Democracy and Vote
India is the largest conceit of democracy. The term, 'democracy' has lost its importance in real sense because it is being used as a term of political business by the leaders of India. They compete and fight each other during any election to meet their own name and fame as an emperor. People's suffering is their prime instrument to earn vote. They almost promise false and they desperately divide the people according to the colour of their parties where race and castes, rich and poor and so forth are the parameters of people to people differences. Many ways they build up a team of opportunist and self-centered. Thus, people in general have to understand democracy as voting rights and political leaders are also happy with this understanding. They virtually do not teach the people about what democracy actually means. Consequently, if any citizen criticises activities of the ministers of a ruling government, he/she has to face harassment by police and others in different modes. The government does not consider the sufferings of largest section. The policy of demonetisation is one. Further, people live in this country only as resident because they have no citizenship card. Recently Aadhar Card is important as penicillium. Unfortunately, it is an identity of resident of India. So when, people would be citizen of this largest democracy? And how long this type of discrimination would run?
Harasankar Adhikari, Kolkata

Coin shortage
Giving coin-bags in different denominations instead of currency-notes in set withdrawal-limit by banks after demonetisation of old currency-notes of rupees 500 and 1000 proves that earlier coin-shortage, selling coin-bags at premium of 18-20 percent was artificial, and mainly because of ill-management of coin-circulation by Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Another factor is minting extra profit by shopkeepers by giving unwanted items like candies and chocolates in name of shortage of coins.

RBI should now well manage coin-circulations in a manner that carrying coins may be taken in a bulky manner by members of public, and situation may be created whereby forcing to accept unwanted items in place of coins may be made an offence.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi

Wooing Political Parties
It refers to media-reports about Union Finance Ministry officials giving clarification on loophole whereby political parties are free to deposit any amount of demonetised currency in their bank-accounts. It is nothing but making 'dirty' political money being whitened while people are made to suffer in long queues for deposit/exchange for old currency.

Otherwise also since political parties are guilty of not complying with full-bench CIC-verdict dated 03.06.2013 for their being covered under RTI Act, they have already lost every right to get any direct/indirect government-funding including dual-edged sword of Income Tax exemptions under sections 80GGB and 80GGC of RTI Act for contributions made-to/received-by political parties. These tax-exemptions are main reason of large number of about 2000 registered political parties out of which more than three-fourth not having contested any election!

Central government often amends law to plug loopholes in the system. Likewise in larger national interest and considering loophole now exposed, exemptions under sections 80GGB and 80GGC of Income Tax Act for contributions made-to/received-by political parties should be abolished with retrospective effect from 01.04.2016. Revenue so earned will be used for national development and public welfare which is much more important than unproductive expenditure made by political parties through cash received. It will automatically take care of allegations of opposition parties about ruling BJP investing large amount of cash in property-deals in recent past allegedly because of pre-knowledge about demonetisation.

Presently just 20-percent disclosure of contributions made to political parties is made public where contributions below rupees 20000 not being disclosed, with ultra-rich political party like BSP claiming not having received any one-time amount more than rupees 20000. This limit of non-disclosure should be reduced from present rupees 20000 to rupees 4000.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Delhi

Fight Against Slavery
Biram Dah Abeid, a prominent and outspoken anti-slavery activist in Mauritania was imprisoned in January 2015 for protesting the government's weak stance on tackling slavery. Walk Free community rallied behind Biram, taking 231,907 actions online, on the phone and in person, undertaken by activists. He was finally freed in May 2016.

Mauritania has one of the world's highest proportions of its population living in slavery. The government was the last to abolish slavery in 1981, but since then has failed to make progress towards its end. Biram's organisation, the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, acts as a rare voice in the country speaking out for the rights of those enslaved.

In May 2016, alongside fellow activist Brahim Bilal Ramdhane, Biram was honoured with the Trafficking In Persons Award, recognising his tireless efforts to protect victims of slavery in Mauritania. Disturbingly, while Biram was away, a wave of arrests authorised by the Mauritanian Government saw a group of his colleagues sent behind bars. Although 10 were finally released just a couple of weeks ago, three remain in prison, revealing just how much needs to be done to change attitudes towards ending slavery.
Joe, Joanna and The Walk Free Team

Highlighting Private Affairs
It refers to a photo news-item highlighted in prominent newspapers and flashed even by country's prominent-most news-agency about Union Minister Smiriti Irani sitting by side of a road-side cobbler and giving him a hundred-rupee note against ten-rupee demand made by the cobbler for stitching her slippers. But was the 'gesture' really news-worthy when there are numerous such gestures observed in day-to-day life of commoners.

