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Automated surveillance technology using drones to spot problematic human behavior in crowds is going to be tested at Technozion and Spring Spree festivals at NIT Warangal, reports the Verge. Lead researcher Amarjot Singh of the University of Cambridge claimed that their system has 94% accuracy at identifying violent poses. However, this accuracy drops with more people in the frame (like there would be at a festival), for example, to 79% with 10 people in the frame.

Police surveillance is growing without much scrutiny in recent years. The laws governing such surveillance have grey areas in which a lot of video surveillance technology currently operates. Reported applications include face recognition technology, behavior recognition, as in the case of the surveillance drones reported in The Verge, facial recognition and linking with police records, including tagging personal information with Aadhaar and sharing it across states.

An increasing number of cities have police using various kinds of surveillance databases to get better information on suspects and potential criminals in the city. These databases, where individual policemen can add the information of people to have some disturbing implications. There are several cities using Facial Recognition Softwares to assist policemen keep track of criminals.

Surveillance of everyone, not just criminals or suspects

There are several cities where CCTV camera networks scan everyone on the street and match their faces against a database of suspects and criminals. Here is a partial list:

  • In 2015, Surat became the first city in India to deploy real time surveillance through facial recognition systems when they implemented NEC India's FaceWatch in collaboration with Innovative Telecom & Softwares. The system uses live feeds from a growing network of CCTV cameras and can be used to monitor for crime in real time. It is capable of facial recognition as well as Automatic number plate recognition. Also, "It automatically matches faces against a database of 30,000 criminal mugshots and can alert the police immediately of anyone on a watchlist."By August, Surat had 604 cameras in 114 locations, covering 10% of the city with plans to add another 900 cameras in a year and bring the total to 2,500 in two years.
  • In 2015, Hyderabad police launched vehicle mounted CCTV cameras with a 360 degree view and ability to store footage for 15 days.
  • In 2016, Mumbai got 4,617 CCTV cameras hooked to the RTO control room and backed by 1000 vehicles fitted with GPS in order to coordinate with the control room were made operational with the objective of tackling law and order, fighting and preventing crime, regulating traffic and detecting traffic-related offences. These cameras are also capable of Automatic Number Plate Recognition as well as Facial Recognition. Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K P Bakshi told the Indian Express, "We can search for an individual all over the city. The cameras will identify the face of a wanted criminal. The camera will also pick out faces of persons roaming around continuously in one place. The nearest police van will then be alerted about the person’s location."
  • In 2016, 160 CCTV cameras were installed in Visakhapatanam as a part of a hi-tech surveillance network.
  • In 2016, in Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh, NEC's Facial Recognition System was used to identify suspects and criminals at the Krishna Pushkaram religious event which sees around 50 million pilgrims attending to take a holy bath in the Krishna river.
  • In 2017, Jaipur police trialed a facial recognition system with cameras installed outside the Ganesh temple at Modi Doongri and controlled from the command and control centre called "Abhay". The FRS would scan the people before it and match them against a database of serial offenders and suspects.
  • In 2018, Cameras with Facial Recognition Technology are expected to be in use in local trains on the Central line in Mumbai, by the end of the year 2018, at a total cost of 276 crore. The cameras "will store facial details of commuters (for 10 days). The cameras with facial recognition software would help trace past movements of any offender on a local train and arrest the person when he travels next." A total of 11,160 cameras will be procured - 76 cameras for each rake, with at least 6 cameras in each coach of the rake.
  • In 2018, Hyderabad city police are matching the faces of everyone on the city's streets against a database of one lakh criminas, from the control room at the Facial Recognition Analytics unit at the Commissioner’s office at Basheerbagh. IT Cell incharge, K. Sreenath Reddy said that the local police are alerted only when the resemblance is more than 70 per cent.
  • Thiruvananthapuram police are using 233 cameras in their surveillance network of the city.
  • Paradip in Odisha is to get a CCTV surveillance camera network within a month.
  • Retired ACP Dhoble (of the hockey stick wielding moral police fame) is now in the process of getting a facial recognition software for the city and believes it needs to be created with the "help" of his son Kshitij, who specialized in Artificial Intelligence at Aukland University. An effort that initially began with a goal of tracing missing people has expanded its objective to "tracking criminals" as well. "Meanwhile, they began compiling the information of all 15,847 police stations in India and uploaded it on the site. One aspect of the site is uploading the information of these police and stations. The other is to spot child beggars, labourers and send it to the site."

Police database for use with mobile app -FaceTagr

This is a database of criminal records that can be used with a Facial Recognition Software (FaceTagr) installed on Android mobile phones of beat policemen and inspectors working in the field. When a policeman scans a suspect's face, the mobile app returns data of police cases filed and police station limits for the criminal the face matches with. Databases being expandable, the database has the potential to store the records of criminals across the country.

