December 30, 2011

life in financial markets & general: another example of illegal acts in the name of development

I have written several posts here on my blog on how in the name of development, the government, industrialists, companies, economists and consumers are violating human rights and environmental laws. I share below another instance of this taking place in India. It involves the largest freshwater lake in India. 

(the image given alongside is of Loktak lake in Manipur state of India & is courtesy

India: Police Assault Protesting Women at Loktak Lake
Friday, 30 December 2011, 1:47 pm
Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

28 December 2011
INDIA: Manipur police assault protesting women at Loktak Lake

ISSUES: Violence against women; torture and inhuman treatment; forced eviction; corruption; indigenous communities

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Citizens' Concern for Dams and Development, Manipur concerning a brutal police action upon women protesting against the forced eviction at Loktak Lake. The incident happened on 19 December. It is reported that about 10 women were injured in the incident when the police baton-charged the protesting women. The police also fired about 200 rounds to disperse the protesters, but have failed in doing so. The women are protesting against the state government's forced eviction of dwellers on the Loktak Lake who have been living on the floating vegetable mass on the lake for generations.

In an earlier Urgent Appeal (AHRC-UAC-237-2011) issued by the AHRC on 18 November 2011, we had reported that the state government is setting on fire huts in order to evict the dwellers from Loktak Lake. The women assaulted on 19 December are those who had lost everything to the government's eviction drive and had been protesting peacefully since then. Though the police officers came to the protest scene with full force armed with assault rifles, there was not a single woman police officer at the scene, contrary to the mandate in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1974 and in direct violation of the Supreme Court's directives concerning police action against women. The national media in India have been largely avoiding reportage of the event, which the people from Manipur rightly claim depicts the extent of discrimination practiced by the rest of the country, including by its media against the region.


The following is the narrative of the incident as provided by the Citizens' Concern for Dams and Development.

At least 10 women from the Meitei community in Manipur in India's North East campaigning against the controversial Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006, were seriously injured in the brutality unleashed by the Manipur state police at Thanga Chingjin, Manipur on 19 December 2011. All the injured women were taking part in a protest rally, organised by the All Loktak Lake Fishermen's Union and the All Manipur Thanga People's Welfare Association demanding the repeal of the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006, under which the Loktak Development Authority and the Manipur police have unleashed widespread arson and destruction of floating huts over Phumdis, a floating vegetation mass, in Manipur since 15 November 2011 despite stiff opposition by the affected families.

The protest rally commenced from Thanga Chingyang Hill until the Manipur police stopped it at Thanga Chingjin in Bishenpur district. The Officer-in-Charge of Moirang Police Station, Mr. Dhananjoy was leading the police. The police in an attempt to disperse the protestors resorted to baton charge, physical assault and even firing of about 200 live rounds. The incident has caused shock and panic among the community members, who are already under shock from the burning of their houses. No women police officers were involved in the crackdown of the protest, which mostly comprised of women and elderly people. This is a clear violation of the Criminal Procedure Code 1974. The police physically assaulted the women in the incident.

The injured women were taken to Community Health Centre Moirang. One of them, Ms Oinam Akasini, wife of Oinam Tomba is in a serious condition and has been referred to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences. The condition of Ms Khwairakpam Thambalmala and Ms Heisnam Ashangbi also is serious and they are advised to undergo further medical checkups.

During the protest rally at Thanga, the protesters demanded the repeal of the Loktak Lake Protection Act 2006 and demanded that the prohibition for fishing and building huts in Loktak Lake to be withdrawn by the state government. They were also protesting against the absence of free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous communities living in the Loktak wetlands in the management and protection measures taken concerning the Lake and against the restrictions imposed upon the communities over the use and dependence on lake. A vital aspect of this division is the ban on building huts or houses on phumdis inside the lake, planting athaphum, or engaging in athaphum-fishing in the core area.

The prohibition will adversely affect over 10,000 people living in phumdi huts, as well as others dependent on Loktak Lake. Sections 19 and 20 of the Act, divides the Lake into two zones - a core zone comprising 70.30 sq km, which is declared a 'no development zone', or 'totally protected zone', and a buffer zone of other areas of the lake excluding the core zone.

The police action targeting the indigenous women defending their right to life and survival means is a direct violation of their rights as human rights defenders. The incident also violates the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The failure to seek consent of the affected communities before the enactment or the eviction drive is a form of discrimination targeting marginalised communities. It also violates the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. The arson and destruction of floating huts and livelihood of the indigenous people living in Loktak Lake constitute a serious violation of the "right to life", "right to adequate housing" as guaranteed by the Constitution of India and as provided in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The burning of huts of the indigenous people depending on the Loktak Wetlands for survival violates the Ramsar Convention, in particular resolutions VII. 8 of Ramsar Convention's Conference of contracting parties held in May 1999 at Costa Rica and Resolution VIII. 19 held in Spain in November 2002. The two documents provide guidelines for establishing and strengthening local communities and indigenous people's participation and to consider the cultural values of wetlands in the management of wetlands. India is a contacting party to the convention since 1 February 1982.