Incident recalls an earlier photo news-item of Smriti Irani about her visit to an astrologer Pandit Nathulal Vyas in Karoi village of Bhilwara (Rajasthan) along with her husband Zubin Irani on a Sunday for a four-hour long meeting, where the astrologer was reported to have predicted Smriti Irani to become President of India in future! Astrologer had then claimed to have earlier made a 'correct' forecast of Smriti Irani getting a prestigious post which she got as Union Minister despite her losing Lok Sabha elections.

Big question is how such affairs are caught by Indian media to be so prominently highlighted. Indian media should be more responsible in giving news about private affairs of political rulers.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi

A New Education Policy (NEP) is being proposed and aggressively promoted by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and by the frontal organisations of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. The policy will Communalise, Commercialise and Centralise Education. It is Anti-People, Anti-Poor, Against Federal, Secular, Socialist values enshrined in the Constitution of India and against Social-Justice.

Several State Governments have already voiced their strong protests against this proposal for its disregard to India's federalism and cultural diversity. The proposed NEP obliterates the contributions that the Muslim, Christian and other communities have made to education in India. The Policy document revealed by the government on its HRD Ministry website is traced by researchers to documents and advocacy papers of frontal forums of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and prominent proponents of Hindutva politics and culture.

Educationists, Teachers, youth and civil society organisations, and political groups opposed to this policy staged a demonstration near the Parliament House on 17 November when Parliament was in session.

The March began from Mandi House in New Delhi at 10 a.m. and culminated in a mass protest on the Parliament Street. The march was endorsed by the ruling and opposition political parties of Tamil Nadu, the youth and students wings of the Conqress and others, and senior Civil Society activists.

The protest meeting on the Parliament Street was addressed by Mr Sitaram Yechuri, Mr Digvijay Singh, Mr D Raja, Mr Derek O'Brien, Mr K C Tyagi, JDU, Manoj Jha (RJD), Sudhindra Badhona, BSP, K Veeramani (Gen Secretary, Dravidar Kazhagam), Kanimozhi (MP, DMK), Vijila Satyaanuth (MP, AIDMK) & heads of religious groups and leaders of youth and student unions, trade unions and Civil Society.
Joint Action Committee
Against the Proposed
Anti-People Education Policy

The incoming Trump administration has said on multiple occasions that they would register Muslims.

This programme, known as NSEERS, already existed and was done under the Bush administration. 83,000 men from Muslim majority countries registered, and 13,000 were put into deportation proceedings. The person who designed the programme under Bush, Kris Kobach, is now part of the Trump team.

While the Obama Administration "deactivated" the prograrmme in 2011, the regulations that allow the programme still exist. Meaning : Trump could reactivate the programme on January 21st.

DRUM, ADC, and many others have been pushing the Obama Administration to get rid of the regulations. If they get rid of the regulations, Trump could still rebuild the programme but he would have to start from scratch. And that will give protestors opportunities to fight, organise, and possibly block the programme.

It is very urgent to get the Obama Administration to dismantle the regulations NOW before they leave office.
Fahd Armed,

Save the Sunderbans
The Sundarbans—the largest single tract mangrove forest, extraordinarily rich in biodiversity, a Ramsar Site, the UNESCO-declared World Heritage site is now in grave danger of losing its unique biodiversity and extra-ordinary eco-system for the planned coal fired power plant along with many other commercial projects in and around the forest. The Sundarbans, to preserve its outstanding universal value, now demand global public action for its survival.

The joint project of PDB (Bangladesh) and NTPC (India) for 1320 MW Rampal coal-fired power plant has become a deadly threat for the survival of Sundarban. In addition, it is inviting a range of national and international vested interest groups to grab forest and set up hundreds of commercial projects in and around the Sundarbans that clearly issued its death warrant. This has not only put the livelihood of at least 3.5 million people at risk, it has made the lives of around 50 million coastal people vulnerable to natural disasters as the Sundarbans have also been a huge natural safe-guard against frequent cyclone, storm and other natural disasters in the country.

The 5-year-old people's movement for the cancellation of this Rampal Power plant, has attracted attention of many social activists from around the world, they have already expressed their solidarity for the campaign to save Sundarbans. Now it is urgent to consolidate public opinion around the world to make the resistance global. A grand rally on November 26th, 2016, in Central Shaheed Minar; Dhaka organized by the National Committee and attended by more than 15 thousand people from different parts of the country, has made a call to everybody in this planet to observe a Global Day of Protest on January 7, 2017 to raise collective voice to save the Sundarbans. The observance of a global day would strengthen unity, uphold common spirit, and take struggle to a new level to protect the mother-nature from the disastrous profit hungry projects. The global solidarity is likely to open up the opportunity to create worldwide awareness for environment and ecology-friendly power generations and sustainable development that put people and environment before corporate profit.
National Committee to Protect Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources, Power and Port, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Vol. 49, No.27, Jan 8 - 14, 2017