Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Fears of social unrest ahead as India’s rise creates new underclass

January 5, 2008

Double-edged boom hits India’s poor

Fears of social unrest ahead as country’s rise creates new underclass
From Raymond Thibodeaux in New Delhi

EVEN AMID the chaotic swarm of Delhi’s traffic, with horns blaring and trucks and buses rumbling past, Omprekash Takur’s place of business remains a bastion of stillness and calm. Which is a good thing, as Takur’s speciality is open-razor shaves.

Takur has spent nearly 10 years at this barber shop, or what passes for a barber shop: a small stretch of pavement with a rusted chair, a plastic table for his shaving kit, two pairs of scissors, a comb and a square mirror hanging from a nail driven into the trunk of a tamarind tree, its leaves darkened by soot and dust kicked up by the traffic.

“My father taught me to do this when I was seven and I’ve been doing it ever since. My teachers would beat me for skipping classes, but I enjoyed making money from cutting hair,” said the slight, dark-skinned Takur, now 27, as he loaded a fresh blade into the razor.
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India’s city streets are filled with people like Takur – barbers, ear cleaners, cobblers and tailors, a rag-tag platoon of kerbside personal assistants for the country’s urban masses. But for many of them, India’s economic rise has chipped away at their client base as a growing number of Indians are better able to afford more upmarket versions of their services at newly sprouted shopping malls.

The huge wealth being generated by India’s booming economy has been slow to trickle down to the street level, where most of the country’s 400 million workers ply their trades. Typically, they are poorly educated and semi-skilled, and toil away in a shadowy, informal economy that falls under the radar of most government controls and protections.

As India’s rises, the gap between rich and poor appears to be widening. With a 6% inflation rate, the new India seems to be backfiring on the poor, who are hardest hit by increases in the cost of basic necessities such as food and shelter. This has stoked fears of a looming social turmoil in this country of 1.1 billion people, as a growing and increasingly restive underclass is left to fend for itself as India’s economic tide turns.

“These are our electricians, our plumbers, our housemaids and our drivers. They are the backbone of our economic success, and yet they live in slums,” said Ranjana Kumari, director for the Centre of Social Research in New Delhi, a non-governmental agency focused on India’s workplace.

“There is a serious flaw in the government policies that guide our economy. There needs to be more government initiative to care for these workers and give them a bigger share of the wealth.”

So far, India’s pro-growth government has been reluctant to burden businesses with costly regulations that would do just that. And many Indian companies have been unwilling to absorb them as formal employees, who would then be entitled to the few perks already required by law: health benefits, pension plans, holidays and severance pay.

As a result, about 93% of India’s workforce remains informal and unorganised.

“Ideally, we want to formalise our entire workforce, give them pensions and health benefits and so on, but that’s going to take a long time,” said Pronab Sen, the Indian government’s chief statistician. Part of the hold-up is that more and more rural Indians are abandoning their farms and moving to urban areas to seek better jobs as rickshaw drivers, street sweepers and barbers. These workers are hard to keep track of and much harder to organise.

“The informal sector is an extremely important transition between the rural areas and the cities. It allows the people to learn different trades that are more useful and better-paying,” Sen said.

In the shade of the tamarind tree, Takur dipped his shaving brush in hot water and lathered up another scruffy face, his third in the space of an hour. He said he usually rakes in at least £3 a day, three times the daily wage of most Indians. It’s enough to support his wife and his three sons, aged six, four and two.

Asked how India’s boom had benefited him, he said: “It hasn’t.” But a client, a rickshaw taxi driver waiting his turn in the barber’s chair, pointed out that Takur had doubled his prices since last year.

“Yes, that’s true, but that is not really a benefit to me,” said Takur, using his palm to wipe shaving cream off the razor. “My supplies are costing more, so I must pass that on to my customer.”

Sunday Herald

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Hindutva states issued ‘ghost’cards for Public Distribution System

December 22, 2007

Rot in PDS: Over 2 cr ghost cards

NEW DELHI: It has been one of India’s worst kept secrets. But now, a recent study has put the number of “ghost” public distribution system cards at a staggering 2.3 crore and, what is even more damning, revealed that as many as 1.21 crore “deserving” poor have been left out of the food security umbrella.