Nearly the Loktak Development Authority and the Manipur police have already burnt 1147 floating huts since 15 November 2011. These floating huts were used by the indigenous Meitei people for fishing and also as a refuge for landless people who were earlier displaced by the Ithai Barrage of the Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project, which has inundated nearly 80,000 Hectares of prime agricultural land since its commissioning in 1984. The fishing gears and nets of the communities, the only survival means to catch fish from the Loktak wetlands were also burned which has left the community in further misery. For generations people have been living in floating huts in localities like Khuman Yangbi, Nambul Machin and Karang Sabal within the Loktak Lake. The affected family members including women, children and the elderly had been seeking refuge at Thanga Chingyang Community Hall in Bishenpur district, Manipur.

Each household was offered Rs. 40,000 as compensation by the government before their huts were burned. However, most of the villagers rejected this payment, as the amount is not adequate to compensate their livelihood and survival means. In addition, there is no process to rehabilitate the affected villagers and their right to free, prior and informed consent has not been sought so far. The worst of all is that in many cases, the police at gunpoint had been forcing the displaced families to set on fire their huts.

The government of Manipur, though its Loktak Development Authority has been blaming the indigenous peoples dwelling in Loktak lake for polluting and causing contamination of the Lake. However, the Ithai Barrage of the Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project, commissioned in 1984, has led to large-scale devastation of Loktak wetlands, its ecosystem, loss of indigenous plant and faunal species, disturbance of the wetlands natural balance and cleansing system leading to pollution and an alarming increase in siltation from the rivers.

Despite all these, the national and Manipur governments in their official publications and calendars, highlight the phumdi and the people living on floating huts, as a tourist attraction. During the current Sangai Tourism Festival (21-30 November 2011), the Loktak Lake and traditional floating fishing community has been also showcased. Experts attending the one day discussion on "Contradictions of Ramsar Conventions Standards and Guidelines with Loktak Wetlands Management in Manipur" organised by the All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen's Union and All Manipur Thanga People's Welfare Association at the Conference Hall of Manipur State Central Library, Imphal on 17 December had recommended the repeal of the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006.


The Government of Manipur has long targeted the Loktak Lake for corruption and manipulations. A sample of the extent of money being spent in the name of preserving Loktak Lake is available here. Interestingly, the Project Director of the Loktak Development Authority, Mr. Ibobi Singh has issued the "Utilisation Certificate" for large sums of money, allegedly used for preserving the lake and its ecosystem.

The National Human Rights Commission has directed the Government of Manipur to institute an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the corruption concerning the clearing of phumdi by a company named K Pro Infra Works Private Ltd. A report about the fictitious company and the millions those associated with the dredging project reported in an independent investigative magazine Tehelka is reproduced below:

The Lake And The Fake Firm

Why was a Rs 224-cr project to clean up Manipur's Loktak Lake given to a ghost outfit, asks Kunal Majumder.

The author can be contacted at
The original article published in Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 13, Dated April 03, 2010, could be viewed at

At a grandiose function in Imphal on January 6 this year, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh handed over the ceremonial keys of the Rs 224 crore-Loktak Lake clean-up project to representatives of a company that does not exist. On paper, K Pro Infra Works Private Ltd, which won the contract, has a Delhi address. But on the ground, Flat No A-104, Plot No 29 (New Friends Apartment), Sector 6, Dwarka, is a private residential property with no one currently living in it. Guards at Plot No 29 say a lot of people visit the flat, though it is not known who these itinerant visitors are. "They stay only for a few days," said one of the guards who asked not to be named. Significantly, while the address of K Pro Infra Works figures in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs website, information like the "company" website and its phone number is missing.

The clean-up project involves removing 132.94 lakh cubic metres of phumdis - the local name for the thick biomass that is filling up the largest fresh water lake in the Northeast, around 40 km from Imphal.

Deferring to an age-old ritual, the 62- year-old Ibobi Singh watched a K Pro Infra Works dredger scoop out the phumdis and load the waste onto a truck - after which he left. And the photo-ops over, so did the dredger, the trucks and the representatives of K Pro Infra Works. But considering it was registered only on June 22, 2009 and has a paid-up capital of just Rs 10 lakh, it must be asked how the "company" managed to buy dredgers costing Rs 40 lakh each. A press release of the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) claims that K Pro Works Private Limited (the word 'Infra' dropped) is a joint venture with Progressive Constructions Limited which posted a gross turnover of Rs 1019.91 during 2007-08. It isn't clear whether this is a typing error or the real figure, as neither the company nor LDA is willing to comment.

