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Injunctions, defamation suits emerge as new weapons against authors, publishers

As a publisher I find that I have faced pressure and censorship across all political regimes

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Freedom Forge Press

New Delhi, July 11 : A biography that traces Baba Ramdev’s rise from godman to tycoon has been caught up in a legal storm for over 11 months; Amish Tripathi’s upcoming book has been served a legal notice and its launch postponed; a nonfiction account on Bastar by Nandini Sundar came under pressure from a state government; and a critical book on the 2002 Gujarat riots by Rana Ayyub could not find a publisher.

Image result for defamation suit against authors Rana Ayyub amit tripathi

Those who disseminate ideas through books have had their share of political coercion. “As a publisher I find that I have faced pressure and censorship across all political regimes,” says Chiki Sarkar, publisher of Juggernaut Books.

But now, an insidious method of going against authors and publishers has emerged — of causing delays through the courts. The fear of legal suits and defamation charges has assumed such proportions that it has led to rejections and self-censorship among publishers, industry insiders say.

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In a series of interviews with key people holding top portfolios in some of India’s most prominent publishing houses, IANS ran a reality check on whether or not they have faced issues like self-censorship or pressure from political groups or legal action during the four years of the Narendra Modi government.

“There has only been a few legal cases in the court, but we have not faced any political pressure,” says Kapish Mehra, Managing Director of Rupa Books.

What emerges from these discussions is that political pressures on publishing houses is not “a new phenomenon” — both parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have practiced it. But the legal threat as a weapon to thwart public discourse through books has assumed menacing proportions.

Recently, writer Amish Tripathi was served a legal notice for his latest book “Suheldev & The Battle of Bahraich”. Tripathi announced the postponement of the July 16 launch “due to some circumstances beyond our control”. Earlier, pre-orders were being booked.

The announcement of the book was made at Sonali Bendre’s Book Club in Mumbai and the cover was launched by actor Varun Dhawan, who too has been sent a legal notice.

The book is said to revolve around Raja Suheldev, a semi-legendary Indian king from Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh. In the legal notice sent on June 25, a copy of which IANS has, the sender has accused the author and bollywood actor Varun Dhawan, of hurting “his and his communities’ sentiments”.

“Raja Suheldev is a godly figure among the Rajbhar community. I have received several messages and complaints from members of our community that Amish Tripathi has hurt their sentiments,” Jaiprakash Rajbhar, who sent the notice, told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

Rajbhar, an advocate, said that Uttar Pradesh text books for Class VI clearly point out that Suheldev was from the Rajbhar community. “The author has referred to him as somebody from “other caste”. This is a historical blunder,” he said.

“Moreover, the cover of the book shows Suheldev half naked. A king who is fighting a battle and riding a horse could not afford a piece of cloth to cover his body?” he asked.

On such grounds are objections to work of great artistes being raised. Tripathi and publisher Westland have declined comment on the issue.

Tripathi is a writer of fame and repute. With gross retail sales of Rs 120 crores, his novels include “The Immortals of Meluha”, “The Secret of the Nagas”, “The Oath of the Vayuputras”, “Ram: Scion of Ikshvaku” and “Sita: Warrior of Mithila”.

Sarkar, who started her publishing career at Bloomsbury in London, then worked at Penguin Books India and rose to become India publishing head after Penguin’s merger with Random House, said that Juggernaut has published many politically brave books — “I am a Troll”, “Shadow Armies”,”The Burning Forest” and “Mothering a Muslim”.

“But the book we have run into the biggest legal trouble over — the biography of Baba Ramdev — is a non-political book,” Sarkar told IANS.

The publication and sale of “Godman to Tycoon: The Untold Story of Baba Ramdev”, authored by Priyanka Pathak-Narain, has been stayed by the Delhi High Court, after a lower court had lifted a similar order earlier.

Image result for defamation suit against authors Rana Ayyub amit tripathi

According to Baba Ramdev’s petition, the book mentions some details from his past that are “irresponsible, false (and) malicious”. Certain content, Ramdev’s petition said, “had been added without evidence and verification”.

