The death toll in the tragedy at BRD Medical college in Gorakhpur has reached 79, but there are no signs of the government focusing its priorities on the well being of citizens. Instead, the government and its obedient hordes on social media continue to seek scapegoats that would let those responsible for governance off the hook - no matter the cost.
When BRD Medical college did not pay their supplier of liquid oxygen since November 2016, the bills kept mounting. Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd kept the supply going on humanitarian grounds for months, while demanding payments for the dues. The college did not pay. Finally, the supplier stopped the supply of oxygen to the hospital, leading to the deaths of large numbers of children and some adults - patients who were dependent on oxygen for survival.
Why were the bills not paid?
The hospital had 3.86 crore in its account on Wednesday. Yet the dues were not paid, putting patients at risk.
Multiple sources have revealed to the media that the payments were held back due to the supplier not paying kickbacks to people in key positions in the government.
Well, Yogi Adityanath promised action and was dutifully and unquestioningly reported by a gushing media. Sakshi Maharaj called it a massacre. Clearly, BJP, as always was going to be "not responsible". Enter the mission bakra hunt!
So who are the villains now?
The supplier of oxygen, who provided oxygen to the medical college for months in spite of non-payment of dues and had to stop, because their supplier refused to give them more credit when the hospital wouldn't release funds... well, the government is booking them for holding back supply of life saving oxygen.
Dr. Rajiv Mishra
The principal of BRD medical college has been suspended - why is uncelar, because the UP government insists no one died because of lack of oxygen. The doctor says he anticipated this coming and had resigned. He had allegedly been instructed to hold back payments to Pushpa Sales.
Dr. Kafeel Ahmad
Dr Kafeel Ahmad appears to have been tossed on the heap mostly because he's an attractive target to trolls - likely because he is a Muslim, because otherwise, it is clear that he worked hard and at own expense to save lives of children when oxygen ran out. He still saw 60 die.
And of course, Muslim target locked, we have the usual suspects rewriting reality to coddle their masters. India Samvad and several other BJP mouthpieces put out articles slandering Dr. Kafeel Ahmad with their usual sleaze. Some of the nonsense put out is addressed here.
Apparently Dr. Kafeel Ahmad was caught appearing in medical exams on behalf of someone else, is a rapist, was suspended by Manipal university over criminal charges, verdict upheld by High Court ..... and other random results they could quickly cobble together in order to discredit him.
Dubious stories and irrelevant to his actions in the emergency, regardless. Even if the stories were true, none of them explain why the oxygen bills were not paid by the hospital. And even if all the stories were true, it doesn't change the fact that he did save lives.
Dr. Kafeel Ahmad has a private practice.
I dare BJP to enforce that doctors in government hospitals can't have private practice. All doctors in government hospitals have private practice. But wait. BJP would probably happily do it, given their overall goal to collapse and privatize healthcare anyway.
Deaths only happened in Dr. Kafeel Ahmad's ward, when there were also other adults depending on oxygen - who would have been at risk too, if oxygen supply was really cut off - inplying that Dr Kafeel Ahmad was somehow responsible for the deaths and not oxygen deprivation.
The only thing abundantly clear at this point is that the BJP machine cares not a hoot for accountability and will punish others for their own actions and irresponsibility. There is still no explanation for why the hospital did not pay for life essential oxygen on time. Was there a scarcity of funds? Were there funds withheld? Who is to blame for the non-payment and will the heads of people responsible for these dead children AND adults ever face any consequences, or will random people continue to be persecuted and coverups splashed in social media till people tire of expecting accountability from this plague masquerading as a political party on yet another subject?
Mumbai, 25th January, 2017: Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG) was caught with its hands in the proverbial cookie jar, and that too by the Supreme Court! R-ADAG tried to twist the terms of its Power Purchase Agreement with seven states, and make a profit of well over Rs 1,000/- crore by making the states count one day as one year (31st March 2013 is the previous financial year, and 1st April 2013 is the next financial year. Get it?) And moreover, when All Indian Power Engineers' Federation (AIPEF) blew the whistle and prevented it, R-ADAG tried to sue AIPEF's office-bearers for damages of Rs 1,000 crore! Ulta chor kitwal ko dante!