THE OTHER puzzle is that while Ibobi Singh cut the red ribbon on January 6, the on-paper process of cleaning up the lake had started nearly two years ago. This was the same period - spanning 2008-09 - when the Planning Commission made a Special Plan Assistance (SPA) of Rs 25 crore to Manipur for "conservation and management of Loktak Lake and associated wetlands". In the progress report submitted to the Planning Commission (a copy of which is in TEHELKA's possession) the Project Director of Loktak Development Authority (LDA), Thounaojam Ibobi Singh, claimed that Rs 16.5 crore was given to K Pro Infra Works Pvt Ltd as "mobilisation advance" for phumdi management.

But the lie is easily nailed. For again, how can a contract be given in financial year 2008-09 (that ends on March 31, 2009) to a company that was founded in June 2009? The final Utilisation Certificate issued by LDA shows that, in all, Rs 17.8 crore has so far been spent on phumdi, water and project management and administration; and the remaining Rs 7.2 crore on conservation and the management of Loktak Lake and associated wetlands.

On November 20, 2009, DS Poonia, Chief Secretary in the Manipur government, had sought an additional Rs 65 crore for the project from the Planning Commission under the Special Plan Assistance 2009-10. Sarvan Kumar, Director, Special Plan-North East at the Planning Commission, confirmed to TEHELKA that the amount requested had been sanctioned. Poonia's letter to SN Brohmo Choudhury, Adviser, Special Plan (North-East), Planning Commission, reveals that the Commission had sought detailed information on the project. Among other things, it had wanted to know the steps that had been taken to engage an accredited institution for third party monitoring. It was also suggested that the government too should closely monitor the project work and submit its reports to the Planning Commission.

The government's response was depressingly familiar. It merely set up two committees to "look into the matter".

Indeed, all the paper trails and local media reports point strongly at the possibility of a major scam brewing in Imphal. Coincidentally, even as this report was being filed, a senior Manipur Cabinet minister was in Delhi at the invitation of the Congress leadership to discuss with Rahul Gandhi the corruption charges against the CM, and how the list keeps getting fatter. Requesting anonymity, the minister said: "I did present evidences to various senior Union ministers and party leaders about the way the Chief Minister is minting money in the state." He even alleged that K Pro Infra Works was actually owned by a top politician's 'natural' son.

Repeated attempts to get a response from the Chief Minister failed. Diana Potsangbam, press officer of LDA, said the project director, Thounaojam Ibobi Singh, could not speak till he had the consent of the CM and directed this correspondent to check LDA's website which is in Russian! (This website is not in operation anymore).

Now how does one interpret this?

December 25, 2011

life in financial markets: (part 2) how companies manipulate government authorities

In part 1 of this post series dated January 3, 2008 (, I had shared a classic example of how Bombay's construction companies and local government authorities including municipal corporation and state government departments get together to twist rules to benefit the builders and enable kickbacks to politicians, bureaucrats and government officers. That example was about Hiranandani Builders. (the image to the right is of the area in Powai, Bombay where Hiranandani Builders' construction took place. the image is courtesy a news story on rentals at

Below is a news update relating to that very case. 

Petitioners reject Hiranandanis’ ‘cheap’ offer

The builder agrees to build affordable houses provided PILs are squashed, petitioners insist they should follow original agreement or return Powai land to govt

Mumbai Mirror Bureau

Posted On Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 02:03:25 AM

In a bid to buy “peace”, the Hiranandani Developers on Monday told the Bombay High Court (HC) that they are willing to build affordable houses on the remaining plot in Powai, allotted to them by the State provided all PILs against them are squashed.

In 1986, the Hiranandanis entered into a tripartite agreement with the owners of the land, MMRDA and the State to develop a 230-acre plot in Powai.

The developers were supposed to build affordable houses measuring approximately 430 sq feet and 861 sq ft for those from the economically weaker section.

However, PILs filed by three social activists - Kamlakar Satve, Medha Patkar and Rajendra Thacker allege that the builder violated the tripartite agreement and constructed luxurious flats costing Rs 5 crore and above for wealthy people.

On Monday, the Hiranandanis told the court that they are willing to construct 225 houses of 430.5 square feet and 225 houses of 861.1 sq feet on the remaining 2,90,625.5 sq ft plot provided all the PILs against them are disposed off.

“We agree to construct affordable houses on remaining land but this should put an end to the matter and not open a can of worms. We are doing this as we want to buy peace,” said Hiranandani’s counsel.

Petitioners reject proposal

However, the three petitioners rejected the proposal, saying, the flats should be built as per the original tripartite agreement or else the land should be returned to the government.

The division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Roshan Dalvi asked Hiranandani Developers if they were going to utilise the remainder of the plot to construct affordable homes. “We are not inclined to make our judgement on the basis of arbitration petition,” the HC bench observed.

The court also asked the developers to tell them how many buildings were constructed after the interim order passed in 2008, directing them to construct tenements as per the tripartite agreement.