The application that was originally built by Vijay Gnanadesikan, CEO of Haliscape Business Solutions, to help rescue children by matching records of missing and found children, was first trialled for police use in Chennal

  • In 2017, FACETAGR was adopted by T Nagar police station of Chennai, beginning with a database of 12,000 criminals. An additional 40,000 suspects were added to the app to improve the chances of police identifying faces. The app used by policemen to "scan" suspects. Once a suspect is scanned, the app returns information about them.
  • In 2018, Chennai police will expand the use of FACETAGR to include interstate criminals as well by expanding the data used by the application to other Southern states. Currently the database has information on 67,000 criminals, including information sent by the Pudducherry Crime Records Bureau. It is awaiting data from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka. The application is in use in 10 out of 12 police districts and is installed on the phones of beat constables. 18 inspectors, subinspecotrs and 150 beat police of Washermanpet were the latest to get the app, with "700 criminals in A, A plus, B and C categories".
  • Chittoor adopted the app in December 2017 with data of 10,000 sandalwood smugglers and 3,000 suspected criminals.
  • Pudducherry has also adopted the use of FACETAGR in March 2018

e-Petty

The e-Petty app is being used across Telangana state to book cases in minor crimes under Sections pertaining to IPC, City Police Act, Gaming Act/ COTPA Act 2003, Motor Vehicle Act and Town Nuisance Act. The app can record photographic and video evidence from the crime scene, photographs of suspects and generate an automatic chargesheet based on evidence. The app tracks previous cases of individuals as well and identify repeat violators because the app links profiles online with Aadhaar card numbers.

Hyderabad

Hyderabad is probably the most surveilled city in the country. The Integrated People Information Hub pulls data from dozens of sources to create profiles of individuals that include not just their own comprehensive information, but that of parents as well. It is a data hoarding machine gone rogue, where there appears to be no reason or reasonable suspicion required to put citizens under surveillance. The surveillance includes call records, social media, relatives and friends, utilities and more.

Questions raised

The use of aggregated databases and Artificial Intelligence  in large scale applications is new in India and the laws don't yet have necessary support as well as restrictions on implementation. There is no doubt that information is power and information on suspects and criminals empowers police to do their jobs better. The lack of development of proper laws, policies, protocols and facilities for the police to record and access information in a secure manner has led to the adoption of various technologies in an ad hoc manner with little overisght.

However, largescale use of such applications raise several and serious questions:

  • Is it constitutional to treat every person as a potential criminal? When all the people entering the range of a Facial Recognition enabled camera are scanned and matched against databases of criminals, it amounts to intrusive surveillance. India lacks a data protection law or a law defining the contours of privacy, however the recent robust arguments against surveillance and observations by judges in the Constitutional Challenge to Aadhaar are very clear that Indians do have a right to privacy and surveillance violates this right.
  • Data ownership: FaceTagr is owned by Haliscape Business Solutiosn Pvt Ltd of Chennai. NEC is a global organization. It is unclear who owns or protects the data on these databases and what restrictions exist against its misuse.
  • Data access: Cortica, a foreign AI company has formed a partnership with the Best Group to analyze CCTV footage from public cameras to predict crime. While technologically it may be a challenging goal, a foreign company with considerable ties to foreign intelligence has capabilities and access to individuals on Indian streets. The software is capable of using data from not just video cameras but satellite and drone footage as well and is capable of analyzing human behavior, including differentiating between nature of crowds - routine market corwd or a protest, etc.In the case of Mumbai, a company run by a software professional and a retired police official appears to have  access to information from all police stations in India and are proceeding to build a database! It is unclear how and why a software under development by private individuals has access to nationwide sensitive data.
  • A market of the gullible: The lack of proper evaluation or policies requiring specific standards has left the police of India a ripe target for companies selling surveillance products who may exploit the real need for collecting information or corrupt insiders to gain contracts. Many of the technologies described here have not been subjected to robust testing and have no published research about their quality. Some of the stories describe extensive installations that become defunct or are not of adequate quality to begin with, as in the case of Visakhapatanam, left with 3 working cameras out of 160 within 2 years of installation at massive public expense. Others describe extremely efficient systems, but ones that violate the rights of the citizens they are supposed to serve.This risks spending public funds for purposes and methods that may not be in public interest. There is an urgent need to consult with independent experts and digital rights law researchers and other professionals without conflict of interest to put together guidelines for data collection for surveillance, data destruction when its purpose is served, securing of that data to prevent misuse and policies on who should have access and a transparent process for granting such access.
  • Who is a criminal or suspect: It doesn't take a lot for police to consider someone a suspect and there is little oversight. There is no warrant or independent authority required to initiate surveillance against anyone. Such a database has the capacity to take the local prejudices of police across state lines and cause considerable harassment to individuals in all areas covered by such databases.
  • Utility: While there is obviously a need for police to monitor suspects in order to gather evidence, the legality and utility of randomly spotting them on the street is debatable. What is the utility of someone say.... suspected of having conducted a robbery... being spotted in another state - if it even is the same person?
  • Technological limitations: Such "identification" is inherently probabilistic and can be wrong. A good example would be the Welsh police wrongly identifying over two thousand people as potential criminals when they used Facial Recognition at the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff in a crowd of 170,000 spectators. This has the potential to create a lot of harassment as well as waste police resources when applied to the far bigger numbers of people on the street in Indian cities.
  • Bypassing consent: A person suspected by the police and asked to come for questioning has rights. They can agree or refuse and the police cannot actually force them to say.... stand in a line up to be identified without any due process. Or they may wish to have a lawyer present when interacting with a policeman as a suspect. However, use of software such as this allows a beat constable to completely arbitrarily scan people who may not even realize that they are actually in a situation with the law where they may need to exert choices to protect their interests.
  • Human rights: As often happens when the state adopts technology, the advantages of the technology have been understood and promoted, but there appears to have been little consideration given to human rights implications of falsely accused individuals, potential for corruption through entering or removing entries on the database for bribes or blackmail, consequences of false positives to innocents and other potential fallout. There needs to be better consultation by the state when adopting such technologies with professionals (other than those providing the technology as a solution) to assess the wider impact beyond the immediate problem the technology aims to solve and mitigate the potential for harm.
  • Ability to maintain technology: Out of 160 cameras installed in Visakhapatanam 2016, 3 cameras were working in 2018. One of them being pointed to the ground, was useless.
  • Aggregated or discrete databases? It is not known whether the databases used to identify criminals through CCTV or the FaceTagr app or e-Petty are linked where they coexist. Aggregation of data across these databases has even more potential for the violation of rights of citizens.
  • Magnifying social prejudices: A simple statistical reality is that positives - whether real or false - will be higher among those who get scanned more. In a country where there is considerable documented evidence of prejudice against religious minorities or underprivileged castes, classes and communities, the use of such a software has the potential to magnify and endorse prejudices that cause their targeting. Take for example, reported cases of slums being raided and all the men in them being asked to identify themselves. The chances of these men being identified - correctly or falsely - will always be higher than say a person living in a gated society, where such raids are unheard of, simply because such faces will get scanned more often than those whose circumstances don't lend easily to such situations.
  • Use of Aadhaar for profiling: the e-Petty app used in Telangana is a clear use of Aadhaar for profiling - something the government has consistently denied in the Supreme Court.
  • Lack of appropriate digital security: Apart from the data being shared across state borders, or being hosted on private servers or foreign companies being given access to it - which are issues of policy to determine what is appropriate and what is not, there are outright failures of digital security, which result in unintended and unauthorized access to the very sensitive data being collected. Researcher Kodali, for example, had pointed out that the Hyderabad police were using a third party portal to record and geotag crime. The portal having very poor security for the purpose it was being used for, had allowed the indexing of crime reports by search engines for years, including the names of rape victims - which is not legal in India.
  • Lack of independent audit or testing: The systems used for both largescale CCTV surveillance as well as scanning individuals using a mobile app do not have information available on their accuracy. The lesser the accuracy, the more such systems will end up wasting police resources on chasing dead ends and causing harassing citizens.
  • A need for legislation: It is undeniable that the police need effective ways to access databases to find information on suspects and criminals on the fly. It is also inevitable that this will involve a certain degree of invasion of privacy in the interests of conducting investigations. However, this cannot simply be left to whatever software developers believe can be done or police wish to adopt. There needs to be a regulatory framework that will identify situations when such use is legitimate and protect citizens from arbitrarily being entered into databases as suspects. There should also be regulation of what information should remain local and what should be disseminated - a local suspected of robbery does not need to be found acorss state borders, but an absconding criminal found in the footage of a murder should be. There is also a need for legislation to remove names from the databases when the people are no longer suspects - for example cases people were suspected in get closed with others charged.

Further reading:

  • Research published by the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, "The Perpetual Line-Up" on the unregulated use of public surveillance by law enforcement and the risks.
  • Technological bias: While MediaNama was not able to find any research about FaceTagr specifically, "Face Recognition Performance: Role of Demographic Information" by the FBI about accuracy of Facial Recognition in various population demographics is an interesting read on the biases caused by how the system is "trained" to recognize faces.
  • Policy Paper on Surveillance in India by the Centre for Internet & Society

25

Secret government proceedings at the best of Power Mill lobbies are apparently acting to have the Handloom Reservation act set aside, ruining the lives of lakhs of handloom workers nationwide.