The true significance of Supreme Court’s 8th December 2016 judgment on Reliance's Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) Commercial Operation Date (COD) has gone unreported. Mainstream media has avoided reporting important thing, namely:
1) By exploiting a loophole in the Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) signed with seven states of India, Reliance Power wanted to hugely overcharge them. Madhya Pradesh, where the power project is located, would have had to pay over Rs 400 crore extra to Sasan Power Ltd. based on their false claim that Unit 3 of the UMPP started commercial operations on March 31, 2013. (Counting interest costs, the impact on MP would be around Rs 450 crore.) The PPA specifies that power is to be supplied @70 paise per unit for the first two years, and hiked up to Rs 1.31 per unit from the third year. But, if Reliance Power’s claim of March 31, 2013 as the commercial operations date (COD) were to be accepted by the seven power-purchasing states, then the first year of power purchase would be only one day long, i.e. starting on 31st March, 2013 and ending on April 1, 2013. Such a stand would enable Sasan to start charging the higher power tariff of Rs 1.31 per unit from April 1, 2014, instead of April 1, 2015. This would have resulted in a wrongful gain of Rs 1050 crore to Sasan Power Ltd, coming out of the pocket of the Indian power consumer and taxpayer.
2) Moreover, were such a claim to be accepted, it would have also resulted in incalculable loss to the nation in terms of power-generation, as it would have removed all the deadlines and left Sasan Power Ltd. under no pressure to fully operationalize Unit 3 in a time-bound manner. On 31st March 2013, Unit 3 was functioning at a mere 17% of demand. The unit became fully operational and achieved the capacity to fulfill 95% demand only in August 2013. If 31st March were considered the start of the COD by waiving this condition, it is possible and even likely that the date on which 95% demand capacity was achieved would have been pushed back even further. The heart of the PPA is the condition that Unit 3 had to be functioning at over 95% of demand, for the Commercial Operation Date to commence. By seeking to subvert the heart of the contract, R-ADAG betrayed its profiteering tendencies, and its willingness to sacrifice the safety and well-being of the national grid.
3) Sasan Power would have got away with looting India, were it not for the persistent efforts of All Indian Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), spearheaded by its chief patron Er. Padamjit Singh of Delhi and Er. Shailendra Dubey of Lucknow. It is heartening to see the activist spirit with which this professional body defended the national interest before the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and its Appellate Tribunal, and before the higher judiciary.
4) Sasan Power Limited tried to misuse Bombay High Court as a forum to intimidate AIPEF to prevent it from pursuing the matter before appropriate forums, including higher judiciary. It malafidely tried to get an injunction from Bombay High Court in August 2016 for muzzling and stalling AIPEF, and claiming damages of Rs 1,000/- crore, although the same matter was already reaching Supreme Court in Appeal.
5) There is significance in the fact that prominent Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram, in their capacity as senior advocates, attempted to defend the indefensible. This helps to remind the public that Anil Ambani has friends on both sides of the political fence. No matter who wins elections – BJP or Congress – big money wins every time. The Congress camp may shout from rooftops that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is protecting the business interests of the “two brothers”, but one must bear in mind that Congress leaders also have their interests at heart.
Political parties in India are not required to account for small cash donations. This has been used to do much evil in India. Political parties should consider exchanging the troublesome notes for citizens as donations received and returned (for whatever reason, including "demonetisation") and get the notes exchanged in bulk at the RBI (or deposited into their bank accounts and withdrawn as legal tender for further exchange).
The RBI cannot shrug off liability for these notes on whim.
In current cash strapped circumstances, with banks no longer exchanging cash, the common man can hardly walk up on a daily basis to the RBI. It is an open secret that political parties can be and are used to launder money. For once, this laundering of exchange would actually be in the larger public good.
It is also an open secret that political parties spend considerable amounts of money to "buy" votes. This wouldn't need them to spend a thing beyond the expenses of their own volunteers.
