May 30, 2009

life in journalism: editors in india have zero leadership qualities

If world-renowned management experts/gurus were to observe how the top 2-4 editors in most Indian media publications/newsTVchannels interact with the journalists in their team they will be absolutely horrified. There is absolutely no leadership quality among editors in Indian media. They are among the worst people-managers in the world of companies, business and government. (the cartoon alongside is courtesy

Many top editors here are autocratic in their behaviour with the journalists in their publications/channels. And that is such a shame as it makes the profession of journalism more vulnerable to internal moral corruption, ethics' degradation and exploitation by the outside world of companies, politicians, bureaucrats and other state organs.

It is not that these editors don't have the ability to acquire good leadership qualities. But their inflated egos or severe insecurities make it difficult for them. They are able to get away there is absolutely no one above them overseeing the process and holding them accountable for their unhealthy behaviour. Quite many of them even consciously operate under the assumption that they do not need to have any good leadership skills.

This is not say that similar regressive attitudes are not found in junior editors and journalists. But the top 2-4 editors have a complete control over operations and therefore inflict the most severe damage on the profession of journalism. Anyway, I hope that at least some of them are able to overcome their egos/insecurities for the betterment of Indian journalism.

May 25, 2009

life in general: sri lanka's authoritarian regime

Things have been very severe for minorities, civil groups, journalists and international aid groups in Sri Lanka in the very few weeks. It matters the least for these people whether the LTTE chief, Prabhakaran, died or lived. What matters for them is their right to get fair and equal treatment from the ruling regime in Sri Lanka. And that right has been denied to him.

Here is an email I received today on the issue from a NGO:

Date: 2009/5/25
Subject: [PMARC] Appeal to the Government of India
To: Dalits Media Watch

Dear all,

At the end of the most ruthless military combat of recent times having ended in Sri Lanka, the country is left with around 80,000 tamil civilians dead and close to 24,000 soldiers dead. It has also left behind 2,72,000 refugees behind who now live in abysmal conditions in the camps.
At this stage the Sri Lankan government has drafted a resolution to be presented at the UN Human Rights Commission that is one of fabrication and false claims with regards to the process in which this massive humanitarian crisis is being dealt with. This resolution has been co-sponsored/signed by many other countries including India, with India being one of the biggest actors among the signatories along with Pakistan and China. A copy of the memorandum is attached.
It is absolutely imperative that we protest such a move. Activists in Sri Lanka have drafted a memorandum to counter this resolution. The memorandum is pasted below. We urge you to sign on to the resolution and fax it to the Prime Minister’s office at +91 11 23019545 , 23016857, 23018473 from wherever you are. Please do this today as the special session on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC is scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, 26th May. Attached to this email is the SL government's resolution.
Below are email addresses of the Prime Minister and some other important persons. Along with your fax today, kindly email the memorandum attached below to these addresses. Even if your unable to send a fax take a few minutes to copy paste and send this email.
Kindly do mark a copy to me Henri Tiphagne at Forum Asia,Geneva at for thier records which they can then use as representation of the number of people opposed to the resolution at the UNHRC.
Send off an email today.
1. Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India ( )
2. Ms. Sonia Gandhi, the Chairperson of the UPA and the President of the Congress Party, ( )
3. Mr. S.M. Krishna , the Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs (, )
4. Mr. Rahul Gandhi, the General Secretary of the Congress Party ( )
Make your voice heard against gross human rights violations affecting the lives of thousands of people in Sri Lanka.

