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IN THIS ISSUE
Criminals in politics Criminalisation of politics is the greatest threat to democracy. Luckily, the Supreme Court has come to its rescue by delivering two path-breaking rulings: One, that the elected representatives convicted of criminal acts should be removed from office and barred from elections. Two, that a person, who is in jail or in police custody, cannot contest election to the legislative bodies. One hopes that this will prevent law-breakers from becoming law-makers.
PRALAYA of the Century
There were enough warnings from environmentalists as well as from weather men about the deluge that was to devastate Uttarakhand, but unfortunately, all that fell on deaf ears. And when the rains lashed and floods came, the state government was in no position to face it.
The Ishrat Jahan mystery Did Ishrat Jahan really have had terrorist links? This is a question that has been defying a satisfactory answer to date. In 2004, a Lahorebased publication claimed that Ishrat and her companions were LeT operatives. But three years later, LeT’s political wing Jamaat-ud-Dawa retracted the statement.
What is his mission? NAC has a new Christian member
Ravaged by Violence Continued immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh is causing ethnic and religious clashes in Assam which was once a peaceful state. It all began with the ‘liberation war’ in the erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971, leading to the creation of Bangladesh.
Assam Flooded Again
At the Speed of Light
It’s now or never
Broadband becomes engine of employment Court steps in to stop freebies by Netas
IN THIS ISSUE Transcending Boundaries www.aseema.net.in
Volume 14 Issue 13 Ashada/shravana August 2013 Editor Narayana Sevire
29 Nature of religious conflicts
Editorial Team CP Nambiar Raju Shyanbhag Narayan A. Sridharan.M.K
Unlike Christianity and Islam, the worldâ€™s two great religions, Hinduism had an inherent ability to resolve differences over religious matters. Physical confrontation to resolve such conflicts was always absent in the religious history of Hindus.
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Criminals in politics Apex Court’s rulings will have far-reaching effects
JMM, led by Shibu Soren (extreme right), is believed to have more number of MLAs facing criminal charges
• Narayan Ammachchi
hen LK Advani was accused of taking bribes through hawala transaction, he quickly resigned and vowed that he would neither contest the election nor occupy any seat of power until his name was cleared. He did as he said, and thereby set an example of good politics. Now the Congress Party appears to be setting an example of a different sort: allowing the convicted politicians to remain in public office. Why this has become an issue of debate is because of the Supreme Court ruling that elected representatives convicted of criminal acts be removed from office and barred from elections. This is a landmark ruling in a country where criminals dominate politics. This is also a major step to clean up politics beset with corruption scandals. In another path-breaking ruling, the apex court has put an effective stop to undertrial politicians
Criminalisation of politics is the greatest threat to democracy. Luckily, the Supreme Court has come to its rescue by delivering two pathbreaking rulings: One, that the elected representatives convicted of criminal acts should be removed from office and barred from elections. Two, that a person, who is in jail or in police custody, cannot contest election to the legislative bodies. One hopes that this will prevent law-breakers from becoming law-makers.
fighting elections. It has ruled that they cannot contest elections while they are behind bars. A recent report from an NGO, generated after processing the data available with the Election Commission, shows that more than 150 MPs in the 543-seat lower house of Parliament are facing criminal charges. We have in our country more than 1,400 such lawmakers. Worse still, the same report says that as many as 15 MPs are facing at least one murder charge. Until now, politicians convicted of crimes have kept their jobs while pursuing appeals which can go on for years. This verdict applies a brake on such practices. The judges made it clear that disqualification from office “takes place from the date of conviction”, and they have struck down Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People’s Act. The judgment is simple: if the con-
Jagan Reddy is running his party from jail victed person has no right to vote, he has no right to contest election. Now, how can you expect a convicted guy to rule us? The Congress government seems to have been threatened by this verdict and is talking of appealing. What is worrying the Congress is several of its leaders are facing corruption charges. Given the NGO’s report, a total of 80 candidates facing corruption charges were given tickets by political parties in elections to state assemblies in the last five years. Twentynine of them have won the elections and are currently serving as lawmakers. The majority (8) belong to the Congress and most of the winners (seven) are from Tamil Nadu whose DMK is supporting the Congress in the Centre. Remember, more than Rs 50 crore in cash was confiscated in Tamil Nadu during the last assembly elections. WikiLeaks recently leaked several secret conversations that transpired between US officials. One of them is really interesting and that was sent by Frederick J. Kaplan, an officer at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai. Kaplan tells his colleagues in the U.S. State Department: “Rather than using the traditional practice of handing cash to voters in the middle of the night, in Thirumangalam, the DMK distributed money to every person on the voting roll in envelopes inserted in their morning newspapers. In addition to the money, the envelopes contained the DMK ‘voting slip’ which instructed the recipient for whom they should vote.” It seems that the time has come to clean up the Indian politics.
Here is an analysis of sitting MPs and MLAs with self-declared criminal cases. The analysis was carried out by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch. A total of 4807 sitting MPs and MLAs have been analysed by ADR and NEW. Of these, of 1460 (30%) have admitted criminal cases against themselves in their self - sworn affidavits submitted to the Election Commission prior to contesting elections. 688 (14%) out of the total number of sitting MPs and MLAs analyzed have declared serious criminal cases against themselves. 4 162 (30%) out of the 543 Lok Sabha MPs have declared criminal cases against themselves. 14% of the current Lok Sabha MPs have declared serious criminal cases. 4 1258 (31%) out of the 4032 sitting MLAs from all state assemblies have declared criminal cases against themselves. 15% of the current MLAs from all state assemblies have declared serious criminal cases against themselves. 4 The Jharkhand 2009 Assembly has the highest percentage of elected representatives (74%) who declared criminal cases against themselves, with 55 out of 74 MLAs declaring criminal cases. 4 Among the recent elections that have been covered by ADR and NEW, the Bihar 2010 Assembly has 58% MLAs who have declared criminal cases against themselves. The Uttar Pradesh 2012 Assembly has 47% MLAs with criminal cases. 4 None of the MLAs of the Manipur 2012 Assembly have declared criminal cases against them. 4 82% of MPs and MLAs who have got elected on JMM tickets have declared criminal cases against them. 64% of MPs and MLAs who have got elected on RJD tickets have declared criminal cases against themselves. 48% of elected representatives who have gotten elected on SP tickets have admitted criminal cases against them. 4 31% of MPs and MLAs who have got elected on BJP tickets have declared criminal cases against themselves (Out of the 1017 MPs and MLAs from BJP, 313 have declared criminal cases). 21%of MPs and MLAs who have got elected on INC tickets have declared criminal cases against themselves (Out of the 1433 elected representatives from INC, 305 have declared criminal cases against themselves).
of the Century
Uttarkhandâ€™s economy in reverse gear
t was a flood that washed away an entire economy with it. On June 15, 2013, Uttarakhand flash floods hit the geography of the state and the consciousness of a nation with devastating force. Entire villages were submerged in water, hundreds of people died and rescue operations are still going on to save those who might have still held on to their lives. The floods came without much of a warning, and the government machinery was woefully unprepared for the calamity. . The state meteorological department had warned the government about impending heavy rains, a major cause of flash floods. The department had even asked the government to move the pilgrims to “safer places” and “postpone” the Char Dham yatra. But by the time redtapism ran its lethargic course, the damage was done. And the damage was astounding. The floods destroyed bridges and roads which left more than 70,000 tourists and pilgrims stranded without food, and in most instances, without shelter. The Indian Air Force, the Army and paramilitary troops launched massive rescue operations and thousands of people were rescued. But the impact of the flood was so grave that the government is still struggling to get the exact number of deaths and the number of people missing. Even today, there are more than 50,000 local people and pilgrims missing. But the State Government is busy trying to reduce the “official” number of the dead people as if registering fewer number of deaths will wash away the actual number of victims. Along with dead bodies and ravaged constructions, there are unanswered questions lying scattered all over Uttarakhand. ISRO, the country’s premier scientific body, had issued a warning to the Uttarakhand Government 16 hours before the tragedy struck. The government was quick to state that no such warning was issued, which was later rebuffed by ISRO with damning proofs. But if the government had shown the same
The Games Politicians Play While the pilgrims and the locals fought for their lives in Uttarakhand, it was a full-fledged war of words between the politicians of various parties. While Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi claimed he had saved 15,000 Gujaratis, Congress ridiculed that by calling Modi a ‘superman.’ The Andhra Pradesh Government made sufficient noises and stated that Andhra pilgrims were being ignored in rescue operations. Narendra Modi and his team were not allowed to land in Uttarakhand. The reasoning was that a VVIP chopper in that area could severely hinder the movement of rescue helicopters; a valid point indeed. Ironically, the very next day after Narendra Modi’s visit, Rahul Gandhi visited the flood-hit areas and he was allowed to land. Whatever happened to the rescue operations at that time! The blame game between the politicians got to a point when the Central Government could not take it anymore. It ordered the Uttarakhand Government that all the rescue operations had to come only from the State Government and no one else could be allowed to conduct rescue and relief operations. Flood politics at its worst!
There were enough warnings from environmentalists as well as from weather men about the deluge that was to devastate Uttarakhand, but unfortunately, all that fell on deaf ears. And when the rains lashed and floods came, the state government was in no position to face it. Again, June and July are generally not favourable for undertaking pilgrimage to ‘Char Dham’. They should have thought of the risk involved. What we find is the effect of ecological damage that has already taken place in these pristine regions. urgency in heeding to the warnings of ISRO, we wouldn’t have been discussing Uttarakhand floods with such seriousness now. Why is it that in our country, even the gravest of warnings by a premier scientific body about the possible loss of lives is conveniently ignored by the authorities? Why is it that the politicians and the governments that sleep over such critical warnings are not held responsible for the aftermath? These are questions that nobody is willing to answer. And there are more questions floating in the relentless floods in Uttarakhand. For decades, the fragile environment of Uttarakhand has been continuously raped by people in power, or by people who knew the people in power, with illegal constructions and extraneous buildings. Just three months before the floods, on February 26, 2013, a division bench of the Uttarakhand High Court in Naini Tal had ordered the removal of structures built illegally within 200 metres of the Ganga embankment. The Uttarakhand Government chose to ignore the court order. The
environmentalists, who have been opposing the mushrooming tourist constructions all over Uttarakhand, believe that although the flood was a natural phenomenon, the resulting death and destruction was largely due to manmade destruction of the environment. While the country and the world watched helplessly the inefficiency and the callous attitude of politicians and those in power, the floods also brought forth the humanitarian side of the people. The Air Force, the Army and paramilitary troops worked relentlessly to save as many lives as they could. In the process, many of these real heroes lost some of their own colleagues. On June 25, Air Commodore Rajesh Issar, who was flying a helicopter crashed into a hill, killing its entire five-member flight crew, six ITBP personnel and nine NDRF personnel. Lt-General Navtej Singh Bawa shifted his headquarters from Bareilly to Dehra Dun to speed up the rescue operations. There are countless other army officers and soldiers who risked their lives to save the pilgrims and villagers stranded in the flood-hit areas. Rashtriya Sawyam Sevak Sangh pitched
in for the relief operations. After joining hands with the Army and associated social organisations, the RSS team is now concentrating on reconstruction works in most of the floodhit zones. RSS Swayamsevaks have formed various alternate batches in Uttarakhand to work round the clock for rescue and relief operations. They have been contributing in the temporary reconstruction of roads. Village clinics, schools and temples are being reconstructed and the Swayamsevaks are helping people by offering them secu-
rity in the affected areas. In spite of the inspiring acts of the army and other social organisations, the Uttarakhand floods have left a deep scar on the country’s psyche. Economists believe that a single flood has taken Uttarakhand’s economy back by at least a decade. To add to the state’s woes, the atmospheric equilibrium, which was deeply dented by reckless construction activities, has been further disturbed by these floods. More than anything else, the Uttarakhand tragedy is a mute testimony to our casual attitude towards human life, especially when it does not involve a VVIP or a politician.
