THE UNTOLD STORY – Perils of Protest


From cops flashing their private parts to bystanders taking advantage of the crowd and confusion to grope them, women protesters often go through hell on India’s rough streets. Sunday Times finds out shocking tales of sexual harassment, abuse and molestation

Maitreyee Boruah , TOI, April 29, 2012

A31, Minoti Saikia has been to jail thrice. Her crime? Participating in a protest. In cities across India, protests are a regular affair. What is not so regular is the treatment meted out to protesters, especially the women. “I always thought it’s easier to get heard if you are a woman, until I hit the streets with placards and banners in my hand. Police lathicharge was something I was expecting but the groping and abuses hit me like a bolt from the blue,” says the Guwahati-based activist.
Minoti was arrested recently while staging a peaceful protest against the construction of a hydro-electric project. She remembers the details vividly. “We were holding a demonstration that was completely non-violent. The police suddenly came and started dragging women by the hair. It was almost 2.30 in the night. We didn’t know how to react. I was numbed when I felt somebody running his hands down my back and waist. It was horrible.”
What is even more horrible is how bystanders also take advantage of the situation. “There have been many instances when people in the crowd have joined the commotion and started groping women protesters. That, too, in broad daylight,” says Minoti. However, it is tales of policemen molesting women protesters that are shockingly — and increasingly — becoming common. Besides physical assault, there is a lot of verbal abuse hurled at women. “The kind of expletives that the cops use can leave years of mental trauma on any woman,” says Mridula Kalita, secretary of Nari Mukti Sangram Samiti, which takes up causes like eviction of farmers and anti-dam protests.
Incidentally, it’s not just women in the lower socioeconomic group that are targeted. In March this year, female advocates in
Bangalore who were protesting in the civil court premises came back with horror stories about the police. “Some of them unzipped their pants and flashed at us. They pulled our sarees and groped us. We had seen in films such incidents about the police. We saw in reality also what they are capable of doing,” one of them said.
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, a lawyer and human rights activist testifies to the extreme vulnerability of women protesters. She recalls her own experience with the Mumbai police when she was protesting against the Chhattisgarh High Court’s decision of prolonging the incarceration of Binayak Sen. “I was brutally assaulted by the police and dragged to the Colaba police station,” she says. “My ‘crime’ was standing silently with a poster proclaiming peace and justice! The cops came and attacked me and even tore my T-shirt. I had to cover myself when they took me to the police station but I did not care at all — it was for them to be ashamed.”
Sameera Khan, co-author of Why Loiter? Women and Risk on Mumbai’s Streets, says that women are at risk of sexual harassment in any large crowd or mob — not just during protests but even while entering crowded railway stations. “What makes it worse is that in large groups, it is often impossible to identify the perpetrator.”
In the rare scenario when the perpetrators are caught, they are seldom punished. In 2006, for instance, a Punjab police personnel was clicked on camera molesting a girl during a peaceful protest by a group of veterinary doctors and students in Amritsar. Even though the Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu notice after the picture appeared in a leading English daily, the police personnel were given a clean chit by the court later.
Madhu Kishwar, founder of Manushi, a forum for democratic reforms, says that the problem lies in the way the police are trained in India. “This is a result of bad training and poor recruitment policies. Police in our country neither know how to handle large numbers, nor have they been trained on how to behave in a democracy.”
It’s not as if police brutality towards women protesters is limited to India. In December last year, shocking images surfaced of riot police in Egypt brutally beating a woman with metal bars. The woman’s hijab was ripped off and she was kicked repeatedly on the chest till she became unconscious.
Activists say that such blatant violence is slowly affecting women protesters. “There are so many instances when our fellow women protesters have given up joining protests because of cases of molestation,” says Kalita. Adds Nandita Shah, co-founder of Akshara, an organisation that aims at empowering women, “There needs to be an urgent change in the way society treats women during protests. The only other option for women is not to protest at all.”
Not a great thing that for democracy.
With inputs from Anahita Mukherji

ROUGH ROAD A Tibetan woman activist is hauled away by policemen in Delhi, March 2012; (left) Egyptian riot police personnel brutally attack a woman, December 2011, and (right) Arpita Majumdar, a final-year medical student, became the face of defiant women protesters in 2006 by taking the onslaught of a water cannon, chin up