Appeal to the government of India
As human rights defenders concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, we are gravely concerned that the government of India has extended its support to the government of Sri Lanka at the Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council convened on May 26, 2009 to discuss the emerging humanitarian and human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
The decision of the President of the Human rights Council to call this Special Session was based on a call by 17 members of the Council: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden signed on to the call as Observer States of the Council.
With regards to the war, the conclusion of the military offensive in the north of the island has sharpened concerns around the world with regard to the protection of civilians in the context of the conflict. The present situation calls for urgent and immediate responses to the humanitarian needs of the over 300,000 people who have been displaced as a consequence of the recent fighting, as well as for protection of their human rights.
The continuing denial of access to the most recent zones of conflict to international humanitarian agencies places the lives of those civilians who remain trapped within these areas at risk. According to available information, there are still civilians stranded in the conflict-affected areas and monitored evacuation is essential.
Restrictions imposed on media and on civil society actors with regard to travel to the conflict-affected areas and to the IDP camps housing the most recently displaced means that independent investigation into allegations of gross violations of human rights and of war crimes remains impossible.
Conditions within the camps remain far below acceptable standards, with shortages of essential items. The conditions in which IDPs are reaching the camps, with infected wounds, dehydration and malnutrition being rampant among them, call for specialized and emergency care. On April 27, Vavuniya Magistrate Alexraja registered the deaths of 14 elderly persons in one camp (Chettikulam) on one day alone, which he attributed to malnutrition. Restriction of access to humanitarian agencies, the provision of security by the military and the presence of armed paramilitaries within the camps all lead to an environment of fear and anxiety and heighten concerns regarding the safety and security of the IDPs.
While we appreciate the security concerns voiced by the government, we reiterate that these considerations cannot be allowed to lead to human rights abuses such as abduction, disappearance, arbitrary detention and summary execution.
For example, on Wednesday May 20, there were reports of the removal of over 500 boys between the ages of 11 and 17 from the IDP camp at Manik Farm to the camp at Nellikulam Technical College, causing great anxiety to their parents and family members.
The continuing intimidation of human rights defenders, media persons and critics of the military resolution of the conflict and the labeling of them as being ‘anti-national’ stifles the expression of concerns regarding the humanitarian crisis in the north.
The prolonged detention of the 3 doctors from the Vanni – Thangamuttu Sathyamoorhty, Thurairaja Varatharajan and V. Sanmugaraja – who are accused of providing information regarding the situation inside the conflict zone as well as the expulsion of journalists constitute violations of the freedom of expression and opinion that have dire consequences especially in a context in which transparency and accountability become of paramount importance.
The Resolution tabled for the Special Session on May 22 by the government of Sri Lanka with the support of the government of India and several other governments that are members of the Human Rights Council seeks to underplay the critical situation and instead focuses on calling on the international community to extend financial assistance to the government.
Despite all reports from the UN and other international agencies regarding the poor conditions in the camps, the lack of security of IDPs and the denial of access to the camps to humasnitarian agencies, the Resolution ‘Commends the measures taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to address the urgent needs of the IDPs and ‘Welcomes the continued cooperation between the Government of Sri Lanka and relevant UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations’.
We urge the government of India to consider the humanitarian implications of allowing the government of Sri Lanka to avoid any reaffirmation of its obligations to treat the Tamil community of Sri Lanka, and in particular those who have been most affected by the recent conflict, as full citizens.
The Special Session should not be perceived either as a mechanism for negative criticisms of the government of Sri Lanka or as an arena in which the government of Sri Lanka can be permitted to evade its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.
Rather it should provide a forum for all governments including the government of India to enter into a dialogue with the government of Sri Lanka regarding the following:
- Cooperation with the UN and other international and national humanitarian agencies to ensure unrestricted access to the IDP camps for the recently displaced, and to facilitate provision of the immediate physical, medical and psychological needs of the IDPs, in keeping with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and respecting the freedom of movement and expression of the IDP communities;
- special attention to IDP groups with special needs and vulnerable sectors of the IDP community such as the elderly, pregnant and lactating women, infants and children without adult accompaniment;
- Respect for international humanitarian norms and cooperation with international agencies to ensure the safe evacuation of all remaining civilians, former combatants who are hors de combat and the wounded from the recent conflict zones;
- Creation of a centralized data base of all those detained by the state during the past months, including those LTTE cadre and members of their families who have surrendered to the security forces, and to ensure access to these detainees by the ICRC. Family members of all detained persons should be informed as to the whereabouts of their detained relatives and special arrangements should be made for the security and care of detained women and children;
- Creation of a central list of all places of detention being presently utilized by the security forces and intelligence agencies and ensure access to these detention sites and to the detainees by the ICRC;
- Creation of a centralized data base of all those IDPs presently living in camps and receiving medical treatment in hospitals in order to facilitate family reunification and ensure that international and national humanitarian agencies have access to this information.
The Special Session could also propose to the government of Sri Lanka some issues that require medium and long-term attention:
- the need to gather a team of local and international forensic experts accompanied by independent observers to travel to the conflict zones of the Vanni to investigate allegations of war crimes attacks on civilians and on wounded combatants and surrendees.
- the need to engage in a multi-partisan process to ensure equitable and just processes of reconstruction and rehabilitation;
- the need for a consultative and participatory process that includes civil society as well as national and international agencies to facilitate resettlement in a manner that guarantees re-integration of communities and reconstruction of livelihoods in a framework that respects human rights and human dignity;
- consensus on the part of the government of Sri Lanka regarding modalities for demobilisation of LTTE cadres to ensure international verification of laying down of weapons and the protection of former combatants who have surrendered as governed by the Rules of War and Geneva Conventions.
It is in particular imperative that the Session addresses issues of access of humanitarian agencies to the IDP camps, which is imperative for ensuring the treatment of IDPs in keeping with international standards.
The establishing of data bases on IDPs, surrendees and detainees is critical to combat the allegations that there have been disappearances while IDPs were fleeing the fighting in the past two months right up to the present.
Access of independent observers – journalists, humanitarian actors, human rights defenders – to the conflict-affected areas can help in gathering accurate documentation regarding the situation on the ground in the past weeks of the conflict and help the government of Sri Lanka and the international community to resolve the spate of allegations and counter-allegations regarding human rights violations and war crimes.
As Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor, India bears a special responsibility towards all peace loving citizens of Sri Lanka, of India and of the world to ensure that this Special Session leads to an improvement of the conditions on the ground for all those affected by the recent conflict and prepares the ground for a long-term political solution.
INFORM, Sri Lanka
Rights now for Democracy

B-114, Shivalik, Malviya Nagar
N. Delhi - 110017
Phone: +91 11 2669 1219/20
Fax : +91 11 2669 1221
email :
website :
Helpline : +91 11 2669 2700

May 22, 2009

life in general: consumers/industrialists/politicians wake up!

Consumers, industrialists, politicians and bureaucrats need to wake up urgently to the consequences of their excesses. The weather and climatic patterns that started changing more than a decade ago is intensifying by the year.

Here is the latest with regard to its impact on India:

Date: 2009/5/22
Subject: CSE press release this week: On the heat wave
CSE Press Release… this week

Changing climate: what fanned the heat wave
In March-April this year, large swathes of India had been reeling under a searing heat wave. People were dropping dead, and rising temperatures were playing havoc with the air circulation patterns that control heat and cause rain
A frightening pattern has been emerging in all this -- there have been more heat waves and for a larger duration in this decade than in the previous two decades
A new report focuses on changing weather patterns and points out that the changes are happening much faster and outstripping all efforts to predict them

New Delhi, May 22, 2009: Disturbances in air patterns, different parts of the earth heating at different rates, and an early rise in temperatures were some of the reasons scientists in India held responsible for the bruising heat wave that had swept several states in India in March-April this year.