Will CBI ever ‘encounter’ the truth?
The Ishrat Jahan mystery • Raju Shanbhag
arendra Modi’s governance has always evoked extreme reactions, both from the media and the general public. While some consider him as a messiah of development and modernisation, many others see his tenure as a free run for Hindu fundamentalist groups to oppress the minority groups. The case of Ishrat Jahan encounter and its subsequent reverberations years after her death mirror these facts with amazing clarity. While a section of media and self-styled thinkers has already prosecuted Modi countless times in this case, there are others who swear Ishrat Jahan was a terrorist with links to Pakistan-based militant outfits. Sadly for both groups, the truth may never be unveiled. But then, who is Ishrat Jahan? She was born in 1985 and was a second year Bachelor of Science student at Mumbai’s Guru Nanak Khalsa College. She was the second of seven siblings. She came from a lower middle class family which has its roots in Bihar. They lived in the Rashid compound in the Muslim-dominated area of Mumbra in Thane district. Ishrat’s father Mohammad Shamim Raza was the proprietor of a Mumbaibased construction company called Asian Constructions. Ishrat Jahan had lost her father Shamim two years before her own death. She took tuition to run her family and did embroidery work in her spare time. Her mother Shamima worked for a long time at a medicine packaging company in Vashi. Ishrat was killed in an encounter when she was just 19 years old, on 15th June, 2004. The Intelligence
Did Ishrat Jahan really have had terrorist links? This is a question that has been defying a satisfactory answer to date. In 2004, a Lahore-based publication claimed that Ishrat and her companions were LeT operatives. But three years later, LeT’s political wing Jamaatud-Dawa retracted the statement. CBI has filed charge sheets against the intelligence officers. But not much effort is being made to establish Ishrat Jahan’s alleged links with the terrorists.
Bureau in Gujarat alleged that Ishrat and her associates were Lashkar-eTaiba (LeT) operatives involved in a plot to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Her other three associates were Pranesh Pillai (alias Javed Gulam Sheikh), Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar, also alleged to be terrorists. Was Ishrat really a terrorist? Or was she simply made a scapegoat in the bigger scheme of things? Ishrat’s family, along with various other associates and politicians, has been fighting a case against the mighty Gujarat government. To date, Ishrat’s association with other three alleged terrorists has
neither been confirmed nor been denied by the mainstream media or the investigating agencies. The first investigation about the alleged fake encounter was completed in 2009. An Ahmedabad metropolitan court ruled that the encounter was staged. Understandably, the State Government challenged this decision in the High Court. On 3 July, 2013, the CBI has filed its first charge sheet in an Ahmadabad court and has stated that the shooting was a staged encounter carried out in cold blood. Interestingly, while the court and the investigative agencies are unanimous in their decisions about the encounter being fake, no one has both-
ered to investigate the true nature of Ishrat Jahan’s association with these people. It still remains shrouded in mystery. In 2004, a Lahore-based publication affiliated with LeT had claimed that Ishrat and her companions were LeT operatives. But in 2007, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the political wing of the LeT retracted the statement and said it was a “journalistic mistake.” Jamaat-ud-Dawa also offered apology to Ishrat’s family. That was not all. Some other media reports stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had in 2009 received a tip-off from their interrogation of Lashkar-e-Toiba operative David Headley. Based on this, FBI had also sent a letter to the Indian government, stating that Ishrat Jahan was recruited by Muzammil, a terror operative. This report was shared by the Intelligence Bureau in its defense. But later, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) could not provide sufficient evidence about Hadley’s statements and the argument died its own death. But there are still suspicions about Ishrat’s true nature of activities and her death. The CBI report focuses primarily on the authenticity of the alleged encounter and does not dig deep into Ishrat’s activities. Even the identification of Ishrat’s associates, who were killed with her, casts lots of suspicions about their true nature. Pranesh came to Mumbai in search of a job. He had a criminal track record and was booked for four assault cases in Mumbai and Pune. He was also charged with involvement in a fake currency racket. In the mid-1990s, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Javed Sheikh and married a Muslim woman called Sajida. The Gujarat police had recovered two passports from Javed: one obtained using his original name Pranesh and the second in his new name. Zeeshan (alias Jisan Johar alias Abdul Ghani Son of Kalu alias Janbaaz), along with Amjad, was allegedly caught in a trespassing case in Srinagar in 2003. It is also interesting to note that nobody claimed the bod-
Sohrabuddin case lives on
It seems the Gujarat Intelligence Bureau always courts controversies when it comes to the socalled encounters. D.G. Vanjara, DIG, who is said to be involved in the encounter that led to the killing of Ishrat Jahan, among others, was also involved in another allegedly fake encounter. In fact, he was jailed for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. This is an ongoing criminal case in Gujarat. The case is that the state police killed underworld criminal Sohrabuddin Anwarhussain Sheikh on November 26, 2005, while he was in
ies of Amjad and Zeeshan after their death. An identity card with a Pakistan address was reportedly recovered from Zeeshan’s body. CBI has filed charge sheets against the intelligence officers. But it would be interesting to note that not much effort is being made to establish the true nature of Ishrat Jahan’s activities. Also, the media is not talking with the same vigour about the killing of Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar. May be because these people had a recorded history of criminal activities and raising their issues would inadvertently give au-
police custody. According to the police, Sohrabuddin was involved in a criminal extortion racket in Gujarat. He was also involved in arms smuggling in Madhya Pradesh. There were a few more murder cases registered against him in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Sohrabuddin was also said to be associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. It was alleged that the killing was orchestrated by senior police officers and at the behest of Gujarat’s Home minister Amit Shah.
thenticity to this encounter. Ishrat’s case has now turned into a full-fledged war between the CBI and the Intelligence Bureau. The political parties have done their bit to complicate the case with their mudslinging at each other. It is important to thoroughly investigate the true nature of Ishrat’s activities, along with those of her associates. If Ishrat was truly innocent; it will be a victory for her soul and her family members. But if her terror links are established, the Intelligence Bureau can heave a sigh of relief.
What is his mission?
NAC has a new Christian member
• MK Shridharan
he National Advisory Committee (NAC) was set up on June 4, 2004, by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the UPA-I regime to implement the National Common Minimum Programme or CMP. The NAC was headed by Sonia Gandhi, the working president of the Congress Party. Mrs. Gandhi enjoys the rank and status of a Cabinet minister. She and the committee have access to all the cabinet papers and files. This is a departure from the conventions governing a Cabinet system. NAC is feared to become a super-cabinet wielding extraordinary powers over the government without having responsibility to answer to the people of the country. However, there’s an alternative view which states that the NAC could deepen democracy by facilitating greater pre-legislative/pre-policy consultation. NAC has taken credit for the NREGA and RTI Acts. The key people behind these successes have left the NAC -- Jean Dreze, Development economist, who scripted the NREGA success, and Aruna Roy who was behind the RTI initiative. Both of them left NAC with dissenting notes. Now Prof. Virginius Xaxa has been appointed as a new member of the NAC after Aruna Roy resigned and requested Mrs. Gandhi not to renominate her for another term. The reconstitution of the NAC was announced on May 27, 2013, for a period co-terminus with the duration of the UPA-II. This has revived allegations of Christianization of Indian policy-making against the Congress leadership, especially Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.
He has contributed a chapter in a book edited by Ram Puniyani, titled “The Politics Behind Anti-Christian Violence” published by Media House, Delhi. The article is titled “Tribes, Conversion, and the Sangh Parivar”. The same article is also republished in another book, titled “Force, Fraud or Free Choice? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Conversion.” Prof. Virginius Xaxa is a professor in the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics. He secured a postgraduate degree (M.A. in Sociology) from the University of Poona in 1973 and PhD from IIT-Kanpur in 1978 for a thesis on “Agrarian Social Structure in Peasant and Plantation Settings of North Bengal”. Interestingly, he has completed B.Ph from Pontifical Athenaeum in 1971 with Philosophy and Psychology as subjects. Pontifical universities are “academic institutes established or approved directly by the Holy See, composed of three main ecclesiastical faculties (Theology, Philosophy and Canon Law) and at least one other faculty. These academic institutes deal specifically with the Christian revelation and related disciplines, and the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel, as proclaimed in the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana. Some of these universities award Bachelor of Philosophy degree. After a two-year stint as a post doctoral fellow in Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociale in Paris, he joined as a faculty in North Eastern Hill University of Shillong, capital of Meghalaya, where the Christian
population is about 70%. He is a regular contributor to the Economic Political Weekly on themes related to religion, women and tribal issues. He has contributed a chapter in a book edited by Ram Puniyani, titled “The Politics Behind Anti-Christian Violence” published by Media House, Delhi. The article is titled “Tribes, Conversion, and the Sangh Parivar”. The same article is also republished in another book titled “Force, Fraud or Free Choice? Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Conversion”, published by The Bombay Saint Paul Society. Interestingly, another article by the same author with the same title is published in another book titled “The Proselytisation in India. The Process of Hinduisation in Tribal Societies” edited by Dharmedra Kumar and Yenuna Sunny published by Aaker Books, Bhopal. He has served as an expert committee member in several panels of UGC, was in governing bodies of various universities and was in the senate of Vidyajyothi College of Theology, Delhi. Was Prof. Xaxa inducted into NAC due to his Christian associations and anti-Hindu leanings?
Continued immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh is causing ethnic and religious clashes in Assam which was once a peaceful state. It all began with the ‘liberation war’ in the erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971, leading to the creation of Bangladesh. Now the Bodos, the local people of Assam, feel threatened in their own land. Vote bank politics has played a major role in creating this sad situation.
Ravaged by Violence Assam stands at the crossroads
• Raju Shanbhag
or decades, Assam has been the hotbed of violence among various groups. The state is often caught in clashes between the Bodos and Muslims who are largely immigrants from Bangladesh. The clashes in July 2012 escalated into large-scale violence in which about 77 people died. They also resulted in loss of property worth crores of rupees. More than 400,000 people had to take shelter in 270 relief camps after being displaced from almost 400 villages. In many ways tensions in Assam are a reflection of the apathy of the various governments that c ame to power at the Centre towards the plight of the people living in the north-eastern part of our country. The 2012 violence, which broke out in Kokrajhar, the de facto capital of the four districts of western Assam, very clearly depicts this story. The indigenous Bodo minority of Assam has named Kokrajhar as Bodoland. The violence at Kokrajhar began when four youths were lynched by some miscreants at Joypur under Kokrajhar Police Station. This triggered retaliations in Duramari and Narabari under Kokrajhar Police Station and Kodaldoha under Fakiragram Police Station. Subsequently, it triggered a fresh wave of violent incidents all over the state and resulted in the mass exodus of north-eastern citizens from various parts of the
country. The demand for Bodoland began in 1987 after the local Assamese felt deceived by the Central government. In fact, the root of the problem goes back to the British Raj when the Britishers brought Adivasis from the Chhota Nagpur plateau to Assam. They put these Adivasis to work in tea gardens and offered them small pieces of land as remuneration.