It is no secret that Mills have long hated the Handloom(Reservation of Articles for Production) Act of 1985. The act basically lists traditional textile items as reserved to be produced on handlooms alone (handlooms are defined as anything not a power loom). It appears that now the mills will succeed in getting rid of this Act, unless citizens intervene. The mandatory pro-lobby opinion forming article in MSM has quietly appeared, but there is little noise over it. Notice how it is a piece that argues against the Act out of the blue - absolutely nothing in the news to provoke a reassessment of the Act. Usually an indicator that there is something in the background that is coming up that the piece is preparing the readers for (or rather, setting up opinion).

The argument basically says that since the power looms are already violating the Handloom Reservation Act, it should be scrapped. It is an interesting argument that can probably be applied to the entire IPC.

Here's what's going on.

Quote from an email appeal for help by Marchalla Mohan Rao, President of the Handloom Weavers' Association of undivided Andhra Pradesh.

The Government of India is going to remove Hand Loom Reservation Act, which is giving some extent protection to the hand loom sector till now. Textile Department already Constitute a committee on this issue to analysis the implementation of reservation act and  possibilities of removable items of varieties of hand looms or to totally remove this act by putting in the Parliament for amendment. Committee meeting held  on 20th March,2015 in this regard in D C H Office Delhi, nobody telling about this issue, what is going on reservation act, they are maintaning the secrecy in the department.

In this context, we are all seeking  for your suggestions, how we can overcome from  this problem to protect the hand looms in india. In which way we can brought this issue before the government as well as civil society for their involvement for hand loom weavers movement.

So, please send your opinions and suggestions to over come from this problem and to protect the lakhs of hand loom weavers lively hood.

You can read more about the realities of weavers in Andhra.

Shyamsundari of Dastkar Andhra is more direct.

We had a two day deliberation in Delhi in the month of March regarding the importance of the Reservation Act in securing the interests of the handloom sector. I spoke to the Enforcement chief personally and to the two deputy directors. They agreed to come but failed to show up. The Secretary was given a direct invitation by one of the members of the Federation of Handloom organisations. Same was the case with the DCH. But there was no representation from the Handloom Department. And within a couple of weeks we hear from the enforcement officials(unofficially) that a move is on to repeal the Act. There seems to be a strong powerloom lobby behind the move and the Secretary Textiles seems to be playing an active role in the whole thing.

Livelihoods of weavers are already an issue. Third National Census of Handloom Units and Allied Activity Workers (2010) for Development Commissioner (Handlooms), ministry of textiles by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (India's oldest and independent think tank) tells us something about who these weavers are.

  • 87% of total household units (27.83 lakh) are located in rural areas.
  • Nearly 47% of handloom worker households are BPL and rest are non-BPL.
  • 29 lakh weavers constitute 76% of the adult workforce.
  • 9.38 lakh allied workers are 24% of the adult workforce.
  • Almost 67% weavers are engaged full time in weaving.
  • Almost 75% of handloom workers are women.
  • 60% of adult handloom workers have little or no schooling.

We are talking of some of the most vulnerable rural populations here. People who have no alternative employment. Three-fourth of them being women means that their loss of occupation and income is going to have a direct adverse influence on their children as well - a large part of income of women goes directly to the well being of their children. Lack of schooling means that the potential for already scarce jobs gets even lower. The one skill they do have will be rendered obsolete by mechanical alternatives that produce cheaper but employ far fewer people in a country where power is scarce and labour abundant.

The government's sabotage of rural employment schemes is only going to make this difficult. For a reference, textile mill workers rendered obsolete in 1993, are getting Rs 3000/- per month under Textiles Workers Rehabilitation Fund. They are not able to survive on these funds. Alternative employment for them itself is a problem without adding handloom workers to the mix. 15 lakh handloom households (53%) undertake handloom work exclusively for commercial purposes, while 4.38 lakh households (16%) produce for both domestic as well as commercial purposes.

Woman weaver at handloom from Walahjapet, Tamil Nadu
Woman weaver at her loom from Walahjapet, Tamil Nadu. Photo: Sweta Daga Source: ruralindiaonline.org

 

It is true that Mills already illegally produce and sell items reserved to be produced on handlooms. However, the law does protect the handloom workers, as action can be taken against the illegally produced goods. Also the illegally produced goods cannot undercut the prices of handloom produced goods. Without this protection, the market will be flooded with cheap textiles that the creators of handloom products cannot compete with. Yet, the soul of the traditional items will be altered forever.

"At present Crores of people are waiting for their jobs, every year more than 60,00,000 graduates/ post graduates/ technologists are coming out from the universities/ institutions. Why the government is not providing the employment to these youth, if there is any possibility." Marchala demands to know. "Another one important issue is if we alow the powerlooms in India; China, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Pakistan,Jermany,Korea, Thailand exporters are ready to dump their prodcuts in the Indian domestic market. It has not happened yet, because varieties are reserved for handlooms exclusively."

"Mechanization never creates employment, Our India has plenty of human resources. They should be employed by production activity. It is handlooms in rural India. No other industry except the service sector. Service sector also cannot provide employment regularly." It has been noted before by Ravinder Kumar that India had not added jobs in agriculture or manufacturing since 1995. Where is the rural person to seek employment?

