Vedanta made huge donations to both Congress and BJP


 

 

2012-07-28 -The cat is finally out of the bag the Vedanta group has given donation to the tune of `850 crore to the Congress party and `440 crore to the BJP. No sane person or company parts with such huge amounts without getting back something in return. There’s no such thing as a free meal.

Now it is quite clear why political parties go soft on mining companies. It is now also clear why both the major parties just seem to go through the motions when illegal mining is discussed in the assembly. You do not bite the hand that feeds you. It is quite clear why subsequent governments have turned a Nelson’s eye to illegal mining. Even if the local government is determined to take action the high command of both the parties will not allow it. In the end both the parties are happy and smug and it is the State of Goa and its people who are ultimately paying the price for these donations.

That Mining company donations to BJP or for that matter any party ruling the state will have no bearing on government decisions is something hard to swallow and will be believed only by the village idiot ! The very fact that the Vedanta group has given donations to both the main political parties makes it clear that this is not a donation based on the ideology of a political party. The donation is made on pure commercial reasons and with a quid pro quo in mind.

It is time that people wake up to the fact that mineral wealth belongs to the state and not to any political party and thus the benefits of such wealth should go to the people.

Contact Details:
Name:D C DIAS
Place:Taleigaon
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original post here http://www.targetgoa.com/helpd.php?id=87

 

Stakeholders steadfast on changes in IT Rules #Censorship


Kapil Sibal - World Economic Forum Annual Meet...

Kapil Sibal – World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009 (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

SHALINI SINGH, The Hindu

 Google, Facebook absent at meeting; working group to redraft objectionable language

The refusal by either companies or MPs to shed their reservations about the proposed changes in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011, which are part of the IT Act, 2000, has led to Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal agreeing to engage in larger consultation. Accompanied by Minister of State Sachin Pilot, DIT Secretary J. Satyanarayana and Gulshan Rai, a senior functionary in the DIT, at a roundtable meeting here on Thursday, Mr. Sibal said it was not the government’s intention to regulate free speech or content. “We will set up a smaller group represented by all the stakeholders, civil society, lawyers, academics, cybercafés, MPs, and then tweak these rules in such a way that they are acceptable to everybody. Everybody must work together since the rules are required and due diligence must be done. There must be clarity with respect to due diligence, and the contours of liability must be clarified.”

The meeting, called at a day’s notice, was attended by a handful of MPs, representatives of industry and industry associations and lawyers. Civil society and the technical community were conspicuous by their absence. According to Sunil Abraham of the Centre for Internet and Society, civil society organisations were not invited and attempts to elicit an invitation from the DIT were spurned.

In a presentation on the process of formulating the IT Rules, including their consistence with Indian law, guidelines of mega Internet companies, and approach papers submitted by industry associations, the government used Google and Twitter’s transparency data to showcase the point that India stood out globally as the country which had made the least requests for removal of content.

The audience disagreed with the government’s claim that the Lok Sabha Committee on Subordinate Legislation had already scrutinised the rules, pointing out that it was meeting only on August 13, to discuss the issue.

Change in language

Stakeholders were unwilling to yield ground on their demands for a change in the language that is currently included in various Sections of the Rules. Of the 25 MPs whose names appeared on the list of invitees, only two made it to the meeting. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an independent MP from Bangalore, said the IT Rules are an overreach on the law, lend themselves to misuse and cast an enormous liability on intermediaries. The issue needs to be discussed in greater detail by experts.

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brian said freedom of the Internet must be protected at all costs especially since most content is user-generated. He agreed on the need for a mechanism to decide on the removal of harmful content but sought the involvement of State governments in making such decisions.

The Federation of Indian Industry and Commerce said it had consulted nearly 50 of its members whose consensus represented the need to remove some wrinkles from Section 3, especially 3(2) Section 79, and asked that a smaller working group of experts be set up to make those changes. Then the document should be put up for a wider consultation, especially with civil society.

NASSCOM, apex body for BPO and IT industries, wanted a clarification on the 36-hour clause. They also expressed concern about the interpretation, which may lead companies such as BPO and cloud computing to be treated as ‘intermediaries’, as well as reconstitution of the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee or an appropriate redress body.

There was wide-ranging opposition to Section 3(2), especially with regard to the broad interpretation of the words ‘blasphemous’, ‘defamatory’, ‘ethnically objectionable’, and ‘disparaging’. Mr. Sibal showed a Yahoo ‘terms of service’ document wherein similar terms were used by the company.

