Monday, 5 September 2016

Utsav At Gulbai

Ahmedabad's very own Bohemian commune residing at Gulbai Tekra aka 'Hollywood' make the most spectacular Ganesha idols. Join us as we document them in DraftCraft's 'Love, Life, Law' series.
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DraftCraft Goes International

Here, we tackle issues of Immigration through 'Visa Versa'; Affirmative Action through 'We, The People'; Cross-border Crimes through 'Beyond Borders' as well as Insurgency; Rule Of Law; Inclusion and more.
DraftCraft International launches its first beyond India.. www.DraftCraft.US ...which will deal with matters relating entirely and exclusively to United States of America brought to fore by its own citizens, naturalised, immigrant and indigenous across the world's oldest democracy. For USA, India is a natural ally. The Boston Tea Party and Dandi March bear uncanny resemblances and a common enemy...and so do our more recent terror concerns.
www.DraftCraft.US is presently work in progress. Keep watching the site.


Sunday, 26 June 2016

Say Your Bit But Do It Legally

By Gajanan Khergamker

Recently, the media has been rife with reports of the recently-nabbed rapist and murderer of the Kerala law student having had “sex with goats”. A leading newspaper’s report’s screamed ‘Accused used to mutilate animals’ private parts.’ 
Incidentally, all of this was revealed following police interrogation in which the accused ‘confessed’ that he used to mutilate the private parts of the animals he had raped and often killed after having “used them”.
The 23-year-old migrant labourer from Assam has been under police custody since his arrest on June 16. The police also claimed to have recovered a video of Islam having sex with the goat of a family in Perumbavoor. He is also seen mutilating the private parts of the animal in the video. According to the police, the video was shot by one of Islam’s friends also another migrant labourer who helped the police identify the accused.
The police suspect that some of the acquaintances of the suspect would also commit acts of bestiality with animals. They used to shoot the video of others having sex with animals. Islam also has the habit of watching porn movies on his mobile phone. When the news of Islam’s sexual perversions came out, people from the locality took their goats and cows to veterinary hospitals for medical checkups. The accused was arrested from Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu after a one-month-long investigation by the Kerala police.
Reportedly, the DNA-test conducted by the police confirmed that the accused was the rapist and murderer of the Kerala law student.
Also, for over a month, every newspaper in the nation has been making public the identity of the Kerala law student in flagrant violation of the law of the land. It must be understood that we may disagree but, in the world’s largest democracy, well-meaning institutions are bound by the law and operate ‘within’ legal frameworks.
DraftCraft wishes to highlight two tendencies of modern journalism that need to be addressed with urgent immediacy. The gravity associated with a story on rape or murder notwithstanding, the media should never ever compromise on objectivity and the law. More often than not, media practitioners some even senior journalists aren’t aware of the following:
1)   According to Section 25 of Indian Evidence Act, any Confession to police-officer not to be proved. No confession made to a police-officer shall be proved as against a person accused of any offence. This section is very broadly worded. It strictly disallows any confession made to the police officer as inadmissible no matter what the circumstances. This is to ensure that confessions are not forcibly extracted by the police from an accused to implicate him in any crime.
2)   Revealing the name of a rape victim is punishable under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code which prohibits the disclosure, not only of the victim’s name, but also of facts that could lead to the identification of the victim, such as the place of residence, identifying or naming the victim’s family or friends, university, or work details.
Now, for those who find a problem in adhering to the above, there is a democratic procedure to alter the same and change the law. Breaking the law to announce its impotency even while there are perfectly legal procedures to change it, doesn’t make any sense and borders on the commission of an illegal act too. In doing so, media professionals step on the wrong side of law. No amount of freedom immunises you from an act of crime done willfully. Publishing even on social media places the author at risk of breaking the law. You could have an FIR filed against you for an IPC violation; a magistrate’s order urging police action; a suit of defamation filed by one legally hurt or action under the IT Act. Say your bit but do it legally.
Don’t say you weren’t told!

Your Watchman Could Be Pallavi's Killer!

By Gajanan Khergamker

Now, Sajjad Mughal, the security guard sentenced for life for the phenomenal attempted rape and murder of Mumbai-based lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha has jumped parole. After being lodged in the Nashik Central Jail in July 2014, Mughal was granted parole in February this year and expected to report back to the jail on May 28 but hasn’t returned underlining popular fears of a repeat crime in the imminent future.
According to National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) figures, in the decade preceding 2014 almost 8,900 inmates, most facing charges like murder and rape, skipped parole and were yet to serve remainder of their sentences. Of these, the cops could arrest only 2,062. Evidently, 6,838 of the criminals are still free and a series of crimes are perhaps waiting to occur, once again.
Housing societies across India are fraught with risk. And, the risk more often than not lies within. The very security service the society employs is riddled with a series of flaws and legal lapses. So, while societies tend to employ guards without police clearances and from security services that aren’t ‘registered,’ to save on a few thousand rupees, they don’t realise that they risk life, limb and property in the very process.
Let’s see that way the guards work. We all know that nobody can work 24x7 for 365 days in a year.  With him asleep or out of his senses most of the time, there’s really no way, a security guard performs his duty of keeping any society secure by day or night. The society’s officials manage to keep a security personnel ‘on a chair’ to placate its members and the watchman gets a salary for sitting asleep in his place and everyone’s happy: that is only till the law catches up with everyone or, worse still, that catastrophe lurking around the corner, finally happens.
By law, besides being forced to do just an eight-hour shift, a guard is entitled to a weekly off too. You can’t make a watchman work for 12-hour shifts for days on end without giving him a break. It has been decided that if a Security Guard is found sleeping while on duty or not found at his work place at the time of Night Checking by the Inspectors of the Security Guard Board for Brihan Mumbai and Thane District, for example, the concerned Security Guard will be liable to fine for such misconduct, equivalent of four (4) days’ wages.
But then, with motivated authorities more than keen to turn a blind eye to the sleepy activities of watchmen, the law is given the convenient go-by placing both life and property of residents at risk. This anomaly gathers further momentum with the absence of authorities to regularise the guard-society arrangements.
There is also a pressing need to keep identity records of watchmen/guards working at societies through the intervention of the local police who should be involved at all times.
Cooperative housing societies risk life and property directly by employing shady fly-by-night security agencies to provide them services at low cost and untaxed/unbilled arrangements. Worse still, they don’t bother checking its credentials.
While the instances of watchmen and security personnel directly involved in acts of brutality, murder and robbery targeting the very members they are supposed to protect, society officials continue to flagrantly violate the law governing security personnel which is well in place too.
While, cooperative housing societies, on their part, are not covered by The Maharashtra Private Security Guards (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1981 that was passed with retrospective effect from 29th June, 1981 as they don’t qualify as either ‘factories’ or ‘establishments’ under the law and hence don’t have to complete any formalities.
That however, doesn’t stop them from scrutinising the credentials of the security agency making tall claims of having offered services to factories / establishments / shops / commercial chains:

  • The agency has to be registered – by law - with the Security Guards Board of Brihan Mumbai and Thane District.
  • Under the act, both the Principal Employer and the Employer Agency have to get registered with the Board.
  • The security guards of the employers should open their individual Saving Bank Accounts in Union Bank of India which is near to the place of their posting.
  • After opening individual Saving Bank Accounts, they should submit the list of their Account Numbers alongwith their Name and Registration Numbers to the Board.
  • The cheques of the payment are distributed from 5th to 12th and thereafter on Tuesday and Friday upto 25th of every month on receipt of Wages and Levy cheques by the Board.
  • Even for disbursement of cheques, the guards need to present their Identity Cards.

Sounds like a tall order doesn’t it, at least for the present lot of watchmen we’re forced to deal with, right?

But then, that’s the law, well in place for you. Cooperative housing societies don’t have to deal with shabby watchmen, leaving their sites at the drop of a hat, scratching away at unmentionables in full public view and more.
All they need to do is establish their credentials by visiting any of their ‘factory’ or ‘establishment’ sites and double-check their claims; insist on copies of documents that they have provided the police while applying for a license; draw up a detailed legal agreement between the cooperative housing society and the agency enlisting the list of pertinent office orders among the string laid down by the statute with list of corresponding penalties and ensure it delivers.


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Walk To Dandi Launched in Ahmedabad

Independent editor, legal counsel and film-maker Gajanan Khergamker launched the Gujarat Chapter of DraftCraft, a media legal think tank, on January 26th 2016. DraftCraft - The Ahmedabad Studio on the city's prime Ashram Road is the venue for media-legal meetings, educational workshops, public consultations, key discussions, photography shows, niche exhibitions and legal debates with members of the public, media, legal fraternity and professionals. DraftCraft - The  Ahmedabad Studio initiated its activities in Gujarat with the Walk To Dandi series on March 12th 2016 exactly 86 years after Mahatma Gandhi initiated the Dandi March in March-April 1930.

Here goes a map of DraftCraft's Ahmedabad Studio


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Not Easy To Bully India, Now!

By Gajanan Khergamker

When around 50 students were either deported or stopped from boarding a United States-bound flight at Hyderabad,which incidentally sends in the highest number of students to the U.S. for higher studies, it made news in India.