An open political campaign such as this would be a good protest move, help people and encourage them to feel an affinity with your local party office resulting in a win-win situation for citizens as well as political parties. Where distance deems it suitable, exchange and protest marches to RBI for exchange would allow people usually intimidated by the idea of approaching RBI to find comfort in numbers.
Even better, it would save political parties a hell of a lot of money they usually spend on voters, when they help voters survive the BJP. This matters when fighting a party as well funded as the BJP.
Note: I oppose opaque funding in political parties. I believe it violates the voter's right to information on influences acting on the candidate they vote for. However, since parties have resisted transparency in accounts, in this instance I believe that it should at least be used for some good, for once.
There is an abundance of claims by the government both about the virtues of demonetisation as well as the duration of the "inconvenience" people have to go through. Here is my attempt to debunk some of them.
To begin with, there is a slight problem. The objectives of the demonetisation have not been officially and explicitly listed anywhere, it appears, so one must draw them based on the Prime Minister's speech and whatever various people have said would be a "good" result from the demonetisation. These include fighting black money, fake currency notes, reducing corruption, bringing most of the money in the country into the banking system, generating more taxes and improving economy. Other non-stated objectives, widely pointed out of course, would be the ongoing bank bailout using private funds of citizens (recapitalizing, it is called in polite circles) and strangling the financial resources and thus limiting power while contesting elections for political opponents.
Let us look at these one by one.
Fighting black money
There seems to be no consensus on how much black money exactly is in the form of currency notes. An estimated 6% of all illegitimate income recovered has been in the form of currency, which does not appear to be a lot in comparison with the losses to the economy from the shock of the demonetisation. How much has been recovered is unclear. There are several reported instances of notes being confiscated. However how much of it is black money and how much is (or gets explained away as) legitimate income remains to be seen. There are reports of the news of the demonetisation already been leaked to the wealthy well in time and is supported by increased sales of gold before the demonetisation being announced. Additionally, as economists are repeatedly cautioning, black money is a result of the nature of the transaction rather than a quality of the money, so the same notes can be black money or white depending on the legality of the transaction and whether it is declared in taxes.
Supporters of the government, in their attempts to silence all criticism of demonetisation have increasingly taken to demonising cash transactions or the possession of cash itself as black money, which is a dangerous perspective in a country where 95% of the transactions happen in cash. They might as well call India a black money country. This view is incorrect and obfuscates facts. However, there is no shortage of reports of the old notes themselves being traded for a lesser value creating an overnight black market ranging from a single note to crores being laundered through agents. Between the advance warning and the laundering a large amount of the already small percentage of black money is likely to have safely returned to its owners without changing color.
A small percentage of people may declare their money and choose to pay tax on it, but this is not likely to be a large amount given that amounts over 2.5 lakh will be flagged for Income Tax, and those that cannot be explained as legitimate income are likely to incur a 200% fine in addition to the tax on the deposit (though there currently does not appear to be a provision under the law), essentially leaving only 10% with the owner of the money. Another percentage of the black money is likely to be confiscated from suspicious deposits in banks and through raids. Given that the Income Tax Department will have to show that this money is not legitimate income, the percentage of money likely to be confiscated will be small compared with all deposits flagged, if for no reason then for the sheer number of accounts that will be flagged requiring manpower to investigate and process. No doubt mass mailing of notices will happen and is already reported to have started.
However, there appear to be plenty of ways for people to launder money, including big and connected agents close to the government, false sales of gold, purchase of gold, backdated fixed deposits in banks, interest free loans, advance salaries for several months to employees and more. The government itself offered the victims of the Kanpur train tragedy compensation in the old and illegal notes. It is anyone's guess whether these amounts were originally withdrawn as legal notes and swapped with illegal ones before giving the victims, since the notes not being legal tender cannot be legally paid out by the government after demonetisation.
But the biggest blow to claims of black money being hindered by #demonetisation is the abundance of people named as having offshore accounts, notorious for having black money, cronies who have benefited from disproportionate favors from Modi led governments (state before center) and of course the noble denizens of the black money rich Bollywood. If all these people support demonetisation, they are clearly not worried about their black money being in trouble.
