Bangladesh, Drop Charges Against Labor Activist!


Bangladeshi clothing factories are extremely unsafe. 500 workers have died in fires, which have been attributed to basic fire safety items such as fire escapes and sprinklers being absent from the buildings, and companies padlocking the exits to stop theft. Workers are paid very little and have no rights.

Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi labor activist, has courageously dedicated her life to fight for workers’ rights. She has experience in the factories, sewing clothes for American brands from the time she was twelve-years-old.

Unfortunately, garment company owners have a lot of power in the government.

In 2010, Akter was put in jail and severely beaten after she led a campaign to get more protection from the fires. Although she was released, she now has seven remaining criminal charges, which can lead to strict punishment and long jail time.

Please tell the Bangladesh government to drop the charges against Kalpona Akter. No one should be punished for fighting for human rights.

No one should be punished for fighting for human rights. Please tell the Bangladeshi government to drop the charges against Kalpona Akter. »

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION AND SHARE WIDELY

 

Karnataka High Court has ruled that life sentence can be a ground to grant divorce.


Bangalore:Rejecting a Miscellaneous First Appeal by a husband serving life in a murder case, a division bench, headed by Justice K L Manjunath in its recent order said when the appellant is convicted for life, even the grounds of desertion have to be taken into account legally because the man cannot live with the wife and give her conjugal happiness.

“For the rest of her life, for no fault of hers, she cannot be made to suffer if marriage is allowed”, the court observed while rejecting the appeal of a life convict of Central Prison, Bellary.

The man had challenged the July 18 2011 order of a family court in Shimoga in allowing the petition filed by his wife, seeking divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion.

An instructor at a government college in Chitradurga, he has been married to Vijaya for the past 13 years.

After marriage, they lived in Malladihalli village for the first six months. During this period, the woman came to know her husband was facing murder and assault charges and duly informed her parents.

However, the man’s family claimed he had been falsely implicated in the case and that he should be acquitted.

Meanwhile, the couple had a child after which he allegedly started ill-treating his wife.

In November 2000 Ganesh was convicted by a sessions court in a murder case and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. On an appeal by the state, the sentence was enhanced to life imprisonment.

Vijaya moved the family court seeking divorce, which upheld her claim on the grounds of cruelty, but rejected the charge of desertion.

PTI

Indian Supreme Court- Why Pakistanis in jail if sentence over ?


New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday expressed its anguish at mentally challenged and deaf-mute foreign nationals, mostly Pakistanis, who continued to languish in Indian jails long after completing their sentence and asked why the issue could “not be taken up at the highest level”.

Voicing deep concern over mentally unsound Pakistani nationals languishing in Indian jails even after completion of their sentences, the Supreme Court today asked the government why they should not be repatriated, saying such detention “pains us”. A bench headed by Justice R.M.Lodha said such matters should be taken up on priority basis and at the highest level when the top authorities of the two nations meet.

The bench was referring to 21 prisoners, 16 of whom are mentally unsound and five are deaf and dumb and are languishing in jail despite serving out their sentences.

“Should not such matters be taken up at the highest level when the heads of the state meet ?,” the bench asked while indirectly referring to the recent visit of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to India.

The court asked the Centre to find out in three weeks what can be done for sending back these prisoners to their country and posted the matter for further hearing on May 2.

“There is no doubt that the best of facilities are being provided to such prisoners in detention centre but the problem is why they are not being repatriated. What is the impediment? Such detention pains us,” the bench said.

“Top most priority has to be given to these cases. They are mentally unsound and deaf and dumb. They have served out their sentences. They have been kept in jail because of some problem but that cannot be an indefinite exercise,” the bench said.

The Centre contended that these people cannot be sent back without their identification being proved.

The bench then said, “How would you be able to do so even after six months or one year. Problem would continue. You must tell us what should be done.”

The court was hearing a PIL filed by J&K Panthers Party leader Prof. Bhim Singh seeking its direction to the Centre for repatriation of Pakistani prisoners lodged in various jails across the country even after completion of their sentences.

Mr. Singh submitted that photographs of these prisoners should be given by the Centre to the Pakistani government so that these could be published in newspapers there to prove their identification as they are mentally unsound.

The court, however, said that there is no problem in directing the Centre to give these photographs but it cannot compel Pakistani government to publish those pictures.

“The Centre cannot compel the Pakistan High Commission. Only some suggestions can be given. The lead has to be taken up by the Pakistan High Commission,” the bench said.

It further said that the prisoners cannot be sent without verifying their identification which could prove to be the worst situation for them.

As additional solicitor general PP Malhota sought more time so that he could sit with the petitioner, senior counsel Bhim Singh, the court adjourned the hearing till May 2.

IANS, PTI

Petition protesting Nonadanga evictions and arrest of activists


To

Mamata Banerjee,
Chief Minister,
Government of West Bengal,
Writers Building,
Kolkata,
India-700 001

We are deeply concerned by your government’s arrest of seven democratic rights activists and its earlier detention of residents of the Nonadanga slum on April 8, 2012 at Ruby junction. These activists were engaged in a peaceful sit-in demonstration attended by a broad spectrum of left organisations and individuals of good conscience, demanding rehabilitation of hundreds of residents evicted from the Nonadanga slum of Kolkata on March 30, 2012. The peaceful character of their protest is a matter of public record, documented by various media reports. Accordingly, we are shocked and dismayed at the response of your police forces to these democratic protests.

In this matter, the actions of your police forces have been systematically repressive and appear to be progressively sinister while sending a very dangerous and anti-democratic signal. On April 4th, your police lathi-charged a peaceful rally and beat a pregnant woman in her third trimester. Your police forces proceeded, on April 8th, to attack a peaceful sit-in demonstration and arrest 69 people, victimising children under the age of ten. Seven activists were kept in custody by slapping non-bailable charges, i.e., Debolina Chakroborty, Samik Chakrobarty, Manas Chatterjee, Debjani Ghosh, Siddhartha Gupta, Partho Sarathi Ray, and Abhijnan Sarkar. Yet this was not enough. On April 9th, your police attacked yet another peaceful rally of the anti-eviction movement in Kolkata and arrested more than 50 participants.

In addition, your advocates insisted on pressing quite incredible charges against the seven detained activists. State counsel has essentially argued that any peaceful democratic dissent constitutes a conspiracy to hatch a subversive plot against the government. Furthermore, this argument revealed the aim of the State to interrogate those remanded in order to recover “information” about “possible stockpiling of arms and explosives”. This daft and tired accusation is patently a euphemism serving to disguise the government’s aim to torture the detainees. We are quite apprehensive of false evidences being foisted and concerned with this attempt by your government to throttle democratic dissent and protest in such a sinister manner.

This turn of events reminds us of the infamous case of Dr Binayak Sen and various attempts by police and security personnel to manufacture false cases against intellectuals and activists in order to harass, malign and silence them. We demand in the strongest possible terms the immediate release of the seven democratic rights activists and immediate annulment of this bizarre set of charges. Furthermore, we demand that all the evicted persons from the Nonadanga colony be suitably rehabilitated and proper compensation be arranged for them. We also demand that you prosecute police personnel responsible for the brutal lathicharge on women and minors on April 4th. Instead of addressing the genuine grievances of the urban poor, who have been mercilessly evicted from their homes, your government has cracked down on conscientious intellectuals and activists who stood by the people. This is rather shameful behaviour for a purportedly pro-poor government. The Trinamool Congress promised “Pariborton” to the citizens of West Bengal. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Let it deliver or go the way of its predecessor.