Being deported or stopped from boarding a U.S.-bound flight has been a regular occurrence and would always be met with deep-rooted servility also not considered worthy of being published. After all, going to the U.S. was always an achievement of sorts. And that view: “There must have been some issue with our people…we’re like that only,” would pervade. So, a rap on the knuckles for trying to enter into the U.S., however legally, would be met with little or no resistance. This time around, things were different. India took umbrage.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate, in New Delhi on January 26, 2015

“We were treated badly by the U.S. officials. Even after confirming I had all documents in place, they said I cannot be allowed into the U.S. They gave me the option of withdrawing the visa or said they could cancel it, barring my entry into the U.S. for five years,” said a student while others and their family members were left furious over the on-going deportations and the “embarrassment and insult” they have to suffer.

Apparently, one section of the U.S.administration — Customs and Border Protection — refused to honour the visa given by the other — the U.S. Consulate. This underlined the fact that a visa issued was not a guarantee for U.S. entry. What is important is that immigration officials at the port of entry should be satisfied with the intent of one’s visit leaving it open to subjective interpretation and discretion which would almost always be arbitrary.

The Indian government swiftly sought an explanation from the U.S. on why so many Indian students with valid visas were denied entry into the country and took up this matter with the U.S.government. “We have asked the U.S. authorities to explain the reasons for denial of entry on a large scale to Indian students holding valid visas. The response of the U.S. Government is awaited,” said the Ministry of External Affairs.

Concurrently and in a similarly tough tone, India warned the U.S. of consequences for its companies if lawmakers tighten visa rules on high-tech firms as part of an immigration overhaul. India perceives a decision to restrict certain temporary visas for skilled workers as a sign that the U.S. economy is becoming less open for business.

Taking an aggressive stand, probably for the first time after the Khobragade imbroglio, India has underlined the fact that U.S. can’t treat it lightly as in the past. In 2015, international students contributed more than $30.5 billion to the U.S. economy and India’s role was colossal. In the 2014-15 academic year, 1,32,888 Indian students were studying in the U.S. up 29.4 per cent from the previous year. India held the second leading place of origin for students coming to the U.S. and comprises 13.6 per cent of the total international students in the U.S. In 2015, Indian students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed $3.6 billion to the economy.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi with students...a formidable force in the nation

India had been the leading place of origin for international students in the U.S. for eight years from 2001-02 through 2008-09. In 2009-10, China replaced India as the top sender and remains in that position today. The number of Indian students in the U.S. is more than double of what it was in 1999-2000.

Now, let’s examine the role of China. In all 3,04,040 students from China are studying in the U.S. today. The number is up 10.8 per cent from the previous year. China remains the leading place of origin for students coming to the U.S. for the sixth year in a row and makes 31.2 per cent of international students studying in the U.S. In 2015, Chinese students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed $9.8 billion to the U.S. economy.

The Indian Diaspora particularly comprising students, has grown from strength to strength. Now, in particular, no foreign nation – however powerful - can afford to take India lightly. With purchasing power on the rise coupled with the newly-fangled tough-speak and positivity, India has arrived. In 2014, over 3,00,000 Indian students went abroad for further studies as did more than 6,50,000 students from China. Though the number of students going abroad is higher in China, India has shown a 10 percent increase as compared to China’s 8 percent. Almost 85 per cent of Indian students going abroad to study head to U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Now, let’s examine the viability options for India where students from the U.S. are concerned. India isn’t a preferred choice for U.S. students to study abroad. A U.S. student is likely to opt for UK, Italy, Spain, France, China and so on before considering India, which comes 12th in terms of hosting U.S. students.

In the academic year 2013-2014, only 4,583 students - a meagre 1.5 per cent of total students who leave the U.S. to study abroad - came to study in India and fetched a pittance by way of contribution to the Indian economy. Compare that to the whopping $3.6 billion, Indian students contributed to the U.S. economy in 2015. Stopping them en route seems like shooting oneself in the foot.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Goan Feni Is Now A 'Heritage Spirit'

DraftCraft's year-old campaign starting December 2014 to promote Goa's hidden treasures through its Goa Chapter through campaigns that include the controversial resumption of mining in the state, promotion of a 30,000-year-old petroglyphs at Usgalimal, projection of heritage zones like Fontainhas and the popularisation of quaint and fragile Goan Feni that risks extinction finally gets vindicated as the Goa government decides to promote Feni as a Heritage Drink.

On 24 January 2016, Goa's Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said Feni has a lot of useful qualities, especially its medicinal value due to which it can be used to cure a number of ailments, while speaking as chief guest at the first stakeholders’ meet for the development of Feni organised by department of excise in collaboration with The Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association and All Goa Toddy Tappers Association at Taleigao.

“We have missed the bus in promoting Feni to outsiders and cashing in on its popularity with tourists. Both coconut and cashew Feni are not mere liquors and the cashew and coconut trees are part of our culture,” he added.

So, we could expect nature tourism to receive a fillip in the state which will soon have tourists dropping in to see cashew plucking and the process of making Feni. Mr. Parsekar seems to be leaving no stone unturned to promote Feni as an intrinsic part of Goa's culture.

Steps in the production of Feni - A Walk-Through!







Step 1 - Cashew fruit being loaded in a motor crusher for crushing

Step 2 - Cashew fruit pulp being collected for juicing

Step 3 - Cashew fruit pulp being squeezed in a mechanical juicer

Step 4 - Juice from cashew pulp being collected

Step 5 - Cashew fruit juice being stored in barrels for fermentation for 8 days

Step 6 - Fermented cashew fruit juice being transferred into pots for distillation

Step 7 - Fermented juice being brought to a boil in earthen pots

Step 8 - The vapours pass through pipes submerged in water tanks for cooling

Step 9 - Once cooled, the vapours condense into a distillate collected at the other end

Step 10 - The first distillate is called Urrack which is then added to fermented cashew juice in the subsequent rounds to form Feni


Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Goa: Perception vs Reality

Despite a majority population in Goa and in Arambol, being Hindus, the temples and architectural marvels are hardly talked about or find mention in news, historical references or tourist itineraries. It is the skewed perspective of a pro-West media and a pseudo-liberal tourism industry that popularises fairly recent architectures during the Portuguese rule. There is an urgent need to change the perception.
Bharat’s smallest state has been in the news for a host of reasons, mostly for wrong reasons. However, and sadly too, the news has almost always revolved around beaches, churches, cheap alcohol and molestations. Why, look at Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses which won the BNL People’s Choice Award at the 10th anniversary of the Rome Film Fest. The film also picked up the runner’s up Audience Award in Toronto. Plugged as the first Bharateeya ‘female buddy movie’, with, a rape in Goa thrown in for effect, it went on to win awards much like Masaan.
Most recently, mining and the associated issues of “growth and development being affected adversely,” created ripples in Goa till the Apex Court had to intervene. Incidentally, the economy of the state is driven mostly by tourism and mining. With mining under pressure from all quarters, the focus has shifted to tourism. The state’s economic dependence on Foreigners vis-à-vis Bharateeyas to bolster the sector has been debatable though. Statistically, only a fraction of foreign tourists contribute to Goa’s welfare as compared to a colossal majority of Bharateeyas. And, the scales continue to tip even further, year after year.
For decades, tourism in Goa has been synonymous with rave parties, drugs and more recently, a pseudo-dependence on Russian charters and Israeli travellers. Next on the mind of tourists are the churches and towns reminiscent of the Portuguese and their occupation of Goa. And, that’s it. There is nothing else about Goa that grabs the tourist’s fancy. A whopping 66 per cent of the state’s population bear allegiance to Hinduism. Goa houses thousands of temples built by Hindu dynasties ruling for centuries, long before the Portuguese even had a home state of their own, yet the structures never find mention in travel guides or tour packages.
History bears testimony to the fact that the Portuguese conquest of Goa was closely followed by the systematic destruction of Hindu temples and the ruin of all things symbolic of Hinduism. These temples had been built in traditional mould using wood or stones such as sedimentary rock. But, after destruction, the rebuilding led to an architectural mix of various contemporary styles completely transforming the original structure. Discrimination against the Hindus forced them to migrate to neighbouring areas. Many families continued to stay while others returned to Goa only later. Local Hindus were extremely devout and, despite vehement Portuguese efforts to sever their religious roots, held onto their culture.
The existence of Goa in Hindu mythology and scriptures dates back to 1,000-500 B.C. where it finds mention as Gomanta or Gomantak in the epic Mahabharat and other ancient Hindu scriptures. Goa is known as a ‘pure’ patch of land created by Lord Parashuram, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu to perform sacrificial rituals. He fired an arrow from the Western Ghats (Sahyadris) in the Arabian Sea (Sindhu Sagar), which landed in Bannali (Benaulim) where the sea retreated to give way to land between the rivers Mandovi and Zuari (i.e. Gomati and Asghanasini in Hindu mythology).
Several legends are associated with Goa or Gomantak and continue to remain popular among locals but are rarely showcased to tourists owing to little or no efforts to promote and popularise the culture. In one, for instance, after a dispute with wife Parvati, Lord Shiva took temporary shelter in Goa. In another, Lord Krishna defeated the king of Magadha, Jarasandha, on the Gomanchal Mountain in Goa. In a third, Lord Krishna was enamoured by the beauty of this land and he named the land Govapuri.
In north Goa, Arambol is symbolic of the myopic treatment of the state. The pristine town with predominantly Hindu families comprising more than 71 per cent of the total population, followed by Christians and Muslims, has failed to attract visitors to the myriad temples and structures spread across the small, fishermen town. These temples continue to be the hub of social and cultural activities for local residents.
Arambol - traditionally and locally called ‘Harmal’, was one of the places where the Pandavas lived during their recluse. On how the name Harmal came to be, it is believed that the Pandavas arrived at midnight chanting “Har Har Mahadev” which gave rise to the name ‘Harmal’ which was later changed to Arambol under the Portuguese influence. Harmal also means ‘Lord Vishnu’s land’ that could be another reason for the name. Locals firmly believe Arambol is pavitra bhumi (Pure Land) that is why it was chosen for rituals in mythology.
According to another legend, Lord Parashuram and the Pandavas found the place to perform the yagna but Draupadi started menstruating and Parashuram decided to stop the ritual. The Pandavas left the place shouting “Hari... Hari…Harmal” and that’s how the name came to be. Another legend describes two ruler brothers, Har and Mal, who came from the South and were constantly fighting, eventually made this land their capital and called it Harmal. The Pandavas are also believed to have built the famous Narayan (Vishnu) Temple when they passed through Harmal.
The famous Sweet Lake or Sweet Water Lake in Arambol is a small natural lake formation that holds lure for foreign tourists seeking a quiet retreat for meditation and solitude. Sadly, even Arambol regulars are unaware of the spectacular history  associated with the lake. Sweet Water Lake is called Parashuram Kund. The hills surrounding the lake are known for housing a banyan tree that attracts spiritual seekers looking for peace and isolation. Tourists love to take a dip in its crystal clear waters. The hills around the lake once sheltered the Pandavas.
The Sweet Water Lake end of a cave where the Pandavas lived has submerged and cannot be entered. However, the other end of the cave opens out to the adjoining Keri beach. The Keri side of the cave is on higher ground and can be accessed easily. Right outside the cave at Keri, is a big rock that, according to legend, was placed by Bheem, one of the Pandava brothers. This rock is unique because it rests delicately on three points on the otherwise uneven surface below and has remained unmoved for centuries.
According to a legand, when Parashuram brought the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins to Goa, he settled ten great sages here. The northern end of Harmal beach has a hill (Bhasma Dongor) where Parashuram performed the fire sacrifice (Ashwamedha) and the soil here still contains the sacrificial ashes. Today, the Parshuram shrine on this hill is popular with meditating tourists. Another legend goes on to tell how after performing this ritual, seven sages called the Saptarishis were blessed by Lord Shiva and came to be called as the Saptakoteshwar.
This quaint beach town is also home to several temples of various Hindu gods and goddesses; The Narayan Temple, Ravalnath Temple, Shree Bhumika Temple, Giroba Temple and Mahadev Temple to name a few. However, it is the Giroba temple, which is considered the village temple by local Hindus in Arambol. The Ravalnath temple is another sacred temple and home to the village god or gram devta. Shree Bhumika temple has an ant-hill at the centre that is frequented by snakes that are worshipped by the locals. Each temple has a history and a story of its own relating to its existence that establishes links to ancient times and several dynasties in the past few centuries. A temple is an integral part of the neighbouring community and each family takes responsibility and contributes in its own way towards the upkeep, cleanliness and maintenance of the temple.
During festivals, families gather in their respective community temples to celebrate and meet people. One of the most important and sacred festivals celebrated in Arambol is Ganeshutsav. Strictly a family affair, it is the most auspicious festival in Arambol and Goa among the Hindus. Entire families unite in their ancestral homes that are intricately decorated in bright colours. Women of the house cook exquisite dishes. Priests perform the puja everyday till the Ganpati idol is finally immersed into the local water body.
Arambol has a distinct characteristic to it because the locals have managed to keep it immunised from the pressures of development and tourism. The town does not have any five-star hotel or resort and offers a laid-back, serene experience to travellers who mostly come here to partake in a bohemian lifestyle or practise spiritual and healing arts. Yoga and meditation, integral to Bharat and Hinduism, are widely practised in Arambol as compared to the more touristy beaches like Calangute, Baga, and others. The ambience, the air, water and soil of Arambol naturally lend spiritual energy to the place.
Locals talk with pride of their traditions in terms of festivals and about how they continue to practise fishing. The fishermen community members undertake fishing as a social activity. About 40-50 fishermen work together and manoeuvre large motor-less boats into the sea. They work collectively in a sort of informal partnership. The fishermen have a unique way of fishing: They never use motor boats and always hand row into the sea and believe that it ensures the catch is delicious as the fish do not get injured by the motor or other equipment before being caught. Huge, knitted nets are used to secure the catch and bring it back ashore. Most fishermen respect this unwritten law. However, if someone breaks the rule, he is punished as decided by the group. It may include a fine or even thrashing.
Traditional Hindu homes are symbolic of the centuries old Hindu architecture. The houses are simple yet rich in their heritage. It is believed that Goan Hindus are purer than the rest because of centuries of living in isolation and subsequent insulation from external influence. They are believed to be more traditional and dedicated in terms of practising rituals and following customs which they have preserved over the centuries. The Hindu families in Arambol display the same sense of devoutness in observing customs and performing rituals.
Another unique feature of the socio-cultural framework in Arambol is the co-existence of different communities, particularly nomadic tribes that have diversified and enriched the culture in Arambol. Gypsies from across Bharat such as Waghris (from Gujarat), Banjaras or Lamanis (from Karnataka) and Pardis (from Maharashtra) live and work on the beach. Tourism and tourism-related activities provide employment opportunities to these tribals. Young girls belonging to these tribes and dressed in their ethnic costumes can be seen parading the beach to sell artefacts, jewellery and clothes to tourists. They speak English, often fluent, to convince tourists to buy their wares. A lot of them sell merchandise along the long, winding road that goes right up to the beach at Arambol.
It is, indeed, a dismal reality that despite a majority population in Goa and, in Arambol, being Hindus, the temples and architectural marvels are hardly talked about or find mention in news, historical references or tourist itineraries. On the other hand, fairly recent architectures during the Portuguese rule are widely popularised and talked about. It is the skewed perspective of a pro-West media and a pseudo-liberal tourism industry that is to be blamed. There is an urgent need to change the perception. Back at grass-root level, things are different, very different.

By Gajanan Khergamker (in Organiser)

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Now On Fast Track

Mangalyaan ensured that the admiration for Credible Bharat should grow, particularly at a time when the nation’s Prime Minister spoke with distinct pride about (MOM ) Mars Obiter Mission. Out of the 51 missions made across the world to Mars, only 21 had succeeded. And, Bharat got it right at the very first shot. And now Bharat has signed a MoU with Japan for Bullet Train.
So, Bharat is going to get its first bullet train and predictably, everyone is upset about it since the simmering bears an uncanny resemblance to the upsurge that followed Bharat’s maiden trip to Mars at a record cost of Rs 4.5 billion rupees (Rs 7 per kilometre) a fraction of what NASA’s own Maven cost the USA.
The cost mattered because it, in a way, muffled the cacophony a mission of this nature would elicit from “critics” anywhere in the world. Critics feel that “What was the need to spend money on going to Mars when there is so much poverty, lack of education, lack of good roads, lack of power and so on and forth…”
Mangalyaan ensured that the admiration for Credible Bharat should grow, particularly at a time when the nation’s Prime Minister spoke with distinct pride about (MOM ) Mars Orbiter Mission. Out of the  51 missions made across the world to Mars, only 21 had succeeded. And, Bharat got it right at the very first shot.
But that would never impress those whose agenda was, has and will be to thrive by showcasing Bharat’s misery to the world. Lobbies across minority communities spoke, and patronisingly too, about how Bharat managed to make the Mangalyaan Mission possible without the intervention of IITians . And how, the scientists responsible for MOM were, in fact, those from smaller institutions in towns across the nation and so forth.
Bharat and Japan have signed a MoU on December 12th, 2015 on cooperation and assistance in the Mumbai–Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project (referred by many as Bullet Train project).
Japan has offered an assistance of over Rs 79,000 crore for the project. The loan is for a period of 50 years with a moratorium of 15 years, at an interest rate of 0.1 per cent. The project is a 508-kilometre railway line costing a total of Rs 97,636 crore, to be implemented in a period of seven years.
While, the bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad will cost Rs 97,636 crore and be built over seven years, the entire amount will not be spent in one year as is suggested, and with mischievous intent, across media. The comparisons with budgets of health, education, road and highways would inevitably be incorrect as a spending to be carried out over a period of seven years is being compared with spending carried out over a year. The indicators for both would have to be the same for any comparison of sorts.
And now, the bullet train is seen as a “criminal waste” of money. Spending Rs 98,000 crore on a bullet train “to connect two cities”, looks like an “absurdly wasteful” investment. But then, when viewed in isolation, that would be the case with any sort of expenditure. So, the critics put up a chart to validate their vengeance: A chart that “shows just how absurdly wasteful Modi’s Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train line is,” and maintains that the Centre allotted Rs 43,000 crore for Highways in 2015-16; Rs 42,000 crore for  Schools; Rs 42,000 crore for  Railways; Rs 30,000 crore for  Health; Rs 25,000 crore for safety investment in Railways and Rs 2, 40, 00,000 crore for Swachh Bharat.
So, by that logic, a skewed-as-ever media says: “India should be on a toilet overdrive, yet the government of India is going to spend huge amount of its Swachh Bharat Mission outlay for 2014-15 on building a somewhat-fast train line between two cities already superbly connected by road, rail and air.”
All of that is as simplistic as Bharat’s ‘progressive’ media would like to water it down. Social media is, and predictably too, rabid with quips and posts by Liberals and critics on Mr Narendra Modi’s larger-than-life dreams and expenditures that risk robbing Bharat’s masses of basics like health and education.
More importantly, what most experts refuse to detail, as is their nature to skim over what matters, is that almost 80 per cent of the project is being financed on a very soft loan from Japan.Further, the loan comes with a 15-year moratorium which means that Bharat does not need to start repaying the loan immediately. It will do so fifteen years down the line.
It is a win-win situation for Bharat and we are in good hands.