Immediate Release-Citizens appeal to PM, CM: Save Soni Sori from death in jail


Sunday 29th April 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Contacts:
Kamayani Mahabal:             +91 9820749204       (India)
Vinay Bhat:             +1 412-527-7985       (US)

Citizens appeal to PM, CM: Save Soni Sori from death in jail

In an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister of India and other officials, about 250 concerned activists, academics, intellectuals, students, professionals and democratic organisations have demanded immediate medical attention for the Adivasi school teacher, Soni Sori, 35, currently in custody in Raipur Central Jail, Chhattisgarh. Sori’s condition is believed to be rapidly deteriorating as a result of torture and sexual abuse at the hands of the Chhattisgarh police. She is the mother of three young children. Signatories to the letter include members of the National Advisory Council Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy, writers Arundhati Roy and Meena Kandasamy, respected economist Jean Dreze, Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan and renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky.

Soni Sori was arrested in Delhi on 4th October, 2011, where she had gone to seek legal assistance, fearing for her life after repeated harassment by the Chhattisgarh state police. Despite her pleas in the courts that she be held in Delhi, she was sent back to Chhattisgarh. After seeing preliminary indications that she had been tortured in police custody, the Supreme Court ordered an independent medical examination at NRS Medical College, Kolkata, where doctors found stones lodged in her vagina and rectum. In a series of letters written to the Supreme Court Advocate from jail, Sorirecounted how she was stripped, electrocuted, and physically and sexually tortured by the police.

More than six months after she was tortured, Sori continues to be imprisoned in Chhattisgarh and has received virtually no follow up medical treatment for the injuries she sustained in police custody and the infections that have developed as a consequence. According to two people (one of whom is her lawyer) who were allowed to meet Sori in prison last week, her face was visibly swollen and her hands and feet appeared abnormally thin, indicating severe weight loss. Sori complained of a severe burning sensation while passing urine and of blisters on her thighs and her private parts. The magistrate in the Dantewada court, where Sori was produced earlier in the week, is reported to have remarked that she appeared unwell. According to the jail doctor in Raipur, Sori suffers from fluctuating and high blood pressure and from anaemia. Yet, on those occasions when she has been taken to the Raipur Medical College, she met with ridicule, indifference and inadequate care from the doctors and other hospital personnel. Police interference with the doctors is also suspected.

No investigation or action has been initiated against the police officers responsible for her torture. On the contrary, Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg, named in Sori’s letters, was awarded a Gallantry Medal on Republic Day, 2012. Sori’s petition before the Supreme Court asking to be transferred out of Chhattisgarh has been subjected to repeated delays and is still pending. Her health continues to deteriorate in the meantime.

Sori is just one of many women subject to torture and sexual violence in custody. In a recent report, the Asian Centre for Human Rights documented that four custodial deaths had occurred daily in India over the past decade. Those demanding medical attention for Sori fear the worst by the time she is granted a final hearing.

Open Letter:

To,
Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Shri P. Chidambaram, Home Minister
Shri Shekhar Dutt, Governor of Chhattisgarh
Shri Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by the rapidly worsening health of Soni Sori in Raipur Central Jail. She has been passing blood with her urine, is having difficulty to sit or get up, and has lost considerable weight. Despite doctors from NRS Medical Hospital having confirmed that stones had been inserted into her vagina and rectum, Soni Sori has received no proper medical attention. We fear for Soni’s life and are outraged and ashamed at this inhuman treatment of a woman in India.

Soni Sori, 35, is an adivasi school teacher from Dantewada who was arrested in New Delhi on Oct 4 2011. Six months have passed since Soni was tortured physically and sexually but neither the state nor the central government has investigated the abuse. Her case has been repeatedly listed up in the Supreme Court but has been postponed every time. Throughout the duration of Soni Sori’s imprisonment, the state has also tried to stifle her communications with the civil society. In January this year, a team from various women’s groups across the country went to Raipur Jail to meet Soni, but they were prevented from doing so by the administration.

The brutal treatment meted out to Soni Sori, and the prevailing situation of conflict and repression in Chhattisgarh, cause us grave concern about Soniin particular, and the situation of women prisoners, in general. We demand immediate access for fact-finding groups to meet with Soni Sori and others to assess their condition in jail, particularly their medical situation. We fear that Soni Sori’s condition is rapidly deteriorating, and demand that she receive immediate medical attention.

