Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

May 22, 2020

Arranged Gay Marriages in India are Believed to be Just a Scam

         Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau - Home | FacebookArranged Love Marriage - A Romantic Novel - Home | Facebook

By Priti Salian

Vikas, a 38-year-old project manager for a utility company in Jalandhar, a city in the north Indian state of Punjab, had been looking for a same-sex romantic partner for several years with no luck. Following a number of failed attempts to meet someone through friends and data apps, Vikas decided last year to sign up with the Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau. After reading several reviews and articles about the India-based matchmaking service, which was founded in 2015, he was hopeful that it could help him find a partner with whom he could settle down for the rest of his life.
However, 12 months and $500 later, Vikas said the bureau fell far short of his expectations. After being promised one foreign profile for review every week, he said he received only eight profiles, just half of them international.
“I didn’t match with a few due to some drastic differences, and the bureau informed me that the rest had rejected my profile,” said Vikas, who asked that his last name not be used to protect his privacy; apart from his family and close friends, no one knows he is gay. 
In March, Vikas wrote to Urvi Shah, the CEO of the Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau and the only available contact for the company, to ask her to send him more profiles or give him a refund. Shah responded that the agency was temporarily closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and his refund — which had been promised over the phone before registration if the bureau was unable to find him a match within a year — was denied, according to Vikas.
Vikas is not alone in his disappointment with the Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau, which claims to work with gay men and lesbians of Indian descent all over the world to help them find a suitable long-term partner. In fact, the matchmaking service was the subject of a Vice Media report last month titled “The Arranged Gay Marriage Scam.” The 20-minute documentary follows two U.K.-based clients of the service — the documentary’s host, Reeta Loi, and a man referred to only as Keith — who, after 11 months, each received just a handful of dating profiles. At the end of the film, Loi questions the veracity of the matchmaking profiles and calls the bureau a “malicious” scam that is “taking advantage of a section of society who are desperate to find connection and desperate to find love.”
The film has outraged many in India’s LGBTQ community, who have demanded answers from Shah, who was initially responsive to NBC News’ inquiries but then stopped answering questions. So is her service an outright scam or just an unprofessional business that overpromises and underdelivers? While the Vice film documents the experiences of two clients, NBC News, which profiled the Arranged Gay Marrige Bureau back in 2018, reached out to other clients to ask about their experience with the service. 
 After finding clients by calling out in various LGBTQ groups on social media and WhatsApp, NBC News interviewed five people who responded and were able to share proof of their registration with the bureau. During conversations with these clients, there were a number of common threads in their experiences. Four of them said that while the bureau promises to send one matchmaking profile a week, it never works that way. The lucky ones reported receiving 15 to 20 profiles a year, and three of the clients said there were months-long gaps in communication, which Shah then tried to justify.
“Urvi cited personal problems, which seemed like excuses, when I wrote her a stern email in January after she had stopped responding to my calls and emails completely,” recalled a 27-year-old man from Gujarat, a state on India’s western coast, who said he had stopped receiving profiles for several months. “Post that, she sent me three profiles, but only to appease me, as none of them matched my requirements.”
NBC News, however, found three relatively satisfied clients, though most of them expressed misgivings about certain aspects of the service. While these individuals shared their real names and other personal information with NBC News to verify their identity, they all asked to go by just their first name or no name at all, as they are not out to many people in their lives. Homosexuality is still taboo in most parts of India, and gay marriage is not legal. 

A New Delhi-based gay man said he received a profile every few days and met all five of his matches. His fifth match has been his live-in partner for the last year and a half. He did, however, disclose that he “paid double” the usual fee and asked the bureau to “expedite the service.”
Akarsh, a Bangalore-based management professional, said he received profiles as promised in the first few months, but then the service slowed down considerably, and he received less than 10 profiles over the following year.
During the two years he was registered with the service, Akarsh said he was matched with two people. “I don’t think the profiles sent to me were fake,” he said. “I was in touch with both of them for weeks, and am sure they are genuine.”
However, Akarsh said he thinks Shah’s claim that the Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau has 3,700 clients, about two-thirds of them in India, “may well be a misrepresentation,” as he said, “it takes them time to find matches.”
Deepak, a Bangalore-based software professional, said he signed up with the bureau earlier this year. While he has received only seven or eight profiles, less than he was promised, the selection met his preferences, and he has been able to have conversations with a few of his matches.
“I’m assertive and good at following up, so I usually get the services promised to me,” Deepak, 35, said. He has no complaints with the service.

