Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Anti-terrorist measures in India: Block Blogs

Governments do truckloads of nonsense day in and day out. So much, every well informed citizen of the world knows. But, sometimes they outperform themselves.
After the Mumbai blasts, the Indian government feels an urge to stop blogging sites. Including blogspot.com. Why? Because terrorists use blogs. What? Really? I mean, are you serious? I guess they also use e-mail, so will Mr. Singh's government stop all e-mails? How about Orkut? Afterall, they can create terrorist communities online. Right? What about online chat? That is something the terrorists could use heavily to plot more bomb blasts, so lets stop that. What the heck...lets get rid of computers altogether. Alternatively, get rid of this sick Government.
I understand that it is natural to panic after something as devastating as the 7/11 blasts in Mumbai. The Bush led government in the US panicked similarly after 9/11, and attacked Afghanistan and Iraq apart from making lives of so many others utterly miserable. But, US is a BAD example to follow when it comes to governance and policy making. I can only hope that our Government sees the absurdity in this step and lifts such non-sense sanctions.
Anyway, there are ways and means of circumventing this ban. Please go through the India Uncut blog for more.

4 comments:

  1. And one interesting aspect of the ban was that It got them a lot more hits than they would have had initially :-)

    Hello, in case you remember me, you interviewed me a couple of days back at Anna University :-)

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  2. Asaduddin Owaisi Mp and Akbaruddin Owaisi Mla representing the Prime Ministers High level committee on Minorities Issue . Date :- 04-06-05
    To The Hon’ble Chairman & Members of Prime Minister’s High Level Committee New Delhli . Dear Sirs ,We welcome the visit of the Prime Minister’s High-Powered Committee on Minorities to the historic city of Hyderabad. We take the opportunity to profusely thank the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, for constituting this committee to go into the socio-economic and educational conditions of the minorities. We also express our gratitude to your esteemed chairmen and members of the Committee for giving up this opportunity to make this representation.It is a matter of satisfaction that the UPA government at the Centre and the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh have launched several initiatives aimed at amelioration of the status of minorities during their first year in office. The Congress manifesto for 2004 Assembly polls made certain promises for the overall development and well-being of minorities. Keeping this in view, we would like to make suggestions to the panel on its specific terms of reference.As you know, the minorities account for a population of 84 lakh, constituting 11.2 percent of the total population of Andhra Pradesh, as per the 2001 census. Muslims constitute the biggest minority community in the state, with a population of 70 lakh or 9.2 percent of the total population. The population of minorities is largely urban-based. Minorities constitute about nine percent of the total rural population and as high as 22 percent of the total urban population in the state.As a political party representing the hopes and aspirations of Muslim community, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has been striving to impress upon the successive governments to fulfill their constitutional obligations to protect the educational, economic, social and cultural rights of the minorities and work for the upliftment of their socio-economic status. The state government has laid emphasis on the progress and empowerment of minorities and many schemes and policies have been put in place to ensure this in the last two decades or more.Yet, you may agree that a large segment of Muslim population in the state, as elsewhere in the country, lives below poverty line. Their share in various economic support schemes has been very low compared to their proportion of population. Muslims in general and their womenfolk in particular are very backward—economically, educationally and socially. Thus, this single largest minority community is characterized by rampant poverty and illiteracy due to economic deprivation, educational backwardness and social discrimination.Various welfare schemes undertaken by the successive governments for the benefit of minorities over the last five decades could not help ameliorate the conditions of Muslims owing to either ineffective implementation or lax monitoring. On the other hand, the Muslim community finds itself pushed deeper into the vicious circle of socio-economic and educational backwardness now.All the same, the advancement of minorities in general and Muslims in particular requires attention from both the Union government and the state government. Various components that necessarily contribute to confidence building among minorities include education, economic development, eradication of sense of discrimination, social and cultural development, promotion of Urdu language and thrust on the all-round development of minority women, as was pointed out in the Congress manifesto.Almost 58 percent of the 70 lakh Muslims in the state reside in urban areas and the remaining 42 percent in rural areas, as per the 2001 census. Muslims account for 19.5 percent of the total urban population and 5.3 percent of the total rural population in the state. In all, 55.15 percent of the Muslims live in Telangana region, 24.20 percent in Rayalaseema and 20.65 percent in coastal Andhra.Going by the census data for 2001, the proportion of population in the 0-6 age-group is 14.9 percent among Muslims as against the average of 13.3 for all religious communities. The literacy rate among Muslims is 68 percent as against the state’s average of 60.5 percent. The male literacy rate among Muslims is 76.5 percent as against the state average of 70.3 percent. Similarly, the female literacy rate among Muslims is 59.1 percent as against the state average of 50.4 percent.However, the work participation rate among Muslims is, however, lower at 33.8 percent as against the state average of 45.8 percent. The work participation rate among Muslim males is only 50.1 percent as against the state average of 56.2 percent. The work participation rate among Muslim females is only 16.8 percent as against the state average of 35.1 percent. This means that much of the potential workforce in the Muslim community—both males and females—is idle. In other words, unemployment is higher among Muslims than the rest of the population in the state.The distribution of category of workers suggests that there are lesser numbers of cultivators and agricultural labourers among Muslims (that is, 7.4 percent and 21.8 percent as against the state average of 22.5 percent and 39.6 percent) mainly because the community is largely urban-based. Consequently, the proportion of household industry workers and other categories of workers at 6.1 percent and 64.6 percent is higher than the average of 4.7 percent and 33.1 percent for all communities.A number of research studies have shown that the minorities residing in the state are economically and educationally backward. A recent study by Commissionerate for Minorities Welfare on socio-economic and educational conditions of Muslims only confirms what the previous studies and surveys have highlighted all along that an overwhelming majority of Muslims lives in abject poverty, social and educational backwardness.AP State Minorities Commission conducted a comprehensive study on the socio-economic conditions of minorities in the state wayback in 1989. A team led by Prof Abbas Ali of Osmania University conducted the study. The survey brought out the negligible share of Muslims in various sectors and all walks of life across Andhra Pradesh.There is no doubt that the living conditions, occupational profile, income and literacy levels and participation in social activities of Muslims have been quite pathetic. The 2004 study by the Commissionerate of Minorities Welfare has pointed out that almost two-thirds of the Muslims are living below poverty line with annual incomes below Rs 11,000 and another one-sixth of the Muslims are living in somewhat humane conditions with annual incomes of Rs 44,000 or below.The study by the Commissionerate of Minorities Welfare further revealed that most of the Muslims are engaged in petty business activity like running pan shops or chai dukaan, selling fruits or flowers or working as labourers in engineering workshops, watch servicing and repairs of radio and TV. The rural-based Muslims are mainly artisans. The study further noted that the socio-economic conditions of Muslims deteriorated over the decades due to poverty, illiteracy and inadequate representation in various fields of society.The recommendation for inclusion of Muslims among backward classes and provision of reservations for them in educational institutions and employment was made wayback in 1979 by the first chairman of AP State Minorities Commission Justice M A Ansari. The successive chairmen of the Commission have reiterated the recommendation over the last 26 years but without success.Both the Congress and Telugu Desam governments set up cabinet sub-committees on minorities welfare and launched several measures for socio-economic upliftment of minorities based on these reports. The Congress government headed by Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy issued the Government Order No. 86 in 1994, extending non-statutory benefits to Muslim students on the lines of backward classes.The Congress government constituted the AP Commission for Backward Classes through an enactment No.20 of 1993 to go into the requests for inclusion of various castes and communities, including the Muslims, in the list of Backward Classes. The BC Commission, with an initial tenure of three years, started functioning under the chairmanship of Justice K S Puttuswamy on March 31, 1994. The Commission was reconstituted for three more years from March 1997 and was given extension from time to time up to September 30, 2002.As many as 109 castes and communities, including Muslims, sought their inclusion as Backward Classes while 36 castes in the existing list of BCs sought change from one group to another. The BC Commission took almost eight and a half years to examine the claims and collect the data but could not finalise its report.Before we proceed further, let us briefly mention administrative and organizational set-up in place in the AP government for the welfare and development of the minorities. Andhra Pradesh is one of the few states to have a full-fledged Commissionerate for Minorities Welfare. The Commissionerate, with district minority welfare offices in 12 minority-concentrated districts in the state, is entrusted the task of implementing various schemes for the minorities and ensuring proper utilization of funds being earmarked by the government for the welfare of minorities, besides coordinating and supervising the activities of other bodies and institutions concerned with minorities.The Secretary to Government, Minorities Welfare Department at the Secretariat level, works as Ex-officio Commissioner, Minorities Welfare and he is assisted by an assistant commissioner at the state headquarters. Each district minority welfare office is headed by district minority welfare office, assisted by supporting