Digital India
Mr Modi ensures to make new India through various initiatives. The Digital India programme launched on 1st  July, 2015 is a flagship programme of his government and the vision of this programme is to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. "Faceless, Paperless, Cashless" is one of proposed role of Digital India. For promoting cashless transactions and converting India into less-cash society, various modes of digital payments like banking cards, internet banking, mobile banking, mobile wallets and micro ATM. etc. have been introduced.

What is the ground reality of the digital India? Is it only a slogan/dream of Modi's government? After 3 years of launching of this programme how much success has been achieved and how people of India are practising this digital India programme in their daily lives. To know the above ground reality, a study was conducted in Kolkata. For this purpose, a sample of 200 people (male and female ratio—4:1) working as housing staff of urban housing colonies was selected randomly. They were salaried employees of a company and their monthly payments used to transfer into their bank accounts directly. About 80% of them had high school education, 10% of them attended primary level of education and rest 10% of them was just literate. About 95% of them had smartphones as well.

The study revealed that their smartphones were used as a status symbol, utilising mainly for their entertainment purpose. Their smartphones connected them to various social media, playing games and other activities. About 82% of them were unable to use their debit cards without assistance of others. They used to access banking facility manually. But they needed assistance to fill up deposit/withdrawal slips. According to their opinion, they did not like to lose their hard earnings through digital transactions. They opined that they did not read the languages of different apps in their smartphones. They only learned to imitate some operation for their own entertainment purpose. Even they shared that due to their lack in education banking officials used to misbehave them. They always prefer cash transactions.

According to Census report, 2011, literacy rate is 80.9% for men and 64.60% for women. Further, from various studies, it was revealed that after completing secondary and higher secondary education, a larger section of population are unable to write in their mother tongues and majority of them was unable to read and write in English properly.

So, when the government would understand this reality of the digital India? It is a distressing dream of Modi and his government. Variously, it is precedent that this type of slogan is a tool of winning votes.
Harashankar Ahikary, Kolkata

A Belated Tribute
Ashok Mitra's intellectual journey was a heretical one. After his graduation from the University of Dacca (now Dhaka) in East Bengal, he did his post-graduation in Economics from Benaras Hindu University (BHU). His early mentor in the discipline of Economics was Professor Amiya Kumar Dasgupta, who tutored a large number of brilliant students in the University of Dacca for two decades. While initiating Mitra in the discipline, Dasgupta was teaching at BHU. In the early 1950s, Mitra was an alumnus of the newly formed Delhi School of Economics.

Ashok Mitra (1928-2018) had a distinguished academic career. He did his Ph. D in the University of Rotterdam under the guidance of the eminent Dutch economist, Jan Tinbergen. Mitra taught in many reputed national and international institutions at different points of time, including Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta.

Mitra's professional career is quite interesting. He was the Chief Economic Adviser to the Central government in the Ministry of Finance during the period 1970-72, when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister. He resigned from the post in April 1972 because of his disagreements with Indira Gandhi.He also served the central government as the Chairman of the Agricultural Prices Commission.

Ashok Mitra served the Left Front (LF) government in West Bengal as Finance Minister from 1977 to 1986, when Jyoti Basu was the Chief Minister. During his tenure as the Finance Minister, Mitra fought for more fiscal powers of the States vis-à-vis the Centre. In the early 1980s, he vehemently opposed India's loan from International Monetary Fund (IMF) amounting to SDR 5 billion. He decided to quit the LF government as the Minister because of "serious differences of opinion" with Basu and "the policies and programmes of the CPI (M)-led government in West Bengal".

Though Mitra remained a leftist intellectual till the end of his life, he was an ardent critic of the CPI(M), particularly after the State violence in Nandigram. This is evident in his critical assessment of LF rule in West Bengal, which ended in 2011: "At a certain time in the early 1990s, successive electoral triumphs goaded the state CPI(M) bosses into the belief that the party was invincible, that they had the permanent lease on West Bengal… The assumption of invincibility encouraged sloth in both ideology and praxis… The promise to consult the people before taking crucial decisions was forgotten, panchayat bodies and kisan sabhas were sidelined, bureaucratic procedures took over. The rest is tragic history. No directive was issued to the police to handle delicately the agitators against forced acquisition of land. They shot down in cold blood unarmed women and children of peasant stock, something hitherto considered inconceivable for a Left administration" (The Telegraph, May 20, 2011).

Ashok Mitra's organic connection with Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) and its predecessor, Economic Weekly, is well known. In fact, his book, Calcutta Diary (1977), is a compilation of articles written for EPW (1972-75) under the signature A. M. The book is a testament of the tumultuous days of the 1970s. Only two articles in the book, written in 1968-69, were initially carried in Frontier, edited by Samar Sen, the radical Bengali poet and journalist. The book was dedicated to Samar Sen. Mitra also edited a seminal book in honour of Samar Sen with the title, The Truth Unites: Essays in Tribute to Samar Sen, which was published by a small publisher in Kolkata, Subarna-rekha, in 1985.

