Journalist who wrote about female genital mutilation (FGM) forced into hiding


Source: Gulf News | AFP

A Liberian journalist says she has been forced into hiding after lifting the lid on initiation rituals, including genital mutilation, by a secretive women’s society.

Mae Azango, a reporter with Liberian daily Front Page Africa, published a story on March 8 in which a woman recounted how when she was a child she was held down and had part of her genitalia sliced off by members of the Sande Society.

The society is an initiation school where women and girls are sent to be circumcised and groomed to be prepared for marriage, as culture and tradition demand in the west African state, Azango wrote.

Azango’s story was illustrated with pictures of initiated teenage girls emerging from the bush.

“A few days after I published the story, I received calls, anonymous calls, and women telling me that I have exposed their secret and I am going to pay the price,” Azango told AFP in an interview from a secret location. “I was only doing my job, now I am in trouble.”

Azango said the punishment for exposing the secrets of the women’s initiation society was to be forced to undergo the ritual “whether you like it or not”.

“They have been hunting for me for weeks now. They have gone to my working area, they have been going to my house, and the worst of all is that they have attempted getting my daughter to have her initiated by force,” she said.

International media organisations and NGOs have called on government to step in, a difficult task for the regime as courts have no say in the matter. “The court cannot do anything in this case. It is part of the customary law so it is beyond the control of the judiciary,” said Liberian lawyer Emmanuel Capeheart.

“It is the law of the traditional people. Once you have violated it they can deal with you and the law cannot help you. If these women get Mae, they can carry her to the bush and she will stay there the longest, no one can go there to help.”

The powerful secret societies, called Poro for men and Sande for women, are spread throughout west Africa. “Poro and Sande are responsible for supervising and regulating the sexual, social, and political conduct of all members of the wider society,” according to the book Anthropology: What Does It Mean To Be Human by Robert Lavenda and Emily Schultz.

In a chapter on west African secret societies they say top members “impersonate important supernatural figures by donning masks and performing in public”.

Girls taking part are bound to secrecy about what takes place during the initiation, making speaking about the societies extremely difficult. The woman in Azango’s article, now aged 47, was forced to undergo initiation at 13 because of a crime committed by her mother in 1976.

FGM is rampant

Azango reported that 10 of Liberia‘s 16 tribes practice female circumcision. “In Liberia, the female genital mutilation (FGM) is rampant and at the same time an open secret,” said sociologist Emmanuel Ralph.

“Almost all the tribes in Liberia are involved in this practice. I know that this could be somehow strange to the western world but this is part of the African tradition. The government is afraid of touching the interest of traditionalists.”

Information Minister Lewis Brown told AFP that the government had launched an investigation. “The government’s attention has been seriously drawn to the report of threat against Miss Mae Azango… the director of police has been instructed to protect the journalist who is daily in contact with the police.”

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is facing pressure on taboo issues such as female genital mutilation and homosexuality – especially after winning the Nobel Peace Prize last year. “We find it troubling that Liberia, boasting Africa’s first female head, remains muted on the issue engulfed in controversy,” Azango’s newspaper Front Page Africa said in an editorial.

“We hope that the debate emerging out of reporter Azango’s report will push government and society as a whole to educate the uninformed public about the dangers and risks involved.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that some 92 million girls aged 10 and above in Africa have undergone FGM, which can involve partial or total removal of the genitalia for various cultural, religious and social reasons.

You are living in Toxic Gujarat



Ahmedabad, TNN, : Denting the “green image” of Gujarat, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its 2011-12’ civil report, has claimed that there is an “upward trend” in the incidence of water-borne diseases due to contaminated water in rivers, lakes and groundwater.

It cites South Gujarat as the worst cases, where industrial clusters like Vapi and Ankleshwar and Nandesari near Vadodara have been blamed for blatantly violating the state’s pollution control norms and discharging un-treated waste to nearby water bodies.

About 32% of the state’s drinking water sources were found to be “contaminated” during pre-monsoon survey but affected villagers were not alerted, claims CAG.
Thought there were “alternate sources of safe drinking water” in 4,215 villages, the top state-owned body, Water and Sanitation Management Organisation (WASMO) remained indifferent and did not alert the affected population.

The report has outrightly blamed a lacka-daisical attitude of the state government, including agencies like Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) of ignoring effects of pollution on human health in its policies.

The CAG report says, “Risks to human health from waterborne and water  related diseases due to pollution of rivers and from presence of arsenic, zinc, iron, mercury, copper, chromium, cadmium, lead, and persistent organic pollutants in river, lake and groundwater have not been assessed by the government.”