In mid-30s, settlers from East Bengal (what is now Bangladesh) started arriving in Assam in large numbers. The locals - the Bodos - now found themselves up against the adivasis brought in by the British and Bengalispeaking Muslims from East Pakistan or Bangladesh. By the mid-70s, tension started brewing between the communities and neighbours became sworn enemies. The tension
Peace efforts in Assam
spilled on to student politics. It also gave rise to militant outfits with conflicting agendas. Bangladeshis form the largest group of migrants in India. The 2001 census puts this figure to 3,084,826. But no reliable numbers on illegal immigrants are currently available. Extrapolating the census data gives a figure of 2 million. But some in media report the number is as high as 20 million. This immigration from Bangladesh is largely caused by the liberation war in 1971 and the continued political and economic turmoil in Bangladesh. Most of those who migrated settled down in West Bengal and Assam. In fact, the 1991 census shows clear patterns of abnormally high growth rate of Muslims in the border states of Assam and West Bengal. The 1991 census also shows that Muslim population growth rates in these states were much higher than those of the local Hindu population. This was even after adjusting for the usual higher growth rate of Muslims observed throughout the country. The Congress government and the Congress-led UPA government, which have held power for most part of India’s independent history, have done little to stop this illegal influx of Muslims. When the governments did not lend any helping hand, the local As-
samese took the law into their own hands, often spurring violence and tension in the region in their effort to assert themselves in their own land. There are a number of immigrants from Bangladesh in Assam. Efforts were made as early as 1979 by the local people to stop this influx. The movement was started by the All Assam Students’ Union, which demanded deportation of those who have already settled. When their demands fell on deaf ears of a government that was counting on minority vote bank, it gradually took a violent form and ethnic violence started between Assamese and Bengalis, mostly Muslim. It eventually led to the infamous Nellie massacre in 1983 due to a controversy over the 1983 election. In 1985 the Central government signed the Assam accord with the leaders of the agitation. It seemed everyone except the government was against this illegal immigration of Bangladeshis. In 2005, a Supreme Court bench ruled Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act (IMDT) as unconstitutional. It also stated that the impact of the “aggression” represented by large-scale illegal migrants from Bangladesh had made the life of the people of Assam “wholly insecure and the panic generated thereby had created fear psychosis” in other north-eastern states.
Although Assam is a state ravaged by violence, various governments have tried to talk peace with the leaders of different ethnic groups. But these peace talks have usually fallen flat as the government could not meet the demands of these leaders. Bodo Liberation Tigers had signed a peace accord with the Union government in 2003. The talks between the government and the Bodo Liberation Tigers yielded some results. The Bodos secured a self-governing area, the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts. Since 2003, Kokrajhar and other areas in the autonomous districts have seen some development. Still, the Bodos, who make up 29 percent of the population in those districts, feel that they are alienated in their own land. They hold non-Bodo ethnic groups like Bengali-speaking Muslims responsible for this problem. More victories for Assam locals came in 2008, when the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition by a Bangladeshi national against her deportation. The High Court very clearly ruled that the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants “pose a danger to India’s internal security.” It’s no wonder that people in the north-eastern states feel that they are being treated like stepsons. The government refuses to bring an amicable solution to their problems because of vote bank politics. Unless it takes firm decisions to stop the illegal immigration issues, the local people of Assam will feel threatened in their own land. And that’s not a good sign for the sovereignty of our country.
Assam Flooded Again
And yet no foolproof plan to check river fury
• Raju Shanbhag
t’s an annual occurrence, and not one that India can be particularly proud of. Every year in Assam, heavy rains cause floods. There is death and destruction and the economy of an entire state is washed away. Even this year, the ravaging floods in Assam have affected more than 400 villages in 11 districts. Nearly 1.1 lakh people have been hit, and this flood was not unexpected. Floods in Assam have been so commonplace that
even the media and to some extent, the government has stopped worrying about them. The state government’s lethargy in controlling the floods or helping the flood victims has been well documented. Many flood victims have claimed that flooding was severe. Neither the state nor the Central government has provided any river embankments. Also, those embankments, breached by earlier floods, are not repaired before the deluge.
This time, the 11 affected districts are Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Chirang, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat, Kamrup, Karimganj, Lakhimpur, Morigaon and Sivasagar. Apart from the normal life and economy of state, the floods also pose dangers to the animals in the Kaziranga National Park and this, too, is a regular phenomenon. Besides the above mentioned destructions, the river island â€˜Majuliâ€™ loses numerous hectares of land to the water of the Brahmaputra every year. If it continues like this, the very existence of the island will be in danger in the coming days. The major cities and towns, including Guwahati, get deluged during floods and the municipal and other waste spread over the land causing serious health hazards. But why is Assam so flood prone? The major answer to this problem is the Brahmaputra. While most of the rivers run as lifelines of the regions they flow in, the Brahmaputra has caused more problems for Assam than benefits. It is one of the biggest river systems in the world. The Brahmaputra basin is also among the most flood-prone. In the past 60 years, As-
Every year the Brahmaputra has caused huge damage to the economy of Assam. This year also, the river is in spate with the onset of the monsoon Many expertsâ€™ committees were set up seeking measures to tackle this problem and they had made many recommendations. But none of them seems to have been implemented effectively. Whatever steps taken by the state government have been only palliative measures. At this rate, Assam will be a state with its eco system in utter chaos and its economy in a shambles. sam has been hit by major floods in 1954, 1962, 1972, 1977, 1984, 1988, 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2007. Every year, almost thrice or more, some or the other parts of the state have to bear the brunt of the Brahmaputra in spate. Other reasons for the recurring floods in the state are adverse geography of the region, heavy rainfall, high sedimentation, frequent earthquakes, hill/ land sliding, erosion of forest area and encroachment on the river banks. The fact that Assam lies in the heart of the monsoon belt of the country is an additional factor. The Brahmaputra originates in the lake of Mansorovar in Tibet. The riv-
er then flows through the middle of Assam from east to west. It is 2900 km long and has numerous tributaries such as the Manas, Subansiri, Sonkosh, Gadadhar, Kopili, Dhansiri and the Krishnai. During a flood, even these tributaries are flooded and they breach their banks flooding the vast plain of the state. Assam is one of the richest biodiversity zones in the world. There are a number of tropical rain forests in the state, including the Dehing Patkai rain forest. It is surrounded by hills and long-range mountains on its three sides. Because of this, the water flows down into the vast plain below causing the rivers to swell.
A flood of expertsâ€™ advice On paper, the government has done a lot to curb the damage caused by floods in Assam. In fact, the state water resource department is flooded with recommendations for flood control by expert committees dating back to 1929. According to the government records, at least 12 expert panels, constituted between 1929 and 1980, have suggested measures to tame the Brahmaputra. The first committee was constituted in 1929, followed by the Mah Singh Committee in 1948, the G R Garg panel in 1951, the
Sometimes, the flood itself causes more floods. For example, the enhanced level of river beds because of constant deposition of silt has been also a noticeable cause of floods in the state. Usually Assam experiences incessant rainfalls during the monsoon. This rainfall normally starts from the month of May and continues till mid October. Apart from this, the occurrence of floods in Assam is directly related to rainfall in the catchment areas of the neighbouring states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and the adjacent country, Bhutan. The government has taken various measures to control the floods but
Bhagabati Committee in 1957, a high-level Central government panel in 1958, and so on. The Brahmaputra Board, a body formed to look into the committeesâ€™ recommendations, has drawn up its own set of master plans, which are yet to be implemented. The National Flood Control Policy, drwan up after the devastating floods of 1954, had suggested construction of embankments as a short-term measure and multi-purpose reservoirs in the long term.
most of them are temporary relief operations. Every year during the flood the government provides various flood relief measures including relief camps, free distribution of food, clothes and medicines, cash compensation for those who have lost property, etc. Various other long-term solutions like palisading, deforestation along the river banks and dredging the riverbeds have been undertaken but they have made little impact on the flood situation in the state. The North Eastern Council has taken up three flood control schemes with regional implications at a total estimated cost of Rs. 510.77 lakhs. These schemes are intended to protect the surface communication (rail & road) and valuable agricultural land
from continuous erosion and inundation. The states being benefited by these schemes are Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. Two schemes, like anti-erosion schemes in Chunpara and Lowairpoa in Assam, out of the above three, have been completed well within the stipulated scheduled period of completion of one year. But these schemes have done precious little to control floods. Itâ€™s shameful that in a country that is looking to be a major power in the world in another two decades, an entire state is ravaged by floods almost every year. And the government is not able to do anything about it.
There were just about 10,000 internet users within six months of VSNL launching the internet in 1995. Today almost every one is “hooked” to it. This broadband revolution is happening not only on PCs and laptops but also on mobile devices. Most broadband customers today are primarily concentrated in urban areas.
At the of light Broadband becomes engine of employment • Raju Shanbhag
peed thrills, and it also fills the pockets of service providers when it comes to broadband. Broadband internet, increasing its reach every day in urban and rural areas, is introducing Indians to a whole new world of digital delicacies at lightning speed. The broadband mania is here to stay and the introduction of new technologies is only stoking the fire.
India’s broadband subscriber base increased 15 million in February to 15.05 million in March this year, an addition of about 50,000 users in the month. There was a 0.35 per cent growth in March over the previous month (February 2013) and a 9.13 per cent growth over March 2012. When internet was introduced in India in 1995, a speed of 56 kbps was considered to be ‘lightning’ speed. Today, even speeds of 20 mbps (1 mb = 1024 kbps) are normal in the metro areas.
India’s brush with the big bad world of internet started in 1995, when Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) launched the Gateway Internet Access Service (GIAS). Even before that, Internet had been in India in another form called ERNET. However, not many people could access it, as it was meant for only the educational and research communities. The general public, especially in metro areas, took to this new fad much faster than the government had expected. There were about 10,000
internet users within six months of VSNL launch. But the number did not grow effectively in the next years as the speed provided in narrow band remained below 100 kbps, laughable by today’s standards. In 2004, the government formulated its broadband policy which defined broadband as “an alwayson internet connection with download speed of 256 kbit/s or above.” In 2010, the government auctioned 3G spectrum followed by an equally high-profile auction of 4G spectrum that set the scene for a competitive and invigorated wireless broadband market. Expectedly, the Indian younger generation has taken to broadband much faster than anyone else. From uploading personal videos on internet to sharing the private moments of their lives on social networking sites, broadband plays an all-important role in the lives of today’s youngsters. If you are not on Facebook, you simply don’t exist! The broadband revolution is not
only happening on PCs and laptops, it’s also happening on the go, on mobile devices. In fact, in a recently released report, Cisco claimed that smartphones and tablets will consume three times more data on service provider networks than the entire desktop Internet by 2017. Considering that India is one of the largest mobile users in the world, this is good news for mobile
broadband service providers. But broadband has not reached rural India on a large scale as yet. Most broadband customers today are primarily concentrated in urban areas; semi-urban and rural areas are virtually excluded. For most of the players, it does not make sound business sense to spread the technology beyond urban areas because of cost constraints, lack of compelling local content, limited availability and a fragmented group of industry operators. Lack of a comprehensive wired infrastructure has made wired broadband an expensive affair in semi-urban and rural areas. Deploying a wired communication network is costly and needs considerable amount of time. A TRAI estimate indicates that if a rural fibre infrastructure is to be connected to 3,75,552 villages, it will need an investment of about Rs 32,295 crore. Therefore, operators are hesitant to invest in villages and remote areas.
Rural India too catching up Although the government and the private sector companies have done precious little to spread broadband in the rural parts of the country, a new trend called Deurbanization is unveiling in rural India, even with the limited availability of broadband. Fed up with the mechanical lifestyle of the urban India, many people are taking refuge in the tranquil environments of the villages. The availability of broadband has also spawned rural sourcing in many rural parts of India. Rural sourcing is using human resources from small to medium sized Indian towns and uses this source to create jobs in the country and also for rural communities. This stops
unnecessary urbanizing as these families do not need to move their entire family to a whole new setting. It also reduces unnecessary expenses. Most of the workers in these rural settings get paid less but have an option of either working from home or an office. If they were in an urban setting, the company would spend more money on an entirely new office. Many companies have taken up the task of providing jobs to unemployed youths, especially the young girls. The Umeed Foundation has started a rural business process outsourcing (BPO) at Dhuri in the Sangrur district of Punjab. The young computer-educated girls
are being trained in data processing, scanning, digitization, data conversion and farm processing at the BPO. The foundation aims to provide employment to more than 500 youths by providing them the learning techniques. RuralShores is another company, which was established with the objective of generating employment opportunities for the rural youth. The company is currently the market leader in the nascent rural BPO category. It has set up offices in various villages of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.
It’s now or never
Court steps in to stop freebies by Netas
• Narayan Ammachchi
olitical parties cannot promise to give something free to woo voters, says the Supreme Court. “Issue a directive and ban such acts,” directed the court to the Election Commission. Surprisingly, the existing law does not ban parties from making such promises. So the court has asked the government to enact a law, saying that such promises undermine the very fabric of democracy. Offering something free, political parties can take advantage of people’s illiteracy and innocence. More than anything else, how can an election be free and fair if a political party openly makes such ‘free offers’ to the voters?