‘Misleading’ and ‘distressing’

The Vice report calls into question the veracity of the Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau’s matchmaking profiles and whether they are culled from other dating services.
“I copied and pasted the language used in the profiles received by Keith and me and could trace all four of them back to other online dating sites,” Loi, a London-based artist and musician, told NBC News. “That was when this service became really questionable to me.”
Shah, however, said she’s “not accountable for someone making their profile using Google,” implying that it was the user who copied and pasted while creating their profile, not the bureau stealing profiles from other dating sites.
Shah also said she doesn’t guarantee finding matches and has a no refund policy “unless a client hasn’t spoken to anyone after at least six months of registration.” Vice also flagged some of the Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau’s social media posts, which appear to take credit for matchmaking success stories that in fact had nothing to do with the bureau.
For example, an article from an Australian newspaper with the headline “Same-sex marriage in India” was posted to the bureau’s social media accounts with the caption “Urvi Shah helping LGBTQ community find love.” While those who clicked on the article and read it would see that the happy same-sex couple featured in the image did not meet through the bureau, those who didn’t bother to click through would assume they were satisfied clients of Shah’s.
“While the article does not say the bureau matched us, it should have been more explicit about the dissociation,” the couple, who had “never heard of the bureau before,” told NBC News. “The bureau’s social media post about the article, which comes with our photo, could be misleading."
Satya Banerji, a Mumbai-based media lawyer, said that as long as the social media posts link back to the original sources, the poster can’t be blamed. Culling profiles from other sites, however, can definitely be a serious offense, if that is indeed what is happening, according to Banerji. And if a customer of a business in India believes they've been scammed or have not been provided agreed upon services, they can file a complaint in their city’s consumer court or seek legal advice for redressal, he added.

While the Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau has at least a handful of satisfied clients, a number of other clients complain of unprofessional behavior, including broken promises of providing a steady stream of matchmaking profiles, big gaps in communication and preferential service for those who are willing to pay extra.
“It can be distressing for people like us, who have faced ridicule and rejection in all walks of life,” Vikas said.
Following conversations with the bureau’s clients, including the host of the Vice documentary, there’s a general sense that Shah launched her company with good intentions but lost her way at some point.
“I really believe she started the organization in good faith, but it is not being run in an ethical way now,” Loi said.
While Shah stopped responding to NBC News' inquiries about her matchmaking service, she denied any wrongdoing in the Vice report and said "the bureau is 100 percent legitimate and real." Nonetheless, the controversy surrounding the bureau appears to have negatively affected LGBTQ sentiment in India.
“It saddens us to see someone take advantage of a vulnerable community, the same community that is giving them business,” said Balachandran Ramiah, a member of Gay Bombay, a support group creating safe spaces for its 18,000 gay members in Mumbai.
The Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau is not the only same-sex matchmaking platform in India, but there is fear that its apparent lack of professionalism will have a ripple effect.
“After such an experience, it’s going to be difficult for the LGBTQ community to put their trust in such businesses,” Manvendra Singh Gohil, an LGBTQ advocate and the first prince in India to come out as gay, told NBC News.

April 20, 2020

Indians Forced Into Quarantine Are Dying in Lockdowns

No one noticed when an 82-year-old man, forced into quarantine after returning from a trip to another state, died in his home in the village of Mohammadpur Khala in Uttar Pradesh. 
His neighbors, who had refused to go near the man’s house out of fear he had brought back the coronavirus with him, only noticed something was wrong when the stench from his decomposing body became overwhelming.  Elsewhere in India, farmers are taking their own lives because they can’t get laborers to harvest their crops. Police are accused of beating lockdown violators to deathMigrant workers are dropping dead after being forced to walk hundreds of miles home. Alcoholics are dying from drinking methanolbecause all alcohol sales have been banned. Children are dying of starvation.
These deaths and hundreds of others all have one thing in common. They have been caused by the draconian lockdown measures introduced by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The lockdown, announced with just hours of notice last month, was implemented without proper provisions and support to protect the hundreds of millions of Indians who struggle to survive on $1.90 a day or less.
“India is witnessing a threefold crisis: health crisis due to the epidemic, economic due to the lockdown and humanitarian because the government either didn't realize how a large part of the population survives or knowingly is choosing to ignore their situation,” Reetika Khera, a development economist at the Indian Institute of Management, told VICE News.
For those hoping for some relief this week got some bad news. Modi announced Thursday that the nationwide lockdown would be extended for another three weeks, until May 3. Activists believe that will be a death sentence for many of India’s most vulnerable citizens.
“We have been finding a spike in deaths and suicides due to hunger and loss of livelihood,” Thejesh GN, a software developer from Bangalore who is tracking the lockdown-related deaths, told VICE News. “Without immediate relief efforts, such as universalization of Public Distribution System, community kitchens, income support, and safe transportation to stranded workers, the extended lockdown is likely to cause more distress and deaths.” 
According to the database of deaths Thejesh is maintaining, there have been 66 deaths recorded due to starvation, exhaustion, police brutality, delayed medical help, or suicides due to loss of income or lack of food. Another 42 deaths, including many suicides, are linked to alcohol withdrawal.
Suicides due to fear of infection, loneliness, and lack of freedom of movement account for 51
deaths, and another three dozen deaths are linked to road accidents. There were 7 deaths by crimes associated with lockdown, and 35 that Thejesh was unable to categorize due to lack of information.