The petitioners alleged that the developer had amalgamated two or three flats and converted them into one big flat ranging between 2,000 and 3,000 sq ft.

However, Hiranandani’s counsel argued that they had sought permission from the MMRDA to amalgamate flats and convert them into bigger houses in 1989.

At this point, MMRDA’s counsel told the HC that as per a clause in the agreement, the permission to amalgamate houses was given for only one year. The HC has adjourned the matter to Tuesday.

December 21, 2011

life in general: egyptians protest against a recent unruly event of militarymen abusing women protestors

In two posts earlier this year (February 1, 2011 and February 4, 2011) I wrote about the dramatic events taking place in Egypt.

This week, too, is seeing similar events. Below are two newsreports and one video that describe the events.


Wednesday, Dec 21 2011 3PM    Last updated at 10:05 AM on 19th December 2011

Day of shame in the Middle East: Female protesters beaten with metal poles as vicious soldiers drag girls through streets

By Inderdeep Bains

Shocking images revealing the brutality of Egypt’s armed forces in quelling protests caused outrage around the world yesterday. 

In a video broadcast on the internet, security forces dressed in riot gear are seen chasing a woman and beating her to the ground with metal bars before stripping her and kicking her repeatedly. One soldier stamps his foot hard on her chest.

After being viciously beaten by the ten-strong mob, the woman lies helplessly on the ground as her shirt is ripped from her body and a man kicks her with full force in her exposed chest.

Moments earlier she had been struck countless times in the head and body with metal batons, not content with the brutal beating delivered by his fellow soldier, one man stamped on her head repeatedly.

She feebly tried to shield her head from the relentless blows with her hands.

But she was knocked unconscious in the shameful attack and left lying motionless as the military men mindlessly continued to beat her limp and half-naked body.

Before she was set upon by the guards, three men appeared to carry her as they tried to flee the approaching military.

But they were too slow and the soldiers caught up with them, capturing the women and knocking one of the men to the ground.

The two other men were forced to abandoned their fellow protestors and continued running, looking helplessly back at the two they left behind being relentlessly attacked as they lay on the ground.

Brutally injured: More than 50 men and women were injured on Saturday in violent clashes between rock-throwing protesters and military police

This is just one of the hundreds of shameful injustices seen in Cairo's Tahrir Square where Egypt's military took a dramatically heavy hand on Saturday to crush protests against its rule.

Clashes with security forces continued for a third day yesterday near Egypt’s parliament. Soldiers erected huge concrete barricades, but an exchange of stones and firebombs continued. The army also used water tanks to spray the crowd and fired gun shots in the air.

At least ten have been killed in the violence, including two children aged 12 and 13. Two died after their skulls were fractured by stones thrown during the battles and at least six were shot dead, despite army and government claims that no live fire was being used.

In Tahrir Square,  centre of the violence, demonstrators demanding an end to military rule have been camped out for the last few weeks. A 14-year-old girl pushed back her headscarf  to reveal a bloodied bandage. She was struck on the head by a stone thrown by a soldier on a rooftop.
Her mother said they had come every day to protest against the brutal methods of the military council which has controlled the country since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted following mass street protests last February. ‘There is no justice in Egypt any more,’ she said.

Aya Emad said that troops dragged her by her headscarf and hair into the Cabinet headquarters. The 24-year-old said soldiers kicked her on the ground, an officer shocked her with an electrical prod and another slapped her on the face, leaving her nose broken and her arm in a sling.

Mona Seif, an activist who was briefly detained Friday, said she saw an officer repeatedly slapping a detained old woman in the face.

'It was a humiliating scene,' Seif told the private TV network Al-Nahar. 'I have never seen this in my life.'

In Bahrain a similar pictured was emerging with a video clip showing a female human rights activist being hit by a policewoman during clashes between police and anti-government protestors.

Police fired teargas to break up a demonstration by several hundred people on the outskirts of the capital, Manama where several women staged a sit-in protest trying to block a main road.

After nearly 48 hours of continuous fighting in Egypt's capital more than 300 were left injured and nine dead, many of them shot dead.

The most sustained crackdown yet is likely a sign that the generals who took power after the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak are confident that the Egyptian public is on its side after two rounds of widely acclaimed parliament elections, that Islamist parties winning the vote will stay out of the fight while pro-democracy protesters become more isolated.

Still, the generals risk turning more Egyptians against them, especially from outrage over the abuse of women.

'Do they think this is manly?' Toqa Nosseir, a 19-year old student, said of the attacks on women. 'Where is the dignity?'
Grief: A woman mourns slain Egyptian protesters who were killed during the latest clashes with Egyptian soldiers, while they wait to receive their bodies in front of the morgue in Cairo

Nosseir joined the protest over her parents' objections because she couldn't tolerate the clashes she had seen.

'No one can approve or accept what is happening here,' she said.

'The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on power ... I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.'