Please refer to the following reports from the Times of India for a chronology of these events.

5 April 2012 : Lathicharge on protesters, including a pregnant woman and and infant;
6 April 2012 : Firhad Hakim, West Bengal Urban Development Minister, asks for the list of evictees in Nonadanga;
9 April 2012 : A peaceful protest meeting and demonstration at Ruby junction is broken up by the police, and demonstrators arrested; 7 activists are detained;
10 April 2012 : Arrest of people in College Square demonstration against Nonadanga eviction, persons detained earlier remanded to further custody, intellectuals come out against police brutality and arrest.

Yours sincerely,

PLEASE SIGN ONLINE PETITION HERE

 

“Operation Haka ” in Chhattisgarh, India


Chasing shadows in Abujmard

AMAN SETHI

GROUND ZERO: Apart from reports of civilian deaths and property damage, the outcomes of ‘Operation Hakka' are still unclear. A burnt house. Photo: Aman Sethi
The Hindu—GROUND ZERO: Apart from reports of civilian deaths and property damage, the outcomes of ‘Operation Hakka’ are still unclear. A burnt house. Photo: Aman Sethi

‘Operation Haka’ has been dramatically projected as the storming of a ‘red citadel’. The reality could be more complex.

Between March 10 and March 17 this year, troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the CRPF’s special Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), and the Chhattisgarh Police’s Special Task Force entered Abujmard: a 6,000 sq.km expanse of uncharted forest described, by some, as a liberated territory controlled by guerilla forces of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Security forces have arrested 13 villagers suspected of belonging to the banned organisation. Narayanpur’s Superintendent of Police, Mayank Srivastav toldThe Hindu that teams in Narayanpur engaged in “at least 12 to 13” exchanges of fire with the Maoists. A nine page Maoist communiqué sent to this correspondent accuses the security forces of burning homes, looting villages and killing at least one villager in the course of the raids. In a visit to Toke, a village targeted by security forces, villagers corroborated at least some of the Maoist claims.

“Operation Haka” (described as a hunt for wild animals in the local Mariya dialect) is the first coordinated, multi-State push into Abujmard and can be read as a new phase in the attritional battle between security forces and the Maoists.

In 2009, Central and State forces conducted a series of joint operations, described as “Operation Green Hunt” by the press, along the borders of Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district and Andhra Pradesh. The raids proved controversial after eyewitness accounts published in The Hindu claimed at least 21 presumably innocent villagers, including a 12-year-old girl and a 65-year-old grandmother, were killed in two separate raids.

In the aftermath of “Operation Haka,” like in 2009, sections of the media have amplified stories to reflect an official narrative of storming a “red citadel.” But the following account, based on interviews with senior sources in the police and central paramilitary forces, reveals a far more complicated reality.

One evening last week, children sang the Gayatri Mantra, a devotional hymn chanted by Hindus, before sitting down to a meal of rice, potatoes and soya nuggets cooked at the government residential school at Toke, one of three ‘Maoist’ villages in Naryanpur targeted in the course of “Operation Haka.”

Dusu Dhurva, the school cook, said the children had picked up the hymn from two state government teachers who taught for at least two weeks in a month, and ferried government rations for the village school. The Maoists also held meetings in Toke, Mr. Dhurva said, suggesting that Abujmard could be understood as comprising zones of overlapping influence of Maoists and the State rather than hermetically sealed compartments controlled by either entity.

On the afternoon of March 16, Mr. Dhurva climbed a hill and watched as security forces appeared on the outskirts of the Toke accompanied by Udhav Ram, a middle-aged cow herder who they had caught en route. “I was returning from a wedding with my son when the force emerged from behind a forest ridge,” said Mr. Ram in an interview, “They threw me to the ground, kicked me savagely, tied my hands behind my back and marched me in the direction of Toke.” Mr. Ram said he protested his innocence, and was eventually released.

Mr. Ram said the forces moved in several batches. He and his escorts entered Toke at about 2:30 p.m. that day and were confronted by the sight of a house allegedly set alight by preceding teams of troopers. It was Keye Dhurva’s house.

“We were in the fields on the day of the operation,” said Keye Dhurva’s son, Sannu Dhurva, “When I came home at about 5 p.m., the house was burnt.” Mr. Sannu said the family lost two trunks worth of clothes, all their kitchen utensils, about a quintal of grain and Rs.16,000 that was the entirety of the family’s savings.

“We were in the house when the force came,” said Aite Gota, another Toke resident, “I told my husband to run away into the forest, but he said ‘No, I’m going to sit in the ghotul [an open structure where villagers gather].” Ms Gota said she saw security forces surround her husband, throw him to the ground and beat him over the head. When the beatings stopped, Ms Gota said, her husband – Dunga Gota – was dead. Apart from her testimony, this correspondent was unable to independently verify Mr. Gota’s death as his body had been buried, and Ms Gota said she did not have a photograph of her husband. Villagers pointed to a freshly dug grave by way of evidence.

Residents said the forces stormed the village, kicking down doors, catching chickens and piglets and seizing utensils. They camped briefly near a stream west of Toke, before leaving for Jatwar at about 6 pm. En route, resident Vatte Dhurva said, they burnt a grain store he had built on his farmlands outside Toke. “They burnt about 10 kandi of Kosara [a coarse cereal], 25 kg of paddy and 20 kg of rice,” Vette Dhurva said. One kandi is about 30 kg.

Naryanpur SP Mayank Srivastav categorically denied the villagers’ allegations,

“Nobody was beaten up, this is the truth,” he said in his office, “We treated every villager we met with love. We tried to help them and we helped them.” Mr. Srivastav said he would act upon any complaint registered by villagers, adding that the absence of a body suggested that the death of Mr. Gota could be a case of Maoist propaganda. The forces also came under fire on the outskirts of Toke, he added.

Mr. Srivastav said his forces raided Toke, Hikonar and Jatwar on the basis of prior information. “We recovered some documents from Toke…the maximum recoveries were in Hikonar where we recovered two trunks of documents and plastic explosive with boosters and detonators,” Mr. Srivastav said, noting that the discovery of plastic explosive was relatively rare. Forces encountered the maximum resistance at Jatwar village where the guerillas fired on helicopter attempting to airdrop supplies for troops camped at the village.

This correspondent couldn’t reach Jatwar and Hikonar, but the Maoist report claims the guerilla attacked the forces between Hikonar and Jatwar and injured two CoBRA commandoes; a helicopter was dispatched to evacuate the injured but the Maoists were allegedly “at its back like honeybees.” The report also claimed that forces burnt a home in Jatwar and damaged houses and property in villages across Bijapur and Gadchiroli but the allegations could not be independently verified.

In Abujmard, as elsewhere in Chhattisgarh, the ripple effects of State and Maoist intervention in adivasi villages has made it difficult to distinguish between guerillas and villagers, “camps” and “villages,” Maoist propaganda centres from government ashrams and ‘Maoist rations’ from the subsidised rice distributed by the state government.

Apart from reports of civilian deaths and property damage, the outcomes of “Operation Hakka” are still unclear. Senior officers acquainted with the operation freely admit that the weeklong exercise is unlikely to significantly change the situation on the ground.

“Towards the end it became an exercise in endurance,” said a senior officer speaking on background. “All exchanges of fire were over long distances…the two officers injured were struck by lucky hits from well over 400 yards. Why would the Maoists attack us directly?”

The nature of the recoveries — one 303 rifle, a 12 bore, five country made shotguns, Maoist literature, samples of plastic explosive and a portable printer — belie the existence of a so-called ‘Red Citadel’ that can be stormed by military action.