Modi announced the surprise nationwide lockdown on March 24, when India just reported 10 deaths to the coronavirus.
“Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown” for three weeks, Modi told the nation, giving India just four hours to prepare. “If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country and your family will go back 21 years.”
Modi’s order allows Indians out of their homes only to buy food, medicine, or other essentials. There is no going to work. No school, and no playgrounds.
For a growing proportion of the population who have been pulled out of poverty in recent decades thanks to India’s rapidly growing economy, the draconian lockdown measures have meant problems similar to those faced elsewhere in the world: boredom, loneliness and wondering what to watch next on Netflix. 
But for the millions of families who live in one-room homes with no toilet and no running water, and who survive day-to-day on paltry wages from menial jobs, the lockdown has meant hunger, eviction, and possibly even death.
Within hours of the lockdown coming into effect, there were already reports of thousands of migrant workers who were left without work, food or shelter because of the restrictions, dying of exhaustion or being hit by vehicles while walking hundreds of miles to get home.

Tracking death

The reports compelled Thejesh to team up with Kanika Sharma, a researcher and activist; and Aman, an assistant professor of legal practice at Jindal Global School of Law, to begin keeping track of the deaths.
“We have been recording deaths by exhaustion, hunger, denial of medical care, suicides due to lack of food or livelihood, state brutality and crimes — we have also kept a track of deaths as a result of accidents during migration,” Aman said on Twitter last week.
The database, which is publicly available, shows that at least 236 people have died as a result of the lockdown measures. According to the database, there were more deaths linked to the lockdown measures than coronavirus deaths in the country until April 10, when deaths from the virus passed 200.
In the three weeks since the lockdown was announced, confirmed infections have jumped from 469 cases to 13,835. The number of deaths rose from 10 to 453.
But in India, where the healthcare system barely functions and supplies are limited, the true scope of the coronavirus outbreak is simply unknown, because limited testing of the country’s 1.3 billion people has been conducted. READ: People in India are dropping dead after walking hundreds of miles during coronavirus lockdown

‘We still don't have a real sense of how big it is’

The database, which is updated daily using only reliable news sources, is a grim historical document of the impact the lockdown has had on India’s most vulnerable citizens. But even though the numbers are staggering, the people collecting the data believe this is just a small fraction of the real figure.
Thejesh and his colleagues are only tracking reports found in mainstream media in English, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, and Malayalam. But there are more than 20 official regional languages in India, making it very difficult to track all the deaths. 
And of course, not all deaths are reported in the media, and India's track record of properly recording deaths is not good.
“I think the number of deaths we have recorded is much smaller than the reality,” Thejesh said. “We still don't have a real sense of how big it is. Personally I think it's as big if not bigger than COVID-19 deaths.”
There are also concerns that the authorities in India are attempting to cover up the scale of the problem. 
There have already been a number of cases in which the police have countered earlier reports of people dying from starvation by claiming the cause of death was something else.
This was most clearly seen this week when Manju Devi, a mother of five in Uttar Pradesh, was reported to have drowned her five children in a river because she was unable to provide food for them.
But after the tragedy was reported as being linked to the coronavirus lockdown, the authorities acted quickly and the police in Bhadohi, a city in Uttar Pradesh (UP), producing evidence that the reports were false in the form of a video confession.
However, as Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, points out, Devi made the confession while surrounded by police holding lathis or batons.
“You're forcing her to give a statement letting the government off the hook, ruling out starvation as a reason for her act,” Krishnan said. “Shame on you UP police thugs.”