‘Light touch regulation’

Defending itself, Yahoo said it expected a ‘light-touch regulation’ instead of the current rules. It raised several objections to Section 3. Yahoo was opposed to the fact that the onus of deciding what content should be kept or taken down was placed on intermediaries. It also pointed to the cost element involved. It was clarified that Yahoo was already in court, where it has appealed the constitutionality of Section 3(7).

Though Google and Facebook are known to have major concerns with the Rules, their representatives did not attend the discussion.

The CII raised questions about safe harbour and the issue of liability on the intermediary when it is forced to remove one private party’s content at the request of a second private party.

Due diligence burdensome

The Cyber Café Association said it was too small an entity to engage in detailed due diligence of the kind necessitated under the Rules. It would therefore be necessary to incorporate its views while redrafting the rules.

ISPs made a strong point about the confusion created by multiple orders from different courts being sent directly to service providers, and whether this entire piece could be better organised by way of procedure.

Hygiene shocker! Now, cleaners assist in delivering babies at maternity homes #Indiashining


 

Pritha Chatterjee : New Delhi, Fri Aug 03 2012, 01:58 hrs
News

Usha Devi’s newborn came into the world a few hours after the Northern Grid collapsed for the first time early on Monday morning.

When Usha went into labour at the 14-bed municipality-run maternity home in Khichripur, East Delhi, late on Sunday night, a nurse who was assisted by a cleaning staff helped her deliver — in a room lit by candles.

The centre is one of the 30-odd maternity homes in the city, sponsored by the government as part of its Janani Suraksha Yojana programme to promote “institutional” deliveries. Most of these centres suffer from an appalling lack of facilities and staff.

“The labour room was dark and hot. I was in pain. I did not know that a nurse, not a doctor, was attending to me. She saved my life and my baby,” Usha said.

When the Northern Grid failed a second time on Tuesday, the healthcare centre was once again without power. Usha and her child lay in the ward, where another expecting mother, Aarti, was writhing in labour pain.

Though not qualified, a cleaning staff administered her a drip.

“We have learnt a few things because of the perennial staff shortage. We help the nurses,” she said.

The auxiliary nurse midwife agreed: “We have learned to work without doctors. The sweepers have become our assistants.”

SORRY STATE

Delhi Health Minister Dr A K Walia said: “Most of these centres are managed by the civic agencies. We have been telling them to arrange for basic facilities like ultrasound machines.”

These centres have been around for over a decade and were supposed to be open round-the-clock. But it has been alleged that doctors — some of who are posted under National Rural Health Mission — were seldom available at night.

“We have eight-hour shifts. If the doctor is on night duty, a nurse still has to manage the other shifts alone. Babies will not wait to be born at the hands of a doctor. There is acute shortage of doctors,” a doctor at the Tri Nagar maternity home in North Delhi said.

Sources said there’s no ambulance for emergencies, though the rules state that there should be one at each centre. And at Patparganj centre, which has an ambulance, the vehicle cannot be used as the driver has been on leave for a month.

There are instances, sources said, when nurses have to fetch water from outside for deliveries because of erratic supply and poor storage facilities. At Geeta Colony, Tri Nagar, Shakurpur Basti and Patparganj centres, there is no running water in the labour room.

Spokesperson for the city’s three municipalities, Yogendra Mann, said tender notices would be issued for generators and inverters at the these homes. “We discussed with the Delhi government ways to develop a system for making CATS ambulances available at these centres whenever necessary,” he said.

“We are getting doctors from NRHM and are in the process of recruiting more through UPSC,” he said.

SEPTIC CONDITIONS

Even without the basic facilities, these centres perform anywhere between 50 and 70 deliveries every month, government sources said.

Doctors said their hands were tied because of the lack of diagnostic equipment. Moreover, there is no operation theatre as, in accordance with the policy, they are supposed to perform only “routine deliveries”.

A doctor at the Patparganj home said: “At the slightest sign of complication, we are supposed to refer our patients to the nearest government hospital. I don’t know why we (doctors) are posted here when we don’t have any support system to help the patients.”

A gynaecologist of Hedgewar Hospital said: “We are already overburdened. Our gynaecology ward has a waiting list of three months for an ultrasound.”

That is not the only problem. A nurse posted at the Geeta Colony centre said: “Distance between (government) hospitals and our centre is a huge factor when the clock is ticking. There are instances of women delivering on the way to hospitals.”