So, the PDS or the “ration card” scam is actually a massive double whammy. Not only do a huge number of fake cards point to diversion of the PDS subsidized foodgrain, but the leaking system is bypassing those who are in dire need of state support. While the government is importing foodgrain to maintain buffer stocks, the delivery system is falling wide off the mark.

The study, conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), has provided evidence to confirm what senior ministers like P Chidambaram and Sharad Pawar have been claiming — that foodgrain is being diverted to the black market and may even be smuggled into Bangladesh.

A back of the envelope calculation shows the economic dimensions of the PDS fiddle. If the entitlement to 35kg of foodgrain, comprising wheat and rice, for every family under PDS is taken into account, the ghost cards can represent a potential diversion of 966 crore tonnes of foodgrain each year.

There is a very real fallout of the ghost cards despite the NCAER report, even in the face of its own findings, claiming the system is working “quite satisfactorily”. The finance minister, for one, certainly does not agree. On Wednesday, Chidambaram told the National Development Council that PDS “could become an albatross around our neck and an opportunity for rent seekers to enrich themselves… about 58% of subsidised grain does not reach the target group, of which a little over 36% is siphoned off the supply chain”.

Various other reports, commissioned by the Supreme Court and government, seem to have been validated by the recent NCAER data. The study looks to make things a little less bleak by not accounting for the ghost cards when calculating the extent of diversion. But the 2.3 crore figure cannot be wished away. Uttar Pradesh has issued 1.11 crore more cards than it should have, NCAER feels. Rajasthan has an excess 24 lakh cards and Gujarat and Haryana have more than 10 lakh ghost cards each. A ghost card can be used either by an undeserving beneficiary to buy cheap grain or just be diverted. In either case, the purpose of PDS to provide nutritional security to the poor is defeated.

The report found that the rich had been given the lowest income group ration cards — AAY cards — in 70% of the cases in the Northeast and in 30-35% of the cases in other states.

Even people who got their PDS supply of wheat and rice did not pay the stipulated price. In the six states that NCAER surveyed, not once in the six months of the study’s duration did people purchase grain at the fixed rate. In Rajasthan, the people paid at times 35% more than the prescribed rate for wheat, the staple diet in the state.

This is a sign of not only rampant corruption but also puts the cheap foodgrain out of reach of those who need it as some people complained that they couldn’t afford the rations even at subsidized rates. The “premium” introduced by unscrupulous Fair Price Shop owners is bound to make the really poor more vulnerable.

Of the six states surveyed, the study found Bihar to be worst off. Almost 90% households in case of rice and 70% in case of wheat complained of impurity, insect-infested supply and broken grain.

22 Dec 2007, Nitin Sethi,TNN

World Bank debars 2 firms in Indian child health project

December 21, 2007

WASHINGTON: In its global fight against corruption, the World Bank has debarred two firms for alleged collusive practices in connection with the Bank-financed Reproductive and Child Health Project in India.

The two firms, Nestor Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Pure Pharma Ltd were debarred for a period of three years and one year respectively after a sanctions hearing in fiscal year 2007, according to a new Bank report.

The hearing followed approval by the World Bank Group Board of a broad new set of reforms to the Bank’s sanctions regime in fiscal year 2007 that will help ensure uniform compliance with the highest ethical standards in all aspects of Bank-financed projects around the world, the Annual Integrity Report said.

The World Bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) also undertook a Detailed Implementation Review or DIR of five projects across the Bank Group’s health portfolio in India, which is to be completed and provided to the region in financial year 2008.

INT, the report said, has greatly increased its use of DIR, which is a proactive diagnostic tool that uses forensic accounting and investigative techniques to examine Bank projects in a given country for indicators of fraud and corruption. INT completed two DIRs in fiscal year 2007 in Kenya and Vietnam.

INT made significant contributions to the global fight against corruption in fiscal year 2007, with a 25 per cent increase in closed investigations from the previous fiscal year.

It also launched a voluntary disclosure programme to deter private-sector corruption, and reached agreement on a coordinated approach to rooting out corruption among the international financial institutions.