And what is even more disturbing is that these changes have been taking place “faster than scientists can predict” – says a latest report in Down To Earth, a fortnightly magazine that Centre for Science and Environment helps publish.

Unusual changes
In March-April, over 70 people reportedly died in Orissa due to sunstroke, with mercury soaring to 46 degree centigrade in April in some cities. The state’s health machinery was caught napping. In West Bengal, the heat wave killed nine. ‘Abnormal’ dry spells and dust storms swamped Guwahati in Assam, while the entire Malwa region in Madhya Pradesh reeled from a severe water stress.

What is wrong with the weather, asks the report. According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), disturbances in the air circulation pattern over India led to mercury soaring across the country. Circulation of air helps distribute heat over the earth. The cyclonic storm, Bijli, which formed in the Bay of Bengal in mid-April, cut off the cool easterly winds blowing in from the Bay of Bengal. To add to it, an anticyclone hovering around Rajasthan blew hot winds from north–west to central and western India.

Some scientists have attributed the heat wave to an exceedingly dry winter, while others have pointed to the unusual heating of the Tibetan Plateau – which was two degrees warmer than normal in February this year.

The IMD also puts the lack of winter cyclones that form in Bay of Bengal and provide rains to the north-east, as a reason. The Down To Earth report quotes A K Srivastava, a scientist at the department’s Pune centre: “Tropical cyclones in the peak cyclone months of May and November have increased, while those occurring in the rest of the year have decreased.”

Warming – earlier, more frequent and more intense
An IMD study has compared the number, duration and spread of heat waves from 1971 to 2000 recorded in 35 sub-divisions across the country. The study says that on an average, almost 23 sub-divisions were hit by heat waves between 1991 and 2000, while 10 sub-divisions were hit in 1981-1990 and only about 7 were hit in 1971-1980.

The study also says that 25 sub-divisions went through more than 15 spells of heat waves in 1991-2000, compared to only two in the previous two decades. Notably, the decade 1991-2000 has been the warmest in the last 140 years.

Meteorological data shows that March and April have been warming faster in the last 100 years. The average temperature for March has increased by 0.76 degree centigrade over the last century; that for April has increased by 0.58 degree centigrade.

While governments sleep over these very visible trends, more intense and longer heat waves are taking a higher toll. Is climate change more imminent than thought of?

For more on the subject, see the latest Down To Earth cover story at
For more details, or to speak with a climate change expert at CSE, please contact Shachi Chaturvedi at or on 98187 50007.
You can also speak with Dr D R Pattanaik, scientist, IMD-Delhi on 98683 97243, or write to him at; or with Dr M Rajeevan, scientist, National Atmospheric Research Laboratory, Tirupati on 08585-272016 or 272026, or write to him at ,

May 20, 2009

life in financial markets: auditor peer reviews on index companies in india

Here is something on the new auditor peer review rule in Indian equity markets that I wrote (for the magazine I work for) recently:

Peering into auditors

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is struggling to oversee a problem-free implementation of its own mandate on a review of the statutory auditor’s audit of the 2007-08 accounts of companies belonging to Sensex and Nifty indices.

Sebi wanted the companies to pick an auditor from a panel of auditor firms that had no audit connection with their business competitors or with their own past audits. “With experienced auditors being a handful and being connected with competing companies, this literally leaves no auditor of required experience to do a peer review,” says the head of accounting standards in a leading financial consulting firm.

While Sebi had to be seen as doing something with regard to the fallout from Satyam Computers’ falsified financials, questions are being asked whether the peer review solution will efficiently serve the purpose of detecting poor audit processes by auditors.

life in general & financial markets: workers have no rights in the middle east countries

Instead of expending their hatredness towards the religion of Islam and revealing their twisted & vulgar mindsets, the non-Muslim countries (including India but predominantly the US, UK, France and Australia) and people should instead be focussing on the severe exploitation of workers in many countries in the Middle East.

Here is a latest Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that highlights the pathetic conditions of workers in the United Arab Emirates of which Dubai is the predominant city. It is not the first such a report has come out. There have been several reports highlighting the same state of conditions in the past.

Below is an email I got today from HRW:

From: Human Rights Watch
Date: 2009/5/19
Subject: UAE: Exploited Workers Building ‘Island of Happiness’
To: ""

Human Rights Watch
UAE: Exploited Workers Building ‘Island of Happiness’
Guggenheim, Louvre, New York University, Other Projects Should Protect Workers from Abuses by Labor Agencies, Construction Firms
May 19, 2009

(Abu Dhabi) - Thousands of South Asian migrant workers building a US$27 billion island development in the United Arab Emirates face severe exploitation and abuse, in some cases amounting to forced labor, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Labor-supply agencies, construction companies, and repressive laws are responsible for the abuse.

The 80-page report, "‘The Island of Happiness': Exploitation of Migrant Workers on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi," found that while the UAE government has moved to improve housing conditions and ensure the timely payment of wages in recent years, many labor abuses remain commonplace. International institutions planning to open branches on the island - including the Guggenheim, New York University (NYU), and the French Museum Agency (responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi) - should urgently obtain enforceable contractual guarantees that construction companies will protect workers' fundamental rights on their projects, Human Rights Watch said.