The CAG clamis the number of cases of acute diarrheal disease went up from 5.87 lakhs in 2006 to 6.73 lakhs in 2010, viral hepatitis went up from 10,061 to 16,234, enteric fever went up from 12,850 to 38,775; and cholera went up from 50 to 573.

CAG said, though rapid response teams were made available to fight these diseases, “Water pollution continued to pose a perennial challenge to the public health system in the State”.

Refereeing to Gorva lake in Vadodara CAG said hutment residence and slaughter houses adjourning the lake were discharging domestic waste, untreated water and sewerage and slaughter house waste into the lake.

“The Water Quality Review Committee (WQRC) was set up (in 2002) to function as the nodal agency for compilation of report, and convene meetings of implementing or testing agencies but WQRC convened only 6 meetings in eight years and did not meet even once in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010” CAG noted.

Times View: Chief Minister Narendra Modi has authored a 236 – page book ‘Convenient Action: Gujarat’s Response To Challenges Of Climate Change’. Yet, CAG’s report from the ground paints a frightening picture of the environment damage that rapidly developing Gujarat has skirted for many decades. We thank the CAG for rightly focusing on the toxic hot spot which has no khushboo. Only stench blowing through our nostrils and chemicals flushing down our throats.

HARDTALK:

  • Inlet effluent characteristic of CETPs of Ankleshwar, Vapi and Veraval were in excess to prescribed limits. This indicated that individual members were not carrying out effective primary treatment
  • Government has not identified aquatic species, flora and fauna which are affected by water pollution
  • Quantification of human activities around water bodies not been carried out
  • Poor quality of planning as no information was available with the state government
  • No action taken by the government to check deteriorating quality of ground water
  • No continuous monitoring of ground-water.

How American Corporations Transformed from Producers to Predators


Over the last 30 years, corporations have turned on the 99 percent. Here’s how it happened and how to fight back.

April 1, 2012  |  William Lazonick, Alternet

Photo Credit: AlterNet

Corporations are not working for the 99 percent. But this wasn’t always the case. In a special five-part series, William Lazonick, professor at UMass, president of the Academic-Industry Research Network, and a leading expert on the business corporation, along with journalist Ken Jacobson and AlterNet’s Lynn Parramore, will examine the foundations, history and purpose of the corporation to answer this vital question: How can the public take control of the business corporation and make it work for the real economy?

In 2010, the top 500 U.S. corporations – the Fortune 500 – generated $10.7 trillion in sales, reaped a whopping $702 billion in profits, and employed 24.9 million people around the globe. Historically, when these corporations have invested in the productive capabilities of their American employees, we’ve had lots of well-paid and stable jobs.

That was the case a half century ago.

Unfortunately, it’s not the case today. For the past three decades, top executives have been rewarding themselves with mega-million dollar compensation packages while American workers have suffered an unrelenting disappearance of middle-class jobs. Since the 1990s, this hollowing out of the middle-class has even affected people with lots of education and work experience. As the Occupy Wall Street movement has recognized, concentration of income and wealth of the top “1 percent” leaves the rest of us high and dry.

What went wrong? A fundamental transformation in the investment strategies of major U.S. corporations is a big part of the story.

A Look Back

A generation or two ago, corporate leaders considered the interests of their companies to be aligned with those of the broader society. In 1953, at his congressional confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Defense, General Motors CEO Charles E. Wilson was asked whether he would be able to make a decision that conflicted with the interests of his company. His famous reply: “For years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”

Wilson had good reason to think so. In 1956, under the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, the U.S. government committed to pay for 90 percent of the cost of building 41,000 miles of interstate highways. The Eisenhower administration argued that we needed them in case of a military attack (the same justification that would be used in the 1960s for government funding of what would become the Internet). Of course, the interstate highway system also gave businesses and households a fundamental physical infrastructure for civilian purposes– from zipping products around the country to family road trips in the station wagon.

And it was also good for GM. Sales shot up and employment soared. GM’s managers, engineers and other male white-collar employees could look forward to careers with one company, along with defined-benefit pensions and health benefits in retirement. GM’s blue-collar employees, represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW), did well, too. In business downturns, such as those of 1958, 1961 and 1970, GM laid off its most junior blue-collar workers, but the UAW paid them supplemental unemployment benefits on top of their unemployment insurance. When business picked up, GM rehired these workers on a seniority basis.