April 2, 2020

India is Spraying Migrant Workers with Chlorine to Disinfect Them From The Virus

                           India's poor pushed to live in trees for isolation

Thousands of migrant workers in India have been sprayed with a bleach disinfectant after they returned home during the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
Video captured by a reporter in the northern city of Bareilly shows migrants forced to sit on the ground after they arrived, as three people in protective gear doused them with the spray.
The disinfectant is usually used to sanitize buses.
Millions of migrant workers in India have been attempting to make their way home after the government locked down the entire country a week ago. Many of the workers were left without food and shelter and had no option but to make long and often deadly journeys home
The migrants in Bareilly, which is a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, were told by officials when they arrived that they would be put on a bus and given food.  
Instead, they were sprayed with the disinfectant, which contained a mixture of water and sodium hypochlorite, according to the Times of India. Sodium hypochlorite is widely used as a bleaching agent in the textile, detergents, and paper industries.
As many as 5,000 people have been "publicly sprayed" when they arrived in Bareilly alone, according to Ashok Gautam, a senior officer in charge of COVID-19 operations in Uttar Pradesh, who spoke to CNN.
“We sprayed them here as part of the disinfection drive, we don't want them to be carriers for the virus and it could be hanging on their clothes, now all borders have been sealed so this won't happen again," Gautam said.
Gautam’s actions were strongly condemned by Lav Agarwal, senior official at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 
Agarwal said that local officials involved in the incident were “reprimanded,” adding that spraying migrant workers was not a "required" policy in the country. Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath called the spraying of migrants "rude and indecent" and called for those responsible to be punished.
The public spraying in Bareilly is just the latest questionable response from officials and law enforcement to the lockdown in India. Police have been embarrassing lockdown offenders, forcing them to do squats, push-ups, or road sweeping in public. The police have also been accused of beating a man to death as he went to a store to buy some milk during the lockdown.
Cover: A group of daily wage laborers walk to return to their villages as the city comes under lockdown in Prayagraj, India, Monday, March 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)  
Ranveer Singh was working as a delivery driver for a restaurant in the Indian capital of New Delhi when the government gave everyone just four hours’ warning that a nationwide lockdown was about to be enforced. 
Singh was left with no option but to head home to his village in the Morena district, almost 200 miles away. With transportation links shut down, he set out on foot. 
The 39-year-old father of three made it as far as Agra, 125 miles south of the capital, before he collapsed, and died of a heart attack brought on by exhaustion
Singh is just one of dozens of people who have died making long journeys home after the Indian government’s decision to impose a blanket lockdown last Tuesday, forcing businesses to shutter and giving citizens no time to prepare. Millions of migrant workers in India were left without food or shelter when Narendra Modi made the announcement, and now people are dying on the journeys back home. 
In Haryana, a North Indian state surrounding New Delhi, three workers and two children, heading home on foot were crushed to death by a truck. On the outskirts of the city of Hyderabad, seven migrant workers and an 18-month old baby were killed when the truck they were traveling in was hit from behind by a truck loaded with mangoes
A group of four migrant workers who set out from the western city of Vasai for their home villages in Rajasthan was knocked down and killed after officials forced them to go back to Vasai.  
Tens of thousands of migrant workers, some of them with families in tow, tried to escape New Delhi over the weekend, hoping to board the few buses that were still running to their home towns and villages. But police had to beat back many of those trying to make the long journeys.  
Migrant workers have blasted the government’s decision to force people living in slums to stay at home for three weeks, claiming the measures will leave them without food. In Kerala on Saturday thousands of people defied the curfew to protest the lockdown, with many of them saying they hadn’t eaten in days. 
While some states organized buses to repatriate their migrant workers, on Sunday afternoon the central government ordered states to seal their borders, ordering migrants to stay where they are. 
In a rare admission for Modi, the prime minister recognized the huge pressure the lockdown is placing on his citizens, and apologized for the measures on Sunday. 
“I apologize for taking these harsh steps that have caused difficulties in your lives, especially the poor people," Modi said in his monthly address, broadcast on state radio. “I know some of you will be angry with me. But these tough measures were needed to win this battle.” 

