable and marginalised people regardless of their other health problems.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
The 16th name on the Swindlers' List
Is a Mammen from MRF
BY Sai Manish
Four days ago, TEHELKA had released a list of 15 names in the black money list handed over by the German government to India in 2009. Now, we are revealing the 16th name in the list: a member of the Mammen family from MRF.
This 16th name is a part of the list that the government handed over to the Supreme Court. Like the other 15, the 16th person too is believed to have parked money in the LGT Bank of Liechtenstein.
The Mammens are a strong family-owned business with a hierarchy where three generations are on the MRF board. The founder of MRF, the late MK Mammen Mappillai, was a Padma Shri awardee.
It is not known whether the Mammens own accounts in other Swiss banks but their name stands out in the list handed over to Indian authorities by the German government.
TEHELKA tried to contact Arun Mammen, Managing Director of the MRF Board, for four days with repeated calls to his office, his cousin Koshi Verghese, and his communications office. Calls made till Friday, the last working day of the week in MRF's registered office at Greams Road in Chennai, were answered by his secretary Malti.
Malti gave varied answers like “Mr Mammen is not in office”, “He has gone home for lunch”, and “He is in a meeting.” On Monday, Mammen's office stopped answering calls from TEHELKA.
Arun Mammen has also not responded to two emails sent by TEHELKA seeking his side of the story. Sources say Arun Mammen has been questioned by Income Tax authorities and has paid his dues. The case against him is closed, the sources add. But, TEHELKA has no official confirmation on this.
Here is the email that TEHELKA sent to Arun Mammen, which he did not respond to.
Mr Arun Mammen,
I would like to inform you that we will be publishing your name in the list of account holders with LGT bank. Many people have already splashed your name on TV screens and on the net. I request you to answer the following questions:
When did you first start this account with LGT bank?
How much money have you stashed away in this account?
Have you been served a notice by the government?
Why did you chose LGT of all banks to stash your money?
Will you be willing to pay tax and avoid further complications?
Will you reveal other accounts you may be holding elsewhere?
Kindly reply at the earliest so that we can also publish your version.
Here is a brief on the Mammens on the MRF Board:
KM Mammen: Is the Executive Chairman of the MRF Board. Graduated from the Madras Christian College, joined MRF as a full time director in 1981. He is one of the key men behind the success of the MRF Pace Foundation and takes active interest in cricket, having also served as the Vice-Presidentof the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.
Arun Mammen: Managing Director of the MRF Board. He is a regular at the MRF racetrack at Sriperumbudur on the outskirts of Chennai. He is known to be close to the Congress and the DMK leaderships in Kerala and Tamil Nadu respectively.
Rahul Mammen: Is a third generation director on the MRF Board and was drafted in November 2010. This 32-year-old is the eldest son of KM Mammen and is a graduate from St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, and an MBA from the University of Michigan Business school. He is known to formulate long term business plans for the group.
KC Mammen: Is a non-executive director on the board and was a professor of paediatrics at the Christian Medical College in Vellore. Not involved too much in the day-to-day working of MRF.
The First report by Tehelka
ASHISH KHETAN accesses the black list that has been kept away from Indians for two years
It is almost two years since the German Government had passed on the names and bank account details of eighteen Indians who had stashed their alleged ill-gotten wealth in the LGT bank of Liechtenstein, a well-known tax haven nation, 190 km from Munich, Germany.
Germany had officially handed over the list to the Indian Government on 18 March 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee have since said more than once that this list cannot be disclosed to the Indian people. Opposition parties like the BJP and the Left Front have repeatedly said the names must be disclosed. The BJP has been accusing the government of shielding the names of the tax evaders and not doing enough to bring back the crores of rupees stashed away in tax havens.
Thus, the list has become a subject of tremendous controversy and suspense.
TEHELKA has accessed 16 of the 18 names, of which we are putting out 15 right now. These names include individuals as well as trusts. At this point, we are putting out 15 names without disclosing details like their addresses, the businesses they are involved in and the total money they have stored away in Liechtenstein. Abiding by the basic journalistic principle of proving the accused an opportunity to present their side of story, TEHELKA has approached each of these individuals involved and is awaiting their response.
Once these individuals respond, we shall share the full details of who these people are and what they do. We shall also put out their responses. This, then, is the list.
1. Manoj Dhupelia
2. Rupal Dhupelia
3. Mohan Dhupelia
4. Hasmukh Gandhi
5. Chintan Gandhi
6. Dilip Mehta
7. Arun Mehta
8. Arun Kochar
9. Gunwanti Mehta
10. Rajnikant Mehta
11. Prabodh Mehta
12. Ashok Jaipuria
13. Raj Foundation
14. Urvashi Foundation
15. Ambrunova Trust
The three trusts in this list are registered outside India.
The government has been claiming so far that a detailed investigation into all the bank account details provided by Germany is underway and making the names public would violate the agreement between two sovereign countries, India and Germany.
According to highly placed sources, the investigation into the 15 names that TEHELKA is disclosing, is close to completion and the Central Board of Direct taxes would soon prosecute these trusts and individuals under the relevant provisions of the Income tax Act.
The sources told TEHELKA that the two main charges proved against these individuals are of tax evasion and concealment of income.
The authorities also believe that some of these account holders could be fronts for high profile individuals. One name in particular is being investigated for suspected links with a well-known Indian politician.
The name of the chairman of a major Indian corporation is also part of the list, but TEHELKA is holding back his name until we have his full version.
According to Pranab Mukherjee, the German Government has provided the information under the strict confidentiality clauses of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, and hence they could not be disclosed at the stage of investigation.