(In this weekly column ‘Credible Bharat’ in Organiser independent editor, legal counsel and film-maker Gajanan Khergamker will tackle issues of law, tolerance, secularism and Bharat’s age-old contribution to peace)
- To download a PDF version of the latest column click
- To view the column online click (Page 22) OR click

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Gandhi vs Gandhi

On December 9th 2015, when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi proudly proclaimed that he would rather go to jail than apply for bail or sign a personal bond when he appears in court in the National Herald case ten days later, the mainstream media was swift to drew parallels between him and Indira Gandhi.
‘Like grandma, like grandson: Rahul prefers jail over bail’ screamed a Hindustan Times article. A Telegraph story too followed suit as it quoted Congress party sources as saying that Rahul would not seek bail as he is ‘convinced’ that the Narendra Modi-led government “plotted” the legal trouble for his mother and himself.
He tried hard to draw parallel with his grandmother, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was jailed in 1977 by the Janata government of the time. Indira Gandhi’s arrest, then, helped bolster public sympathy as she defied arrest by Delhi policemen in what was alleged to be “vendetta,” by the Janata government. The Congress hoped that, in a similar repeat of sorts, Rahul’s move would fetch favour. That, however, didn’t quite happen as Rahul swiftly ate humble pie, paid up the bail of Rs 50,000 and walked. Announcing a resolve and living up to it are two very different things.
While bail is the prerogative of an accused in any democracy, as bail is preferred to jail, it doesn’t absolve the accused of guilt as is commonly and wrongly perceived. Yet, that didn’t stop Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi from walking out of court grinning at people and the media, claiming a victory of sorts. The symbiotic media, on its part, went on to report, of all things, that “bail was granted in five minutes”!!!
Now, the time in which bail is granted has little to do with the merits of the case. It is a preliminary procedure and has to satisfy a few tests to hold good. That bail would be granted was a given. Headings such as ‘The Congress turn legal setback into political victory in just three minutes’ leading to stories that elaborate a Congress stand and absolve it of implications seem like a parallel trial of sorts and qualify as ‘contempt.’ The issue is sub-judice and has to be treated in a manner such.
Now, when a celebrity or politician breaks the law before being “hounded by the media,” and finally arrested, it is touted as ‘trial by the media’ but when the media supports the celebrity or politician and campaigns endlessly for the release of an accused, it is not perceived as a trial by the media but instead seen as an attempt to safeguard a celebrity who has been “wrongly targeted” for his/her status. Now, isn’t that so skewed? Ironically, in a democracy, the onus of auditing the media rests upon the media itself. And, the media is ‘free’ to flay, endlessly and mindlessly, those who don’t matter yet extend ‘conditional support’ to the rich and powerful. So much for ethics.
The issue of bail and all things upright fetches to memory Mahatma Gandhi’s first satyagraha in India in Bihar’s Champaran, where he went at the request of poor peasants to inquire into the grievances of those exploited in the district compelled by British indigo planters to grow indigo on 15 per cent of their land and part with the whole crop for rent. That the Mahatma had arrived to inquire into their sufferings spread and thousands left their villages to have his darshan and to relate to him their woes.
The local administration was all riled up and the police superintendent ordered Gandhi to leave the district. Gandhi refused and was summoned to appear in court the next day. Thousands of peasants followed him to court. The embarrassed magistrate postponed the trial and released him without bail. Gandhi refused to furnish any.
The case was later withdrawn and Gandhi proceeded with his inquiry. Gandhi went on to educate the peasants about satyagraha and taught them the first condition of freedom was freedom from fear. He called for volunteers to instruct and educate illiterate and ignorant in elementary hygiene and ran schools for their children.
Even as he taught people to fight for their rights, he taught them to fulfil obligations. A free people must learn to stand on their feet. The Government was obliged to set up a committee of inquiry. The report of the committee of which Gandhi was a member went in favour of the tenant farmers. Such was the success of his first experiment in satyagraha in India.
For the family, which consistently attempts to bear allegiance to Mahatma Gandhi, there’s a lot to learn. It may be recalled that after having spent many years outside India, Gandhi reacquainted himself with the land of India and swapped his Western-style dress for the simple robes of a peasant. Till then, the independence campaign was waged by an upper-class intellectuals who aped the British in manners a trend Gandhi saw would lead to nowhere.
So, when invited to speak at the opening of the Banaras Hindu University in February 1916 before an audience of princes in elegant robes, he tendered a humble apology for speaking in English - a language foreign to him, in the sacred city. He went on to address the princes by saying, ‘There is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewellery and hold it in trust for your country men.’ Many princes walked out. But Gandhi stood tall in his dhoti…unwavering in stance and spirit. Now, such is the might of a resolve.
The might of a resolve pivots only on the truth. Nothing less will do.

(In this weekly column ‘Credible Bharat’ in Organiser independent editor, legal counsel and film-maker Gajanan Khergamker will tackle issues of law, tolerance, secularism and Bharat’s age-old contribution to peace)
- Here goes the latest of Gajanan Khergamker's weekly column series in Organiser
- To download a PDF version of the column click
- To view the column online click (Page 22)

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Tolerance is a Misnomer, Ahimsa More Apt

Bharat is credible because that’s the truth. Despite the world beyond its borders pitted against the largest democracy and a sea of dissidents within, threatening to derail the process, Bharat continues to surge ahead in the myriad indices that matter to the ‘developed’ world. Today, armed with a 5,000-year-old culture, five times older than the English language, Bharat is the world’s third largest when it comes to purchasing power parity and has the world’s third largest army. Bharat possesses the oldest mantra of all times i.e.the Middle Path that was evolved by Gautam Buddha 2,500 years ago and the Ram Rajya concept symbolic of the softening of a king’s otherwise-unrelenting stand.
The inevitable induction of Narendra Modi as Bharat’s leader with an overwhelming never-before-registered majority was fought tooth and nail by a parallel force that works with stealth and speed through non-Governmental networks professing to “address” issues as seemingly innocuous “yet crucial” as “climate change”; an “unbiased media” powered by politicians yet run by “Journalists” now being flayed as presstitutes and “paid media”; and Sections across the world whose interests are directly subverted by the ‘Make In India’ campaign.
The tolerance tattle was inevitable. With the Bharat’s economy picking up in the second quarter ending September 2015 and growing at 7.4 per cent during the quarter on the back of strong growth in manufacturing, trade, hotels, transport and communication services, there had to be a hurdle. So, on September 28th 2015, when a mob attacked and killed 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi, it was turned into an issue of national importance that had direct and dire relevance to the surge of “Intolerance” in Bharat. Bharat’s scholar, academician and former vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi, Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi’s murder on August 30th 2015 triggered a spurt of protests among nondescript writers across Bharat, returning their Sahitya Akademi awards.
Kalburgi had faced death threats previously and had demanded security from the ruling Indian National Congress Government of Karnataka but was not provided with it initially. This was conveniently forgotten by the protestors who seemed to have a single-minded agenda— to flay the State for “Intolerance” in general and Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs, in particular, for failing to “personally apologise” for the murder.
Also, predictably, nobody in the “Free Media” wrote about Kalburgi’s murder with the objectivity so closely associated with the calling but instead reported with utter glee, byte by byte, about how ‘Ho’, ‘Ho hum’ and so forth went on to “Return the award,” to “Protest the Intolerance” in Bharat.
Investigators probing the Burdwan blast and the Mujahideen Bangladesh terror network in West Bengal identified four operatives who “trained recruits at Simulia and Lalgola Madrasas” in Burdwan and Murshidabad districts. In a symbolic-seeming retributive retort, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, “refused financial assistance to madrasas.” The Unaided Madrasa Bachao Committee has planned a stir against the Mamata Banerjee government. And, Bharat is “Intolerant”!
In the United States of America, a FBI report says ‘hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise’. That said, the United States of America continues to look “Tolerant”. Aamir Khan’s bashing in social media and beyond for his comment in an interaction at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism ceremony was given considering Aamir Khan’s penchant for melodrama and proclivity towards drawing mileage out of a populist Satyameva Jayate.
Why, were his fears of “Intolerance” were even struck down by all-season Modi-baiter All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi who said, “I would have never said what Aamir said.”
‘Tolerance’, as a term itself, seems patronising. When used in description, it indicates that the entity has a higher standing and an authority by law or position through which it ‘chooses’ to tolerate another different from itself, despite its stark discrepancies and allows it to co-exist. It accords a sense of propriety and political correctness when instead it should be replaced with Ahimsa, as Mahatma Gandhi preferred.