staff.AP is also one of the few states to have a full-fledged Minorities Commission, an Urdu Academy, a State Minorities Finance Corporation and State Wakf Board.The AP State Minorities Commission was established in 1979 to ensure that the minorities are not discriminated against. The government accorded statutory status to the State Minorities Commission as per AP State Minorities Commission Act No. 31 of 1998 under the chairmanship of a retired judge of the High Court.The government in 1975 constituted the Urdu Academy, AP, with three regional centers at Vijayawada, Kurnool and Nizamabad to preserve and promote Urdu language and literature. The Academy has been undertaking a number of activities for the development of Urdu language. Besides providing scholarships to Urdu medium students and those studying Urdu as second language, the Academy extends financial assistance to Urdu libraries, undertakes translation of books of other languages in Urdu, publishes Urdu journals and gives away awards to best Urdu students and teachers.The three regional centers and 15 district centers run reading rooms and libraries, provide Urdu coaching and impart training in Urdu calligraphy. The Academy provides financial assistance to Urdu libraries and for printing of Urdu manuscripts, gives away lifetime achievement award, arranges grant-in-aid to organizations working for cultural development of minorities and runs 25 computer training institutes throughout the state to impart computer courses to minority candidates. As many as 570 Urdu-ghars-cum-shadikhnas (community halls) are being constructed all over the state for the convenience of minorities.The AP State Minorities Finance Corporation was established in 1985 to assist weaker sections of minorities for their economic development. The Corporation extends financial assistance under four schemes: economic assistance, Tatkal, micro credit and construction of worksheds. The Corporation is also entrusted the implementation of several other programmes, such as extension of non-statutory benefits like scholarships to minority students, development of minority women and children in urban areas, training and employment programmes and assistance to voluntary organizations for health camps etc.AP State Wakf Board is one of the biggest wakf boards in the country in terms of Wakf institutions numbering over 35,000 managed through mutawallies, managing committees and by direct management of the Board. The Wakf institutions have vast properties throughout the state. The Wakf Board has been striving for a long time to develop wakf properties. However, it encountered a number of problems on many fronts. The non-availability of requisite funds is one of the reasons for the inordinate delays in the development of wakf properties.The Wakf Board undertakes repairs, renovation, and protection of wakf institutions. It also prepares plans and schemes for developing of wakf properties. Under the provisions of Muslim Women (Divorce and Protection) Act 1986, the Wakf Board sanctions maintenance allowance to divorced Muslim women. The Board also looks after the maintenance of Haj House, constructed by the government at an outlay of Rs 10 crore to provide accommodation facilities to Haj pilgrims to stay in for completion of required international travel formalities for proceeding for Haj.AP government unveiled the Policy for the Advancement of Minorities in February 1996 and announced a comprehensive welfare package for minorities called “Roshni” in 1999. The government has also made Urdu as second official language in 13 districts. A Legislative Committee on Welfare of Minorities has been constituted to oversee the implementation of programmes for the welfare of minorities. A separate demand has been created in the state budget for activities and programmes meant exclusively for minorities.Reservations for Muslims in public employment and educational institutions was the key promise made by the Congress on the eve of 2004 Assembly elections. In fact, the Congress manifesto for the state spelt out 10 promises for the minorities. Though the government took the initiative to provide five percent reservations for Muslims through their inclusion in the list of backward classes in July 2004, the same could not be implemented as the matter ended in the AP High Court, which struck down the GO but directed that the issue be examined by AP Backward Classes Commission within a specified time-frame.The state government has reconstituted the AP Backward Classes Commission and given it the task of finalizing its recommendations on inclusion of Muslims in BC list for the purpose of reservations. The BC Commission is in the process of finalizing its report on issue of reservations for Muslims after assessing the socio-economic conditions of Muslims. The government has promised to implement a foolproof reservations policy for Muslims from the 2005-06 academic year.Among other things, the Congress has promised to revive the 15-Point programme for minorities announced by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and to put in place a monitoring mechanism devised by late Rajiv Gandhi for its implementation. The Congress also assured to safeguard the Muslim Personal Law and to take steps for implementation of Urdu as second official language in 13 districts. The Congress promised to substantially increase the budgetary allocations for Minorities Welfare.The state has made a budgetary allocation of Rs 49 crore for minorities welfare in the current year (2005-06) as against Rs 39 crore in the previous year. But the outlay for minorities welfare works out to not even one-tenth of one percent of the state budget. We have put forth our demand to the state government to increase this allocation