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Lights in each Indian household? Really? Sonia Sarkar finds out why, despite the Narendra Modi government’s loud claims, that remains a far cry

Jul 29, 2018 00:00 IST

Picture Credit: AFP

When Shivankit Mishra, an electrical engineer from Mahagama in Jharkhand’s Godda district, listens to radio jingles praising the Prime Minister’s initiative to electrify all households by 2019, he has mixed feelings. At one level he is happy, his house is already electrified. But if you ask him if it has meant an end to days spent in darkness, he says, “We get electricity for barely four hours a day. During the monsoons, it becomes worse; there are power cuts for weeks and months.”

Thousands of miles away in Gurugram in the National Capital Region, this June, residents of a posh high-rise took angrily to the streets against Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam, the state distribution company or discom. Their complaint – incessant and prolonged power cuts.

This is a question worth asking, especially when amplified claims are being made about every Indian village having been electrified. The Modi government boasts about India being a “power surplus” country and has promised to electrify every household in the country by December 2018. But how many households do get power and for how many hours on average?

Reality check

In 2017, the Centre launched the Saubhagya scheme. Its target was to provide free electricity connections to households in rural areas and also to the urban poor by the end of 2018. It also promised to distribute LED lamps to newly electrified households. And this when people are still having to buy kerosene lamps or diesel generators because there is no regular power supply in their electrified homes. Those who have got solar photovoltaic-based standalone systems under the scheme are better off – there is no need for maintenance of meters, overhead and underground wires, and transformers.

The Saubhagya site has figures to show what percentage of every state has been electrified to date. States such as Gujarat, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh are 100 per cent electrified, it claims. Goa, Puducherry and Andhra are also part of the list.

A recently retired power ministry official, however, laughs at these figures. “Statistics of households covered are routinely juggled by state governments. There is no organised system of collecting data. They don’t reflect the reality,” he says.

The Telegraph attempted a reality check. Villagers from randomly selected states tell us their experience of living in a “power surplus” country. Punjab is 100 per cent electrified but rural areas don’t have a 24×7 power supply. In Jajja village of Hoshiarpur, villagers suffer power cuts two to four hours every day. A technical fault takes at least a day or two to be fixed. In Bengal, a state with 98.61 per cent electrification, parts of tribal villages on the Indo-Bangla border – south Jamalpur, Naogaon, Akhirapara – remain un-electrified. At Binshira village in Hili block of South Dinajpur, the frequency of loadshedding has gone down but whenever there is a power cut, the state electricity board takes days to address the problem. In Godda district of the BJP-ruled Jharkhand, more than 80 per cent villages are electrified but they don’t get more than four hours of power supply daily. In Nawagarh village, 30 kilometres from the industrial town of Dhanbad, power is available for not more than 14 hours a day. Every summer and every monsoon, gusty winds snap wires or topple transformers leading to outages for weeks, sometimes months. In Semari Dumari village in Bettiah district of Bihar, power supply is impeded at the slightest hint of storm or rain. “Plus, the voltage during the evenings is very low. It is very difficult for children to study in such conditions,” says Tanju Devi, a village social worker. At Hatmulla village of Kupwara in Kashmir, residents get electricity for five hours by day and four hours during evening. Things get worse during the harsh winters.

Rural electrification

This has been an ongoing process for many years. It got a boost in 2005, when the Congress-led UPA government launched the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. But there were inordinate delays, cost overruns, frequent burnouts due to installation of transformers without adequate capacity and lack of effective monitoring at all levels. In 2015, the scheme was subsumed by the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana.

Over 300 grameen vidyut abhiyantas or GVAs, most of them electrical engineers, have been appointed by the Union power ministry in rural districts of various states to assist state distribution utilities in the electrification of villages. The Telegraph called over 37 telephone numbers of GVAs displayed on the Grameen Vidyutikaran website. About 10-11 went unanswered. Of the 25 people who answered the calls, 10 said they were not associated with the project anymore or have been transferred to another state. Some said, yes, every village in their district was getting electrified, and a handful admitted on conditions of anonymity that electrified villages in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh do not have regular power supply.

Discoms

Questions have been raised about the government’s promise to light up every household by December 2018 even if it “electrifies” them on paper. According to the former power secretary, Anil Razdan, it is not realistic a target. “Power has always been a political subject in our country because it is the state government that decides where to supply and how much,” says Rakesh Nath, former chairman of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). The CEA advises the government on policy matters and formulates plans for the development of electricity systems.

Barring cities such as Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi, Agra, Surat and Ahmedabad, where power distribution is privatised, it is the state discoms that buy power through long-term power purchase agreements with central and state-owned generating stations, private generators and the Power Exchange India Limited.

Razdan points out that distribution companies are already grappling with huge aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses – the measure of overall efficiency of the distribution business. It seems large transmission and distribution losses, corruption and subsidies rolled out by state governments to influence the “vote bank” lead to such huge losses in the first place.

For obvious political reasons, state discoms supply electricity at tariffs that are way below the cost of purchase. Plus, losses are incurred due to power theft and defaul- ting consumers.

One of the reasons the rural poor are hesitant to pay is that they often see discrepancies in their bills. “Sometimes, villagers are falsely charged Rs 100 for a month – it is a huge amount for them,” says women’s activist Renuka Ikka. She is referring to residents of Rampur Puthamura village in Nagri block of Chhattisgarh’s Dhamtari district. Tanju Devi adds, “Our village was electrified in 2016 but people are getting bills for 2014.”

Supplying power to rural households is a loss-making proposition for discoms. Pramod Deo, former chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), says, “The distribution companies buy only as much electricity with which they can meet 80 per cent of the total demand.” The CERC is a key regulator of the power sector.

Solutions

“Discoms should be financially supported to provide supply. This will be needed till there are sufficient paying consumers in rural areas,” says Sreekumar N. of Prayas, a Pune-based non-profit advocacy group which focuses on energy, health and education.

For distributing power to all by 2019, discoms need to bear the expenses for infrastructure – build substations, instal feeders, transformers and meters. But the investment cost has to be recovered through consumer tariffs over the next five years. If a state buys power at Rs 5 per unit, the operation and maintenance of present and additional infrastructure along with repayment of capital expenditure could raise the cost to Rs 9.15 per unit. Keeping the accumulated losses in mind, the cost of supply can go up to Rs 10.65, which is unaffordable for consumers. Besides, it will be politically counterproductive, especially with the elections approaching.

