How the Transgender Bill discriminates against the very people it claims to protect

By Ajita Banerjie | 18 August 2016
Waves of disappointment swept across the LGBTQI community when the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016 was recently approved by the cabinet and made public on 20 July this year. The bill disregards the landmark National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India (NALSA) judgment delivered by the Supreme Court on 15 April 2014. This judgment had affirmed that transgender individuals have the right to decide on their self-identified gender.

Why We Need a Press Freedom Bill, Even Though the Government May Not Want One

By HARTOSH SINGH BAL | 15 August 2016
On 29 July 2016, Outlook magazine digitally released an investigative report called “Operation #BabyLift,” the cover story for its 8 August issue. The story, written by Neha Dixit, an independent journalist, detailed the manner in which outfits that belong to the Sangh Parivar had abducted young girls from Assam to indoctrinate them. Less than a week after it was released, on 4 August, Subhash Chandra Kayal, the assistant solicitor general of India at the Guwahati High Court, Bijon Mahajan, a lawyer and spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and Mominul Awwal from the BJP’s minority cell, filed a complaint at the Latasil police station in Guwahati, alleging that Dixit’s story incited communal hatred. The police registered a first information report against Indranil Roy, the publisher and executive director of the magazine, Krishna Prasad, then its editor-in-chief, and Dixit. Last week, on 13 August, Roy sent an email to the staff at Outlook. In this email, he announced the appointment of Rajesh Ramachandran, a former political editor of The Economic Times, as the magazine’s new editor-in-chief.

Coca-Cola’s inimical business practices in India’s heartlands

By KAUSHAL SHROFF | 13 August 2016
On 19 October last year, a joint inspection team of officers from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) submitted a report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The 13-page report stated that a plant operated by the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB)—a bottling partner of the Coca-Cola company in India—in Hapur district in Uttar Pradesh was discharging untreated effluents into a nearby man-made pond. It observed that the effluent treatment plant in the fruit-juice section of the facility was in a “defunct state” and that the sewage treatment machines were “non-operational.”

“Writing and cinema are completely different”: An interview with Gurvinder Singh

By TRISHA GUPTA | 11 August 2016
Gurvinder Singh, who trained at the Film and Television Institute of India, is best known for his two feature films. Anhe Ghore Da Daan (Alms for the Blind Horse, 2011) and Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction, 2015). Anhe Ghore Da Daan premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and won the special jury award at Abu Dhabi. It also received the National Awards for best direction, cinematography, and best Punjabi film. Singh’s second film has won awards at festivals in Belgrade, Singapore and Mumbai, as well as the National Award for best Punjabi film. A powerfully atmospheric portrait of Punjab in 1984, Chauthi Koot is an adaptation of the short stories ‘Chauthi Koot’ and ‘Main Hun Thik Thak Haan’ by Punjabi writer Waryam Singh Sandhu from his short story collection Chauthi Koot. The film released in cinemas across India last Friday, with English subtitles.

Unable to Keep Up With the Din of Daily News, Rajdeep Sardesai Tries To Reinvent Himself

By Sandeep Bhushan | 10 August 2016
It was not a scene one is used to seeing: the journalist Rajdeep Sardesai loudly gushing “fantastico!” each time a school student correctly answered a question. The exclamation “fantastico,” one realised during the course of the one-hour quiz show, was the advertising tag line of a car being launched by its sponsor, the Tata group. Sardesai is the quizmaster of News Wiz, which started on 24 July 2016, and is aired on India Today TV.

Despite the Erupting Violence, Indian Businessmen Are Choosing to Stay Back in South Sudan

By Rajiv Golla | 8 August 2016
At peak afternoon on 14 July 2016, a dark grey C-17 aircraft, a bullseye in the Indian tricolour emblazoned on its fuselage, sat on the tarmac of the international airport in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Standing outside the hatch were some of the most prominent businessmen of the city—hoteliers, commodity traders and landlords, among others—chatting with the members of the flight crew. A few minutes later, an order came from the tower, clearing the flight for takeoff. The businessmen stepped back from the door. As the engines whirred, they turned and walked back towards Juba.

A Conversation With Jignesh Mevani, a Dalit Activist and Leader of the Uprising in Una

By Surabhi Vaya | 7 August 2016
In mid July 2016, a video surfaced of an incident in Una town in Gujarat where a mob beat up four Dalit youths for picking up a cow carcass, and then paraded the young men around town, hitting them in view of the residents. The incident sparked widespread protests in the state against vigilantism and a greater push for Dalit rights. Jignesh Mevani, a 35-year-old lawyer and activist who has been working on Dalit land rights in the state, is one of the leaders of these protests. He is the convener of the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti, a committee whose aim is to fight atrocities against Dalits. On 31 July, Mevani led a rally where thousands of Dalits pledged to stop picking up carcasses as the protests against atrocities intensify in the state. Mevani also works on the issue of land rights for Dalits, which he believes is key to Dalit empowerment.

Unpaid and Stranded: The Plight of Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia

By Rejimon Kuttappan | 6 August 2016
Jobin George Thomas is one among the 10,000 Indian workers who have been stranded in the city since Saudi Oger Limited, a construction firm, stopped paying them their salaries. In the last week of July, it also stopped providing meals for its workers situated across five different camps due to a falling out over the catering company over non-payment.

How Caste Shaped the Experience of Dalit Students at the University of Hyderabad

By PRAVEEN DONTHI | 5 August 2016
Yesterday, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) asked the Cyberabad police to expedite the investigation into the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit scholar from the University of Hyderabad (UoH), and to file a chargesheet “at the earliest.” In January this year, Vemula’s suicide sparked a series of protests on the UoH campus, which then spread throughout the nation. After his death, several politicians attempted to avoid getting charged under the Prevention of Atrocities (SC/ST) Act by claiming that, because his father is a Veddera—a caste classified as OBC, or Other Backward Class—Vemula was not a Dalit. The NCSC took up the issue of Vemula's caste identity. On 22 June, it issued a report with its findings and observations, confirming that Vemula was a Dalit. The commission noted that on 18 April, the Guntur District Collector—the highest authority for issuing a caste certificate—had said there was “no rival” questioning the certificates issued to Vemula's family, and that as someone brought up in the SC community, he was to be treated as part of it. In June, PL Punia, the chairman of the commission, said that the police will “have to act on atrocity charges against the accused.” 

How Assam has emerged as a transit point for narcotics

By Rajeev Bhattacharyya | 2 August 2016
On 16 March this year, police in Assam arrested Elahi Sheikh in Dibrugarh. Considered one of the biggest drug barons in the Northeast, Sheikh had been in hiding since jumping bail several years ago. The police also found heroin at his residence which was speculated to be sent to Arunachal Pradesh. Sheikh had amassed a huge fortune over the years by selling drugs through a network that consisted primarily of women and children.
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