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Insight

An Investigative Journal

April 2015

IIJNM Publication

Children of the kilns


Contents a

Blinded by greed? - 11

Over the counter kill pill – 14

Fake doc ‘buys’ kidneys online – 16

Six feet under: how missing plans bury Bangalore – 21 Silence in the sands – 22 Fake exams – 27

Women and Children Minorities

Lost the plot? Court for Country club – 32

Rural drinking water system faces shortage of trained staff – 36 Donation scam by fake NGOs – 40

Hitting the buffers? Planners blow whistle on luxury condo site – 42 Water park takes employees for a ride - 46

Health

Women and Children

A girl with an old man’s hands: the kilns that kill childhood - 6 Over 300 acid attack victims await millions in compensation – 24 Minorities

Rs 6500 crore for minorities left unspent - 4 Goon charges fees for free govt forms – 10 Health

The dark reality of fairness creams – 30 India’s two-faced health policy risking lives – 18 Urban Poor Government peddles sub-standard cycles - 44 Exploitation of BMRCL workers – 34

Urban Poor


One of the earliest movies we were shown in my J-school was All the President’s Men, which showed in great detail how Woodward and Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal in the US. It showed the intricacies involved in investigative journalism, the pursuit of breaking stories, learning from mistakes and working over days and nights to get the best story. Insight is a result of wanting to get out, explore and bring out the stories which are buried several layers deep under the surface. From villages in rural Karnataka to the dark corners of urban spaces, this edition covers stories from all spheres of life. Our cover story is on children in Jamkhandi, in rural Karnataka, carrying out dangerous chores while working as contract laborers in the numerous brick kilns. These are the children who don’t get to be children. Forced by abject poverty, entire families are bound by contracts and these children face the consequences. The edition also carries stories on rampant sand mining and an interview with a mafia boss who reveals the profits involved, abortion pills being sold openly on the market causing the deaths of young women and fake university mark sheets making their way onto the online market. The issue also exposes many ‘schemes’ for uplifting the downtrodden, showing that all that glitters is not gold. A massive 6500 crores allotted for the scheduled castes hasn’t seen the light of the day. Also, the rural drinking water system sees an increase in the number of installed water pipes in rural areas, but the pipes remain dry. One of our best stories is about an eye camp organized in an Indian village, where people were left blinded after eye operations. Read on for many more insightful stories!

Shruti Suresh


Minorities

Rs 6500 crore for minorities left unspent State government has not spent over Rs 6500 crore funds allotted for the scheduled castes for 2014-2015

Nikhil M Babu

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ocuments obtained via a Right To Information revealed that various government departments until - February - haven’t spent the 56.5 percent of Rs 11, 518.99 crores allocated for dalits. “This is not a surprise,” said Beena J Pallickal, member of National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, Delhi, an umbrella organization of various dalit organizations.

“It happens not only in Karnataka but everywhere else. This shows the importance government gives to dalits,” she added.

Social and Welfare Department of Karnataka (SWD) is the nodal agency for monitoring the funds spent by various departments of the state. The RTI reveals that 19 out of the 33 departments haven’t submitted the

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expenditure report to SWD.

Arun Furtado, Deputy Secretary, SWD, said: “It is like that, we have to call them a 100 times to get a report from them. It’s always the same thing.”

According to the new bill passed by Karnataka in 2014, government had to form a committee headed by CM for the planning and allocation of funds. Even though the state budget was presented in February last year, the committee headed by the CM decided on the projects only in October. This delay is cited as one of the main reasons for the huge sum of money unspent.

“Since it is the first time, there are some hiccups. This year there won’t be so many problems. The fact that funds can be transferred to the year preceding the immediate year - would


Minorities

Beena J Pallickal, member of National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights

have made them (departments) lazy,� Arun added.

lakh crore rupees.

Some departments which have spent a meager part of the funds allotted to them are: Youth services 5.21%, Public works 7.07%, labor 16.32% and horticulture 17.63%.

And in 2015-2016 budget the government has denied around Rs 70000 crore to the dalits. And even in the allotted amount, a major percentage is siphoned to different other projects.

According to the planning commission recommendation, percentage of the budget equal to the percent population of the dalits must be allotted for dalits.

There are deviations like this in other states also. The Jharkhand government siphoned purchased a trainer aircraft and motor glider for Rs 7 crore using these funds.

According to a study done by the NCDHR, compiling the data of the allocation of money for the dalits in the last 30 years it was found out that the dalits were denied more than five

Even though there is a separate law in Karnataka to protect the allocations to the dalits they still continue to be neglected.

There were already allegations by various organizations that the government had siphoned about 50% of the funds in the 14-15 budget to general projects like building courts etc.

Karnataka is not alone in the race to neglect the dalits.

In Karnataka state budget 2014-2015, Rs 15 crore was allotted for building of roads to tourist places, Rs 180 crore for building of courts, and Rs 2.5 crore for films and the list goes on.

In Delhi, Rs 9.12 lakhs allotted for manual scavengers was diverted to buy diwali sweets.

“It happens not only

in Karnataka but everywhere else. This shows the importance government gives to dalits - Beena J Pallickal, member of National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights Insight

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A girl with an old man’s hands: the kilns that kill childhood


Cover Story

A report by the International Labour Organization reveals that there are 246 million children working between ages of 5 to 17 worldwide

Elizabeth Mani

A

lmost all the brick kiln plants in rural Karnataka employ children aged between three and 13-years-old.

Lakshmi is only 13, but her hands are dried, calloused and tanned as she prepares the clay to make bricks.

“I wish I had soft hands like you. I start my work at two in the morning till five in the evening, and I have to make 2000 bricks a day,” she said. “My leg hurts after working in clay; it’s hard work and I’m expected to keep working all the time,” she added. Lakshmi said that this would be the only year she would be required to work, as her mother would be sending her back to school next year. The teenager’s grandmother, Bajanthi, said: “Lakshmi is not a kid anymore; she should start working.” Since brick kiln work is a seasonal industry, landless farmers choose to work—with their families—in kilns, on a contractual basis. In these industries, children work long hours in the heat, carrying bricks, putting coal onto furnaces, and moulding the bricks. Carrying a large basket of sugarcane

waste on his head was Lakshmi’s nineyear-old brother Danesh who said he had never been to school, and didn’t like working in the brick kilns either. “They make me do all kinds of work and for which I have to get up at 2 a.m.” he said, his legs covered in clay as he was working at the time.

What Danesh would prefer doing is something most boys of his age would prefer too. “I like to play cricket,” confessed the boy.

Putting forth his cracked palms and dried feet, Chandan, another young boy, said he had started working at the brick kiln four years ago which is why by now he had “got used to the tough work of mixing clay.” Statistics show that the issue of child labor is a worldwide problem, and is especially severe in the state.

A report by International Labour Organization reveals that there are 246 million children working between ages of 5 to 17 worldwide. As per the 2011 census there are 2, 49,432 child laborers in Karnataka.

India has the highest number of children working in the world, most of them in rural areas. Brick kiln work is

Lakshmi says she works eight hours a day at the brick kiln

a seasonal industry. Landless farmers choose to work in kilns on a contract basis - with their families.

Shockingly, the large number of children working in brick kiln plants in Jamkhandi seems to have somehow escaped the local police’s attention. N.R Khilare, Police Sub Inspector (PSI), said, “We do regular visits to brick kilns but we never find any children at the sites.” A report by Unesco’s Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring reveals that there are 1.4 million Indian children aged 6-11 out of school. Bonded labors

According to the Human Rights Commission, families working in brick kilns are employed on a contractual basis, thus making them bonded laborers. Insight

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Danesh, 9, carrying heavy load of sugarca 22-year-old Hanumanth’s family has four acres of dried land. There are four people working on the land although only his name is mentioned in the bond. “The family should have at least had four members in order to receive an advance from the owner,” he said. “Each one of us in the brick kiln has to make 2000 bricks a day and the owner will write the tally in his book every day. “By the end of our six month bond, he will calculate that each one of us had to make 360,000 bricks, each one of which the owner sells for Rs 5 each,” he said. “If we make less we have to come back and clear the debt.” Hanumanth added that brick kiln owners do multiple businesses by employing bonded laborers.

“This enables them to get lots of profit, without having a license to conduct their business,” he said. According to Jeeta Vimukti, a Karnataka based NGO that is engaged in campaigns against the bonded labor system, there are nearly 2,500 bonded labourers in North Karnataka. A bond made for a brick kiln worker from Alagur brick kiln revealed that


ane waste on his head at brick kiln (left); Lakshmi says she is not going to work from next year as she will go to school (middle) the bond mentions just one person’s name but the entire family is asked to work. The Ministry of Labour had launched a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for bonded labours in May 1978. This scheme was modified in May, 2000. Under this scheme, each bonded laborer who is freed is entitled to receive Rs. 10,000 - 20,000, which is required to be paid on immediate release of the labourer.

Brick kiln workers take advances before they begin work. The advance depends on the number of people ready to work. If a family has six members they can get up to Rs 90,000 for six months of work.

Once workers take the advance they pledge their labor to the brick kiln owner. They have to work to pay back their debt. If they fail to repay their debt, the entire family has to return to the same brick kiln to repay the debt.

The minimum daily wage for a brick kiln worker in Karnataka is Rs 252 per day. By employing bonded labors, the employer has to give is an advance of Rs 40,000 to 80,000 depending on the family strength. According to laborers, if a brick breaks in the process, goes uncounted. The bricks are counted once it reaches the burning stage.

Mr. Bharathesh, owner of the brick kiln in Alagur, said: “It’s been nine years since I started this business. I have built 20 houses for my laborers, but I don’t get any profit from this business as I don’t have a license. “I’m planning to shut down this brick kiln soon,” he said.

Bonded laborers also exist in sugar cane industries where sugar factories pay certain amounts to a middle man to cultivate sugarcanes from the farm and to export them to the factories.

Basaveshwara, owner of Basaveshwara Batti (Brick Kiln) said: “I started this business 12 years ago. I don’t get profit in this business but I get little money from sugarcane farming. Every year Jamkandi Sugars gives me 5 lakhs to cultivate and transport the sugarcane. From this amount, I pay 3 lakhs for workers who come from Maharashtra, ” he said. Maharashtra migrant labors are paid less compared to the locals. Each family is given a tent for six months.

One of the Maharashtra migrant laborer, Dhasarat, who works at sugarcane farm in Jamkandi said, “I got Rs. 12,000 in advance for three people. We come to Jamkandi every year, and this time we are working for Nirani

Sugar Factory.”

Basaveshwara said that he had 1000 employees in total—500 in brick kilns and the other 500 in sugarcane farming. Pallavi, 15, another migrant worker, said: “There are 50 families working for Nirani sugarcane factory, we all are from the same village. We don’t have any job in our village; that’s the reason came so far to work.” Dr. Sharanappa Saidapur, a professor at Gulbarga University, conducted a research on brick kiln laborers in north Karnataka. His research reveals the enormous profits made by the people doing these businesses. Saidapur said, “During my research on brick kilns, getting the data was very difficult as there are more than one lakh brick-kiln units spread throughout the country. “This is an unorganized small sector with each unit manufacturing between one to ten lakh bricks per year,” he said. “At present around 140 billion bricks are produced in these units.”

According to Saidapur, the annual turnover of these industries is a staggering figure, over Rs. 140 billion. Furthermore, according to his research, there are around 10,000 brick-kiln units operating throughout Karnataka state. Insight

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Minorities

Goon charges fees for free govt forms People below poverty line have been exploited by a man who they consider to be their leader

Tushar Kaushik

I

lliterate residents of a colony in Nayandahalli claim that they are being exploited by a local leader who takes money to write government forms which are free to complete. The forms - for various government benefit schemes - do not require a fee but Shivagandhappa allegedly began to take money from brothers Mahesh and Srikant Kumar about four years back, for the issue of their ration cards. The brothers still haven’t got the cards. Srikant said: “Whenever we ask him about the card, he says it will take a month or two more, and sometimes takes more money from us. Till now, I have paid about Rs 6,000 to him.” Srikant added that he knew at least three to four more people who had similarly not received their identity cards despite paying huge sums of money.