to Rs 100 crore annually and progressively increase it further, since Muslims and other minorities constitute 11.2 percent of the state’s population and the state budget size is a whopping Rs 55,442 crore in the current year. Even the allocation of Rs 100 crore will only be a pittance, considering the gigantic size of the state budget and the appalling socio-economic conditions of Muslims.Even if the budgetary allocation for minorities welfare is raised to Rs 100 crore a year, it will only work out to one-fifth of one percent of the state budget. However, we believe that it will make a lot of difference to the minorities who are steeped in utter poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and other socio-economic problems. The previous Telugu Desam government had launched “Roshni” for the minorities but the Congress government has done little to spread the “Roshni” further.Among other things, the Congress manifesto assured that special measures would be taken to provide self-employment to youth among minorities through AP State Minorities Finance Corporation by additional allocations in the State Budget. Apart from release of margin money, the Congress promised steps for release of bank loans to the beneficiaries. But, nothing has been done to fulfil this promise. The investments in the Minorities Finance Corporation for economic assistance, Tatkal and micro-credit schemes have been pegged at Rs 14.10 crore both in 2004-05 and 2005-06.Our party has been demanding direct disbursement of scholarships to minority students and direct sanction of loans for self-employment schemes and anti-poverty programmes to minorities through the AP State Minorities Finance Corporation. In the old-age pensions also, a specific quota should be earmarked for the minorities. Thousands of elderly Muslim men and women are destitute and they are not cared for by anybody. The government must sanction old age pensions for them.To provide equal opportunities to minority women, the Congress had assured to constitute a separate minority women welfare corporation for their upliftment and improvement of educational and socio-economic conditions and for creation of employment opportunities. Now, this promise has been “dropped” on the ground that it was not found to be feasible. We suggest that the government must either provide additional funds to AP State Minorities Finance Corporation for the purpose or earmark a separate quota for assisting the minority women under the aegis of AP Women’s Cooperative Finance Corporation.While promising concrete and positive steps for educational development and welfare of minorities, the Congress has assured to establish one ITI, a polytechnic and a residential school for minorities in each district of the state. This promise, too, remains unfulfilled. Only the allocation for scholarships for minority students has been raised from Rs four crore in 2004-05 to Rs 10 crore in the current year.On the other hand, the allocations for other schemes such as development of minority women and children in rural and urban areas, integrated development minorities in Old city of Hyderabad and assistance to voluntary organizations for organizing health camps remain meager at a little over Rs two crore in the current year.The Congress promised to activate the minority institutions to encourage minorities to take up entrepreneurship and provide them necessary help for improving their levels of education. These institutions are supposed to provide vocational training to the minorities. But the overall allocations for schemes such as promotion of entrepreneurship among minorities, vocational training for minority women and youth, participation of minorities in competitive examinations and improvement of classroom performance of school children among minorities remains static at Rs one crore in the current year.The Congress has assured to safeguard and develop the wakf properties, to give executive powers to the Wakf Board on par with the Hindu Endowments Act and to provide funds for construction of shadikhanas and repairs to masjids, graveyards, etc. However, the allocations towards grants-in-aid to AP State Wakf Board for development of wakf properties and wakf institutions, maintenance of Haj House and assistance to Muslim divorced women remain static at less than Rs two crore. Only for the repairs and maintenance, the grants have been raised from Rs 3.29 crore to Rs 4.35 crore this year.So far as the AP Urdu Academy is concerned, the allocations remain static for awareness programme, cultural development of minorities, AP Open Urdu schools, and provision of infrastructure facilities in Urdu schools. Only for the promotion of Urdu, vocational training in Urdu computer education and for construction of Urdu ghar-cum-shadikhanas, the allocations have been raised to Rs 8.73 crore in the current year from Rs 5.4 crore in the previous year.Despite the previous government according second official language status to Urdu in 13 out of 23 districts in the state, this decision virtually remains on paper. There is no monitoring of the implementation of Urdu as second official language.The Congress government is yet to fullfil its promise to take effective steps for the implementation of Urdu as second official language. Hence, our party has requested the government to set up a separate cell in the Official Language Commission to monitor the implementation of Urdu as second official language.The Congress also assured that the allotment of houses for minorities in the weaker sections housing schemes would be according to their population in respective areas. The Congress has promised to construct 40 lakh houses under weaker sections housing programme in five years, including six lakh houses in 2004-05 and 6.5 