Doctors at the Patparganj home said nurses conduct deliveries in “septic conditions” because no staff has been appointed to do the after-delivery cleaning.

“There is no water supply in the labour room. Shortage of sweepers means there is no one to do the cleaning,” a doctor said.

 

‘Prime Minister to announce UID-Aadhar linked bank accounts’


 

 

INDIAKumardeep, BloombergUTV.Aug 3, 2012, 12:40PM IST

 

PM to announce UID-Aadhar linked bank accounts

The government will need to step up spending to negate the impact of the drought. However, in a fiscally constrained year, it is going to have to ensure minimum leakages in subsidy payouts.

 

Bloomberg UTV has learnt that the Prime Minister is likely to announce a UID-Aadhar linked bank account scheme around his annual Independence Day speech.

According to sources, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may announce the scheme around August 15. “The scheme will be implemented on pan-India basis,” they added.

Sources further said that cash subsidies will be directly transferred to these accounts. “Rs 3 lakh crore of cash subsidies will go through banks and is likely to kick off end of the year.”

 

India moving from providing healthcare to only managing the services #wakeupcall


Govt ready with radical health plan

State’s role to diminish from provider to manager, making way for private firms, individual practitioners

Vidya Krishnan, livemint.com

 New Delhi: The government is set to relinquish its role as a provider of primary healthcare, making way for private companies and individual medical practitioners to take the lead in offering clinical services, and focus on preventive interventions such as immunization and HIV testing.

The move is in line with the government’s approach of outsourcing its responsibilities in key social sector areas such as health and education.

The objective? Universal healthcare.

 

A file photo of the AIIMS in New Delhi

A file photo of the AIIMS in New Delhi

 

The Union government has approved healthcare delivery through a “managed network approach” where payments for health services will be made to a network of service providers on a per-patient basis, said a person familiar with the development. The scheme, this person said, is part of the five-year plan for health. India’s apex planning body, the Planning Commission, puts out five-year plans that set goals across areas and decide on ways to achieve these targets. The current Plan (2012-17) is the 12th of its kind. 

Planning Commision deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said the issue is still being discussed with the health ministry and that no decision has been taken.

Under the plan, the government’s role will diminish from that of a provider of health services to the manager of the network.

State governments will recruit a network of healthcare service providers in each district or area for clinical services. These healthcare service providers, who could be government hospitals and clinics, independent practitioners, or small or large privately owned hospital chains, will register residents onto the network.

Healthcare services will be provided to this pool of patients at a cost negotiated by the government, and the service providers will be reimbursed per medical prescription. The Planning Commission’s plan seems to draw heavily from a report on universal healthcare submitted by a high-level expert group (HLEG) set up by the Prime Minister.

The plan is not aimed at saving money for the government. The Planning Commission has approved a health ministry proposal to increase the allocation for public health to Rs. 4.04 trillion in the 12th Plan from Rs. 70,986.76 crore in the preceding five-year period.

“I agree with the HLEG that universal healthcare is perhaps best delivered if we move away from the present system, in which public healthcare providers are funded by the budget, to operating a network of primary, secondary and tertiary providers, where the network is paid on a per-capita basis depending on the number of people registered with it. The network could consist of pure public sector providers, or it could include some private providers on suitable terms. This certainly incentivizes the network to minimize costs and to emphasize preventive care since the total payment is fixed,” said Ahluwalia.

The plan will require other radical changes, especially in budgeting and organization, he added. “Whoever manages the network will have to divide the total receipts between levels. Remuneration to doctors may have to be linked to patients actually seen. People will not be able to go straight to higher levels of the network, but will have to go through on a referral basis,” Ahluwalia said.

He explained that as a result, the plan cannot be implemented soon, “especially because the health network is actually run by the states”. He added: “This is not something the Centre can decide; healthcare is a state subject constitutionally.”

The person cited in the first instance said the government plans to try out its new plan through small projects in each state.

Ahluwalia admitted that it would be practical to “strengthen the existing system and increase public spending for health, but to experiment with the network concept in, say, one district”. He said even the HLEG had said that a complete move to the new system it recommended would take 10-15 years.

“The HLEG had suggested a package of essential health services, which includes preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative services. The provision of these services has to be free of cost, and public sector facilities should be the main provider,” said K. Srinath Reddy, chairman of the HLEG.