“Corruption is a cancer that steals from the poor, eats away at governance and moral fibre, and destroys trust,” said World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick. “The challenge for the World Bank is how best to diagnose, determine, and clean out corruption in concert with developing and developed countries.”

According to the report, “Improving Development Outcomes: Fiscal Year 2007 Annual Integrity Report”, INT closed a total of 301 cases in fiscal Year 2007 ended June 30.

These included both cases of fraud and corruption in Bank-financed projects and cases of alleged staff misconduct, an increase of 60 cases from fiscal year 2006. In addition, the total carryover of open cases into fiscal year 2008 was 232, a decrease of 62 cases (21 per cent) from the fiscal year 2006 backlog and the lowest year-end total since fiscal year 2002.

Economic Times, 20 Dec 2007 

Indian arrested in Cambodia for fraud

December 21, 2007

 PHNOM PENH: An Indian businessman in Cambodia has been arrested for tampering with manufacturing dates of medicines and reselling them, local media reported on Wednesday.

Indian national Kartik Sayay, director of Pragya Co Ltd, was arrested at his home in this capital city on Monday, Municipal Economic Police Chief Pich Pannha was quoted as saying by Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper.

The daily said he faced court a day later and was remanded in custody after police allegedly found equipment for repackaging medicine under fake names and stamping false expiry dates.

If convicted he might face a jail term of between 10 and 20 years. Fake and falsely labelled medicines kill a number of people in Cambodia every year and the government has increasingly acted to combat the problem.

20 Dec 2007, IANS

Hindu millionaire couple punished for slavery

December 20, 2007

Slave pair punished
20/12/2007

A  hindu millionaire couple who enslaved their two servants have lost their £1.3million mansion as well as their liberty.

Varsha Sabhnani, 45, and her husband were told their home could also be seized because they committed their crimes there.

The pair, from Indonesia and India but naturalised Americans in Long Island, New York, face up to 40 years in jail after they paid the housemaids £50 a month, slashed them with knives and made them eat their vomit.

Sabhnani said: “I’m devastated. It will take me away from my children.”

Cops to enlist ex-bad guys to nab criminals

December 19, 2007

Lucknow, India – Indian police are betting there is no honour among thieves.

Police said on Tuesday they are co-opting former criminals to give up trade secrets to help stem a massive crime wave that has hit the city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, a notoriously lawless state in northern India.

“Who knows the mind-set of criminals better than the one who, himself, had ruled the dark alleys of crime?” Kanpur police chief Anand Swaroop said.

Swaroop said the plan entailed identifying once habitual criminals who are no longer active and asking them for their insights into today’s delinquents.

Twelve convicts have so far agreed to take part, and they will initially receive a monthly retainer of 1 000 rupees (about R150) that could increase depending on how useful they are, he said.At least 32 murders and thefts worth 250 million rupees or more have taken place in the last three months in Kanpur, an industrial city some 80 kilometres southeast of the state capital, Lucknow, according to police statistics.

State police chief Shiv Narain Singh praised the initiative, saying if it went well it could help former criminals reintegrate into society.

“This perhaps is the best way for them to repent for the crimes they have committed in their youth,” he said.

December 18 2007 at  Sapa-AP

Hindu boy sells girl friend for Rs 40k

December 19, 2007

Delhi lover sells woman for Rs 40K

NEW DELHI: In a shocking incident, the ‘lover’ of a 21-year-old woman sold her to a couple from Haryana for Rs 40,000. The victim, who was rescued by the Delhi Police crime branch from Jind on Monday, was raped repeatedly by three men before being forced into prostitution.

The woman, who is from Jharkhand, had come to Delhi a few weeks ago to meet her pregnant sister. She was staying in the house of her brother-in-law at Shahdara in east Delhi.

The two men who have been arrested for abducting and selling her were identified as Jai Shankar, who lives in Adarsh Nagar in north Delhi, and Pervez, from Sultanpuri in west Delhi. Both are unemployed. According to the police, Shankar met the woman in Shahdara and they “fell in love”. On December 12, Shankar took her to Pervez’s house saying he wanted to marry her in a temple.

The woman told the police that at Pervez’s house, they were approached by a man named Jagbir and his wife Rajbala. These two have also been arrested. “The couple has admitted they paid Rs 40,000 to Jai Shankar and Pervez for the woman. Jagbir and Rajbala are pimps who forced women into prostitution. The two forcibly took her to Jind and kept her illegally confined there,” said a senior police officer.

19 Dec 2007, 0420 hrs IST,TNN

Fresh probe into India politician

December 18, 2007

A court in the Indian capital Delhi has ordered a fresh investigation into the alleged role of a former central minister in anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

The court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the alleged role of Jagdish Tytler, a month after a case against him was closed.

However, a witness said recently he saw Mr Tytler lead a mob against Sikhs.

The riots, sparked by the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi by Sikh bodyguards, left more than 3,000 Sikhs dead.

Mr Tytler is a MP with the ruling Congress party, and has consistently denied any role in the rioting.

‘No evidence’

In November, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s top central detective agency, closed a case against Mr Tytler saying there was “no evidence” or “witness” to establish that he had a role in the rioting.

However, Jasbir Singh, who lives in California, recently claimed that he saw Mr Tytler lead a mob on a Sikh temple in Delhi during the riots.

Three Sikhs were burnt to death in the attack on the temple.

Mr Singh, who lost 26 family members in the rioting, left the country after the incident.

Now the court has asked the CBI to carry out a fresh investigation into Mr Tytler’s alleged role and submit a report by 16 January.

Mr Tytler was earlier implicated by a judicial commission set up to investigate the 1984 killings.

The report, by retired Supreme Court judge GT Nanavati, was the ninth inquiry commission into the riots, and was set up in 2000 by the then governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is now in opposition.

The inquiry found “credible evidence” against Mr Tytler and recommended further investigation into his role.

Mr Tytler submitted his resignation as a minister for expatriate Indians after being implicated in the riots.

He said he had resigned to his “name cleared”.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Major prostitution racket busted in Nepal’s border town

December 17, 2007

KATHMANDU: The authorities in Nepal have busted a major prostitution racket in Rupandehi district’s Butwal town, close to the Indian border.

The Nepal Police arrested at least 22 people, including girls, from different hotels of Butwal Municipality in Rupandehi district, close to the Indian border state of Uttar Pradesh.

They were arrested by the authorities in raid at the three hotels and a restaurant in Butwal after receiving a tip-off, according to the police.

The arrested youths would face a case of public offence, the police said.

Prostitution is considered illegal in Nepal and the Himalayan nation does not have a red light area.

The police said they have intensified raids in the district to control the illegal activity.

Concerned over the deteriorating law and order situation in the country’s Terai plains bordering India, the government has unveiled new security measures for Southern Nepal.

The porous Indo-Nepal border has often facilitated criminal activities, including prostitution and smuggling.

In recent months, the security forces of the two countries have increased vigil to check crimes, including abduction, extortion and other forms of illegal activities in the Terai region.

16 Dec 2007, ,PTI

Brother killed India ex-minister

December 17, 2007

The brother of a senior leader of India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has been found guilty of killing him last year.

A court in the western city of Mumbai said Praveen Mahajan had shot and killed his brother Pramod Mahajan, a former federal minister.

Mr Mahajan is likely to be sentenced on Tuesday, reports say.

Pramod Mahajan died 12 days after being shot at his home in Mumbai in April last year.

Reports say his brother fired three shots at him from a licensed revolver from close range because of a family dispute.

Technocrat

After initially confessing to murdering his brother, Mr Mahajan later denied it in the courts.

Pramod Mahajan, 56, was one of the most recognised political figures in India.

Although he lacked a political base, he was an influential figure in the BJP where he was part of the party’s Generation Next – a group of savvy and relatively younger “technocrat” leaders.

A former telecommunications minister, he is credited with bringing about a revolution in the industry.

Judge SP Davre told a crowded courtroom that eye witness accounts from the dead man’s wife – who heard her husband ask “what did I do, that I was killed by my brother?” – as he was rushed to hospital could be accepted as evidence.

Correspondents say that Praveen Mahajan is likely to receive a life sentence or the death penalty on Tuesday – even though such sentences are rarely carried out in India.

The prosecution said that after murdering Pramod, Praveen then went to the nearest police station and allegedly confessed to his crime. He has been in custody since then.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/12/17 12:44:26 GMT