Shivagandhappa is one of six leaders in the colony, who also act as spokespersons for the colony’s residents. Mahesh said, “For filling forms of Aadhar card, he took Rs 200 for each form from the people. For sending an SMS of ration card details, he charged Rs 50.” Sharath, another resident of the colony, said, “He assured me that I would get the card ten days before the elections, but I still haven’t got it.” As a result, Sharath could not vote in the elections. 10

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Muttukumar, from the same colony, said: “People who are illiterate get their forms filled by others. Most people do it for free, but some take money for it. When we come to know, we scold such people. They take 20-30 bucks.” Veera, another resident, said that a local named Srinivas takes Rs 100 for filling Aadhar form for what he terms are “costs incurred in traveling”, and takes Rs 50-100 for sending SMS.

The victims – Mahesh, Srikant and Sharath – have not complained to the police about this out of fear, as they say Shivagandhappa is very influential. Mahesh said that the fact that many residents are illiterate is exploited by Shivagandhappa through the same ways – false promises of identity cards and filling up of forms. The area where the colony stands was earlier a slum, and the colony was built by the Karnataka slum development board.

Tyaga, another resident, also acknowledged all these problems, and talked about the other issues in the colony. He said that hygiene and cleanliness were not followed, and the MLA of the area, M Krishnappa, hardly visited the colony, except during elections. He said, “When the colony had been built, the residents were promised a whole lot of things – regular water supply, parks, electricity, but none of it has materialized.” He added that none of the three

Shivagandhappa at his well-furnished residence bore wells in the colony worked, and insects were often found in the drinking water supplied to them. Mahesh said that a police station was needed close to the premises of the colony. He said that at nights, the residents were afraid to venture out due to robberies, while marijuana abuse was also common. An Insight reporter contacted Shivagandhappa’s neighbor, and asked him whether Shivagandhappa would help her in filling up forms of various ID cards. The neighbor said that Shivagandhappa would help, and also said that he would charge money for it, but he does it only for the people he knows. When Shivagandhappa himself was contacted by the reporter, he refused to help her to fill up the forms.


Blinded by greed?

One in two people who visit eye camps in most districts of Karnataka are told they need an operation and in one such camp at least 25% patients were blinded by ‘students’ who operated on them. INSIGHT investigation which exposed the tragedy has led to a promised enquiry by the hospital responsible for the camp


IIJNM Investigates

Agnivesh Harshan & Elizabeth Mani

A

lmost 100 documents acquired through a series of Right to Information requests by our team has unearthed a lucrative business for NGO’s and private health care providers - but some worry it’s at the expense of the poor. Most government hospitals do not conduct eye camps and instead state health departments pay NGO’s and private providers up to Rs. 1000 per operation.

“They operated my eyes just for a mere ‘dust particle’. My right eye is blind after the operation,” said, Venkatamma, 55, one of the victims from Devagiri village. There are literally hundreds of camps across India every day and in some cases a staggering 50 percent of the people seen - one in every two attendees - needs some form of corrective eye procedure.

The camp, organized in April 2013, operated on 22 people from Devagiri village of which eight are now partially or completely blind. It is not yet known if the remaining patients have suffered a similar fate. Marrakka, 45, a farmer, said, “They asked me to go through an operation for both the eyes. I am glad I agreed for only the left eye otherwise I would have lost my complete vision.” Hanumakka, 65, also had a similar story to tell. “I lost my eyes to the campaign, now I am dependent on others for life.”

Camp co-ordinator, Dase Gowda P. R, said, “It is an internship program funded by the District Blindness Control Society for the final year medical students of Kempegowda Institute of Medical Science in Bangalore (KIMS).

“The students are supervised by a professional doctor while they are operating. The program began in 2009 and since then we have operated on over 5,000 people.” But KIMS is breaking the Medical 12

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Council of India’s rules. According to the Medical Council of India, “No person other than a doctor having qualification recognized by Medical Council of India/state medical councils is allowed to practise modern system of medicine or surgery.” Who is to blame?

A central government RTI filed at the Directorate of Heath and Family Welfare Department by our team revealed that the eye camp conducted by KIMS is not on government records.

Department Programme Manager, S Rekha said, “KIMS’ name is not on the list because it conducted its operations through a NGO called Shri Sai Shankara Trust. It is only in last December that KIMS was approved to conduct camps directly.” Nobody from Shankara NGO was available to comment and it could not be traced via web searches and requests via other NGOs. Patients, however, insist that it was KIMS that conducted the eye camp. They are unfamiliar with the name Shri Sai Shankara trust. Their own website boasted of their eye camp achievements - until our reporter confronted them about patients losing their sight.

“KIMS is a private hospital and its name should have been on the list,” a Directorate of Health & Family Welfare Services spokesperson said. Inquiry promised

The joint director of the hospital responsible for the camps has promised a full investigation after TITLE revealed that at least a quarter of the patients treated at the camp had lost their sight. Dr. Sowbhagya H.N, Head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Supervising doctor at the camp, said, “The patients were already visually impaired when they came to us. We did our best to treat them. If they have an issue they should have it checked up at the hospital.” But Lakshamanna, a gardener who

went for surgery, rubbished the doctor’s claim. “Before the operation I was able to work in the field without wearing glasses, now I can’t do any work,” he said.

Dr. Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor who works with marginalized communities, said: “I cannot be sure but they could have used expired or experimental drugs which would explain the gradual loss of vision. Or it could be that they did not sterilize the medical equipments.

“The private hospitals usually do not follow up on their patients after surgeries and capitalize on the government schemes for their own monetary benefits. It’s not impossible, it can happen.” The RTI response from Bangalore district did not have information on failures and other complications during and after surgery. “We have not provided information on postoperative care and surgical failures because the NGOs and hospitals which conducted the camps have not reported them for the past five years.” Dr. S. Rekha, District Programme Manager of Bangalore Urban, said. “But law is that there should be a follow up after 42 days from the date of surgery.” Patients from the village were contacted by the eye camp team one week after the operations and then again six weeks later.

Dr. Ratna V C, Joint Director, of Ophthalmology Department, said, “It is not possible to comment before any prior investigation as the camp was organized one year ago. There are over 100 such camps conducted every month across the state.”

Villagers were supposed to be treated for minor conditions like cataracts and glaucoma. The patients, now victims, claim that they were doing well before the treatment in the camp and had only minor issues with their vision. Lakshmanna, 46, who works as a gardener in BGS Residential International School, added, “I had


IIJNM Investigates

no problems with my vision till the surgery. They strongly persuaded me to have the operation just because I went for an eye check up. Now my left eye has no vision at all and my right one only works well if I have my glasses on.” “I do not even know the name of the person who operated my eyes and left me completely blind for life, said Anjanappa, 60. Hanumanthappa, an unemployed villager, also lost his vision to false promises of the camp members who assured clear vision after the operation. Instead he lost all sight.

“I have bad vision. But I know those people are just students and not doctors and am scared to approach the camp at Golahalli to undertake the surgery,” Narayanappa K, a daily wage labourer, said.

Dr. Sandeep Shetty, from the ophthalmology department of KIMS, said, “We had already looked into the list of blind people you have sent us. We sent a specialized team to check up on them and they are all okay. We do not want anything to do with this issue hereafter.” The TITLE investigation team had never sent KIMS hospital or any of its

associates names or details of the people who claim they were blinded at one of their eye camps. How it started

The National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) was founded in 1976 with the objective to cure ophthalmological illnesses in the rural and urban poor.

The program has conducted thousands of eye camps throughout India. In the 11th five year plan they are planning to allocate a budget of Rs. 1,550 crores, according to a NPCB publication. NPCB is divided into blindness control societies at the district level which directly fund NGOs that conduct camps. The Indian Council of Medical Research surveyed all of India in 1975 to find that 1.38% of the population was blind and the leading cause of blindness was cataract. NPCB was formed as a direct result of the survey publications. The NPCB has been actively conducting eye camps with funds allotted by the World Bank. The state government currently owes 14 NGOs and health providers over 1 crore, 76 lakh in unpaid fees for surgeries carried out in the last five years. Camps in Tumkur, Karnataka, over the past five years had an attendance of 1,18,170 people of which 63,764 were operated on. An amount of Rs. 3,15,53,975 was spent on these operations. The government pays Rs.

1000 for each cataract surgery and Rs. 850 for other surgeries. The unit cost of a lens is Rs. 625. The NGOs from Bangalore are left with Rs. 375 for doctor’s profit with each surgery. 57,152 people in Bangalore Urban were operated on in the past five years. Where did the Rs. 70 lakh go?

According to an RTI response from the District Health & Family Welfare Society, One of the service providers - NGO Project Drishti, which operates nationwide, has conducted at least 7000 surgeries in the past five years in Bangalore. It’s a subsidiary of Reliance Ltd. That means the NGO has earned up to Rs.70 lakh from the Karnataka state government alone.

But when we contacted Project Drishti, spokesman Tushar said his NGO had never conducted eye camps. He said: “We don’t conduct them.” When asked if the NGO receives government funding, he replied that they did not. In a press release from Project Drishti, dated February 6, 2008, it is clearly stated that they have undertaken 5000 keroptoplasty surgeries “all free of cost” for India’s underprivileged. Kerostoplasty is a corneal grafting procedure. The NGO could not explain why its name featured on government RTI replies. The data surrendered to our investigators via RTI is sketchy and unreliable in places.

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IIJNM Investigates

Over the counter kill pill Buying an abortion pill in Bangalore is easier than you think Pavitra Parekh

A

bortion pills are illegally sold by pharmacies across the city without any prescription.

According to a report released by the Bangalore Medical College, about 40 women have died because of abortion related complications in the past three years. Most of these are believed to be because of women self medicating themselves and pills being taken without a prescription. A majority of the women who died were between 19 and 25 years old. An investigation carried out by Insight revealed that at least 10 pharmacies in the city sold abortion pills without any prescription, which is against the law.

M S Medicals in Kumbalagodu, Bangalore, readily provided the pill and put down the name of an imaginary doctor on the bill. When our reporter revealed about the investigation a week later, the chemist, 14

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Naveen, first apologized and asked what she would do with the details. His apology turned into a justification and he said, “This is after all a business. If I don’t sell it to you, the next shop will. It would only mean me losing a customer.”

The Medical termination of Pregnancy Act (1971) provides for an abortion to be performed by a registered medical practitioner if in his opinion: continuance of the pregnancy involves a risk to the life of the woman or a grave injury to her physical or mental health or there is a substantial risk that the child, when born, would suffer such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped. Medicines to terminate pregnancy, an illegal act and also is an extremely sensitive issue in India. In India, abortions are legal only up to 20 weeks of a pregnancy under specific circumstances and conditions.

Most pharmacies immediately provide the pill without any question or prescription. From the bigger pharmacies that regularly supply to hospitals to the smaller ones, Misoprostol and Mifepristone are

available to just about anyone. The hundred rupee pill can kill a fetus seven weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.

Dr. Lakshmi Ahuja, a gynecologist from Delhi spoke about how taking an abortion pill without a doctor’s guidance and instructions can be harmful. “The medicine even if it is to be consumed at home, must be prescribed by a certified doctor.”

Chemists and pharmacies across Bangalore rarely ask you to provide a doctor’s prescription. This raises a number of questions on the effectiveness of the 45 year old law, on pharmacy licenses, on chemist certificates and on corruption.

