Tag: Mumbai

How Ekta World is trying to muzzle and prevent us reporting its fraud

Mumbai, 14th March, 2017: Today, I received an email that was sent on behalf of Ekta World Pvt Ltd that worried me for a few minutes — yeah, but only for a few minutes before I clearly saw that this crooked builder was bluffing and intimidating once again.

(Background: Ekta World has a troubled relationship with truthfulness and factuality. A couple of days back, the builder tried to scare freelance journalist Raju Vernekar that a matter was “subjudice” and that he would file a defamation suit against him also. That tactic backfired; instead of preventing Vernekar from publishing his story, it actually triggered him to publish this story in Afternoon Despatch & Courier! More about this incident in my blog here.)

Today, while at work, I received the following email: 

“From: Avinash Vidwans <avinashvidwans@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 4:36 PM
Subject: Hearing of Application for interim and ad-interim relief in Special Civil Suit No. 36 of 2017 in the Court of C.J.(S.D.) at Vasai.
To: vernekar.raj@gmail.com, member@linkedin.com, krish.kkphoto@gmail.com, vineetmalik1@yahoo.co.in
Cc: deepti.n@ektaworld.com

Respected Sir / Madam,
Please find herewith attached copy of an Application for interim and ad-interim injunction to be moved against you Mr. Vineet Malik and Krishna Raj Rao in the Court of C.J.(S.D.) at Vasai on 15th day of March, 2017 at 11.00 am or so soon thereafter, on behalf of my client M/S Ekta Parksville Homes Pvt.Ltd.
Please take notice that, you may remain present if you so desire at the above mentioned time and date and venue.
Thanking you,
Yours faithfully
Avinash Vidwans, Advocate.”

Attached to this email was this word file. The fun contents of this file are dissected and analyzed in my blog here. (For the sake of continuity, I am forced to separate these, but please don’t miss reading it, because the bluffs contained in that document are really hilarious!)

Anyway, after my first reaction subsided, I wrote this email in reply:

From: Krishnaraj Rao <krish.kkphoto@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 6:41 PM
Subject: Re: Hearing of Application for interim and ad-interim relief in Special Civil Suit No. 36 of 2017 in the Court of C.J.(S.D.) at Vasai.
To: Avinash Vidwans <avinashvidwans@gmail.com>
Cc: Raju Vernekar <vernekar.raj@gmail.com>, member@linkedin.com, Vineet Malik <vineetmalik1@yahoo.co.in>, Deepti Nair <deepti.n@ektaworld.com>, Gopal Mehta <advocategcm@gmail.com>, “Adv. Abdul Rasheed Qureshi” <i.rasheed1357@gmail.com>, Ashok Mohnani <ashok.m@ektaworld.com>

Dear Mr Avinash Vidwans,

1) I have been given no reason to believe that you are an advocate, or that you have been duly appointed by Ekta Builders to represent them. You have not even sent a copy of your vakalatnama signed by Mr Ashok Mohnani. Kindly furnish adequate proofs immediately.

2) Further, I have been given no reason to believe that the word file that you have sent to me is the authentic and true copy of the “Special Civil Suit” that you claim is being filed at Vasai Court. Hence, it cannot be considered to be Notice served to me. Kindly serve notice immediately in a way that will be legally acceptable and verifiable, i.e. hard copy or scanned copy of stamped and registered “Special Civil Suit”.

3) Please note further that you have deliberately and malafidely served this notice without giving adequate notice of 48 hours to enable us to respond. You have sent me this unsigned word file with barely 16 hours of notice, the previous evening. Hence, your foregoing email cannot be considered to be proper service of notice under any circumstances.

4) Please note further that Vasai Court is in no way the proper jurisdiction for filing of your case. Just because you have a project at Virar does not mean that you can file at Vasai. You also have a project at Nashik; that does not give the Nashik court proper jurisdiction over your case. As your client’s registered office is at Bandra, the court with proper jurisdiction will also within Mumbai jurisdiction. Hence, for want of proper jurisdiction, your court injunction, if filed, will be without proper jurisdiction, and will give me cause to seek proper reliefs against you for abuse of the judicial process.

5) Moreover, as there is currently no court injunction of any nature against my writings, please note that I will be publishing two stories about your double-dealings and fraudulent dealings with your customers before 3 am tomorrow morning. Since they are based solidly on documentary proofs that are in public domain, and are in public interest, there is no need for me to seek rebuttal from your client.