(In this weekly column ‘Credible Bharat’ in Organiser independent editor, legal counsel and film-maker Gajanan Khergamker will tackle issues of law, tolerance, secularism and Bharat’s age-old contribution to peace)
- Here goes the first of Gajanan Khergamker's weekly column series in Organiser.
- To download a PDF version of the column click
- To view the column online click (Page 24)


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Society Matters - Don't Donate, Pay Transfer Fees As Per Law


Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Managing Committee Member Cannot Secure 'Personal' Benefit From The Society

Under Section 4 of The Gujarat Co-op Societies Act, 1961, for a society to be registered, its objects must be the promotion of economic interests or general welfare of the members or of the public. The objects envisaged in registering the society should be on co-operative principles. The first principle is the members join in to cooperate as individuals and not to run the society like a business for profit. It is evident the movement owes its origin to poverty. The second need should be to satisfy common need.
It is of vital importance to examine as to whether the person who is already engaged on or carrying on any profession, business or employment in the same sphere for which the society is registered cannot be allowed to become the member of the society in order to secure any personal benefit with the help of the society.
Usually, members of the merchant community become members of the society, with a view to promote their own welfare and gain by providing articles or material required for the society on credit. They place the society in debt in the process of marketing their goods or produce of the society through their agency or employment. These dealings by members are prohibited by law.
Sometimes an affluent member, being well-versed with the affairs of the society’s business, wins the confidence of the managing committee and thereafter undertakes to deal with the property of the society for his personal benefit and may earn personal benefit at the cost of the society.
In order to curb such tendencies, the Registrar is vested with the power under this section to decide as to whether a person is or is not engaged in or carrying on any profession, business or employment, or whether a person belongs or does not belongs to such class of persons, as declared under sub-section (1A) of Section 22 of this Act. If the Registrar decides any question under this section on the subject-matter, his decision shall be final.
If the interest of any person or class of persons conflicts or is likely to conflict with the object of any society or class of societies, then such person cannot be admitted to be the member of the society. The state government is empowered to declare that any person or class of persons engaged in or carrying on any profession, business or employment shall be disqualified from being admitted or continuing as member or shall be eligible for membership only to limited extent of any specified society, so long as such person or persons are engaged in or carry on the progression, business or employment, as the case may be, by special or general order published in the Official Gazette.
A provision has been made to eliminate any person who has been engaged in or carrying on any business or profession of identical nature, from becoming a member of the society in order to avoid conflicts of the interests of the society, at the earliest stage. The decision of the Registrar has been made final. Of course, the Registrar before deciding such question shall issue a notice of hearing to the concerned person and the society and seek reasonable opportunity of hearing and then decide the question. Any decision of the Registrar shall be communicated to the parties.

(The columnist is a media legal consultant on housing and other legal issues. Readers interested in posing legal queries should write in to For the purpose of brevity, it may be difficult to answer every question posed. Kindly check the paper for answers to pertinent queries)


Monday, 14 July 2014

No substitute for due diligence

By Gajanan Khergamker

Campa Cola's long-drawn imbroglio may have largely gained the support of most people, thanks to a very sustained media campaign drawing attention to the residents of the illegal flats, it's essential to view this matter, from both ends of the spectrum.

After the residents maintained they were heeding the Supreme Court order and permitted the BMC to disconnect power and water supply, a certain PR agency has gone ahead and detailed the Campa Cola Compound PR campaign on its website and has taken credit for the success of the same. After months of fighting, losing court battles and being faced with a 48 hour eviction notices from the BMC, residents of over 25 years at the compound, approached a PR firm for support. The issue is this Campa Cola Compound has seven high-rise buildings, and though the builders had permissions to build only five floors, some of the buildings have 17 and 20 floors.
Stop work notices were issued as far back as November 1984 and the absent water supply and occupation certificates were enough reasons for the residents to be suspicious and exercise due diligence. The Campa Cola issue signifies a larger worrisome trend among a select section of buyers to look for contentious property being sold on an 'as is, where is' basis at equally-compromised prices in Mumbai. You simply should exercise caution before buying a property that is fraught with legal risks, is cheaper and is sold to you with the notion that the 'illegality' can be 'regularised' later. Such is the case with Campa Cola Compound.

The Campa Cola residents were exhilarated when the Supreme Court gave them a reprieve back in October 2013, on 'humanitarian grounds.' The civic authority's attempts to evict the residents from the premises were being projected in the media as a 'guilty establishment's' acts of cruelty on 'vulnerable victims'. The residents even managed to get politicians from across parties to support them. The media published stories of their unflinching 'struggle against a corrupt system.' There's another side to this. From a legal standpoint, any attempt to interfere with the course of law, may well be perceived as a violation of the Contempt of Courts Act and warrant legal action, making matters yet worse for the 'affected'. The Campa Cola issue only underlines the fact that a buyer needs to exercise due diligence while opting for a purchase and go strictly by legal documentation and laid-down processes. If the property doesn't have an Occupation Certificate or the requisite clearances for water, as was the case in Campa Cola, steer clear of it. If the civic authority has issued eviction notices, it's undoubtedly fraught with risk. A lot of buyers are known to rummage for properties that are contentious like the one in question, simply because the rates are compromised and not on par with their legally-valid counterparts.
DUE DILIGENCE FOR BUYERS Do not buy a property which is suspect just on the premise that you will be able to 'regularise it' with political pressure or finding a loophole in the law or on 'humanitarian grounds.' It may not happen.
CHECK VALIDITY OF PROPERTY DOCUMENTS The agreement paper provides the first check-point for a bonafide buyer. Whenever you go to buy a property , you need to sign a set of documents. If a builder refuses to show you the agreement document, don't buy the property . If a builder is being se cretive, you should simply , walk away. Any bonafide buyer should smell a rat the moment a builder dillydallies over showing 'all' the relevant documents. The agreement clearly maintains that you have 'thoroughly inspected the property you are buying and are fully satisfied with it.' The moment you sign on that, you relinquish the right to blame the builder. Later, when things go awry , you can't shift the blame back on to the builder. If they are registered, you could get it from the municipal body or the subregistrar. All registered documents are available for public inspection and if they are not registered, they are not legal.
OC IS A MUST BEFORE PURCHASE At the time of possession, the builder has to send to the authorities concerned, all your details. The authority will then, issue an occupancy certificate (OC) or a no-objection certificate (NOC). An occupation certificate is important because it proves the building you plan to occupy has been built as per the approved plan. Unless you have an OC, basic amenities such as water and sanitary connections are also not provided. So, in the absence of an OC, moving into a property is risky .
STICK TO THE APPROVED LAYOUT Whenever you buy a property , you should ensure that it is as per the approved civic layout. Changes, even minor in nature, are not acceptable. Any construction beyond the permissible area, is illegal. Buyers who are not familiar with the details, should consult a lawyer and get the documents checked by a professional.
NO LEGALLY BONAFIDE PROPERTY WILL BE SUBSTANTIALLY BELOW MARKET RATES You are pooling in a fortune to buy a property. Insist on a Nil-Encumbrance Certificate which should help buffer you from risk.
If you can't afford getting the title checked, opt for finance from a reputed bank or a non-banking finance company . That will help you validate the project you plan to take a loan on. Banks usually reject loan applications for projects that don't have a clear title or don't have an OC or an NOC.


Sunday, 27 April 2014

Gateway Stretch To Become 'Pedestrian-Only' Zone

By Gajanan Khergamker

A DraftCraft Initiative, to free the Gateway of India zone of barricades and traffic irregularities, has met with success. After six years of arbitrary barricading in and around the heritage site, following the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai that left the zone garrisoned beyond recognition, the authorities have now planned to rid the Gateway of India of the ugly fencing and barricades. This follows a fervent advocacy drive undertaken to help the common man reclaim the ‘Right to Walk’.

Chief Secretary J.S. Saharia, who chaired a meeting with the BMC and police last fortnight, has reportedly asked the traffic police to work out the modalities and submit a report. A feasibility plan is underway and the idea is to “create more space for tourists, women and children on the sea front.” So, although visitors to the monument will be screened where the pedestrian zone begins, vehicles that are headed to Taj Mahal Palace & Tower will be given a dedicated lane. Even plans to erect a fixed fence around the Gateway of India may be dropped. The area from the Regal Circle till Radio Club is all set to become a ‘Pedestrian-only Zone’.