"If we allow the powerlooms to produce the Silk/cotton Sarees and dress Materials, it will ruin the total handloom sector without any doubt. It will to the starvation among the weaving community and some parts of India it will lead to armed struggles, for example Jammu and Kashmir (where the official records require the government to adopt the Handloom Reservation Act or enact something similar, yet has not, resulting in the famed Pashmina being woven on power looms, damaging the livelihoods as well as traditional craft). Over 60% of India's weaver households reside in the North East and earn about Rs 300 per day. What happens of them and what will the impact of their disenfranchisement be on the regional unrest?"

Is this the future of our traditional arts at the hands of the government that appears to have interest in promoting both handlooms and traditions? Are we going to have exquisite silk saris produced by powerlooms that copy traditional designs and starve traditional weavers? What does a Ludhiana Power Looms pashmina shawl even mean?

Handloom sari at Walahjapet, Tamil Nadu
Handloom sari at Walahjapet, Tamil Nadu. Photo: Sweta Daga Source: ruralindiaonline.org

"On 29,80,000 hand looms more than 65,00,000 families of 1,20,00,000 people are depending for their livelihood. All these people will be abandoned by the state if powerlooms replace these creators of exquisite crafts like so much horse power labour mass producing identical designs.

The secrecy around the proceedings is ominous. This government has shown little inclination for accountability. It now depends on us to ask questions that require answers.

[tweetthis]Handlom fabric enthusiasts, please read this![/tweetthis]

Update: The Odisha government has opposed the bid of powerloom operators to get saris removed from the Handloom(Reservation of Articles for Production) Act of 1985.

3

The Economic Survey of India states that PDS allocations lost to leakages were 54%of wheat, 15%of rice, 48%Sugar & 41% of Kerosene. That's over Rs. 68,700 crore rupees.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@Aun_X, @Vidyut" url="https://t.co/IoqjNglEh2"]Amazing how popular ration items show the most "leakages" #EconomicSurvey http://t.co/YzVnuK7ZWD[/tweetthis]

Wheat, sugar and kerosene are the three items most people prefer to purchase from the PDS system. These are the three items that do not result in any major perception of lower quality from having been purchased from the PDS system, as opposed to rice, which is usually noticeably poorer quality than the more expensive and better tasting store bought varieties. Most purchasers of rice from the PDS system, other than the very poor end up using it for making flour or batter for dosas. Very few who can afford to eat well bother with the rice from the PDS system to eat with cooked grain in tact. Is it not remarkable then, that rice, which often has poorer quality sacks than sugar manages to leak more than sugar? Who are we fooling here?

Here we take a look at the inside story on "leakages" with kerosene. Similar stories exist for other items too.

The PDS system in India was introduced in 1965 and was aimed at poverty alleviation and to curb hunger in the lower classes of the society. With time India has changed, but the good old Public Distribution System remained the same.

The PDS system in India has always been in news for all the wrong reasons. Out of the entire host of commodities those are sold through PDS, Kerosene’s black market alone is worth Rs. 10,000 Crores. While there have been talks and talks only to reduce these losses, no action is visible on ground. We have often heard that black marketers are ruthless, they have been robbing the government and even have killed some honest Government officers like Sonawane in Nasik, Maharashtra or some senior journalist in Andhra Pradesh, but not much of the reporting is done to understand the real cause. We are often told that the price deferential between the Diesel and Kerosene is responsible while that isn’t the complete picture.

The System:

Kerosene is sold in the market through a whole host of dealers and sub dealers. When a tanker is dispatched from the company it is sealed and secured. When it reaches the Dealer or the whole seller, it need to be first checked by the Tahsildar or any officer from his office and certified that the tanker is not tampered with. Only after that a tanker can be unloaded at the depot.

Once the Tanker is unloaded at the depot, it again needs to be certified by the tahsildar that the entire load is unloaded, and the documents are needed to be stamped and signed. Same goes with Semi wholesalers as they buy the entire sealed lorry from the Dealers. The semi-wholesaler then distributes the stock to the Hawkers and retailers.

The Government has fixed approx. Re1 / ltr as commission to the dealer as well as the wholesalers. But the need of unnecessary checks at every level means more money changes hands as bribes right from the clerks in the tahsildar’s office to the District Supply Officers. A Dealer normally pays 5000 to 10000 per month depending on his quota. Higher the quota more is demanded from the District Supply Officers. Even after the payment of these bribes, the dealers and wholesalers are raided and show cause notices are issued against them when they ask questions.