However, once the government launches prosecutions, the name would be made public, he had said.
These 18 names are part of the list of 1,400 clients, which were stolen from the databank of LGT Group, the Liechtenstein bank owned by the principality's ruling family, and passed on to German tax authorities in 2008.
The German government had paid as much as €5 million, or $7.4 million, for information on German account holders in Liechtenstein on a disk provided by an informant to the German Federal Intelligence Service, or BND.
After this, Germany and England had launched massive investigations into the suspected tax evasions and have since prosecuted dozens of their citizens on charges of tax evasion and concealment of income.
The German Government alone had initiated action against over 600 of its tax payers.
Besides taking action against its own citizens, the German Government had also shared this information with other countries including India.
But the Indian names figuring in LGT Bank list are only a tip of the iceberg. Experts estimate that Rs 65 lakh crores of ill-gotten wealth earned by Indians is stored in Swiss banks alone.
According to R Vaidyanathan, Professor of Finance at the Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru, the average amount stashed away by Indians in offshore tax havens between 2002 and 2006 was $136.5 billion. “These illegal funds lying in tax havens are not just related to the issue of tax evasion. It is capital flight from India and part of a corrupt nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and corporate companies,” says Vaidyanathan.
Different Indian governments over the past 20 years have done little to bring this money back by making necessary changes in existing Indian taxation and foreign exchange management laws.
Besides, the government has been slow in renegotiating double taxation avoidance treaties with different tax havens and making provisions for clauses under which the governments and banks could be compelled to disclose the account details.
For instance, under the existing Indo-Swiss Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), information on the Swiss bank deposits of Indian residents could not to be revealed until the Indian Government furnishes evidence of criminality behind these banking transactions.
India enters into DTAAs with other countries to encourage flow of foreign capital and technology, and also to check tax evasion. The purpose of a DTAA is to mitigate the hardship caused by dual taxation on the same source of income. Double taxation on a single source earned by an individual is possible under income tax, as taxation depends not on citizenship, but on residential status.
To date, India has signed comprehensive double taxation avoidance agreements with 77 countries.
“I have asked the revenue department to reopen negotiations for all 77 double tax avoidance agreements with all countries that we have entered into so far, so that we can have real time exchange of information on tax evasion and tax avoidance,” Mukherjee had said at the India Economic Summit in November 2009.
Since the recession hit the economies of developed countries, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been leading a campaign for transparency in the international banking system, and making the tax havens to necessarily exchange information with other countries where tax evasions are involved.
The US in particular has been proactive in using the might of its economy to make different tax havens fall in line, and share the names of US citizens who have deposited money in these tax havens.
For instance, the UBS Bank, a Swiss bank and the world’s largest wealth management company, came under US scrutiny in June 2008 to uncover the identity of US nationals who maintained secret accounts in the bank and were defrauding the American revenue department.
When the US Government threatened to prosecute the USB Bank, the bank paid a fine of $780 million and also agreed to reveal the details of the hidden assets of US nationals within a fixed time frame failing which it would face prosecution.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Activists brought out booklets containing the writings of Azad alias Cherukuri Rajkumar, about jailed paediatrician-cum-rights activist Binayak Sen, and in support of the Maoist movement in the fair held at the Milan Mela ground.
The Communist Party of India-Maoist is not a banned outfit in West Bengal as it is in many other states.
Booklets like "Maoism, State and Indian Communist Movement", "Dr Binayak Sen", "Prostitutionalisation of Justice: Life term of Binayak", "Azad and his Writings" and 'At this Moment" - voicing protest against the government, found buyers aplenty.
In the booklet "Maoism, State and Indian Communist Movement" published by Liberation Publication, and displayed in the Little Magazine enclosure, author Arindam Sen raised the slogan: "Green Hunt: a war against democracy, stand against it."
The tomes on Binayak Sen narrated his ordeal, giving in-depth account of how the Chhattisgarh administration 'framed and convicted' him for 'sedition' and Maoist 'links'.
The booklets appealed to the people to unite against the government, demanding Sen's immediate release.
The book "Azad and his Writings", published by the Friends of Azad, contains his media interviews, and letters to different social activists. The book also claimed that Azad, the spokesperson of the Maoists, was killed in a fake encounter in Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh on July 2. They urged people to put pressure on the government to initiate an inquiry for unearthing how he was gunned down.
Maintaining that several writings of Azad still remain unpublished, the publishers appealed to the people to join hands with them in printing all his writings.
"At this Moment" - a periodical published by the United Students' Democratic Front, a students' union of Jadavpur University, contains 'Azad Song' narrating how brutally Azad was killed in a stage-managed encounter.
Several booklets were seen rooting for the Lalgarh movement and criticising the government's policy against tribals.
The booklets flooded the book fair.
This is despite senior government functionaries like Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, West Bengal governor and former national security advisor M.K. Narayanan time and again castigating the civil society representatives and intellectuals not to show sympathy for the Maoists and their cause.
Earlier, Chidambaram had urged intellectuals to refrain from propagating the Maoist propaganda and supporting them, and had even warned that legal actions will be taken against the sympathisers.
"I regret that no representative of the civil society has called for an inquiry into the brutal and unlawful killing of civilians and other acts of depredation committed by the Communist Party of India- Maoist," he said recently.
Narayanan echoed Chidambaram's sentiments: "Maoism is becoming 'fashionable' in some state universities. The ideology appears to be gaining an upper hand in the minds of people. After doctor Binayak Sen's conviction, the civil society has been very much on the attack, demanding his release."