“Where necessary, private providers may be contracted-in on clearly defined terms. This should be done directly by the public sector without recourse to an insurance intermediary. For universal healthcare to succeed, with respect to public health and clinical services, it is essential that the public healthcare delivery system is strengthened all the way from the sub-centre to the district hospital.” Reddy said.

Private healthcare companies stand to benefit from the move, although getting onto the network could require some of them to expand and almost all to start charging lower fees for their services, especially from network patients.

The person cited in the first instance added that the Planning Commision has divided health interventions into two categories to approach universal coverage. The first involves public health issues such as immunizations, births and HIV testing that the government will fund and deliver.

The second will be the delivery of clinical services through the managed network system that will be bankrolled by the government, which may or may not deliver the service.

Activists are suspicious of the plan.

“It looks like the government is moving from providing healthcare to only managing the services. This will increasingly shift responsibility to private providers, and there is increasing global evidence that wherever a government has attempted to divorce financing from provision and convert healthcare into something purchased by state, costs have gone up and quality has gone down,” said Amit Sengupta of the People’s Health Movement.

“ Health is a public good…” Sengupta said.

vidya.krishnan@livemint.com

This land is my Land- How are demographics changing in Assam and Bengal?


How are demographics changing in Assam and Bengal? And what does this mean for ‘indigenous’ communities? Garga Chatterjee considers the argument for territorial purity, in the Friday Times, Pakistan’s First Independent Weekly Paper


This land is my land 2 0 Bodo women cry at a relief camp at Bhot Gaon village after ethnic clashes in Assam

The Assam state of the Indian Union has seen violence flare up suddenly from July 6th. With more than 40 people reported dead and upwards of one and a half lakh displaced in a week, the Kokrajhar riots between Bodos and Muslims have again brought in focus certain issues that are not limited to Kokrajhar district, or for that matter to Assam. There will be the usual game of getting as much mileage from the dead and the displaced. There will be a lot of talk of Assam becoming another Bangladesh or even Pakistan, with careless fear-mongering thrown in for good measure. There will be still others who sell the absurd fiction that almost no illegal migrants from the Republic of Bangladesh exist in Assam. To go beyond this, let me focus on two contexts – regional and global.

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A Muslim man removes a tin sheet from his burnt house following ethnic violence
A Muslim man removes a tin sheet from his burnt house following ethnic violence
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If one looks at a special kind of map of the world, the type where different population densities are marked with different colours, something sticks out very starkly. The part of the world with one of the biggest continuous stretches of the highest range population density is Bengal – East and West. Now incompletely split along religious lines, the Bengals are veritable pressure cookers – with millions of desperately poor people looking to out-migrate to any area with slightly better opportunities. At this point, it is important to realize that when ethno-religious communities are awarded a ‘home-land’, be it a province or a country, a process of myth-making starts from that time onwards, which aims to create a make-believe idea that such a formation was always destined to be. In the minds of later generations, this solidifies into a concept as if this demarcated territory always existed, with vaguely the same borders, with vaguely the same culture and demography. This process is both creative and destructive. It is creative in the sense that it gives the ethnic-mentality a certain ‘timeless’ territorial reality that is often exclusive. The destruction often lies in the twin denial of the past of the region and also the rights of those who are neither glorious, nor numerous. With this in mind, let us come to Assam.

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To take the issue head on, the elephant in the room is the Muslim, specifically the ‘Bengali’-speaking Muslim in Assam. I saw ‘Bengali’ in quotes, as many of the ‘Bengali’ speakers in Assam are more correctly described as Sylhoti speakers. And Sylhet is an important part of the story. Today’s Assam state with its Axomia core and a few other communities is the successor to the much larger province of yore, which included the whole district of Sylhet, much of which is now in the Republic of Bangladesh. Sylhet has for a long time represented something of a frontier zone between Bengal and Assam. And most Sylhetis are Muslims. So when Sylhet was a part of the province of Assam before partition, the idea of Assam was very different. In the Assam legislature, most Muslim members were elected from Sylhet. In short, they were an important contending bloc to power. In fact, before partition, the premier of Assam for much of the time was Mohammad Sadullah, a Brahmaputra valley Muslim, who was solidly supported by the Sylheti Muslim legislators, among others. Though a Muslim Leaguer, he stayed back in Assam after partition. Unknown to many, the Assam province, like Bengal and Punjab, was also partitioned in 1947 – the only one to be partitioned on the basis of a referendum (held to determine the fate of the Muslim majority Sylhet district). The largely non-Muslim Congressites in Assam did not even campaign seriously for the referendum, for they were only too happy to see Sylhet go, so that they could have a complete grip over the legislature minus the Sylheti Muslim threat to power.

