Monday, July 29, 2013

Bihar assembly adjourned on July 29 over mid-day meal deaths

Bihar Education Minister P.K. Shahi said in the state assembly on Monday that the husband of the arrested principal of the school where 23 children died after eating a mid-day meal bought the insecticide that was found in the food.
"Arjun Rai, husband of the arrested principal of the school Meena Devi, had purchased 250 ml monocrotophos from a sugar mill July 14, two days before the incident," Shahi said in his reply during the adjournment motion of the opposition to hold a debate on the mid-day meal tragedy.
Shahi said police have seized all records, including documentary proof, in this connection.
However, opposition BJP members walked out of the assembly to protest Shahi's reply in the house.
The Bihar assembly was Monday adjourned following an uproar by the opposition who demanded a debate on the childrens' death in Bihar's Saran district.
Soon after the assembly sitting began, opposition members pressed the chair to accept their adjournment motion on the July 16 mid-day meal tragedy in a Saran district school in which 23 children died.
The opposition members, mostly BJP legislators, disrupted the proceedings and trooped into the well.
Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary repeatedly requested the members to resume their seats and place the issue after the question hour.
But opposition members remained adamant over the issue, and demanded that their adjournment motion, moved by Leader of Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav, be taken up immediately.
The members shouted slogans, waved placards and dubbed the government "insensitive".
Last Friday, on the first day of the assembly's monsoon session, opposition members created a ruckus over the children's death not finding mention in the obituary references by the speaker.
This was the first assembly session after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar snapped the 17-year-old alliance of his Janata Dal-United with the BJP last month over a larger role being given to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP is now in its new role as main opposition in the house.
The session is expected to be stormy as the opposition parties are determined to corner the state government on various issues, such as the Bodh Gaya serial blasts of July 7 and the mid-day meal tragedy July 16.
The state government has formed a Special Investigation Team, which is probing the deaths.
Before the SIT, Nitish Kumar directed the deputy inspector general (DIG) of Saran district to investigate the tragedy. The DIG has submitted his report.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Early General Elections on the horizon along with state elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram ?

News agency PTI has reported on July 28, 2013 that Election Commission has placed a fresh order for two lakh Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to public-sector companies as the present lot of EVMs cannot meet the demand in case elections are held simultaneously.

“We have placed a fresh order of EVMs as the present total of around 14 lakh EVMs is not enough to hold simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and five state assemblies later this year,” a senior EC official told PTI

The order has been placed with BHEL and ECIL, and the delivery is expected by September- October — the time the assembly polls are expected to be announced by the poll body. They said the EC required around 16 lakh EVMs in the event of holding simultaneous polls.

As per Election Commission data, the country has a total electorate of around 78.86 crore, while the five states where Assembly polls are due later this year -- Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram -- have an electorate of around 12 crore.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

PMC employees oppose privatisation of water board

Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) employees staged dharna and demonstration in from of water board office in Patna on July 13, 2013 in protest against PMC's move to privatise Patna Water Board.
Photo: Aftab Alam Siddiqui

PMC employees oppose privatisation of water board

Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) employees staged dharna and demonstration in fromof water board office in Patna on July 13, 2013 in protest against PMC's move to privatisePatna Water Board.
Photo: Aftab Alam Siddiqui

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lessons from Chapra, Bihar Insecticides Tragedy should not be forgotten

Boycott pesticides, Make Bihar Insecticides Free, Make Meals Poison Free

Agriculture Ministry, Pollution Control Board should ensure inventorization, proper disposal of obsolete pesticides and contaminated containers   

Patna/New Delhi: While it has been acknowledged that the Insecticide was responsible for the Mid Day Meal Tragedy on July 16, 2013 at the Dharma Sati Primary School Mashrak, Chapra in Saran district, the issue of widespread availability insecticides and absence of hmethod to deal with obsolete insecticides and their containers which are contaminated with insecticides has remained off the radar so far. 