Nath adds, “Discoms prefer to sell the surplus power to the central power exchange instead and that too for at least Rs 6-8 per unit more than the stipulated rate, especially during elections.”

In 2015, the central government launched the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojna (UDAY) scheme to help the loss-making discoms. The losses in some states increased instead as compared to 2016-17. “Things will go worse next year as bijli remains a popular sop of political parties in election year. No one is bothered much about revenue collection,” Deo warns.

According to UDAY, some states have recovered big-time in a span of six months. The AT&C losses in Punjab was 32.63 per cent as on December 2017, but currently, it is at 18.21. Similarly, Jharkhand was at a loss of 39.27 per cent in December 2017, but this has now come down to 31.78 per cent. “As I said, figures are often forged,” reiterates the former power ministry official.

But keeping all the power politics aside, if the government is genuinely keen to light up every household, experts say, it must focus on promoting efficiency, optimum utilisation of generation and transmission capacity, shifting of overhead lines underground – because they are vulnerable to lightning strikes and storms – improvement of storage capacity of substations, laying of new feeders and setting-up of new distribution transformers. It must also monitor the functioning of transformers and generating stations.

“We have been able to meet Delhi’s peak power demand, which touched 6,934 MW on June 8, by taking some of these measures,” says a senior official of BSES, the Reliance-owned discom that supplies power to over 4 million Delhi residents.

Back in Mahagama, Mishra waits for a day when he can actually use the lights and fan at home.

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Writer and scholar Purushottam Agrawal talks to Sonia Sarkar about his newest book, Padmavat, and the man behind the original

Some months ago, I was privy to a conversation between an eight-year-old and her mother at a dinner table. They were in awe of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali extravaganza, Padmaavat. What particularly struck me was the little girl’s description of the former ruler of the Delhi Sultanate and the central character of the film, Alauddin Khilji. She said: “Since (Alauddin) Khilji was a Muslim, he was very dirty. He didn’t shower for days.”

I hadn’t seen the film then, but I voiced my objection to this interpretation. I got wondering what horrifying shape such nascent prejudices would assume in the years to come.

Today, sitting across Hindi scholar Purushottam Agrawal at his Delhi home, I repeat this episode. After a patient hearing, the 62-year-old academic and writer says, “Unfortunately, this film contributed to promoting such a feeling.” He is referring to the fetishisation of Islam and the increasing Muslim hatred in a Hindu Right-wing ruled New India.

It is a sultry afternoon. As we discuss politics, history and literature, one of the many kittens gambolling in the room snuggles between my feet. Agrawal and his poet wife, Suman Keshari, are cat lovers. The pets – Badka (he is no more), Brownie, Sotli and Chhutku even find mention in the Author’s Note to Agrawal’s new book, Padmavat: an Epic Love Story.

Once we get past the feline distraction, we are back on topic. Agrawal is telling me about the clichés about Muslims – invaders, devils, power-hungry, treacherous, and as the child said it, unclean – that are propagated in daily life. Knowingly or unknowingly, such clichés were reflected in Bhansali’s commercial flick.

Popular art, these days, Agrawal says, is pandering to existing sentiments. “But art, whether film or poetry or novel, is expected to clear misconceptions or at least problematise the given perceptions.”

That’s exactly what his new book attempts to do. It retells Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic poem, the same that was composed in 1540. “Jayasi’s Alauddin Khalji [Khilji] is not a monster,” writes Agrawal. “His obsession with Padmavati coupled with his intoxication of power leads him to act in an immoral way in this particular context… he is not only a competent ruler but also a king who gives alms to the needy without bothering about their religious identity… Khalji, like any other character in the epic, is a product of his times. He is destined to play a ‘negative role’ in this particular saga but Jayasi is careful not to allow this negativity to overshadow his overall personality.”

Jayasi’s Padmavat, Agrawal says, is a living part of our cultural legacy. The characters are not conceived based on religious backgrounds or ethnic identities. He says, “This is specifically a post-modern problem, you reduce human beings into a certain identity, good or bad. That’s where this understanding is coming from, that Khilji was cruel or violent because he was a Muslim.”

Agrawal is currently a visiting professor at New Delhi’s Centre for the Study of Developing Sciences. His long CV, viewable on his site, establishes his abiding research interests in Bhakti poetry, Kabir, vernacular modernity. His list of publications runs long. His Twitter profile reads – writer, academic and political commentator.

Distorting literary work for political or commercial gains on religious lines is suicidal, the literary critic warns. He continues, “Indian diversity is not just confined to religion; there is diversity in language, eating habits, culture.”

According to Agrawal, Padmavat, composed in the styles of masnawi (Persian tradition), dastan (Persian style of storytelling) and in the metres of doha and choupai – all rhythmic expressions of speech in Indian literature – is considered the peak of vernacular, mostly Awadhi, tradition of prem-aakhayans or love narratives, coming down to Jayasi’s times from the preceding two centuries.

Originally written in Persian script, Jayasi’s Padmavat, a 700-stanza poem, is a love story. Agrawal writes about Jayasi’s work: “Padmavat is a work of creative, imaginative literature woven around an episode in history… Jayasi’s genius has turned the legend of Padmini into real history; in fact, she has become more than real.”

Unfortunately, instead of appreciating the literary genius of the real Padmavat, people paid more attention to Bhansali’s opulent extravaganza either by liking it or opposing it. But the fact is, there is no historical evidence of the existence of Padmini. Before Padmavat, a literary romance called Chhitai Charit had references to Padmini of Chittor. Agrawal says, “Some people believe there was someone called Padmini, some say, no, she was only a poetic creation. We really don’t know. But the point is, one must admire Jayasi’s Padmavat for the beauty of the literary creation and not focus on the violence.

He underlines that when a people try to prove desperately the historicity of a cultural memory, it reflects insecurity. “In your cultural memory, not everything is history,” he stresses. “In this obsession to historicise everything, the sense of history is bound to turn into nonsense of history.”