25-year-old Naveen has no certificate or license required by a chemist. The owner of the pharmacy apologized, said it was a mistake and that it would not happen again. When asked about his employee’s license, he said, “Not everyone in the shop needs a license.” The Pharmacy Act (1948) states that anyone practicing as a pharmacist, must hold a degree or diploma in pharmacy or pharmaceutical


IIJNM Investigates

A bill produced by M.S Medicals that shows abortion pills being sold and a pharmacist at New mahadeshwara Medicals chemistry or a chemist and druggist diploma of an Indian University or a State Government, or a prescribed qualification granted by an authority outside India, or has been engaged in the compounding of drugs in a hospital or dispensary or has passed an examination recognized as adequate by the State. Maruthi Medicals in Kengeri also sold the drug without a prescription. When Insight was unable to provide the doctors name that they needed to put on the bill, they put down the name of a doctor of their own choice. When contacted and asked about this, he said, “Technically all drugs except Paracetamol require a prescription.

Do you think I can ask every customer to provide a doctor’s prescription for every drug that I sell?”

Mahaveer Medical and Surgicals, a pharmacy located opposite to the Lady Curzon and Bowring Hospital, sold the drug and put down the name of the hospital as the prescriber. The medical superintendent of the hospital refused to comment on the sale of prescription drugs under the hospital’s name. When the chief pharmacist was contacted, he expressed regret and said he would write to the drug controller. He said, “It is unfortunate that things like these do not even shock us anymore. This has become so common and everyone does it.”

Shri Medicals and Matru Medicals, both in Kengeri were willing to sell the drug without a prescription. When confronted about the sale of prescription drugs without a prescription, they apologized and said that it was a mistake that should not have been committed.

A number of other pharmacies in K R Market and Majestic were also ready to sell the drug without a prescription. However, some refused to provide a bill for such a purchase. “You need to make sure that this pill is taken within the first seven months of a pregnancy. If taken after that, it could lead to serious complications, such as excessive bleeding or only partial break down of the fetus,” Lakshmi Ahuja said.

“This can put the mother’s health at a very direct risk. There have been instances of women bleeding to death in the past,” she continued.

When asked about the demand for these pills, the bigger pharmacies said that they sell five or six sets every month. This means that a significant number of these pills are being sold and consumed by women.

Sri Krishna Medicals and Mahaveer Medicals are a few stores that sell abortion pills

Despite repeated attempts to contact the Drugs Control department of Karnataka and the zone inspectors, they remained unavailable for comment. Insight

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IIJNM Investigates

Fake doc ‘buys’ kidneys online Con man offers huge sums to buy organs but steals money from donors

Shruti Suresh

A

Bangalore based con man is posing as a doctor online and running a kidneys-forsale scam.

Indian and African con men operating from Bangalore and Chennai are posting adverts offering to buy and sell kidneys using fake names, fake credentials and offering huge sums for the organs. Not only do they pose as nephrologists from reputed hospitals like Manipal, they post ads for selling kidneys, cars and mobiles online on sites such as Quikr and OLX. In reality, all they want is money. A man, who called himself Dave Gray, claimed to be a nephrologist working at Dave Gray Hospital, based in Pune, was approached by our reporter, who told him she wanted to sell a kidney. She was responding to one of many online adverts posted by the group.

The hospital and the street in Pune mentioned in the advertisement hosted by him do not exist. Dave Gray, as he called himself, posted comments on many sites offering huge money in return for kidneys. He claimed that the kidneys were for kidney transplant recipients. On his blog, he posted a photo of a hospital entrance which clearly belongs to another bona fide website. 16

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In one ad posted on the GBK Charitable Trust website, “Gray” stated: “Do you want to sell your kidney? Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and you don’t know what to do, then contact us today and we shall offer you good amount for your Kidney. My name is (Dr David Gray) and I am a phrenologist in Manipal hospital. Our hospital is specialized in Kidney Surgery and we also deal with buying and transplantation of kidneys with a living corresponding donor. We are located in India, if you are interested in selling or buying kidneys please don’t hesitate to contact us.” On being approached by our reporter as an interested kidney donor, he sent a mail furnishing a lot of guidelines which, according to him, were the prerequisites for kidney donation. He said, “You have to make a transfer of Rs. 10,999 which is to register with the National Kidney Foundation as a donor.”

name of Avinash Shah.

He added, “Avinash Shah, to whom the account belongs, is our in-charge.” On contacting the actual National Kidney Foundation (NKF), based in the United States, they confirmed that there is no fee for patients, care-givers or family members to join the NKF. Sharai, at the NKF said: “Organ donors are not required to pay anything to become a living donor in the U.S. and compensation is not given to anyone who is donating legally.” The account details given by “Dave Gray” and two more SBI accounts linked to him had earlier been used to deceive people. “Gray” operated with other con men posing as sellers of electronic devices and cars on websites like Quikr and OLX.

The account to which Dave Gray wanted the registration fee transferred was a State Bank of India (SBI) account based Gray, who claimed to be a nephrologist, provided this ID card in Bangalore -in the


IIJNM Investigates

When asked for verification, the self-claimed nephrologist shared an identification proof. That proof was found to include a photograph of a Nigerian man, Casmir Ekwuhga, 42, who was arrested last August by City of London Police for human trafficking. Ekwuhga was jailed for four years. According to reports, he was a member of a gang involved in an immigration racket which helped Nigerians enter UK using stolen identities.

Amit Sharma, 25, a resident of Delhi, was deceived into spending about Rs 1, 80, 000 last November when he contacted “Gray” - who claimed to be a kidney specialist. Amit said: “I had told him that I was interested in donating my kidneys. He promised me lakhs of money in return for a kidney. Initially, he asked me to pay only the registration fee of Rs 11, 000 but later started asking for more money.” Amit continued: “He introduced himself as Dr. Johnson Francis. I paid the initial amount to an account belonging to Avinash Shah. After I paid the initial fee for registration, he went on to say that I need to pay the remittance fee and non-citizen fee in order to take it further.”

“Gray” then stopped contacting Amit and started dodging his calls. Amit said that the con man also had a partner. Amit claimed that he had borrowed a lot of the money that he deposited in these accounts which the “doctor” asked him to. According to him, he was asked to transfer money to at least six different Indian accounts. Amit tried getting in touch with the con men but his calls weren’t received. He filed an FIR with the police in Delhi last month, but it hasn’t helped. Amit said: “I later found out that a lot of people had been cheated like me.” Operating online, “Gray” and his accomplices con people into believing that they are donating kidneys for hefty prices. Our reporter was told

that she would be paid USD 220,000 for a kidney.

Through sites such as OLX, they pose as sellers of electronics like camera, phones, TV, etc.

Varsani was cheated when he saw an advert for an iPhone 5S being sold on OLX. He was asked to transfer Rs 19, 000 to buy the iPhone, which was never delivered to him. He was asked to deposit Rs. 14,000 in one account and Rs. 5000 to another account, both SBI accounts based in Bangalore. Even now there are adverts for used cars online to trap people who, without verification, are hunting for a web bargain.

When the above mentioned advertisement was marked as spam by Varsani, it was taken down from the website. Pratik D’Souza, lead of Customer Services Team of Quikr in Mumbai, said: “Whenever an advertisement is posted, we have our team review it. If it looks like the work of a spammer, the owner of the advertisement is contacted and is asked to produce an authorization certificate which could prove that he is an authorized dealer.”

If the owner didn’t furnish the certificate within a certain time period the advert would be taken down. He said: “We have listed on our website that consumers should be careful while doing such transactions. Many people interact with the seller only via call or WhatsApp. We have mentioned in our Listing Policy that buyers shouldn’t do direct money transfers into sellers’ accounts. We aren’t responsible if consumers deal with the sellers without being aware of the guidelines mentioned on our website. I will look into the advertisement you are talking about and it will be taken down if it is conning people.”

Upon confronting Dave saying that an FIR has been filed against him by a man he cheated, he said: “I don’t know

Casmir was arrested by the City of London police in 2014 in UK what you are talking about. I have never taken money from anyone.”

He then claimed that someone had been using his name to con others. Amit was duped by asking him to transfer money to the same account to which our reporter was asked to transfer money before beginning the kidney transplant process.

Dave denied all charges saying that someone is ruining his name by using it to cheat people. Dave’s number is a Bangalore number registered in the name of ‘Amma’.

“The money I am asking you is for registering from NKF. It is legitimate. As soon as you make the payment, half of the amount for the kidney would be transferred to you today. If you are not interested in making the payment, let us cancel this whole thing,” he said. We then told him that the photograph in the ID card he sent belonged to an arrested Nigerian in London, but he claimed he simply resembled the arrested man.

“He resembles me but I am not a convict. I have been living in India for one year and six months now. If I were an arrested man I won’t be talking to you over phone,” he added. He wasn’t interested in answering any further questions.

Insight

17


Women & Children

India’s two-faced health policy risking lives

The government has been overlooking easily curable diseases to achieve its MDG’s, but has failed in achieving either

Kimaya Varude

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overnment hospitals in Muddebihal can treat diseases such as AIDS and Tuberculosis that fall under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) but they lack access to sufficient medication, doctors and equipment for those illnesses not covered under these goals. On the afternoon of November 9, 2014, a woman was rushed to the

18 Insight

Muddebihal government hospital after she had consumed an entire bottle of poison. The doctor could only remove 20 percent of the consumed poison from her body. For further treatment, the required equipment was unavailable at the hospital and the doctor had no choice but to recommend her to Bijapur Government Hospital. “A family dispute led to her drinking rat poison. I told them the hospital is inefficient to deal with her. But poverty pushed them to take her there though they had to move her to Bijapur eventually. It was a waste

of time,” said Ramrao, her neighbour who had called the ambulance after the incident. At the same time in the AIDS ward, the hospital staff was busy collecting and organizing medical boxes for its patients. “The new stock has just come in, it is important to put them in place,” said Sanjay Bhosale, nursing superintendent at the hospital.

They were unaware about the poison case that had come to the hospital. The hospital was prepared to treat its AIDS patients more than any critical


Health

patients that visited the hospital.

The government has overlooked its health care system to concentrate on MDG that is funded internationally. Muddebihal is one of the many taluks that suffer due to this.

India has the lowest budget for health care in the world and this year it was slashed again. In 2014, India spent only 6% of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) on health care. This year 331.5 billion rupees were kept aside for health care in the general budget. According to the World Health Report, India’s health care system ranked 112th out of 190 countries.

Appalling conditions in Muddebihal The guidelines provided by the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) for sub-District/sub-Divisional hospitals in 2012 pointed out that essential services like general medicine, general surgery accidents and emergency services including poisoning and trauma Care, general orthopaedic, ENT, Dental care, DOT centre and other para clinical services should be available in every sub-district hospital. However, Muddebihal Government Hospital lacks several of the above services such as facility for immediate treatment of accidents, osteoporosis, or fluorosis.

Sanjay Bhosale, nursing superintendent at the hospital said that the health headquarter has only two full time doctors to treat every day patients when there are supposed

to be three full time doctors, one physician, one gynaecologist and one general duty doctor.

Sanjay said: “There are 11 sanctioned posts for doctors in the hospital but only two posts are full. One doctor is appointed on contract basis every three months for special cases like accidents, but even he is missing.”

However, the hospital headquarter has its own AIDS and Tuberculosis department with one doctor each. Additionally, the taluk also has its own Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and Directly Observed Treatment, ShortCourse (DOTS) centre located within 20 kilometres of the government hospital. DOTS are centres set up by the government under the recommendations of the World Health Organisation to monitor and control Tuberculosis. “These centres are kept different as the patients are different and treating these diseases is more costly,” said Bhosale. Patients affected

The hospital sees over 50 patients every day. Doctors at the hospital advise their patients to buy medications from medical shops outside the hospital because there is lack of medicines at the headquarters. Ganesh’s (name changed) mother has to get a check-up done every two weeks as she is a heart patient. Her prescription listed medicines that the hospital did not have in stock.

He said: “Every visit I am asked to buy medicines from outside. I cannot afford them every time. Her health is deteriorating and now they even refuse to admit her citing various reasons. They have asked me to take her to government hospital in Bijapur which is two hours away. I don’t know how to keep her alive.”