Signed,

Harsh Mander
Meena Kandaswamy, Poet, Writer, Activist
Prof. Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus, MIT
Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Supreme Court of India
Anand Patwardhan, Filmmaker
Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Dr. Deepankar Basu, Prof of Economic, UMass Amherst
Dr. Prithvi R Sharma, MD
Jean Dreze, Allahabad University
Uma Chakravarti, Retd Professor, Delhi University
Anand Chakravarti, Retd Professor, Delhi University
Arundhati Roy, Writer & Social Activist
Mohan Rao, Professor, JNU, Delhi
Dr. Abha Sur, Women Studies, MIT
Hiren Gandhi, Darshan, Amhedabad
Dr. Saroop Dhruv, Darshan, Amhedabad
Dr. Suvrat Raju, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad
Manasi Pingle, Film Maker
Admiral L Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff, Alibag
Lalita Ramdas, Alibag
Prof. K.N. Panikkar
Dr. KS Sripada Raju

and more than 200 others.
(Complete list of signatories at http://iadhri.wordpress.com/

Immediate Release: Alang shipyard remains a major security concern


Press Release

Alang beach remains a security concern, 5924 end-of-life ships beached so far

Ex- US toxic ship entry in Indian waters challenged in Supreme Court

New Delhi 27/4/2012: An application has been filed in Supreme Court in the matter of a hazardous end-of-life vessel named ‘Oriental Nicety’ (formerly Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, Sea River Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean) which has been purchased by Best Oasis Company, (a subsidiary of Priya Blue Industries Pvt Ltd) in the Indian waters in the name of dismantling and recycling. The minutes of the court constituted Inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on shipbreaking and a sensitive document that has been filed in the court reveal the repeated security concerns which remain unaddressed.

The hazardous wastes/shipbreaking case Writ Petition (Civil) 657/1995 is coming up for hearing on May 3, 2012.

The following are the prayers in the application.

A relevant sensitive document (that is corroborated by recent minutes of IMC’s 14th meeting dated February 2012) is
(i) Direct the Union of India to ensure that no end-of-life ship should be allowed without prior decontamination in the country of export as per this Hon’ble Court’s order dated October 14, 2003,

(ii) Direct the Union of India to send back all hazardous wastes laden end-of-life ships entering/ or have entered the Indian territorial waters without prior informed consent and without prior decontamination keeping in view the environmental principles,
(iii) Direct inquiry by an independent trans-disciplinary investigating agency to ascertain the circumstances of the dead US ship’s arrival in Indian territorial waters, to make concerned officials accountable for their acts of omission and commission and seek a detailed report on more than 1200 ships broken in last 5 years and more than 5924 ships broken since 1982;
(iv) Direct Union of India to ensure compliance with the recommendations of the Hon’ble Court constituted Inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on ship-breaking

The illegal traffic of this dead ship must be stopped besides investigating the possibility of fake documents which came to light in the earlier case of Platinum II, a US ship. The Ministry of Environment & Forests has invoked the Precautionary Principle and directed that granting permission for beaching and breaking, purposes of the ship will not be advisable in the case of Platinum II. It may be mentioned that precautionary principle is the basis of UN conventions, such as Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). India is a signatory to these conventions and has ratified them as well. The ex-Exxon Valdez is violating these international laws besides the court’s order.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), New Delhi, New Delhi, Phone: +91-11-2651781, Fax: +91-11-26517814, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: krishna1715@gmail.com, Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com

Bangalore woman delivers baby on road, dies


TNN Apr 23, 2012,

 BANGALORE: Denting the city’s aspirations of emerging as a global medical tourism hub, a woman delivered a baby boy on a busy road and bled to death after she could not avail of timely medical help, at Kamalanagar in west Bangalore on Sunday.

The newborn is battling for life in Vani Vilas Hospital. The pregnant woman, believed to be in her mid-20s, appeared before a provisional shop on the Shakti Ganapati Temple Road, Kamalanagar, around 9.30am. She was accompanied by a boy and a girl, both less than four years of age. As the woman went into labour, the shopkeeper asked her if he could help her.