Ashok Mitra was equally proficient in Bengali and English polemical writings. In the last few years of his life, a Bengali socio-political and cultural fortnightly, Arek Rakam (A Different Journey) is being published from Kolkata under his editorship. In fact, Ashok Mitra represented a vanishing tradition of bi-lingual radical scholarship from West Bengal. His death on May Day, 2018, is quite symbolic in present time.
Arup Sen, Kolkata

International German Olympiad (15-28 July, 2018)
On 13.07.2018 German Deputy Consul General Mr J T Schrod wished Yukta Raj and Mayukhi Ghosh of Modern High School Kolkata all the best for their participation at the International German Olympiad (Internationale Deutscholympiade—IDO) 2018 in Freiburg.

The IDO is the largest German language contest in the world. Every two years, over 100 students from around the world demonstrate their knowledge of German language. This international German language competition, organised by the Goethe-Institut and the Internationaler Deutschlehrerinnen- und Deutschlehrerverband e.V. has been held in different German cities every two years since 2008.

Yukta Raj and Mayukhi Ghosh of Modern High School Kolkata competed with 400 students from eight different cities in India, to represent India in the IDO held at Goethe Institut Freiburg during 15-28 July 2018. Modern High School Kolkata is one of the most active PASCH ("Schulen: Partner der Zukunft"/ "Schools: Partners for the Future") schools in the country.

Globally millions of German learners participate in the national Olympiads in their home country and two winners from each country travel to Germany to participate in the International German Olympiad to earn the title of the best German learners in the world. The Internationale Deutscholympiade aims to inspire young people from overseas to take an interest in German language, science and culture. For many people the IDO in Germany means an opportunity to develop new perspectives for competitors' future careers, and to learn more about Germany as a place to study.
Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Kolkat

Repression on Rights Activists
Since the arrest of the five activists, lawyers and professors on June 6th in connection with Bhima-Koregaon, there have been protests and programmes condemning their arrest in all parts of the country—Nagpur, Pune, Mumbai, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and different cities in Punjab. It has been heartening to see so many people and organisations come together to express their solidarity with Advocate Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen and activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut. Every section of society from activists, artists, academics, intellectuals, workers, peasants, and every form of association from women, dalits, Muslims and marginalised sexualities came together in solidarity with Bhima-Koregaon and those arrested in connection with it. The terror of police machinery on social activists has now reached a stage where professionals and activists demanding democratic and constitutional rights for others are now being arrested and imprisoned themselves. Though far away from the site of incidents, these professionals and activists find themselves charged under sections of draconian laws that denies them bail for long periods of time and jeopordises their chances of fair trial.

The efforts to portray the constitutional rights of these activists as a conspiracy against the government, further aggravated by media trial, reveals the underlying efforts of the current regime to clamp down on movements led by people all over the country. When people are defending their land, forests and resources, the government, on behalf of corporations, indulges in 'encounter' killings of adivasis, most often women and children, like recently in Gadchiroli. When activists expose the loot of resources and state violence in such areas, they are charged with UAPA. Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, and in the past, Prof GN Saibaba have all been arrested for speaking out against such loot and killings or for providing legal help. The practice of 'encounter' killings preferred by the current government over the rule of law is distinctly visible in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, where Muslims are often the target of violence. Recently, Rajeev Yadav of Rihai Manch has been threatened with death for providing legal help to members of minority communities.

The chain of arrests is becoming longer every day with police acting with impunity, criminalising thought and legal, academic, journalistic and professional conduct. From the streets of Thoothkudi to villages along the proposed Chennai-Salem Expressway, from Bhangar to Saharanpur, each university campus under siege, and every part of the country where people are living in fear of police bullets, tear gas and lathis, or being sent to jail endlessly for daring to demand their rights, the assault on democratic principles and institutions is unmistakable and becoming severe. The revelations of conspiracy to kill democratic intellectuals like Girish Karnad, Prakash Raj, KS Bhagawan and others must be seen in light of the brutal murder of Prof M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh in Karnataka and are clearly in continuation of the killing of Dr Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra.

A section of corporate media, led by channels like Republic TV, has connived openly to further corporate interests, banishing any news of assault on peoples' lives and livelihood, running a media trial of activists based on fictitious "letters", fabricating stories, recently targeting people such as Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha among others. Apart from those arrested in connection with Bhima-Koregaon, convener of Telangana Democratic Front B Durga Prasad and students of Hyderabad Central University namely Prithvi Raj and Chandan Mishra, leaders of Democratic Students Union Badri, Ranjit, Sudhir, leaders of Majdoor Sangathan Samiti (MSS), including the president Bacha Singh and General Secretary of Vistapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA) Damodar Turi, and hundreds of protesters in Thoothkudi including defending lawyer S Vanchinathan, leaders of Bhangar movement in Bengal like Alik Chakrabarty, Kushal Debnath, Shar-mishta Choudhary, Ratul Banerjee, Pradeep Singh Thakur and many villagers, activists of Bhim Army including Chandrashekhar Azad 'Raavan', eight trade union activists of Reliance cable works at Maharashtra are some instances where draconian laws are used to intimidate people and crush their struggles. Hundreds of people protesting against the dilution of SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act on April 2nd 2018 have been arrested whereas the police perpetrators of violence leading to more than a dozen deaths are roaming scot-free.
Campaign against State Repression on Rights Activists

Vol. 51, No.4, Jul 29 - Aug 4, 2018