The city’s prized tourist attraction, the Gateway of India, has witnessed two devastating terrorist attacks. Back in August 2003, a taxi bomb claimed eight lives and then in November 2008, terrorists stormed the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower killing 31 people in a three-day siege. In August 2005, a Manipuri, Ngakuimi Raleng and friend Leishichon Shaiza were stabbed at the Gateway of India in front of several bystanders. These incidents formed the basis, however debatable, for the spurt in security in and around the zone. Similar occurrences at other terror-hit spots in the city haven’t fetched such heightened security bringing in the element of arbitrariness in police action. Sadly, under the guise of security, the common man’s Right to Walk too was quashed over the years.

Now, on an experimental basis, one lane of the road between Taj Mahal Palace & Tower and the Radio Club will be opened up as a pedestrian path in the days to follow. After an evaluation of the response, a final call will be taken. Incidentally, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee which had also opposed the proposal to fence the monument has welcomed the new idea.

Locals are more than exhilarated with the decision and, rightly so too. Over the years, it has become impossible to walk around the Gateway of India. Barricades are put to every possible use in the stretch. Right from ‘creating footpaths for pedestrian movement’ to ‘forming a divider’ to bifurcate the road and control vehicular flow, the use of barricades is arbitrary and quite excessive. Worse still is the high-handed behaviour of the police authorities in the vicinity who behave like a law unto themselves.

In the absence of any proper laid-down rules for parking or movement, it’s a virtual free for all at the Gateway of India. A security vehicle stands parked for good opposite the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower bang on a footpath ‘meant for pedestrians’ and a ‘pigeon feeding zone’ created with barricades keeps the very humans who feed the pigeons, out of the way.

The creation and control of barricaded zones has been left entirely to the discretion of the police and continues to bewilder the common man who has little option but to walk around in circles at Mumbai’s most prized tourist zone.

India-based think tank DraftCraft has been raising pertinent queries with regard to the common man’s Right to Walk – in and around the Gateway of India over the years. After all, the Right to Walk is an extension of the common man’s fundamental Right to Life as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

Monday, 21 April 2014

DraftCraft Win: Public Interest Upheld

Gateway Stretch To Be City's
First 'Only Pedestrian' Zone

By Gajanan Khergamker

Now, after six years of twiddling their thumbs following the terror attack in 2008, the authorities have decided to make the Gateway of India stretch right from Regal Circle to Radio Club - the city's first 'Only Pedestrian' zone. This comes as a huge relief to the millions of tourists who have been dodging parked vehicles, traffic, flowerpots, barricades and you-name-it all in the guise of 'security'.

Under the Right To Walk campaign initiated by DraftCraft, we've been agitating through media, generating digital content, even creating documentaries to urge the authorities to address the issue that affects the public adversely.

The decision to make the Gateway Stretch - the city's first 'Only Pedestrian' zone is a victory for common man who has successfully reclaimed his Right To Walk in Mumbai's most prized locality. 

Friday, 18 April 2014

India Leads, Makes CSR Mandatory

Just before the world’s largest democracy goes into polls, India makes Corporate Social Responsibility mandatory for corporates. Now, corporates in India have to match the efforts of the State and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in initiating activities for the economic growth of the underprivileged and similarly marginalised groups as well as social causes like animal welfare and environment.
From April 1st 2014, it has become legally binding for companies in India to be “socially responsible”. Section 135 of the new Companies Act 2013, read with the CSR Rules makes it mandatory for companies, meeting certain criteria, to set aside two per cent of their net profits for undertaking and promoting socially beneficial activities and projects in India. To implement this, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) recently issued the CSR Rules, 2014, to implement this legislative mandate, which came into effect on April 1, 2014.
Every company with a net worth of at least Rs 500 crore, or a minimum turnover of Rs 1,000 crore, or a minimum net profit of Rs 5 crore, has to constitute a CSR committee dedicated to undertake initiatives such as promoting women's empowerment, improving maternal health, education, gender equality or ensuring environmental sustainability.
However, the new CSR regime isn’t as simple as it seems. There are issues which will need to be analysed and addressed before we ascertain the true intention of the legislation.

Areas of Doubt In The New CSR Regime

In creating exclusions from net profit, the CSR rules provides the profits of a branch of an Indian company located outside India cannot be merged into the profits of the parent company for the purpose of computing the two per cent contribution. In contravention of the very mandate of Section 135, the exclusion is, to that extent, ultra vires.
Also, the law does not treat foreign companies differently and includes foreign companies doing business in India whether by themselves, or through an agent or even electronically.
The list of CSR activities provided in the rules seems illustrative and not exhaustive. It however suggests the scheduled activities ‘alone’ will be considered for the purpose of CSR. Now, whether or not social activities falling outside the purview of the schedule form a part of CSR activities or not still remains doubtful.

The Act provides that, for CSR spending, a company should give preference to the “local area in which it operates”. This has given rise to another ambiguity. If a company has more than one operational office in the same city or zone, how should it distribute its CSR spending? What will matter in law, the location of its manufacturing unit or the location of its corporate headquarters.
In excluding contributions directly or indirectly made to a political party from the scope of CSR activity, the law has overlooked contributions made to institutions affiliated with one or more politicians or those located in a constituency represented by a politician who has some form of regulatory supervision or leverage over the entity. Also, with regard to entities being under the trusteeship or office of a politician, the law remains ambiguous.
By law, CSR activities cannot be undertaken ‘only’ for the benefit of the employees and their families. Did the legislation mean “primarily” or “exclusively” benefiting employees? Because, if the legislation meant “primarily”, then any activity which benefits one’s employees, and is extended to other marginalised groups cannot be considered as CSR for the said purpose.
In the Direct Taxes Code 2013, where deduction for CSR expenditure in backward regions and districts is concerned, the CSR expenditure cannot be allowed as a business deduction as it is an application of income. Allowing deduction for CSR expenditure would imply that the government would be contributing one third of this expenditure as revenue foregone.

It Didn't Need A Law For These To Give

Look at the Hurun India Philanthropy List which is a ranking of 31 Indians who donated more than Rs. 10 crore (equivalent to USD 1.6 million) in cash or cash equivalent during April 1, 2012 till March 31, 2013.
IT tycoon Azim Hashim Premji emerging as the most generous Indian with a donation of Rs. 8,000 crore in the past year. Education was the most important area for the Indian philanthropists with a total contribution of Rs. 12,200 crore.
It was followed by social development (Rs. 1,210 crore), healthcare (Rs. 1,065 crore), rural development (Rs. 565 crore), environmental cause (Rs. 170 crore) and agriculture (Rs. 40 crore). HCL group Chairman Shiv Nadar is the second highest contributor in the list with a donation of Rs. 3,000 crore.
The Shiv Nadar Foundation, which completed 20 years in philanthropy this year, works towards educational initiatives and expansion programmes, directly benefiting 15,000 students across India.
The Wipro chairman who has personally has donated 8.7 per cent from his personal stock holding in Wipro as endowment for the Azim Premji Foundation and has gone on to pledge more has publically opposed the mandated spending of 2 per cent of a company’s profits on corporate social responsibility (CSR) related activities.
While his primary worry remains that, “the stipulation should not become a tax at a later stage,” he feels “spending two per cent on CSR is a lot, especially for companies that are trying to scale up in these difficult times. It must not be imposed.” More importantly, he insisted that a distinction should be made between personal philanthropy and CSR, which is a company activity.
While India has taken the initiative to the social initiative regime in the world, the concept of social and economic initiatives being a responsibility of the corporates has been gaining popularity all over the world.

...And The Rest Follow

The Financial Reporting Council in the United Kingdom is in the process of introducing guidelines for disclosures regarding environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues by a company. These would finally replace the existing ‘business review’ section of annual reports, and companies would be required to provide complete disclosure about their business activities, including social efforts.
The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee has approved draft legislation on corporate non-financial reporting that require some companies to disclose information about their environmental, social and employee-related impact, as well as their diversity policy.
The CSR regime in India is in a nascent stage and there will be hitches, and a lot of fine-tuning will be required before we hit the perfect balance. What is commendable is the spirit with which India has made her corporates socially responsible and in that, led the world’s most developed nations. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Right to Walk - A DraftCraft Productions Film

The Right To Life as provided in The Constitution of India through Article 21 assures all an associated Right To Walk. Over the years, it has become nearly impossible for the common man to walk in public places, along public spaces and exercise a right that is intrinsically associated with your very Right To Life. Your Right To Walk is associated with an inbuilt guarantee of safe passage without risk of injury or threat to life and property. But, are you assured of your Right To Walk? Hardly!