Nearby in Tahrir, protesters held up newspapers with the image of the half-stripped woman on the front page to passing cars, shouting sarcastically, 'This is the army that is protecting us!'

'No one can approve or accept what is happening here,' she said.

'The military council wants to silence all criticism. They want to hold on power ... I will not accept this humiliation just for the sake of stability.'

Nearby in Tahrir, protesters held up newspapers with the image of the half-stripped woman on the front page to passing cars, shouting sarcastically, 'This is the army that is protecting us!'

'Are you not ashamed?' leading reform figure and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei posted on Twitter in an address to the ruling military council.

Egypt's new, military-appointed interim prime minister defended the military, denying it shot protesters. He said gunshot deaths were caused by other attackers he didn't identify.

He accused the protesters of being 'anti-revolution.'

The main street between Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the anti-Mubarak protests, and the parliament and Cabinet buildings where the clashes began early the previous morning looked like a war zone on Saturday.

Military police on rooftops pelting protesters below with stones and firebombs and launched truncheon-swinging assaults to drive the crowds back.

Young activists put helmets or buckets on their heads or grabbed sheets of concrete and even satellite dishes as protection against the stones hailing down from the roofs.

The streets were strewn with chunks of concrete, stones ,broken glass, burned furniture and peddlers' carts as clashes continued to rage after nightfall Saturday.

The clashes began early on Friday with a military assault on a 3-week-old sit-in outside the Cabinet building by protesters demanding the military hand over power immediately to civilians.

More than a week of heavy fighting erupted in November, leaving more than 40 dead – but that was largely between police and protesters, with the military keeping a low profile.

In the afternoon, military police charged into Tahrir, swinging truncheons and long sticks, briefly chasing out protesters and setting fire to their tents.

They trashed a field hospital set up by protesters, swept into buildings where television crews were filming and briefly detained journalists. They tossed the camera and equipment of an Al-Jazeera TV crew off the balcony of a building.

A journalist who was briefly detained told The Associated Press that he was beaten up with sticks and fists while being led to into the parliament building. Inside, he saw a group of detained young men and one woman.

Each was surrounded by six or seven soldiers beating him or her with sticks or steel bars or giving electrical shocks with prods.

'Blood covered the floor, and an officer was telling the soldiers to wipe the blood,' said the journalist.

As night fell in Tahrir, clashes continued around a concrete wall that the military erected to block the avenue from Tahrir to parliament.

In Bahrain, Zainab al-Khawaja, 27, was arrested and dragged across the floor by her handcuffs after police fired teargas to break up a demonstration by several hundred people on the outskirts of the capital, Manama.

Ms al-Khawaja and several other women staged a sit-in protest trying to block a main road. The other women fled the scene but Ms al-Khawaja refused.

Riot police fired tear-gas at the women, with dozens requiring hospital treatment after the incident.

A report by a panel of human rights experts in November found that Bahraini security forces had used excessive forces and carried out the systematic abuse of prisoners, including torture, when the regime sent in troops to crush the uprising in March.



Egypt: 10,000 march in protest at woman dragged half-naked through street
Around 10,000 women have marched through central Cairo demanding Egypt's ruling military step down in an unprecedented show of outrage over soldiers who dragged women by the hair and stomped on them, and stripped one half-naked in the street.

7:15AM GMT 21 Dec 2011

Tuesday's dramatic protest, which grew as the women marched from Tahrir Square through downtown, was fueled by the widely circulated images of abuses of women. Many of the marchers touted the photo of the young woman whose clothes were partially pulled off by troops, baring her down to her blue bra, as she struggled on the ground.

"Tantawi stripped your women naked, come join us," the crowd chanted to passers-by, referring to Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council that has ruled Egypt since the Feb. 11 fall of Hosni Mubarak. "The daughters of Egypt are a red line," they chanted.

Even before the protest was over, the military council issued an unusually strong statement of regret for what it called "violations" against women - a quick turnaround after days of dismissing the significance of the abuse.

The council expressed "deep regret to the great women of Egypt" and affirmed "its respect and total appreciation" for women and their right to protest and take part in political life. It promised it was taking measures to punish those responsible for violations.

The statement suggested the military's fear that attacks on women could wreck its prestige at home and abroad, which has already been heavily eroded by its fierce, five-day-old crackdown on pro-democracy protesters demanding it surrender power. The ruling generals have campaigned to keep the public on its side in the confrontation, depicting the activists as hooligans and themselves as the honorable protectors of the nation, above reproach.

In unusually harsh words, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday accused the Egyptian security forces and extremists of specifically targeting women.

"This systematic degradation of Egyptian women dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform, and is not worthy of a great people," she said.

In a possibly significant hint of new flexibility, the council also said in its statement Tuesday that it was prepared to discuss any initiatives to help the security of the country. In recent days, a number of political factions have pressed the military to hand over power by February, rather than June, when it promised to hold presidential elections.

