Tuesday, May 11, 2010

City intellectuals voice concern

KOLKATA, 10 May: Several city based intellectuals today urged the Centre to stop the use of violence in dealing with Maoists in affected areas in the country.
The intellectuals, including Magsaysay award winner, Mahasweta Devi, poet Sankha Ghosh and painter Bivash Chakraborty, urged the Centre to initiate talks with Maoists. The intellectuals while voicing their concerns against Operation Greenhunt apprehended that pursuing the operation can “degenerate into an uncontrollable civil war.”

“Dialogue and not arms is the only way forward : not an option but a compulsion of the situation,” a statement released by these intellectuals said. The statement also expresses regret of the loss of lives of 74 jawans in Dantewada. It also mentions that this loss of lives is a “direct fall out of the government's wrong headed policy of declaring war on the poorest sections of it own people.” The intellectuals urged the Centre to look into issues arising out of the memorandum of understandings (MoUs) signed by the state governments with mining and other industrial houses. These MoUs have led to land grabing and loss of common resources. of these people.

Source: The Statesman 11 May 2010


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Doctors protest harassment by cops

Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, 4 MAY: Doctors and human rights activists belonging to various organisations will launch a statewide campaign against the alleged harassment of medical practitioners by police in the Maoists dominated districts.
The move comes after the police raided the residence of a doctor at Asansol in Burdwan for allegedly treating some Maoists who got injured in gun battle with the cops in Junglemahal during the past few months.
A section of doctors alleged that several of their colleagues in trouble-torn Junglemahal had to stop practicing fearing arrest for sheltering the Maoists. Some clinics in these three districts were closed down after doctors attached to these faced “harassment” in the hands of police, it was alleged.
"It is a matter of great concern that some medical practitioners in different areas of Midnapore West, Bankura and Bardhamman have been harassed by the police and administration while some others have faced imprisonment,” said Dr Bijon Bera, secretary of the Medical Service Centre, an organisation of medical practitioners.
“In these districts many doctors and health workers have been manhandled by the police on the plea that they had treated some patients who had links with members of the CPI (Maoist). As per medical ethics of our country as also international norms, a doctor has to treat all patients without any prejudice regarding their caste, creed or political association,” Dr Debashis Dutta, a member of another organisation, Peoples Health, said.
In protest against the harassment by the police and administration, the organisations demand that the state government take immediate action to stop such crackdown and punish the cops who have committed atrocities on doctors. According to International Covenant, a lifer and even a war prisoner have the right to have medical treatment. Doctors’ associations have also alleged that family members of some doctors have faced harassment by the police in Junglemahal.
Source: The Statesman 5 May 2010

Mahasweta’s allegation

KOLKATA, 4 MAY: Magsaysay award winner Mahasweta Devi today alleged that hired goons were being used by owners for polluting illegal stone quarry units in Birbhum against the innocent tribals who are protesting against pollution. Speaking to the reporters at Press Club, she demanded arrest of the goons operating in the area. 