“The operation has busted the myth of a single Maoist stronghold if anyone still believed it,” explained a source, “The Maoists are not fighting a positional war in which they try to hold and defend territory.” Instead, the guerillas in Chhattisgarh are organised into a series of 12 fighting companies that camp as discrete units, coalesce to attack when they have the upper hand and fade away into the rolling hills when confronted by a superior force. One option, officers believe, is to expand the imprint of the force by setting up camps across Abujmard. The move could be accompanied by expanding informer networks to allow for intelligence-based strikes.

“Those inclined to view Operation Hakka as a strike at the heart of the Maoist stronghold would do well to remember Mao’s dictum of guerrilla warfare reproduced in a document titled ‘Strategies and Tactics of the Indian Revolution’, “When the enemy advances, we retreat; when the enemy camps, we harass; when the enemy tires, we attack; when the enemy retreats, we pursue.”

aman.sethi@thehindu.co.in

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PUCL statement on the Supreme Court granting bail to Dr Khaleel Chishty


Given below is the statement of the PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES on the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday to grant bail to Dr Khaleel Chishty. Given below the statement is the full text of the court order

The PUCL is extremely relieved that the SC decided to set free from the Prison 80 year old Dr. Khalil Chishty serving a life sentence in Ajmer Central Jail for a murder case. This is an extremely significant step but not sufficient as bail for Dr. Chishty as seen earlier when the trial was underway for 19 years, was like house arrest. he had to report regularly to the police and could not step out of his house and area. We hope that the next step of sending Dr. Chishty back home happens soon as it would be better for all that we send him back alive, when he can be with those who care for him and love. The PUCL appreciates the wisdom of the Supreme Court for this judgement.
While Judicial remedy would be pursued in the Supreme Court, we would like to remind all that the executive remedy as provided in the Indian Constitution of President and the Governot of a State granting Mercy to an individual at any stage of the judicial process, was stalled by the Governor of Rajasthan, who despite being recommended twice by the Chief Minister of Rajasthan that Dr. Chishty be pardoned, the Governor only let the file gather dust.
We take this opportunity in the interest of justice as well as strengthening further the relationships between the two countries and urge the Governor Sh. Shivraj Patil to sign the Mercy PEtition
Similarly the PUCL is committed to ensure the release of Sarabjeet who has been put on a death row and behind bars since 22 years in an alleged terror case. We urge the President of Pakistan to pardon him, commuting the death sentence to life and granting him safe passage home to India.
We are,
Prem Krishna Sharma (President)
Kavita Srivastava (General Secretary)
Radha Kant Saxena (Vice President)
D L Tripathi (Vice President)
Nishat Hussein (Vice President)
Anant Bhatnagar (Ajmer Secretary)

ITEM NO.65 COURT NO.5 SECTION II

S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A

RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS

Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (Crl) No(s).1493/2012

(From the judgement and order(s) in CRA No. 189/2011 dated 20-DEC-11

of The HIGH COURT OF RAJASTHAN AT JAIPUR)

MOHAMMAD KHALIL CHISTI Petitioner(s)

VERSUS

STATE OF RAJASTHAN Respondent(s)

(With appln(s) for bail,permission to file additional documents and office report)

WITH SLP(Crl) NO. 2301 of 2012

(With appln. for bail and office report)

Date: 09/04/2012 These petitions were called on for hearing today.

CORAM :

HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE P. SATHASIVAM

HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE J. CHELAMESWAR

For Petitioner(s) Mr. U.U.. Lalit,Sr.Adv.

In SR 1493/12 Mr. Nitin Sangra,Adv.

Mr. Gaurav Agrawal,Adv.

In SR 2301/12 Mr. Ravindra S. Garia,Adv.

For Respondent(s) Mr. Rahul Verma,Adv.

Ms. Pragati Neekhra,Adv.

In SR 2301/12 Mr. Jasbir Singh Malik,AAG

Ms. Manju Jana,Adv.

Mr. Irshad Ahmed,Adv.

UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following

O R D E R

In SLP(Crl.)No.1493 of 2012

Heard both sides.

Permission to file additional documents is granted.

Leave granted.

With regard to the application for bail, Mr. Lalit, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant has stated that the appellant is 80 years old as on date and resident of Karachi. He further stated that he is in Ajmer for the last 20 years. It is also pointed out by the senior counsel for the appellant that the main witnesses viz. PW-4 and PW-5 did not attribute any specific over act to the appellant and according to him it is a case of free fight. By pointing out all these details, he prayed that he may be enlarged on bail.

On the other hand, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State of Rajasthan submitted that the Courts below had relied upon evidence of PW-3 and in addition to the same, he being a Pakistani national, it is not desirable to release him on bail at his juncture.

We have considered the rival submissions and also perused the relevant materials.

Taking note of his present age and also considering the fact that he was in Ajmer for the last 20 years and the evidence of PW-4 and PW-5 and without expressing anything on the merits of the case, we are satisfied that the appellant has made out a case for enlarging him on bail. Accordingly, the appellant is ordered to be released on bail in Sessions Case No. 157 of 2001 to the satisfaction of the Court of Additional Sessions Judge, (Fast Track) No.1, Ajmer.

The Additional Sessions Judge is free to impose appropriate condition including surrendering of passport if he has not surrendered earlier.

Learned senior counsel for the appellant has also prayed for a specific permission to visit his country and also to reside at Delhi till the disposal of the appeal. In the absence of the separate petition giving adequate reasons, we are not inclined to grant such permission. However, appellant is free to file such application/(s) giving adequate reasons.

Crl.M.P. for bail is disposed of.

In SLP(Crl.)No.2301 of 2012

Leave granted.

List the Crl.M.P. for bail after two weeks.

[Madhu Bala] [Savita Sainani]

Sr.PA Court Master

ITEM NO.27 COURT NO.5 SECTION II

S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A

RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS

Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (Crl) No(s).2301/2012

(From the judgement and order dated 20/12/2011 in CRA No.188/2011,

of The HIGH COURT OF RAJASTHAN AT JAIPUR)

Undermining Human Rights in the Name of Development


Published on Sunday, April 8, 2012 by Common Dreams

When I arrived at Biju Patnaik Airport, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, I was struck by a billboard above the luggage carousel: “Mining happiness for the people of Orissa – Vedanta.”

Vedanta´s Lanjigarh refineryWhat cruel irony. The poster should have read instead, “Undermining happiness for the people of Orissa.” The opening of an aluminum refinery in Lanjigarh, in south-west Orissa in eastern India, by the Vedanta Aluminum Limited (VAL), a subsidiary of British based mining group, Vedanta Resources plc, has brought nothing but misery, disease and impoverishment to the Kondh communities of the area.

Vedanta has received unconditional support from the State of Orissa, to start an open pit bauxite mine in Niyamgiri Mountain. It has also been given the green light from the Supreme Court of India. However the Court has left the final decision with the Ministry of Environments and Forests. The minister, Jairam Ramesh, has told the parliament that Vedanta does not have final forest clearance, a prerequisite for starting the mining work.

If Vedanta’s bauxite mining project is allowed to go ahead it will endanger the very survival of the Kondh, a unique and already vulnerable tribe who have lived there for generations. They rely on the forest and streams to graze livestock and gather food, medicines and vital drinking water. The lush forests of Niyamgiri Mountain are a pristine ecosystem of great conservation significance. So important is the local environment to the Kondh that they consider the mountain to be a living God and claim that their spiritual, cultural and economic well-being are embedded deep within it.