In the past, police in Mubarak's regime were accused of intentionally humiliating women in protest crackdowns. But images of women being abused by soldiers were particularly shocking in a society that is deeply conservative and generally reveres the military. The independent press has splashed its front pages with pictures of soldiers chasing women protesters, including ones in conservative headscarves and full face-veils, beating them with sticks and clubs and dragging them by their hair. The crackdown has left 14 people dead - all but one by gunshots - and hundreds wounded.

The images of the half-stripped protester, whose identity is not known, clearly had a powerful resonance. A banner showing a photo of her on the asphalt - one soldier yanking up her black robes and shirt, another poised to stomp on her chest - was put up in Tahrir Square for passing drivers to see.

"The girl dragged around is just like my daughter," said Um Hossam, a 54-year old woman in traditional black dress and a headscarf at Tuesday's march. "I am a free woman, and attacking this woman or killing protesters is just like going after one of my own children."

Ringed by a protective chain of men, the women marched from Tahrir to the Journalists' Syndicate, several blocks away, chanting slogans demanding the military council step down.

Many accused the military of intentionally targeting women to scare them and their male relatives from joining protests against the generals. Previously, the military has implied women who joined protests were of loose morals. In March, soldiers subjected detained female protesters to humiliating tests to determine if they were virgins.

"They are trying to break women's spirits, starting with the virginity tests. They want to break their dignity so that they don't go out and protest," Maha Abdel-Nasser, an engineer who joined the march, said.

Two sisters, Yomna and Tasneem Shams, said they never took part in previous protests because their parents wouldn't allow them. But they happened to be downtown Tuesday and spontaneously joined the women's march.

"No one should ever be beaten for expressing their opinion," Yomna, 19, said. "I am proud I took part in today's protest. I feel I can tell my kids I have done something for them in the future."

Some also criticised Islamic parties, which stayed out of the antimilitary protests and did not participate in Tuesday's march - even though religious conservatives often tout their defense of "women's honor." Pro-democracy activists accused them of being worried about anything that might derail ongoing, multistage parliamentary elections, which the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood and the more conservative Al-Nour Party have dominated so far.

"This is a case of honour. But they clearly don't care for honor or religion. They now care only about their political interests," said Mohammed Fawaz, one of the men in the protective chain around the marching women.

The protest also is likely to deepen the predicament of the military as critics began to talk openly about putting them on trial for abuses, and politicians are floating ideas for their exit, perhaps in return for immunity.

Emad Gad, a newly elected lawmaker, said that without guarantees they would not be prosecuted, the generals won't hand over power by the end of June as promised. Foremost on their minds, he said, was the fate of Mubarak, who ended in court facing charges that carry the death penalty after ruling Egypt for nearly 30 years.

"They didn't get clear assurances and that is why they try diabolical tactics to make sure they get these guarantees," he said, citing the military's attempt to enshrine in the next constitution language that would shield it from civilian scrutiny.

"We have to address their fears, their interests and future role," he said.

The public and many activists welcomed the military when it took power from Mubarak in February. But relations have deteriorated sharply since as the democracy activists accused the generals of hijacking their uprising, obstructing reforms, human rights abuses and failing to revive the ailing economy or restore security.

The most recent protests - and an earlier round of protests that saw a deadly crackdown last month - have seen unprecedentedly bold ridiculing of the military, which for decades was considered a revered institution above criticism. Young protesters have heaped profanities into their antimilitary slogans, demanded the execution of Tantawi and taunted soldiers in Tahrir.

On Monday, a member of the military council, Maj. Gen. Adel Emara, took a hard-line in a press conference, denouncing the protests as a conspiracy to "topple the state" and accusing the media of fomenting sedition.

He defended the use of force by troops, saying they had a duty to defend the state's institutions and declined to offer an apology for brutality toward female protesters. He did not dispute the authenticity of the image of the woman being dragged half naked by soldiers, but said Egyptians should not see it without considering the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The apparent change in attitude with Tuesday's statement of regret left some women unimpressed.

Sahar Abdel-Mohsen, a 31-year old activist, doubted the promise to punish those responsible and said the statement was in response to the US criticism. "This is an apology to one woman, Hillary Clinton."

"This is like someone raping a girl, and then going to the police station to marry her (to avoid prosecution) and then divorce her as soon as he leaves," she said. "It is an attempt to exonerate themselves after the deed is done, but with little accountability."

December 12, 2011

life in journalism: telling it to the media like it is

I have written a post on this blog, many months back, about how media should not indulge in giving awards to anyone. I believe the best recognition a genuine person or entitiy can receive is by regular coverage of the work being done by that person or entiy.

In a latest incident, a media TV channel, CNN-IBN, nominated, for an award on human rights, to a Kashmir-based activists group. The group has not only rejected the award but given a sharp hearing to CNN-IBN that it would be better for the media to cover its activities in their reportage and not indulge in frivolous awards. 