There is a crying need for Agriculture Ministry and Pollution Control Boards to ensure inventorization, proper disposal of obsolete pesticides and contaminated containers.  

Organophosphorous, a chemical used as an insecticide has been identified and found to be responsible for deaths and diseases of school children. Organophosphate-containing insecticides parathion, malathion, methyl parathion, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dichlorvos, phosmet, fenitrothion, tetrachlorvinphos, azamethiphos, and azinphos methyl.

The agencies involved in the probe must identify the name of the Organophosphate insecticide involved and its manufacturer. The responsibility and liability of this manufacturer must be fixed. The probe must recommend take back policy so that these manufacturers have an Extended Producers Responsibility with regard to its residual insecticides and their containers. 

It may be noted that most home uses of organophosphorus insecticides have been phased out in countries like USA. The US Environmental Protection Agency lists the organophosphate parathion as a possible human carcinogen. The World Health Organization, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and several environmental organisations have sought a general and global ban on it. Its use is banned or restricted in 23 countries and its import is illegal in a total of 50 countries. Its use was banned in the U.S. in 2000 and it has not been used since 2003. The usage of such insecticides continues to be used because of the political patronage enjoyed by the manufacturers of these insecticides.

Union Ministry of Agriculture should initiate efforts to recall Organophosphorus pesticides, which is responsible for about 200,000 deaths annually.  Organophosphorus pesticides cause poisoning by inhibiting release of enzymes.

Lessons from the Insecticides Tragedy in Bihar should not be forgotten. It creates a compelling logic for initiating efforts to make Bihar insecticides free. 

In view of this insecticide tragedy, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) proposes to initiate a campaign to Make Bihar Chemical Insecticides Free, to seek proper management of pre-existing insecticides and their containers and to take the issue of insecticides tragedy to its logical end.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731, Web:

Monday, July 8, 2013

There is only one idea, the idea of India: Nitish Kumar

Translated and edited excerpts of the intervention made by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during the debate on the confidence motion moved and adopted by the Bihar legislative assembly on June 19, 2013.

Why did things come to such a pass? Today they [the Bharatiya Janata Party] are sitting in the Opposition, but they have walked out of [the House] after having had their say. I had asked them to listen to us too. This is an example of their weakness. Discussions and debates are a part of democracy, but they chose to leave.

The reason why we took this step [to end our alliance] is clear. When the proceedings of the House began, the slogans they raised [‘The leader of the country should be someone like Narendra Modi’] gives enough reason...

Bihar model

In 2005 and 2010, the NDA won by a huge majority. The definition of [a] mandate can differ. The mandate received was for the work done in Bihar. We used to speak of Bihar’s achievements. Our friends felt great difficulty and started to criticise my articulation. I want to ask, when I used to present the achievements of Bihar’s coalition government, how could it be construed as being against someone? They had no pride in Bihar, in Bihar’s ‘asmita’ or in the work done in Bihar.

We only said that Bihar’s model is inclusive, which has affirmative schemes for the backward classes. We brought together everybody — Hindu, Muslim, upper and lower castes, Dalits, Mahadalits, Adivasis and women. This was construed as being critical of someone. Why did anyone have any objection to it?

We said a leader of the country should bring everyone together. They harbour the misconception that one party will form the government [at the Centre]. When we praised Atalji’s reign, that too was misconstrued as being an antagonistic stand against someone.

In the House today, they were not raising the slogan of Bihar or [the BJP’s State leader] Sushil Kumar Modi. This is exactly what hurt us. This was outside intervention.

There is talk about a “wave.” I don’t know which wave they are talking about. If there is one, it has been kicked up by the corporate world. But this is the usual technique, to repeat rumours, to spread falsehoods. Let us understand that this is a temporary phenomenon that cannot stand before the will of the people. The country will not be influenced by this propaganda.