“Out of these only a general ward and maternity ward could function well as there are no doctors, lack of equipment and medicines. We follow what the government tells us. If we are asked to hire doctors we do or we just recommend patients to other doctors or hospitals,” said Bhosale. Sanjay said that the AIDS centre functions really well with medicines and other facilities being updated every month. “Since it is monitored by the government regularly we make sure that everything in the AIDS ward is up to date though there are not many AIDS patients,” he added. Funds not allocated

Sanjay said that the NHRA provides Rs 2.5 lakh every year for maintenance of the hospital alone, whereas Rs.5 lakh is claimed to be provided separately for the maintenance of ART unit in the hospital.

Millennium Development Goals are funded by the World Bank. According to the World Bank MDG assessment report, estimates that if countries improve their policies and institutions, the additional foreign aid required to reach the Millennium Development Goals is in between $40-$60 billion a year. To reach the Millennium Development Goals, India needs additional financers and several inputs from global monitors. A May 2013 research report on MDG spending in developing countries suggests that India is one of the 13 countries to have spent closer Woman who consumed poison being taken to Bijapur government hopital Insight 19


Health

The government hospital at Muddebihal gets around 50 patients a day, Sanjay Bhosale, nursing superintendent at the hospital on selective diseases by regulating and favouring them. Dr.Yoganand Reddy, vice president of Indian Medical Association feels that the government is trying to achieve a lot at one go.

to 10 per cent, and need to significantly increase this if they want to meet the MDG targets. India is also amongst the 8 countries to spend far below the set WHO levels.

Millennium Development Goals and the ignorance Established in 2000 following the Millennium Summit of United Nation, eight Millennium Development goals were recognised to be achieved in 2015.

In rural areas of Karnataka, health care system is still gaining popularity. People are fighting general diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid, viral diseases, etc. At such a time, when the schemes related to health are failing, the government has chosen to focus only

20 Insight

“The general health structure in India is very poor. Health programmes that are monitored globally such as AIDS, Tuberculosis, H1N1, Ebola by WHO, UNICEF or other monetary fund delivering countries are managed very well in India,” said Reddy. He said that polio will be a good example of this and the general health of the country which is not being supervised or monitored by these monetary agencies is ‘very poor’. He pointed out that the government health system in India is almost ‘ineffective. “When you go to an AIDS centre or Tuberculosis hospital you will find that all the facilities are adequate because WHO has a direct control of it,” he said.

He added: “You will attract a disease by getting into any government hospital Such is the case in India. I can get a very good healthcare in India, but any Tom, Dick and Harry can not.”

Wrong treatment Bhimashankar, 34, an advocate from Netaji Nagar, Muddebihal was wrongly diagnosed for Hepatitis B when he had Jaundice in Muddebihal hospital. Doubting the diagnosis he went to a private doctor. “I did not trust the hospital but my wife forced me to see a government doctor. After he gave me a prescription, I went to a private hospital in our area. They diagnosed me for Jaundice and gave me proper medication. I still think what would have happened if I would take wrong medicines for an infection like Jaundice,” he said.


IIJNM Investigates

Six feet under: how missing plans bury Bangalore An investigation carried out by Insight reveals Bangalore’s municipal bodies don’t maintain records and maps, hindering several road construction works under Tender S.U.R.E project. Tushar Vaniawala

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ontractors working under a new initiative in the city claim civic bodies do not maintain archives and maps of underground utilities leading to delays in road works under the project across Central Bangalore. Agencies involved with the Tender S.U.R.E project cited lack of underground plans and cable laying information pertaining to the underground assets as a major hindrance towards the implementation of the project.

The deadline of March 2015 that was set by BBMP Mayor N. Shantha Kumari for road works under the project has been neglected, leading to delays in completion of the project. The contractors in their testimonies pointed out that the Bruhat Bengaluru MahanagaraPalike (BBMP), Bangalore Water Sewage and Supply Board (BWSSB), and Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (BESCOM) haven’t provided them with any maps of underground assets for piloting road works. V. Ravichander, a member of Bangalore City Connect Foundation (BCCF), said that he did not have access to any maps of underground assets, which has been one of the main reasons why BCCF couldn’t chalk out a plan before executing it. “While executing, we find pipelines which we didn’t know were there and thus we have to alter our plans,” he said. All the underground lines were laid 50-60 years ago,” said Ganesh

Kamath, executive engineer of NAPC Limited, a civil engineering company. “Yet, there is no record available with the concerned authorities.”

“After opening up the footpath, the consultant has to take a decision. We prepare a blueprint of the project beforehand, but after digging up, we have to redesign everything,” he added. BBMP blames BWSSB and BESCOM

BBMP’s executive engineer, Somshekhar, said: “Any project in Bangalore has to get a nod from several agencies which results in the delay of the project. Same has been the case with the road works under Tender S.U.R.E,”

He said that the BWSSB haven’t been able to differentiate between its water supply lines and sewage lines and failed to provide details regarding the same. Even BESCOM failed to provide details to distinguish live wires from dead ones, according to Somshekhar.

“There are multiple cable lines that they couldn’t identify as they were unaware of whether it belonged to Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation (KPTCL) or BESCOM,” he added. BBMP Councilor K.N. Gunashaker asserted that BBMP had mentioned the deadline in the work order itself, and that the agencies knew all the hindrances before taking up the project. He further demanded to impose penalties on the contracting agencies. Prof. M. Munirajappa of Department of History, Bangalore University, said that the public works department, since its formation in 1856, looked after the development and maintenance of roads in Bangalore. “Over a period of time, other agen-

cies like Bangalore City Corporation (now BBMP), Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) also got involved in maintenance of roads under their control,” he added.

The official gazetteer of Bangalore district (Urban) stated that the involvement of multiple agencies towards the completion of civil projects in Bangalore is proving to be a hindrance. Businesses suffering losses

Pending road works under Tender SURE have severely hindered businesses across Central Bangalore. “Our sales have reduced by 50% and we are not able to pay our rents,” said Vishal Mehra, Frenchise owner of the Xtreme sports bar. He attributed it largely to traffic leading to congestion and lack of parking space leading to customers approaching better areas like Koramangala. “Traffic is stagnant on this road, and this has really crippled us,” he added. According to CityConnect, TenderSURE proposes to build a new design for roads that provides for wider footpaths and bicycle lanes. Space for vehicular movement, is set to be reduced from the traditional 3.75m to a uniform 3m. This would result in narrower roads and wider footpaths, due to which the new project under Tender S.U.R.E has attracted the fury of commuters and businessmen alike.

“It has taken them one year to complete the left side of the road,” he said. “We have survived this, but they have just started work on the other side of Cunningham road, which might take another year. If this continues, huge losses would be caused to my business.” Insight

21


Silence IN the sands

While the task force constituted to deal with illegal sand mining in Bilagi says the mafia is over, evidence shows they are still operating Pavitra Parekh

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he thriving sand mafia business in the Bilagi taluk of rural Karnataka is being ignored by police who claim that the mafia has been closed down.

In 2011, the Union Ministry of Urban Development reported a sand shortage in India of 92 billion tons. In spite of a task force constituted to combat illegal sand mining in Bilagi, the mafia leader—who still operates in the region—said that the police were aware of their activities and routinely accepted bribes to stay out of the way. His sand trucks regularly pass by the local police office. 22

Insight

In order to combat the illegal mining problem, every district and taluk constituted a taskforce in 2012. The task force comprises police, Public Works Department (PWD) officials, Department of Mines and Geology staff, the Tahsildar and the Panchayat.

Ravindra Shirur, the superintendent of police in Bilagi and the Tehsildar both said that they have successfully put an end to all illegal sand mining in the taluk.

Illegal sand mining has existed in India for several years now. Karnataka is considered one of the mining hotspots in the country, along with Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh,

Gujarat and Rajasthan, according to the Union Mines Ministry.

Ramkumar, the mafia leader in Bilagi, said that he is the first one to start mining in the area every season, and it is only after he starts that the others follow. “I work for four months a year and make Rs.1-2 crores, I sleep for the remaining eight months,” he said.

He works with around 25 other people and claims to regularly pay a bribe of Rs. 40,000 per tractor per month to the police in order to ensure that they do not interfere with the movement of his vehicles.


IIJNM Investigates A nationwide problem According to the Union Ministry of Urban Development, India has the world’s third largest construction business after China and the US.

The annual demand for sand in Karnataka is 23 million tons, with just seven million tons available. According to their report, this huge gap is what gave rise to the illegal mining of sand in the state.

The Indian Bureau of Mines reported that sand contributed 9.5 per cent to the total minor minerals mined in India and is valued at close to Rs. 20,000 crore.

The actual value for all mined sand is believed to be a lot higher than this figure since no estimates are available for illegally mined sand.

Chanamallappa, a member of the Panchayat, said that the mafia in Bilagi is no secret. “Everyone knows about the mafia but no one says anything. The mafia is dangerous; they can attack you and get you killed. The people and the

panchayat members are all aware of the mafia’s activities. They have been operating in the taluk for at least seven years now,” he said. Fayaz Ahmed Sheikh, Director of the Department of Mines and Geology, said that sand mining is a problem in the district of Bagalkot because it has two rivers flowing across it and a significant portion of the taluk is submerged under the backwaters of the Almatti dam. This makes mining in the area problematic as sand is not available in sufficient amounts.

This scarcity does not allow for any legal government mining in the region either. A different claim

However, the police continually dismissed the possibility of illegal sand mining in Bilagi, although they did admit it was difficult to track down the mafia even during raids. “The mafia usually operates at night and always keeps an eye on the police. We use private vehicles during all raids to avoid being seen by them, but they normally abandon the sites or boats and escape. They often jump into the river when they are mining with boats so as to avoid being seen by us,” said Ravindra Shirur, adding that since all the sand was stored on government land, it made it difficult to identify culprits. The police said that they have collected Rs. 30 lakh in fines this year. Ravindra Shirur added: “There is no illegal sand mining in the taluk as of now. If any vehicle passes though the

taluk without a permit, we fine them Rs. 25,000 per tractor and then sell the seized sand at a standard rate of Rs. 600 per cubic meter.” So far, 46 boats have been confiscated and the police said that they had a list of suspects, but refused to provide any details. Fayaz Ahmed Sheikh, Director of the Department of Mines and Geology said, “We can excuse such an act the first time, but we book cases against habitual offenders.”

However, when asked for a list of the people they have booked cases against, they were unable to provide any records. ‘The sand mafia will kill all our people’

Sankadal, the storekeeper of the Public Works Department said, “It is not the job of the PWD to restrict the sand mafia. They will kill our people.” He said that they had no support or protection from the police and that they were helpless.

“Sand vehicles continuously pass in front of the police headquarters and the Tahsildar office. No one is doing anything. The police need to act,” he said.

The sand mafia has been operating illegally in the state for several years. It is proving difficult to put an end to their activities even after a separate taskforce has been constituted for the purpose. While the police say that they have put an end to all illegal mining in the taluk, evidence shows otherwise.

Clockwise from left: A sand mining site that was raided by the Bilagi police. Babu Nayak, associate of the sand mining mafia. The police at the mining site. A truck carries loads of sand from a mining site.

Insight

23


Sonia Choudhary’s dream of becoming an air hostess was shattered following an acid attack. Since then, she hasn’t received the compensation that is due for 11 years.

Over 300 acid attack victims await millions in compensation About 315 acid attack victims have been denied compensation, some of them for as long as 11 years.

Koustav Das

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ess than 2% of acid attacks victims in the country have received compensation from the government.

About 315 acid attack victims are awaiting compensation amounting to Rs. 90 million despite the Supreme Court’s directive. The Supreme Court passed a directive last year ordering the both the central and state governments to compensate for 24

Insight

victims of acid attacks.