lakh houses in the current year. Similarly, under the Rajiv Gruha Kalpa scheme, the government has proposed to take up two lakh houses around Hyderabad-Secunderabad and other major cities in the state.The weaker sections housing policy provides for earmarking seven percent of the houses for minorities in rural areas and 20 percent for the minorities in urban areas. We have told the government of the urgent need to strictly implement the quota earmarked for minorities in rural and urban housing schemes, since there are reports from the districts that this is not being done at present. We have demanded that the quota of 20 percent for minorities in urban housing programme should also be extended to Rajiv Gruha Kalpa scheme.Under the scheme for provision of house sites to weaker sections, the government has earmarked a quota of 10 percent for minorities but the district authorities are seldom following this stipulation. We are told that house-sites were distributed to 10 lakh beneficiaries in 2003-04 and two lakh in 2004-05. The target is for distribution of two lakh house-sites in the current year. We have represented to the government to strictly implement this quote for the minorities.The government runs as many as 1,429 hostels for the Backward Classes. Orders have been issued for three percent reservation to the minorities in the BC hostels out of the 10 percent quota earmarked for other communities. But this quota for minority students is not being provided in many hostels. We have urged the government to take immediate steps to enforce this quota for the minorities in the BCs hostels.For generating employment opportunities for the youth, the Congress government has revamped and renamed the Chief Minister’s Empowerment of Youth (CMEY) scheme as Rajiv Yuvashakti programme with a promise to cover one lakh youth during 2004-05 and another 1.5 lakh youth in the current year. Our party has demanded that a proportionate quota of 11 percent should be earmarked for youth belonging to minorities, mainly Muslims, under the Rajiv Yuvashakti programme.The state government created a record by distributing 1.55 lakh acres of land to 1.12 lakh landless poor on the Republic Day this year. But the minorities have hardly benefited from the scheme. Not even one percent of the beneficiaries belonged to minorities though they constitute 20 percent of the rural population. Another 50 lakh acres of land is available for distribution. We have asked the government to earmark 20 percent share for minorities in distribution of lands.The government has to do a lot to improve the condition of government schools in Hyderabad-Secunderabad, which are in very bad shape. Just as the Social Welfare, Tribal Welfare and Backward Welfare Departments are running residential schools and junior colleges for SCs, STs and BCs, we have requested the government to entrust the responsibility to Minorities Welfare Department to open and run exclusive residential schools for minorities. Alternatively, we suggested that specific quotas should be earmarked for minorities in the BC residential schools.There are 1.5 lakh acres of valuable lands attached to Wakf institutions throughout the state. The total value of the Wakf properties at prevailing market rates is estimated at Rs 36,000 crore. However, 81,591 acres of Wakf lands have been encroached in different places in the state. Two House Committees of AP Legislative Assembly, in their reports submitted in 1997 and 1999, have confirmed the encroachments.The state government has constituted the AP Wakf Tribunal under the Wakf Act, 1995, for determination of any dispute, question or other matter relating to a wakf or wakf properties. The tribunal has started functioning from September 1997 but it has proved ineffective in dealing with the menace of encroachments of wakf properties. We have asked the government to provide more powers to the tribunal so that it can evict the encroachers after summary trials. The government has commissioned a second survey of wakf properties in the state. The first survey was done in the 1960s. The second survey may provide authentic data on the encroachments on wakf properties now. But we are not satisfied with the 2nd Survey Wakf because the staff has no requisite qualification of Urdu knowledge and the measurements are not being taken with reference to relevant documents, revenue and other records. These defects should be rectified.The AIMIM has been demanding a substantial increase in budgetary allocation to Rs 25 crore to Quli Qutub Shah Urban Development Authority, which was constituted by the government in 1981 as a special body for the accelerated development of civic amenities in the Old City of Hyderabad, which is currently home to over 15 lakh Muslims living in pathetic conditions. The previous Telugu Desam government neglected the Old City and QQSUDA.But there has been no increase in annual budgetary allocation for QQSUDA after the Congress came to power last year. Our party has sought higher financial allocations for QSUDA and a special package of Rs 100 crore for quicker implementation of developmental activities in Old City of Hyderabad, which will go a long way in upliftment of Muslims and upgradation of their living conditions in the state capital.We earnestly request you to consider all these issues and suggestions highlighted by us. We sincerely hope that you will take cognizance of the facts and data brought before you through this representation and make suitable recommendations while finalizing your report.
    Thanking you
    Yours truly
    Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen
    Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen Media and Information Center

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