Rivers

The top of Niyamgiri mountain, where the mine is planned, is the source of two rivers, the Vamsadhara and the Nagaveli, and thirty six springs. The Wildlife institute of India states that “it is anticipated that the removal of this layer of bauxite at the top of the mountain which stores water will impact ground waters in the region, and consequently the quality of forest lands.”

The streams that run through the hills are the only source of water for the Kondh: the Central Empowered Committee to the Supreme Court anticipates “adverse effects of mining will affect not only bio-diversity but availability of water for the local people.” Mining operations would result in desiccation, reducing the flow of the two rivers and the streams. The mine will also cause increased erosion and pollution of the water systems, resulting in deteriorated water quality.

The bauxite mine will affect not only the livelihood of the Kondh, but also water sources in the entire surrounding areas.

Journey

In April I traveled to Orissa representing the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation with Action Aid to meet with the Kondh communities. The journey from London to Niyamgiri was grueling: an 8 hour flight from London to Delhi, a 2 hour flight to Bhubaneswar, a 9 hour train ride to Rayagada, a 2.5 hour car journey, a motorcycle ride and finally a hike on foot. The road conditions were treacherous. At one point our car skidded into a ditch and 15 men had to pull us out.

Niyamgiri Mountain: the planned location for Vedanta’s bauxite mine.There are approximately 80 million tribal people (‘Adivasi’) in India, 73% of whom live below the poverty line. The Kondh population is approximately 15 000; most of them live in the state of Orissa. There are 3 distinct groups of Kondh: the Dongria (hill dwellers), the Jharania (who live near the streams) and the Kutia (who live in the plains). Despite vast investment in mining and related industries in Orissa, it remains one of India’s poorest states; around 46% of Orissa’s families live below the poverty line, earning less than 15,100 rupees, the equivalent of US$ 330 per year. Most of these communities are Adivasis living in rural Orissa.

During my journey to Orissa I visited various villages, including Rengopali, Bandhaguda and Tamaksila. At every stage of my trip, at every village the communities and their leaders were eager to tell me their tragic side of the story.

The Kondh’s testimonies exposed the modus operandi of Vedanta as fraught with human right violations, intimidation and manipulation of the law. The government of Orissa is contributing to the demise of the Kondh, by continually favoring the interests of Vedanta, and ignoring laws that recognize tribal rights. In collusion with the State authorities, Vedanta is using the local police to forcibly displace people and crush the indigenous land rights movement.

According to the Site Inspection Report commissioned by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and conducted between the 26th January and 1st February 2010, by a forestry official, a former government wildlife official and an independent sociology expert, the government of Orissa, “has received material assistance from Vedanta… This is a disturbing state of affairs and needs to be checked if the neutrality of the state is to be maintained.”

In 2008 the Supreme Court of India ordered that a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) should be set up to ensure sustainable development of local communities, protection of environment and conservation of wildlife. According to an Amnesty International Report, Sterlite India has 49% stake in this SPV, the government of Orissa has 26% and the Orissa Mining Corporation the remaining 25%.

In 2002 Vedanta approached the communities surrounding Lanjigarh, informing them that they were going to build a factory. Vedanta promised employment for everyone, assuring the Kondh that only one village would be displaced. Instead, Vedanta built the Lanjigarh refinery, which stands in a 750 hectare complex, next to the Vamsadhara river, the main source of water for drinking, cooking, washing, irrigation and cattle for the local people, and many villages downstream.

Local residents told me that some had received notices from the Kalahandi District administration telling them that their land was to be compulsorily acquired for the refinery. In 2003 Vedanta forced the community of Kinari to vacate their village. Vedanta coerced farmers into selling their land for far below its market value. In contravention of the 5th and 6th Schedules of the Constitution of India, hundreds of people have been displaced. The few people who had titles to their land or records given by the revenue department (TATA) were promised 100,000 rupees per acre. Those without titles were promised a one off settlement of 50,000 to give all their rights away. Worse still, those willing to give up their homes were promised up to 1,000 rupees. According to a report by Amnesty International in 2009, 118 families were fully displaced and a further 1,220 families sold their farmlands to Vedanta. It is believed that Vedanta now owns over 3000 acres of land, including forest land. Vedanta is currently seeking clearance for the compulsory acquisition of an additional 1,340 hectares of land, for expanding the refinery.

Although the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (or PESA) of 1996, grants village councils (‘Gaon Sabha’) certain political, administrative and fiscal powers, in Orissa, the election of village councils has been indefinitely postponed. Vedanta has violated the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, passed in India on 18 December 2006 (also known as ‘Tribal Rights Act’ and the ‘Forest Rights Act’), which grants forest-dwelling communities the right to land and other resources. In addition, no comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) which is a prerequisite for Clearance under the Environment Protection Act, has been carried out. Furthermore the rapid Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted in 2005 was not made available to the public.

The Kondh have been coerced into giving up their homes, their land, and their means of survival, in the name of ‘public purpose.’ They were promised employment and prosperity. Instead, they got the Lanjigarh refinery. Vedanta claims that the refinery employs 200 local people; in fact, I was told that the mine is run by 57 foreign nationals. The refinery has brought nothing but disease, impoverishment, and environmental degradation to the local communities.

Rengopali

When I arrived at Rengopali the villagers told me how they used to grow millet, beans and peas. They harvested leaves, pineapple, jackfruit, mango, banana, chillies, ginger, turmeric, bamboo and roots from the forest. Fresh water was plentiful. The Kondh used to own 400 acres of land. Now they have been left with only 60 acres. They are fighting to retain that remaining land, their forest and their place of worship. “Every day is a struggle to survive.”

Living with toxic waste: The red mud pond near Rengopalli. (Photo/Mahim Pratap Singh)The refinery has created two red mud ponds the size of several football pitches near Rengopali into which bauxite ore is washed, along with chemicals, causing toxic fumes and polluted dust. Lutni Majhi, a woman living in Rengopali, told me, “Now, not only is it hot during the day, it is hot at night as the refinery is functioning all the time. Before, we had forest and trees around us, it was much cooler.” “We’ve never had this much heat, flies and mosquitoes.” The water sources are exposed to dangerous contamination. The red mud pond is now being expanded. Vedanta has tried to destroy and close a village road which children use for going to school. Their recent attempt to block this road failed but they are determined to deny access to the villagers.

The local people are suffering the consequences of pollution caused by the refinery. New diseases affecting peoples’ lungs and eyes are already widespread. According to the Site Inspection Report, 13 people have died from TB in the last 2 years and 200 to 250 cattle and goats have perished. I spoke to a man who is dying from an unidentified respiratory illness resembling TB. When I spoke to his wife, she told me that the hospital could not diagnose her husbands’ illness. She was distraught; she fears that she too will be left alone to fend for herself and their children.

The Kondh have suffered grave violations of their human rights to water, food, health, work and an adequate standard of living, including a healthy environment.

“The refinery has built its walls right here making our access to the river very difficult. The water we use now is contaminated with ash pond waste. Our children have blisters and skin problems.”

Bandhaguda

In Bandhaguda, which is less than two hundred meters from the refinery, the villagers told me a particularly disturbing story. When Vedanta started to cut the forest to build the refinery, the villagers organized a protest in front of the construction site. Four hundred people from the community, including women and children, demonstrated. The police arrested all the men, keeping them in jail for seven days. When they were released they were told they had become outcast and needed to go to Puri to pray and redeem themselves, at the Lord Jagannath’s Temple. The State police were used alongside Vedanta company goons to forcibly take them to far off Puri. When the men of the village were brought back, the walls around the refinery were already built. Their ancestral graveyard was destroyed when the area was illegally enclosed in the Vedanta refinery compound in violation of Customary Law.