Here is what the Kashmir-based group has stated in a statement:

Srinagar, December 10, 2011:  On this ‘International Human Rights Day’, December 10, 2011, the APDP (Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons), Srinagar, wishes to state that there is something obscene and perverse in the manner the CNN-IBN has nominated our organization for the ‘Indian of the Year 2011’ award. Sometimes, human rights can be violated by merely mocking those who struggle for human rights.
The channel and its associates are promoting this ‘award’ in all their publicity material as a recognition for “architects and ambassadors of Brand India”. The APDP would like to forthwith REJECT and condemn this gratuitous nomination of our organization for this award which smacks of being yet another attempt by corporate Indian media to cover-up and neutralize the crimes of the Indian state in Kashmir.
We believe there is something sinister in the way our organisation, which has been relentlessly struggling for core human values like freedom, dignity and justice in the Valley in the face of brutal state repression – largely condoned by the corporate media – has been drafted into the eclectic ‘menu card’ of shortlisted nominees just to buy some credibility to the ‘award’. The CNN-IBN or its associates certainly did not consult us before including our name on the nominees list.
The nomination states, ‘The award recognizes the Indian(s) whose contribution to the country in a calendar year has strengthened the foundation of our society and has helped build Brand India in the process. The pinnacle of Indian achievement….’
Applied in the context of our organization, this is patently absurd. The APDP’s struggle for justice and accountability has never been about “building Brand India” but about questioning and challenging Brand India and its trampling over the rights and lives of the people of Kashmir. We refuse to allow ourselves to be co-opted into that brutal system and demean our struggle for ‘rights’ by being foisted upon with some self-styled award. Particularly, when it seems obvious that our name is on your list merely as a ‘decoration’ to help prop up your credibility.
The award citation describes APDP as an organization ‘relentlessly highlighting the issue of missing persons in Kashmir, and forcing the government and rights groups to acknowledge and act’.
Describing the cases of enforced disappearances in Kashmir as that of ‘missing persons’ and claiming that due to efforts of APDP the government and its agencies have acted and acknowledged the issue of enforced disappearances in Kashmir, is both misinformed and misleading.
We wish to place on record that there has been no formal response from the government agencies or institutions on the issue of enforced disappearances in Kashmir. The APDP have identified the perpetrators of the crimes, and there are thousands of cases pending in the Srinagar High Court seeking sanction for prosecution of the accused. However, draconian laws like the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in Kashmir continue to provide them complete impunity. To claim that the government and its agencies have responded to these gross acts of human rights violations and has ‘acted’ or punished the guilty is a blatant falsehood.
This nomination is a farce. Such nominations take away from the struggle that we as the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons have been fighting for past two decades. It also makes a mockery of the trauma and sufferings of the Kashmiri people.
The only real ‘award’ the news channel can bestow upon us is consistent and honest reportage of the heinous crimes committed by the armed forces in Kashmir and highlight the struggles and sacrifices of the people of Kashmir for justice and freedom.
We demand that CNN-IBN forthwith remove our name from their nominee’s list.
Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP)

December 07, 2011

life in financial markets & general: the many isms

Communism, capitalism, socialism, fascism, libertarianism, ancharism are all isms that many of us choose to categorise themselves in. As an aside, even criticism has an ism but it is not a category we would like to impose on ourselves!.

Anyway, when I was in my early 20s (during the early 1990s), I was recommended, like hundreds of young adults before me also were recommended, to read Ayn Rand's two radical novels, 'Fountainhead' and 'Atlas Shrugged'.

In her time, Rand popularised the essential principles of capitalism, like no one had ever done before, through her fictional and non-fictional works. To be sure, capitalism has dominated the working of most countries on our planet in the past 100 years.

They were works of fictions and I, like many others before me, was highly inspired by the heroism of the characters and ended up empathising with their disdain for government regulations.

Immediately thereafter, I read about and understood more other isms and became clear that communism was the biggest enemy of capitalism while the middle path seen in socialism was seen by capitalist more as a terrible nuisance than an enemy.

Over the years, however, another ism creeped up on me and this time it was realism. Today, I do not see the core principles of capitalism being followed in their sincerity in capitalistic economies across the planet. The lovers of capitalism do not blink an eyelid when they support government bailouts of private companies. It never occurs to them that forced, or manipulated, acquisition of privately-owned lands by governments, on behalf of non-government industrialists and entities, from remote or semi-urban areas for private industrialisation and development violate the core capitalism principle of 'right to property'.

This realism comes when you dig deeper into the real-life happenings around you and seek to sift the chaff from the wheat. Of course, there are justifications for everything and there is no universal consensus on any ism.

Personally, now, I believe that ultimately its about the greed and excessive ego of people in power and people with influence that determines whether this ism or that ism will bring more good or more harm to Earth and its inhabitants. Which means it boils down to humanism!