Such opportunities and employment security were typical of most Fortune 500 firms in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. A career with one company was the norm, while mass layoffs simply for the sake of boosting profits were viewed as bad not only for the country, but for the company, too.

What a difference three decades makes! Now mass layoffs to boost profits are the norm, while the expectation of a career with one company is long gone. This transformation happened because the U.S. business corporation has become in a (rather ugly) word “financialized.” It means that executives began to base all their decisions on increasing corporate earnings for the sake of jacking up corporate stock prices. Other concerns — economic, social and political — took a backseat. From the 1980s, the talk in boardrooms and business schools changed. Instead of running corporations to create wealth for all, leaders should think only of “maximizing shareholder value.”

Read full article here

Work continues at Kundakulam Nuclear plant as does police crackdown on protesters


Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project site, commissioning expected by the end of May

Jeemon Jacob
Thiruvanthapuram, 2 nd April 2012

Work at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project site continues to be on a fast track, and according to sources the plant will be ready to commission within eight weeks. According to an official working at Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project site, the commissioning of the plant is expected by the end of May. Scientists and officials had reviewed the progress of the project last week. “Our scientists and technicians are working over time and we will be able to complete the project in time,” said the official who wished to remain anonymous.

Meanwhile, the government crackdown on anti-nuke protesters continues. The Madurai Passport Officer has directed PMANE convener Dr SP Udayakumar to surrender his passport as a criminal case is pending against him. On Friday 30 March, officials from the intelligence bureau and the state police conduced a raid at Udayakumar’s house and the school his wife runs. During 12-hour raid, police confiscated documents of banking transactions and accounts books of the school. “We run a small school for 217 poor children. We have managed to run the school with limited support from local well-wishers,” said Udayakumar.

“I got a letter from Passport officer Madurai to surrender my passport as a criminal case has been registered against me. It’s an oppressive measure by the Central government. Hardcore criminals and the corrupt people have several passports and the authorities have never asked them to surrender their passports. They are treating me as if I am a terrorist,” said Udayakumar.

The letter dated 30 March stated, that there were 98 criminal cases registered against Udayakumar in connection with the Koodankulam anti-nuclear struggle. He was directed to surrender his passport within 15 days of receiving the letter. Leader Pushparayan Victoria, Udayakumar’s colleague at PMANE condemned the government’s move to throttle the struggle by slapping false cases on the protesters. He also wanted the Tamil Nadu Assembly to pass a Resolution to protect Pechiparai water from Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project. He alleged that Tamil Nadu is trying to divert water from Pechiparai dam to Koodankulam power project.

“The Government of Tamil Nadu has prepared a Rs 83-crore project proposal for the renovation of Pechiparai dam and Rs 5crore is going to be spent for desilting the dam. It’s a secret plot to divert the water to Koodankulam project,” said Pushparayan. The 42-feet high Pechiparai dam was opened in 1906 and feeds some 50,000 acres of paddy crop in the fertile Kanyakumari district. “When the KKNPP officials had tried to utilise Pechiparai water for their nuclear project, there was a massive protest against the plan in Kanyakumari district. Ever since, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) authorities and the State and Central government officials had assured the local people that Pechiparai water would not be diverted to the Koodankulam project,” said Pushparayan.

However, despite these assurances, pipelines have been laid in Kanyakumari district and two such lines have been extended all the way up to the coastal villages of Kanyakumari and Kovalam. “They can be extended to Koodankulam at a very short notice,” he added.

Jeemon Jacob is Bureau Chief, South with Tehelka. 
jeemonj@gmail.com

Sri Aurobindo, Heehs and the fragility of faith


GAUTAM CHIKERMANE

We banned Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and provided the moral justification for a barbaric fatwa on his head by Iran’s then spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. As a result, Rushdie had to take refuge in the UK. Last month, we prevented him from coming to India and speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival, hammering one more nail in the coffin of free speech in India. In case you wish to read it, the book is available here in PDF form, freely downloadable.

We drove MF Husain, India’s best-known painter, out of India. For his paintings of Hindu goddesses, Husain faced eight cases in various courts of the country — all were dismissed in an April 2004 judgement by the Delhi High Court — his house was attacked by Bajrang Dal activists in 1998, his art vandalised. The Muslims found a quawalli in his film Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities blasphemous and he had to withdraw the film in 2004. Husain had to flee to Qatar, become a Qatari national and died a non-Indian.