Politicians do not foresee the serious economic implications of their ‘free offers’. It is they themselves who will be caught in a trap when the economy starts speeding down the slippery path. The only option left for them then would be to further tax the honest tax payer to garner the resources that they have wasted away. One hopes the recent Supreme Court directive against freebies will put a stop to this practice.
It all started decades ago when NT Rama Rao swept to power in Andhra Pradesh on a promise to give one kilo rice for just one rupee. Parties across the country have since been using this weapon to get votes. Nowhere is this more widely visible than in Tamil Nadu. There in 2006, Karunanidhi promised to give a free television set to every household. He, of course, delivered his promise upon being elected. But this welfare scheme cost the government Rs 4,726 crore, a precious sum which the former chief minister could have used to build roads and bridges. Once the TV sets were given, his Sun TV group reached out to those households offering them cable service. Not for free, of course.
Such political gimmicks turned ugly in the assembly election. DMK offered grinders and food-processors. To counter it, AIADMK too offered the same and added fans to this list of freebies. DMK later offered to give 35 kg of rice free of cost to BPL cardholders. And AIADMK countered by promising to give 20 kg of rice to all cardholders, regardless of BPL or APL. Today, Tamil Nadu is increasingly becoming a ‘free state.’ There parties are offering to provide free laptops and free “mangalasutras”. They are offering the voters even cows for free! The government supplies one “idli” per a rupee, gives Rs.50,000 cash each for girl’s marriage and free cattle and computers for poor families. The freebies don’t stop there: The government is spending money to buy four grams of gold for each bride! Andhra Pradesh has almost been turned into a welfare state, the kind of ones seen in Latin America. Though Rama Rao had started giving one kilo rice for one rupee, Chandrababu Naidu had increased the rate to Rs 5 a decade later. But YSR started giving one kilo rice for two rupees. Today there is a string of such welfare schemes in Andhra Pradesh. Navin Patnaik’s Odisha appears to be competing with Andhra and Tamil
Nadu. In the 2009 Assembly elections, the Naveen Patnaik Government offered to give rice at Rs 2 a kilo. That clinched his party’s victory. Later he offered rice at one rupee a kilo. Analysts say he might offer to give rice free in the next Assembly election. The Government in Karnataka is also giving free mobiles to 20,000 farmers and free SIM cards to one lakh fishermen, bicycles to Class X students and Rs 5,000 to pregnant women. All in all, it is spending a total of Rs 60,000 crore on these gifts. The Yeddyurappa government gave free bicycles to girl students in government schools and free electricity to famers to run their irrigation pumps. Now the Union Government has prepared a similar game plan with its Food Security Scheme. Supplying millions of tons of food grains at
throwaway prices will deal a heavy blow to the economy. Latin American countries are examples. There, inflation has gone sky-high and their currency looks like a disease-hit patient. Analysts say such populist programmes have already drained government coffers, and if continued, they would soon see all governments suffocate under a mountain of debt. How can the Election Commission resolve the issue? The SC’s directive comes in response to a suit challenging the Jayalalithaa government’s plan to provide free kitchen appliances to people as promised before the election. During his campaign for Jan Lokpal Bill, Anna Hazare had explained how such freebies undermine democracy. He said that not all voters are literate enough to foresee the impact of such ‘welfare programmes’ on the economy. “They cast their votes under the influence of 100 rupees or a bottle of liquor or a sari. They don’t understand the value of their vote,” he said expressing his displeasure and concern. All these welfare schemes are expensive. They won’t bring about any significant change in the living standard of the people. More than that, they are nothing but bribery in a different form.
Book Paints Ravana in New Light A
new book on Ravana, published in Sri Lanka, claims that the ‘Demon King’ in the Ramayana ruled a rich and vast kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka. The book also claims that Ravana wrote books and built numerous underground tunnels to protect his empire. According to ‘Ravana, King of Lanka’ (Vijitha Yapa Publications), Ravana would not have lost the war to Lord Rama but for the ‘betrayal’ by his wife Mandodari and half brother Vibhishana. These people apparently disclosed war secrets to the ‘enemies’ and that’s how Rama won. This 174-page book claims to have conducted extensive research by a Sri Lankan, Mirando Obeysekere. 4 ....p24
In Defence of FDI
Crores being spent to import arms • Gangadhar Sharma
e are a country with a defensive approach. A large part of our defense technology comes from other countries. Most of our defense technology is considered to be obsolete and the lawmakers and power brokers of our country do not stop short of cooking up scams and scandals even in defense deals. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Indian defense has always been a dicey issue. So, when Commerce
Minister Anand Sharma recently proposed a hike in FDI from 26% to 49% in defense, he touched many sensitive nerves. Most notable among them was Defense Minister A. K. Antony, who vehemently opposed the proposal saying that it would increase dependence on foreign companies. He also opined that it would hurt the development of indigenous companies. The statement looks ironical, as about 70% of India`s defense equipment is imported anyway. This figure
When Defence Minister A K Antony opposed a proposal by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to hike foreign direct investment in the defence sector because, as he said, it would make us dependent on foreign suppliers, he forgot the fact that already we are importing 70% of our defence requirements. That is because the Indian defense manufacturers clearly do not have the technology or manpower to produce world class defense systems. What is required is a balanced policy that recognises this reality and allows FDI without compromising on the country’s security. AUGUST 2013
would go up further if the total value of the foreign components in the equipment/platforms assembled/ manufactured in India is taken into account. At this rate, India would import $63 billion worth of defense wares in the next five years. This will make us more dependent on foreign countries rather than allowing them to invest here. Also, few know that defense technology becomes obsolete very fast. To keep its defense updated with the latest technologies, India has to depend on foreign companies, at least for now. And the Indian defense manufacturers clearly do not have the technology or manpower to produce world class defense systems. There was ample evidence of this when the Defense Ministry recently invited proposals from eight foreign vendors for 56 medium transport aircraft. These aircraft would replace the Indian Air Force’s ageing fleet of HS 748 Avros. This deal is interesting, as the ministry has chosen to keep the stateowned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. out of the competition. This clearly indicates that even the Defense Ministry does not trust the Indian companies when it comes to getting advanced technologies for the country’s defense systems. The ministry may have a point or two here, as the country’s indigenous, government run arms industry is notoriously slow in meeting its commitments. For example, the build time for indigenous warships in our country is disturbingly long. The Delhi class (6,500 tons) took 114 months to be built. These ships take 29-30 months in the U.S. and Japan. ‘Mysore’ and ‘Mumbai’ class also took 117 and
106 months. Interestingly, the cost of manufacturing these equipment is also much more than the cost of importing them. For example, Indiamade Sukhoi 30 MKI costs Rs.80 crore per unit more than those imported from Russia. Lack of technology and willpower on the part of the government does not mean that the country should go all out for FDI in defense. It is not a complete solution for our defense woes. Also, even if FDI is allowed, no country would like to part with its top defense technologies, irrespective of the facilities we provide. The government should look at a balanced policy that lays stress on the development of indigenous armament building capabilities. At the same time, it should invite FDI in defense in way that serves our best interests and gets us the latest arms and ammunitions. It’s not that no efforts were made in this regard. In the mid-1990s, a committee headed by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was formed with a view to increasing the indigenous volume of weaponry from 30 to 70 per cent by 2005. But we are still importing about 70 per cent. In spite of the remarkable success of our organisations like DRDO in the defense field, we are still not able to achieve self-sufficiency in the defense sector. A strong political will to develop arms indigenously and a balanced approach to FDI in defense is the need of the hour.
A hole in the deal! Like many other government deals, India’s defense imports are fraught with corruptions and scandals. The Scorpene deal scam is one of India’s largest bribery corruption scandals, in which Rs. 500 crore was allegedly paid to government decision makers by Thales, the makers of the Scorpene submarine. The amount, it is alleged, was channelled via middlemen such as Abhishek Verma. Also involved was Ravi Shankaran, a relative of the then chief of navy staff Arun Prakash. Almost everyone knows about the Bofors scandal which shook the roots of the then Congress government in the 1980s and 1990s. Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, and several others were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India’s 155 mm field howitzer. This corruption was far worse than any that India had seen before and it directly led to the defeat of Gandhi’s ruling Indian National Congress party in the November 1989 general elections. After the 1999 Kargil war, a major scam had broken out in the purchase of coffins by the then BJP-led government. It had reportedly incurred a heavy loss of 1,87,000 dollars in this transaction. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report discovered various frauds in the transaction of coffins. The caskets were brought from Buitron and Baiza, a company based in the United States rendering funeral services. The then ruling government, the National Democratic Alliance, had bought 500 caskets worth 2500 dollars each. These caskets were presumed to be thirteen times the original amount.
...Ravana in New Light 3...p22 The book is reportedly based on archaeological evidence as well as palm leaf writings from a bygone era. According to the book, Ravana’s kingdom was spread over a vast region and the civilization was a highly advanced. It was a very rich culture and a civilization that grew around Sri Lanka. That civilization was destroyed with the advent of an Aryan group headed by Rama. According to the book, Ravana lived in Sigiriya, which is now a UNESCO heritage site, about 170 km from Colombo.
He was a member of the Yaksha tribe which, according to the book, was “highly advanced and intelligent”. According to the book, Ravana also built a temple in honour of his parents in Anuradhapura, to the north of Colombo. The Portuguese allegedly destroyed this temple. But the book agrees that Ravana’s abduction of Sita caused his downfall and his kingdom’s decay. It also speaks about Rama in a very reverent tone. “Rama was an honest, unassuming person,” it says. “Rama did not possess aircraft nor did he have unlimited wealth like Ravana. He did not have people of 10 countries under him. His main motto was ‘Truth will win’.” But it also has paid glowing tributes to King Ravana.
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The Bodh Gaya blasts would not have taken place, had the Bihar police taken the warning signals sent out by the Union Home Ministry and the Intelligence Bureau seriously. A major tragedy was, however, averted as all the bombs planted by the terrorists didnâ€™t explode. Now the state police are deploying more security personnel around the temple premises. This is like locking the stable after the horse has bolted.
Local Muslim behind Bodh Gaya blast? • Hemalatha Hegde
he perpetrators of bomb blasts in the precincts of Bihar’s historical Bodh Gaya Temple might have fled the country, with the officials of the National Investigative Agency (NIA) continuing to stare at the CCTV footage of the suspects and planting half-baked reports in newspapers. One such report says that the investigators are “not ruling out the involvement of Hindu militants in the blasts.” Surprisingly, the same reports say that the Intelligence Bureau had informed the Bihar police half a dozen times about the Islamic terrorists’ plot to bomb the Gaya temple. After relentless persuasion, the Bihar police held a meeting to discuss
how they could beef up the security there. Exactly a 100 hours after this crucial meeting, a series of bombs went off injuring two monks. Following the intelligence alert, the Bihar police deployed four armed men at the temple premises. Yet the terrorists (or a single terrorist?) managed to carry out their plot! What failed the police to counter the terrorists was the metal detector installed at the entrance of the temple. It did not detect the bomb. Fortunately, not all the bombs exploded. Had all of them exploded, the statute of Lord Buddha would have been split into pieces. Remember, the Taliban destroyed a mammoth statue of the Buddha in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan barely a year before the US involvement in that country.