December 06, 2011

life in general: remembering mom

When she encountered me, her son, who could not but rebel against many of the regressive societal norms and meaningless traditions, she would outwardly argue with me but inside she was mightily thrilled to see me rebel. Oh, how we would verbally fight with each other! Yet I knew she, without any negativities, went along with my decisions.

She was my Mom; no more with me and my family since a spring day five years ago. That day, a fine lady took a bow from the physical Earth plane having been here for a little over six decades.

When fine mothers pass away they leave such fine memories that even five years later a son like me cannot but want to write about her, her persona. My Mom was the most liberal parent I could have ever hoped for, though she herself chose to adhere to many of Indian society’s societal obligations imposed on her as a working woman, wife and a mother.

Notwithstanding her concerns about a few of my actions and decisions, she had the uncanny ability of understanding them from my perspective. There was soundness behind her liberal nature – she had the ability to sense a person’s core worth and gave it complete preference over the person’s exterior appearance and features. Mom had her weak spots and failings too – but these would never be of a nature that would hurt others. She took the brunt of it all on herself.

Even in her sufferings she would keep a cheerful persona. Her last  4-5 years were the toughest for her body on account of a severe heart disease coupled with diabetes. She would be in severe discomfort yet was determined to fight it out gracefully. While allopathic medicines rule health care today and my Mom too took recourse to it, she was very open to natural remedies and found a natural ally in me.

My Mom got freed of the physical pains and I am very happy for that. My loveliest Mom: you touched many lives in a way that their fondest memories have you in it!

December 04, 2011

life in financial markets: latest shareholding of mcx, ncdex & nmce

I present below the latest shareholding in three main commodity derivatives exchanges in India as compiled by me:


MCX: Multi Commodity Exchange of India

NCDEX: National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange

NMCE: National Multi Commodity Exchange of India

MCX - As on August 9, 2011 NCDEX - As on June 30, 2011 NMCE - As on September 30, 2011
No. of paid up shares of face value Rs 10 each (in million) 50.99 No. of paid up shares of face value Rs 10 each (in million) 50.67 No. of paid up shares of face value Rs 10 each (in million) 19.11
Number of shareholders 854 Number of shareholders 13 Number of shareholders 12
Stake held by: (in %)   Stake held by: (in %)   Stake held by: (in %)  
Financial Technologies (India) 31.18 Jaypee Capital Services 22.38 Neptune Overseas 30.18
State Bank of India 5.18 Shree Renuka Sugars 12.50 Central Warehousing Corporation 29.70
FID Funds (Mauritius) 5.00 National Stock Exchange of India 11.10 Bajaj Holdings and Investment 12.82
Passport India Investments (Mauritius) 4.90 Life Insurance Corporation of India 11.10 Reliance Capital 8.72
IFCI 4.79 National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development 11.10 Punjab National Bank 8.12
Euronext N.V 4.79 Indian Farmer Fertiliser Cooperative 8.88 Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation 5.47
Aginyx Enterprises Ltd 4.79 Punjab National Bank 7.29 National Agriculture Co-operative Marketing Federation of India 3.92
Merrill Lynch Holdings (Mauritius) 4.79 Canara Bank 6.03 Anil S Singhania 0.87
Corporation Bank 3.48 Crisil 3.70 Kailash R Gupta 0.20
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development 3.06 IntercontinentalExchange Holdings 2.96 Shankarlal M Guru 0.0008
ICICI Emerging Sectors Fund 2.65 Goldman Sachs Inv (Mauritius) 2.96 National Institute of Agriculture Marketing 0.0005
National Stock Exchange of India 2.45 M K Ananda Kumar 0.000023 Gujarat State Agricultural Marketing Board 0.0005
Bennett, Coleman and Company 2.24 Narendra Kumar Gupta 0.000019    
GLG Financials Fund 1.92        
Intel Capital (Mauritius) 1.62        
Hariharan Vaidyalingam 1.06        
Union Bank of India 1.03        
HDFC Bank 1.03        
Bank of Baroda 1.03        
Bank of India 1.03        
Canara Bank 1.03        
New Vernon Private Equity Ltd 0.96        
Alexandra Mauritius Ltd 0.96        
Kotak Mahindra Trusteeship Services Ltd - A/c India Growth Fund, A Unit Scheme of SEAF India Fund 0.96        
MCX ESOP Trust 0.91        
Brand Equity Treaties 0.80        
Paras Ajmera 0.69        
State Bank of Mysore 0.51        
State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur 0.51        
State Bank of Hyderabad 0.51        
State Bank of Patiala 0.51        
State Bank of Travancore 0.51        
SBI Life Insurance Co. Ltd 0.51        
ICICI Lombard General Insurance 0.36        
HT Media 0.20        
IGSB-STAD I 0.17        
817 other shareholders 1.85        
Source: The three exchanges' filings with Registrar of Companies