Sonia Chowdhury, 30, is a victim of acid attack, residing in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. She said that she has not received any compensation even after 11 years. She said that the state government had rejected her plea to attain compensation because they claimed to compensate only those victims who have been victimized after 2006.

She said, “The compensation rate that the government came up with was three lakhs that wasn’t sufficient by any means because the victims have to go through a series of 8 to 10 surgeries.” “When I approached the Delhi High Court, they clearly rejected before even listening to my plea,” she continued.


The girl who wanted to be an air hostess has been living in darkness since last eleven years. She was an employee in VLCC parlour.

In 2004, she was attacked by her neighbour, a man who had helped her get a new mobile phone using his own ID. She paid the money to him for getting a new phone and after using the device for a week, she got a call from a police station who informed her that the phone was stolen. She then gave them all the details about the accused. The police arrested her neighbour and jailed him. When he came out, he started threatening Sonia and demanded an apology. She denied, saying that it was not her fault. He retaliated by throwing acid on her when she was coming back alone after work that led to 55% disfigurement of her body. She said, “The government are well versed with all our demands and have failed to meet the terms even if they claimed to address it.”

Sonia is one of the 315 victims of acid attack who are waiting for the govt to give them compensation according to SC’s order. Out of the 315, 64.8 percent were women, 22.1 percent were male and the rest 13.1 percent remain unknown.

According to data furnished by a group, Paltan, there are more than 300 survivors of acid attack who haven’t received any compensation even after the Law Commission of India included acid attacks as a serious offence under

the Indian Penal Code.

As per data furnished on the website of Stop Acid Attacks (SAA), not even 2% of acid victims in India have received compensation. The data indicated that the number of outdoor attacks were more than the number of indoor attacks. According to the members of SAA, in India, at least 5 women are attacked with Acid every week. The Indian government does not have concrete statistics relating to the number of acid attack cases. Members of SAA said that not all acid attacks are reported. SAA found out that the number of cases reported in Kerala according to NCRB in 2013 was four but they managed to retrieve nine first information report (FIR) copies from that state through RTI.

Aseem Trivedi, a prominent cartoonist and an active member of SAA, said, “Although, the Supreme Court has introduced laws in favour of acid victims, we also need a long term rehabilitation programme for the victims.” “We are always in constant contact with the government and we are trying to put forward our consultation regarding treatment of acid victims,” he added. On July 2013, the Supreme Court had chalked out a plan to provide monetary compensation of Rs. 3 lakh for each survivor of acid attack, out of which Rs. 1 lakh has to be paid to the victims

by the state governments within 15 days of notification and the rest of the amount within a month’s time.

Acid attacks were previously booked under section 326 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with causing grievous hurt by throwing of a corrosive substance etc. Members of SAA pointed out that the scope of the law was ‘shallow and didn’t fully deal with the issue’ since it failed to cover and categorize the numerous kinds of injuries inflicted to victims

Punishment for an acid attack was strengthened by including a nonbailable imprisonment of 10 years expandable up to life and fine of Rs. 5 lakhs after a petition was filed by ‘Campaignand Struggle against Acid Attack on Women’ for appropriate rehabilitation of acid attack victims. According to an SAA member, Abhilash Shukla, there are no separate charges booked for criminal conspiracy and the law under section 326 didn’t have any guidelines for awarding proper compensation to the victim. Shukla said: “This is one of the main reasons why databases for acid attacks are weak in India. The data available in government offices aren’t accurate.” ‘Compensations are not sufficient’

Mallige, an active member of Campaign and Struggle for Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW), said, “In Karnataka, so far it has not yet been implemented and the judgement given by Supreme Court was an interim judgement last year.”

She approached departments such as Department of Women and Child development and Karnataka and Rajya Mahila Ayogya, but according to her, these institutions were clueless about the Supreme Court’s directive regarding the allotment of compensations. Anita D’souza, Joint Director of Acid Survivors Foundation India (ASFI), who is currently compiling a report on acid attacks in India, said that she had in the Karnataka. I dont know about other Insight

25


Additionally, 20 other victims have submitted application for compensation with the government of West Bengal that are yet to be granted.

Currently, they have been planning to approach the High Court at Kolkata for issuing directions to the government for payment of compensation money to these survivors. Supreme Court passes new directive again The campaign ‘Stop acid attack’ has given victims a platform to demand their right states.”

She said that CSAAAW also went to rural taluks in Karnataka to collect testimonies of victims who are currently fighting for their rights to receive compensation. An acid attack survivor from Tumkur, Jayalakshmi, who has been working with an NGO that supports acid attack victims, said, “I received only Rs. 2 lakh from the Karnataka government in compensation after 3 years and that too; after a lot of legal tussle.” “I belong to a very poor family and no medical treatment was provided to me at all,” she added. ‘Government is ignorant’

Mallige points out that either the Supreme Court or the Law Commission of India must specify the agency where the victims can demand compensation. According to her, “The compensations are being withheld because no department is willing to take the burden upon them.”

An advocate and an activist, Sheela Ramanathan has been actively involved in monitoring acid attack victims throughout Karnataka. She said: “Currently, our records show around 10 victims are yet to receive any compensation in Karnataka. There might be many more victims who haven’t yet received compensation.” She also said that the Karnataka Women’s Commission is responsible for providing compensationto the 26

Insight

victims in Karnataka. The Karnataka Government reimburses the victims with only Rs. 2 lakhs as against Supreme Court’s directive to provide Rs. 3 lakhs as compensation.

Ramanathan, who has been fighting for acid victims and an active member of CSAAAW, said, “Currently, the situation is bad because no proper rehabilitation provided to any of the victims in the state even after the directive.” Well-known Women’s Rights Activist from Bangalore, Geeta Menon, said that it was atrocious on the government’s part to stall compensations for acid victims. She said, “Apart from the government, the society also has to step forward and offer support to the victims.”

A patient’s rights activist, Uttan Bandhopadhyay, said that the Supreme Court had given a very weak decision because it didn’t mention which department of the government and acid victim should approach to get compensation. He said, “The Supreme court must give a strong decision that shall help acid attack victims in receiving their compensations.”

Statistics provided by ASFI indicated that two survivors of acid attack, Mazrul Islam and Krishna Nuniya from West Bengal had approached the High Court at Kolkata for issuing directions to the Government of West Bengal. Although the court has since issued directions to the government of West Bengal, no payments have been released so far.

The Supreme Court, this month, addressed the issue with severity in another directive after replying to an affidavit passed by the Ministry of Home and Affairs on April 8, demanding them to look in the case of Laxmi Aggarwal, an acid attack survivor, who was one of the few victims who got compensation.

The Supreme Court in their report said that they have gone through the chart attached along with the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and they found out that even after the directions were provided by the ministry, in the case of Laxmi, the minimum compensation of Rs. 3 lakh per acid attack victim has not been fixed in some of the States. The Supreme Court in their document stated: “We find that the amount will not be burdensome so far as the State Governments and Union Territories are concerned and, therefore, we do not see any reason why the directions given by this Court should not be accepted by the governments since they do not involve any serious financial implications.” Year wise cases of acid attack cases in the last five years that have been compiled by Stop Acid Attacks show that there has been a considerable increase in the number of acid attacks even after a law was passed to regulate the sale of acid across all states and union territories in India that has failed miserably.

The Supreme Court also discarded the setting up of a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, pointing out that each state has district legal service authorities such as district judge, magistrate and chief medical officer of the court. They explained the ‘multiplicity of authorities’ for providing compensation isn’t required.


IIJNM Investigates

Fake exams Study centres in Bangalore are selling graduation certificates online and offering to provide surrogates to pass exams, for money

Elizabeth Mani

A

t least 10 Bangalore “study centers” are selling graduation certificates online and offering to provide surrogates to pass exams, an Insight investigation has found.

Study centers are supposed to provide distance education to those who cannot travel to the University of their Choice in India. Some of the country’s most sought after business, law and engineering degrees are completed via distance learning at study centers in a student’s home city. It is seen as a cheaper alternative to students physically moving to the university town.

After our investigation, online marketplace Quikr removed a series of adverts from study centers offering certificates in return for cash.

The Bangalore based firm agreed to obtain pass certificates from various colleges for our reporter – in exchange for fees over 13 times the fee to sit exams. The ad put up by the firm has the heading – “Looking or require degree or certificate from recognized college – Bangalore.” The page also gives the contact number and the area in which the office is located. The institutes promise to not reveal the name of the person who writes the exam, and the name of the Study center will not be mentioned in the Certificate.

Sameer Desai, from Indian Institute of Management Studies

and technology (IIMS) Bangalore, said: “We can arrange someone to write your exam but you need to pay more. The actual fee for a 10th standard exam from National Institute of Open University is Rs 4,500; if you want us to arrange someone to write your exam you need to pay Rs 20,000.” When The Weekly Observer approached Balaji Learning Centre in Bangalore, Manjula Devi, client manager, said: “We have four branches and three exam centers in Bangalore, and can get you certificates from EIILM Sikkim University and CV Raman University in three months. You don’t need to worry about exams as we have contacts with the university, who will give you the answer sheets.” “We have our students working in companies like Accenture where they submitted the same certificate and did not face any trouble,” she added. Samson from Exam Tuning Study Center promised our reporter a certificate from C.V Raman University and the state-funded Bangalore University. He said: “It is not a problem if you do not want to write the exam, we can arrange a person to write it for you. You need not worry about the legal issues as everything is verified; even my cousin carries the same certificate as you are asking for.”

“My target is to make five leads a month but I make seven. We are 10 of us working here. The good part of our job is that we get a lot of respect. Students who got certificate from us settled in Dubai, Yemen, Qatar, send us gifts like perfumes, silver rings and chocolates.” He added. “I’m proud of my job.” Riya Sharma from Sharma Institute of Management and


Certificates of Karnataka State Open University and Kanpur University. Right: Certificate of Bangalore University, (below) advertisements to gain fake certificates on online wesites

Technology, Delhi, claimed that they function online, and provide all the important documents like migration and character certificates. She said, “We can get you certificate from Board of Higher Secondary, Delhi, where my students will write the exam and you can check your results online.” “Two of my students who have done their 10th and 12th from our center are working in Dubai using the same certificate,” she added.

Similar cases were witnessed in two institutes, PNS Study Center and Career Academy, both in Bangalore Nishu Maheshwari from Indian Institute of Business Management, Meerut, which offers international courses, said, “We have integrated courses like DBA+Masters in Busi¬ness management which are recog¬nized internationally.”

Uma from IndoGlobal Academy, Bangalore, said that the cost of providing certificates from Kanpur University in a span of six months was in the range of Rs 15,000 and 30,000. When she was confronted with the truth, she said: “It is not true. Someone is blaming is the centre. You can contact our head,” after which she abruptly cut the call.

When Goutham from the same academy was confronted with the truth, he said: “We don’t give any fake certificates. All the certificates we provide are genuine and I can get you details of the Centers which are selling fake certificates.”

Similarly, Sameer from Indian Institute of Business Management, Riya from Sharma Institute of Management, and Manjula from PNS Study Center denied the claims when the our reporter revealed the investigation.

Nithin from Balaji Institute Bangalore assured our reporter that they have been running the institute for the past 30 years without any legal troubles and promised certificates from prestigious universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University and Mysore University.

Simran, a student who gradu¬ated from the Indian Institute of Business Management, will be applying for a government job with a similar certificate. “I joined IIBM in 2005, and completed my 10th and 12th from there. I didn’t write my exams as the center arranged some¬one else to write them for me. With¬out facing any legal troubles, I now have my degree,” she said.

The firm Bangalore Institute of Learning Pvt. Ltd claims that they have 47 branches across the city. When our reporter replied to their Quikr advertisement, and told Amreen, their employee, that her brother had a problem with writing the exam, Amreen said,“Let him come and write the exam, it will be very easy, and it’s all general knowledge.” When our reporter explicitly asked Amreen if it was possible for someone else to write the exam on her brother’s behalf, Amreen replied: “It is possible. I can’t tell everything over the phone; come to the centre with your brother and we can talk about it.”