The Intelligence Bureau was certain that there was a plan to bomb the temple and it was even aware who had indeed plotted such an attack. You will now be left wondering why the suspicion about the so-called Hindu militants. This is what happens when the so-called secular parties attempt to politicize the national security issues and feel frightened to raisie their voice against the growing menace of home-grown terrorists. David Headley, the mastermind behind the Mumbai attack, had confessed to the police about the Lashkar-e-Taiba plan to bomb the Buddha temple. He told them that LET had shot a video of the temple to trigger blasts. In addition, the Indian Mujahedeen terrorists responsible for Bangalore blasts revealed in October last year their plans to bomb the Gaya Temple. More interesting, NIA declared a list of Indian Mujahedeen terrorists, among them a Gaya-born Amir Reza Khan alias Parvez alias Rizwan alias Muttaki, a permanent resident of Maheyan village in Mohanpur, Gaya, who was the sixth wanted terrorist. Reza is suspected to have provided reconnaissance of the Mahabodhi Temple site. The IB alerted the Bihar police in June 2013 about the targets. On July 2, 2013, the IB told the Bihar police about the entry of two suspected terrorists into Gaya town. The Ministry of Home Affairs sent out an alert on July 3, 2013, that the temple was a terrorists’ target.
Buddha got enlightenment here F
or Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is one of the four most important pilgrim centres. It is here that Siddartha became the Buddha. In 2002,
Interestingly, it is only now the Bihar police have taken things seriously. They held a meeting on July 3, 2013, concerning the security of the temple, but the bombs were set off within 100 hours. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who visited the temple following the blast, said his government had been on alert and had taken all precautions. In response, IB officials criti-
UNESCO added the temple to its list of heritage sites. History says that in 500 BC, Prince Gautama Siddhartha, wandering as an ascetic, reached the banks of the river Phalgu near the city of Gaya. There he sat in meditation under a “bodhi” tree (Ficus religiosa). After three days and three nights of meditation, Siddhartha received enlightenment and insight. He then spent seven weeks at seven different spots in the vicinity meditating. Seven weeks later he reached Sarnath, where he began teaching his creed, later known as Buddhism.
cized the government and explained how many times they had alerted the Bihar police. More than the physical injury, the blast has left a deep wound in the minds of the peaceful Buddhist monks. No terrorist group has formally claimed responsibility for the attack, On July 8, the Bihar police released a CCTV footage and also released sketches of the suspects. The footage shows a terrorist in a monk’s attire planting four bombs in the temple premises. These sketches are those of Shidur Rehman and Saifur Rehman, brothers from Scotland and Saudi Arabia respectively. The police arrested an innocent Vinod Mistri because they had found his identity card at the site of the blast. Of course, he was released a few days later. The day the bombs went off, an anonymous person tweeted saying that the Indian Mujahedeen had carried out the attack. The IP address of the tweet was traced to Pakistan.
Why religious conflicts ? ’s two the world , m la Is y and erent hristianit d an inh a h m is u s Unlike C ns, Hind r religiou io e g v li o e r s e r c majo feren e such to resolv esolve dif r n o to ti y ta it n il ab us confro the religio Physical in . t s r n e e s tt b a m ays a from was alw differed m is h d t d conflicts u points bu s indus. B l H ia f c o u r y c r e histo of th ebate on some uctured d tr m s is h u g d u in o H personal olved thr s im e t r a e th r e , arma they w rnal nk of Dh la p e th d and ete r showing une r c a s unde d onsidere usual aggresuthority c a sion against Hindus. by all the minority Musthe Bud-
Interreligious dialogue may not be the solution • S.M.K.Rao
bout 2200 years ago, a rebellion of religious Jews against their Greek King Antiochus IV may be regarded as one of the earlier religious conflicts. The Greeks were polytheists with rational approach. The Jews were monotheists though their ancestors had probably multiple gods. According to one view, rational Greeks disapproved Jewish rituals such as circumcision and attempted to reform the ritualistic Jews from their superstitions. According to another viewpoint, the Greek King was insensitive to the feelings behind the rituals of the Jews, underestimated their religious commitment and created sufficient resentment among them to generate rebellion. Despite the odds – 47,000 well-trained, wellarmed warriors vs. 4,000 ill-equipped Jews – the Jews won the battle. Higher motivational levels and guerilla warfare tactics were reasons for their victory. Several aspects of the Jews vs. Greeks story are repeating in many ongoing religious conflicts around the world. In the latest Buddhist-Muslim conflict, the tolerant Buddhists are
lims around many countries of South-East Asia. Fortified seclusion combined with mischievous expansionist attitudes are alleged against minority groups while analysing the local issues manifesting
dhists’ anger in the recent episode. It may not be a blunder to extrapolate the attitudes of today’s Muslims back in time, relate them to the attitudes of their Jewish brethren and give the benefit of the doubt to the Greeks. Violence as conflict resolution mechanism is a common theme in many past and present religious conflicts. The Jews revolted against the Greek rule and established dominance over the Canaanites - moderate Jews influenced by rational Greeks. Christianity, a schism of Judaism, remained as a minority group for quite some time. The Christian view towards Jews, as a parent and adversary, has resulted in competition and friction. Christianity continued whispering campaigns against Judaism and sustained propaganda generating a kind of intolerance among Christians against the Jews. Many recent analyses of Jewish holocaust by Hitler put the blame on this
Religion– A definition and an analysis R
eligion may be regarded as a set of customs and rituals. A religion may also be associated with one or more languages, food pattern and clothing. Underlying the externally visible characteristics, a religion may be based on a world view and specific attitudes towards worldly affairs and spiritual matters. Commonly, a religion is viewed as something inherently good – or at least something that is not harmful. Religion plays a major role in determining the identity of an individual and a community. In the context of interaction between religions, multiple religions are viewed as alternatives available to an individual in his/ her pursuit towards perfection. However, a closer look at the history of religious conflicts reveals that this is a non-critical, politically correct approach that postpones the resolu-
tion of contradictions. Postponing confrontation in the context of reli-
gious conflicts may be a pragmatic approach in some specific situations. Such an approach may be justified as a positioning exercise rather than a
harmonising attempt accommodating diversity. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism are the world’s major religions. Hinduism is excluded from the list with the purpose of deriving a few key insights into the dynamics of religious conflicts. With a little caution, Hinduism may be regarded as a conglomerate of many religions according to the definition provided herein. Various caste groups as well as ‘mata’ such as Advaita or Dvaita may be loosely considered as Hindu religions. Caution is required in drawing parallels to avoid trivialisation of the discussion. Takeaway from the discussion is that, while the Hindu religion would act as a guide in all aspects of an individual, the interactions of religions would be governed by the principles of Dharma.
propaganda campaign of Christians against the Jews. Islam, founded in 8th century, was in direct confrontation with paganism and polytheist practices right from its inception. Jihad, as a continuous struggle, is interpreted by many Muslim adherents, political and religious groups like the Taliban, as violence to be unleashed against non-Muslims in the pursuit of establishing the supremacy of one God. Inquisition in Christianity was a terror tool unleashed against its erring adherents and others who were reluctant to accept the religion of the Church. Crusades, the religious wars of Christianity against Islam, were very violent religious conflicts and reason and rationality were missing in all of them. Jihad, the religious war of Islam, was responsible for millions of killings around the world - especially in the Indian subcontinent targeting Hindus. Interaction of Semitic religions, especially Christianity and Islam, with other religions usually resulted in unimaginable violence and pain. The genocide in Hindu Kush and devastation of the natives of Americas by European colonial powers point to the basic approach that is consistently pursued by major religions of the world in resolving the differences. Eastern religions have a different approach towards resolving differences. They appear to be more accommodative and are capable of handling differences in a mature way. While pursuing war or physical confrontation, brutality is absent -- at least in many accounts that are available in religious conflicts involving the Eastern religions. The conflict between Hindus and Buddhists where the role of violence was minimal is an interesting case study. The approach taken by the Hindus in resolving differences among themselves in mundane and spiritual matters is most civilized and mature. Indian scholars resolved their differing perceptions about the ultimate reality through a structured debate â€“ Vakyartha. Sincerity, humility and knowledge were
the prerequisites for engaging in such structured debates. Interreligious dialogue proposed by leaders of major religions of the world today is not effective in addressing the core issues. The proposal is forwarded to avoid onslaught of violence in an imminent religious conflict. However, such a proposal is an implicit admission of the possibility of existence of a common ground derived from a bigger framework beyond the boundaries of conflicting viewpoints. The diversity of the In-
dian subcontinent and mature interactions among groups with differing viewpoints would result in reduced role of physical confrontation as a means of conflict resolution. The concept of Dharma, as an all-encompassing framework for world religions, is a readymade solution known for a very long time. If religious conflicts are continuing today, it may be safely concluded that a readymade solution is consciously avoided by irrational religious rigidness.
Populous Arab Country Bakes in violence
Anarchy engulfs Egypt • Ganesh Shukla
gypt, the largest populated country in the Arab world, is reeling under one crisis after another. These days supporters and opponents of the deposed president Mohammed Morsi clashing in the streets of the country’s capital Cairo. The clashes have left hundreds of people dead and thousands injured. Egypt was one of the Arab countries that embraced democracy in popular uprisings that spread across the oil-rich Gulf nations like wildfire a year ago. The uprising first began in neighboring Tunisia, spread to Egypt and moved on to topple another autocratic leader Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya. In countries where autocratic rulers ruled with iron fists for decades, democracy was in fact a game-changer.
But this too has failed to bring about peace and prosperity in Egypt. Following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians overwhelmingly voted Muslim Brotherhood to power. But sadly, this political party lost people’s support in a short time. In June, millions of Egyptians poured into the streets of Cairo and many other cities to demand the resignation of Morsi, whom they accused of failing to address the country’s worsening economic and social problems. They once again converged on Tahrir Square, the same place that witnessed massive demonstrations in 2011 that removed former longtime President Hosni Mubarak. As the protests intensified, the military intervened and overthrew the president. Soon, the army rounded up several leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and put the deposed
president under house arrest, which triggered angry protests and demonstrations from his supporters across the country. Today there is an interim government in place and it will remain in power until a new election. But the challenge is holding an election in a country that seems to have been divided between the supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood. The army says it was morally bound to intervene to prevent the country from spiralling into civil war, and goes on saying that Morsi had proved to be a divisive leader who pitted Egyptians against one another. And today this most populous country in the Arab world seems all set to slip into anarchy. Muslim Brotherhood is accused of dividing the country on religious lines
What is Muslim Brotherhood?
ounded in 1928 by Hassan alBanna, the Muslim Brotherhood is the country’s largest and oldest Islamist organisation. The movement’s ideology has evolved from Islamic teachings, but it soon sought presence in politics. One of the group’s stated aims is to create a state ruled by Islamic law, or Sharia. Its most famous slogan is: “Islam is the solution”. Hosni Mubarak had in fact suppressed the Brotherhood by putting most of the top leaders behind bars. He would crack down on the group for every small reason. For many years, its leaders were forced to go underground. They are likely to do it again now. As of now, the Brotherhood supporters are insisting that Morsi be reinstated as the country’s first
democratically elected civilian president. Media analysts say the Brotherhood committed a series of strategic mistakes and a majority of people were angry at the way Morsi ruled. Interestingly, the young generation of Egypt does not seem to respect the Brotherhood and they are calling for real democracy. They seem to have lost all faith the Muslim group, with most of its leaders becoming synonymous with failure. When Morsi appointed Gamaa al-Islamiya, an Islamic group that took responsibility for the massacre of tourists in 1997, people rose up against the Brotherhood. It was a clear sign that they never want anyone to divide them on religious lines. But Morsi went on and has now paid the price.
When Mohammed Morsi was elected President, the people of Egypt had great expectations. They thought that they had at last laid the foundation for true democracy based on the noble principles of secularism and liberty. But they were soon mistaken, for Morsi began to show his real colour by assuming dictatorial powers overruling the opposition and the judiciary. Now the angry young generation of Egypt has forced him out, but it seems democracy for them is quite far away. What stares them in their face instead is anarchy. and failing to put the country’s battered economy back on track. Morsi was the democratically elected president and he had just celebrated one year in office. Opposition to Morsi grew in November 2012 after he gave himself unlimited powers, including the right to legislate without judicial oversight. He said this was necessary to “protect” the nation. But he later scrapped his plans following rising opposition from different political parties. The biggest casualty for Egypt is that this political turmoil has chased away foreign investors, and the tourism industry, which employs one in 10 Egyptians, has almost been devastated. Egypt has survived worse crises within living memory: the assassination of its president by a jihadist cell in 1981 and an Islamist insurgency that killed more than 700 people in the late 1990s, culminating in the massacre of 58 foreign tourists at Luxor in 1997. So, one hopes that the country will overcome the present crisis too. The sooner it does, the better for the whole Arab world.
The poor performance of the economy has forced the government and the Reserve Bank to act fast: the government has thrown open almost a dozen sectors for direct foreign investments by relaxing the ceiling limits. This is expected to give the much-needed stimulus to the economy and also arrest the fall of the rupee. The Reserve Bank has raised the bank rate by 2% to 10.25% with immediate effect and decided to sell government securities worth Rs.12,000 crores. More reforms and monetary measures are on the anvil.
The slide unabated
Populist schemes push the economy down
• CP Nambiar
he downswing of the economy continues as the key figures make dismal reading. The latest data on vital sectors released by the Central Statistical Office indicate that there was a fall in industrial production (IIP) and exports. The IIP shrunk by 1.6 per cent in May (lowest in 11 months) and exports by 4.6 per cent in June. It was the none-too encouraging show by the manufacturing and mining sectors that contributed to the fall in May factory output. On top of it, there are ominous signs of double digit inflation. Rising prices of fruit and vegetables pushed retail inflation to 9.87 per cent in June. The rise in consumer price index-based inflation came after three consecutive months of decline. Vegetable prices recorded the steepest rise, which rose by 14.55 per cent in the month over a year ago. The government, of course, is taking several measures to stem the tide, and according to the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, the impact of these measures will be felt in the second half of this year. However, the narrowing of the trade deficit mainly on account of a steep decline in import of gold and other precious items is giving a ray of hope. The trade data showed that the trade gap narrowed to $12.2 billion in June against 20.1 billion in the previous
month, helped by a slowdown in gold imports. This is expected to ease pressure on the current account balance and the rupee. As it has been always during the last few years, gold is the second biggest item, after crude oil, in the country’s import basket. The government’s efforts to curb surging gold demand have had only a marginal effect. Last month it took many steps, including a 2 percentage point hike in import duty. But this had only very little impact though there was a slowdown in gold and silver imports to 22.8 percent year-on-year at $2.45
billion last month. Gold and silver imports had jumped by an annual 109 percent in April and May combined, as retail buyers tried to take advantage of sliding global prices. The Commerce Ministry data show exports shrank by 4.6 per cent, for the second consecutive month to $23.79 billion in June 2013 compared to those during the year-ago period.
RBI takes steps Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank has stepped in by announcing a number of measures. It has raised the bank
Major push for reforms In its desperate bid to attract foreign investments, the government has flagged off fresh round of reforms, one of them being the Defence sector to attract state of the art technology. Almost a dozen sectors have been opened up for larger foreign investment, which include the telecom sector in which the government has allowed 100 per cent FDI. This will go a long way in easing the financial burden of the fund-starved telecom sector.
rate by 2% to 10.25% with immediate effect and decided to sell government securities worth Rs.12,000 crores to strengthen the rupee which is hovering in the 59-60 range. The sale of securities is aimed at sucking in the excess currency in circulation. The RBI also revised the marginal standing facility, which allows banks to borrow from the central bank at a higher rate when they are faced with liquidity crunch, from 8.25% 10.25%. According to RBI, it would take further steps to restore rupee’s strength taking into account the macro-economic conditions and other factors. These steps would be consistent with the growth-inflation dynamics and macro-economic stability. “The overall allocation of funds under the LAF will be limited to 1% of the New Demand and Time Liabilities (NDTL) of the banking system, reckoned at Rs.75,000 crore for this purpose,” an RBI press release said. Understandably, India Inc. is worried about the depreciation of the rupee and absence of positive steps to spur economic growth by the government. According to CRISIL Research, the rupee’s fall will severely impact the Indian industry, as they have large foreign currency debts on the books and only partial hedg-
“Basic and Cellular Services (fix phone and mobile services), existing has been 74 per cent and up to 49 per cent automatic route and 74 per cent though FIPB route. Now there is raising of cap from 74 to 100 per cent in basic and cellular services. Up to 49 per cent remains under automatic route and 49-100 per cent through FIPB route,” Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said. The change in FDI norms in Defence
ing. Moreover, the input costs across many sectors will go up amidst weak demand environment as reflected in low growth expected in 2013-14. Exporters also are unlikely to benefit significantly as clients may seek to renegotiate contracts. “We expect the rupee to strengthen from its current levels, but the 2013-14 average will still be 5-8 per cent weaker than the 2012-13 average,” says CRISIL. “The companies having foreign debts and without any natural hedge in the form of forex earnings will be badly hurt by the depreciation of the rupee. This is because the outgo towards interest on this debt, markedto-market losses, and rollover of
is considered significant. It may be recalled that Defence Minister A K Antony had strongly opposed foreign direct investment in the Defence sector. Now that he has relented, it is possible that it will get the muchneeded technical stimulus. Of course these investments will be allowed with proper safeguards. The other sectors where FDI ceilings have been relaxed are single brand retail (up to 49% under automatic route), asset reconstruction companies and credit information bureaus. There is also a move to raise the ceiling in insurance although this will need Parliament approval. The government has also allowed FDI in oil and gas refining and stock exchanges.
hedged positions will increase. Indian companies have increasingly been resorting to borrowing abroad in order to take advantage of the lower interest rates on offer,” it said. “From the growth and profitability perspective, sectors that will be negatively impacted by the rupee’s depreciation include automobiles, auto components, airlines, consumer durables, oil marketing companies, and fertilisers. The increase in fuel costs will hurt the demand for automobiles, especially small cars, as fuel alone accounts for close to 25-30 per cent of the ownership cost of a small car in the year of purchase. Airlines with a high proportion of revenues accruing from domestic operations will also be hurt as 70 per cent of their operating costs are incurred in dollars, and their ability to pass on any cost increase is limited, given the sobering impact of price increases on demand. We do not expect diesel prices to increase by more than Rs 1.50 per litre from the current level; therefore, a weak rupee would increase under-recoveries of oil marketing companies. We foresee under-recoveries touching Rs 1,050 billion in 2013-14, around 10 per cent higher than our previous estimate,” CRISIL said.
A devastating tragedy Stealing from Poor kids’ Plates and killing them
he mid-day meal scheme for school children was started with a vision. It aimed at feeding the hungry children of poor citizens in the country. But little did the planners realise that this will turn into a devious mechanism of feeding the insatiable hunger of corrupt middlemen and those who are in places of power. Twenty-three children died after taking the mid-day meal served by a school in the village of Dharmasati Gandaman, 80 km (50 miles) north of Patna. The incident occurred on July 15, 2013, and even a week after the tragedy, the ruling Nitish Kumar Government and the opposition parties are gleefully engaged in the blame game. No arrests have been made. The school Principal Meena Devi, who obtained groceries from her husband Arjun Rai’s store to prepare food for these children, is still evading arrest. Shaken by countrywide protests and angry outbursts, the Nitish Kumar Government has announced
The Nitish Kumar Government has come up with a conspiracy theory following the horrible mid-day meal tragedy in the village of Dharmasati Gandaman in Bihar. It is a known fact that, like all wellintentioned schemes of the government, both at the Centre and states, this too has been derailed by the greedy elements who are wielding considerable power and political influence. An angry nation is demanding the arrest of those who are responsible for this tragedy, but chances are that justice will not be met soon and such incidents might recur so long as corruption corrodes the entire government machinery.
strict regulations for the distribution of mid-day meals. As it announces these measures, one wonders why they were not in place before the tragedy happened; and if they were in place, why weren’t they implemented properly? In our country, it’s an open secret that plans rarely reach the intended beneficiaries. The rot runs deep in the system and there are hardly any punishments for the guilty. The Bihar midday meal tragedy is perfect example. Apart from launching a manhunt for the school principal and her husband, the government is yet to show any interest in carrying out a surgery to the entire system. Any government scheme, including the mid-day meal scheme, runs from top level to the beneficiaries. So, why not hold the respective ministers of the state or Centre responsible when something goes wrong? Why is the government keen on catching small fry and letting off big sharks who merrily swim away in search of their next prey? The State Government was quick to allege conspiracy in the incident. On that fateful day, something was horribly wrong with the food. A foul smell emanated from the food but the school principal Meena Devi urged the cooks to go on. Within hours of taking that food, children started fainting and many died on the spot. Later, the authorities discovered a container of pesticide in the school’s cooking area next to the vegetable cooking oil and mustard oil. Forensic experts have now confirmed the presence of insecticide in the food served to the children. Conspiracy theories are flying fast and thick, because Meena Devi and her husband are the local activists of the RJD and are said to be close to
RJD leaders. Meena Devi had her first posting as a panchayat-level teacher in Bahuaara primary school in 2007. The primary school was later upgraded to middle school and she was promoted as block-level teacher. She was transferred to an upgraded middle school in Gandaman. Two years ago, the block education officer in Masrakh transferred Meena Devi “on deputation” to the newly created primary school in Dharmasati bazaar despite a stay on fresh transfers. It’s hard to believe that even if Meena Devi is arrested, anything substantial will come out of this entire episode. The media and the public will bay for her blood for a while and these may be some customary arrest made. But sadly, it will not be the last time when such a tragedy strikes the country. That’s because none of the children of the lawmakers and powerful people of our country go to government schools. They study in private schools and abroad. Human lives are cheaper in our country, especially when those lives are of some poor people who can’t raise their voice against corruption.
Mid-day scams This is not the first scam involving mid-day meal scheme, and it won’t be the last either. Here is a list of rotten minds that steal from poor children’s plates to feed their greed. In December 2005, the police seized eight truckloads of rice meant for primary school children being carried from Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns in Bulandshahr District of UP to North Delhi. When the police detained the trucks, the drivers claimed that the rice was being brought all the way to Delhi to be cleaned at a factory. However, according to the guidelines, the rice has to be taken directly from the FCI godown to the school or village concerned. Later it was found that the rice was being siphoned off by a UP-based NGO, Bharatiya Manav Kalyan Parishad (BMKP), in connivance with the government officials. In November 2006, the residents of Pembong village under the Mim tea estate (near Darjeeling), accused a group of teachers of embezzling midday meals. In a written complaint, the residents claimed that students at the primary school
had not got midday meal for the past 18 months. In December 2006, another scam involving government schools was exposed where food grains were being siphoned off under the midday meal scheme by faking attendance. The employees at the school exaggerated the number of students enrolled in the class. The additional students would not exist—they were simply “enrolled” to get additional food grains which were pocketed by the school staff. The scam was exposed when P Asha Kumari, an assistant teacher at the government model primary school, Jakkur in Yelahanka, informed the Lok Ayukta, who conducted a probe and indicted four persons for misappropriation. The whistle blower was harassed by the school staff and she requested a transfer. She was transferred to a government primary school at Cholanayakahalli, where she again found the same modus operandi being used to siphon off the food grains. She again complained to the Lok Ayukta, who issued notice to the school.
Swiss Banks Going Bust?