Now let’s talk about hawkers and retailers. Each retailer and hawker has been allotted a monthly quota which can be in the range of 1 to 5 barrels (200 ltr/ barrel) a month, depending upon the need of kerosene in his territory. A retailer buys kerosene from the dealer at the rate of 15.40/ ltr and sells it at 15.66/ltr (or he is suppose to sell at that price). That means he makes Rs. 52/barrel. Imagine this. Just the transportation cost that he bears from the dealer’s depot till the point of distribution costs Rs 200/barrel. Add to it his record keeping expenses which is about Rs 200 per month plus the monthly bribes of Rs. 1000 per month that he has to pay to various clerks of the tahsil office.

All these numbers makes the entire business unviable for him. Since he is the only point of leak in the distribution system, mafias target these poor retail license holders. They purchase the entire monthly quota from them giving them a profit of Rs. 5/ ltr. Or Rs 1000/ Barrel. And then they retail it for Rs. 40/Ltr in the open market.

This is a systematic problem. Apart from a culture of bribery, the narrow margins also contribute to making the business unviable, leading to "leakages". The end result is poor availability of kerosene for the common man, regardless of price.

There is a need to use more realistic language in reporting statistics to citizens. There is also a need to investigate sources of leaks and plug them comprehensively while making necessary revisions for the system to still remain viable enough for the distribution to happen.

Another problem is that kerosene is not available for purchase other than government ration supplies - even if a citizen did not want to purchase it in "black". Unless you have a ration card that allows you to purchase kerosene, there is no legal way if you needed to buy it for say... cooking on an outing or using with oil paints or lighting a bonfire. There is a need for kerosene to be available for purchase on the open market as opposed to government ration sources alone. This will reduce the market for "black" kerosene if people can simply buy legally.

The problem is such that these "leakages" often result in kerosene being unavailable for people to purchase even if they are entitled to purchase with their ration cards. Households dependent on kerosene for cooking end up spending far more money purchasing the kerosene siphoned off from the system at higher prices.

As per The Hindu report, Government is currently losing Rs. 12.54/ ltr by way of subsidies. If the subsidies are removed the kerosene will be retailed in the market for Rs 27.68Rs/ ltr. This is still cheaper than what is being sold by the mafias in the open market. This will raise the price for the poor consumer regardless. The alternative is to devise a system and adequate checks that prevent this pilferage. Possibly by making the margins more realistic and clubbing them with severe punishments for theft.

These solutions are really practical but it needs a strong political will for its implementation. But you can never expect a government which works hand in glove with mafias to implement them.

Regardless, the mafia causing such massive losses to the country have to be eradicated. In the meanwhile, the Economic Survey of India should at least stop lying and call these "leakages" what they are - pilferage. The real problem has to be visible for real solutions to even be deemed necessary.

This post has been written in collaboration with Aun Ajani.

Aun Ajani is a MBA graduate from the Birmingham Business School, UK. He has previously worked with an Investment bank and is now conducting market research to implement his business idea. He has witnessed the problems in kerosene retail and distribution business since his childhood as his family is in the petroleum retail business since the last 75 years. 

On day 2 of Modi on the job, his cabinet has passed the ordinance for the Polavaram project. It is waiting for Pranab Mukherjee's signature.

Apart from 136 villages, 211 hamlets and 7 mandals being transferred from Telangana to Andhra, as per the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan study conducted by Agricultural Finance Corporation Limited, on behalf of the irrigation department, the backwaters of Indira Sagar dam, once completed, will submerge 2,929.07 hectares of reserve forest, spreading across mostly Khammam (2,820.61 hectares), followed by 70.71 hectares in West Godavari and 37.75 acres in East Godavari. Another 293.08 hectares of reserve forest would have to be acquired for project and canal. Thus, a total of 3,223 hectares of reserve forest would disappear totally under the project.

That will teach the anti-national animals to not vote for Modi in the next election.

The National Board of Wildlife (headed by the Prime Minister) had cleared the wildlife aspect of Polavaram (Indira Sagar) project in 2006 after considering various aspects of submergence of the Papikondalu Wildlife Sanctuary (187 hectares) in a meeting attended by BJP's favorite enemy A. Raja. Clearly the "developmental harvest" will be reaped at the cost of the tribals and wildlife he sold out anyway.

The project, proposes to irrigate 232,000 acres in Krishna, Godavari (east and west) and Vishakhapatnam districts (in other words, less than 1.5 times the 1,57,406 acre area that will get submerged - or in other words, there are industrial uses for most of the water), and generate about 960 MW electricity. Water from this project will also feed the proposed Vizag-Kakinada Industrial Corridor; two Special Economic Zones, the Apparel Park, Pharma City, probably a Naval Establishment, and perhaps an atomic research station. The project's stated aims are to irrigate 54 mandals in 4 districts - Krishna, Vishakapatnam, West and East Godavari; to sustainably increase agricultural production; to assure water supply for drinking in Vishakhapatnam and towns en route; to link the Godavari and Krishna rivers, thus reducing pressure on the Krishna waters; and also facilitate recreation, pisciculture, etc.