"These international institutions need to show that they will not tolerate or benefit from the gross exploitation of these migrant workers," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The vague assurances they've received from their development partners are hollow substitutes for firm contractual agreements that their projects will be different from business as usual in Abu Dhabi."

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, hopes to turn Saadiyat Island (the "island of happiness") into an international tourist destination. The low-lying island will have four museums and a performing arts center designed by world-renowned architectural firms - including Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Foster and Partners, and Gehry Partners - as well as a campus of New York University, golf courses, hotels, and expensive residences.

Workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other South Asian countries have been building the island's infrastructure since Abu Dhabi formed the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) to oversee the project in 2005. On May 27, 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The museum is expected to open in 2013.

Based on interviews with migrant workers, and meetings with UAE and French government officials, as well as officers of international institutions and corporations with projects on the island, the Human Rights Watch report documents a cycle of abuse that leaves migrant workers deeply indebted, badly paid, and unable to stand up for their rights or even quit their jobs.

The UAE government and the authorities responsible for developing Saadiyat Island have failed to tackle the root causes of worker abuse: unlawful recruiting fees, broken promises of wages, and a sponsorship system that gives an employer virtually complete power over his workers.

To obtain the visas needed to work in the UAE, nearly all workers Human Rights Watch interviewed on Saadiyat Island paid hefty fees to "labor-supply agencies" in their home countries that are contracted to supply workers to construction companies in the UAE. Because the agencies promised good terms of employment in the UAE, many workers sold their homes or land or borrowed money at high rates of interest to pay the agencies' fees. Upon arrival in the UAE, the indebted workers - many of whom are illiterate - are required to sign contracts with the construction companies on much worse terms than they had been promised back home. Workers have virtually no recourse against the agencies that cheated them with false promises of good wages and exploitative recruiting fees.

UAE laws prohibit agencies from charging workers such fees. The agencies are supposed to charge the companies, but the law is not enforced. Further, there are no penalties if companies, pursuing their own financial interests, knowingly work with agencies that make workers pay the fees.

Workers face the choice of quitting their jobs while still owing thousands of dollars for the unlawful recruiting fees, or continuing to work in exploitative conditions. Virtually all complained of low pay and poor-quality healthcare. Nor can workers effectively demand better pay or living conditions, because UAE laws do not protect the basic rights to form unions, bargain collectively, or strike. Instead, the UAE's "sponsorship" system gives employers nearly absolute control over the workers' lawful employment and presence in the country, with visas tied to individual employers. All workers said that when they arrived in the UAE, their employers had confiscated their passports. Employers can move to revoke the visa of a worker who quits, leading to deportation.

Some workers reported conditions that amount to forced labor: their employer threatened to fine them heavily if they tried to quit before they had worked for two years, which effectively confined them to the "island of happiness." Workers are generally not aware of their rights and are afraid of expressing grievances, and independent and effective monitoring is lacking.

"The museums and NYU should insist that their local development partners guarantee workers' basic rights, which at minimum should include reimbursement for unlawful recruiting fees, official contracts in their native language signed prior to their arrival, and the right to strike and bargain collectively," said Whitson. "And they should insist on independent third-party monitoring of their projects, and impose meaningful penalties for violations."

Research on Saadiyat Island did show that authorities have taken some positive steps. Although workers' accommodations were still under construction when Human Rights Watch visited the island, they appeared to be relatively hygienic and not overcrowded. TDIC, the government-owned company overseeing the island's development, has sought contractual guarantees from construction companies that they will not confiscate workers' passports, use forced labor, or commit other abuses.

Human Rights Watch contacted the construction companies, architectural firms, and international institutions working on the island to alert them to the need to take steps to ensure workers on their projects are not abused. Many did not reply to our letters. Among the Guggenheim, New York University, and the French Museum Agency (responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi project), only the Agency has taken any steps to seek meaningful contractual guarantees from TDIC to allow independent monitoring of workers' rights, but even the Agency's contract lacks guarantees or provisions allowing it to enforce workers' rights.

May 19, 2009

life in general & financial markets: hypocrisy of industralists-bureaucrats-politicians

Laws can be manipulated by those in power (politicians) and by those (industrialists and bureaucrats) who have a strong influence over them. I was reading a newsreport today about the Coastal Zone Regulations Rules are being diluted so that a new airport proposed to be build at Panvel (100 kms to south-east of Bombay) will not fall foul of the environmental norms.

The Congress party and the parties supporting it in the new central government that will form in the next few days is among the most dangerous party when it comes to destruction of remote people's livelihoods and the ecology of the country. They, in connivance with industrialists and bureaucrats, have been running amok in India in the last many years and I dread to think of what they will end up doing in the next fives of their insensitive regime. They will of course pay lip service to the cause of the poor people and environment but on the ground they are like the Gestapo.

A news development last month indicates the historical poor track record of false propagandists of development when it comes to respecting sound environmental laws. Below is an email from Narmada Bachao Andolan on the issue. The three pictures given below are mine -- they are from Eklara village on the bank of Narmada river near Badwani in Madhya Pradesh, I had visited the village in July 2007. There is also an interview I had taken of a farmer when I was over there which is given at the very end below.