Niyamgiri

On the 3rd day of my visit we made our way to one of the Dongria Kondh villages, Tamaksila, about 30 km’s from Rayagada. The Dongria Kondh are considered by the Indian government to be an endangered Primitive Tribal Group (PTG) and are recognized as “a people requiring particular protection.”

It is near Tamaksila, at the top of Nyamgiri, that Vedanta proposes to mine bauxite to feed the refinery that is currently poisoning the communities around Bandhaguda and Rangapoli. If it goes ahead, the mine will destroy the livelihood and way of life of the Dongria Kondh communities. The very existence of the Dongria Kondh is hanging in the balance.

The Dongria Kondh consider the remote hills — home to their god, Niyam Raja — sacred, and they also depend on the hills for their livelihood. For the past eight years they have been fighting to protect their land and way of life. The tribe had gained the support of NGOs including Amnesty International and Survival International, which ran a successful global campaign comparing the Dongria Kondh’s plight to the Na’vi tribe in the film “Avatar.”The Government of Orissa failed to inform the Kondh of their rights under the Forest Rights Act and Vedanta did not warn them of the potentially devastating impact of its project. According to a report from the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, “Vedanta failed to engage the Dongria Kondh in adequate and timely consultations about the construction of the mine…Vedanta did not respect the rights and freedoms of the Dongria Kondh consistent with India’s commitments under various international human rights instruments, including the UN international covenant on civil and political rights, the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, the convention on biological diversity and the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people.”

The path to Tamaksila had been dug up, apparently for the purpose of laying an asphalt road to connect the villages in the mountain to the Panchayat. I learned that the real reason is to give access to Vedanta. The deep trenches on the path made it difficult for us to drive both vehicles up to the village and it was decided that one vehicle would transport some of us up and the rest would make their way on foot.

We finally reached the village after another 20 minutes’ drive. Before us stood quiet mud huts with thatched roofs, holding Mahua tree hay and flowers that had been put there to dry. The only sounds to be heard were bird calls, the mooing of the indigenous breeds of cows, and the flurry of the poultry scattered by our vehicle.

Our hosts took us further down the path that passed through the village. Suddenly in front of us stood a large gathering of more than 100 members of one of the oldest surviving indigenous people: the Dongria Kondh. Many of them had walked 10 km’s or more from their villages further up in the hill just to meet us and share their concerns about the imminent threat to their sacred mountain and to their way of life.

I was very moved by the beauty of the place and the unforgettable sight of the Dongria Kondh community waiting for us. As soon as we came up the hill they announced our arrival with drum beats and began their traditional welcoming ceremony. Two young men with handmade drums started singing a slow rhythmic song about Niyamgiri. A group of beautiful young girls started singing in tune with the boys and dancing arm-in-arm. Like their life in the mountains their music too was peaceful and rhythmic. The lyrics were poignant. It eulogized the mountain and listed the gifts the mountain gave to them. I was told how their struggle had made its way into all of their songs. The song ended with the line, “we will not leave Niyamgiri”.

A group of smiling women surrounded me and put their arms around my waist, leading me to my assigned seat. Before I sat down, they gave me a beautiful bouquet of scented flowers and put a garland of flowers they had picked from the mountain around my neck. They welcomed everyone with the traditional ‘tika’ on our foreheads, made with the paste of turmeric and rice.

The women and girls were wearing their traditional colorful clothes, beaded jewelery, hair pins, ear and nose rings, and head necklaces. In contrast, the men wore plain dhotis. Many had long hair tied into a knot in the nape of their necks. In traditional fashion some were carrying axes on their shoulders and in their hands. One could already see the influence of ‘development’ in some of the young men wearing shirts and t-shirts, as opposed to the older men of the tribe sitting bare-chested and breaking into song every now and then.

We all sat around in a circle. They brought us chairs to sit on; but the men women and children of the Dongria Kondh sat on the ground. As soon as I asked questions they stood up and began to tell me with great urgency their concerns and fears that Vedanta was going to destroy their mountain and their livelihood.

Kuleska Patru one of the leaders of the Dongria Kondh told me, with passion and determination, “We will not leave Niyamgiri.” Without our mountain, our god, there is no life for us; we will resist the forced expulsion till death.” “Just as a fish cannot survive outside of water, the Kondh cannot survive without Niyamgiri.” The message the Kondh asked me to bring to the Indian Government, the Chief Minister of Orissa, Vedanta and their shareholders and to the people at large was loud and clear: “We are prepared to die rather than abandon our sacred mountain; we don’t know how to survive in the outside world”. “No amount of financial reward or relocation packages can compensate for the loss of our livelihood and our sacred land.” “Please tell Vedanta that the Kondh do not want the mine to be built.”

Their hope is that the Government of India and the Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik will respect their livelihood, their culture, and their fundamental human rights and prevent Vedanta from causing the irreversible destruction of Niyamgiri Mountain, by allowing it to become another industrial wasteland.

A Redefinition of Development

I have campaigned on these issues for nearly three decades, so I speak from first hand experience when I say that the Kondh tribe’s battle to save their livelihood illustrates the struggle for survival that tribal and indigenous people are facing throughout the world.

When I read Arundhati Roy’s essay “Walking with the Comrades” it brought back memories of the abuses I witnessed in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru and Brazil, amongst others. The struggle of tribal and indigenous people vs. corporations and states, over ancestral land rich in natural resources, is a global issue. Throughout history indigenous and tribal people have been oppressed and forcibly expelled from their ancestral land, their rights violated with impunity by governments that put the interest of corporations above their survival. This combination of factors has often led them to resort to armed struggle, in order to protect their families, their land, their livelihoods and their culture. Last year in Peru, hundreds of Amazonian Indians were wounded and arrested in clashes over oil and timber.

Vedanta’s modus operandi is not an isolated case. People in the developing world have been victims of exploitation for centuries. Today, exploitation is no longer carried out by colonial adventurers aiming to discover new horizons for spices, tobacco or slaves. Now, it is often carried out by powerful businessmen representing mining, oil and gas or logging companies. These policies are being implemented “in the name of progress and development.” The mantra is “maximum production, minimum cost and open markets.”

The Indian state, enticed by visions of joining the developed world, is pursuing policies that use the same senseless tactics as the colonial powers of the last century. How is it possible that governments continue to pursue such irrational development policies, which blatantly undermine the basic human rights of tribal and indigenous people and the poorest sectors of society?

In addition to endangering the livelihoods of thousands of people, devastating the environment, wiping out precious biodiversity, fauna and flora and causing catastrophic climate change, the actions of these states and corporations have another important and often overlooked consequence: they are causing irreversible damage to the world in which future generations must live.

According to the UN, companies have a responsibility to respect human rights wherever they do business. It is deplorable that local inhabitants should have to implore and appeal to the better nature of shareholders and company executives to protect their human rights, their homes and their livelihoods. Companies who violate this fundamental right should be held accountable in a court of law.

