Archives for posts with tag: New Delhi

India’s police investigating five coal companies have raided premises across the country over the alleged misallocation of lucrative mining rights. State auditors recently said India lost $33bn selling coalfields cheaply between 2006 and 2009.

Government officials and company employees are also under investigation. Dharini Mishra, spokeswoman for the Central Bureau of Investigation, said that 30 premises had been visited as detectives examined whether coal companies were guilty of cheating in a scandal that has rocked Manmohan Singh’s federal government. “We have registered an FIR (First Information Report) after conducting raids in 10 cities,” Mishra told AFP news agency, adding that coal company offices in New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata had been targeted. An FIR is a written report detailing an alleged crime, prompting an investigation. Mishra declined to name the companies involved.

Corruption cases

The UPA government has been found responsible for another gigantic corruption scandal in the coal block allocations. According to the CAG Report, allocations of coal blocks to private companies have resulted in their benefiting to the tune of Rs. 1.86 lakh crores. This scandal and loot of natural resources is a result of the UPA government’s efforts to privatize the coal industry through the backdoor having failed to change the coal nationalization law. The CPI(M) is opposed to the privatization of the coal industry. It demands a full investigation to fix the responsibility for this large-scale corruption. All those guilty must be prosecuted, however high position they hold. The allocations made to the private companies should be cancelled and steps taken to recover the losses suffered by the government. The Polit Bureau calls upon all its Party units to conduct a campaign to mobilise the people in support of these demands. The campaign through holding demonstrations, rallies and protest meetings should be conducted between September 3 to 5, 2012.

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At the heart of the CBI’s investigation is the allegation that some of the companies were set up only to obtain the coalfields being allocated by the government and then sell them off at profit. Media reports allege that the companies involved misrepresented their ability to mine the coal. The auditors’ report said of the 86 coal blocks, which were to produce coal by 2010-11, “only 28 blocks (including 15 allocated to the private sector) started production as of March 31, 2011”. The CBI will investigate whether some of the firms were set up only to get the coal blocks allocated by the government, and then sold them on at huge profits. Singh’s coalition government, led by the Congress party, has been beset by a string of corruption cases since re-election in 2009 and the latest allegations of mismanagement have led to renewed pressure on him. The BJP and other opposition parties have forced parliament to be adjourned daily over the issue and have demanded the prime minister’s resignation. Singh, who along with being prime minister was also in charge of the coal ministry when the mining rights were allocated, has strongly rejected charges over the coal scandal, saying the auditor’s findings were not supported by facts.

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Gayatri Buragohain, an electronics engineer by education, and expert on information and communication technologies for non-profit organizations, has made it her life’s mission to increase women’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Early in her engineering career, she searched for connections between her two passions — feminism and technology — but her efforts proved fruitless.

Not only did India not have organizations focused on female empowerment within technology, but women’s rights organizations, activists, and advocates did not recognize the need for them. Buragohain looked for statistics on women studying or working in STEM. All she found was a single, outdated report on the industry as a whole. “Statistics on women in different layers of STEM scared me,” said Buragohain.

She quit her job and started Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT) in New Delhi, India, a non-profit organization –  intentionally named to confront more than one taboo about women.

Buragohain says that women receive a number of signals from a very early age that discourage them from entering STEM fields. For many, it comes down to the absence of role models and mentors she argues. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Buragohain. However, negative perceptions and stereotypes of STEM as a path for the geeky and unattractive also have an impact. Frequent portrayals in the media only serve to reinforce these views, making girls self-conscious about their chosen paths and undermining their confidence.

Buragohain set out to reverse this trend. With a computer purchased through a Systers Pass-It-On cash award from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (and several others borrowed from friends), she started a free technology workshop in her own house for girls who otherwise would not have access to a computer. Many workshop participants — a large percentage of whom are domestic workers — had previoulsy never seen a computer, did not speak English, and dropped out of school.

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The lack of a strong female presence in STEM fields means women have little say in decisions that could make the world a better place, even when they rise to the top of other fields. “A healthy society is one in which men and women work in partnership. It’s not just women who need to have more women in technology—society needs it,” Buragohain said.

It has taken a huge battle to get women out of domestic caretaker roles, help them gain equal say, and get them to recognize the value of their contributions. However, the drastic under-representation of women in technology — an industry that shapes the way we live, work, and learn — could undermine this progress if it is not addressed now.

To increase the numbers in STEM fields, we need to start with young girls. As those girls get married and have children, we need to acknowledge that women tend to assume most of the responsibility for their families. In STEM, that has meant that around half the women who start in the workforce drop out within the first five years. Even worse, only three percent ever reach the top. Buragohain said that those statistics can — and should — change through efforts that balance the modern family and reduce women’s domestic responsibilities. In turn, this can free both women and men from traditional gender roles and create change for a better future.

Ultimately, Buragohain’s feminist approach to technology is about social equality for everyone, and bringing more people into the conversation about technological developments. Buragohain said,Under-representation in STEM is not just a problem for women; it is a problem for larger society. So if you want to bring change, don’t do it for the women — do it for yourself.”