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Modern transportation now enables mass movements in short periods of time
Modern transportation now enables mass movements in short periods of time
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The Sylhetis are but reluctant Bengalis, but that is another story. What I want to impress here is that the origin of the feeling of being slowly outnumbered and besieged also has a certain past. This feeling never died out. The post-partition demographic shift of Assam has again started sliding back, with an increasing proportion of the populace now being Muslims. Whether it is differential fecundity rates or Bengali-speaking migrants from the Republic of Bangladesh, or a combination of both, the net effect is a slow growth in this siege mentality. It is important to note that there really are many illegal settlers from the Republic of Bangladesh. This has often led to an accusation leveled against the Congress party of shielding the illegal migrants by creating captive vote-banks out of their insecurity. This may be partially true, given its reluctance to fulfill the terms of the Assam Accord that was signed to end the Assam agitation of the 1980s. Among other issues, it sought to identify illegal settlers and take legal action. Given that onus is on an accuser to prove that someone is not a citizen of the Indian Union, rather than the onus being on a person to prove whether one is a citizen of the Indian Union, the illegal settler identification process has been a gigantic failure. So the issues remain, the tempers remain, so does the politicking and the volatility that could flare into violence, as it has done now.

Sylhet has for a long time represented something of a frontier zone between Bengal and Assam

Let us return to the population bomb that is Bengal. If it appears from the story till now that this is some Muslim immigration issue, I want to dispel it right away. To the east and north-east of Bengal are territories that have been inhabited by tribes for centuries. Due to the post-partition influx of refugees, some of these zones have essentially become Bengali-Hindu majority homelands. One prominent example is Tripura. This tribal majority kingdom, inhabited by many tribal groups, most notably the Riyangs, is now a Bengali-Hindu majority state. There is the same kind of tribal son-of-the-soil versus settler Bengali conflict as in Assam with a crucial difference. Here the game is over with the Bengalis being the clear victors. The future of the tribal groups possibly lies in tenacious identity-preservation in ‘Bantustans’ called autonomous councils or slow cultural assimilation into the Bengali ‘mainstream’. Sixty years can be long or short, depending on who you are.

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A similarly sad saga is unfolding in the Republic of Bangladesh where the government in its immense wisdom settled large groups of desperately poor landless Muslim Bengalis in the hill tracts of Chittagong. The Chittagong Hill Tracts, one of those ‘anomalies’ of the Radcliffe line, had a tribal-Buddhist majority all through the Pakistan period. The large group of tribes, the Chakmas being the foremost, have a distinctive culture, lifestyle and religion, quite different from the Muslim Bengali settlers. After active state-supported migration schemes, now the Chittagong Hill Tracts have a Bengali Muslim majority, except on paper. The army is stationed there largely to protect settler colonies as they expand. Clashes between the indigenous tribes and the settlers are common, with the military backing the settlers. Human rights violations of the worst kind, including killings, rapes, village-burnings and forced conversions, have happened, aided and abetted by the state machinery. The indigenous tribes of the Chittagong Hill tracts are fighting a losing game. Like Assam, here there has been an accord in response to insurgency by the tribes. The accord remains unimplemented. The state possibly believes that the indigenous tribes will take to Sheikh Mujib’s heartless advice to them in 1972 ‘to become Bengalis’.

Many of us have lost the sense of intimate belonging to a community

All of this is happening in a global context, where the questions of ‘special’ indigenous rights are being raised. Some of it takes the form of racial politics of the majority, as in certain European nations. There are the interesting cases of ‘cosmopolitan’ cities like Mumbai and Karachi – with sons-of-the-soil in and out of power respectively, but both with a strong undercurrent for rights of the local. It is easy to label these as ‘xenophobic’ or ‘prejudiced’, especially in the ‘interconnected world of the 21st century’ or whatever global consumer culture calls such dissidents now. Yes, this too is dissidence and of a primal variety that dare not tell its name in these times when the contours of what is dissident and what is sociopathy have lost their human connection, to become ‘discourse’ categories.