Fighting fake currency notes
The new notes introduced have no additional security features. Existing notes are already counterfeited, so it does not seem like demonetisation will prevent fake currency to any large degree. In fact, within days of the new notes being released, there were instances of photocopies of the notes being used to defraud people, including, in one instance by school children. The garish color and relatively flimsy paper of the new 2000 rupee notes make even real notes appear to be dubious in comparison with regular currency notes. How soon or late counterfeiters start producing fake notes is anyone's guess, but there is absolutely nothing to indicate that it won't happen. We certainly seem to have failed in intercepting their distribution, or fake notes would not be a reason to demonetise.
This seems to be mostly fiction, as even in this short duration, a bribe of four lakhs was paid using the new 2,000 rupee notes, that at the time of being caught had not even been released for a week. Reducing corruption cannot be achieved by changing currency. It would require better law enforcement and deterrents. The government machinery being one of the biggest causes of corruption in the country on every level, the government making a claim of reducing corruption with the simple changing of notes sounds mostly like the fox claiming to provide security for the poultry. Indeed in recent days, we have seen allegations backed by documents that implicate the Prime Minister himself in receiving over 55 crores from the Sahara group when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Another set of serious allegations come from several quarters, notably a BJP MLA himself, indicating that businessmen close to the ruling party had advance notice of the demonetisation and had already cleared their black money. A third allegation is that people close to the president of BJP, Amit Shah himself are exchanging large sums of black money for a fat commission. This is by Yatin Oza, a former BJP MLA who also claims to have videos backing his accusation as well as makes some realistic challenges about the richest people not featuring among those with large deposits of money into banks. Large quantities of 2,000 rupee notes seen with various people support these accusations, as no one can legally get a bundle of 2,000 rupee notes at this point due to limitations on withdrawal. None of these allegations have so far been denied by the Prime Minster or Amit Shah.
While the country lines up for access to its own cash, a large number of loans by high profile defaulters have been written off. A green fine worth 200 crore levied on Adani has been waived. BJP MLA from Rohtak has publicly reassured black money owners that they need not worry and that Haryana Chief Minister Khattar and Modi were with them. And all this is just within the last few days without needing any extensive searches through history. It is unclear why corruption would reduce under a leadership like this.
Routing most money through the banking system
How much money remains in the banking system is a matter of debate once the cash demonetised is fully replaced. Opinions are split on this. Right now people have no choice, since they aren't allowed to withdraw much cash, and banks are often even failing to provide the allowed limits of cash given the severe cash crunch that is likely to last for 4 - 6 months by most estimates. When they do have choice, it is quite possible that a lot of the cash will be withdrawn right back out. Also, given the availability of the 2,000 rupee notes and their relatively low utility for transactions, the only purpose they could realistically be used in any quantity appears to be hoarding. Even while limited cash withdrawals are allowed, there have been several instances of bundles of 2,000 rupees being seen with people including office bearers of the BJP as well as being used to pay bribes. The instances described in the black money laundering also would remain outside the banking system. So it is entirely possible that while the country struggles for cash, a lot of the illegitimate money may still remain out of the system, merely converted to new notes.
In the meanwhile, there seems to be some evidence for the misuse of Jan Dhan accounts (and indeed it could be done with other accounts too) for parking funds. So money entering the banking system may not necessarily be in a manner desired. My suspicion is also that if there are corrupt bank employees, money could be deposited into the bank accounts of people who aren't even aware that their account is being used for laundering. Such money could probably be recovered by forging signatures on withdrawal slips or misuse of debit cards if the person whose account is misused is known to the launderer and trusts them. There seems to be evidence of this happening as well. Such money would fly right out of the banking system once scrutiny was reduced and if caught, would implicate a complete innocent.
The large number of Jan Dhan accounts lying unused and thus likely to not be monitored by owners are particularly a concern, as they have been suspected to be misused for hawala transations in the past.