In the 21st century, we need to redefine the meaning of “development.” It must be sustainable. Any development project must take into account the needs and aspirations of the local communities, and should benefit all sectors of society. Respect for human rights and the environment must be a priority. As Our Common Future, the report published by the UN’s Brundtland Commission states, development must “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The criteria for “development” need to be more holistic – instead of focussing on GDP, we need to take Human Development Indicators (poverty, health, mortality, education) into account, when assessing a ‘development’ project.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to a commitment to business activity that promotes environmental, economic and social benefit. Today, CSR is often used as a window-dressing, by corporations for their commercial benefit, to improve their image with the public or with government. We just have to look at Vedanta’s PR campaign for evidence of this. We must ensure that CSR becomes an integral part of business practice. Corporations must follow through with their pledges, to adhere to ethical standards, corporate responsibility and sustainable practice. These principles have to be enforceable – not as voluntary measures, but as a legally binding mechanism in international law. Corporate Social Responsibility is not only about how corporations spend their money, but about how they make it.

There has been some success in our campaign to hold Vedanta accountable. In February this year the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Church of England demonstrated their commitment to human rights and ethical investment by disinvesting from Vedanta. Edinburgh-based investment management company Martin Currie sold its £2.3m stake in Vedanta in 2008 on ethical grounds. In 2007 the Norway pension fund withdrew its investment of $15.6m based on the findings of its ethics committee, which stated: “Allegations leveled at Vedanta regarding environmental damage and complicity in human rights violations, including abuse and forced eviction of tribal people, are well founded.”

It is my hope that the Indian government and particularly the Government of Orissa will do everything in its power to prevent Vedanta from endangering the survival of the Kondh. It is not too late to force Vedanta to adhere to ethical codes of practice that respect human and environmental rights. This may be our last chance to help the Kondh and prevent their way of life from disappearing altogether.

When I attended Vedanta’s AGM last year, I spoke to Sitaram Kulisika, who was representing the Kondh people at the meeting. I was very moved by his compelling testimony, his commitment to his homeland, and his people: “Once they start mining, the mountain will be bulldozed and the rivers will dry up and our livelihood will be lost,” he said. “We don’t know how to adapt and survive and our way of living is not available in the cities. We will be extinct.”

To find out more information about the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation campaign against Vedanta, befriend Bianca Jagger Kondh Campaign on Facebook.

© 2012 Bianca Jagger

Grassroots activists in Pakistan have set an example for digital rights activism.


Jillian C. York . Aljazeera

Fighting online censorship when legal action fails

A new plan for internet filtering could put Pakistan on par with Iran and Saudi Arabia, activists say [EPA]

San Francisco, CA - When, in late February, Pakistan’s Telecommunications Authority (PTAissued a call forproposals on a large scale internet filtering system to allow for the blocking of up to 50 million URLs (with, it should be noted, a processing delay of “not more than 1 milliseconds [sic]“), Pakistani rights activists were more than a little peeved. While censorship (either online or offline) in the Islamic Republic is no new thing, the new move – presumably designed to entice Western companies to the country – would potentially put Pakistan on par with countries like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia in terms of sites blocked.

Of course, Pakistan is not China, Iran or Saudi Arabia. It is, at least in theory, a democracy, with freely held elections. And yet, when it comes to the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression, citizens find themselves increasingly with no say in the matter.

Grassroots advocacy

Therefore, when faced with the PTA’s latest plans, grassroots organisations knew exactly what they had to do. Rather than appeal to their representatives, they took to the internet, calling on technology companies not to respond to the call for proposals.

http://www.aljazeera.com/AJEPlayer/player-licensed-viral.swfAre we entering an age of cyber-censorship?

Their efforts were echoed and supported by a number of international organisations, including the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Article 19, the Global Network Initiative, Access, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (where I work), and made it to the pages of theNew York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among others. As a result, a number of technology companies, including Cisco and McAfee SmartFilter (both of which, it should be noted, sell their censorship wares to other countries), made statements refusing to sell to the PTA.

Advocacy group Bolo Bhi has been vocal in their opposition of the filter. In one blog post, they explain how the system would affect citizens, noting: “Such a system will give the government extra muscle to go after ‘activists’ – ‘liberals’ – ‘troublemakers’ – You and I. Anyone who is a hindrance, becomes a target.”

Indeed, such a system would likely have the same capabilities as Bahrain’s, which allowed authorities to intercept emails and SMS, which were then read aloud to detainees, or Syria’s, notoriously used to spy on activists. Surveillance of that degree is dangerous and has no place in any of these countries, let alone one that purports to be democratic.

All of this pressure led the PTA to backtracking; on March 19, an article in the International Herald Tribune-affiliatedExpress Tribune declared the filtering plans shelved. As Islamabad-based digital rights group Bytes for All quicklynoted, however, the news item was not followed up by a press release from the government, leading them to believe that the piece was “a strategic move to put an end to the raging protests”.

Like Bytes for All, Bolo Bhi doesn’t see the fight as being over. In a recent letter addressed to the Ministry of Information Technology, the ICT Research and Development Fund, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and signed by eight additional organisations, the group wrote:

While it has become common knowledge that surveillance and censorship technologies are often used in Pakistan, the extent to which this is taking place has only recently become apparent with public reports on censorship and surveillance technologies by a large number of international companies. We also understand the Pakistan government may attempt to involve an academic institution in developing the system, making the biggest victim of this technology also a contributor.

A model for digital rights activism

Born from the bottom up and supported by (not, crucially, initiated by) international organisations, the efforts of local groups serve as a model for digital rights activism. Their actions were strategic, targeting the appropriate stakeholders, their collaboration with international groups built on consensus.

Furthermore, Bytes for All and Bolo Bhi were well-placed to understand the limitations of legal efforts and instead, chose the best possible path for advocacy: targeting the very businesses their government sought to attract.Another element of these groups’ success is in bypassing the “us vs. them” mentality, a strategy discussed in the 2010 anthology Digital Activism Decoded.  In the book, chapter authors Sem DeVillart and Brian Waniewski wrote, “It is tempting for organisations to adopt competitive strategies toward peers engaged in like or complementary efforts,” recommending that groups engaged in online advocacy avoid the competitive structure of corporations.

As a result, the IT Ministry has verbally committed to issuing a statement against the filtering system, says Bolo Bhi CEO Sana Saleem, who adds that they had been reluctant to meet with civil society groups directly in the past.

“I strongly feel that the campaign success is because of consistent pressure from organisations globally,” wrote Saleem in a recent e-mail, “Even though we have still only received verbal commitment, I believe that the success lies in how we planned the campaign to focus on issues such as businesses, trade, academia and economy steering the debate from the more controversial issues of blasphemy.”

As sure as the PTA will continue their attempts to censor, the efforts of groups like Bytes for All and Bolo Bhi show no signs of abating. And with the support of international groups – which help by raising their voices to a fever pitch – they may just win.

Jillian C York is director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. She writes a regular column for Al Jazeera focusing on free expression and Internet freedom. She also writes for and is on the Board of Directors of Global Voices Online.

Follow her on Twitter: @jilliancyork

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Koodankulam: Idinthakarai turned into an open-air jail, govt playing divide-and-rule


Idinthakarai Update

April 10, 2012

Greetings!

The daily relay fast has been happening here without interruption. Eleven of our comrades from Koodankulam have just been released on bail and each person has been asked to post 8 individual sureties holding properties worth more than Rs. 10,000. There are 30 more people in the Trichy prison, and 2 other friends, Muhilan and Satish facing the most serious charges. It is really strange that we are being treated like terrorists even by the courts. In fact, the Maoist groups in Orissa are able to get their comrades released from prisons by taking foreigners and state legislators as hostages. While we condemn this hostage-taking, we also wonder what kind of a message does the Indian State give to our youth. Nonviolent, peaceful fighters are being hounded and harassed, but violent fighters are granted their desires and wishes freely. Is this a good trend for our country?