US Pressure Forces Them to Cough Up A/C Details • Narayan Ammachchi
he United States seems determined to shut down the secretive Swiss banks, with the superpower increasingly forcing the Alpine nation to reveal the names of Americans holding accounts in its banks. One of the Swiss banks has already gone broke and was recently declared defunct. If the United States keeps up the pressure, more Swiss banks will go out of business. How the US is putting pressure is certainly an interesting story. Moreover, there is an Indian American behind this whole operation. It all started in 2009 when the US indicted Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS in a tax evasion scandal and forced it to pay $780 million in fines. The Swiss bank not only paid the fine, but it also handed over account details of more than 4500 Americans. It was then that the superpower realized that its pressure tactics bear fruit. Now the US authorities have indicted almost all Swiss banks and is pressuring them to reveal the names of all the US clients holding accounts there. The Swiss banks, currently under investigation, are Credit Suisse, Julius Baer, the Swiss arm of Britain’s HSBC, privately held Pictet in Geneva and local government-backed Zuercher Kantonalbank and Basler Kantonalbank. What the US has found out is a pretty new weapon. It first accuses the bank of helping its citizens dodging tax payments and then draws it into a court battle. At the hearing, the bank gives out the account details of Americans and the court slaps it with a huge fine in response. That’s it. The bank goes down all on its own, because its clients sue it in the Swiss
The unthinkable is happening. Swiss banks, whose very existence depends on their accounts secrecy, are teetering on the brink. And this situation is brought about by the relentless pressure from none other than the superpower -- the US – on these banks to reveal the number and other details of the American account holders. Already one Swiss bank, Wegelin, is ‘dead’ and the others may soon go belly up if pressure from the US government builds up to its climax. courts for failing to safeguard the secrecy. Secrecy is the foundation stone of the Swiss banking system and the failure to go by this promise leads to heavy punishment inside Switzerland. But the Swiss banks cannot ignore the US also, because the superpower will chase them out of the dollar market if they do not comply. US dollar controls the global financial market. Even the Saudi oil is traded in dollars. Therefore, as the US pressure increased, Swiss banks asked the lawmakers to permit them to send data to the US courts. If Swiss banks comply with US court orders, they may
end up paying as much as $10 billion in fines, which is enough to leave all Swiss banks in bankruptcy. Given the current economic climate in Europe, bankrupt banks die a sudden death. Last year, a U.S. indictment felled Switzerland’s oldest private bank, Wegelin & Co, which closed after paying a $58 million fine. The Swiss Parliament, in the meanwhile, is debating a legal bill designed to allow banks to send account details to the US government. But the bill stops short of handing over names. Some of the US clients transferred the money to other tax havens such as Cayman Island, Singapore and Mauritius. Now the US
India’s account holders Nobody knows for sure how many Indians have deposited how much money in Swiss banks. In 2009, BJP released a conservative estimation, saying the black money accounted for almost half of the country’s GDP. Another estimate by the US-based group Global Financial Integrity Index pegs illicit capital flows between 1948 and 2008, at $462bn -- an amount that is twice India’s external debt. “What is the source of black money, which has been stashed away in foreign banks? Is it from arms dealing, drug peddling or smuggling?” asked the Supreme Court last
is demanding that it should be told where the bank’s American client moved his money to. Understandably, the Swiss government is in a quandary. It used emergency powers to allow its biggest bank, UBS, to hand over 4,450 client names in 2009. Later it realized that it cannot use the same ‘emergency power’ for all the banks, which have now been indicted by the US government. When the US forced the UBS to cough up fines, many US clients shifted their accounts to Wegelin. And then the US focused its attack on Wegelin. As a result, Wegelin collapsed. Now the US is attacking all the Swiss banks. Although Wegelin has now ceased to exist, the bank’s partners sold its non-American client accounts to the Austrian bank Raiffeisen just before its indictment last January. Analysts said that it was a double fraud. Many Indians are said to be among these non-American clients. Given the latest news reports, the US is now demanding that Swiss banks must provide automatic information about American clients. Now the European Union is also demanding the automatic exchange of information, a policy the non-EU-member Switzerland will have difficulty avoiding if it wants access to Europe’s financial markets. But giving up banking secrecy is a painful process for the Swiss. The country’s secretive financial system is the backbone of Swiss economy. It seems the entire Switzerland will go under if the US continued to attack on
year. The court’s observation came following CBI director AP Singh’s statement that Indians could have deposited $500bn in overseas tax havens. Funds were being sent to tax havens such as Mauritius, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and the British Virgin Islands, among others, he said. The UPA government knows about it, but it is doing nothing. Why can’t the Indian government force Swiss banks to cough up account details of Indians just the way the US is going?
its secrecy laws. Following the September 11 terrorist strike, the United States took the task of destroying Islamic terrorism. Similarly, economic downturn is forcing the superpower to destroy the tax havens. Even the Greece, the European country, which is suffocating under a mountain of debt, has seen its muchneeded revenue disappear in Swiss banks. A desire to reclaim as much unpaid tax as possible is a big reason the pressure on Switzerland is now so great. Finally, the world has come to a conclusion that as long as there are places where people can hide their
money, it will be difficult to tackle corruption. Let us come back to the Swiss lawmakers. The Swiss Senate has now reluctantly approved the bill after it became clear that the US would indict Swiss banks, and possibly even cut them off from the dollar market if it did not go through. The current circumstances are forcing Switzerland to face a difficult dilemma. If it did satisfy foreign governments, who are determined to reclaim their tax revenue, it cannot protect banking secrecy. And the absence of banking secrecy will take away all the lustre that its banks have.
The Indian Behind US Attack on Swiss Banks Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is partly responsible for America’s increased pressure on Swiss banks to shun the secrecy laws. Born in Punjab, Preet studied in the US. He currently oversees more than 200 lawyers handling many of America’s most important cases in public corruption and financial fraud. It was he who made the case against UBS and Wegelin. Preet seems to have convinced the US Government and its courts that Switzerland has helped many Americans dodge tax payments. A year
ago, Time magazine featured him on its cover page and its headline cried “This man is busting Wall St.” Preet dealt a deathly blow on Swiss banks when he prepared a case against Beda Singenberger, a Swiss financial advisor. The New York court later indicted him for conspiring with various US taxpayers and others to hide more than $184 million offshore at various Swiss banks. The war begun that day has continued to this date. And by the time it is ended, many Swiss banks will have been closed.
Malegaon Bomb Blast Case in the Doldrums
indu terrorism is a favourite phrase being used by the UPA Government. In its zeal to please certain sections of the Indian community, it has made various arrests and coined the term ‘Saffron terror.’ The term was extensively used after the 2006 Malegaon blasts, in which the government and the media suspected the involvement of certain Hindu organisations which are allegedly radical in outlook. While the involvement of any Hindu organisation is still not clear in this case, the government went ahead and arrested Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu. All the three were produced before the Nashik Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court, which remanded them to police custody till November 3, 2008. But the UPA Government’s overzealous efforts to implicate Hindu activists in this case could easily backfire. In an article in “Niti Central”, writer Sandhya Jain explains why the whole investigation may fall flat because of the conflicting charge sheets filed by the different investigating agencies in the same case. It all started with those unfortunate blasts in Malegaon in 2006. After the blasts, suspecting the hands of Hindu organisations, the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) filed a charge sheet against nine persons on December 21, 2006. This was followed by CBI adding a supplementary charge sheet. Later, the NIA (National Intelligence Agency) gave all nine a clean chit on the basis of an alleged confession by Swami Aseemanand
UPA Govt.’s ‘Saffron terror’ bogey T
he term ‘saffron terror’ or ‘Hindu terrorism,” entered the Indian political lexicon after Malegaon blasts, when the Home Minister of India, P. Chidambaram urged Indians to beware of “Saffron terror” on August 25, 2010 at a meeting of state police chiefs in New Delhi. This was the first time the word was formally used by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government. Later the phrase was used in connection with Samjhauta Express bombing in 2007 and Mecca Masjid bombing in 2007. Abhinav Bharat, another Hindu organisation, has also been accused of involvement in various blasts. Sadhvi Pragya
before the Delhi Additional Metropolitan Magistrate MM Dabak. But later, Swami Aseemanand retracted his statement. It is curious to see how even a pre-
mier agency like CBI is eager to act on hearsay evidences. According to Sandhya Jain’s article, Aseemanand told the magistrate that late Sunil Joshi had seen television reports of the Samjhauta Express blasts at his (Aseemanand’s) place. After seeing those television footage, he allegedly claimed, Ye mere ladkon ne kiya hai. This was good enough evidence for the investigating agencies. Even after knowing well that this type of witness cannot be verified in view of Sunil Joshi’s demise, they went ahead and filed a charge sheet. Interestingly enough, the agencies have not been able to find any forensic evidence to link ‘Hindu terrorists’ to the crime. Still, on the heels of releasing the first nine accused, NIA filed a fresh charge
The Malegaon blast case has reached a dead end. The filing of conflicting charge sheets by the different investigating agencies is posing a dilemma to the Special NIA and MCOC judge who has to decide whether to accept or reject the ATS-CBI charge sheets against the first set of the nine accused. The judge also needs to accept or reject the NIA’s ‘discharge report’ against the former and its new charge sheet against the second set of the accused.
sheet against four Hindu youth from Madhya Pradesh. The agency also filed a ‘discharge report’ against the first set of the accused. These conflicting set of charge sheets have presented a dilemma for the Special NIA and MCOC judge. Now, the judge has to decide whether to accept or reject the ATS-CBI charge sheets against the first set of the nine accused. The judge also needs to accept or reject the NIA’s ‘discharge report’ against the former and its new charge sheet against the second set of the accused. There are further complications in this case. The two charge sheets present conflicting case with each other. The trial court cannot quash the first charge sheet and investigation report. So, it is only left with the option of deciding the case with the
entire record in its entirety, and give reasons for the same. While the Malegaon case was already being investigated, state agencies and the CBI, the UPA Government asked NIA also to investigate the case. NIA was carrying on its own investigations even as the state agencies and CBI were grappling with filing the case. Unfortunately for the UPA Government, NIA’s findings were in direct contrast to the reports of these two agencies. Now, because of the conflicting reports, the trial court judge will have to be guided by the December 13, 2012 judgment of the Supreme Court in Vinay Tyagi vs Irshad Ali & Ors (Criminal Appeal Nos. 2040-41 of 2012, arising out of SLP Crl Nos 91859186 of 2009). In this case, the bench comprised
Justices Swantanter Kumar and AK Patnaik. The bench ruled that once an FIR was lodged and a charge sheet filed under Section 173(2) Cr PC, it can only be cancelled, proceeded further, or the case closed by the court, in accordance with the law. This means the police or a specialised investigating agency does not have the right to cancel a previous charge sheet or supplementary charge sheet or report filed in the case. It also means that the trial court has to consider the entire record of the case before arriving at a decision. It will be interesting to see how the court will rule in this case. Either way, it will be a setback for some of the premier investigating agencies of our country, thanks to their edgy bosses at the centre.
Kashmir Insurgency Continues
Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has called for a three-day bandh against the Gool killings. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah described the incident as â€œunacceptableâ€?. He spoke to Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and initiated a probe by the Central government against the security organisations. The state government too has ordered a magisterial inquiry. A high-level team consisting of two ministers and the state police chief has visited the spot.
A Bill on N-E Council pending in Parliament
ashmir continues to be in turmoil. The insurgency is continued both by the guerilla Jihadis and civic protestors sympathetic to the insurgents. A senior cardiologist Sheikh Jalal was seriously injured and two police guards were killed when the militants attacked them in Pampore town in Pulwama district. Indiscriminate firing unleashed by militants killed two of his security guards on the spot. The doctor has lost an eye and is fighting for his life. July 18th witnessed another incident in which a group of people organised a civic protest against the security personnel. Stones were hurled at the rally by teens and youth. A bullet fired from the crowd injured a BSF jawan. The protestors were alleging desecration of a mosque and beating up of an Imam by some BSF personnel. Security personnel opened fire and four protestors were killed and about two dozen injured. There were more protests in Srinagar, Pulwama, Shopian and Anantnag districts. The authorities have imposed curfew in major towns of the city and internet services have slowed down or stopped in some places. Protesters have fought with the police, hurled stones at them and burnt old tires to block roads and highways. The blocked highways include the strategic Jammu-Srinagar highway at Batote, Ramban and Bannihal. Two government vehicles were ransacked by the protesters in Ramban town. Police deployed batons and fired in the air to disperse the crowd.
bill about an amendment to the North-Eastern Council Act, 1971, is pending in Parliament. Titled the North-Eastern Council (Amendment) Bill, 2013, it aims at numerous specific objectives. The NorthEastern Council (NEC) was set up in 1972. It has the objective of ensuring a balanced development of the north-eastern region namely, Arunachal Pradesh,
Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, and bringing about coordination among the north-eastern states. The council has the Governors and Chief Ministers of the constituent states as its members. The NorthEastern Council (Amendment) Act, 2002, added Sikkim as the eighth member-state of the council. It was formed to act as a regional planning body for the north-eastern area. It also provisioned for three members and a chairman of the council to be nominated by the President. The Bill looks for the inclu-
sion of one member of the Planning Commission and two non-official members nominated by the President for a three-year period. This three-year term is extendable for a further period not exceeding two years. The Bill also provides for amendment to the Act to enable the council to act as a platform to resolve all conflicts that might arise among these states. Over the last 35 years, NEC has pioneered a new economic endeavour that looks to remove the basic handicaps that stood in the way of normal development of the region. It has also ushered in an era of new hope in this economically backward area full of great potential. The North Eastern Council discusses any matter in which some or all of the states represented in the council have common interest and advises the Central Government and the governments of the states concerned as to the action to be taken on any such matter.