Improving collection of taxes
While there will be increased collection of taxes, there are easier ways of doing this with far less loss to the economy. Namely tax reforms, reducing corruption in the tax system and robust enforcement. As of now, about 1% of India's population pays taxes. Given the widespread poverty even with an absurdly low poverty line, how much this number can be realistically expected to rise is anyone's guess. The economic stagnation will also result in fewer taxes being collected because of lost jobs, wages, business losses and devalued goods, even if more people temporarily seem to be on the radar.
Banks will be recapitalized, loans will be easier to get, interest rates will be lowered... are the expected outcomes from demonetisation. I am no expert on these matters, but given the kind of slowdown the economy is seeing, there will also be reduced deposits, transactions, people digging into savings and businesses collapsing, taking their loans down the drain with them. There is speculation that low interest loans will encourage rebuilding of the economy. No economist of note seems optimistic that it will outstrip the shrinking already set into motion. At best it is put as a possibility in the long run, all things going well. All things don't appear to be going well, given that it will be months before there is any liquidity worth mentioning for businesses. What advantage will evolve in the long run remains to be seen.
Preventing terror financing
This seems to be a popular reason on TV as well as supporters of the government. Modi himself referred to it in his speech. However, going by evidence so far, it does not make sense. Manohar Parrikar hurried to claimsuccess as a halt in stone pelting incidents in Kashmir after demonetisation. This echoes a popular belief within the ranks of the BJP leadership and supporters - that the stone pelting incidents in Kashmir are not spontaneous protests, but well organized and funded with black money. However, this couldn't be farther from the truth. Apart from demonetisation having triggered stone pelting on banks in other parts of the country, the stone pelting in Kashmir had actually reduced by October - as per the J&K Home department data (BJP itself is a part of the J&K government) - well before demonetisation and there have been incidents of stone pelting after the demonetisation as well, though congruent with the slower frequency. Furthermore, Kashmir actually saw the least disruption to daily life and order as a result of demonetisation in the country - this is attributed to the penetration of banking to even remote parts of Kashmir as compared with the rest of the country.
Furthermore, the most counterfeited currency in the world is the dollar and it is also the one most likely to be used by international terrorists for financing, yet demonetisation has not seemed to be a feasible deterrent to any such use if it happens. In comparison, Indian currency has far more limited use - within India and Nepal alone and is even less likely to be used. Several people have pointed out that there is no reason why terrorists wouldn't use online banking and electronic transfers, given that they could be accomplished with fake identities, and being caught for taxes is unlikely to bother those willing to brave the consequences of being caught for terrorism (there may be the potential to dispute this using some jokes on taxes here).
Attack on finances of other political parties
One would expect to see a lot more agitation among political parties if their finances were truly disrupted. And it would have been possible for the BJP to disrupt them quite thoroughly if it had chosen to implement transparency in political funding as well. However, BJP has not done that - quite likely as a result of it being the party with the largest amounts of unaccounted funding in the country at present. Consequently, the other parties are merely opposing the BJP for politics as well as the sheer disastrous nature of the demonetisation. There seem to be no indications of alarm for their own well being.
There have been no instances of black money being found with rival parties or politicans so far. In fact, so far the few instances of large amounts of cash being found as currency notes have all been from the BJP itself. The reason for this likely is that political parties being allowed to accept funds in cash as well as not provide details for donations under 20,000 rupees, it is a routine practice for parties to even show larger amounts of black money as several donations of smaller amounts. Far from being cornered, rival parties would likely be able to comfortably change old notes for new ones, including the potential of laundering black money to white for politicians belonging to the party.
It is unclear what advantage, if any the demonetisation will end up giving BJP in comparison with rivals when measured against the tremendous inconvenience, losses and worse caused to voters.
This post will be updated with links to all the claims and quotes in a couple of days when I get some time. Till then, you could probably google the references up if you need them.