Pushparayan, Jesuraj and I have been living in an open quarter-km-radius prison since March 19, 2012. Thousands of people sleep around our house at night in order to protect us from possible police action and mid-night arrest. Hundreds of youth protect us round the clock.

I have been suffering from haemorrhoids (piles) for the past four days and the Catholic sisters who run a small clinic here at Idinthakarai have given me the best medicines that they have. My American friends used to swear,”pain in the butt” when they had to deal with difficult people; now I know the meaning of this phrase. We all know “shit happens.” But now I also know what happens when shit does not happen regularly. Oh, my! (Incidentally, please allow me to share with you a one-act play that I wrote last year and published it in a book “Peace Plays” with Professor Johan Galtung and Dr. Vital Rajan. If you like to use it in any way, please get permission from the Publisher.)
SP Udayakumar, Coordinator, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy

In fact, I have to see a doctor but I cannot leave this village as I would be arrested if I got out of here. All the “sedition’ and “waging war against the State” cases are still there and none of them has been withdrawn. My old parents and not-so-young wife call me every hour to suggest a new remedy for my predicament and the most recently-invented medication. I am in great pain and cannot sit down, or stand up. To tell you the truth, I cannot even cough. But I must evade the police, courts, prisons, and the related agonies of nonviolent public life. At least for the time being?!

There are credible newspaper reports that charge sheets are being prepared for all the 200 plus cases against us. The police are said to be dividing us all into two groups: masterminds and innocent people. Since we, the masterminds, “instigated” the innocent people to protest against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, we are going to be booked under all the serious charges and the “ordinary citizens” would be let off. The Central Government is preparing to start a new organization called NCTC, National Counter-Terrorism Centre, similar to the American institution, Homeland Security. Some Chief Ministers in India oppose this NCTC as it infringes on the rights of the states as ‘law and order’ is a state issue. We do not know what is going to happen in May when all these people meet to decide on this undemocratic and anti-democratic initiative. I can only say, God Save India! And the whatever-little-democracy we have!

On April 9, 2012, a high-level delegation from the Communist Party of India (CPI) came to visit us at Idinthakarai under the leadership of the veteran leader Comrade R. Nallakannu. The CPI is still struggling with the problem of coming to a clear cut position on nuclear power. And another veteran Communist leader from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Comrade V.S. Achuthanandan, is scheduled to come here on April 12th. That party is also not very clear about the issue of nuclear power. But the fact that they are all coming to see us makes us a bit hopeful about achieving nuclear-free India.

Sincerely,
S. P. Udayakumar

Status of the Implementation of Sachar Committee Recommendations for Social, Economic and Educational Development of Muslim Community


Backgrounder:

The Government took decisions on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee (Prime Minister’s High Level Committee on Social, Economic and Educational status of the Muslim Community of India) pertaining to various Ministries/Departments. The status of implementation of the decisions taken by Government on the follow-up action on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee is as under:

1 Department of Financial Services :

(i) All public sector banks have been directed to open more branches in districts having a substantial minority population. In 2007-08, 523 branches were opened in such districts while in 2008-09, 537 new branches were opened. In 2009-10, 743 new branches and in 2010-11, 814 new branches were opened. During 2011-12, 619 branches have been opened up to 31st December 2011. A total of 3236 branches have been opened since 2007-08.

(ii) RBI revised its Master Circular on the 1st July, 2011 on priority sector lending (PSL) for improving credit facilities to minority communities. As on 31st December, 2011, Rs.1,54,789.90 crore, which is 14.83% of total PSL, were provided to minorities.

(iii) To promote micro-finance among women, 6,03,087 accounts have been opened for minority women with Rs. 6611.87 crore as micro-credit in 2011-12 upto September, 2011.

(iv) All public sector banks are organizing awareness campaigns in blocks/districts/towns with substantial minority population. In 2011-12, 1658 awareness campaigns were organized in such areas upto September, 2011.

(v) Lead banks have organized 618 entrepreneurial development programmes in blocks/districts/towns with substantial minority population upto September, 2011 and the number of beneficiaries is 9065.

2  Ministry of Human Resource Development:

A multi-pronged strategy to address the educational backwardness of the Muslim community, as brought out by the Sachar Committee, has been adopted, as given below:-

a) Under the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) scheme, criteria of educationally backward blocks has been revised with effect from 1st April 2008 to cover blocks with less than 30% rural female literacy and in urban areas with less than national average of female literacy. Under the scheme, 450 KGBVs have been operationalised in minority concentration districts, so far. 70 KGBVs have been operationalised for minority concentration districts against the target of 107 during the year 2011-12 upto December, 2011.

b) Universalization of access to quality education at secondary stage called Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) has been approved. The scheme envisages preference to minority concentration areas in opening of Government schools. State Governments have been advised to accord priority to setting up of new / upgraded schools in minority concentration areas while appraising proposals under this scheme. 158 New Secondary Schools have been approved in 2011-12 upto October, 2011.

c) One model college each would be set up in 374 educationally backward districts (EBDs) of the country. Of 374 EBDs, 67 are in identified minority concentration districts. During 2011-12, five model colleges have been sanctioned in MCDs, and funds of Rs. 2.67 crores have been released upto 30th Sept., 2011.

d) Under the Sub-mission on polytechnics, financial assistance is provided to the States/UTs for setting up of polytechnics in un-served and under-served districts. 57 districts out of 90 minority concentration districts are eligible for consideration under the scheme. So far, 46 minority concentration districts have been covered for setting up of polytechnics, and an amount of Rs.222.66 crore have been released upto 30th Sept., 2011.

e) Preference is given by the University Grants Commission for provision of girls’ hostels in universities and colleges in the areas where there is concentration of minorities especially Muslims. The UGC has sanctioned 284 Women’s hostels and released Rs.201.55 crore till 30th Sept., 2011 during 11th Plan in Minority Concentration Districts/area.

f) The Area Intensive & Madarsa Modernisation Programme has been revised and bifurcated into two schemes. A Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madarsas (SPQEM) has been launched with an allocation of Rs. 325 crore for the Eleventh Five-year Plan. It contains attractive provisions for better teachers’ salary, increased assistance for books, teaching aids and computers, and introduction of vocational subjects, etc. An amount of Rs. 92.77 crore has been released upto 31st Dec., 2011 against budget provision of Rs. 150 crore. The other scheme, which provides financial assistance for Infrastructure Development of Private aided/unaided Minority Institutes (IDMI), has been lauched with an allocation of Rs. 125 crore for the Eleventh Five-year Plan. During 2011-12, an amount of Rs. 21.88 crore has been released against budget outlay of Rs. 50.00 crore upto 31st Dec., 2011.

g) For subsequent access to higher education, the Certificates issued by the State Madarsa Boards, whose Certificates and qualifications have been granted equivalence by the corresponding State Boards, would be considered equivalent by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Council of Board of School Education in India (COBSE) or/and by any other school examination board.

h) Academies for professional development of Urdu medium teachers have been set up at three Central Universities namely, Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi and Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. During 2011-12, 4718 Urdu Teachers have been trained under Refresher Courses/Workshops.

i) Under the revised scheme, financial assistance is given for appointment of Urdu teachers in a Government school in any locality where more than 25% of the population is from Urdu speaking community. The financial assistance would be based on the prevailing salary structure of Urdu teachers employed with schools of the State Government. Honorarium is also admissible to part-time Urdu teachers.

j) The States/UTs have been advised to undertake community based mobilization campaigns in areas having a substantial population of Muslims.  Saakshar Bharat is being implemented in 372 districts out of 410 eligible districts where adult female literacy is 50% or below as per 2001 Census. Out of 88 Muslim dominated districts, 61 districts have been covered under Saakshar Bharat.

k) Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSSs) are envisaged in the revised schemes. At present, JSSs are imparting vocational training in 33 out of the 88 Muslim dominated districts in the country.

l) The mid-day meal scheme has been extended to all areas in the country from the year 2008-09 and also covers upper primary schools. Blocks with a concentration of Muslim population are being covered under this scheme.

m) All State Governments/UT administrations have been advised to use existing school buildings and community buildings as study centres for school children.

n) National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has prepared text books for all classes in the light of the National Curriculum Framework-2005 (NCF). 14 States have revised their curriculums as per the NCF 2005 while 9 States are in the process of doing so. Ten States/UTs use textbooks of neighbouring States or NCERT textbooks.

o) Thirty five universities have started centers for studying social exclusion and inclusive policy for minorities and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Besides, 1280 Centres of Equal Opportunity (CEOs) have been established in 51 universities during 2009-10 and 1345 and 1367 such centres are proposed to be established during 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively.