They demanded Rs 18,000 for one certificate when the exam fee is just Rs. 1,350, and then asked our reporter: “Is his English any good?” Northwest Accreditation Commission, or NWAC, USA accepts admissions through the Bangalore Institute of Learning Pvt. Ltd. in Bangalore, and also has the option of distance learning from Bangalore.


When Deeptika Sharma, counselor of NWAC in Delhi, was informed about the illegal activities of Bangalore’s education centre, she said: “We are not aware of this. Thanks for letting us know, we will take strict action. Our senior will contact you soon.” Another university with an office in Bangalore, the Sikkim Manipal University, gives certificates in exchange for money, and also claims to be able to arrange for someone to write the exams. Naresh (name changed), who received his certificate from this university, said: “I did my Bachelors in Business Administration through Sikkim Manipal University, or SMU. I paid Rs 35,000 for three years. Each year they have exams in their centers and guide you with the answers. If you can’t attend the ex¬ams, they will arrange someone to write your exams. Anyone who pays above 30,000 gets 1st rank.” Pradeep, employed with SMU distance education at a study-centre in Bangalore, said, “This is not true. You can contact our official number regarding this.”

India has always been in the news for scandals involving fake certificates. According to BBC reports in 2011, fourteen pilots were caught using fake certificates to get licenses. According to another BBC story published on July 2014, Education Department official Ram Sharnagat said that the department had received 52,000 complaints against teachers for submitting fake certificates.

Insight

29


rk

a eam e R r

c s s

a ne d r i e a Thof f

How India’s obsession with skin color is

Punita Maheshwari It’s an industry worth Rs 30,000 crore, growing at twice the rate of India’s economy. The brands involved are household names with global footprints and multi-million dollar advertising budgets.

If you’re an Indian woman, the chances are you’ll see or read an advert every single day extolling the virtues of products that guarantee a better you. And India’s women are falling prey to an age-old prejudice – and putting their health at risk – in the fight to be fairer skinned.

Kritika thinks beauty is never skin deep

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y t li S

“I was fairer among the girls in my family and I did not realize,” said medical student Ayushi, who initially enjoyed the pampering but is now disgusted that her family decided to love her more because of her skin tone.

risking lives and lining pockets

“There was always an unsaid difference in behavior when guests used to meet me and my sister, who is more qualified than I am but is dark skinned. I, by default, was the favorite sister, niece and daughter. Thinking about the reason, I feel suffocated,” she added.

Statistics show that Indians spend huge amounts of money on fairness products, with the industry growing at a staggering rate of 15-20 percent each year, as opposed to the growth rate of India’s economy being only 7.4%. With over 40 brands taking the responsibility to make ‘India look beautiful’, the advertisements promoting fairness brands sell the idea that to be successful, one needs fair skin.

Taglines like, “Because you’re worth it” and “BEAUTY—it’s yours. No matter WHAT” convey the message that nothing is more important than being pretty in India. Even Krishna’s dark skin was conveniently edited with the passage of time. The blue skin of Little Krishna denotes his darker complexion.


I had tried a Sulphur lotion once as my parents recommended it to lighten my skin and get rid of pimples. The experiment went bad and I had to seek the help of dermatologist to get rid of the dark patches on my skin.

- Prachi

But are Indian women dying to be fair? Samples tested show alarmingly high levels of mercury and other toxic chemicals in lipsticks, fairness creams and treatments.

Prachi Shringi, an engineering student from Jaipur, spends Rs 5,000 on beauty products and parlor sessions every month. “It adds to my confidence when everybody appreciates me for flawless skin. The ‘beauty bill’ increases on occasions like parties and marriages.” Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) in its recent reports analyzed 32 fairness creams taken from markets of Delhi. The results came up as a surprise with mercury content present, which is in violation of the Drugs and Cosmetic Act.

The CSE report also highlights the effects of prolonged exposure to mercury. Mercury, apart from causing diseases like the fatal nephritic syndrome, can also be transferred during pregnancy. The easy absorption of mercury via inhalation adds to the danger. The CSE report states that mercury was detected in about 44% (14 of 32) samples, which contained mercury in the range of 0.10 ppm to 1.97 ppm. Therefore, 14 samples that contained mercury violated the Act.

Aroma Magic Fair Lotion had the highest mercury concentration of 1.97 ppm, followed by Olay Natural White and Ponds White Beauty with 1.79 ppm and 1.36 ppm respectively. Out of six Fairness Creams for men, mercury was detected in only one sample, Garnier Men Power Light,

which had 0.24 ppm of mercury.

In another analysis of the ingredients of a leading fairness cream in India, Anamika GangWar, a research scholar at Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in Delhi, came out with information of other harmful ingredients and mercury in fairness creams harming the nervous system.

To begin with, a bleaching agent Hydroquinlo is present in most of the fairness creams. “Bleaching creams are not a problem as long as they are used in limited amount. The trouble is, most creams do not mention the percentage and customers have to bear the consequences,” said Anamika. “Major trouble arises with the creams promising immediate results. The mercury that helps achieve the instant fairness affects the nervous system. These kinds of creams also use steroids which affect the body’s natural’s steroids resulting in further darkening of the skin,” she added. The desire for fair skin has played an overrated role in the following lives.

Prachi Shringi, an engineer from Manipal Univerisity, blessed with talents of dancing and singing, always wanted an assurance of fair skin to keep her confidence tanked up. “I had tried a Sulphur lotion once as was recommended by my parents, to lighten my skin and get rid of the pimples. The experiment went bad and I had to seek the help of a dermatologist to get rid of the dark patches on my skin,’ said Prachi.

“I am still not over my obsession with fair skin and have been continuing

with experiments even after things went wrong earlier. I do not blame myself alone for this. I have noticed that I get more attention while performing anywhere with a fair, radiant skin,” she added.

In a recent interview of Bollywood actress and feminism activist Nandita Das, she mentioned how every dusky female actor who joins the media industry becomes fairer overtime. This indicates the dominance of the fair skin mentality at large in the society. In another incident, a 23 year old fiancé of an army officer confessed her experience. “I used to put powder on my face as I am dusky. It used to boost up my confidence before meeting my fiancé,” she said. On the other side, the taboo of dark skin is fought better by some of them. Kritika Shekhawat, an NDA aspirant, has learnt to ignore the conventional ideas of looking fair in the society. “Beauty has nothing to do with being fair skinned. We grow up associating beauty and sophistication with being fair. I feel sorry for people who cannot come out of that old backward mentality,” she said.

“During the first year of my college, when my teacher preferred fair skinned girls to invite the chief guest for some function, and only fair girls were allowed to stand in the first row of a dance event. It really hurt but I never acted like I was hurt. I just told them that skin color has nothing to do with beauty and success,” she added.

As per the rules followed in the European Union, distribution of mercury-containing soaps, creams, lotions and body washes is prohibited. Insight

31


PC: ProKerala.com

Lost the plot? C o u rt f o r C o u n t ry c l u b

The club offered sites to people along with lifetime memberships for Rs 1,15,000 and registered the property in their name.

Nikhil M Babu

A

well known Indian leisure club chain allegedly sold plots of land to people after the land had been notified for government use.

Country Club offered sites to people along with lifetime memberships for Rs 1,15,000 and registered the property in their name. They even charged extra for registration and maintenance of the property. 32

Insight

“Country club knew that the land was notified by Karnataka Industrial Development Authority Board and even after that they sold the sites to people,” said advocate Vasanth Adithya, who has filed a case for 14 people who were sold land by Country Club. “Nowhere in the revenue records the name of Country Club appears,” said Ravi Thirilapur, Special Land Acquisition Officer, KIADB, Tumkur.

Members were allotted a 1089 sq ft site at Country Club, Coconut Grove in Tumkur, Karnataka. The transfer of the allotted sites were done at the sub registrar’s office, Tumkur and the people were even asked to pay more than Rs 30,000 for registration and the maintenance of the plot. Ravi said that the land is still in the name of the farmers from whom Country Club is alleged to have purchased it. KIADB has acquired the land and com-


IIJNM Investigates

pensation money has been deposited in the Tumkur Civil Court. Now people have to prove their ownership in the court to get the compensation. “Country club didn’t put up a board or at least it should be in the documents that they have converted the land and allotted as sites,” he added.

Ramesh Chandra from Bangalore, one of the 14 complainants, said that the site was registered in his name in 2010 but it was notified by the KIADB in 2009. “Country Club knew about this but they cheated me,” he said. How Country Club registered the sites area at Tumkur sub registrar office which is in the name of farmers remains a mystery. What happened in Karnataka is a reflection of rest of the country. Online forums across the country are flooded with complaints against Country Club. On May 14, 2014, Times of India reported a similar case in Mumbai where a court ruled against Country Club for luring people into buying fake plots. Despite repeated attempts, nobody from Country Club was available to comment.

Y Rajeev Reddy is the managing director and Chairman of the group. The company which has been in a loss for the last three quarters is listed in both the Bombay stock exchange and also

the national stock exchange.

Online complaint forum of Consumer Complaints has around 500 hits for ‘country club’ and another online forum Complaint Board has around 900 results for the keyword ‘country club’. Most of them are complaints by people about how they are conning people by giving false promises that never materialize. Go Goa gone

Ram Prasad from Orissa was holidaying in Goa with his wife when a guy approached him with two scratch cards.

“After I scratched the first card and got nothing, I still remember that bastard telling - ask your wife to scratch the second one, you will surely win something,” said Ram. “Even though I beacame a bit suspicious as I was in a holiday mood I didn’t think much.” She won a camera and they were taken to a resort and he introduced them to a senior manager. “the manager said that they will give a presentation. I thought that it will be about the camera and I agreed,” said ram.

Later they were given a presentation about the club in which they were told that they can get a Country Club membership at Rs8000. “When I received the SMS from HDFC bank, I realized that it was not Rs8,000 but Rs80,000.” Ram sent many mails to the club and its

owner and also logged case in an online forum but never got his money back. “The funny thing is that I didn’t get any reply for my complaint but they still call me asking for the renewal charge of my membership,” Ram added. Please give me justice

Rebecca Vanlalhumi, from Manchester was in Kolkata on a holiday when she put her name down for a lucky draw in a shopping mall. Next day Country Club contacted her and said that she had won a prize and could collect it from their office. There they told about the membership and that they have hotels and properties in London. As she visited London frequently, she paid Rs55,000 for the membership. Later when she tried to book a room, she found out that Country Club didn’t have any properties in London and she was conned. Her complaint in a consumer forum reads “PLEASE GIVE ME JUSTICE.” Only god

But some people have left even the hope of getting the money back. This is another post from a consumer forum. I am also like one of you cheated by them in this month. No one can stop them and no can support us to recover the money. Gone is gone. They are very clever in cheating and making money in this field. Only god can support us if he wills. Good luck guys, if you have strong hold to get money from them.

Rajeev Reddy, Chairman and Managing Director of Country ClubPicture Courtesy - ProKerala.com Insight

33


Urban poor

Exploitation of BMRCL workers Insight investigation has exposed child labor and also exploitation of workers as they are kept in dark about their contract details by contractors and BMRCL. C L Ramakrishnan

M

igrant construction workers building Bangalore’s new metro – some of them under the age of 18 - have to work overtime without any extra pay and have never seen their contracts.

Sooraj Kumar Singh, 16, from Jharkhand, explained the miserable life he has been leading in Bangalore while working for BMRCL. “I gave my 10th exams last year and was regular in my studies. I came here to work because my parents are poor and there is no money at my home.” “Since we don’t get paid back home I came here.” he said.

In the state, the minimum age for a person to work in a construction field is 18 years, according to Karnataka State Construction Workers Central Union.