As the two children got her some water from the shopkeeper and tried to keep curious onlookers at bay, the woman picked up the newborn and started walking on the road, and then collapsed. Passersby rushed the unconscious woman to Ashok Hospital where doctors cut the umbilical cord of the newborn.

The doctors said the woman’s condition was serious and sent her to Vani Vilas Hospital, but she breathed her last before she reached the hospital, where doctors put the baby into the neo-natal intensive care unit. The two children accompanying the woman, meanwhile, were lost. Locals said she was Poornima, a resident of the area. She was living with her sister after her husband abandoned her. However, police did not confirm this.

Meanwhile, doctors said the newborn is in an incubator. Every baby should be kept warm and covered after birth, they pointed out. The lack of that has led to a sudden drop in his body temperature, resulting in plummeting pulse rate as well, they added. Hospital medical superintendent Some Gowda said a newborn’s first few hours are crucial but in this case everything went wrong. “The situation in which he was born wasn’t ideal. No sanitary precautions were taken. He was taken to a park later and we suspect this led to infection,” he said.

“The baby is in a critical condition and it is too early to say anything. A few hours after he was brought here, he suffered a bout of fits. We are finding it really difficult because there is no medical background on his mother. For a blood test or anything else, none of his blood relatives are around. As of now, we are trying to keep him stable,” the doctors said.

CALL 108 FOR HELP

Experts believe the woman who died after giving birth to a baby boy on a pavement could have been saved if passersby had called 108 ambulance services.

“There is no dearth of healthcare facilities and shelters that take care of women in distress. We have services like ‘short-stay’ homes run by Karnataka State Social Welfare Association Board in association with the Central Social Welfare Board. We also have centres like ‘Swadhar’ and a very prompt ambulance service, ‘108’. Citizens who noticed the woman struggling should have called 108 and she could have been saved,” said Nina P Nayak, chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Invitation – Discussion on Use and Abuse of Dalit Assertion on 1 May 2012


Working Group on Alternative Strategies and
Maharashtra Sanskritik ani Rannaniti Adyayan Samiti

Cordially invite you to a Discussion on

Use and Abuse of Dalit Assertion: Micro to Macro – Maharashtra to Rashtra

on  Tuesday 1 May 2012 at 6.30 pm
at India International Centre
(Conference Room I)
40, Max Mueller Marg
New Delhi – 110003

Panelists:

 

Prof. Sushma Yadav, Ambedkar Chair, Indian Institute of Public Administration;

Dr. M. Sukumar, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, DU;

Dr. Milind Awadh, Associate Professor of English, Zakir Hussain College, DU;

 

Dr. RajkumarAssociate Professor of Political Science, Dayal Singh College, DU;

Dr. Y. S. Alone, Assistant Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU


Discussants:

Shri Rajeev Shahare, IFS, Joint Secretary(West Asia & North Africa), Ministry of External Affairs;

Dr. Doss Parimala, Assistant Professor, Department of Education, DU.

 

Moderator: Suhas Borker


The discussion is to be held in Conference Room I located above the IIC Library; 

The discussion begins at 6.30 pm and shall close at 8.00 pm.

 

Wheelchair access is available.

Bus Numbers: 047,052,440,521,522,526,580;

Bus Stops:  Get off at ‘Lodhi Road Xing’ or ‘Max Mueller Marg’.

Bus Numbers: 326, 344, 970, 994;

Bus Stops: Get off at  ‘Mausam Bhawan’ or ‘Lodhi Garden’.

Bus Numbers: 026, 048, 056, 408, 719, 734;

Bus Stop: Get off at ‘ Lodhi Colony 18 Block’.

 

Nearest Metro Stations:

‘Jorbagh’ on Yellow Line  ———–

‘Khan Market’ on Violet Line ——–

 

 

Jointly organised by India International Centre, Working Group on Alternative Strategies and

Maharashtra Sanskritik ani Rannaniti Adhyayan Samiti


For any further information please contact:

IIC Programme Division: 24619431

Working Group on Alternative Strategies: 26259310/11

Maharashtra Sanskritik ani Rannaniti Adhyayan Samiti: 9810041082/9811022844\


In solidarity

Suhas Borker

Convener, Working Group on Alternative Strategies

info.wgras.in@gmail.com

One more US state- Connecticut- abolishes death penalty


IANS India Private LimitedBy Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited – Thu 26 Apr, 2012

Washington, April 26 (IANS) The US state of Connecticut Wednesday became the 17th state in the country to abolish thecapital punishment.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy Wednesday signed the state’s death penalty repeal bill into law, Xinhua reported.