Diversity needs oneness

Our country is so diverse in terms of lived culture, language, food habits. You need to take everyone together. The RSS made a statement that they will follow Hindutva ...

We said the person who leads the country should be secular, should have a vision of inclusive growth. This country was constituted under a Constitution whose basic values, egalitarianism, pluralism and inclusiveness, together form what we call Bharat ka darshan or the idea of India. The question before us is: will the constitutional vision triumph or will we surrender to the ideology of division and polarisation? But let me promise you: we will never allow the politics of division to destroy this country. The people of this country will not tolerate it.

There is only one idea that can go forward in this country and that is the Idea of India. If the other vision succeeds, the country will disintegrate and the Idea of India will collapse. India cannot be destroyed; we will not allow it to be destroyed.

We do not intervene in internal matters. Today, they [the BJP leaders] are playing a 2003 CD. In my speech I had also said that what happened in Gujarat was a blot on the country. What was the slogan in the 2005 elections in Bihar? Slogans of ‘a new Bihar’ were associated with my name. Why was some other State associated with it? In the 2010 election, why did they not call people from outside? In June 2010, the alliance was on the verge of collapsing. During the Kosi floods, many governments helped us. It is our tradition to help. But I was hurt from the publicity [for the aid from Gujarat]. Thousands of crores were spent on Kosi relief, so what’s Rs.5 crore? Our self-respect was hurt. So I returned the money. Other States helped us too, but they did not garner publicity from it. What kind of culture is this? That time the situation could be saved.

Today, a particular model is being imposed on us. They [the BJP] keep praising that model, but they hesitate to praise the Bihar model. What development do they talk about [in a State where] the minimum wage is Rs.100? In Bihar it is Rs.162 and the same rate will be given under MGNREGA as well.

I thank the secular parties for supporting the motion... The Prime Minister too spoke about me and I thank him. The CPI especially said this is a secular government. Although they have one legislator, the CPI is a strong party in Bihar...

They [the BJP] didn’t call him [Narendra Modi] [to Bihar] in 2005 or 2009 or 2010. But they knew we could get votes on our strength. Yes, we benefitted from the alliance, but then there was an attempt to impose. That is not fair. Those who cannot respect elders are accusing us of betrayal. What did they do with Advani? What had Atalji said? He advised them to adhere to ‘raj dharm’.

Before forming a government at the Centre [with the BJP] we had put a clear condition that this divisive agenda will not work. Contentious issues were excluded. In 1998, when we came together, it was decided that there won’t be any discussion on Article 370, a uniform civil code and Ayodhya.

Against agenda

In 1999 the NDA prepared a National Agenda for Governance under the leadership of Atalji. That’s why we came together, after keeping the controversial issues aside.... We came together when there was a consensus on the agenda for governance. What’s happening today is going against it...

We asked them to decide a candidate. We were given assurances. Our stand was clear from the beginning. We had no problem with sticking to Atalji’s path. But they furthered controversial issues and controversial persons. In the absence of an assurance, we read the writing on the wall... We were left with no alternative. So we took this step.

They are playing the OBC card these days. You need sympathy and sensitivity to be a leader from the OBC. An OBC-born cannot be a leader after being trumped up on corporate goodwill. You have to work for the OBCs before being deemed their leader. It’s not a question of birth, but the work you do.

In the 14th Lok Sabha, I argued for the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the Dalit category, but I was criticised for it. This is the peculiarity of the country that a person can change his religion but his caste doesn’t change! But the BJP opposed me.

Whose caste are they talking about? I worked for the welfare of Mahadalits. Earlier, the RJD played caste politics, but today [the BJP] does it too. So where is the development [agenda]? The country won’t be carried away by a corporate-generated wave. It will only go for secular thinking, development with justice and inclusive growth. We won’t let the Indian ethos be damaged.