He talks about what he calls the “pastness of the past”, which, he cautions, one should never forget. The conversation turns to the BJP government’s efforts to erase the Mughals – Babar, Akbar, Aurangzeb, because they were “invaders”. He says, “You cannot go on revenging the excesses of the past. Remember what Gandhi said – ‘an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind’.”

Agrawal’s own book is dedicated to the future – his children, Ritambhara and Ritwik, and their generation. He refers to them as “graduates of the WhatsApp university”. He says, “I wrote this thin book in a conversational style so they can grab a copy and read it.”

Fixing his rectangular glasses firmly on his nose, the clean-shaven writer says, “You know… before the advent of this era of neo-illiteracy, which started 15 years ago with the advent of television channels and social media, people knew about the basics of Padmavat and the greatness of Jayasi.”

But how did Agrawal come to write this book? It happened soon after the controversy over Bhansali’s film – the Karni Sena, a caste group in Rajasthan, ransacked cinema halls for screening the trailer, which they alleged, showed the 13th century Rajput queen, Padmini, in poor light and disrespected Rajput pride. Around this time, his friend and author, Devdutt Patnaik, talked him into writing Padmavat. Patnaik has done the illustrations for the book.

Padmavat has been Agrawal’s favourite text since his postgraduate days at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He writes, “I have been in love with Padmavat, composed by a poetic genius who had no sight in one eye and was hard of hearing in one ear; who was acutely conscious of his ‘ugly appearance’ and… ‘confident of his poetic talent’.”

Agrawal has vividly described Jayasi and his work in his book. He thought it was important to tell the audience about the poet so they had a fair idea of the creative force behind Padmavat. Jayasi’s work was apparently influenced by Ram Katha, Mahabharata, Puranas and also the Nathpanthi tradition and Islamic theology. Nathpanthis are ascetics dedicated to holistic yoga sadhna. Agrawal says, “His hero, Ratnasen, goes to Simhal island in the guise of a Nathpanthi yogi, not as a Sufi fakir. His acquaintance with Hindu traditions and his roots in the everyday life of Awadh determined the choice of his idioms, metaphors and allusions. His knowledge is so deep and rich that it can intimidate many self-appointed guardians of Hinduism.”

The first scholarly edition of Padmavat, he tells us, was by Ramchandra Shukla in 1924, post the Khilafat movement – a campaign led by Indian Muslims against the British to restore the Ottoman Caliphate in Turkey and widely supported by Hindus, too.

“To Shukla, Padmavat was a luminous signpost in the shared search for a pathway to God, where Muslims were willing to listen to the story of Ram and Hindus were ready to hear the dastan of Hamza,” he says.

He holds forth on how Jayasi’s imagination has not been understood by the “modern day” audience. Bhansali’s film also misinterpreted it, he rues. For example, the filmmaker glorified jauhar in his movie.

Agrawal says it would have been foolish on Jayasi’s part not to describe a custom – good or bad – at the appropriate moment. “But it is infinitely more stupid on our part to go back to the mindset of Jayasi’s time and glorify jauhar and sati now.”

But regression defines these times. I point out that the BJP leader from Haryana, Suraj Pal Amu, offered a reward of $1.5million for the beheading of Deepika Padukone, who played Padmavati in Bhansali’s film. “This hatred against women is a psychological and sociological problem,” says Agrawal.

He will delve deeper into “misogyny” in his upcoming book. It will have a chapter on Kabir’s misogynistic writings. Says the writer and Kabir scholar, “I do not follow anyone blindly, not even Kabir.”

A clarification: July 8, 2018.

Jayasi’s Padmavat was written in the Persian script, not Persian (as mentioned in an earlier version of this report).

It is supposed to dispense justice to our aggrieved jawans, serving or retried. Now in the ninth year of its operations, the Armed Forces Tribunal has never quite become what it set out to be. Sonia Sarkar reports

Picture Credit:  Suman Chowdhury

Navy officer P.K. Banerjee joined service in 1984. He was in command of the latest ship of the force, INS Tabar – the first Indian Navy ship deployed for counter piracy patrols off Somalia. His seniors, the initiating officer who was also the fleet commander and the rear admiral, gave him a glowing report. Recommended him for a second sea command, something usually reserved for the best commanding officers. And then, the reviewing officer went ahead and inserted adverse remarks about him in the report, alleges Banerjee. This was 2009. The reviewing officer did not back his comments with evidence. He did not inform Banerjee either. Both things were against Navy protocol. The incident came in the way of his promotion to the rank of rear admiral in May 2012.

Two years later, after his complaints were rejected, first by the chief of naval staff and then by the ministry of defence, he approached the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in Delhi. In 2015, the bench concluded the arguments and reserved the order. Despite the wait, no judgment was delivered as the judicial member of the AFT retired in 2016. The case was referred to two benches but the matter was not concluded. A third bench heard it only once. A fourth bench took it up afresh in March 2017 and the judgment was finally delivered six months later. It was already three years since Banerjee had first appealed.

Promotions in the navy are based on relative merit and are decided by numerical gradings in the annual confidential report. Says Banerjee, “The tribunal expunged those adverse remarks but avoided expunging the corresponding downgrading of numerical gradings done by the reviewing officer, senior reviewing officer and also by the then chief of naval staff.”

Banerjee’s ordeal is not an isolated one. Lawyers of the defence forces, who routinely take up such cases, talk about the AFT’s by now characteristic apathy towards the grievances of the servicemen.

The AFT has been operational since 2009. It was established with the express purpose of delivering speedy and less expensive justice to defence services personnel across the army, navy and air force. Even former servicemen can appeal before it.

“If a civilian loses a case in a tribunal, he or she has the option to file a case in the high court and then appeal in the Supreme Court. When a soldier loses a case at the AFT, he can only appeal in the Supreme Court,” says Ajit Kakkar, a military advocate and retired wing commander. He adds, “Many jawans hail from remote areas. Coming to Delhi and filing a case in the Supreme Court is not even feasible for them because of time and money constraints.”

But even if those – geography and finances – were to be surmounted, our soldiers, going by the narratives gathered by The Telegraph, find it near impossible to pull along the steep and uncertain trek to AFT justice.