1) Email from NBA

Date: 2009/4/23
62 Mahatma GandhI Marg, Badwani, Madhya Pradesh – 451551, Ph: 07290-222464
E-mail: ,
MAITRI NIWAS, Tembewadi, Behind Kakawadi, Dhadgav, Dist. Nandurbar, Maharashtra
-425414, Ph: 02595-220620; E-mail:
NARMADA NAV NIRMAN ABHIYAN, C/o Chemical Mazdoor Sabha, No. 29 & 30, A-Wing,
Haji Habi Building, Naigaon Cross road, Dadar (East), Mumbai.
Contact: Pervin Jehangir-022-22184779, 09820636335,E-mail:

Press Release
23 April 2009

The officially appointed Environmental Expert Committee under the Chairmanship of
Dr. Devendra Pandey, Director, Forest Survey of India to review the studies, planning and implementation of environmental safeguards for Sardar Sarovar and Indira Sagar Projects has submitted its Interim Report (given far below) to the MoEF and the same has been under the Right to Information Act.
The Report dated 13th February 2009 has exposed the false claims of the Governments of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh as also Maharashtra related to the f
ull or substantial compliance in various aspects including catchment area treatment, compensatory afforestation and down stream impacts, command area development, archaeology, health impacts, and seismicity.
In its Interim Report, the Committee has concluded in no uncertain terms that it “a study of the available documents, coupled with the Committee’s interaction with the Project Authorities/ affected people / representatives
strongly suggested that there were major shortfalls in compliance with the
prescribed environmental conditionality and requirements”.
It also has arrived at a decision to reject the NCA appointed Committee on Back Water Levels and its Report on the ground that
1. It violates the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, which requires
the Central Water Commission to finalize the levels and not NCA or its Committee.
2. The NCA Report has technical flaws including the presumption of lower magnitude of flood at Sardar Sarovar dam than the one used for designing and constructing the dam.
3. The NCA Report also presumes lower level of moderated ISP flood for determining BWL, which is unsafe for planning rehabilitation.
4. The change of Model used by the CWC in 1984 (HEC 11 B) for BWL calculations to Mike - 11 Model is unjustifiable for technical reasons
5. Mike - 11 Model is also rejected by the High Court of Jabalpur in the case of Indira Sagar Project
It may be noted that the Narmada Valley Development Authority (M.P.) and NCA had claimed that their Report would pave a way to raising the dam height, since it concluded a lowering of BWLs and resultant exclusion of 40+ villages from the submergence area even after their lands and properties were acquired and rehabilitation started but not completed.
The Expert Committee rejecting the Report has advised the MoEF not to permit further raising of the dam height even through construction of piers and bridges, which are to precede erection of 17 mts high gates on the present dam wall (122 mts).
The Committee also has noted that "the recommendation for raising the Sardar Sarovar dam height upto 121.92 mts by the Environment Sub Group on 6th January, 2006 was despite the fact that full compliance with the stipulated environmental conditions and requirements was admittedly not there. It is evident from the Minutes of the said meeting that the ESG recommended raising of height with the assurance that the pending work would be completed. However, there is no evidence or verification reports to indicate compliance". .
The Committee further states that studying the various reports and papers, visiting sample areas in the command and catchment and interacting with officials as well as PAPs and NBA that it could not even receive the detailed compliance Reports and its own assessment concluded lack of compliance.
The above mentioned Report has come at a time when Mr. Narendra Modi has been touring the country with a claim that he and his party have achieved development through Narmada Project such as supply of drinking water to 1400 villages and large scale irrigation. He publicizes this to the unknown and ignorant electorate, right upto the Brahmaputra Valley. The fact that not more than 10% of the villages he refers to have actually received regular water supply and not more than 20% of the irrigation at the present height has come true is concealed in the game of politics that is more slogan mongering than a Satyagraha.

The people of Gujarat, including those from Kutch and Saurashtra and the lakhs of people from all the three states in the Narmada valley, however, have realized the truth and one Report after another has been vindicating the factual data and analysis as well position taken by the people and the movement.
Kailash Awasya Medha Patkar Clifton Rozario
Kamla Yadav

13 February 2009
The Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India vide O.M. No. 3-87/80-IA-I, dated 09.7.2008 superseded by O.M. of even number dated

02-09-2008 has constituted a Committee for assessment of survey/
studies/planning and implementation the plans on environmental safeguard
measures for Sardar Sarovar & Indira Sagar Project. One of the time bound tasks is to assess the work relating to mitigation of impacts generated by raising of the piers and overhead bridge of Sardar Sarovar Project.