You need 272 MPs to form a government. They would not have had the number [in 2014] even if we stayed in the alliance. The maximum they would have reached was 200. By themselves, they will get much less. This is the era of coalition politics. We should not live under an illusion.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

नागरिक की निजता पर सबसे बड़ा डाका

नागरिक की निजता पर सबसे बड़ा डाका

ऐसे वक्त में जब अमेरिका में निजता और गोपनीयता के साथ की जा रही चोरी और सीनाजोरी दुनियाभर की मीडिया के लिए मुद्दा बना हुआ है, तब ठीक उसी वक्त में भारत में नंदन नीलकेणी का जिक्र करना जरूरी हो जाता है। भारत के महत्वाकांक्षी आधार परियोजना के सर्वेसर्वा ने सफलतापूर्वक अपने दफ्तर में चार साल पूरे कर लिये हैं। उस दफ्तर में जो नागरिकों की निजता की नष्ट करनेवाली दुनिया की सबसे महत्वाकांक्षी परियोजना को संचालित कर रही है। उस परियोजना को आधार कार्ड परियोजना कहा जा रहा है और उस परियोजना को संचालित करनेवाली संस्था का नाम है यूनिक आइडेन्टीफिकेशन अथारिटी आफ इंडिया। अपने नाम के अनुसार ही यह संस्था नागरिकों की निजता और गोपनीयता को भंग करनेवाली निहायत यूनिक परियोजना को बहुत ही यूनिक तरीके से संचालित कर रही है।

चार साल पहले जब इस यूनिक अथारिटी का गठन किया गया था तब भी सब धुंधला धुंधला ही था। भारत की योजना बनानेवाले योजना आयोग ने 2 जुलाई 2009 को एक सरकारी सूचना जारी करके देश को बताया था कि देश में यूनिक आइडेन्टिफेकशन आफ इंडिया का गठन कर दिया गया है और इसके चेयरमैन श्रीमान नंदन नीलकेणी होंगे जो कि उस वक्त तक देश की सबसे चर्चित आईटी कंपनी इन्फोसिस के सह अध्यक्ष और संचालक थे। योजा आयोग ने सरकारी सूचना दी थी उसका आधार मंत्रिमंडल सभा की वह बैठक थी जिसमें यह निर्णय लिया गया था कि देश में हर नागरिक की एक यूनिक पहचान होना जरूरी है। आजादी के साठ बासठ साल बाद भी इंसान होना कोई पहचान नहीं, भारत गणराज्य का नागरिक होना भी कोई पहचान नहीं, दर्जनों प्रकार के अलग अलग लाइसेन्स और पहचानपत्र भी एक भारतीय के लिए पहचान का ठोस आधार विकसित नहीं कर पाये थे। लिहाजा मंत्रिमंडल सभा ने निर्णय लिया कि हर नागरिक को एक बारह अंकों की पहचान दी जाएगी, ताकि उसकी पहचान यूनिक हो सके।

एक आम भारतीय नागरिक को बारह अंकों के कोड में तब्दील करने की यह योजना वैसे तो ऊपर ऊपर बहुत लाभ वाला सौदा समझाया जाता रहा है लेकिन भीतर भीतर भारत के नागरिकों की निजता को नष्ट करने की सारी कवायद को अंजाम दिया जा रहा है। उस वक्त भी जब नीलकेणी इस सरकारी महकमें में आये थे तो सवाल उठा था कि आखिर इतनी बड़ी कंपनी का मालिक मुख्तार इतने छोटे से सरकारी डिपार्टमेन्ट का मुखिया बनने के लिए क्यों चला आ रहा है? नीलकेणी भी इतने अक्लमंद तो हैं ही वे लाभ हानि का गुणा गणित करने के बाद ही उन्होने कोई निर्णय लिया होगा। और लाभ हानि के इस गुणा गणित में नीलकेणी तो व्यक्तिगत रूप से फायदे में हैं ही, लेकिन इस परियोजना को संचालित करते हुए वे दुनिया के उन कारपोरेट घरानों के लिए फायदे का एक ऐसा डाटाबेस भी तैयार कर रहे हैं जो नागरिक को पहचान का आधार दे या न दे उनके व्यापार को बड़ा मजबूत आधार दे देगा।