February 26, 2020

10 People Die On Trump's Visit to India, No Empathy from Him But To Say is India's Problem

This page published on BBC
Ten people have been killed in Delhi amid clashes over a controversial new Indian citizenship law during US President Donald Trump's first official visit to the country. 
This is the deadliest violence the Indian capital has seen in decades.
The clashes first broke out on Sunday, ostensibly between protesters in favor of the law and those against it. 
But they have since taken on religious overtones, with Hindu and Muslim mobs clashing violently.
The clashes are happening in Muslim-majority neighborhoods in north-east Delhi - about 18km (11 miles) from the heart of the capital, where Mr. Trump has been holding meetings with Indian leaders, diplomats, and businessmen.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) - which critics say is anti-Muslim - has sparked massive protests since it was passed last year, and some of those have turned violent. But the demonstrations in Delhi have been peaceful until now. 
When asked about the violence during a press briefing, Mr. Trump evaded the issue, saying that although he had "heard about it," the incident was "up to India" to handle. 
However, he said he had brought up the issue of religious freedom in the country and was impressed by the government's response. 
Correspondents say the current unrest is an embarrassment to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as it has taken the spotlight away from Mr. Trump's visit. 
Policemen stand on a vandalised road following clashes between supporters and opponents of a new citizenship law, at Bhajanpura area of New Delhi on February 24, 2020, ahead of US President arrival in New Delhi.Image copyrightAFP
Further clashes are feared, say BBC reporters in the area. They saw mobs throwing stones and shouting slogans, with some in the crowd shouting "shoot the traitors".
"We have seen a tyre market that's been set on fire, plumes of smoke are coming up. Journalists, including us, are being heckled and warned against filming," our correspondent Yogita Limaye says. 
Presentational white space

Where is the violence?

It broke out in three Muslim-majority areas in north-east Delhi on Sunday and has continued since. 
Protesters are firmly split along religious lines, BBC reporters at the scene say, and both sides blame each other for starting the clashes.
A man supporting a new citizenship law throws a petrol bomb at a Muslim shrine during a clash with those opposing the law in New Delhi India, February 24, 2020Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe violence in the Muslim-majority areas in north-east Delhi began on Sunday
But the violence has been linked to a BJP leader, Kapil Mishra, who had threatened a group of protesters staging a sit-in against the CAA over the weekend, telling them that they would be forcibly evicted once Mr. Trump left India.
Delhi police spokesman MS Randhawa told reporters that the situation was under control and a "sufficient number of policemen" had been deployed. 
However, BBC reporters in the area said that mobs continued to chant slogans and throw stones. 
Mr. Randhawa said they had registered a number of complaints and that they were deploying drones and scanning CCTV camera footage. He warned people that trouble-makers would be identified and action would be taken against them.
He added that senior officers were monitoring the situation. Prohibitory orders - which limit the gathering of four or more people - have been imposed in the area.
Eyewitnesses said they saw charred vehicles and streets full of stones in areas like Jaffrabad and Chand Bagh on Tuesday morning. Police were allowing people to enter only after checking their identity cards. 
Some metro stations have also been shut.

Who are the dead and injured?

Nine civilians - Muslim and Hindu - and one policeman, a constable named Ratan Lal, have been killed so far, according to Sunil Kumar Gautam, the medical director of GTB hospital where most of the casualties have been taken. 
Mr Gautam also told BBC Hindi that the toll is likely to rise. 
Two journalists belonging to the NDTV news channel were badly beaten while they were out reporting on Tuesday morning.
Another reporter from a local channel called JK24x7 was injured when he was shot at.
Shahid Alvi, an auto-rickshaw driver, died because of a bullet injury he suffered during the protest. His brother, Rashid, told BBC Hindi that Shahid was married just a month ago.
"He was shot in the stomach and died while we were taking him to the hospital," he said.
Another victim has been identified as Rahul Solanki.
His brother, Rohit, told BBC Hindi that he died after being shot as he tried to escape from a mob.
"He had gone out to buy groceries when he was suddenly surrounded. He was shot at point-blank range. We tried taking him to four hospitals but we were turned away," he said.

What are officials doing?

Delhi's newly re-elected chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, called on the federal government to restore law and order.
"There are not enough police on the streets [in the affected areas]. Local police are saying they are not getting orders from above to control the situation, and they are not able to take action," he told reporters.
The capital's police force reports directly to Mr. Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, rather than to Mr. Kejriwal's administration.
Protesters seen during clashes between a group of anti-CAA protestors and supporters of the new citizenship act, near Maujpur and Jaffrabad metro station on February 24, 2020 in New DelhiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe police and protesters fought pitched battles on the streets of Delhi

What is the citizenship act about?

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) grants amnesty to non-Muslim immigrants from three nearby Muslim-majority countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  It has raised fears that India's secular status is at risk, and critics say it discriminates against Muslims. 
Mr. Modi's government denies this and has said it only seeks to give amnesty to persecuted minorities.
But hundreds of thousands of people across India, both Muslim and Hindu, have taken part in protests against the law. Some of the most high-profile protests, such as a continuing sit-in in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh area, have been led by Muslims.

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