1 October, 2016, Cuttack: Before doing business with a judge's brother, think twice. In the year 2000, Ravenshaw, a 150-year-old college, signed an MOU to start professional courses in "public private partnership" with Star Computer Institute Pvt. Ltd., belonging to BJP politician Biswajit Mohanty, son of Barrister Ranjit Mohanty, and brother of Orissa High Court's second-seniormost judge Indrajit Mahanty. In 2011, this MOU was renewed for a further three years. Upon the MOU's expiry in 2014, Ravenshaw (which was now no longer just a college but a full-fledged university) decided not to renew their MOU with Star. In the process, Ravenshaw incurred the enmity of Biswajit Mohanty's elder brother, who proceeded to give them a taste of pure hell!
Ravenshaw is a grand old institution with 8000 students and 90 faculty members, and a sanctioned strength of 153 faculty. It became a University through an enactment in 2005, and was bound by UGC's guidelines, which said, "No university whether central/state/private can offer its programme through franchise agreement even for the purpose of conducting course through distant mode." But, given the money and prestige involved, businessman Biswajit Mohanty was in no mood to leave the campus peacefully. So the matter went into arbitration, and also, in November 2014, an FIR was registered against Biswajit Mohanty because he allegedly "entered the University campus with five other persons and misbehaved with staff and students of the ITM department using the most filthy language". The police complaint said that Biswajit Mohanty threatened them, saying, "If you don't refrain yourself coming to the ITM department, I would assault you by entering into your home".
And then, in March 2015, came the judgment of the district judge to the arbitration petition filed by Star Computer Institute while the arbitrator's final order was still awaited. The judgment upheld Ravenshaw's right to terminate the MOU. The FIR and this adverse judgment against Biswajit Mohanty provoked his big brother Indrajit Mahanty, who took all the high court cases concerning Ravenshaw into his hand.
Until then, Ravenshaw's cases were heard by single benches such as Justice S.C. Parija, Justice Biswanath Rath, and Justice Sanju Panda, and many orders and judgments were favourable to Ravenshaw. Multiple writ petitions filed in 2015 against a recruitment advertisement issued by Ravenshaw, were initially posted in the single judge benches of Justice B.N Rath, Justice Dr. B.R Sarangi and Justice Dr. A K Rath, and later, all recruitment matters were brought to the court of Justice B.R Sarangi, where they remained stayed for 7 months. Then, on 9th December 2015, a division bench of Justice D P Choudhury and Indrajit Mahanty overturned the earlier judgmentsfrom 2014, quashed the recruitment, and slammed Ravenshaw on almost every count. This bench -- dominated by Justice I Mahanty who is almost a decade senior to Justice Choudhury (currently the junior most judge in Orissa High Court) – went on to initiate two suomotu civil contempt proceedings. Between March and May 2016, Justice Indrajit Mahanty passed eight orders on various cases that showed Ravenshaw who was boss!
Was Orissa's Chief Justice Vineet Saran ignorant about Justice Indrajit Mahanty's special interest in Ravenshaw University? Or did he consciously allow Justice I Mahanty to use the court system to settle scores?
Unknown to India's common man, is our judiciary generally functioning in this way? Do many of our judges have an axe to grind? Is it normal for some judges to say to each other, "I want to teach that party a lesson, so transfer that case to me"? Do they quietly manipulate and attract some cases to their own court?
The main issue is not whether Justice Indrajit Mahanty is a good guy or a bad guy. It's also not whether his judgments and orders in Ravenshaw matters are judicially correct or otherwise. The key issue is, why did Orissa High Court allow Justice Indrajit Mahanty to give judgments on Ravenshaw, where he had a vested interest?
What happened afterwards: After activist Chittaranjan Mohanty, on behalf of the 8000 students of Ravenshaw, petitioned the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justice of Orissa High Court in July 2016, all Ravenshaw-related matters were taken away from Justice Mahanty.The division bench matters were assigned to a bench headed by Justice S.C. Parija and the single bench matters were assigned to Justice Debabrata Dash who hears all service matters. A PIL is about to be filed for review of the judgment and orders of the Division Bench headed by Justice I.Mahanty in Ravenshaw recruitment matter.