लेकिन अभी अपने लिए मुद्दा कारपोरेट घरानों का व्यापार नहीं बल्कि वह आधार है जो नागरिकों को उनकी पहचान के नाम पर दिया जा रहा है। सबसे पहला और बड़ा सवाल यही है कि नागरिकों को पहचान देनेवाला यह आधार नंबर अगर इतना ही महत्व का है तो क्या महत्वपूर्ण लोगों ने इस कार्ड पर अपना चेहरा चिपकाया है या नहीं? अगर आपको याद हो तो कोई बात नहीं, न याद हो तो याद करने की कोशिश करिए जब कांग्रेस अध्यक्ष सोनिया गांधी की अध्यक्षता में महाराष्ट्र में प्रधानमंत्री मनमोहन सिंह ने एक महिला को पहला आधार नंबर जारी करते हुए इसकी ऐतिहासिकता का बखान किया था। हो सकता है, हमारे प्रधानमंत्री जो कह रहे हैं वह सही हो लेकिन क्या कारण है कि खुद प्रधानमंत्री ने अब तक अपना आधार नंबर नहीं लिया है? जो सोनिया गांधी उस कार्यक्रम में मौजूद थीं, उन सोनिया गांधी ने भी अपना आधार नंबर क्यों नहीं बनवाया है? सोनिया गांधी और मनमोहन सिंह तो आला में आला लोग हैं। जिस प्लानिंग कमीशन ने नोटिफिकेशन जारी करके 2009 में यूनिक अथारिटी के गठन की घोषणा की थी उस प्लानिंग कमीशन के उपाध्यक्ष मोन्टेक सिंह अहलूवालिया का आधार नंबर तैयार हो चुका है क्या? खुद नंदन नीलकेणी ने प्रतीक के रूप में ही सही, अपना आधार नंबर निकलवाया है कि नहीं? इतने सारे सवालों का जवाब है कि इनमें से किसी ने भी अपना आधार नहीं बनवाया है। क्योंकि सरकार इस बारे में कुछ भी बताना नहीं चाहती है। आखिर क्या कारण है कि सूचना का अधिकार देकर नागरिकों को मालिक बनानेवाली सरकार यह छोटी सी सूचना भी नहीं देना चाहती है कि देश सबसे आला लोगों ने अपना आधार बनवाया है या नहीं? अगर बनवाया होता तो सरकार प्रचार करने से पीछे भला क्यों रहती?

लेकिन गोपनीयता का यह गड़बड़झाला सिर्फ आला लोगों के आधार नंबर देने पर ही नहीं है। यह पूरी की पूरी परियोजना अपने आप में ही एक गोपनीय गड़बड़झाला है। चार साल पूरे हो जाने के बाद आज तक यह नहीं पता चल पाया है कि इस पूरी परियोजना का बजट कितना है। चरणबद्ध तरीके से होनेवाले खर्चों का विवरण तो सामने रख दिया जाता है कि इस परियोजना के इस चरण पर इतना रूपये खर्च होगा या फिर खर्च हो गया। लेकिन आज तक यह नहीं बताया गया कि पूरी परियोजना कितने रूपये की है? क्या भारतीय लोकतंत्र ने अपने सारे संवैधानिक नियम कायदे कानून इस परियोजना के लिए ताक पर रख दिये हैं? भारत सरकार के अधीन अगर कोई भी प्राधिकरण या विभाग संचालित किया जाता है तो उसका बजट निर्धारित किया जाता है। यह एकमात्र ऐसी परियोजना है जिसका कोई निश्चित बजट नहीं है। योजना आयोग आज भी इस परियोजना का बजट निर्धारित नहीं कर पाया है। अगर किया भी होगा तो वह बताने को तैयार नहीं है। पूछने पर सिर्फ इतना बताया जाता है कि जनवरी 2013 तक इस परियोजना पर 2369 करोड़ रूपया खर्च किया जा चुका है।