There are obstacles and impediments of all sorts on footpaths and roads alike, in cities all across India. With hard-nosed residents parking vehicles, often arbitrarily, in front of entrances to residential structures in violation of the local civic law; situations where the civic authorities turn a blind eye to barricades dumped unceremoniously onto footpaths, even in the middle of the road, posing a risk to motorists and pedestrians alike; to instances of corporates working closely with the authorities to collectively usurp public space and property lawfully meant for the pedestrian, the common man's Right To Walk risks being completely subverted.

This campaign undertaken by DraftCraft is aimed to educate, inform and advocate for the common man's Right To Walk.Through the Right To Walk campaign, DraftCraft will provide legal support by way of drafting RTI applications, pose legal queries before pertinent civic officials, even represent affected groups and individuals at relevant fora; hold workshops, exhibitions and talks to help bridge differences; create content by way of editorials and films to drive home the point and urge the authority to intervene and resolve; help provide targeted advocacy for niche causes and Be The Change!

DraftCraft is an India-based media-legal think-tank that endeavours to research, document, film and advocate on behalf of the most ignored, under-reported, marginalised sections of society. DraftCraft has been initiated by Gajanan Khergamker - independent editor, legal counsel and documentary film-maker - with over three decades of experience.

(Disclaimer: 'The Right To Walk' has been produced by DraftCraft Productions in public interest, in good faith and without prejudice. It can be copied or distributed freely. However, anyone doing so should use it 'as is' without any change and retain creative attributions)

Monday, 3 March 2014

Save Backgarden - A DraftCraft Productions Film

DraftCraft is an India-based media-legal think tank that endeavours to research, document, film and advocate on behalf of the most ignored, under-reported, marginalised sections of society.

"Whether a swimming pool on South Mumbai's Backgarden has legal sanction or not isn't the important thing. What matters is that there should be proper public consultation in the regard. And, the interests of weaker segments should be safeguarded," feels DraftCraft founder Gajanan Khergamker. 

"'Save Backgarden' - A documentary produced by DraftCraft Productions - has been created only to put all the parties' perspectives in one place making it easier for anyone to understand the issue," he says.

It has been initiated by Gajanan Khergamker - an independent editor, legal counsel and filmmaker - with over three decades of experience. DraftCraft fetches legal aid to the deprived through activism and legal intervention. The think tank provides a platform for the affected through campaigns aimed to agitate and advocate for the underdog. 

Public dissent over the construction of a swimming pool in South Mumbai's 'Backgarden' and resistance by a section of the locals, even direct beneficiaries, made it a key issue for DraftCraft.

(Disclaimer: 'Save Backgarden' has been produced by DraftCraft Productions in public interest, in good faith and without prejudice. It can be copied or distributed freely. However, anyone doing so should use it 'as is' without any change and retain creative attributions)


Monday, 10 February 2014

Esther’s last tweets…were they prophetic?

 By Gajanan Khergamker

Esther Anuhya’s tweet: Dont put in too much of belif in any1…Even ur shadow leaves you wen u r in dark… followed three months later by her last tweet: I rather have an honest enemy than a fake friend…Good night world!, seem ominously prophetic today. The 23-year-old software engineer arrived at Mumbai’s Lokmanya Tilak Terminus at 4.55 am on January 5 after alighting from the Vishakapatnam-LTT Express train she had boarded the train from Vijayawada after visiting her family at Machilipatnam for Christmas and then…vanished.

Could it be that Esther’s belief had apparently been quashed by a fake friend?

After Esther went missing

Then began the ordeal for Esther’s family. After the mandatory melee to register a missing person’s complaint, the skirmish over jurisdiction issues and other trials, a formal complaint was lodged, but remained a formality. After a full 10 days, Esther’s mutilated, ‘burnt’ and decomposed body was found off the Mumbai-Thane highway on January 16, and that too, by Esther’s cousins.

The police, who had been twiddling their thumbs all this while, trying to dismiss it as a case of elopement, have now woken up to swiftly take the credit for the discovery. However, even a First Information Report (FIR) filed by Esther’s father and cousins clearly states that they discovered the body without police help.

What her family is going through

 “I didn’t cry even once,” says 19-year-old Mary Singavarupu Lavanya, Esther’s younger sister, “…not in front of my parents.” Mary has been putting up a brave front before her parents and cousins, but she misses her sister immensely. After Esther’s death, it is up to Mary to take charge.

“As children, we fought a lot but we got closer when when we finally started studying together at the same school – Amleshwari Vidya Nilayam,” recalls Mary. Esther was very excited about staying in Mumbai, Mary remembers. “She told us that it was a very safe city. It wasn’t dangerous at all. Nobody bothered her and she felt very secure there,” recalls Mary, unable to hold back her tears.

On last December 25, Christmas morning, Esther went with her father Jonathan, sister Mary and other family members to a nearby Church at Machilipatnam for the 4 am mass. On their return, the girl went with her father and sister to a nearby hotel to pack a large Christmas lunch for the family – the family was hosting the lunch also to celebrate the renovation of their home. “We bought veg fried rice, chicken curry, bread halwa and a mutton gravy for 40 people. Esther was very keen on footing the bill for the lunch. It was about Rs 8,000 and it was her first ever treat for the family,” recalls Mary. “I so wish I had told everyone about that then itself,” she says.

Breaking the news

When Esther went missing on January 5, everyone back home prayed together for her. But their hopes dwindled as each day passed, till her cousins found her body in Mumbai on January 16. Mary struggles to hold back her tears as she speaks of how they broke the news to her mother.

“Just the day before we got her body home, my relatives showed my mother the news on television, telling her that some missing girl’s body had been found in Mumbai. They said that they were very worried about Esther. She quickly realised what everyone was suggesting and let out a loud wail. Since then, she has been inconsolable. She refuses to let me out of her sight,” recalls Mary.

“I always thought Dad was strong but Esther’s death has broken him. I have never seen him cry this way,” says Mary. She is also heartbroken that she did not record the Telugu Thanksgiving song that Esther sang before Christmas lunch. “Although I even thought that I should take pictures and record the song, the whole family being at one place, I didn’t,” says a rueful Mary. “I wish Esther had listened to Dad and stayed back at the railway station till it was daylight that day…” she trails off.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Should there be ramps for the disabled outside ATMs?

“Being disabled due to age or infirmity is a curse. Worse still is if there is nothing to make daily life any easier. Isn’t there a law or rule providing aid for the disabled to bank or use ATMs? What is the solution to an issue that makes life miserable for the disabled?”

- A disgruntled senior citizen, Colaba

For one, I feel, India has failed to tap the resources of seniors and/or the disabled who are empowered with colossal experience and wherewithal to tackle situations in a way few younger could. However, the very basics associated with urban life, such as banking and communication are almost out of reach for the senior and/or disabled.

While almost all Mumbai banks are swift to insist on Know Your Customer (KYC) norms and force customers to update their records vis-à-vis providing latest documents, proofs and the works, none of them adhere to a Master Circular issued by the RBI with regard to making their branches and ATMs disabled friendly.

The RBI circular on ramps outside banks and ATMs

Point 9.5 of the Master Circular RBI/2011-12/56 / DBOD No.Leg.BC.18/09.07.006/2011-12 dated July 1st, 2011, clearly lays down the need for bank branches/ATMs to be made accessible to persons with disabilities.

‘Banks are advised to take necessary steps to provide all existing ATMs/future ATMs with ramps so that wheel chair users/persons with disabilities can easily access them and also make arrangements in such a way that the height of the ATM does not create an impediment in its use by a wheelchair user. Banks may also take appropriate steps including providing ramps at the entrance of the bank branches so that the persons with disabilities/wheel chair users can enter the bank branches and conduct business without much difficulty.’

Please quote the above point and make a representation, preferably in writing and endorsed by the branch head, to the respective representative of the bank branch in question. You can even attach a copy of the said representation to any future correspondence with the same bank branch to escalate the issue even to higher authorities for redress.


Incidentally, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disability, a new United Nations human rights treaty body, issued a very unique decision on a case involving visually-impaired Hungarian complainants Szilvia Nyusti and PéterTakács.

Seven of the human rights treaty bodies (the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) may, under particular circumstances, consider complaints or communications from individuals who consider that their rights have been violated.

The ruling made in favour of the two plaintiffs who, under article 2 of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, put forth the “failure by [Hungary’s] authorities to eliminate discrimination on the ground of disability by a private credit institution and to ensure that persons with visual impairments have an unimpeded access to the services provided by the ATMs on the equal basis with the other clients”.

The plaintiffs Nyusti and Takács, clients of OTP Bank Zrt., who paid annual fees, equal to those paid by sighted clients, for banking card services and transactions, were unable to use the OTP ATM machines without any assistance. The keyboards were not marked with Braille fonts, nor did they provide voice assistance.

The laws in India are perfected to the ‘T’ but mostly in letter and not in principle. It rests upon the handful of initiated and brave to pursue the policy and pave the path in a zone quite uncharted till date.

Your Space‘ is a weekly column that addresses citizen’s queries on rules and laws governing public spaces. If you have a question to ask, send an email to with relevant photographs and details of the case.