And now, right under our noses, even as the national discourse is moving against banning books and towards free speech, another intellectual is being hounded. This time, it’s Peter Heehs, an American historian, who has who has lived in and served the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for 41 years, set up the Ashram’s Archives department, has been the founding editor of Sri Aurobindo: Archives and Research, and was part of the team that has brought out the Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo. The ban in question is on his scholarly biography of Sri Aurobindo titled, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.

If Sri Aurobindo was still residing in his “cave” at Pondicherry, he would have welcomed the book, critiqued it — but most important, he would have read it. But if an April 9, 2009 notification by the Orissa government is to be taken seriously, this is what it suggests: we have not read the book but the select excerpts given to us by interested parties is enough evidence for us to ban the book. For those who enjoy legalese, you can read the notification here.

So far so good. During the course of my investigation into this affair, this notification was given to me as “evidence” by a party that’s fighting another case against the trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, holding them responsible for harbouring Heehs and seeking their removal. This group of people and the petitioner — Mrs Gitanjali JB, who in her writ petition to the High Court of Orissa at Cuttack has said she lives in Balasore, though the last time I tried to contact her, I was told she lives in Chennai — are allegedly related. Although I could not independently verify the relationship, it is pretty clear that the two are working together. So, when they emailed me the “evidence”, they forgot to attach another document that supported this senseless notification.

This is a February 13, 2009 report written by the IG Police Intelligence to Dr K.C. Sarangi, OAS, the deputy secretary to government, home (special section) department. According to the IG’s report, Heehs’s book is not available in Bhubaneswar or Cuttack and “hence its entire contents are not known but photocopies of extracts of the book”, that form part of Mrs Gitanjali JB’s writ are. Based on this shallow, incomplete and clearly prejudiced evidence — and without undertaking the rigour of independent investigation by attempting to check the context within which these extracts have been provided — the IG has suggested to the government that the book “appears to be blasphemous” and “appears to be a fit case for invoking action u/s 95 Cr.P.C”. I can only pity the Orissa government for having such an incompetent officer in charge of such a critical function. You can read this illiterate piece of literature here.

In its November 4, 2008 order, the Orissa High Court ordered Mrs Gitanjali JB to make a representation before the Ministries of Home and Information and Broadcasting and the book should be published only after getting a no-objection certificate from them. The Home Ministry has not taken any decision so far. So, in its April 20, 2009 order, the Orissa High Court adjourned the case, “with the direction that the Central Government may take a decision as early as possible”. There has been no decision since then. What are they waiting for — Godot? They should either say yes or no or that it is beyond their brief. Its silence speaks of a frozen government, unable and unwilling to do its job.

Courts have their own processes and the legal system works on its own time. But it is curious to note, as senior lawyer AG Noorani did, the five objections of this order. These include “unprecedented abdication of judicial power and responsibility in favour of an outside authority; worst of all, the State” and the fact that the author and the publisher need to be heard in the interest of natural justice. Do read the piece here.

When Heehs appealed the setting aside of this notification, a three-judge bench was formed. “When the book has not been published in India, it is not traceable to any call of action for such a ban and for such a notification,” Heehs’s lawyer Prasanta Kishore Ray said. “So, banning this book amounts to banningfreedom of expression. It amounts to banning thinking. That is how the three-judge bench were shocked to hear that the book has not been published in India.” In a January 17, 2012 oral order, the court called upon the Advocate General of Orissa, Ashok Mohanty, to justify this notification, Ray said. I doubt if Mohanty will have any.

One last point on Heehs’s book. This time I invite you to a sojourn in time, all of 30 years ago. In a November 8, 1982 judgement, the Supreme Court declared that Sri Aurobindo’s teachings cannot be said to be of a religious nature. “Numerous utterings by Sri Aurobindo or the Mother unmistakably show that the Ashram or Society or Auroville is not a religious institution,” the judgement said. “There can be no better proof than what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother themselves thought of their teachings and their institutions to find out whether the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and his Integral Yoga constitute a religion or a philosophy. The uttering made from time to time by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother hardly leave any doubt about the nature of the institution. It was on the basis that it was not a religious institution.” You can read another excerpt here.

The point: if Sri Aurobindo is not a religious entity and his teachings not a religion, how can his biography hurt any religious person? This is a question that many devotees, in their blind faith, ignore. India is home to gurus and spiritual teachers. All of them stated clearly that they are not professing a religion but a way of life, call it spirituality if you must. To convert those words, those ideas, those books, those teachings into a religion is the biggest crime against their own gurus. If Sri Aurobindo were around, he would have shuddered to have been called an author of yet another ‘religion’ and steered clear of anything to do with it.