When our reporter contacted Vasanth Rao, Chief Public Relation Officer, BMRCL, regarding the employment of minors he said: “Where is child labor? Where do the minors work? Tell me.” “We have prohibited child labor and there are constant inspections,” he added. But when Insight confronted 34

Insight

him with evidence regarding BMRCL exploiting the construction workers he promised to take necessary actions.

Raj Kishore, 35, from Jharkhand and the father of two daughters, complained about extra working hours and meager salary. “We are being paid Rs. 9000 a month which is inclusive of food despite working for 12 hours

It’s true that the workers don’t know anything about their contract. As they are illiterate they don’t know about the contractor or sub contractor. But it is illegal that they are made to work over time without any extra pay - Palanikumar, General Secretary, Karnataka State Construction Workers Central Union a day. We all came to BMRCL under a contract, but we don’t know anything regarding the contract. Everything

is decided between contractors and BMRCL,” he said. “Only the contractor knows about the details regarding the contract.” He said his contract ‘might’ be for five years, but he was not sure about it. When questioned regarding the name and the details of the contractor, he said that he doesn’t know any.

Workers don’t know about contractors as they are appointed by middlemen from their villages. Palanikumar, General Secretary, Karnataka State Construction Workers Central Union, said: “The reason behind contractors recruiting people from other states is that they will be paid less compared to workers from here. They will also extract work more than eight hours from them. The local workers will demand overtime pay which migrant workers don’t get.” Girish Chand, 40, claimed that the lack of job opportunities in Bihar led him to come to Bangalore. “I have been working in this metro sight (KR Market) for the past three months. I get paid only Rs. 300 a day,” he said. “There is no money in our homes and we need to work anywhere.”


(clockwise)BMRCL workers working at the metro construction site at KR Market. Sooraj, a minor, and Raj Kishore have been working for the past six months as construction labourers. Ravi Prakash say there are no minors working at construction sites Similar to Raj Kishore, Ajay, 25, also claimed that he has no idea about his contract details and complained about the low wages.

Palanikumar said,” It’s true that workers don’t know anything about their contract. Since they are illiterate they don’t know who’s the contractor? Who’s the sub contractor? All these essential things they do not know. It is illegal that they are made to work overtime without any extra pay.”

He claimed there is a Child Labor Act to protect children and KSCWCU has arranged constant meetings and awareness programs to fight against it but unfortunately not many contractors follow it even after constant efforts. Akhand Pratap, a contractor with Roshni Constructions, said: “We take in laborers from all the states and most of them are from villages from states like Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.”

He said that they don’t recruit people and they appoint middlemen to go to villages and do it. “The laborers are either on contract basis or wage basis. The skilled workers are on contract basis and the unskilled once are on wage basis.”

When questioned regarding the contracts of the laborers he said, “Few laborers know about it. The skilled labor know about the contract but the others (unskilled) don’t. “

Regarding recruitment of minors in construction sites he claimed that employment of minors is common in construction sites but he does not recruit minors. The BMRCL construction workers claimed that usually when a person dies the company pays him the money which is known only to the family members of the victim. When a person is injured they (company) provide assistance and after he is cured they send him back home.

Ravi Prakash, Senior Manager, BMRCL said,” We also don’t know about contracts, the concerned engineer only knows about it. “

When questioned regarding minors being employed in BMRCL construction sites he said, “There are no minors working in BMRCL.” After being confronted with concrete evidence proving otherwise, he failed to respond. He also didn’t have any comments


IIJNM Investigates

Rural drinking water system faces shortage of trained staff India has faced a shortage of clean drinking water in its rural areas since time immemorial. How can it not, when the Center – in spite of allocating money for testing water sources and training members – doesn’t even come close to meeting its target? 36

Insight


IIJNM Investigates

Gaurav Sarkar

L

ess than two percent of required personnel have undergone training in Karnataka for a drinking water project, even though the Centre allotted Rs. 54 lakhs for it, according to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

Target of the state was to train more than 66,000 personnel for The National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), during 2014-2016. Of the sum allotted, Rs. 34,21,000 was for the supervision and implementation of water schemes, and Rs. 20,50,000 for the maintenance of all water projects.

However, in the same year, the number of members trained in managing the schemes was - zero out a target of 27,600 people. The target was the same for 2015-16 as well, in which the state managed training 512 people. The number of grass root workers like masons and pumps mechanics to be trained in 2015-16 was targeted at 9,960 people.

But according to the document, here too, none were trained. The target for the same has been increased to 10,500 people for 2015-16, which in turns means a higher anticipated cost of Rs 52.5 lakhs.

In 2014-15, the state didn’t train any engineers even though target was 900 people. For this purpose, Rs. 7.3 lakh was allocated by the Center, according to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. For 2015-16, the target has been increased to 1,000 people at a higher allocation of Rs 8 lakh. When a closer look is taken at the amount of money allocated for testing water sources as well as for the construction of new laboratories in which the quality of water can be tested, it is seen that the numbers here too, are below par.

The percent of sub district laboratories that were set up in 2013-14 was only 13.91% of the state’s target of 151. This target has been reduced to half for 2014-15. Insight

37


Residents of Khainur draw water from the well during the early hours of the day (left); Members of the Ambedkar tribe stand by the bo Also, the number of sustainability structures created to store and harvest water in the same year was less than half of the target.

Expensive piping systems but no water to tap Despite these low numbers, NRDWP continues to construct expensive pipelines with the states supervision, and continues to allocate and authorize construction of water systems.

In 2014-15, the coverage of individual households with piped water supply in Karnataka was targeted at 72,642, but the state managed to install pipes in almost 10,50,000 homes; 13 times its target number.

However, in many cases, the water being tapped in these pipelines is unfit for drinking due to the lack of trained personnel who are supposed to tap the ground water. In some cases, such as that in Khainur, the wells had to be shut down as the level of ground water was not adequate. Also, only three water sources were tested in Khainur in between 2014-15.

The state, in the same year, targeted to construct pipelines for 90 lakh people. However, here also, it outdid itself and constructed pipelines that covered 173.36 lakh people. 38

Insight

Even though the centre keeps allocating funds to the state under this programme, the latter still needs to delegate work to authorities in its districts, in order to show that the funds are being put to good use. This is where the Zilla Parishad and Gram Panchayats come in.

K.S Ilar, Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) of Sindagi Taluk, said that the Panchayat is paid the maintenance cost of water systems after their construction. Yet, in the last five years, more than three bore wells had to be shut down in the village as they did not tap water that was fit for human consumption.

According to Bhimashankar, a resident of Khainur village in rural Karnataka, his village has been facing a severe water shortage since the last 35 years.

“What’s the point of simply spending money making wells if the water from it is not fit for consumption?” he said in between breaths, while drawing water from the only bore well in the village. “The guys paying the bills aren’t paying any attention, and neither are the people who undertake the work of building the well who are taking money on a contractual basis.” In 2013-14, the total number of piped water supply schemes handed over

to the Panchayats in Karnataka was 56,270. But the target at the beginning of the year was only a mere 3,000 which is 18 times lesser than the states achieved target. For the next year, the same target was set at 4000. Khainur—a living day proof

The village of Khainur, a village under Sindagi taluk in Bijapur, Karnataka, faces severe water shortage, even though a total of four bore wells and one well were built in the village since 2010, according a Panchayat member. But as of today, only one bore well is used for drawing water for drinking purposes as the other bore wells did not tap water, and in some cases, tapped saline water.

According to Mantish, members of the Ambedkar tribe, a minority tribe in the village considered to belong to a lower caste aren’t allowed to draw water directly from this well. They need to be offered it by members of the higher Brahmin and Thakur communities. “At hotels also they keep us out, and keep plates and glasses meant for us outside the shop. We aren’t allowed to enter and eat if Brahmins or Thakurs already eating there,” said Raju, another member of the Ambedkar tribe.


ore that was built for them, which is now non functional (centre); The water in the well that was built 2 km away from the village According to him—and a majority of the eastern part of the village where minorities live—the Ambedkars aren’t allowed to pray in the same temples as the higher caste either. Muthana, a resident of Khainur and also a member of the village’s Ambedkar tribe, said that the well that was built 2 km away was constructed 2012-13, but had tapped water only once, after which it became unfit for consumption as it turned saline.

According to a Panchayat member, the infrastructure required to build the piping mechanism of this well cost Rs. 40 lakhs. The same water used to be transported to an overhead tank located in the village, and used to come in the taps—on those rare occasion—

by means of a piping mechanism that connected the well to the tank.

The well was finally shut down within three months as it was deemed dysfunctional. A geologist was also sent by the standing MLA of Sindagi, who would work with the Panchayat on deciding the location of the well, and also conduct feasibility tests on the underground water before deciding upon the most suitable location of the well. But then if this is the case, why is water not being tapped? According to K.S Ilar, Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) of Sindagi Taluk, who is second in command only to the executive engineer, there has been a shortage of geologists off late.

“The Bijapur geologist retired a year back and the government has not yet appointed a new one,” he said.

“Tippes Swamy, who retired a year back, gets a letter from the government which allows him to visit the water sites even though he is not employed by the government anymore,” he said. “Bijapur office approves Tippes Swamy of doing this.” Bhimashankar said that on the few occasions that they had managed to complain to the ZP office in Sindagi about the bad water in this well, the officials would say that their job was to construct the wells, not look after it, and would allege that “we are not making proper use of it.”

Insight

39


IIJNM Investigates

Donation scam by fake NGOs Donation boxes placed in several outlets across the city collect money claiming it is for the upbringing of orphan kids Paul C Oommen

K

adamba is a vegetarian hotel that is located in Kengeri, outside the main BMTC bus stop. Good food, quick service and cleanliness ensure that thousands of customers visit this hotel on a daily basis. Most of them walk in for a quick bite before catching a next bus or after getting off one. Aleesha Mathai, is one such customer who regularly visits this hotel on the way to her office, located at the global village, a little ahead of Kengeri. She places her order at the counter, collects her token and then quickly counts the change returns back to her and before leaving the counter she drops some money into the donation box, on the cash counter. She walks away to collect her food, with the feeling of satisfaction and happiness about having done a good deed.

Thousand of others have made this a habit, to remember the needy and put aside a small amount for the poor and

40

Insight

the helpless. If you are one of them, have you ever thought about where all the money collected in similar donation boxes across the city reach at the end of the month? Do the needy, as claimed on the box get the benefit of the donation put into the box, by kind people? M.L Neelakanta, the manager at Kadamba, recalled an incident that had occurred a month ago. He said, “There was a bulk order for a party but at the last minute because the party was called off, the order for the food had been cancelled. We decided to give away the food to one of the organizations who had put up their box at our hotel. We tried contacting the numbers of the owner of the organization but no one answered.

“We tried multiple numbers, several times but our calls went unanswered. That day we decided to throw away their donation box�. Sri Navajeevana free handicap old age organization was the name of the charitable trust, on the

The donation box at Kadamba restaurant


IIJNM Investigates

Receipt inviting donations for the old age home in Kumbalgodu

donation box.

Sri Navajeevana charitable trust is located in Gudimavu village at Devagere cross in Kumbalagodu. Their pamphlets proudly display photographs of children playing, eating and sitting together at the organization. A photo of a handicapped child is also present on the pamphlet, making the reader feel a sense of sadness and pity for the innocent

We tried contacting the numbers of the owner of the organization but no one answered. -M.L Neelakanta, Kadamba’s manager

little children. A quick login to the website address provided on the pamphlet opens up to a page where it says“page not found”. The description on the pamphlet says that the organization has children and orphans for whom donations are welcome. Multiple visits to this charitable trust were made to find out the real state of the charitable trust. Our reporter found that not a single child was present at the charitable trust and only a couple of old people were present who were not handicapped or physically disabled.

The first time we went, they said that the children had gone home because of vacations. A couple of months later when we revisited them we found that again no children were present. On being questioned the manager said that the government had taken back their license to house children

and they only had permission for the old and aged.