Gajanan Khergamker is an independent editor and legal counsel who heads DraftCraft. Through DraftCraft Connect, he initiates outreach programmes to help you ‘become the change’ you want. You can consult him from 6 pm to 9 pm on prior appointment at his office at 7/A, Sukh Niwas, 3rd Pasta Lane, Colaba, or call him at 022-22841593. You can also drop in a mail at


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

It’s Fashionable to Get ‘Appalled’ by SC's Decision On Unnatural Sex

By Gajanan Khergamker
A corrective move by the Indian Supreme Court in overturning an ‘over-reaching verdict’ passed by a Delhi High Court vis-à-vis the ‘constitutional validity’ of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is being flayed publically as usual. The deafening outrage is the loudest from within India and beyond from among Indian expatriates, NRIs and self-styled authorities on Indian systems. Support to the Supreme Court decision comes from the most unimaginable quarters: American Family Association’s Bryan Fisher has nothing but praise for India’s controversial anti-gay sex law.
In India, if a law interpreted as being ‘anti-gay’ isn’t struck down by its highest court of the land, even if it’s absolutely beyond its jurisdiction to do so, it’s nothing short of blasphemy for the world at large. That laws aimed to castigate gays are legislated and upheld by the Highest Court of Russia, Australia, even moved in the form of a Bill to protect religious rights of the majority and “exclude gays,” by a US Senator supported by 11 co-sponsors, is conveniently overlooked. It doesn’t stop the US from being “disheartened” with the Supreme Court verdict while conveniently refusing to look within.
When the Indian Apex Court bench of Justices Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya reversed the Delhi High Court’s 2009 verdict and held that the 150-year-old Section 377 “does not suffer from the vice of unconstitutionality,” it only corrected a legal excess committed by the High Court in ‘legislating’. That, an amendment of the law is a legislative procedure laid down by the Constitution and courts are only empowered to determine and uphold the ‘legislative intent’ that went behind the framing of the law, seems to be lost somewhere down the line.
“It is relevant to mention here that Section 377 IPC does not criminalize a particular people or identity or orientation. It merely identifies certain acts, which if committed, would constitute an offence. Such prohibition 
regulates sexual conduct regardless of gender identity and orientation,” said Justice Singhvi.

Indian Supreme Court Only Empowered To Examine ‘Intention’ Of Legislature

In upholding the law, the Supreme Court is only empowered to examine the ‘intention’ of the legislature. And, in that, the Supreme Court has laid that the onus of deleting the provision rests upon the legislature. Where the question of Section 377’s constitutionality is concerned, there was no ambiguity.
India, the world’s largest democracy is ruled by laws legislated by the people who are voted to power again by the people. So, to delete Section 377 or amend it suitably to exclude consenting adults in private is the job of the Parliament.
“Since 1950, the Legislature has chosen not to amend the law or revisit it. This shows that Parliament, which is undisputedly the representative body of the people of India has not thought it proper to delete the provision. Such a conclusion is further strengthened by the fact that despite the decision of the Union of India to not challenge in appeal the order of the Delhi High Court, the Parliament has not made any amendment in the law,” read the Supreme Court judgment.
But the reasoning cuts no ice when it comes to chest-thumping reactions from Indians, particularly Indian expat. So, there’s a surge in global support for local activists who have waged “a relentless war for same-sex relations to be legalized”. Dozens of Bollywood stars have come forward to criticize the decision to reinstate Section 377 of IPC which bans “sex against the order of nature” and is widely interpreted to mean gay sex. Among those ‘hurt’ are Aamir Khan and John Abraham who described the judgment as “very intolerant and violative of basic human rights,” Freida Pinto of the Slumdog Millionaire fame who tweeted that she was “absolutely appalled by such narrow mindedness,” and more. That not a single celebrity chose to flay the petitioners who belong to hard-nosed religious groups and their associated ideology, reeks of hypocrisy.
So, for the record, here goes a list of the petitioners who moved the Supreme Court to re-instate Section 377. Delhi Commission for Protection Child Rights, Suresh Kumar Koushal, an astrologer, Krantikari Manuvadi Morcha, Trust Gods Ministry, Late VHP leader BP Singhal; Apostolic Churches Alliance, Utkal Christian Foundation, All India Muslim Personal Board, SK Tizarawala, a representative of Baba Ramdev and Petitioner in person from Joint Action Council Purshottaman Mulloli and petitioner in person Ram Murti.

Loose use of Terms Such as ‘Colonial Era Law’, ‘Archaic Law’

The loose use of terms such as ‘colonial era law’ to run down a nation’s judicial processes is in poor taste and attempts to trivialize the processes of the world’s largest democracy. Why, wasn’t the Bill of Rights created back in 1789 and ratified in 1791? And, isn’t way older than 1861 when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was created? So, by that logic, the Bill of Rights is more archaic than the IPC. Name-calling is the prerogative of the ill-informed and motivated. There is absolutely no exercise of restraint or a bonafide attempt to empathize with the subject in question or those who it affects.
Interestingly, despite all the brouhaha raked by celebrities and socialites in India and beyond, not a single one has urged for a change through legislative means. In the failure to understand India’s constitutional functioning, most indulge in the easiest of follies…bashing the state and for any reason whatsoever.
If it isn’t the inept handling of a natural disaster like the Uttarakhand disaster, it’s the “regressive” stand adopted by the highest court of the land.  It only seems fashionable and in that narrow sense defeats the very purpose of the gay cause.
All political parties are aware that anyone takes an anti-Section 377 stand may risk losing the support of its ‘regressive’ voter base and hence never ever risk such a move. So, it pays to stay mum and provide the regulatory lip service as and when asked.
Also, who will risk taking on such an issue barely months before the battle of the millennium during the next general elections? The deafening silence of almost all political parties in the entire Section 377 imbroglio underlines the fact that while most of the closet gays have come out in the open vis-à-vis their leanings following global support and the Delhi High Court ruling of 2009, a sea of closet gay-haters continues to thrive. While they provide the loudest support in social media and all over, their stand remains suspect.
Political parties had been waiting for the Supreme Court to bell the cat while they publically flay the legal move and relinquish all responsibility for the act.

US Bill  To Protect Traditional From Gay-Friendly Federal Govt

Just a while back, in the United States, Senator Mike Lee and eleven original cosponsors introduced legislation to protect religious organizations from discrimination by the federal government for supporting traditional marriage. The “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” bars the government from denying any person or group tax-exempt status for exercising their religious conscience rights.
“This bill protects the rights of individuals and organizations from religious discrimination by the federal government,” said Senator Lee. “Those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage deserve respect and tolerance.  It is critical that we clarify the law to ensure that their fundamental civil liberties are not at risk.” It will ensure that Churches will not be pressurized into recognizing Gay marriages.
Australia High Court Shoots down Pro-Gay Law, Insists on Legislation
And, Australia’s High Court on December 12th struck down gay marriage in the nation’s capital, ruling that the Parliament must decide on same-sex unions. In a unanimous judgment overturning the Australian Capital Territory’s new same-sex marriage law, the High Court ruled that only the Parliament and not state and territory authorities had the power to decide who could wed.
Russia’s Anti-Gay Legislation Helps Protect Minors
The Constitutional Court dismissed a complaint from leading gay rights campaigner Nikolai Alexeyev that St. Petersburg city council had acted unconstitutionally by passing legislation to ban the promotion of homosexuality among minors.
The law, which came into effect in March 2012, allows for fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($150) for individuals and up to 500,000 rubles ($15,000) for organizations. A similar federal law banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors took effect in June this year.
But, till sense prevails, will the world’s intellectually-sensitized proponents of ‘inclusion’ get “appalled” by a “regressive” US, Russia and Australia too? Chances are…they won’t! It’s just not as fashionable as bashing India.

The Supreme Court verdict is seen as ‘protecting children’

While the Supreme Court bashing continues, it may make sense to attempt to figure the logic that spurred the petitioners into challenging the Delhi High Court decision to de-criminalize the offence. A reputed Delhi Commission for Protection Child Rights (DCPCR) also joined in the petition against the repeal of Section 377 in the Indian Supreme Court, and fought the section shoulder to shoulder with conservative religious groups.
Only two years before the High Court order was passed in 2009, a national study on child sex abuse conducted by the ministry of women and child development had revealed that 50 per cent of the child victims were male. Section 377 was the only protection that male children had against sexual assault.
The High Court in legalizing consensual sex between consenting adults had failed to address the fall-out of the impact of such relationships on children. Children of LGBT parents were more prone to social stigmatization. In decriminalizing homosexuality, the High Court did not devise any protection as far adoption laws were concerned – whether gay and lesbian couples can adopt children, whether they have right to adopt.
The Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act addresses the issue of sexual assault against children it does not address concerns raised by DCPCR relating to adoption, parenting, and stigma to LGBT kids. These issues need to be discussed, deliberated and legislated through process of law. Simply retaining Section 377 or repealing it does not affect gay rights as extensively as widely, and wrongly, understood. It will need a full-fledged legislative endeavor.
The Apex Court has put the ball in the Parliament’s court and thrown open the option of legislating extensively on the issue and amending the section appropriately; and, in that, provided the perfect platform for change.