Source: The Statesman 5 May 2010

Money in black & white

Rajinder Puri
THE most damaging weakness of India’s political class is its lack of credibility. Regardless of the truth, people at large are convinced that the entire political class is corrupt. The government covers up corruption cases. The Opposition dares not pursue them even when those in the government are involved. The Scorpene deal, the Koda mining scam, the Raja Spectrum scam, the IPL scam ~ the list of unresolved cases that do, or will, gather dust seems endless. The highest leadership in both the government and the Opposition lacks public credibility. This is because of the curious inertia displayed by these leaders even after circumstances cloud their reputations. The biggest scam currently on the radar is of course the Hassan Ali Khan hawala scam.
Readers will recall this scribe had earlier drawn attention to the Hassan Ali scam and the government’s brazen cover-up to bury the truth. Hassan Ali is the owner of a Pune stud farm. He has 10 known illegal Swiss bank accounts, probably more in other tax havens. His money stashed abroad is astronomical. According to the government’s statement he owed Rs 50,345 crore to the tax department as on 31 March 2009. According to accountants that sum would have escalated to approximately Rs 100,000 crore by the time 2010 was presented. On 20 October 2009 this scribe pointed out how according to Swiss authorities while the Indian government publicly sought help in probing Hassan Ali’s Swiss account, privately it sabotaged the probe by submitting “forged” documents asked for by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice. Swiss authorities wanted to help, but Indian authorities withheld proper documentation. Since April 2007 the Indian government has kept mum on the Swiss request for proper documents.
Tax disputes
ON 18 March 2010 this scribe drew attention to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s statement to the media that the government had recovered the tax dues from Hassan Ali. But the revised estimates for 2009-10 did not accommodate the Rs 100,000 crore due from Hassan Ali in the budget figures. Further, the existing Income Tax Act was amended to waive impediments for tax defaulters like Hassan Ali to approach the Settlement Commission for resolving tax disputes. If Hassan Ali Khan approaches the commission it would enable the government to evade sharing information about Hassan Ali’s undisclosed foreign assets with foreign governments as required by the international tax treaties entered into by the government.
Clearly, Finance Minister Mukherjee is covering up the Hassan Ali probe. Why? The answer may have been given in the Maharashtra Assembly. On 13 April a CD showing Hassan Ali was laid on the table of the House by BJP MLA Devendra Phadnavis. The CD contained Ali’s statement to the police in which he mentioned the names of former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Maharashtra Home Minister, RR Patil, and the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel. In the CD, Ali claimed a meeting involving RR Patil and Ahmed Patel at Juhu Centaur Hotel on 11 August 2008 to approve Hasan Gafoor’s name as Mumbai’s police commissioner. Home Minister Patil vehemently denied any association with Ali. “I have never met Ahmed Patel and never spoken to him face to face. The CID will probe if the motive of the CD was to harm Gafoor, me, Ahmed Patel or anybody else”, Patil told the assembly.
The government ordered an inquiry conducted by the Additional Director-General, CID, and the SP, S Yadav. The CD was prepared by the use of spy cam by the Deputy Police Commissioner Ashok Deshbhratar. Predictably, the politicians named have not been questioned. Their denials have been accepted at face value. Instead the CID charged IPS officer Ashok Deshbhratar, who produced the CD, with trying to extort money from Hassan Ali! In its 15-page report the CID stated that Hassan Ali’s confession has been selectively edited. The CID had sent the CD to the forensic lab at Chandigarh. Its report said the audio-visual pieces of interrogation were not inter-linked, but joined together in sequence to appear as if they are part of continuous interrogation. Inter-linked or not, the forensic report does not deny that it was Hassan Ali himself speaking the “disjointed” narrative. CID investigations confirmed that one meeting did take place involving Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ahmed Patel at Juhu Centaur on 15 March 2008. But CID comforted itself with the fact it could not have discussed Gafoor’s appointment because by then he had already been appointed as Mumbai’s Commissioner of Police. Never mind the Police Commissioner’s appointment, how is Hassan Ali’s proximity to Congress politicians including Ahmed Patel, the political secretary of Sonia Gandhi to be explained?
Links with Congress
CIRCUMSTANTIAL evidence reveals, therefore, that Hassan Ali, the nation’s biggest money launderer, is protected by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. And Hassan Ali has links with senior Congress politicians including the party president’s trusted political secretary. During his interaction with Ali was Ahmed Patel representing himself or his boss, Sonia Gandhi? If he was representing himself why has Sonia Gandhi not sacked him? If he was representing the Congress president how does Sonia Gandhi explain her party’s links with the nation’s biggest money launderer who is being protected by the Finance Minister? Connect the dots and the picture that emerges is not pretty. Either the Congress is so stupid that it deserves to be removed from power, or it is so corrupt that it deserves to be removed from power.
Wittingly or otherwise the BJP until now has served only Hassan Ali’s interests. Publicizing the CD will act as a powerful disincentive for the government to act against Hassan Ali. By not pursuing the matter at the national level the BJP has failed to serve its own interests. Therefore, the BJP is either so corrupt that it deserves to perpetually remain out of power. Or it is so stupid that it deserves to perpetually remain out of power.
Corruption has become so widespread and brazen that it is destroying the foundations of the Indian Republic. India can stand on the roof and watch its neighbour’s house in flames. Why doesn’t it look below its feet to realize that its own house is burning?
Source: The Statesman 5 May 2010