“This afternoon I signed legislation that will, effective today, replacethe death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of release as the highest form of legal punishment in Connecticut,” Malloy said in a statement.

The new law replaces the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole. It abolished the death penalty for future cases.

Malloy said he signed the bill because working as a prosecutor, he “learned firsthand that our system of justice is very imperfect” and that it was “subject to the fallibility of those who participate in it”.

The second factor that led to his decision was the “unworkability” of Connecticut’s death penalty la

Immediate Release—-MoEF Rejects Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam in Maharshtra


 

MMRDA, KIDC and Mah Govt has a lot to answer for

 

In a significant decision, on the 2nd April 2012, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests rejected granting Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam, coming up in the Western Ghats of Murbad Taluka in Thane District. Kalu is just one of the 10+ large dams coming up around Mumbai, which are all showing blatant disregard for any environmental, social or procedural laws.

 

Kalu Dam would have submerged nearly 1000 hectares (2200 acres) of forest in the global biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats, just 7 kilometres from the Kalsubai Sanctuary. Apart from forest land submergence, the dam was set to submerge 18 villages and affect 18000 inhabitants, mostly Tribals who have been entirely dependent on their forests and river for survival.

 

The Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), who was building this dam, being financed by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has shown utter ‘lack of respect to the laws of the land’, as per the report from the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests. The work started on the dam site more than a year back and hundreds of trees were cut, without a Forest Clearance, blatantly violating the Forest Conservation Act (1980) and the Forest Rights Act (2006). When Shramik Mukti Sangathana and SANDRP approached the officials about this, they were told by KIDC engineers that ‘in order to reach a destination fast, we have to jump signals!” These broken signals include No Forest Clearance, No Environmental Impact Assessment or the Environment Management Plan for the project, No Social Impact Assessment, No Rehabilitation and Resettlement plan in Place, No Wildlife Management plan, No options assessment, No Public consultations amongst many more.

 

The dam construction had already started in full swing in the last year itself, breaking multiple laws like PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, Forest Rights Act and ForestConservation Act.

 

Shramik Mukti Sangathana had filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court against the dam in June 2011. When the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests, Central zone made a visit to the dam site in October 2011, he was taken aback at the extent of destruction taking place in the absence of any clearances and in his strong-worded report submitted to the MoEF, pointed out the proponent had no respect for the laws of the land and took permission from MoEF for granted. Significantly, KIDC gave work order to contractor in May 2011, but submitted the proposal to MoEF only in August 2011. KIDC also grossly underestimated the number of trees to be felled and villages which will be affected. It did not even consider those villages which were to be cut off by the dam.

 

According to MMRDA, of the approximately 850 crore budget of Kalu, more than 112 crores have been already given to KIDC. It is shocking that MMRDA and our Irrigation Department allocated, released and spent such a huge amount of public money on a dam illegally, destroyed land, forests, river and the villages without taking any requisite permission or without any respect to multiple gramsabha resolutions against the project, violating the PESA.

 

The Forest Advisory Committee, while “recommending to close this case” has said that “it has taken note of the complaints received about this dam and also that State Government has not submitted any of the reports requested by the MoEF”.

 

Shramik Mukti Sangathana and SANDRP have been following this matter for over a year and we had sent representations to the MoEF and Forest Advisory Committee since May  2011, providing them with photographic and documentary evidences of the illegal work going on at Kalu. While we welcome FAC’s decision to reject Forest clearance to Kalu, we urge the MoEF to take punitive action against those responsible for violating the FRA, PESA and Forest Act, from the proponent as well as the contractor. There are multiple dams coming up in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats around Mumbai and a punitive measure will set an example for the other dams coming up too. Most of these dams have no EIA, EMP, Env Clearance, public consultations, options assessment, Social Impact Assessment, or independent monitoring and scrutiny. They all displace tribals without their consent or without just R&R plans. And most of them are not even necessary as better options exist. We also urge MoEF to change the EIA notification to ensure that the dams are not allowed without EIA, public hearings and environment clearance. The Union Environment Minister in any should not even consider giving forest clearance to the project, over ruling the FAC decision, as she did in case of the 300 MW Alaknanda hydro project of GMR in Uttarakhand, which now the National Green Tribunal has stayed.