3 Ministry of Minority Affairs :

(a) An expert group, constituted to study and recommend the structure and functions of an Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC), submitted its report on 13th March, 2008. The concept of diversity index has been subsumed in the EOC. The draft Bill for EOC is under consultation with other Ministries/Departments concerned.

(b) The Waqf (Amendment) Bill, 2010 as passed by the Lok Sabha was referred to the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha on 31st August, 2010. The Select Committee held its 22nd Meeting on 12.12.2011. The Report of the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha on the Waqf (Amendment) Bill, 2010 and the evidence tendered before the Select Committee were placed on the Table of the Rajya Sabha on 16th December, 2011.

(c) The Government has accorded ‘in-principle’ approval for restructuring of National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC). A consultancy firm has been appointed to work out the details for restructuring of NMDFC. The firm had submitted its draft reports which were examined in the Ministry. The Report and the views of the Consultancy Monitoring Committee are under consideration.

(d) An Inter-ministerial Task Force constituted to devise an appropriate strategy and action plan for developing 338 identified towns having substantial minority population, has submitted its report on 8th November, 2007. The concerned Ministries/Departments have been advised to give priority in the implementation of their schemes in these 338 towns.

(e) Three scholarship schemes for minority communities namely, pre-matric scholarship from class –I to X, post-matric scholarship from class XI to PhD and merit-cum-means scholarship for technical and professional courses at under-graduate and post-graduate levels have been launched. Under these schemes, Rs. 649.21 crore have been sanctioned for award of scholarships to 33.90 lakh students belonging to minority communities in 2011-12 upto 31st December, 2011. Further, a fellowship scheme called Maulana Azad National Fellowship Scheme for M.Phil and Ph.D scholars has been under implementation. 756 fellowships and 3778 renewals have been sanctioned by University Grants Commission (UGC) and financial assistance for Rs. 51.98 crore has been released up to 31st December, 2011.

(f) The corpus of Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF), which stood at Rs. 100 crore, was doubled to Rs. 200 crore in December, 2006. The corpus was, however, increased during 11th Plan period to Rs. 700 crore. Under the scheme of MAEF, since 2007-08, 419 NGOs have been given grants-in-aid for infrastructure development of educational institutions and 48471 scholarships were awarded to meritorious girls in classes-XI and XII.

(g) A revised Coaching and Allied scheme was launched in 2006-07. Against the target of 6000 candidates for 2011-12, financial assistance has been given to 90 students/candidates belonging to minority communities. Funds to the tune of Rs.4.00 crore have been released against the budget provision of Rs. 16 crore, up to 31st December, 2011.

(h) A Multi- sectoral Development Programme (MsDP) was launched in 90 identified minority concentration districts in 2008-09. Plans of 90 minority concentration districts (fully in 68 and partly in 22 districts) in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Manipur, Bihar, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Orissa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttrakhand, Mizoram, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have been approved and Rs.2588.34 crore released to State Governments and Union Territory Administrations up to 31st December, 2011 since launching of the programme.

4 Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation:

A National Data Bank, to compile data on the various socio-economic and basic amenities parameters for socio-religious communities, has been set up in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

5 Planning Commission:

(a) An autonomous Assessment & Monitoring Authority (AMA), to analyse data collected for taking appropriate and corrective policy decisions, was set up in the Planning Commission. Since the term of the AMA ended on 15th January, 2011, the Planning Commission has reconstituted the AMA and the newly reconstituted AMA has conducted few meetings.

(b) A comprehensive institutional structure for fostering skill development has been set up in Planning Commission to address the skill development needs of the country including minorities. It includes National Council on Skill Development, National Skill Development Coordination Board and a National Skill Development Corporation.

6 Department of Personnel and Training:

(a) Department of Personnel & Training has developed training modules for sensitization of government officials. These modules have been sent to the Central/ State Training Institutes for training.

(b) State Governments and Union Territory Administrations have been advised by Department of Personnel & Training for posting of Muslim police personnel in Thanas and Muslim health personnel and teachers in Muslim concentration areas. Guidelines have also been issued by Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare advising States/UTs for similar action.

7 Ministry of Home Affairs:

(a) A High Level Committee, set up to review the Delimitation Act, has considered the concerns expressed in the Sachar Committee report regarding anomalies with respect to reserved constituencies under the delimitation schemes and submitted its report.

(b) A Working Group in the National Advisory Council (NAC) drafted a Bill titled “Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice & Reparations) Bill, 2011”. The NAC sent the Bill to Ministry of Home Affairs on 25.07.2011. The draft Bill is under examination in Ministry of Home Affairs.

8 Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation:

For facilitating the flow of funds under the Jawarharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT), Integrated Housing & Slum Development Programme (IHSDP) and Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP) to towns and cities, having a substantial concentration of minority population, necessary steps have been taken to ensure that Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) for such towns and cities include adequate provisions for minorities.

(a) Under UIDSSMT, Rs. 2672.34 crore has been sanctioned for 88 towns having a substantial minority population.

(b) Under IHSDP, projects costing Rs. 1897.69 crore are for 101 towns having a substantial minority population.

(c) Under BSUP, Rs.7086.47 crore has been sanctioned for 17 towns.

(d) Governments of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Kerala have given exemption to Waqf Board properties from Rent Control Act, while Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland have informed that no Waqf property exists in these States.

9 Ministry of Labour and Employment:

An Act has been passed by the Parliament for providing social security to workers in the un-organized sector, which, inter- alia, includes home based workers.

10 Ministry of Culture:

Meetings of circles of Archaeological Survey of India have been held with State Waqf Boards to review the list of waqf properties which are under the Archaeological Survey of India.

11 Ministry of Health and Family Welfare :

Dissemination of information regarding health and family welfare schemes is being undertaken in regional languages in minority concentration areas.

12 Ministry of Panchayati Raj:

State Governments have been advised by Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Ministry of Urban Development to improve representation of minorities in local bodies.

As per information furnished by Ministry of Panchayati Raj, States/UTs of Uttarakhand, Kerala, West Bengal and Lakshadweep have mentioned that provisions for ensuring representation of minorities in District and Panchayat level exist. The State Governments of Himachal Pradesh and Orissa have informed that the matter is under consideration.

Ministry of Urban Development has informed that State Governments of Kerala, West Bengal and Haryana have implemented the guidelines.

13 Ministry of Information & Broadcasting :

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has been regularly releasing features of various themes associated with minority welfare covering issues such as scholarship schemes, initiatives taken in pursuance of the Sachar Committee Report.

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KKP, PIB Release April 3,2012