I wish your clients good luck in their attempts to restrain us from exposing their cheating and fraud. And when the proper occasion arises, I look forward to seeing your clients in court. Please be forewarned, I will spare no efforts to expose your clients’ fraudulent dealings, and I shall widely report the outcome of each and every court proceeding in future. That is not a threat, but a solemn promise.

For the record: I am acting on my own behalf as a freelance journalist. Mr Vineet Malik and other clients of Ekta World are my sources of information. I have not received a paisa of remuneration from these persons, nor do I intend to at any time in the future.

Please feel free to produce this email as proof before any forum, judicial or otherwise.

Best Wishes,
Krishnaraj Rao

——————-

After writing this email, I decided to put into public domain all that I had to say about the dealings of Ekta World before the next morning (Wednesday, 15th March), by when the Civil Judge may be induced to give an arbitrary order muzzling me.

But then, my activist colleague Sulaiman Bhimani checked the causelist and found that there is no hearing scheduled tomorrow (i.e. 15th March, 2017). As per the below causelist, the next hearing date is 18th April 2017, and the case status is “Awaiting Summons”. We are not needed to attend the hearingtomorrow, because there is no hearing!

So, Ekta World is bluffing as usual. The date given in the lawyer’s email is a lie. The question is: Why this lie? Are they thinking that we will panic, scramble to engage a lawyer, work overnight to draft a reply, and turn up at Vasai court at 11 am tomorrow, only to find with disappointment that there is no hearing? Or is Ekta World’s top honcho Ashok Mohnani hatching plans to have us assaulted or killed on the way to the court? Or, has he laid a trap to fix us by framing us in a false case of some sort? Vasai is a notorious area, being the home-turf of well-known criminal gangs.

As always, watch this space for further developments. Dekhte rahiye iss dharavahik ki UGLY kadee!

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

PS: And in case you are wondering what I wrote about Ekta World that has them running to Civil Court, read these blog posts:

 POSTED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Sulaiman Bhimani
9323642081

Do international couriers pose a security threat to the country?

courier-security-threat

The layman often does not know how many tiers of privilege are invisible too him. I have often wondered how I can purchase something that costs less than a dollar and it gets stuck in customs to never be seen again, or emerge after a few months, but couriers deliver international parcels within days. And it was evident that this is a mystery to many and even more have solved it with conspiracy theories, because the only plausible explanation to occur to me till today, living in a bribe riddled country was a twitter user’s suggestion made a few years ago, that courier companies have their contacts in customs who clear parcels swiftly for them, while regular parcels wait.

It was today that I realized it is not so. Take the case of Mumbai The Courier cell at the airport clears parcels with Airway bills right there at the airport. Then comes the parcels with tracking numbers starting from “E” – EMS type ones at the Post parcel sorting office behind Sahara Hotel. The poor ones starting with C go all the way to Ballard Estate to clear customs. I guess this is an additional precaution in case customs fails to delay non-courier parcels enough. I imagine they have less storage space at the airport to keep lags, and that is the only reason they come through faster, because surely the government would not prefer some methods of shipments over others, including the government run postal system. Yeah, that was sarcasm. And yes, the speed of international couriers in delivering your parcel is not because they are “better” at it, but because customs seems to hurry them through while taking their own sweet time for others.

Regardless, this is not the purpose of the post. I got a call from DHL today, asking me to upload KYC documents for a shipment coming for me. This is a small quantity of oat bran and apple fiber – both of which, for mysterious reasons are not manufactured in India – at least for retail. I wanted to see what the products are. The total cost of both packets could not be over Rs. 500. KYC for a 500 rupee parcel, failing which it would be returned to sender? Unbelievable. I lost my temper with DHL – they want my official, personal identification and proof of address for their staff to be able to download and print whenever they “need” – PERMANENTLY? WHY? How are my documents their business at all and further, what is their justification to keep them in a usable format with them once the delivery is done?

This led to a search.

The gist of the problem is that our Customs department in all its wisdom issued a circular requiring KYC documents for every parcel going in or out of the countryregardless of the value of the parcel and whether it is eligible for customs duty. This is, presumably to prevent import/export fraud or money laundering, etc. Apparently customs hasn’t realized that the letters that are so happily exempt can easily carry diamonds.