 

Indavi Tulpule, Shramik Mukti Sangathan, Thane, indavi.t@gmail.com,             09869656073

Parineeta Dandekar, www.sandrp.in, Pune, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com,             09860030742

 

 

In Karnataka, only babus and cattle enjoy mid-day meals- children dying…….


Children are dying of malnutrition, but their supposed saviours are minting money from the ICDS scheme, reports Imran Khan in Tehelka

Food for thought 54,260 anganwadis serve mid-day meals in Karnataka

Photos: Sriram Vittalamuthy

A PROBE by the Karnataka Lokayukta into the supply of food to the Integrated Child Development Services has found that Department of Women and Child Development officials in connivance with the contractor, Christy Friedgram Industry, were siphoning off funds meant for the mid-day meal scheme. The revelation has come at a time when the state is witnessing close to two-three deaths every day due to malnutrition.

The mid-day meal scheme, which costs the state government Rs 600 crore per year, was meant to provide basic nutrition for children below the age of six. However, DWCD officials and CFI delivered sub-standard food after skimming off funds.

According to sources in the Lokayukta, DWCD Director Shyamala Iqbal used to receive Rs 20 lakh per month as bribe, while Deputy Director Usha Patwari and Assistant Director Muniraju used to get Rs 15 lakh per month from CFI for their tacit involvement. “All department officials, right from the taluk level, would collect money every month from the CFI office in Malleswaram, Bengaluru,” the sources say.

“During 2010, we received an anonymous letter detailing the racket, which was duly forwarded to the Lokayukta for investigation,” says Nina Nayak, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR). She submitted a report to the government following complaints by gram panchayats about the sub-standard food supplied by CFI. “We received letters from parents who complained of their children falling sick after consuming the food,” she says.

The ICDS is the largest programme for promotion of maternal and child health and nutrition not only in India but the whole world. The scheme was launched in 1975 in pursuance of the National Policy for Children. The beneficiaries are children below six years, pregnant and lactating women and women in the age group of 15-44 years. In Karnataka, there are around 54,260 anganwadis, with 33 lakh children entitled to free mid-day meals.

Earlier, the government-owned Karnataka State Agro Corn Products Ltd (KSACPL), which used to manufacture and supply energy foods to anganwadis since 1973, provided mid-day meals. “The KSACPL started making losses in 2001, after the DWCD handed over 50 percent of the energy food supply contract to CFI,” says H Subbaiah, the last managing director of the company. Due to insurmountable losses, the company was shut down last month.

Concerned over reports of fraud and tardy implementation of the ICDS scheme, the Supreme Court had issued a directive in October 2004 prohibiting the use of contractors in the supply of mid-day meals under the scheme.

“This is when CFI hit upon a novel plan to counter it,” says a middle-level DWCD official, who was shunted out later. “CFI entered into a five-year contract in 2007 with a budget of Rs 600 crore for building the capacities of self-help groups.” The company then set up the Mahila Supplementary Nutrition Production and Training Centres (MSNPTCs) in 139 of the 176 taluks.

An employee working in one of the MSNPTCs later wrote to the KSCPCR explaining the way these centres were being run. A copy of the letter, which is with TEHELKA, throws light on the way the DWCD looked the other way when CFI went about doing its business.

In Raichur district, 2,689 kids died due to acute malnutrition in April-August 2011, says official data

According to the letter, “Many of the training centres were not producing the required quantity of energy food. They were procuring ready-to-eat meals directly from Tamil Nadu and dumping it in the training centres. The food was rejected by the locals and was used as fodder for the cattle. Indents given for fulfilling orders were manipulated and illiterate women were hired for the job (according to the agreement, they had to pay a small part of the profit to these women).”

“CFI had set up a parallel channel of giving bribes,” say sources in the Lokayukta. “Right from the taluk level, child development project officers would receive around 1 percent of the amount cleared.”