As a follow up, the Committee has held three meetings and one field visit until
now. In the 1st meeting held on 25th September 2008 at NCA HQ Indore, the participating States of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan made presentations. The Committee sought information from the States on updated progress report on the environmental safeguard measures and report on Back Water Level calculations of Central Water Commission (CWC) available in the
Environment Wing of the NCA. In the 2nd meeting held on 8th Dec. 2008 at the Ministry of Environment & Forest, New Delhi, the report submitted by the States, the Back Water Level studies by CWC and a recent study report of NCA was reviewed and future course of action was decided. The committee undertook field visits to the sample area in the command in Gujarat and catchment in Madhya Pradesh, during 8th to 11 January 2009. In the third meeting held on 12th Jan 2009 at Ministry of Environment & Forests, New Delhi the committee summarized the observations of the field as well as discussions held with officials of the SSNNL in Gujarat and NVDA in Madhya Pradesh and decided to submit an interim report providing the committee’s final view on the issue of raising piers and overhead bridge of Sardar Sarovar Project.
The committee also reviewed relevant sections of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Awards, records of various meetings of the Environmental Sub-Groups, reports of the Back Water calculations done by CWC in 1984 as well as by NCA in 2008 and various communications received from SSNNL.
(A) The Report on the revised Back Water Levels calculations as submitted by NCA is not acceptable as it violates the NWDTA on following accounts:
(i) Firstly, because the award directed that calculations of Back Water Levels be done resulting from the Maximum Water Level of 140.21 meter (460 feet) at Sardar Sarovar dam. However, the computation for Back Water Levels by the NCA (June 2008) has been done with the maximum level of 137.17 meter at the dam site.
(ii) Secondly, the Back Water Levels calculations are to be carried out by the Central Water Commission (CWC) as per the award and not by a sub-committee of the NCA even if one member in the sub-committee is from CWC as has been done in
the instant case.
(iii) Thirdly, since the dam is already designed and constructed for
discharging the highest flood (30.7 Lakh cusecs), calculations of Back Water
Levels corresponding to the observed flood of 24.5 Lakh cusecs (reduced to 16.9 Lakh cusecs upon routing) are not applicable.
(iv) As per the award of NWDT and stipulations of clearances (environment,
forests and investment) accorded to the project by the Central Government, the E & R planning needed a higher level of flood protection. Thus the use of
outflow of moderated flood from ISP of 10 Lakh cusecs for determining of BWL by the NCA sub committee is unsafe for planning of R&R and environmental issues as the rehabilitation and environmental safeguard measures have to be complied with respect to submergence caused by Back Water of highest flood.

(B) The revised Back Water Levels calculations of NCA has many technical infirmities as indicated below:
(i) The report has used the highest flood at SSP to be 24 Lakh cusecs which is lower than 24.5 Lakh cusecs worked out for a return period of 100 Years. The highest flood for spillway design has to be the probable maximum flood for a dam of this size for a return of 10,000 years as specified under CWC guideline.
(ii) Against HEC IIB model used by CWC in its report of 1984 Back Water Level calculation, present study by NCA has used Mike-11 model (one dimensional analysis) on the ground of this being more advanced and robust. Such a model is applicable where the river valley is long and narrow and the flood wave characteristics over a large distance from the dam are required to be calculated. Whereas in the present case, the submergence in Sardar Sarovar Projects is wide spread to 1.77 km average width away from the main stream involving 245 villages.
(iii) Further, the strength of the MIKE 11 model lies in the application of its several modules, which require elaborate data collection and are compatible with Geographic Information System (GIS) through which the map of the areas to be submerged can be generated and used for planning purposes. Normally calibration of the model has to be done by simulating observed flows and matching simulated levels with observed levels at a number of locations.
However, the NCA report has used only one location (at 224 kms upstream) which is highly inadequate. If the anticipated flood arrives following the construction of piers it may lead to disaster in the affected areas upstream.
(iv) The NCA report has used single module Mike-11 model with input values of routed observed flood (less than 100 years) instead of routed design flood (1000 years). The model thus estimates lower submergence compared to the Back Water Levels determined by the CWC in their report of 1984 (corresponding to 100 years) and much lower submergence to the levels stipulated by the NWDT award (1000 years). It is to be mentioned here that in the year 2005 CWC carried out similar study using Mike 11 model for Indira Sagar Project with routed design flood (1000 years) which has not been accepted by Hon’ble High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur Bench in a PIL filed against this report (in case No WP 322 of 2005 dated.08.09.2006 2006(3) MPJR 218) and CWC has been asked to carry out the study again. The flood actually submerged more villages than could be explained by the study through Mike-11 model.
(v) Further, the values of various coefficients and parameters deduced in this study are at variance with the parameters adopted by the CWC in their report of 1984. The study also mentions that these values are yet to be firmed up/ notified by the CWC. The CWC in their study of 1984 on Back Water levels calculation has adopted Coefficient of rugosisty 'n' to be 0.028 for river channel, 0.06 for over bank and Eddy loss coefficient 'K' as 0.3 for gradually diverging reaches and 0.1 for gradually converging reaches, whereas the NCA report of June 2008 has used 0.024 for rugosity ‘n’ for river channel and 1.5 times of it (0.036) for over bank. This results in a lower computed value of the submergence level.
(vi) The committee is unable to accept the NCA report on Back Water Levels calculations considering the stipulations of NWDT award mentioned earlier, the choice of the model, the application of modules with limited data and limited calibration, and the use of coefficients and parameters without verification and firming up by CWC. There is also no submergence map prepared depicting the area, thus it cannot be used for the purpose of planning for the environment and for rehabilitation.
(C) Issues Relating to Status of Compliances with the Requirements of environmental control corresponding to BWL of higest observed flood, as per NWDT award:
(i) The Committee noted that the recommendation for raising the dam height at Sardar Sarovar up to 121.92 meters by the Environment Sub-Group (ESG) in its 41st meeting held on 6 Jan 2005 was despite the fact that full compliance with the stipulated environmental conditions and requirements was admittedly not there. It is evident from the minutes of the said meeting that the ESG recommended raising of height on the basis of the assurance given by the project authorities that all the pending work would be completed by the end of March 2005. However, there is no evidence or verification reports to indicate whether the assurances were complied with corresponding to the backwater levels.
(ii) The committee had requested the party states in October 2008 to provide the latest compliance status relating to the environmental safeguards, but only NVDA from Madhya Pradesh submitted the same, and that too rather vaguely. For example, against various items of works it has been mentioned that substantial progress has been made, but without detailed evidence. All the states are again being requested to provide the status report.
(iii) The committee reviewed the various prescribed safeguards and conditions of clearance and determined that the status of some could best be determined by examining the concerned papers, others required field visits, and the remaining required independent assessments, including remote sensing assessments. The committee is pursuing each of these.
(iii) Accordingly, the Committee decided to interact with the major stake holders during the 2nd week of January, 2009 and undertook field visits, inspected works carried out on the dam site, and visited indicative limited sample areas where development of conveyance of irrigation system was in progress in the Command area of SSP. The Committee, though wanting to, but could not inspect the downstream areas of the SSP in Gujarat. The sample health facilities were also inspected by the expert member of the Committee, besides sample sub-watershed treated in catchment areas in Madhya Pradesh. The Committee held preliminary discussions with project authorities of the SSNNL and NVDA besides interaction with limited project affected families in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, and the leaders of Narmada Bachao Andolan.
(iv) The assessment work relating to mitigation of impacts generated by raising of the piers and overhead bridge of Sardar Sarovar Project is progressing. A study of the available documents, coupled with the Comm
ittee’s interaction with the Project Authorities/ affected people / representatives strongly suggested that there were major shortfalls in compliance with the prescribed environmental conditionality and requirements. Further observations of the Committee in this regard would be presented, after due assessment, in its subsequent report.
Dr A. K. Bhattacharya (Member)
Dr. B.P. Das (Member)
Dr. Sekhar Singh (Member)
Dr C.K. Varshney (Member)
Dr R.C, Sharma (Member)
Dr Pavan Kumar (Member)
Shri A.K.Rana (Member Secretary)
Dr. D. Pandey
Copy to:
1. Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests,& Chairperson, Environment
Sub-group of NCA, Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi - 110
003 for favour of information, please.
2. Secretary , Ministry of Water Resources,& The Chairperson, NCA,
Shram ShaKti Bhavan, Rafi Marg, New Delhi - 110 001 for favour of information,
3. Secretary, Ministry of Social justice and Empowerment and the Chairman
Relief and Rehabilitation Sub-Group of NCA, Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi
4. The Chairman & Managing Director, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited,
Block No-12, 1st Floor, New Sachivalaya Complex,Gandhinagar – 382010..
5. The Vice Chairman, Narmada Valley Development Authority, Narmada
Bhawan, Tulsi Nagar, Bhopal- 462003.
6. The Principal Secretary (Environment), Govt of Maharashtra, Mantralaya,
Mumbai.- 38
7. The Secretary (Env), Sachivalaya, Jaipur- 302005, Rajasthan.
8. Executive Member, NCA Narmada Sadan , 74, Vijay Nagar, Indore-452010.
9. All members of the Committee.