Juggernaut said in its appeal that the book was “truthful, even-handed and balanced consideration of the history of Baba Ramdev, which has been meticulously researched and is based on public and recorded sources, most of which have been in the public domain for years”.

It all began on August 4, 2017 when in an ex-parte order, the Additional Civil Judge at the District Courts of Karkardooma in Delhi asked Juggernaut not to publish or sell the book. The injunction was lifted nine months later in April 2018.

But the freedom was not to last too long. In May 2018, the Delhi High Court restored the temporary injunction. Ramdev’s lawyer had told the court that certain parts of the book were “unfounded and had misleading material which are malicious and scandalous”.

Pathak-Narain, the author had told the court that the contents of the book represented “only reported true facts as gleaned from publicly available documents and contains legitimate and reasonable surmises and conclusions drawn therefrom”.

The next hearing in the case is in August. “We will fight it out up till the Supreme Court, if need be,” says Sarkar.

“The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar” by Nandini Sundar, professor of sociology at Delhi University, who has been writing about Bastar and its people for 26 years, faced covert pressure from the state government to not publish or distribute the book. She chronicled how the armed conflict between the government and the Maoists had devastated the lives of some of India’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens in Bastar.

Fear of legal cases or political pressure often lead to publishers exercising their own version of self-censorship. Journalist Rana Ayyub, who was lately in the news for facing hate and threat messages on social media, could not find a mainstream publisher for her book “Gujarat Files”, an undercover expose of the 2002 riots in the state that claimed the lives of over 1,000 Muslims. She ended up publishing it herself. Ayyub, in a text message from London, expressed her unavailability to respond at present.

Industry insiders say that “legal suits, defamations proceedings and temporary injunctions” were their greatest fear. Injunctions can kill the fate of any book. They say that in eight out of ten cases, where a book can potentially be stayed by a court, mainstream publishers would avoid publishing it — or at least tell the author to remove content or “tone down” portions which are “objectionable”.

(This is first article in the two-part series on freedom in book publishing. Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Lakhs of towels, bedhseets missing from AC coaches – passengers are suspects

Besides, the Railways found 56,287 pillows and 46,515 blankets missing from the AC coaches in this period.

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Indian Railway Bed Rolls

New Delhi, Nov 15 : Affluent AC passengers are the prime suspects as over 21 lakh towels, bedsheets, blankets and other items went missing from air-conditioned coaches during 2017-18 an official said.

The passengers are suspected to have made off with precisely 21,72,246 “bedroll items” — including 12,83,415 hand towels, 4,71,077 bedsheets and 3,14,952 pillow covers — from trains across the country in the last fiscal.

Besides, the Railways found 56,287 pillows and 46,515 blankets missing from the AC coaches in this period.

“Together, the missing items are estimated to cost over Rs 14 crore,” a senior Railway Ministry official told IANS.

While the theft of toilet mugs, taps, flush pipes and mirrors are also reported on a regular basis, the missing bedroll items in substantial numbers has posed a challenge for the Railways, which is trying to provide better amenities to upper class passengers.

Currently, about 3.9 lakh sets of linen are provided daily — this comprises two bedsheets, a towel, a pillow and a blanket for each passenger in the AC classes.

“The maximum number of items stolen are towels, followed by bedsheets, as reported by coach attendants at the end of each journey,” the official said.

In the light of the thefts, especially of towels, the Railways has decided that the face towels given to passengers travelling in air-conditioned coaches will be replaced with cheaper, smaller, disposable, takeaway napkins, said the official.

The Railways has already started changing the cover of blankets in some sections while the frequency of washing is being increased from monthly to fortnightly and weekly.

There is also a move to increase the frequency of washing of blankets to begin with and replacing the existing ones with the newly designed lightweight blankets made of soft fabric in a phased manner.

The plan envisages improvement of linen management with the aim of providing clean, hygienic and good quality linen to passengers travelling in AC classes, the official said.