This year, on 10 March, Lokayukta officials raided Shyamala Iqbal’s house and found 900 grams of gold, diamonds worth Rs 4 lakh, bank deposits worth Rs 65 lakh and a Toyota Innova. They also found documents showing ownership of a commercial complex at Church Street, Bengaluru, a house in HAL 3rd Stage worth Rs 60 lakh and a site in Arkavathy Layout, also in Bengaluru. Shyamala Iqbal did not respond to queries by TEHELKA.

The whole network was managed by CFI employees Kumaraswamy and SS Mani from the state level. “Earlier, the money was given to the officials wherever they were located. After a dispute, it was centralised at CFI’s Malleswaram office,” says the officer. Interestingly, a faction of the pro-Kannada outfit, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, was roped in for proper distribution of the bribe money. All the officers would come in the first week of every month to collect their share.

Responding to TEHELKA’s queries, CFI general manager (administration) Shivanandan said, “The matter is sub-judice and an inquiry is going on. It is too premature to comment on anything now.”

According to information obtained under RTI, more than 21 lakh children in the state are mildly malnourished and 12 lakh moderately malnourished. More than 70,000 suffer from severe malnutrition.

Even if one goes by the official data, the rate of deaths is quite alarming: almost two-three deaths per day due to child malnutrition. According to the DWCD, between April and August 2011, 2,689 children have died due to acute malnutrition in Raichur district alone.

Hunger Pangs

Rs 600 cr the annual cost of the mid-day meal scheme

33 lakh children in the state are eligible for mid-day meals

70,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition in the state

2-3 children die of malnutrition every day, on an average

THAT THE state cannot afford to be complacent on the child nutrition front is obvious from Karnataka’s 11th rank in the India State Hunger Index. According to the findings of the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS) in Karnataka, the infant mortality rate is 43 deaths per 1,000 births (before the age of one) and 55 deaths per 1,000 births (under the age of five). The NFHS study also says that infant mortality in rural areas is 28 percent higher than in urban areas. The study also reveals that more than half the women in Karnataka (52 percent) have anaemia, including 63 percent of pregnant women with mild anaemia. The recently released state Economic Survey report of 2012 reveals that poverty in Karnataka continues to be the highest among the southern states.

As the CFI battles to clear its name, the government is unlikely to renew its contract. However, it has inked a deal with mining giant Vedanta to fill in CFI’s shoes. On 10 April, Vendanta entered into an MoU with the government to provide mid-day meals to two lakh kids in four districts. Not only is this Rs 12 crore deal in violation of law (as the SC ruling of 2004 mandates no middlemen), it is being seen as part of Vedanta’s PR exercise in the wake of controversies surrounding its mining operations in Odisha and elsewhere.

R Manohar, head of programmes at South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, says he can’t understand why the state is showing urgency in signing the deal, when there is already a PIL in the Karnataka High Court challenging the involvement of middlemen. “We have seen how CFI functioned. We don’t want another private company playing with the children’s lives,” he says.

Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.
imran@tehelka.com

The Word on Women – Forced sterilization and the Millennium Development Goals


 

By Widney Brown

Two reports by the BCC this month raise the spectre that the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which include reducing maternal mortality and ensuring environmental sustainability may actually be undermining women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

The BBC has reported on the UK government’s Department for International Development is funding a program of forced sterilization of both men and women in India.

As happens all too often, poor tribal women seem to be particularly targeted for the forced sterilization.

And if being sterilized against your will is not bad enough, there are also reports of long term suffering because the procedures were botched.

The BBC also ran a shocking exposé on allegations of forced sterilization of women in Uzbekistan. In the report, an unnamed government official made the link between reducing fertility rates and the MDGs.

Since the world’s population topped 7 billion people toward the end of 2011, the language of “population control” has increasing crept back into the discourse. Implicit in the concept is a focus on preventing poor people from having a lot of children, echoing the ideas promoted by Thomas Malthus, a British clergy and economist in the late 1700s.

There is no question that an increase in the number of people in the world has a negative impact on the environment and biodiversity. However, returning to the draconian measures of forced sterilization undermines fundamental principles of human rights and ignores what we have learned about how to lower fertility rates without resorting to force.

Amnesty International has long warned the international community of the dangers of defining quantitative development goals without a strong normative human rights framework.

Public health logic may hold that reducing fertility rates leads to slower population growth and lowers maternal mortality rates. But forced sterilization violates the principle that men and women have a right to make independent choices regarding the number and spacing of their children without discrimination, coercion and violence.

Study after study demonstrates that empowering women through ensuring access to education, promoting women’s economic independence, and providing women access to comprehensive contraceptive and other health services reduces fertility rates and leads to better public health results. Where women are able to decide independently when, how often, with whom, and with what frequency to have children, the consequence is more often than not only do maternal and infant mortality rates go down, so too do fertility rates.

To be clear, forced sterilization is in and of itself a violation of human rights. It is the type of violation that has long term consequences for individuals and society. Perhaps most immediate is its destruction of the bond of trust between patient and medical service provider. When that bond is broken, women are less apt to see critical pre and post-natal care when they are pregnant.

There is speculation that the report by the BBC on Uzbekistan may mask another issue: women seeking sterilization but not informing their families because they will be ostracized for not wanting to have more children. But this alternative narrative underscores the importance of promoting women’s rights and gender equality to ensure that women and their partners can freely exercise their reproductive rights. Women who feel their only control over their fertility is to be secretly sterilized are clearly not able to make their own decisions.

Regardless of which explanation is correct in Uzbekistan, it highlights the integral connection between promoting women’s rights and gender equality and reduced fertility rates. Like Uzbekistan, India has a long way to go toward demonstrating its commitment to women’s rights and gender equality.

Rejecting forced sterilization policies does not leave governments’ with no alternatives. They can ensure that young people have access to comprehensive sex education and contraceptive services. They can discourage early marriage and promote education at the secondary and tertiary level paying particular attention to why women and girls often drop out of school.

Anti-natalist policies adopted by governments should not be discriminatory or undermine people’s fundamental rights.

The international community needs to pay heed to stories like these on India and Uzbekistan which so clearly illustrate how agreeing the Millennium Development Goals without ensuring a human rights framework for the goals, contribute to undermining women’s rights.

People living in poverty can be empowered through direct engagement in identifying the problems, defining and implementing solutions, and in evaluating the effectiveness of those solutions, thus promoting the sustainability of progress.

When the international community convenes in the next couple of years to decide a post 2015 development strategy, it is important that it take on board the dangers of promoting quantitative goals while ignoring the importance of human rights in empowering people living in poverty.

Without a human rights framework, people become the objects of government policies and practices, rather than empowered, unique, and autonomous rights holders. Development practices designed with normative human rights standards in mind enable people living in poverty to be the subjects actively working their way out of poverty.

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Man commits suicide after wife’s sterilization


 | Apr 27, 2012

 BHOPAL: The sterilization fiasco in Madhya Pradesh refuses to die down.

Lamenting the decision of making his wife undergo sterilization two months ago, a 35-year-old man, father of six daughters committed suicide in Betul district on Wednesday. His wife, who went under the scalpel in February, alleged that her husband was promised a plot of land and cash by the panchayat secretary and sarpanch of the village in exchange for the sterilization.

On the woman’s complaint, the district administration has ordered an inquiry into the case. Kanchan Dongre, CEO of the Janpadh panchayat in Maultai said, “Action will be taken based on the inquiry report.” The police also registered a case and started its probe into the suicide.

Prakash Deshmukh, resident of Sandiya village, seven km from Betul town and 150 km south of Bhopal, consumed poison on Wednesday afternoon. Neighbours rushed him to the district hospital where he was declared dead. Deshmukh and his wife Kala worked as agricultural labourers.

In the beginning of the year, the state saw a sharp rise in vasectomy surgery numbers after chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan declared 2012 as the year for family planning and welfare. District administration officers went all out to fix targets for number of sterilisations and implementation. Reports of forced vasectomy and allurement to make people go under the scalpel poured from across the state.

Wife of the deceased, Kala Deshmukh, accused that her husband too asked her to undergo sterilisation after panchayat secretary Hemant Barde and sarpanch Vijay Thakre of the village lured with promises of a plot of land and money.

On February 14, I was operated upon. After that day, my husband kept meeting the panchayat secretary for the land and money without any success.

Panchayat secretary Hemant Barde could not be contacted but sarpanch Vijay Thakre said, “The couple have six children and have no money to feed them. We did not lure them with impossible dreams but informed them of the various schemes of the state government for BPL families.”