Those terming Sri Aurobindo’s yoga a religion need to do their homework. If they are unwilling to go through the rigour of reading, the least they should do is what Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator The Mother suggested: “When you have nothing pleasant to say about something or somebody in the Ashram, keep silent. You must know that this silence is faithfulness to the Divine’s work.”

Returning the issue that’s bigger and vaster and more precious than any single book or person, I find that as a society, India’s level of tolerance and toleration — something we push strongly for in other countries, the Bhagwad Gita being banned in Russia that I wrote about earlier, for instance — has fallen to depths unseen. We use whatever tools we can to curb free speech — threat, violence, politics, power, goons, police, state, non-state and this new development of abusing the due process of law that results in delaying books from being published.

I had a discussion about free speech with Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president, Center for Policy Research, one of Asia’s most respected think tanks. “Why do we tolerate,” he asked. “I feel safe when offensive people are tolerated. I can conclude that if society can tolerate these bozos, surely I’m safe. It’s a psychological security.” That’s on the physical front. But go a step deeper and here’s what those lining up to curb free speech in this name or that issue need to understand. “We put ourselves under God’s yoke when we are furthest away from god,” Mehta said. “Right now, there is a fragility of faith.”

Let Heehs’s book not fall at the alter of that fragility.

Do check out the totally intolerant comments on the blog

Dont expel the Historian

Indian reserve battalion soldiers assault a physician in Assam


A convoy of soldiers belonging to 22 Indian Reserve Battalion stationed at Kadamtala camp in Jiribam of Manipur state assaulted a physician at Jirighat market in Cachar district of Assam state on 29 March 2012 causing injuries and mental trauma. The incident led a scuffle between the local people and the soldiers causing some more injuries and a lot of fear and anxiety. The local people later blocked the 53 National Highway (NH) forcing the police officers in both the districts to come over to the spot and take control of the situation. No complaint has been registered by the police against the soldiers and the victim is very concerned about his and his family members’ safety and security.

 

According to the information, the physician Mr. Dulal Biswas (age about 43, son of late N L Biswas) is a resident of Jirighat town under the Jirighat police station (PS) in the district of Cachar. Jirighat is a small town falling in the border of Assam with Manipur state. A tributary of the river Barak called Jiri separates Manipur from Assam here. On the other bank of the river falls Jiribam town in the Imphal West district of Manipur. Mr. Biswas is a registered medical practitioner and has been practicing medicines for some years. He runs his own private dispensary at Jirighat. He is a very respectable person in the town.

 

On 29 March he went to the market as usual to buy household stuffs and some vegetables at about 8am in the morning. He was riding a motor bike. Things went wrong when he was crossing the road after two Bolero cars passed him. He had to stop in the middle of the road as the Bolero car ahead of him stopped suddenly. But another Bolero car collided with the bike powerfully from behind. Though Mr Biswas fell down with the bike he did not sustain much injury. After he got up he demanded from the driver of the colliding car an explanation as to why he was driving so rashly in the market place. After exchange of a few words the driver got down from the car brandishing a stick. Some other soldiers in uniform also came out with their guns in hands. One of them put the pointed gun on the chest of Mr. Biswas and others punched and kicked him incessantly for a while. At that time some other soldiers who were buying alcohols from a nearby shop started shouting and hurling verbal abuses at Mr. Biswas and other people. It is these soldiers who suddenly stopped their car ahead of Mr Biswas’ bike and partially responsible for the accident. When they rushed towards Mr. Biswas many other people in the market started running, some to other directions but many towards the spot. It caused a great commotion and confusion and helped Mr. Biwas to go away. Although such disturbances by the military and para-military personnel at public places is a part of life in this part of the country, a section of the public lost their cool and tried to gherao the soldiers. When soldiers threatened to open fire the people started pelting stones here and there missing targets. The stones touched none. On the other hand, it facilitated escape of the soldiers.