The AFT comes under the defence ministry. The ministry controls its funding, infrastructure and appointments. Currently, the AFT has seven operational benches. There are 12 vacant benches. Some are operational with one judicial or administrative member juggling. The number of pending cases as on June 27, 2018, was 11,000. “We are still managing,” says an AFT member on condition of anonymity.

Each bench should have one administrative member and one judicial member. It has been alleged that the defence ministry has not been proactive enough in making these appointments.

“Appointments approved by the selection committee in April 2017 for judicial members were notified by the ministry only in February,” says advocate Rajiv Manglik, who fights cases for defence personnel. The Telegraph tried to get in touch with the ministry of defence to understand the reason for the delay, but all emails went unanswered.

Major General Satbir Singh, the same who led the ex-servicemen’s campaign for one-rank-one-pension, also known as Orop, shares his diagnosis: “Getting justice from a body that runs under the defence ministry looks impossible.” He recommends that for it to function efficiently, the AFT should come under the law ministry. He says, “If it is kept under the defence ministry, no orders will be implemented because the ministry will never bow before servicemen.”

Air Commodore K.K. Budhwar was awarded the Vir Chakra and the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service in the Indo-Pak War of 1971. He was entitled to land or a cash award in lieu of the allotted land.

The decorations might come from the government of India, but the land or cash settlement is the responsibility of the domicile state of the awardee.

The Himachal Pradesh government refused to honour the award terms on the ground that at the time Budhwar was granted it, he was not a bona fide resident of the state. The Delhi government also withheld any award citing the domicile of the petitioner at the time of joining the Indian Air Force.

The 85-year-old Budhwar approached the AFT in 2015. The tribunal issued a notice to the defence secretary to resolve the issue. That same year, the Delhi government was asked to grant the cash award. In October 2017, the AFT directed the respondents (the Delhi government and the ministry of defence) to calculate the interest on the promised sum – Rs 25,000 – at the rate of 9 per cent per annum beginning 1972 to the date of actual payment. The settlement was to be made within three months.

According to Kakkar, who is the military counsel of Budhwar, the money is yet to be paid. He says, “We have filed an execution at the AFT asking why its last order was not executed. He is 85 now, stays at an old-age home. He had fought the war for the nation. Now he has to fight for his rights. If he dies without getting his due, he will not forgive this nation and its leaders.”

What happened with Budhwar is rather common, it seems. The AFT decrees, but the ministry of defence or the headquarters of navy or air force or army hedge.

For example, this January, the AFT asked the ministry of defence to correct anomalies in the retirement age of colonels and bring them on a par with similar ranks in the air force and navy. But the central government rejected it in May.

In 2016, the AFT granted non-functional upgrade (NFU) to all armed forces officers along the lines of the Sixth Pay Commission. NFU had been implemented in 2008. The idea was to ensure IAS officers and other Group A officers were guaranteed the same pay scale as the highest promoted officer of their batch even if they were not promoted. Earlier, the armed forces were not included in it.

But the next year, the Centre moved the Supreme Court saying the armed forces are not categorised as Group A services, to which NFU is applicable.

“When we urged the Supreme Court for an early hearing of the case, the bench observed that we must go to the AFT for the remedy. The AFT, on the other hand, said it cannot do anything because the matter is in the Supreme Court. This clearly shows the apathy of the tribunal towards servicemen,” says advocate Manglik, who is fighting this case, on behalf of Colonel Mukul Dev.

The AFT continues to shrug off its responsibilities saying it doesn’t have the powers to prosecute anyone for criminal contempt. This basically means no action can be taken against the ministry or any of the service headquarters.

In 2012, the Armed Forces Tribunal (Amendment) Bill was introduced to grant the AFT the authority to exercise powers of civil contempt, which basically meant it could now hold the ministry of defence and the armed forces headquarters accountable for not implementing its orders. But that bill was never passed.

In 2010, however, the Kerala High Court observed, “It is the duty of the AFT to execute its orders by initiating coercive proceedings and the petitioner has the freedom to file a contempt application before the AFT.”

The Telegraph repeatedly tried to get in touch with the AFT, sending it a detailed questionnaire basis these allegations. It has been more than 14 weeks since then, we are yet to receive a reply.

The AFT is a toothless tiger,” remarks P.K. Banerjee. “In my case, it played to the requirements of the Naval headquarters; it simply overlooked the gross illegalities,” he alleges in no uncertain terms.

And to think Prime Minister Narendra Modi never tires of invoking the jawan at the drop of a hat. Tired of standing in ATM queues? Think of the jawans who stand vigil at the borders. Kicking up a fuss over students’ rights? Think of the jawans. Diwali celebrations? At the border, with the jawans.

Rajiv Manglik, who has been fighting many cases for defence petitioners at the AFT, says, “Remember, posturing is for the votebank. Even a shopkeeper would keep the best things on display. And defence personnel are treated as display items. In reality, the Centre treats jawans as bonded labourers and there is no tool of strike for these soldiers.”

(https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/armed-forcestribulations-241397)

Bangladesh is on a roll; its progress looks unstoppable. Last month, it launched its first ever commercial satellite, Bangabandhu-1, from the Kennedy Space Centre in the United States of America. In March, it successfully met the criteria of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy to graduate from a ‘least developed country’ to a ‘developing country’. By 2041, it will become a ‘developed’ country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed has promised.

Now, let us do a reality check. To be called ‘developing’, Bangladesh needs to keep this pace of development for the next six years. The UN will give this status finally in 2024, once satisfied. That is not all. Last year, in a report, the Food and Agricultural Organization, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization revealed that the number of malnourished people in Bangladesh has increased by 7,00,000 over the last 10 years. The report also stated that, as of 2017, at least 2.5 crore people in Bangladesh are malnourished – among the highest in the world.

The strength of any country’s economy can be fathomed by the performance of its banking sector. Here, too, the picture is not promising enough. The amount of non-performing and default loans are on the rise and both State-owned and private banks in Bangladesh are facing a capital deficit. A section of private banks, which mostly got licences with the help of political lobbying, have been accused of money laundering.

These facts, of course, do not figure in Wajed’s speeches when she flaunts the development card at rallies, ahead of the parliamentary polls in December. She even attributes the development to the ‘people’ of Bangladesh, whom she calls her main ‘strength’. What she has failed to understand is that, besides development, the ‘people’ want democracy in the country. The bitter truth is democracy has been deeply compromised during her rule or, at least, the international markers indicate so. In the Transformation Index released in March, the Germany-based Bertelsmann Stiftung criticized Bangladesh for not meeting minimum standards of democracy.

Enforced disappearances, torture and forced detention of political opponents, former diplomats, rights activists and journalists are the new norm in Bangladesh. Last year, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances called upon Bangladesh to act immediately to halt the increasing numbers of enforced disappearances in the country. Random arrests to maintain ‘law and order’ are common. Last month, at least 124 suspected drug peddlers were killed in reported gunfights with law enforcement agencies over a fortnight. The US ambassador to Bangladesh, Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, called on the Awami League-led government to bring the kingpins behind drug peddling to justice without killing. She said that “in a democracy, everyone has the right to due process of law”.

Earlier this year, university students demanding quota reforms in government jobs also faced detention and arrest. In Parliament, the agriculture minister, Matia Chowdhury, even labelled the protesters as the children of war criminals. In February, the Asian Legal Resource Centre, a Hong Kong-based rights organization, noted that custodial “torture has been institutionalised in Bangladesh”.

Curiously, Wajed, who has been called ‘Mother of Humanity’ by the Western press for giving shelter to lakhs of persecuted Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, shies away from answering questions on human rights violations under her rule. A journalist was stopped from asking questions on these issues at a press meet during her visit to London in April. But she answered gladly questions on Bangladesh’s ‘progress and prospects’. The message was clear. Her priority is development, democracy can come later.

Like 2014, this time again, Wajed and her party, the Awami League, want to win unopposed. Such is the desperation to come back to power that the party general secretary, Obaidul Quader, recently went ahead to say, “Victory in the upcoming general elections for Awami League is merely a formality.”

Interestingly, foreign diplomats in Dhaka have taken note of the desperation; they have been repeatedly urging the Awami League government to conduct free and fair elections. They have also asked the election commission to take measures to avoid the boycotts and violence that marred the 2014 elections. Unfortunately, the independence of the commission has been questioned too, and there are reasons for it. During the presidential elections in February, the law minister, Anisul Huq, announced the poll date two days before the EC could formally do it. Soon after, the election commissioner, K.M. Nurul Huda, had to admit the commission is working to regain the trust of the people.

December shall clearly be a testing time for the election commission. But the people of Bangladesh are in a fix too. They do not know if their vote can restore democracy or if they shall have to make do with Wajed’s idea of development for the third time in a row.

 It appeared in The Telegraph, June 27, 2018

The growing India-Israel bonhomie is all too well known. A critical part of the ties is India shopping military muscle in Israel. But, as Sonia Sarkar finds out, all’s not well despite eagerness on both sides to do business

Sonia Sarkar Jun 24, 2018 00:00 IST

DEEP END: Modi with Netanyahu at the Olga Beach during his 2017 Israel visit

A hundred years have passed since Indian soldiers laid down their lives to liberate the Israeli city of Haifa from the Ottoman army. A century later, it is India that looks up to the military prowess of Israel. The Narendra Modi-led government wants more and more Israeli defence companies to open shop in India and the latter have embraced the opportunity with gusto.

In 2017, Israel signed a $2 billion deal with India to supply advanced missile defence systems – the biggest such deal in the history of Israel’s defence industries.

Israeli defence companies such as Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Limited, Elbit Systems, Aeronautics Limited and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Limited – that specialise in manufacturing UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), radars, avionics and other defence equipment – have entered into joint ventures with private companies in India.

According to Thailand-based Asia-Pacific defence expert Jon Grevatt, it is a great fit. Israel is good at producing and developing missile, navigation and combat systems, unmanned surveillance and radar systems, all of which cater to India’s military needs. He adds, “Israeli military technologies match well with India’s strategic needs.”

Potential adversaries, Grevatt points out, surround both countries, a reason why they see themselves as military and strategic partners.

Modi and his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, have urged their respective defence ministries to involve public and private sectors to create the basis for viable, sustainable and long-term co-operation in defence. Last year, the I4F – India Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund – was launched.

Under the joint venture agreement, Israeli and Indian companies have been setting up manufacturing plants, working on the transfer of military technologies and developing strategic applications ( see box).

And while the ink is yet to dry on many of these, what is definitely not new is the exchange – Israel has been supplying complete systems such as radar, air defence, drones and air-to-surface missiles to India for two decades now.

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) estimates, India accounted for 49 per cent of Israel’s arms exports between 2013 and 2017. Sipri is an independent global security institute. IAI, Elbit and Rafael have increasingly gotten involved in supplying components for weapon systems developed in India – radar for the HAL manufactured light combat aircraft, Tejas, battlefield management system for the Arjun tank.

Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher, Arms and Military Expenditure Programme at Sipri, feels the next step is co-operative development between the two nations but there are hiccups galore. “Considering India’s own unimpressive record in developing advanced arms, it is not in a position to be an equal partner in technological terms with Israel. The relationship will remain one in which the Israeli arms industry will supply technology and India, money. A recent example of such a project is the ongoing development of the medium-range surface-to-air-missile air defence system, based on the Israeli IAI and Rafael Barak-8 system.”

Politically, for years, India has been a critic of Israel and supported the Palestinian cause, while maintaining good terms with the Arab world. It was only after the Cold War ended that India established full-fledged diplomatic relations with Israel.

During the 1999 Kargil war, Israel provided India with mortar ammunition and surveillance drones along with intelligence inputs. A 2013 book titled 1971 by Srinath Raghavan, however, reveals that India also received arms from Tel Aviv when it was preparing to go to war with Pakistan in 1971.

Arms supply to India picked up after 2000, when Israel, pressured by the US, stopped exporting to China.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli prime minister to visit India and the Delhi Statement on Friendship and Cooperation was signed. During the same visit, the deputy prime minister of Israel, Yosef Lapid, observed that India and Israel had the “closest ties in defence” and Israel was the “second largest supplier of weapons to India”. Russia was the largest supplier then.

The current BJP government has taken business relations between the two nations to a new level. In a deviation from the past, India abstained from voting against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015, when a resolution was passed against it for “alleged war crimes” in Gaza. In 2017, Narendra Modi was the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel but he didn’t visit Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian authority. (He went later, on a separate visit.) Once again, last year India maintained a stoic silence for over a month before voting in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution that rejected US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Indian PM has also urged Israeli defence firms to take advantage of the “liberalised” foreign direct investment (FDI) regime.

But Israeli companies, it seems, want more. Amit Cowshish, an Indian defence expert, puts things in context. “The Israeli companies have not invested much in India because of the virtual cap of 49 per cent on FDI that denies a decisive say to the investor in the management of the investee company. The total foreign direct investment in defence since 2014 has been just about Rs 1 crore,” he says.

Bureaucratic issues, apparently, remain a deterrent for investing companies. “The fact that the ministry of defence has been slow in awarding big time contracts to the private sector may also be a discouraging factor, because it indicates that the business potential is not really getting converted into actual business for the industry,” says Cowshish, who used to be financial adviser (acquisition) at the ministry of defence.

The recent termination of the $500 million deal for “Spike” anti-tank missiles and missile-launchers from Rafael is not good news either, nor so the series of flip-flops that punctuated the negotiations. For example, a few days before Netanyahu’s January visit to India, it was reported that the deal had fallen through.

But when the Israeli PM was in Delhi, he announced that the deal had been revived. A recent report, however, confirms that the defence ministry decided to retract the request as Rafael refused to a complete transfer of technology as per the provisions of the Make in India initiative.

“Arms procurement in India appears to be prone to delays in final decisions, confusing decisions, confusing government statements, delays in contract and deliveries, even cancellations and restarts of cancelled plans,” says Wezeman of Sipri. He continues, “Such flip-flops erode India’s credibility both as a responsible buyer and as a promising destination for investment.”

However, it is not as if Israel is the lone option for India. Wezeman talks about how Israel encounters heavy competition from other arms industries. “India started to look at the US as an arms supplier about a decade ago. Plus, India is the most important export market for the Russian arms industry since the 1960s,” he says.

But Israeli military equipment is highly competitive in the world market and stands out, argues defence expert Grevatt. “Israel doesn’t make fighter aircraft or submarines or surface combatants as does Russia. Israel makes the systems – their products are quite niche and the world’s best. Israeli systems can be integrated in Russian or US platforms. Israel is an experienced defence exporter and exports products all over the world,” he adds.

International defence experts draw attention to yet another angle to India’s military bonhomie with Israel. They say it is not all for the sake of strengthening the country’s defence sector but also to serve the Modi regime’s own interest. Maren Mantovani, member of the International Secretariat of the BDS National Committee (it leads the BDS movement for Palestinian human rights), says, “India’s Right-wing government uses the weapons imported from Israel as an instrument of repression and surveillance on its own people. The imports have heavily increased under the Modi regime and are hugely shifting towards small arms, drones, surveillance balloons and weaponry that is mainly deployed in internal conflicts.”

Newly-elected Kairana MP Tabassum Hasan tells Sonia Sarkar why she thinks it is possible to defeat the BJP in 2019.

The apartment in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar belongs to Tabassum Hasan’s younger brother. It is 11am but I am told Hasan fell asleep after sehri – the pre-dawn meal of fasting Muslims during the month of Ramzan – and she is still sleeping. These days, only the mornings are somewhat easy for her. In the evenings, she is busy attending iftar parties organised by various political parties. She is the toast of iftars, everyone wants to invite her after she dealt a stunning defeat to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recent Kairana Lok Sabha bypolls.

It is not long before Hasan enters the drawing room dressed in a white and pink cotton salwar-kameez. She says, “Everyone is congratulating me as if all of them were desperately waiting to see me win.”

The 47-year-old is now the only Muslim MP from Uttar Pradesh – a state with 19.26 per cent Muslim population. Hasan, who will begin her stint in this monsoon session, says, “Being the single Muslim MP from UP, everyone will keep an eye on me. I feel I have a huge responsibility now as a politician.”

The Kairana seat fell vacant after the sitting BJP member, Hukum Singh, passed away this year. Hasan, who belongs to the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), was backed by the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP).

Many regard the Kairana defeat of the BJP as the preview to a BJP-mukt UP in the 2019 parliamentary polls. In the 2014 polls, the BJP had secured 71 out of 80 seats in the state. But this March, the party lost two bypolls, one in Gorakhpur and the other in Phulpur. Kairana fell in May – it was the third big loss in a row.

But this is not the first time that Hasan has won this parliamentary seat. She won it in 2009 too. “But this win gives out the message that when the Opposition is united, the BJP and its communal agenda can be defeated.”

Hasan is wary of the BJP’s “communal agenda”. She has witnessed it in her own constituency. In 2013, a year before the BJP came to power at the Centre, 62 people died in communal violence in Shamli, the area under her jurisdiction, and neighbouring Muzaffarnagar. BJP leaders, including the late Hukum Singh, Sanjeev Balyan, Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana, were booked for instigating violence. After the riots, came the issue of mass Hindu exodus from Kairana. Singh blamed the Muslims for it, though much later, questions were raised about the authenticity of such claims.

In these bypolls, the BJP played the Jat vs Muslim card. But Hasan claims she got over 80 per cent of the Jat votes. “These Jats are Hindus. Why do you think they supported me? Ram, Krishna, Allah, all were with me,” says Hasan, who won by 50,000 votes.

Shortly before the bypolls last month, the BJP and Bajrang Dal also raked up the issue of “reverse” love jihad. Earlier, they had alleged that Hindu girls were being lured away by Muslim men and dubbed the phenomenon “love jihad”. This time round, they alleged that Hindu men were being made to join Islam with the promise of a job and marriage with a Muslim girl.

Hasan laughs at this. “The biggest love jihads have happened in the homes of BJP leaders. The party’s national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain’s wife, Renu, and minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s wife, Seema, are both Hindus. Who will talk about them?” she asks, and then adds indignantly, “Is this even an issue?”

The BJP never talks about issues that matter, she lashes out. She points out how around the time of the Kairana bypolls, the party created much hullabaloo over a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah that has been in Aligarh Muslim University for decades. Opposing the BJP’s attempt to divert from real issues, RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary coined the slogan, “Jinnah nahin, ganna chalega… Not Jinnah, sugarcane is the real issue here”. It was a nod to the statewide problem of non-payment of dues to sugarcane farmers by sugar mills.