आमतौर पर खुफिया एजंसियों को लेकर ही ऐसा होता है कि उनका बजट कभी सार्वजनिक नहीं किया जाता है और कई बार उनके असल खर्चों को भी गोपनीय रखा जाता है। तो क्या यह परियोजना भी कोई ऐसी गुप्त परियोजना है जिसका बजट सरकार सार्वजनिक नहीं करना चाहती है? जिस तरह की कंपनियां इस परियोजना के पीछे काम करने में लगी हैं उसे देखकर तो यही शक ज्यादा पुख्ता होता है कि यह नागरिकों का डाटाबेस तैयार करनेवाली यह सबसे गोपनीय सार्वजनिक परियोजना है। अगर ऐसा नहीं है तो फिर उन सारी परियोजनाओं को आधार के अधीन क्यों जोड़ा जा रहा है जो अलग अलग स्तर पर नागरिकों की गतिविधियों पर नजर रखती हैं? इस पूरी परियोजना में ऐसी संदिग्ध कंपनियों को जगह कैसे मिल गई है जो घोषित तौर पर अमेरिकी खुफिया एजंसियों के लिए काम करती रही हैं?

नागरिक को यूनिक पहचान देने के नाम पर उनके आंख की पुतलियों और हाथ की अंगुलियों की छाप लेकर उनको पहचान देना कहीं से भी स्वीकार्य कदम नहीं माना जा सकता है। आंख की पुतलियों और हाथ की अंगुलियों के निशान अपराधियों के इकट्ठे किये जाते हैं और सख्त कानूनी हिदायत होती है कि अपराधी की सजा खत्म होने के साथ ही वे निशान भी मिटा दिये जाते हैं। अगर कानूनन किसी व्यक्ति की जैव पहचान को किसी भी तरह से सरकार अपने पास नहीं रख सकती है तो आधार परियोजना के नाम पर हर नागरिक की जैव पहचान क्यों अंकित की जा रही है? सवाल बहुत गंभीर हैं और जवाब देनेवाला कोई नहीं है। वह सरकार भी नहीं जिससे ऐसे गंभीर मुद्दे पर किसी भी प्रकार की गोपनीयता की उम्मीद नहीं की जाती है। नागरिकों के सेवक सिर्फ नागरिकों के मालिक ही नहीं बन गये हैं बल्कि नागरिकों की निजता को खुलेआम बाजार में नीलाम भी कर रहे हैं।

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bodh Gaya blasts a terror attack: Home Ministry

Serial explosions inside and outside Mahabodhi temple in Bihar were a terror attack, the Home Ministry said today as it sent NIA and NSG teams for post-blasts investigations.
“It was a terror attack,” Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami told PTI.
He, however, said so far no group has claimed responsibility for the multiple blasts and investigations were on.
Mr.Goswami said four blasts took place inside the temple complex while four occurred outside it.
The Home Secretary said teams from National Investigation Agency and National Security Guard comprising explosive experts were sent to Bihar to help the police in collection of evidence and assist in post-blasts investigation.
Two people were injured in the serial blasts early this morning in the temple town of Bodh Gaya.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Press Conference to release Interim Report of a Fact Finding team on the land grab in Mansi, Khagaria

Press Invite
Press Conference today (July 3, 2013) at 3 PM to release Interim Report of a Fact Finding team on the land grab in Mansi, Khagaria  

Venue: Abidin House, Frazer Road, Patna  (in the lane on the south of Bata Shop)
Time: 3 PM
Date: July 3, 2013

For Details: Nand Kishor Singh, member, Fact Finding Team, Patna, 
Mb: 9931857997 

P.S: A copy of the press invitation was hand delivered in the media offices on July 2, 2013