Among the 16 zones of Indian Railways, the Southern zone alone accounted for the theft of 2,04,113 hand towels, 29,573 bedsheets, 44,868 pillow covers, 3,713 pillows and 2,745 blankets.

In the missing list, South Central zone has registered 95,700 towels, 29,747 pillow covers, 22,323 bedsheets, 3,352 blankets and 2,463 pillows.

In the Northern zone, 85,327 towels, 38,916 bedsheets, 25,313 pillow covers, 3,224 pillows and 2,483 blankets were found missing.

In the East Central zone, 33,234 bedsheets, 22,769 pillow covers, 1,657 pillows, 76,852 towels, and 3,132 blankets were stolen last year.

In the Eastern zone, 1,31,313 towels, 20,258 bedsheets, 9,006 pillow covers, 1,517 pillows and 1,913 blankets were reported missing by attendants after the end of the train journey.

The East Coast railways has registered 43,318 towels, 23,197 bedsheets, 8,060 pillow covers, and 2,260 blankets as missing.

(Arun Kumar Das can be contacted at [email protected])

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Lakhs of towels, bedhseets missing from AC coaches – passengers are suspects

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indian-railways

New Delhi, Nov 15: Affluent AC passengers are the prime suspects as over 21 lakh towels, bedsheets, blankets and other items went missing from air-conditioned coaches during 2017-18 an official said.

The passengers are suspected to have made off with precisely 21,72,246 “bedroll items” — including 12,83,415 hand towels, 4,71,077 bedsheets and 3,14,952 pillow covers — from trains across the country in the last fiscal.

Besides, the Railways found 56,287 pillows and 46,515 blankets missing from the AC coaches in this period.

“Together, the missing items are estimated to cost over Rs 14 crore,” a senior Railway Ministry official told IANS.

While the theft of toilet mugs, taps, flush pipes and mirrors are also reported on a regular basis, the missing bedroll items in substantial numbers has posed a challenge for the Railways, which is trying to provide better amenities to upper class passengers.

Currently, about 3.9 lakh sets of linen are provided daily — this comprises two bedsheets, a towel, a pillow and a blanket for each passenger in the AC classes.

“The maximum number of items stolen are towels, followed by bedsheets, as reported by coach attendants at the end of each journey,” the official said.

In the light of the thefts, especially of towels, the Railways has decided that the face towels given to passengers travelling in air-conditioned coaches will be replaced with cheaper, smaller, disposable, takeaway napkins, said the official.

The Railways has already started changing the cover of blankets in some sections while the frequency of washing is being increased from monthly to fortnightly and weekly.

There is also a move to increase the frequency of washing of blankets to begin with and replacing the existing ones with the newly designed lightweight blankets made of soft fabric in a phased manner.

The plan envisages improvement of linen management with the aim of providing clean, hygienic and good quality linen to passengers travelling in AC classes, the official said.

Among the 16 zones of Indian Railways, the Southern zone alone accounted for the theft of 2,04,113 hand towels, 29,573 bedsheets, 44,868 pillow covers, 3,713 pillows and 2,745 blankets.

In the missing list, South Central zone has registered 95,700 towels, 29,747 pillow covers, 22,323 bedsheets, 3,352 blankets and 2,463 pillows.

In the Northern zone, 85,327 towels, 38,916 bedsheets, 25,313 pillow covers, 3,224 pillows and 2,483 blankets were found missing.

In the East Central zone, 33,234 bedsheets, 22,769 pillow covers, 1,657 pillows, 76,852 towels, and 3,132 blankets were stolen last year.

In the Eastern zone, 1,31,313 towels, 20,258 bedsheets, 9,006 pillow covers, 1,517 pillows and 1,913 blankets were reported missing by attendants after the end of the train journey.

The East Coast railways has registered 43,318 towels, 23,197 bedsheets, 8,060 pillow covers, and 2,260 blankets as missing.

IANS

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India’s higher education system needs drastic changes to address tech-induced challenges

Further, India’s GER for the male population is 26.3 per cent and 25.4 per cent for females. The GER also varies across different social groups — 21.8 per cent for the Scheduled Castes and 15.9 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes.