Currently, the unpaid dues stand at Rs 1,000 crore. Hasan says, “Plus, the price of compost has gone up, the power tariff for tube wells has increased and soaring diesel prices are also taking a toll on farmers. Why doesn’t the BJP talk about all this?”

She seems to believe that no attempt by the Hindutva brigade to resurrect the Hindu versus Muslim debate can help the BJP anymore. “The fact that I am sitting in front of you as an elected MP is the biggest proof of that. Our strategy is to keep a direct connect with the people, raise real issues in Parliament, solve people’s problems. That’s the only way to defeat the BJP in 2019,” she says, as she pulls her white embroidered dupatta to cover her head. “Dhul chatayenge in sabko… We will make them bite the dust.”

In this hour-long meeting, for the first time, Hasan speaks with so much aggression. She is otherwise not much of a talker; one has to prod her for detailed answers. And she is very soft-spoken, too. I cannot help but ask how she hopes to survive in the male-dominated Parliament. “Don’t go by this side of mine,” she says. “I can be tough if need be.”

In a resolute voice she tells me she doesn’t really want anyone to project her success as a triumph of woman power. In fact, she clearly says, she doesn’t want to play the woman card for her political gains. “I won not because I am a woman. My opponent, Mriganka Singh, daughter of Hukum Singh, is also a woman. The fight was equal.”

Hasan grew up in a family of wealthy farmers at Saharanpur in west UP. She and her two sisters enjoyed absolute freedom at home. Her younger brother, Mansoor, tells me, “All important decisions were and are still taken by our sisters. Our parents never listened to the sons much.”

Her maternal grandfather, Shafquat Jung, was a Congress MP from Kairana between 1971 and 1977. Her father, Akhtar Hasan, was the pradhan, or chief, of the Sarsawa block in Saharanpur. Hasan tells me she had watched both of them at work closely and understood the tricks of the trade well before she took the plunge. She was also aware of the risks one takes in elections. She learnt how to garner the support of grassroots workers, too. “A lot of women don’t understand politics even if they join it. They cannot even decide whom to vote for; they do as the men in their family want them to do. That never happened in my case.”

The political training continued even after marriage. Her father-in-law, also Akhtar Hasan, was a Congress MP from Kairana between 1984 and 1989. “He was an astute politician,” says Hasan. She adds that while the older generations in both families were Congress loyalists, she and her husband, Munawwar Hasan, were closer to the SP.

Munawwar was elected to the Lok Sabha from Kairana in 1996 and Muzaffarnagar in 2004 on an SP ticket. Later, he joined the BSP. All through his political career, Tabassum sat through political meetings, played an active role in a lot of inner party decision-making and co-ordinated with party workers at the ground level. When Munawwar died in an accident, she assumed charge and fought the 2009 elections on a BSP ticket. “I had to take his legacy forward,” says Munawwar’s widow, who has since joined the RLD.

I tell her she has the reputation of being quite the party-hopper, to which she replies, “I always changed parties for the welfare of the people.”

Since her victory, Hasan has been targeted by various pro-BJP sites on social media. In those posts, certain controversial statements have been falsely attributed to her. A Facebook page titled “Yogi Adityanath-True Indian” quoted her as having said, “This is the victory of Allah and the defeat of Ram.” This post was shared over 3,700 times. Hasan finally lodged a police complaint and an investigation is currently underway.

She says, “I would like to ask the BJP, if you are fighting so much for Muslim women and their issues of triple talaq and talking about “sabka saath, sabka vikas”, then why are you so worried about a Muslim woman going to Parliament.”

Gorakhpur paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, currently out on bail, talks to Sonia Sarkar about the fateful night that changed his life

Dr Kafeel Khan with his daughter

When I meet him, he is trying to cajole

his little girl, Zabrina, into playing with him. First, he tosses her in the air, then pulls her onto his lap and thereafter, rocks her back and forth. But she is not interested, shrugs off his overtures and runs away.

“My daughter cannot recognise me anymore,” says Kafeel Khan, the 38-year-old paediatrician from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, who is just back home after spending eight months in jail.

Zabrina was barely eleven months old when Kafeel was arrested last September. She used to crawl then; now she can walk, climb and run. She could barely say “Papa” then, now she can string whole sentences. Says Kafeel, “As a paediatrician, I always tell parents, never miss the milestone moments of your child. But I have missed all her milestones. I couldn’t even celebrate her first birthday.”

Kafeel, who was assistant professor at Baba Raghav Das Medical College (BRDMC) in Gorakhpur, and eight others were held responsible for the deaths of at least 60 infants over a span of five days.

It all started on August 10, 2017, when the agency, Pushpa Sales, stopped supplying oxygen to the government-run hospital because of non-payment of dues worth Rs 68 lakh. Apparently, the company had sent 14 reminders to the authorities, including BRDMC principal Rajiv Mishra, UP health minister Siddharth Nath Singh and chief minister Yogi Adityanath to clear dues, but nobody paid any heed.

Dr Kafeel Khan with his family.

Pictures: Sonia Sarkar

When the hospital ran out of its supply of liquid oxygen by 7.30pm, an alert was put out on the WhatsApp group of the doctors. Kafeel was on leave, but upon getting the message he rushed to the hospital.

As he goes over that day’s incidents with me at his three-storey house – with an armed guard stationed at the entrance – in UP’s Basantpur, Kafeel claims he called the head of the department of paediatrics, Mahima Mittal, and Mishra, but nobody responded.

He says he arranged cylinders from a local hospital and a local agency. “There was no oxygen available in the hospital from 11.30pm to 1.30am. Every day, 12-13 children were dying of premature birth or because of Japanese encephalitis. But on August 10, 30 infants died. I cannot deny that the sudden stoppage of oxygen supply was one of the reasons for these deaths.”

He picks up his phone to show me an image from that fateful night. Four living infants along with a dead one cramped into a single warmer at the hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit. He also shows me screenshots of the calls he made to the higher authorities and the cash memos for the oxygen cylinders he bought from local vendors.