2) My interview with a Narmada valley farmer:

May 18, 2009

life in general: rigged elections in india...

After reading various newsreports and having looked at various election result numbers I get a sense that 4-7% of the winners have manipulated the election process or actually rigged the actual vote numbers. This has been done to either win (otherwise they would have lsot) or to inflate their winning margins (so that their image as a big winner is sustained). Across the spectrum of political parties this seems to have taken place with connivance of election officers appointed to oversee the election process and the post-election voting process.

One case that could not be kept completely under wrap is that of P.Chidambaram (the finance minister first and home minister later in the central government. Below (at the very end) is a newsreport that highlights the weirdness behind Chidambaram's claimed victory.

The media has miserably failed to be alert to vote rigging and manipulation during the elections and at the time of counting of votes. A shame indeed for the so-called largest democracy in the world!

Also, the way I see it there two major regressive allowances in the Indian constitution/election laws:
- a person who is a member of the Rajya Sabha (a non-elected House of the Indian parliament) is allowed to become the Prime Minister of the country. The classic example is Manmohan Singh's prime ministership of India from March 2004 to March/April 2009 and his expected continuation from now for next 5 years. I think the rule that allows a Rajya Sabha member to become the PM is very anti-democratic. Any individual has to have been elected by the people in the general elections for Lok Sabha to be eligible for the PM post. Manmohan Singh has not got those votes from the people. He should not be the PM. Our rules allowing him to be the PM makes a serious mockery of our claim to be a large, sound democracy.
- a person can stand in two election constituencies in the same elections. So if you are unsure of winning from one you stand from two seats and hope to win from at least one (like Lalu Prasad Yadav in this year's elections). Or, if you are sure of garnering majority votes from two seats (genuinely or through rigging!) then you do so for the purpose of extending your political influence to a larger area. Our voting laws should do away with this allowance. A person should be allowed to contest in only one seat. The existing allowance is just so ludicrous!

Here is the newsreport that I talked about above on the Chidambaram issue:

Chidambaram elected from Sivaganga after sea-saw battle
Sat, May 16 08:51 PM
Karaikudi, May 16 (PTI) Union Home Minister P Chidambaram was today declared elected from Sivaganga Lok Sabha constituency, defeating AIADMK's Raja Kannappan by a slender 3,354 vote margin after a see-saw battle that went to wires. Chidambaram secured 3,34,348 votes while Kannappan got 3,30,994 votes, according to the official sources.
Earlier, confusion prevailed as election officials delayed the declaration of result. The delay was due to a dispute in the counting of votes.
Officials had announced the leads through the public address system after each round of counting and Kannappan was ahead by a margin, which ranged from 673 to about 3,825 votes. There was confusion when the final round was being counted with Chidambaram demanding re-tally after officials announced that Kanappan had won with a margin of over 3,000 votes.
Poll officials contacted their counterparts in Chennai and Delhi after the AIADMK candidate demanded a recount. As uncertainty persisted, AIADMK men gathered in front of the counting centre and shouted slogans against the delay in the declaration of result.
Congressmen countered them shouting slogans in support of Chidambaram. Meanwhile, an AIADMK delegation led by party Headquarters Secretary K A Sengottiyan met state Chief Electoral Officer and alleged that "pressure was exerted on the Returning Officer of Sivaganga.
" The delegation claimed that Chidambaram had lost.