 

Fearing retaliation from the IRB the people decided to seek permanent solution of such disturbances that has become a part of their lives through peaceful means. They blocked the NH 53 that connects Cachar district administrative headquarters Silchar with Imphal, the capital of Manipur. At this point, the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Jirighat PS Mr S C Kaman came out and tried to persuade the people to disperse. However, people demanded talk with the authorities from Manipur as the battalion was stationed in that state. Accordingly he informed administration of Jiribam sub-division. A team led by OC of Jiribam PS Mr L Khagen Singh, an officer of Manipur police commando Mr O K Yumnam and another officer of crime investigation department (CID) of Manipur police was sent from Jiribam. At the arrival of the Manipur delegation the blockade that lasted only half an hour from 9am to 9.30am was lifted to hold talk. As a result of the talk that was held at the office of the local village defence party (VDP) the officers who came from Manipur apologized to Mr Biwas and the public on behalf of the assaulting soldiers. They also promised that some money would be paid to Mr Biswas for repairing his bike and such incident would never be repeated again; but it was on the conditions that Mr Biswas or the people should not complain to any authorities and courts.

 

Mr Biswas’ bikes’ registration number was AS 11 F 2993 and one of the cars of soldiers borne the registration number MN 02 A 4695.

 

It is learnt that the soldiers belong to 22 IRB stationed at Kadamtala under Jiribam PS in Manipur. They were returning from Kumbhirgram airport in Silchar where they went escorting Mr Chartolien Amo, member of Manipur legislative assembly (MLA) from Churachandpur constituency.

 

The local people told the BHRPC that they did not believe the promises made in order to lift the blockade as it came with veiled threats that the victim should not seek redress. Mr. Biswas appeared mentally traumatised and talking incoherently. He was very concerned. The physical injuries that were caused to his body by punching and kicking were by no means negligible, though it appeared lesser than the wound he sustained at his heart by being humiliated at the marked place in front of so many people who revered him so much. He was very concerned that the soldiers may harm his family, particularly his two young children, aged about 7 years and 10 years and were studying at class II and V respectively. He kept repeating that his two kids had to go to school and that is why he did not want to talk with reporters and human rights defenders.

 

It is clear that the soldiers, prima facie, committed many offences including the crime of attempt to murder and crime against public peace and tranquillity and violations of the right to life with dignity and security of person as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India and many international human rights instruments to which India is a state party.

 

The police officers also violated his right to seek truth, justice and reparation in case of violations of any rights recognised by either the Indian domestic laws including the constitution or the international human rights laws by not registering a first information report (FIR) and trying to hush it up. The right to truth, justice and reparation is also guaranteed under the constitution as well as many international instruments.

 

The BHRPC sent a complaint on 2 April to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other authorities including the prime minister of India, chief ministers of both Assam and Manipur, union ministers for home affairs and defence expressing concern over the safety and security of the victim, his family and particularly his school going kids and other witnesses and urged them to take appropriate actions to ensure their physical and psychological integrity and safety, a prompt and impartial inquiry/investigation and registration of first information report (FIR) leading to truth, adequate reparation to the victims and prosecution of the alleged perpetrators in accordance with the criminal law of the land and universally recognised rules of criminal jurisprudence and other appropriate measures to ensure that such incident does not recur in the future.

 

2 April 2012

Guwahti-6, Assam

 

For further information please contact:

 

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

wali.laskar@gmail.com

+91 94019 42234

A curious case of a Pakistani citizen


Dear friends,

KM bhai from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh is telling us about a curious case of a Pakistani citizen Idrees who came to India in 1999 and over stayed. Since then he is trying to go back home but his case is not settled in so many years. KM bhai has written a poem on the situation of Idrees bhai who is looking for any help to go back home. For more KM bhai can be reached at 08756011826

http://www.cgnetswa ra.org/index. php?id=10355

You can also listen to this post after leaving a missed call on 080 4113 7280.
You can also record your own messages/songs the same way using your phone as this user has done

Maharashtra amends RTI rules without public consultation


The hushed amendment, which restricts the length of applications to 150 words, has left civil society miffed

Shonali Ghosal
New Delhi

A notification dated 16 January, restricts both the number of subject matter and words in an application such that a written request for information must relate to only one subject matter and must not exceed 150 words. For an Act which is often touted as the common man’s tool for transparency to be amended without the knowledge of the general public has left many disturbed. RTI activists both from Maharashtra and across the country in an attempt to revoke the amendment are signing a joint petition letter of protest led by activist G R Vora to be submitted to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Monday, 2 April.

“We will also be seeking an appointment with the CM to ask for more information commissioners. The state government is too preoccupied with surreptitiously passing amendments to see that we have only four information commissioners.” Some like Mumbai-based RTI Activist Krishnaraj Rao are most miffed with the absolute lack of public consultation. “They should have consulted all stakeholders before changing the rules. Otherwise RTI can be killed with its own rule that allows for amendments,” he says.