Over 276 tribal villages in the agency areas of East and West Godavari districts and Khammam district will be submerged. Based on the 2001 census of these areas, it is estimated that 237,000 people will be displaced. About 53 per cent of those displaced will be adivasis, two-thirds of them being Koyas and Konda Reddis. More than 300 hectares of prime forest land, comprising the Papikondalu Wildlife Sanctuary, will also be inundated. The likely agricultural loss is also phenomenal; in the submergence area, cotton is grown in over 10,000 acres, each providing an average of 150 person-days of work. Paddy is grown in 10,000 acres, providing an additional 75 person-days of work each. Tobacco is grown in 6,000 acres and gives 250 person-days of work per acre. And losses in other livelihoods will worsen this situation further. The levels of displacement of lives and livelihoods, besides destruction of environment from this project will far exceed the impact of the Sardar Sarovar dam over the Narmada river. What is more important, a lot many more tribal households stand to be displaced in this project when compared to the latter.

Prof T Shivaji Rao commented on the India Together post this article refers to extensively saying:

The Polavaram Dam issue is not properly understood by the general public in either Andhra pradesh, Orissa, Chattisgarh or CWC in Delhi with the result that the Courts at the state or central level are not scientifically briefed about the complete environmental implications of the project. Firstly,the project was strongly opposed in May 1983 by Dr.K.L.Rao,the top most expert in irrigation Engineering on the ground that the spill-way is highly under-designed and wrongly sited and it will collapse one day or the other.

Secondly,it is not clear if Orissa and Chattisgarh states are opposing the dam on the ground that their original agreement was based on assumption of spill-way design for a Maximum Flood Discharge of 36 lakhs cusecs with a return period of 500-years which is not in tune with the CWC Design standards of 1000-year return period which means raising the peak flood to 49.5 lakh cusecs. Further,the Environmental Impact Assessment, Risk Analysis, Disaster Management including the Rehabilitation and Resettlement reports are based on the old design [2004] criteria of 36 lakh cusecs peak flood while the revised project design based on peak flood of 49.5 lakh cusecs [September,2006] does not take into consideration the need to make a corresponding revision of EIA, RADM and R&R packages. Under the inter-state Agreement,it is the CWC which has to design the project and the determine the back-water curve that is crucial for identifying the areas to be submerged due to extreme floods.

We shoud not put the cart before the horse. In one of the cinemas "Vaddate Dabbu",N.T.Rama Rao as hero instructs his engineers to construct the top floor of the building first so that the basement can be taken up for construction later. Today the politicians and the bureaucrats seem to follow this advise in total that means even without the Central Water Commission taking the primary step in calculating the maximum peak flood for spillway design as per the norms prescribed by the Central Government and the norms followed in other countries and also without the directions of the Central Water Commission on the configuration of the backwater curve that presence the scenarios of submersion in the upper states of Orissa and Chttisgarh and Andhra Pradesh no organization can make a proper assessment of the environmental impact, risk analysis, disaster management plan including rehabilitation and resettlement schemes. But in the present case it appears the reverse process has come into operation and the non-governmental organizations and the Ministries of Environment and forests at the state and central levels seem to be helpless spectators while implementing the rules under the Environmental Protection Act and Forest Conservation Acts.

Unfortunately when the Bachawat Tribunal was giving the award 1982 on Godavari water the peak flood at that time was of a far lesser magnitude and consequently the peak flood was raised to the expected peak level of 36lakh cusecs. Consequently the Bachawat Tribunal accepted the interstate agreement for a peak flood of 36 lakhs cusecs and put a condition that the clearance for the polavaram project was considered for the dam height fixed at an elevation of 150ft. and that the submersion of villages due to back water curve in the upper reaches of the river in Orissa and Chattisgarh states must be limited to +150ft only. Unfortunately in August 1986 the Godavari river experienced a peak flood discharge of 36 lakhs cusecs and hence this unexpected event of extreme magnitude leads to a corresponding increase in revising the peak spillway flood discharge to be about one and half times the historically recorded flood and consequently the state Government has been directed by the central Water Commission in August 2006 to revise the peak flood to 49.5lakh cusecs.

Consequently the Orissa and Chattisgarh state governments are arguing that in view of this revised extreme flood the inundation in Chattisgarh and Orissa will be far higher than originally contemplated at the time of interstate agreement made in 1980. Hence the environmental clearances and forest clearances obtained on the basis of a peak flood of 36 lakhs cusecs does not hold good because more extensive areas will be inundated due to the peak flood of 49.5 lakh cusecs as revised in Aug-Sep 2006. Hence the non-governmental organizations, the state Governments and the courts must take into consideration this new aspect which throws all the earlier reports on Polavaram dam out of gear and hence fresh reports must be prepared to confirm to the rule of law for ensuring a safe environment for the dam and the people who are likely to be affected both on the upstream side and downstream side. Prof.T.Shivaji Rao, Director,Centre for Environmental Studies, GITAM Engineering College,

These people will be moved to cheaply provided accommodation that usually never reaches all those who are displaced and a 40,000 rupee alternative cannot compare with the loss of your own home. The tribals live off the land and forests and have no skills for economic survival in other environments. On top of losing their homes and getting some half hearted compensation that can never compete with the quality of life they have, they will also have to figure out how to survive in an environment they don't have the skills for.

As usual, the person deciding on how their life should unfold is some guy sitting on a stack of notes elsewhere, who will not have to face a moment's discomfort over their devastation.

Once more, development hit tribals will sacrifice for the "greater good" of those who already have more than them. Us, elitist leeches will never tire of sucking the life out of them.

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Note 2: For newer updates see Cyclone Phailin toll, relief and other information and information to donate or send aid.

Note: This page tracks resources. For monitoring breaking news from Cyclone Phailin, see the page for news updates about Cyclone Phailin. This page will be updated constantly. Please keep checking. Also check map of shelters, hospitals and control rooms.

Cyclone Phailin is a massive cyclone building in the Bay of Bengal and expected to hit India's east coast by tomorrow evening. Its severity has been guaged as 4 (on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being worst) and is expected to rise to 5 by the time it hits landfall. The cyclone is expected to affect Andhra Pradesh, Odisha (Orissa) and Madhya Pradesh. This page aims to collect all relevant information. Feel free to use the comments to add resources or request resources.

  • Over 500,000 evacuated in India via NDMA as of 5:00pm on 12th October
  • Over 35,000,000 in the path of Phailin
  • 20+ foot storm surge expected
  • Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated current significant wave height within Phailin ~56 ft.
  • All trains between Howrah and Vishakhapatanam have been cancelled as a precautionary measure. 56 trains have been canceled,16 diverted&4-5 trains partially terminated.
  • All flights to Odisha have been stopped, airports have been shut down
  • Doctors for Seva has two medical teams on standby in Hyderabad and Chattisgarh for Cyclone Phailin relief work.
  • At its peak, Cyclone #Phailin tied both the 1999 Cyclone & 2013's Typhoon #Usagi: Earth's strongest storm this year. http://t.co/o20mCoUN1M via @EricHolthaus

[satellite]

Helplines for Cyclone Phailin

Now there is a page with mapped helplines information

Control Room Contacts

Also Contact page for APEPDCL has details on various offices and customer service numbers.

West Godavari DistrictControl Rooms
Eluru Collectorate08812-230617
Eluru RDO08812-232044
Narsapuram RDO08814-276699
Kovvur RDO08813-231488
Jangareddygudem RDO08821-223660
Power Supply Control Rooms
Eluru Circle Office08812-231287/288920
Eluru Div Office08812-252150/232151
Nidadavolu Div Office08813-221093/221211
Bhimavaram Div Office08816-223464/228628
Tadepalligudem Div Office08818-221357/220777
Jangareddygudem Div office08821-225844/226864
Technical DEO, Eluru Circle94408 12703
Operations DEO, Eluru Circle94408 12704
Technical EO, Eluru Circle94906 10137
Operations DEO, Nidadavolu94408 12706
Technical EO, Nidadavolu94906 10142
Operations DEO, Bhimavaram94408 12707
Technical EO, Bhimavaram94906 10143
Operations EO, Tadepalligudem94408 12705
Technical EO, Bhimavaram94906 10140
Operations EO, Jangareddygudem94910 49797
Technical EO, Jangareddygudem94910 30712

East Coast Railway Helplines

East Coast Railway Helplines Vizag-0891-2505793, 08935-249672, Vizianagaram-08922-225510, Srikakulam-08942- 28722 Naupada-08945-249728, Rayagada-06856-6222407, Koraput-06852-251802

Shelters

List of cyclone shelters in Andhra Pradesh http://disastermanagement.ap.gov.in/website/shelters.htm

Shelters
OdishaTotal number: 10,042
Kendrapara:328
Jajpur:255
Jagatisnghpur:593
AndhraIcchapuram, Sompeta, Palasa,Etcherla, Kaviti mandals of Srikakulam dist: Total 32 shelters

How to prepare for a cyclone

https://aamjanata.com/wp-content/uploads/cyclonephailin-131011031453-phpapp02.pdf Presentation by Archana Kulshrestha

Track Cyclone Phailin

Sources of updates closest to ground zero

StandBy Task Force, OpenCrisis, Info4Disasters, HOT, ERCIS, EMA, CrisisMappersUK have teamed up?https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jAWzKP_Fhs5rzxzTChjvaDWNH319aHIzPywr327G0Xs/edit

Information on shelters, media, medical centers etc is at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AppW8Gi1zVHtdFFHSGViaEY5Y1NsYi1lc1NTTExxT1E&usp=drive_web#gid=0