May 16, 2009

life in general: numerical analysis of indian election results

Votes cast in the elections here in India this month (May 2009) got counted today.

I have done some number crunching of the results of the general elections in India of March 1998, July 1999, March 2004 and May 2009. Results for the latest, May 2009 elections, are not completely available and the data below is as of 5.50 pm today (16 May).

In my analysis I have not considered who won, who lost. Instead I have just taken the total number of votes cast for the parties and independents-as-an-aggregate.

The results from my data analysis is given in the image below (click on it to see it enlarged and fully clear). It depicts a growing number of votes being cast for independent candidates along with an increasing share of their votes in the total. The largest parties, who end up coming in power, are getting lesser and lesser number of votes. Some people are beginning to realise, like I did 10-15 years ago, that every large political party is corrupt and unsuitable to receive their votes.

Here is the result (click on it to see it enlarged and fully clear):

May 15, 2009

life in financial markets: mauritius-based companies dominate listed India Inc

There are countries where tax laws and corporate laws for international companies are deliberately kept lax to attract black money of individuals, companies and investment funds. These individuals, companies and investment funds register companies in such countries and then use these new companies to invest in their home markets or across global markets.

Mauritius is one such notorious country. Many companies and investment funds that are registered are investing in listed and unlisted companies in India.

I did some number crunching on quarterly 'greater-than-one-percent' shareholders' data of listed companies in India. I looked for shareholder names that had the word 'Mauritius'. The data analysis revealed that these Mauritius-based companies and funds have increased their dominance in listed companies in India.

Here is a summary of my analysis:
1) As on 31 December 2006 there were 470 Mauritius-based shareholders that held greater than one per cent stake in a listed Indian company across 311 companies. On that date, the aggregate market capitalisation of these 311 companies was Rs 12,34,275 crore and the aggregate market value of the holdings of the 470 Mauritius-based shareholders in these companies was Rs 59,872 crore, or 4.85 per cent.
2) As on 31 December 2007 there were 749 Mauritius-based shareholders that held greater than one per cent stake in a listed Indian company across 410 companies. On that date, the aggregate market capitalisation of these 410 companies was Rs 26,31,094 crore and the aggregate market value of the holdings of the 749 Mauritius-based shareholders in these companies was Rs 1,53,951 crore, or 5.85 per cent.
3) As on 31 December 2008 there were 643 Mauritius-based shareholders that held greater than one per cent stake in a listed Indian company across 375 companies. On that date, the aggregate market capitalisation of these 375 companies was Rs 7,11,956 crore and the aggregate market value of the holdings of the 643 Mauritius-based shareholders in these companies was Rs 45,594 crore, or 6.40 per cent.
4) As on 31 March 2009 there were 599 Mauritius-based shareholders that held greater than one per cent stake in a listed Indian company across 355 companies. On that date, the aggregate market capitalisation of these 355 companies was Rs 6,22,461 crore and the aggregate market value of the holdings of the 599 Mauritius-based shareholders in these companies was Rs 44,876 crore, or 7.20 per cent.

Notice the rise of the per cent figures -- from 4.85% in December 2006 to 5.85% in December 2007 to 6.40% in December 2008 to 7.20% in March 2009. Black money rules the corporate world!

May 03, 2009

life in financial markets: pointless 'face value'

Here is something I wrote (for the magazine I work for) recently on the lack of utility of the 'face value' or 'par value' concept in Indian companies' reporting and accounting requirements:


Should 'face value' (or 'par value') of a share be abolished altogether? One of the latest amendments to listing agreement mandated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India through a circular to the stock exchanges has bought back to focus the utility, or lack of it, of the 'face value' concept in companies' capital accounting and corporate actions.
After a very long delay, and in its latest amendment on 24 April, Sebi has removed the option for listed companies to declare their dividends in 'per cent' terms and has now mandated the sole use of 'Rs per share' format for dividend declaration. This will solve the long-standing problem of companies misleading investors of dividend declarations of several hundred 'per cent' on the face value. A 500 per cent dividend on a share with a face value of Rs 5 would be Rs 25 a share. If the market price is, say, Rs 2,000 then a 'Rs 25 per share' dividend declaration seems more transparent than a '500 per cent' one.
The Companies Act requires the mention of 'face value' per share by all companies but the way the capital markets have evolved it has become not only redundant but also almost purposeless. "It does not matter for the equity markets that use terms such as 'earnings per share' but technically the regulatory framework still requires the segregation of paid-up equity value into one with a 'face value' and the balance in a 'share premium' account," says Jamil Khatri, head of IFRS and global accounting standards at KPMG India.
Sebi needs to prod the ministry of corporate affairs to amend the Companies Act to do with the redundant 'face value' notion in accounting. "In most international markets the paid-up capital is shown in a single bucket," says Khatri. "In fact, a separate 'statement of shareholder funds' is mandated in those markets, but absent in India, that requires companies to detail all increase and decrease in issued share capital." Sebi should seriously require such disclosures from the listed companies whom it governs through the listing agreement norms.