Along with his colleagues, Kafeel procured over 250 cylinders in 48 hours. The oxygen tank finally arrived on the night of August 12. By then, television channels were running his images and hailing him as the saviour. But on August 13, when Adityanath arrived to inspect the reason for the deaths, he blasted Kafeel.

“He told me, ‘You are Dr Kafeel? You bought cylinders? You think you are a hero? I will see…’ He thought I had informed the media about the mess in the hospital. At that point, my life turned upside down,” he recalls.

And before he knew it, Kafeel had moved from being saviour to villain.

Charges of corruption were levelled at him; it was alleged that he was running a private nursing home and diverting oxygen cylinders from the medical college to this nursing home. He lost his post of nodal officer under the National Health Mission at the 100-bed acute encephalitis syndrome ward at BRDMC. Well-wishers warned him that he could be killed in an encounter.

Fearing for his life, he left for Delhi on August 17 and stayed at an undisclosed location for a fortnight. Since he was untraceable, the police allegedly harassed his family. Kafeel’s daai, the elderly helper at his Basantpur home, tells in chaste Bhojpuri how the cops would often come around at night, banging on their door, when no male member was present in the house. When she refused to let them in, they barged in and ransac

On September 1, Kafeel’s elder brother, Adeel, was detained by the special task force (STF) in Lucknow. Realising that things could get worse, Adeel asked his brother to return. Says Kafeel, “I surrendered before the STF in Lucknow on September 2.”

Illustration: Suman Choudhury

The STF took him to a government guest-house in Sahjanwa, 251 kilometres from Lucknow, before handing him over to the police. He says, “They threatened to slap on me charges under the National Security Act. It was Id al-Adha that day, but I was not even allowed to offer prayers.”

Here, I ask him, if he was made a scapegoat because he is a Muslim; the ideological inclinations of the Adityanath regime are, after all, known to all. He pauses. His eyes, restless and sleep-deprived, are fixed on the floor for a few seconds. “When Mohammed Akhlaque was killed for allegedly storing beef and Junaid Khan was killed by random men during an argument over a train seat, I condemned them on Facebook. But when it happened to me…” He does not complete his sentence.

After another pause, he says, “Only Yogi ji will tell you if my Muslim identity was the only reason for punishing me. Yes, after a point, I thought I won’t be able to get out for the next five years, as long as he [Adityanath] is there.”

Kafeel’s wife, Shabista, and mother, Nuzhat Parveen, met the chief minister to plead his case, but all that Adityanath apparently told them was – “Justice will be done.”

The family remained silent for many months, but on April 9, when Manish Bhandari, the owner of Pushpa Sales and one of the nine accused, got bail, they realised they needed to expedite Kafeel’s case.

On April 18, Kafeel wrote a 10-page letter, explaining his role and appealing for justice. He wrote, “I surrendered to save my family from humiliation and misery, thinking, when I have not done anything wrong, I should get justice.”

The family released the letter to the national media. A week later, Kafeel was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court, which ruled out charges of “negligence” against him. “I still consider those 48 hours [from August 10 night to August 12] more harrowing than the eight months in jail. I am out now, my mother has got her child back, but those parents will never get their kids back,” says Kafeel.

Indeed. Some of the families I spoke with are still not convinced about Kafeel’s innocence. Some hospital officials believe he did nothing to save lives. It is uncertain if Kafeel will ever be back in the hospital; his suspension order is yet to be revoked. He says, “If they call me respectfully, I will go back. But I am not desperate to join them. I have suffered so much humiliation and misery.”

He plans to open a hospital to treat children suffering from Japanese encephalitis. Gorakhpur badly needs one. Right now, BRDMC is the only one that caters to ailing infants from UP, Bihar and Nepal. Primary healthcare centres in Adityanath’s constituency are tardy, hence the pressure on this hospital. “My hospital would cater to the needy,” promises Kafeel, fiddling with his goatee.

In eight months, his beard had grown longer than usual, but now the goatee is back. He is dressed in a white shirt, a pair of black trousers and a chequered tie, perhaps attired for a television interview earlier in the day. He has lost around 10 kilos.

In jail, he found solace in books. He read Ken Follett’s The Pillars Of The Earth, S.J. Whitcomb’s The World Never Ends and Robin Sharma’s Who Will Cry When You Die. Says Kafeel, “My biggest lesson from these was, I should never run away from a situation.”

Our meeting is interrupted by visitors. As he shares his ordeal with them, I enter his mother’s room. She is busy surfing news channels. All these months, she has been glued to the television, hoping to hear some news related to her son’s case. But they never showed anything on him, she complains, except when he was arrested and released.

Even Kafeel thought people had forgotten him. But on the day of his release, hundreds greeted him carrying banners saying “Dr Kafeel is our hero” and “Congratulations”. “I realised I am no longer tainted,” he says.

It’s Shab-e-Barat, the night of forgiveness for Muslims. I urge him to take a family photo before he leaves to pray. He stands next to Shabista, who has been stirring biryani rice in the kitchen. He drags an unwilling Zabrina into the frame too. In a few seconds, however, the child leaves their side and rushes to feed a cow at the main door.

Looking at her fondly feeding the bovine, I wonder, what Adityanath would have to say.

têtevitae

1979: Khan is born to an engineer father and a homemaker mother in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh

1998: Completes school from the Mahatma Gandhi Inter College there

2000-2012: Completes MBBS and MD from Manipal University, Karnataka

2013: Returns to Gorakhpur and joins Baba Raghav Das Medical College (BRDMC) as a senior resident for three years

2016: In August, is appointed assistant professor in the department of paediatrics

2017: Gets embroiled in the controversy that follows the BRDMC infant deaths. Goes undercover for a while but emerges thereafter and surrenders to the police

April 25, 2018: Is granted bail after spending eight months in jail

 

This story first appeared in The Telegraph, May 6, 2018.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/yogi-ji-will-tell-you-if-my-muslim-identity-was-the-reason-for-punishing-228349

ENDS

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  • ranginee09: It is clear, justice eludes many but to imprison a man for his humanitarian deeds in a civilised society leaves an permanent blotch in our criminal ju
  • ranginee09: The article points-out a very pertinent social ill. Social ostracisation in childhood may have unwanted results later in life. A child victim is not a
  • Seeker and her search: Thanks for reading, Anne. Yes, I know what you are saying.