When our reporter confronted the owner, Anjan Kumar, with evidence, he was worried. In a tense tone he said, “We have 49 handicapped and old people in our organization. Now they have all gone home because of the summer.” How he manages to house the 49 old people, who he claims are usually present, in only three rooms that exist in the home, remains another mystery. When asked if he was aware that advertising in the name of children, when no children live at the home, is a punishable offence, he said, “The Women and Child Welfare Association had asked us not to keep children in our organization. I am aware that advertising in the name of children, though we have none, is an offence. I will ensure that the photos of children are removed from all our donation boxes.”

Another box on the cash counter of hotel Kadamba readsABCD children’s home. We called up the number provided on the box to find out the location of the home to pay a visit to meet the young children and spend some time with them. After multiple calls, finally the owner picked up to tell us, “The children’s home isn’t functional yet, we plan to start it soon”. Lalit Shukla, an advocate at the Lucknow High court said, “Both these cases are fraud cases and are illegal under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code. An FIR can be filed at the nearest police station with all proofs and details and necessary action will be taken.” There are many organizations that go out of their way to help the poor and needy. A couple of such fake organizations ruin the very purpose of such organizations. The next time you choose to donate your hard earned money to a charitable organization, ensure that you are sure that the money reaches the right beneficiaries. Insight

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IIJNM Investigates

Hitting the buffers? Planners blow whistle on luxury condo site The documents reveal that 44 crore Almond Tree Apartments constructed by Edifice builders in Yelahanka was built illegally by encroaching railway buffer zone

C L Ramakrishnan

A

new Rs. 44 crore apartment block in Yelahanka was constructed illegally as the builder encroached on a railway line’s buffer zone, according to documents obtained by an Insight investigation.

A luxury swimming pool and various other luxury amenities homeowners paid for could be demolished after the South Western Railways, Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) all slapped orders on the builder. Edifice Builders has encroached a nationally recognized ‘railway buffer zone’ and constructed amenities like

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the swimming pool and a club house in their Almond Tree Apartments. Documents obtained by Insight investigation clearly show an encroachment of the area designated as a buffer zone for the railway line.

“The Swimming pool, club house, multipurpose hall, table tennis hall are illegally constructed. We have sent a notice and the necessary action will be taken. In the map, whatever is marked has to be demolished,” reads the BBMP report. Vasan, a resident of Almond Tree Apartments, said, “I have registered a case against the builders so that they do not cheat anyone in the future and follow rules and regulations while construct-

“There is no viola-

tion and the person (Vasan) who has contacted you is a crackpot - Nikhil Thard , chairman of Edifice Builders


IIJNM investigates ing their future projects.”

“No Objection Certificate has not been given to them(builders)” was the reply to an RTI enquiry asking whether Southern Western Railways had given permission to the builders to build. “The BDA has not given any permission to Edifice Builders for constructing anything in the buffer zone. We have sanctioned only multi-story building for construction,” said Vishvanath from the BDA’s RTI department. Vasan purchased the property in 2011, and in 2014 he got to know that the property came under the railway buffer zone.

Vasan said: “The BDA came to inspect the apartment after I filed an RTI regarding the illegal construction. The BDA, after inspection, found out that the builders had constructed unauthorized amenities like swimming pool, club house, multipurpose hall, table tennis hall and bore well in the Southern Western Railway Buffer Zone.

“Then the BBMP issued a notice under Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act 1976 which wasn’t replied to by Edifice Builders, and then the BBMP slapped a notice for demolition of the area where the amenities were constructed illegally,” he added. Vijay Shinde, another resident, did not share the same views as those of Vasan.

He said, “No, nothing is going to be demolished. I stand with the builder on this issue.”

Vasan also confirmed that Almond Tree Owners Welfare Association were supporting Edifice Builders owner Nikhil Thard as they did not want to lose their amenities for which they had paid, though they knew it was built illegally. Parashiva, a Prosecutor with Hedge Associates Advocates, said: “Edifice Builders have violated the sanction plan and the condition imposed by the BDA. On behalf of Shaila Vasan the spouse of AK Vasan we have registered a case against Edifice Builders. “We have registered the case in the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal also and the builders have only taken status quo order. At the end of the day Edifice Builders can’t escape the law. Today or tomorrow the builder Nikhil Thard will be behind bars,” he added.

The chairman of Edifice Builders Nikhil Thard denied all the claims made by Vasan and said that Almond Tree Apartments is a legal construction.

Nikhil said: “There is a case going on and the court has already granted us the stay. There is no violation and the person (Vasan) who has contacted you is a crackpot. He is a goonda there.

“Vasan has asked me to pay two crores

and harassing me to pay the demanded money. That guy is a thug,” he added. Thard declined to comment on the documents which show his constructions to be illegal.

“ The BDA, after in-

spection, found out that the builders had constructed unauthorized amenities -Vasan, a resident of Almond Tree Apartments

Parashiva has denied the claims of Nikhil. He said: “We are not making illegal demands, we have sent a legal notice to the builder for illegally constructing and selling the property. The builder can claim and challenge anything. “Other residents are helping the builder but we have all the documents. The builders knew the place belonged to the buffer zone and it was with intent of fraud that the builder sold the property,” he added.

Nikhil Thard, Chairman of Edifice Builders (Left); Vasan who bought a house in Almond Tree Apartments

Insight

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IIJNM investigates

Government peddles sub-standard cycles A gift from the government to beware of Paul C Oommen

P

avitra is an 8th standard girl studying in K. Golahalli government school, located on the outskirts of Bangalore city. She’s like any other girl of her age - talkative, friendly and cheerful. She stays a few kilometres away from the school and would walk to school and back home every day. In December last year she was given a new bicycle under a free bicycle scheme organised by the Karnataka state government. Under this scheme, all 8th standard students of government schools are to be provided with new bicycles. “This scheme has worked wonders and is beneficial to students who come from places as far as eight kilometres from school. It has encouraged students to come to school regularly,” said Geetha, Head Mistress of K. Golahalli government school. Like all her classmates, Pavitra was excited to receive the cycle from the

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Insight


(Left) K. Golahalli school in Golahalli . (Right) A girl from Golahalli school on the cycle given to her by the government

school authorities, only to realize that the brakes of the cycle were broken. She took it to the local tyre repair shop. The following week, the chain had become loose and the cycle had to be repaired again. Pavitra, like many of her classmates has become a frequent customer at the cycle shop. After a long day at school, another 8th standard student, Ashwini was cycling back home on her new bicycle, when she was suddenly fell off her cycle. Bruised and bleeding, she found her way back home. She was told by the repair shop that her cycle’s tyre had fallen off from the bearings. Apart from spending on medication, she had to spend Rs. 150 to get the wheels back on the bearings and to get some other issues with the cycle fixed. On a Sunday morning, Suresh, a cycle shop owner, has maximum business. Boys wait with bright blue cycles and girls with their maroon cycles right outside his shop to get their cycles repaired. Prashanth, Shravanthi, Ramesh and Aslam are some of the many other class students who face problems with their new cycles. Wheel bending issues, loose chains, non functional brakes, missing bushes and brake shoes are some of the many problems that the new cycles come with. “The students spend around Rs. 300-700 on resetting and repairing their cycles. Every year this happens because the fitting of the cycle parts is not done properly. Because most students don’t have enough money, they

come to me with one problem at a time”, said Suresh, a cycle shop owner at Naalkhamba, located near the government school. The bicycles given away to the students are Captain Shakthi cycles, manufactured by TI Cycles. The market price of these cycles is around Rs. 3400. According to the deal statement from 2011-2012, these cycles are bought by the government for over Rs. 2700. The statistics from the Department of Public Instruction show that this academic year around 15,000 cycles will be given away in Bangalore South, Bangalore North and Bangalore rural. The sales document reads, ‘Bicycles supplied shall have two years warranty against manufacture defects. Main parts of the cycle should have a warranty of five years.’ S. Krishna Swamy, Senior Associate Vice President, TI cycles said: “All our cycles are thoroughly inspected and handed over. The delivery is also taken by the government only after proper inspection. As per the clause we also conduct service camps for these cycles and ensure that such cycles are made proper. This happens only six months after the delivery of the cycles.” The Karnataka state government has an incentive monitoring system in which a check is kept on all incentives provided by the government. Upon being informed about this, the officials of the Department of Public Instruction promised to take action against the company after looking into the matter.

Insight

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IIJNM Investigates

Water Park takes employees for a ride Agnivesh Harshan & Tushar Kaushik

some other purpose and called the police, who questioned him from 3 pm to 11 pm, then took him to the police station, where they forced a false confession out of him.

Kumar said that 59 employees were asked to move to Hyderabad six months back, due to which the employees went on a strike. It is only due to an ongoing court case, the employees have been allowed to stay in Bangalore.

Dry areas near Wonderla resort

T

he employees of an amusement park in Bangalore have allegedly been intimidated and harassed by the management.

Wonderla began in 2005 near Bangalore’s satellite town of Bidadi. It is owned by Kochouseph Chittilappilly, who is also the founder Chairman & Managing Director of V-Guard Industries Ltd., and his son Arun. Ravi Kumar is currently the head of the employees’ union at Wonderla. Talking about the treatment of employees, he said: “The way the management treats us badly, there is a lot of partiality. Malayalee staff are treated differently from Kannadiga staff. We, the workers are also treated very differently from the office executives.”

Kumar talked of many incidents where individual employees were treated unfairly. He said that the overflow of water while filling a water tank caused an employee to lose his job. He talked of an incident when a safety lock of a seat in one of the rides was broken, and the employee at the ride got blamed for it. Even after the employee apologized, he was forced to resign. Many such incidents were told by Kumar. An employee took a leave because he had a kidney stone, and yet he was forced to resign by the management. Umesh, an employee, once photocopied ID cards of new employees from the office. The management accused him of photocopying for

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Insight

According to Kumar, the management told all the workers, “I know the case is in your favour. But, we have top-level lawyers, we have lots of money and we’ll do anything we want. We might compensate sacked employees but under no circumstance will we employ them again.”

Kumar also alleged that Wonderla was guilty of overexploiting ground water, which led to water problems in the nearby villages. Kumar said: “25 borewells have been dug without taking any license, and 5-6 of them have been dug till 1500 feet. There is also one large rainwater harvesting tank.” Kumar also said that the chemicals which were used in the water treatment plant were not disposed properly, but were just burnt or buried.

Shivakumar, another employee of Wonderla, is a resident of Jadenhalli – a village near Wonderla. He said that in his village, there is a shortage of water and a minimum of 1000 feet has to be dug to find water. He blamed Wonderla for this. He said 5-6 borewells were dug last year itself. According to a report in Deccan Herald, dater November 2013, the government banned digging of borewells in 25 taluks in the state, including Ramnagar taluk, in which Wonderla lies. Shivakumar said that before Wonderla began in 2005, the village did not have any water issues. Shivakumar also seconded the fact that the management was ill-treating the employees. He said, “Many people have been suspended or transferred.” Revaiah is another employee of Wonderla who had sold five acres of his land to Wonderla before its construction. Shivakumar said that Revaiah had sold the land for Rs. 2.5 lakhs per acre in 2005, while the current price of the land was Rs. 60-70 lakhs.


Insight Team Editor in Chief Charles Lavery Editor Shruti Suresh

Edit team Agnivesh Harshan, Nikhil M Babu, Punita Maheshwari, Kaustav Das, Pavitra Parekh, CL Ramakrishnan, Paul C Oommen, Elizabeth Mani, Natasha Singh, Aishwarya S Iyer

Chief Sub Editor Gaurav Sarkar

Web page team Abhijith S Warrier, Kanika Rangray, Sreemathi M

Magazine Design team Kimaya Varude, Tushar Kaushik, Aparna Singh, Devdatta Sukhdev

Visuals team Sneha Saha, Tejaswi D, Kangana Sachdeva, Moumita Mukherjee, Tushar Vaniawala


Insight - an Investigative journal  

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