In fact, the lack of consultation only makes the state appear more secretive. Especially, considering that activists aren’t even mindlessly opposed to all the amendments. The second notification dated 31 January, which said that a person while inspecting documents will be allowed to take only a pencil is seen as a welcome step by many. “Some pesky individuals or people inspecting documents related to them may write comments, change figures, strike out information with a pen on official records. That’s just not done. At least with a pencil, they can erase it,” says Pune-activist Sanjay Shirodkar.

Other issues have grey areas even among government officials. On the one hand, Prahlad Kachare, head of the Yashada RTI Cell, finds nothing wrong in the word limit amendment but on the other hand, Central Information Commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi says that “it’s not a bad idea. However, 150 words may be too tight. Civil society should push for 200-250.”

Similarly, Kachare believes the single subject matter rule is debatable against the activist viewpoint that it would be too open to interpretation and would only give the public information officers more powers to reject applications. Whether the amendment will be revoked may be uncertain but it will be contested for sure. Perhaps, even the larger issues of appointment of information commissioners will merit a relook. As Gandhi puts it, “If they have the time to restrict citizens, they need to think about how RTI in the state will function without adequate information commissioners.”

Shonali Ghosal is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
shonali@tehelka.com

Immediate Release- Tamil Nadu Assembly Should Pass Resolution to Protect Pechiparai Water from KKNPP


People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)                                           April 2, 2012
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu
Phone: 98656 83735; 98421 54073
Press Release
Tamil Nadu Assembly Should Pass Resolution to Protect Pechiparai Water from KKNPP
According to newspaper reports dated February 19, 2012, the Public Works Department (Water Resource Organisation) of the Government of Tamil Nadu has prepared a Rs.83-crore project proposal for the renovation of Pechipparai dam and Rs.5 crore is going to be spent for desilting the dam. The timing of this plan makes one wonder if there is a secret plot to divert water from the Pechiparai dam to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).
The 42-feet high Pechiparai dam was opened in 1906 and feeds some 50,000 acres of paddy crop in the fertile Kanyakumari district. When the KKNPP officials had tried to utilize Pechiparai water for their nuclear project, there was a huge uproar against the plan in Kanyakumari district. And ever since the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) authorities and the State and Central government officials have been reassuring the local people that Pechiparai water would never be taken for the Koodankulam project.
However, it is important to note that pipelines have been laid all over Kanyakumari district and two such lines have been extended all the way up to the coastal villages of Kanyakumari and Kovalam. They can be extended to Koodankulam at a very short notice. The doubt if the Pechiparai dam water would be taken to the KKNPP has raised its head once again as the Government of Tamil Nadu has decided all of a sudden to renovate and desilt the dam at a huge expense after its recent U-turn on the Koodankulam project.
There have been several references to the Pechiparai dam water in the planning and execution of the KKNPP project:
[1] A leading English daily reported as far back as on August 29, 2000: “To another query on the dependence of potable water for cooling the reactors, Mr. Chaturvedi [the then chairman and managing director of NPCIL] said though about 3.5 cusecs of water was likely to be drawn from the Pechiparai reservoir, the authorities would make alternative arrangements such as sinking bore wells and installing desalination plants.”
[2] The “Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment” for the Koodankulam projects (prepared by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) states very clearly on pages 2.35 and 2.36 (under Chapter 2.3 – Water Environment, Subheading 2.3.2 Water Requirement): “Fresh water from Pechipparai dam, which is about 65 Kms NW of the project site, is proposed to be used for meeting various water demands. The quantities of fresh water for various purposes are as follows:
Domestic use: 414 m3/day
Service Water: 480 m3/day
Fire Water Make-Up: 500 m3/day
Chemical Water Treatment
(Process Water for proposed 4 units): 19200 m3/day”
The report further states that “For meeting fresh water demands, water from Pechipparai dam will be brought to the site through embedded pipeline.” The above breakdown amounts to 20,594 m3 water per day and this much water is used only for four nuclear power plants. If and when all the planned eight power plants start functioning in Koodankulam, some 41,000 m3 water would be required per day.
[3] In an article entitled “The VVERs at KudanKulam” (published in Nuclear Engineering and Design, 236, 2006), Mr. S. K. Agrawal, the former Koodankulam project director and the director (projects) of NPCIL, and his co-authors state very clearly on page 835: “The requirements of fresh water are very small and will be drawn from the Pechiparai Reservoir. The fresh water requirements will thus not affect the drinking water and agricultural needs of the local population.” This article confirms the Pechiparai water usage detailed in the “Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment.”
Given this situation of contradictory claims and confusing stands of the nuclear authorities and the State and Central governments, the Tamil Nadu Assembly should pass a resolution that the Pechiparai dam water will never be taken for the Kooddankulam nuclear power project. If the authorities have really decided against taking Pechiparai water for the Koodankulam plants, they should prepare a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that details the fresh water sources for the Koodankulam plants.
Some people have suggested utilizing the Pazhayar river water from Kanyakumari district for the KKNPP project. It is pertinent to note that eleven dams have already been built across the Pazhayar to feed 13,000 acres of double crop paddy lands.
The Struggle Committee
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

