Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property

Published: Sunday 15 November 2009

whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security, or anything which is signed or sealed, and which is capable of being converted into a valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

-Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Dishonesty hit the atmosphere

the irony of a cover story on climate change is too unsubtle to miss in this 420th issue of the magazine. A fraudulent attempt to sabotage a 15-year multilateral process has brought into the debate even those who never discuss it because climate change politics is immediate enoughand dirty enoughto compete with any other cloak-and-dagger political intrigue story.

It has been obvious from the beginning the rich countries do not want to pay for what they need to do. They agreed to common but differentiated responsibilities under a moral obligation, but now, there is no fig leaf. They openly run down the idea of equal entitlements to the atmosphere. They do not even blush before disowning responsibility for the historical emission that caused the climate to change. They do not want to offer financial and technological help to poorer countries to achieve growth without carbon emission. What they are on the lookout for is opportunity to fish in dirty water, make money out of climate change. More obvious fraudulent behaviour is not easy to identify.

But it is the environment ministers letter to the prime minister that has been the talk of the town. It suggested an about-turn in Indias position to align it with climate criminals of the world. It cannot be ignored as an innocent effort of a dealmaker.

Fraudulent behaviour has always marked climate negotiations. Trusting the market to tackle climate change is itself dishonestyhow can a problem get solved by the tools of an economic system that created it in the first place?

Aubergine with the new gene

there are valid concerns that the poor farmers of Indiafour-fifths are small and marginalshould not be left to the vicissitudes of the market. Countries that promote the private sector in agriculture can do so because they have millions of dollars of subsidies to protect their farmers. The Indian government, though, wants the farmer to live off the private sector without any real support. Genetically modified crops are driven entirely by the private sectors profit motive.

The big fraud in Indias GM story, though, is on the consumer. The government has never had a public debate on whether we need GM food. It is controversial across the world, and the precautionary principlethe bedrock of health and environmental regulationsdemands it not be allowed till all reasonable doubts have been allayed. Without labelling, the consumer cannot make an informed choice. Regulators say they know all they need to know and the consumer should trust them.

Indias regulators of genetically modified crops have been viewed with suspicion for their proximity to industry. They occupy an office that requires they defend the trust Indians place in the government. That trust requires the reasons for their decisions are public, unambiguous and in line with their mandate. Instead, the regulatory system works under industrys influence. This is defrauding public trust.

The name of the toxic game

a ship awaiting breaking at the Alang yard in Gujarat has a murky past. Activists have shown the ships owners changed its name to dodge US regulations that prevent sending toxic materials, including ships, to other countries for recycling. The Basel Convention, an international treaty, bars rich countries from dumping their toxic wastes on poor countries.

The fraud here is not limited to the owners registering the ship under a new name. The shipbreaking yards owners, who compromise health and safety of workers, are equally fraudulent.

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