Now, as per Customs, these documents can be collected at the time of pick up or delivery. But obviously this is a headache for courier companies, that have found their own workaround. They simply ask customers to upload their documents to the courier’s website, from where the courier will use them automatically in the future – at least reducing future headaches. This is a streamlining of operations, that makes sense – from the perspective of a courier. A courier is not responsible for national or individual security or rights of citizens. And our country, that claims to want to go digital has no concept of digital security at all beyond the “money” sites as I call them – tax, aadhaar.

As a result, we have a whole horde of foreign companies with databases of valid identification and proofs of addresses complete with email addresses and phone number (required at time of upoading documents) – from which they can also get date of birth. These documents are obviously good enough quality to be able to be printed and used by third parties for KYC. These documents are accessible – at the very least – to call center employees who call you up to discuss them and employees who will print them out from the database, attach them to parcels, take the parcels for customs clearance and perhaps further down the assembly line all the way to your door, including local delivery agents.

Now, what sort of security problems could be possible because of this?

At the point of the database

Call center employees, people taking print outs or such all the way to your door are unlikely to be highly skilled employees. They are necessary in large numbers. It is unclear what sort of screening procedures happen for them to be entrusted with such data.

Corrupt employees could easily sell identification documents of real people for money. Something like this has the potential to sit nicely on a DVD to go to the highest bidder.

Spy agencies could use such data for various purposes against Indian interest, including the basis of new fake identities. All it takes is one driving licence or passport to rent a place and become a local in a new place and get pretty much any document and begin a brand new life and toss the photocopy of the passport away on getting their new driving licence or whatever. Would be a pretty handy “Shopping mall of documents” to check out which customer of the courier company had photo identification that best suited the agent they were planting.

Given that the records would also come with email addresses and phone numbers with a good chance of being linked to the documents, the possibilities increase. Consider for example a person walking into a mobile provider’s showroom asking for “his” SIM to be blocked and providing alternative documents to get a new SIM. If the address proof is a bank statement, for banks where customer ID is the login, should be a simple matter to reset password with a new SIM. Not to mention a list of people using international couriers is an automatic list of people extremely likely to be using electronic payments, to be from the rich and upper classes.

And you don’t even have to have dishonest couriers for this. Databases get hacked and data dumps are sold on the black market. One created from such a source would have a very high percentage of lucrative targets with a good possibility of being vulnerable to targeted attacks or identity theft.

There are very very few places where you could get such complete information on such a targettable group – not even government databases could probably give you email addresses, phone numbers and printable copies of ID documents in one place.

How could this be avoided?

First and foremost, six years is plenty of time to collect data. Customs and revenue folks should provide statistics on how many cases of fraud were caught due to KYC data. At the very least, they must demonstrate that the expense and risk to individuals and country of conducting this circus is justified by results of the use of KYC data.

There is no reason to require documents for items not qualifying for duty to begin with – which would be the bulk of parcels. Where duty was paid, customs can easily require the receiver to upload documents to a government website for customs clearances instead of third parties based outside India. Couriers could even expedite the process by intimating customers not registered in customs to do it with their AWB number on booking of shipment to prevent delays in customs. Even then, it is unclear what KYC documents achieve – would be more useful to get a PAN number, which can, quickly be checked against bank accounts, tax status, import licences and more as well as payments made, while providing least “one stop” exploitable information to someone misusing it.  With something as specific as a PAN number, customs could even have automatic flags for more than “X” number of shipments in “Y” period – without even having to resort to any kind of snooping or invasions of privacy. Otherwise, simply having a few different shipping addresses (home, office, warehouse, shop – all would have address proof/rental agreement) could result in a workaround for illegal imports anyway.

 

This absurd requirement for customs puts both individuals as well as country at risk. This cannot be blamed on couriers – they are merely getting customers to “voluntarily” (or else you won’t get your parcel) give up their documents to prevent inconvenience to themselves. While they are using the documents legally and have a good excuse for their coercive behavior, it is the responsibility of the government to secure the nation as well as its citizens from potential crime.

At the very least couriers must obtain explicit consent from regular customers to store their data permanently or be required to destroy such records once the need for documents is over – at least minimizing risk.