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education

As the world stands on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered by a wide range of new technology breakthroughs such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), advanced robotics, Internet of Things IoT), Cloud computing and 3D printing, major changes are expected in the labour market globally.

There will be reduced demand for middle-skilled workers doing repetitive tasks and increased demand for more highly-skilled workers — and also low-skilled workers doing non-routine work. While many developed countries, such as the US and Japan, as also several European economies, are already experiencing this polarisation, the labour market is also hollowing out in many developing countries, although at a rate slower than the developed world.

In the case of India, this polarisation can be seen in the organised manufacturing sector, where the share of high-skilled occupations in total manufacturing employment increased by more than three percentage points, while the share of middle-skilled jobs decreased by 6.3 percentage points from 1993-94 to 2011-12. Looking at the impact of technological progress on various manufacturing industries, the capital-intensive industries, such as automobile manufacturers, have a greater probability of adopting advanced automation and robotic technologies, compared to labour-intensive manufacturing industries such as textile, apparel, leather and footwear, and paper manufacturers.

Further, in the services sector, particularly in the IT sector, e-commerce, banking and financial services and health care services, there is a huge potential for automation technologies, which would increase the demand for skilled workers and reduce the demand for middle-skilled workers.

However, in India, over 80 per cent of the working population is engaged in low-skilled jobs in the unorganised sector. These low-skilled workers aspire to join the middle-skilled workforce in the organised sector to raise themselves from poverty. However, the changing nature of work due to technology advancements in the organised sector prevents their upward labour mobility and any improvement in their incomes.

Addressing these challenges requires reforms in India’s higher education system. The institutes of higher learning should shun dated teaching methodologies and redesign the course curriculum by understanding key market transitions amidst the technological advancements. This would enable the country to create a workforce which could be placed in the positions demanded by the companies in the digital era and thus bridge the skill gap in the labour market.

However, looking at the current state of higher education in India, one can see that it is not just the quality of the system which needs to be improved. There is also much to be done in terms of the number of students enrolled in the institutes of higher learning. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in tertiary education in India is 26.9 per cent, which is lower than that of China (48.4 per cent), Indonesia (27.9 per cent) and the Philippines (35.3 per cent), among others.

Further, India’s GER for the male population is 26.3 per cent and 25.4 per cent for females. The GER also varies across different social groups — 21.8 per cent for the Scheduled Castes and 15.9 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes.

There are also wide variations in the number of colleges for higher education across different states in India, with the lowest number of seven colleges in Bihar for every 0.1 million of eligible population to 51 in Telangana and Karnataka. The top eight states in terms of highest number of colleges are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, which have 28 or more colleges per 0.1 million of the population. The disparity in the distribution of the colleges is also seen across different districts in these states, with the top 50 districts having about 32.6 per cent of the colleges.

In addition to the inequalities existing in the access to institutions for higher education, another issue is that a majority of the students are enrolled in undergraduate level programmes, compared to the Masters and the Doctoral programmes. Moreover, at the undergraduate level, there is a low pass-out rate — out of 2,90,16,350 students enrolled at undergraduate level, only 6,419,639 passed-out in 2017.

It is imperative for the country to address these issues given that the Indian system of higher education faces multiple challenges of low gross enrollment in its colleges and universities, with predominance of students settling on undergraduate studies, along with various socio-economic inequalities existing in access to higher learning. Further, emphasis must be placed on increasing the number of students who pass out of the colleges/universities, along with increasing enrollment numbers.

The technology-induced skill gap which the Indian economy is facing across different sectors is bound to widen with the current higher education system. Change has to be brought from outside the existing constructs. Improvement in the teaching methodology from the traditional lecture courses, accreditation of online courses, along with redesigning the course curriculum to be more industry relevant are some of the ways the technology-led changes in the labour market can be dealt with.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] and tweets @kautiliya. Deepti Mathur, senior researcher at large, Institute for Competitiveness has contributed to the article)

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