Altamas Kabir Retires as CJI
ltamas Kabir (65 years), 39th Chief Justice of India, retired from office on July 18, 2013, after serving as the CJI for about nine months. Born in a Bengali Muslim family, he completed law after studying History. His father Jehangir Kabir was a prominent Congress politician and trade union leader from West Bengal. During his tenure as a Supreme Court judge, Justice Kabir was instrumental in delivering numerous landmark judgments relating to human rights and election laws. He also provided guidelines on the role to be played by the state governors. He questioned the moral assumptions in states’ constitutional choices and believed strongly in maintaining and upholding the propriety of the constitutional offices. He granted bail to journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi, arrested during investigations related to the Israeli Embassy vehicle blast case in which an Israeli diplomat’s wife was injured. Justice Kabir was admitted to the bar in 1973 and practised civil and criminal law in Kolkata at the district court and the Calcutta High Court. He was appointed as a permanent judge of the Calcutta High Court on August 6, 1990 and the acting Chief Jus-
tice of the Calcutta High Court on January 11, 2005. Along with his landmark decisions, Justice Kabir was responsible for the computerisation of the Calcutta High Court, the City Civil Court and other courts in Kolkata. He was appointed Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority on January 14, 2010. Under his chairmanship, a national plan of action was taken up to be implemented by all state legal services authorities. Also, a calendar for activities was put in place. Along with this, legal service for the transgender community was taken up as a new project of NALSA.
Patiala Maharaja’s Dinner Set fetches Rs.17.7 Cr.
dinner set of Patiala’s most flamboyant former Maharaja was recently auctioned in London’s fine arts auction house Christie’s. An anonymous art collector bought the set for 17.7 crore rupees, according the British newspapers. The set weighs nearly 500 kg and most of its parts are made of silver. Important still, every single piece in the magnificent 1,400-piece silver-gilt set has elaborate decorations. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh gifted this dinner set to the British King Edward VIII on the latter’s visit to his kingdom in 1922. But it was not clear who the owner was until recently and who brought it to the auction table. Nor are there reliable reports about who
The exquisite banqueting service gives an insight into the maharaja’s colourful and lavish lifestyle. Patiala was also one of the wealthiest states under the British rule. A BBC repot says that the Maharaja was the first Indian to own an aircraft and was also an avid and early motor car enthusiast who owned and travelled in a motorcade of up to 20 Rolls Royce cars. What’s more, the Maharaja was also the captain of the Indian cricket team. Historians say he married many times and took in many lovers and sired dozens of children. bought the set. Each piece comes with “a scroll and foliage border above cast and chased panels of animals, separated by cast daggers, variously engraved or cast with coat-of-arms, crown and initials” and was sold as part of the auction house’s “Exceptional Sale”, Christie’s said in a statement. It is said that these gold-plated silver utensils were used to serve the guests at the banquet organized to welcome the British colonial rulers. Upon the meal, the Maharaja gifted his entire dinner set to the British royals.
Three Indian Workers Die in Taliban Attack
hree Indian workers were among at least 10 people who died when the Taliban attacked the Kabul base of a logistics firm supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan recently. All the three were working in a house when the Taliban suicide bombers struck. A Scottish security contractor, four Nepali guards
and two Afghan drivers were also killed in the attack. Many Indians are working in Afghanistan as the country is attempting to rebuild following decades of war. But the Taliban is not going to die. The lawless tribal region bordering Pakistan has long been the hotbed of Taliban fighters. Reports say that the rule of the Afghan government does get beyond the borders of Kabul, the capital city of the country. The Indian Embassy in Kabul has been attacked twice - in 2008 and 2009 - with dozens of people killed. The recent attack happened after four insurgents entered the NATO compound after detonating a powerful truck bomb. Last month, Afghan forces assumed security responsibility for the whole of the country for the first time since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001. Yet the American troops will remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014.
Rural posting must for MBBS doctors pursuing PG
he MBBS doctors pursuing post-graduation will now have to compulsorily undertake a one-year rural posting before they become eligible for the MBBS course. A proposal to this effect was cleared by the government recently and the Medical Council of India (MCI) is in the process of issuing a notification. The decision will come into effect from the next academic session (2014-15). It may be noted that that the earlier proposal of increasing the duration of the MBBS course to include rural posting for doctors was done away with after stiff opposition. But now the Health Ministry seems to have decided on it in view of the scarcity of medical professionals and medical facilities in rural areas. The Health Ministry statistics show there is more than 60% shortage of general doctors and over 80% of specialist doctors in rural India. Even earlier, the government had proposed to increase the current duration of the MBBS course by one year. It had also proposed to use the additional year for a village posting of MBBS students.
The proposal wasn’t found feasible as it meant that students would only get provisional MBBS degrees on the completion of their internship and final MBBS degrees only after the completion of a rural posting. The opponents of this move say that it might dampen the students’ enthusiasm for higher medical education unless suitably modified to reward them for undertaking a rural posting. According to the government, MBBS doctors will be going for rural posting from next year. They may be provided with financial incentives but that component of the proposal is yet to be finalised.
Engg. College for Visually Impaired in AP
ndhra Pradesh is planning to build what the government says the country’s first engineering college for the visually impaired. A private organization has drawn up the blueprint and is currently waiting for the government to allocate land for its huge university. Given a report in ‘The Times of India’, Devnar Foundation, the organization working behind the project, is already armed with the software, funds and as many 20 teachers. Once the government sanctions the land, the project will be up and running.
Andhra Pradesh is believed to have more than 10,000 visually impaired children, out whom only 2,000 have access to education. According to the Times report, the foundation also runs a school for the visually impaired and about six students from this school have recently earned engineering degree from various universities, including Boston University. Visually impaired students are not admitted to every engineering college, so there is a need for them to have a college of their own. The foundation says the government must do whatever it can to allow visually challenged people to access education of their choice. Andhra Pradesh is home to more than 700 engineering colleges, but there is hardly any college ready to admit students with physical disability. All that the foundation is asking for is three acres of land near the capital city of Hyderabad. The foundation says it has donors and teaching faculty. The government, on its part, has identified the land for the college in Mahindra Hills in Secunder-
abad. But the lands are yet to be notified and fully acquired. Analysts say acquiring land for this sort of projects is a challenge in Andhra Pradesh where land mafia has a huge influence on the government. Founded in 1992, the foundation runs several English medium schools for visually handicapped children across the state. Students at Devnar School are taught how to operate computers from sixth standard and they become proficient enough to handle computer and browse the Internet by the time they reach ninth standard. The foundation says students are very enthusiastic about studying after intermediate but they have problems in mainstream colleges. According to reports, the school has been offering English medium education from the primary school up to 12th standard. Analysts say it was a long-cherished dream of the foundation to set up an engineering college exclusively for the blind.
10,000 Smuggled Turtles Seized
have a unique red or orange (rarely yellow) stripe behind each eye, according to US Geological Survey (USGS). These exotic turtles are native to Mexico, central, southern and western US. According to the Global Invasive Species Database, which is managed by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, the Trachemys scripta elegans has been the most popular turtle to be used as a pet. The turtles are said to be in demand in south India as well as in Mumbai. They would have sold for 500 each in India.
50 Chinese soldiers enter Chumar on horseback
t is common to find smuggled, inanimate objects in passenger luggage in an airport. But the Indian airport authorities were stunned to discover more than 10,000 live exotic turtles in the luggage of two passengers at an Indian airport. The two Indians were arrested at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport in Kolkata after customs officials saw the turtles packed neatly in their suitcases. The authorities have seized 10,043 exotic varieties of the turtles from these passengers. They are residents of Chennai, and they were traveling from China to Singapore, and landed at Kolkata airport. The turtles were stuffed in three bags and were waiting to be picked up from a conveyor belt when they raised the suspicion of customs officials. According to the World Wildlife Fund, almost all species of sea turtle are classified as endangered and many are at risk of extinction due to human activities. Increasing pollution, drainage of wetlands and commercial development tend to destroy the habitats and nesting sites of turtles. WWF says that turtles are also endangered because of poaching, being slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, and falling prey to over-exploitation. The two passengers have been detained on charges of smuggling wildlife. The baby turtles, about the size of a walnut, were identified as redeared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), which
round 50 soldiers of Chinaâ€™s Peopleâ€™s Liberation Army (PLA), on horses and ponies, intruded into the Indian territory of Chumar near Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh and staked claim to it. This misadventure from China comes after a month after their last reported land incursion on June 17. Chinese troops started their incursion into the Chumar area on the evening of July 16 and stayed within the Indian side till the next morning. Army confirmed the incursion, and stated that Indian troops intercepted the PLA patrol in Chumar and after the usual banner drill between the two sides, the Chinese went back into their territory.
But apparently tensions ran high. The PLA troops told the Indian soldiers to empty the area, claiming that they were on Chinese territory. The incursion comes soon after two of China’s helicopters violated the Indian air space on July 11 in Chumar sector. It was the same area in the Leh-Ladakh sector that Chinese troops had intruded into on June 17 and threatened the locals in Hindi. They even broke some surveillance cameras that the Indian army had installed in the area. Chumar, about 300km from Leh, has always been a sore point for the Chinese troops as this is the only area along the border where they do not have any direct access to the line of actual control. The latest incursion took place on the day India gave its nod to the creation of a 50,000-personnel strong Mountain Strike Corps along the border. The frequency of such incursions increased around the time defense minister AK Antony visited China earlier this month. India and China have been working towards signing a border pact to maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC where a number of incursion incidents have been observed in recent months, the reports said.
Mobiles may be vulnerable to spying
large number of mobile phones may become vulnerable to spying because of an outdated cryptography technique, according to a new research. Cryptography enables safe communication over a mobile network. Researchers have found a way to trick mobile phones into providing access to the device’s location, SMS functions and allow changes to a person’s voicemail number. The research identifies a mobile phone’s SIM (Subscriber Identification Module). Then, a small card is inserted into a device that connects it to a phone number and authenticates software updates and commands sent over-the-air from an operator. To facilitate privacy and security, SIM cards utilize encryption when communicating with an operator. Many SIMs use a weak encryption standard that dates from the 1970s called DES (Data Encryption
Standard). DES is a weak form of encryption, and many mobile operators have upgraded now to more secure forms. It is comparatively easy to identify the private key used to sign content encrypted with DES. It is also possible to decrypt the private key with the help of known cracking techniques. Security Research Labs did it in about two minutes on a normal computer with a rainbow table, a mathematical chart that assists in converting an encrypted private key or password hash into its original form faster. DES key allows the hacker to “sign” malicious software updates with the key. The device thinks the software comes from a legitimate source and then provides access to sensitive data. The company outlined an attack scenario against SIM cards that run some form of Java virtual machine, a software framework for computer programming language Java. Using the SIM’s private key, an attacker could force the SIM to download Java applets, which are essentially very small programmess that perform some function. Possible remedies to the problem include ensuring SIM cards use state-of-the-art cryptography and using Java virtual machines that restrict applets’ access to certain information. Black Hat USA 2013 is set to bring together the best minds in security to define tomorrow’s information security landscape.
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