Third party databases containing complete identifiable information of Indian citizens from documents to contact information and date of birth – are a recipe for security disaster sooner or later.

What can we do to protect ourselves till then?

Do your international shipping through Postal departments as opposed to couriers. Or via E-Commerce websites that have shipping arrangements that don’t require you to upload sensitive documents to third parties. You will still have to pay customs duty where applicable, but your documents would be less vulnerable to misuse.

Woman Mumbai police officer publicly insulted by drunk subordinate

Mumbai Police

At 3am on the night of April 7, 2016, restaurant and bar Mumbai Darbar was still running, in violation of the law, which states that restaurants and bars must shut by midnight. Police Inspector Shubada Chavan, attached to NM Joshi Marg police station noticed this and decided to book it for running beyond permissible timings. Her subordinate Sandeep Shirke along with three friends was drinking in the bar at that time and abused her verbally in public.

Hoping to avoid an unnecessary scene showing a policeman in bad light, Inspector Shubada ignored his misbehavior returned to the police station to complete the booking procedure. An inebriated Sandeep Shirke followed her back to the police station and continued to hurl abuse and insult her in front of the police station staff who tried and failed to reason with him.

He even offered to pay her the fine money himself to drop action against the Hotel. When she refused, he lost his temper and started hurling furniture around and insulting her and creating a nuisance in the public station to the point his colleagues decided to book him for obstructing a police officer from carrying out her duty. At this point he fled from the police station.

In further irony, when journalist Dharmesh Thakkar, who broke this story on Twitter tweeted about it, the official Mumbai Police handle requested him to file a complaint on a link they provided. Let us understand this – Mumbai Police needs citizens to file complaints when their police officers are harassed, publicly insulted and prevented from working? Is this a JOKE?

While it is admirable that Police Inspector Shubada Chavan’s colleagues did eventually decide to take action against the inebriated and misbehaving cop, what is worrisome is that she had to face this from someone who is subordinate to her. We have, in the past seen many instances of police attitudes towards women being derogatory. We have also seen many instances of women police being misbehaved with by mobs or individuals.

It is concerning when a police officer on a night shift can be undermined and humiliated for carrying out her duty. Mumbai Police seems reluctant to speak on the matter while assuring that an ACP has looked into it and has recommended action against the errant officer.

We do hope that Mumbai Police also has a problem with their staff patronizing establishments in violation of the law instead of taking action against them – in addition to actions for his behavior against Inspector Chavan and other police staff as well as preventing her from carrying out her duty.

A History of, and Response to, Disproportionate Violence

Soni Sori poster

This post began life as an attempt to boost the response to the latest wave of targeted violence and/or State-sponsored suppression of civil liberties in Chhattisgarh. Even as I typed away, trying to summarize the ever-mounting brutality in that state, the news breaking from the University of Hyderabad took centre-stage. Every day this past week I have been reflecting on the horrors unfolding in India. Whether Chhattisgarh, or Jharkhand, UP or Hyderabad there is only the sense that the various agencies of the central and state governments are brazen in their attempts in maintaining control of their narrative, either through commission or omission.

The War against Scholarship

The Central Government’s Ministry of Human Resources &amp; Development seems to be waging its own war against universities across the country. The earlier controversy at FTII was just the curtain raiser – the Ministry recanted on its decision to stop Non-NET Fellowships last year after massive protests from students across the country. But now it seems to be opening that can of worms all over again – with the current fire directed at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. However, over and beyond the critical question of supporting research is the amount of control being handed to the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The massive blow-up of sloganeering at a student event at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (even if it was about the controversial hanging of Afzal Guru), now appears to have been kicked off by the ABVP inviting media teams to campus, possibly without permission from the necessary authorities. Even as student leaders from other campus bodies were arrested (and subsequently released on bail), no questions were asked of the ABVP’s leadership, with them seeming to get implicit support even from the Central Cabinet. This has emboldened them to become the government’s henchmen on various campuses.

Which brings us to the grim episode as yet unfolding at the Hyderabad Central University. This too, started last year, with the shocking apathy of university officials towards Dalit research scholars leading to the suicide of #RohithVemula. The central player in that episode, the Vice-Chancellor Appa Rao Podile, was suspended pending investigation into his abetment of Rohith’s suicide. Strangely, he made an unannounced return to campus, in what appears to be a carefully orchestrated move. Again, it is important to note that on his return, Podile had the ABVP’s support, as noted by many of the student protestors.

The other thread throughout this narrative is the inordinate, disproportionate amount of violence by the State. If Delhi witnessed scenes of lathicharge, water-cannoning, etc. during the UGC protests, the violence against the #HCU students seems to on a different scale altogether. It is almost shocking to think that this latter bout of violence has, up to the time of writing this, not received even one statement of censure from any state or central government official. Add to this the fact that the police detained and questioned protestors in Chennai (for attempting a hunger strike) and Mumbai as well.

As I write this, Pune’s Fergusson College is becoming the latest theatre in ABVP’s war for control of campuses India-wide. In this, the ABVP is only following the #BJP, whose gameplan to be India’s politics new singular force was signaled by Amit Shah when he first took over as the BJP President. To be fair, there were some ABVP members who found the whole JNU fiasco, particularly the assault by the lawyers at Patiala House, revolting enough to step down.

Highlighting the Real Issues

The issue of student scholarship must be seen in the light of whom it affects most. The most-telling characteristic of the student politics at JNU and HCU is that they empower students from the most marginalized sections of society who would otherwise hardly get such an opportunity.  Their battle must therefore be seen against the backdrop of the various conflicts being fought in the remotest parts of India. As the journalist P Sainath said when speaking at JNU after the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU was now fighting the criminalization of dissent that had long been fought by India’s poorest and most disempowered.

In Chhattisgarh, the State has continuously waged war against the tribals in the quest to make mineral resources available to corporates – this war is older than the state of #Chhattisgarh itself. Much of the most critical reportage on the circumstances in the state are already beginning to look dated, although their relevance is as yet intact, with on-ground situation mostly remaining intact, until now. Commentators now see a “Mission 2016”, particularly in #Bastar, wherein any and every agency that attempts to speak for the tribals is flushed out of the State – the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group has been forced out, likewise doctors and journalists. Those two bravest of local voices – Soni Sori and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi are being attacked more insidiously now, but continue to speak. As do other local activists and lawyers like Bela Bhatia and Shalini Gera continue to hold their ground, even as they too are targeted by the government.

In Maharashtra, the impact of the irrigation crisis has now been compounded by the crippling drought that affects a large swathe of the state. The famed Section 144 of the Criminal Penal Code, is now imposed in places like Latur prevent riots over water. Latur’s MLA, meanwhile, has disappeared leaving even his party whip in the legislature clueless. On the other hand, the state’s Attorney-General, Shreehari Aney, has resigned his office after the legislature found controversial his support for separate statehood for Vidarbha and Marathwada (Latur falls in Marathwada, btw). Mr. Aney is now planning to take his protest to Jantar Mantar. It is useful to remember that Devendra Fadnavis sought his mandate in Maharashtra on this very promise.

The list goes on – the state of Orissa now fights the very people it is supposed to represent to get mining rights for POSCO in Niyamgiri, while Jharkhand’s cow vigilantism seems to find support at the highest echelons of government. There are famine-related horror stories coming in from Bundelkhand,

Response

The purpose of this article is to not to recount a litany of horrors,  but to highlight the urgent need for responses. The resignation of Mr. Aney, the Orissa government’s lawsuit, the ABVP members’ resignations can all be seen as alarm bells of one kind or another. The journalist Prem Shankhar Jha also highlighted the worsening situation of India’s Muslims vis-a-vis education and unemployment.

The students of various institutions have also shown the way, by becoming a credible opposition to the whip being wielded by government.

It is now essential that empathetic citizens also raise their voices. In Bastar, when journalists found no one to carry their stories, they went online, posting stories on Facebook. Suresh Ediga and Bhavana Nissima are now using social media to leverage public support for the initiatives of Soni Sori, through their  ‪#‎OneMillionPostCardCampaign for #Bastar. Similarly, most of the news from Hyderabad has come out through Facebook, with the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice -UoH carrying content on its page. 

The violence highlighted here runs across caste, class and (religious) community lines, especially in the run-up to elections. There is a visible attempt to communalize violence that isn’t communal to begin with. Ultimately, these issues, along with those of land and water, will affect each and every one of us. I ask, beg, request, that readers at least broadcast any and every effort at combating these issues, if not supporting them in every way possible. Good night and good luck!

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