Immediate Release- False Promises by Govt to Anti- Nuke Activists


A warning to the TN Govt on Koodankulam

A warning to the TN Govt on Koodankulam (Photo credit: Joe Athialy)

Idinthakarai Update
April 2, 2012
On March 27, 2012 evening 7:30 PM, we gave up our indefinite hunger strike of 9 days after a credible team of mediators had a round of talks with the Tamil Nadu government officials at Radhapuram near here. They had accepted to release all our comrades from prison and withdraw all the false and serious cases against us.
On March 29, 2012 at 9 AM, a team of Home Ministry officials from New Delhi descended on my family’s home at Nagercoil and inspected our SACCER Trust’s account for 12 hours both at home and again at the Government Guest House in Nagercoil. Our small Trust with hardly any money runs a very small school of 217 children. [It is interesting to note that the central government's and state government's teams inspected the Koodankulam nuclear power plant for hardly a few hours, and not 12 hours at a stretch.]
On March 30, 2012, I received a letter from the Passport Officer in Madurai that I have to return my Passport as I have criminal cases against me. [I wonder if all the politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, military leaders and businessmen with criminal record have received such a request and I am approaching the court to verify this.]
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)                                                       April 1, 2012
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu
Phone: 98656 83735; 98421 54073
Press Release – Tirvandrum
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) entered into a negotiation with the Tamil Nadu State officials on March 27, 2012 with the assistance of some credible and respectable mediators. As per that mediation, the Tamil Nadu State Government assured to release all the imprisoned people through due process and withdraw all the cases that have been registered against us.
However, the bail process is being delayed by several obstacles such as filing charge sheets in additional cases, demanding double surety, and condition bail of asking people to produce themselves at a distant police station on daily basis.
All the false and serious cases such as ‘sedition’ and ‘waging war on the Indian State’ have not been withdrawn yet. Instead all these cases that randomly include +3,000 people and +2,000 people are used to intimidate the local people. So people here live in fear and are very afraid to venture out of their homes and villages. We hear reports that the Tamil Nadu Government is still trying to arrest all the important leaders and functionaries as soon as possible.
Furthermore, personal vendetta is being taken by the State and Central agencies on some individuals and NGOs. The Home Ministry officials searched the home of S. P. Udayakumar on March 29, 2012 for some 12 hours. And the Madurai Passport Officer has now asked Udayakumar to surrender his passport within 15 days through his letter dated 30/3/2012.
The Tamil Nadu Government has sent the local police officers and constables from Koodankulam and Idinthakarai etc. to their respective villages on official duty to divide the local communities by instigating caste and religious hatred and group clashes. These police men spend all their time talking to their relatives and friends in their villages spreading rumors and causing fear and concerns among the people.
The Tamil Nadu Government is also using the Rs. 500 crore package to woe the corrupt and unscrupulous elements from the local villages, divide the communities and mobilize false support for the Koodankulam nuclear power project.
We would also like to highlight the fact that the KKNPP has been restarted without any kind of consent and cooperation of the local people and it grossly violates Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The fears and concerns of the people have not been addressed in any meaningful manner by both the Expert Teams nominated by the Central and State Governments. These governments are blatantly violating the rights and entitlements of the local people in an arrogant and authoritarian manner.
The PMANE has concluded its 9-day indefinite hunger strike and has resumed its relay hunger strike on daily basis from March 28, 2012. It is not true that our struggle has been withdrawn just because we have decided to resume fishing, open the local shops and send the Idinthakarai children back to school.
Supreme Court Advocate Shri Prashant Bhushan visited us on March 31, 2012 and the former Chief Minister of Kerala and current opposition leader Shri V.S. Achuthanandan is scheduled to visit on April 12, 2012.
The Struggle Committee
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy