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The demise of ManghaRam Sipahimalani brings an end to the leftist freedom fighters in Sindhi community. A friend of my father from student days, IN PRE-PARTITION SINDH both courted arrest in protests for India's freedom little realizing that their efforts would deprive them of their homeland and they would be driven out by moslem neighbours and get refugee status in free India.

Both reconciled and worked to get an honourable deal for the refugees. Mr Sipahimalani soon joined hands with his step mother Dadi Sipahimalani and together they built affordable housing for middle class sindhi families in Matunga, Mahim, Chembur, Bombay Central, Koliwada-Kings Circle. All of them huge sprawling colonies comprising hundreds of apartments. My grand mother [Nani] got a two bedroom flat in Navjivan Chembur on easy monthly instalments,and she relocated with family from the shack in Koliwada.

Mr Sipahimalani a law graduate easily found an alternate profession from builder to journalist. In the last twenty five years published and edited a sindhi language weekly 'HINDWASI'. His writings were a pain for RSS and BJP types, they could do little as he was hugely popular in the community which is largely supportive of BJP. His last wish was to gift his body to Grant Medical College,mumbai and it was fulfilled. In fact jeevan mein bhi aur jeevan ke baad bhi sabkuch tyag diya. I do not know what happens to the considerable wealth and bank balance he has left behind, but that is for the relatives to decide, he was a widower but had no children from Vishni. Its my loss but also the community is poorer. a fearless journalist is gone.God bless his soul. A freedom fighter finally ends his almost 90 years exciting,eventful journey. VIJAY PANJWANI, a friend of Dada 'Harinaam'.

Vijay Panjwani has sent in a report on Supreme Court proceedings in the Union Carbide case with regard to disposal of contaminated waste from the Bhopal Gas Tragedy:

Union Carbide Bhopal H-Waste Safe Disposal

New Delhi, Friday 6th Sept 2013

The Supreme Court today considered the joint inspection report of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)and MP State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) in the matter of safe disposal of 350 tons of Hazardous Waste lying in the premises of Union Carbide plant Bhopal. A trial-run to treat 10 tons of H-Waste is necessary before the entire quantity of 350 tons is treated.

map of India showing cities <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Bhopal</strong> Indore Jodhpur Ranchi Jamshedpur LucknowThe joint report has found the operation of plant and machinery of the Treatment Storage Disposal Facility (TSDF) near Indore at Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh to be sufficiently satisfactory and compliant. Mr Vijay Panjwani counsel for CPCB told the court that the scientists treated H-Waste from Hindustan Insecticide Ltd, Cochin, Kerala on the directions of the supreme court which is similar to the Carbide H-Waste lying untreated since the night of December 2, 1984. Mr Vijay Panjwani submitted that the entire process from transportation from Cochin,packaging,storage to treatment was compliant. He said all precautions would be taken to monitor gas emissions and if anything goes wrong the plant would be shut off immediately. He said the scientists would be present 24 hours during treatment within the facility. Mr Panjwani said there is no chance of any harmful gas leaking since the plant is working efficiently.
When asked whether the NGO ‘Bhopal Group’ would hold protests against incineration counsel soght time to seek instructions. This was a master stroke from the Bench anticipating trouble and quelling in court itself. The case of trial-run of 10 tons of H-Waste would be heard again on next Friday.

An article by Tavleen Singh in the Indian Express is accurately named Environmental fraud, though it is rare for such transparency of intent to be declared upfront. I do appreciate the legitimate opportunity to pun "Environmental Fraud by Tavleen Singh" when introducing the article. Considering that the article is an umbrella attack on the legitimacy of environmentalists and an endorsement of policies known harmful to the environment, it is very shabby of Indian Express to not state the conflict of interest in this supposed "truth" being stated.

While I do not hold it against her and will address her arguments directly, I think it is important here to state that Tavleen Singh happens to be the partner of one of the promoters of Lavasa (his name is not required here, since the article is not about him). Lavasa township has come to much grief (and financial losses) due to legal action by environmentalists that had enough substance for the judiciary to put a halt to work on the site for a year. Thus, people with a vested interest in Lavasa having a dislike of environmentalists cannot be called unprejudiced or unmotivated. Additionally, Sharad Pawar, our agriculture minister, whose interests in GM seeds are identical to those this article promotes happens to the Godfather of said Lavasa project. While this in itself may or may not be intellectually incestuous, NOT being transparent about a connection makes one wonder if this is a case of "You scratch my back, I scratch yours and let us be discreet and pretend that it is all very neutral and deserved."

All quotes by Tavleen Singh from article linked above.

"Real environmentalists" / "serious environmentalists"

Reminds me of the "true Hindus" and "true Muslims". As if the rest are made of thermacol. The idea that her disagreement makes environmentalists real or fake is absurd. She is not required to like or agree with all of them for them to be real. Their actions make them environmentalists.

"one of our noisiest lady environmentalists actually declare in Davos that Indian farmers were rich until international seed companies like Monsanto arrived"

This is presumably Vandana Shiva, though the article does not name her. I have no idea what she said in Davos, but I believe that Indian farmers were better off before the seed corporations for several reasons:

  • Patented seeds mean that farmers cannot save their seeds to sow the next year's crop, leading to a direct annual expense for seeds, which also happen to be costlier. This in turn puts them at serious risk of bad debt - a leading cause of farmer suicides.
  • GM crops require more water. I am not inventing this. Monsanto says this. India is rapidly becoming water scarce with industries taking up a vast share of the water and irrigation being overallocated and iffy at best. Not that either manufacturing or agriculture have added jobs since 1995... Unless of course they are Sharad Pawar's pets doing sugarcane and getting a whopping 60% of available water for 6% of the crop.
  • Input costs for fertilizers and pesticides are higher for GM crops.
  • Most farmers in India are small and marginal farmers and cannot afford to plant waste strips of non-GM crops to try to avoid the "expected" resistance to pests that is the selling point of Bt seeds. The idea of these strips is to grow pests like the bollworm (for example) that have no resistance to Bt so that they can breed with Bt resistant pests from the "superstar" seeds and keep them killable. The crop on this land is wasted by design.
  • The resultant race of more GM, more fertilizers and more pesticides has resulted in diseases among humans and animals, which add to the burden of medical expenses compounded by low access.
  • The actual claims of productivity are severely contested per crop and with authoritative, independent research and are beyond the scope of this article to go into detail. It isn't without any evidence that developed countries are limiting or banning use of GM seeds. A simple google search will bring forth an avalanche if anyone is really interested.
  • Productivity itself has been seen to drop with lame excuses from Monsanto that may be good PR, but do nothing to actually change the production. Including in a "perfect" state like Gujarat, which supposedly reports great profits from GM. Monsanto blamed the farmers. Done.
  • Finally, do you know that Indian farmers have set world records for crop yields using organic farming that have left results from GM in the dust? The same traditional methods and bio fertilizers that had been systematically decimated by the British?

Enough said.

"Any farmer could have told this lady that the international seed companies are a welcome change from state-owned companies which have often sold them junk. But farmers have no voice on television and the lady fraud has a very loud one."

Leaving aside the personal comments about the lady environmentalist who sounds suspiciously like Vandana Shiva, Tavleen Singh is clearly ignorant about the 37th All Party Parliamentary Standing Committee on cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops - Prospects and Effects, which clearly states that the farmers explicityl detailed problems they faced because of GM crops and demanded a ban. Additionally, ALL MEMBERS of the All Party Parliamentary Standing Committee - across political parties - unanimously endorsed banning cultivation of GM crops in India. The report condemns the paid media report in Times of India promoting Monsanto with falsified information about prosperity of farmers. The members of the Committee physically went to those villages and saw that there was no such thing. How much more voice do you expect? Or is the gold standard of voice about performances in a corporate controlled media? Would Indian Express give space to an angry farmer trashing Monsanto, when their awards of excellence in journalism are sponsored by Mahyco?

I called up a few people who were present during the visit when outlandish tales of outright manipulating the committee came to my ears and can confirm that the government of Maharashtra made great efforts to prevent the All Party Parliamentary Standing Committee from speaking with farmers and tried to con them into meeting a few planted "farmers" - some of whom were input dealers - in a cosy circuit house. Farmers persisted and the Committee visited the villages reported to be prospering and chasing away money lenders and saw fields left barren. In front of the committee, farmers shouted down and chased away not money lenders, but representatives of Monsanto.

"There have been natural disasters in the Himalayas since the beginning of time. If this one was 'manmade' as they claim, then it was because the political leaders who have governed Uttarakhand have been careless about making contingency plans for natural disasters."

and

"Our two most sacred rivers have become sewers despite thousands of crores of rupees having been spent on 'cleaning' them. And yet, the only noise we hear from environmentalists is when a new dam is built. Have they noticed that it was the dams on the Ganga that stopped the whole of Uttarakhand from being washed away?"

and etc (this is getting boring).

First, I'd like to ask Tavleen Singh why she is writing an article about environmentalists instead of "seculars" and "NGOs" - after all, aren't all right wingers supposed to talk about that only?

If my question is absurd, so is the idea that all environmentalists are working on the same thing, namely hydel projects. There are people fighting dams and for more reasons than only the environment. There are people working to get rivers cleaned. Others fight to protect forests, marine life, fight drought, promote water renewal, whatever. Environment isn't one piddly subject that everyone is doing the same thing and from only one angle. Swami Nigamananda died when he fasted unto death in what is rumored to be a murder by political and mafia forces. He wasn't fighting dams, but the sand mafia and pollution. There are all kinds of people. Vijay Panjwani often updates from his legal activism to get judicial pressure for clean ups. To the best of my knowledge, no one has prevented her from taking up a concern she feels strongly about. If it is un-sewering the Ganga and not protecting roads from dog poop, so be it.

The blame for the tragedy has been consistently attributed to irresponsible construction work of which dams were a part. The greatest blame has been on the roads, actually due to the use of dynamite in cutting them creating fractures in the structure of the mountain. Hydel projects don't drop rom the sky. They need development of roads, as well as dam construction. They need construction materials which leads to further exploitation of the river banks. Dams already silt up the upstream while starving the downstream of silt leading to eroded banks and disturbed ecology.

Here is what happens to a construction made of reinforced concrete when subjected to reckless construction activity. Nowhere in the Himalaya, this is, but Katraj tunnel near Pune - a place that has little to do with floods and landslides. This news is not a month old yet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tUxN9nHco4

The page on Wikipedia about the environmental impact of dams is well referenced so I'm using this space for one last important piece of disinformation:

"Have they noticed that alternative sources of energy like solar, wind and bio-fuels have mostly failed?"

Failed?

Work on hydel power in India started in 1897, nuclear power started in 1948, renewable energy started in 1983.

India gets 57% of its electricity from coal, 19% from hydro electric power, 12% from renewable, 9% from natural gas and 3.75% from nuclear power.

The oldest dam in India is from the second century. That is older than several of the religions in this country. The first hydro electric power plant in India was in the year 1897 or fifty years before Independence. We currently produce approximately 39GW. We started chasing nuclear power when we were 11 months old. Several parts of current India were not India then. 4780MW to date and we call it the pride of the country and have gone into the international dog house for it. In contrast, our renewable energy production started in the 1980s and already accounts for 28GW or 12% of our electricity production, which Wikipedia assures me is more than the total production of electricity in Austria. In three decades.

India is rapidly growing in solar energy and fastest growing in the world in wind power. What failure?

The fundamental difference here is a difference in what Tavleen Singh sees as a good thing and what I see as a good thing. Projects she thinks are good for the country include Vedanta's bauxite mines and Lavasa and what not. I am not so sure we should be growing to suit the fastest runners. In my view, large projects have delivered comparatively little in comparison with robust grassroots efforts. I am also of the opinions that the super rich have done more to destroy economies and free enterprise than build them. I also think it is dangerous disinformation to club all large projects as one regardless of whether they are government or private. Masses cannot hold private enterprise accountable.

We are both entitled to our opinions. My expectation from media however is transparency and accuracy of information. People can decide for themselves if the information is correct.

Update: I forgot to address Tavleen's point about the Tehri dam that supposedly protected Haridwar. Tavleen Singh might be delighted to know that the Alaknanda blew through the Vishnuprayag Hydro electric project and the water that had backed up behind it wiped out Lambagarh market when it exploded out of the dam. Additionally, dams on Mandakini River such as Phata-Buyong HEP and Singoli-Bhatwari HEP badly damaged. Small dams on Madhaymaheshwer and Kali river are also badly damaged. It is worth considering a moment what the Tehri dam could have done to Haridwar if it too had given way. Perhaps water simply overflowing banks wouldn't be as bad.

Bera Murder Appeal Partly Allowed

By Vijay Panjwani, Advocate.

Thursday May 3, 2012.

The murder appeal raised important issues:

(i)           of excessive incarceration than maximum permissible under  which accused appellants finally convicted by Supreme Court .

(ii)          indiscriminate use of Section 302 IPC prescribing capital sentence rather than 304-B IPC in a case of dowry death.

(iii)        no bail to mother in law continuously for 14 years and one month.

Lawyer appointed by supreme court to defend  neglected to file bail application on behalf of mother in law for many years.

Briefly the facts are that a young woman named Mayarani was married to Gokul in West Bengal. A part of the agreed dowry was satisfied at the time of marriage. Both families were residents of neighbouring villages and belonged  to weaker section of society.They worked as daily wagers. A few months after marriage  Mayarani’s  in-laws started taunting her about lack of dowry, at her inability to do household chores, and on her physical attributes. Mayarani was a large boned well fed fat woman. She was addressed to as ‘Bhondi’ a term used in Bengal for fat women.

In the third year in-laws patience ran out and the and demand for ‘arrears dowry’ became a daily routine but no physical violence was reported to any one. However, in-laws encouraged her to commit suicide. They said a fat woman must bring a fat dowry. Finally, unable to bear the mental torture Bhondi escaped to her parental home from where she was returned to her in-laws with promise to pay ‘arrears dowry’. Bhondi and her mother were abused and insulted. And four days later at 2 PM news reached Bhondi’s parents that she died of burn injuries at 6 AM in the morning.

The medical evidence showed the body was charred. No external injuries were found. All internal organs- liver, kidneys, viscera was intact. In such a situation the doctor failed to find injuries and wrote ‘no cause of death could be found’. The police stuck to its strange version that Bhondi was killed by strangulation  in the matrimonial home by in-laws and then taken out and her body burnt partially and brought back to matrimonial home. The forensic report and  burnt  items seized from the crime scene said some other story which was hidden but not so cleverly as to escape scrutiny in supreme court. The doubts once raised about the veracity of evidence do not go easily.

The prosecutor in supreme court  was unable to show from record evidence of ingredients to prove murder. The appellants/accused [thru vijay panjwani] were shown not to have committed   murder . In a plea bargaining appellants counsel suggested conversion of   murder  to a lesser conviction of dowry death. For reasons recorded  the supreme court set aside the high court  judgment  on muder with life imprisonment and convicted the accused/appellants under section 304-B for dowry death to sentence already undergone. Husband and father in law were on bail since 2006 after 8 years incarceration and mother in law 14 years imprisonment in Midnapore Jail. The fine was set aside and bail bonds of the male accused persons discharged.It is for readers to form an opinion how this category of family cases should be tried.

VIJAY PANJWANI

ADVOCATE

NEW-DELHI

Dt: 3-5-2012.

 

1

ENVIRONMENT DAY IN SUPREME COURT

By: Vijay Panjwani, Advocate.

 

Two different Hon’ble Benches showed interest in moving on with the dusty files placed before them for directions. In a departure from the line ‘this is not our job’ to ‘its taken years someone must do something ‘. In the first case while dealing with the custom duty non-payment problem of import of dirty hazardous waste oil in very costly stainless steel, the court’s attention was drawn to the issue of contaminated ground water in Bhopal DoW Chemical/UCC plant. After the world’s largest gas leak disaster in 1984 slowly hazardous water from the contaminated plant has contaminated ground water table. Therefore, no ground water can be drawn for human consumption. It did not take long for the court to grasp the situation begging remedial action. Considering all aspects the court directed Central Pollution Control Board to inspect the site and file an inspection report before 18th April, 2012. The report would show the cause and the extent of contamination. CPCB normally gives its recommendations in all reports for remedial measures to be taken to restore the ground water quality to comply to prescribed environmental standards. The only problem is that the order of 28th has not been uploaded in Supreme Court website till 5-30 PM Friday 30th March 2012. In the absence of copy of order no action can be taken. The next week has four days off thursday to sunday, signs of in-built delays.

Then came the turn of supply of highly polluted drinking water from Bhopal Municipal Corporation [ Nagar Nigam] to neighbourhood residents of UCC/DoW plant. It is alleged that the water pipe is laid near the open drain [Naali] carrying kitchen and bathroom waste water. The waste water leaks into the pipeline making the water supply sometimes normal and at times foul smelling. Complaints have not rectified the situation. CPCB would be looking in this too. Besides the State Government and Nagar Nigam have been directed to remove the contamination in the ground water and to ensure safe pollutant free drinking water supply within two weeks. Strangely neither counsel nor any officer was present in court during the 90 minute proceedings on behalf of the state or nagar nigam. On general inquiry from courtroom full of lawyers none answered the call and this was recorded in the order. Such unconcern and bravado is not seen every day.

In the second case a large copper manufacturer was directed to dispose of gypsum dust and gypsum sludge only to ‘need based’ customers. The purchaser has to prove an on-going road or brick making project or any other lawful use for safe disposal. The bunch of lawyers did not take it gracefully but then tomorrow is always a new day and we get back into normal mode.

END.