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, clashes between the indigenous tribes and the settlers are common, with the military backing the settlers

I am not talking of ‘nationalism’ but a variety of ‘ethnocentrism’ which has known and lived in a territorial space and now finds too many ‘outsiders’ in that space, playing by different rules, making their ‘own area’ less recognizable, all too sudden. The reaction to this loss of familiarity and challenge to position from ‘outside’ groups constitutes a strain that cannot be shouted down for its supposed political incorrectness. While many may think that it is inter-connected-ness that feeds life, and that there are no ‘pure’ indigenous people anymore, the rate of such change is crucial. When some clans of Kanauji Brahmin migrants to Bengal became Bengalis no one knows, but now they are undeniably Bengali. At the same time, modern transportation now enables mass movements in short periods of time that were unthinkable earlier. Such migrant communities change local demography all too quickly and by quick I mean decades. Often, such migrations happen in spurts and successive waves, where kinship ties are crucial. Such settlers have more in common with co-settlers than the indigenous. Often the settlers have a perilous existence, partly due to the animosity of the indigenous people. This leads to huddling with knowns rather than huddling with unknowns. Thus this new ghettoisation, both geographical and psychological, inhibits the kind of integrative processes that in the past led to the formation of new, syncretic communities.

[box8]The notion of a legally uniform country, where anyone is free to settle anywhere else, is geared towards the rights of the individual, with scant heed to the rights of a community to hold on to what it has always known to be its ‘own’. The modern nation-state forces such communities into playing by the rules of atomization, for the only entity that the state seriously recognizes is the individual. And in a flat legal terrain, the rights of the citizen can be used against the rights of a community, not even his own. Bengal, Assam, Burma – these places have hard cartographic borders and soft physical borders. The nation-state aspires to a uniformly hard border, often working against the reality of culture, ethnicity and terrain. In the specifically charged context of demographic change, it is useful to realize that no one comes to live a precarious life in an unknown place with few friends and many enemies to embark on a 200-year plan to effect demographic change. People simply live their lives.

[box9]However, from the vantage of the indigenous, this sudden settlement is a change and a concern, and it animates itself as demographic projections. In the absence of any sanctioned way of controlling the speed of change or the nature of influx, ethno-religious theories of ‘being besieged’ provide a way to gain a wider moral sanction for extra-legal intervention. Our porous subcontinental realities require an approach that devolves power and rights that would protect against such massive change. Just like the elite quarters of the cosmopolitan city, everyone has a right to preserve what is dear to them, before it becomes dear to someone else. If this sounds like a scheme to rationalize the tyranny of a communitarian xenophobia, that is possibly because many of us have lost the sense of intimate belonging to a community. Living creatively with differences assumes a certain element of consent between communities. That consent is important. Fear of total change, loss of self-identity and self-interest hinders consent. Metropolitan diktats of assimilation deny communities that dignity. Communities assimilate in their own way. Speed is a new factor that needs to be dealt with creatively. Lack of a serious move towards according communities to determine the future of their locale and futures would end communities as we know them.

INDIA- Caste Disparities in Maternal Health #mustread


 

WRITTEN BY  AUGUST 3, 2012 , NIRMUKTA.COM 

In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) through its various programs and schemes such as the “Reproductive and Child Health” program pledges to provide essential and basic maternal healthcare services. This is largely due to the dismal status of health of women and children in our country. India’s neonatal, infant, under 5 [children], and maternal mortality rates are worst than what we see for South-East Asian countries around us. Maternal healthcare which is prescribed as essential includes: three antenatal care check-ups (ANC), two tetanus toxoid injections (TT), a hundred iron folic acids tablets (IFA), delivery with the assistance of a skilled birth attendant (SBA), and contraceptives for fertility control. The services are provided at various health centres in the community as well as door-to-door by healthcare professionals such as the Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs), Anganwadi Workers and Multipurpose Health Workers.

Mothers in Patna, Bihar gather outside a hospital gate awaiting compensation for women via the Janani Suraksha Yojna.

District Hospital,Patna, Bihar. Mothers gather to receive ~Rs. 500 through a new program ‘Janani Suraksha Yojna’ which compensates women for safe delivery (SBA). (Image by esaroha. License: Creative Commons BY-SA-3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/.)

Such programs have been around for more than half a century and their design and description makes us believe that they should be successful in at least ensuring the availability of these services if not checking the mortality rates. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Over the years, innumerable studies have shown that the services are under utilized (<30%) and women continue to underrate benefits of pregnancy care. Several reasons such as poverty, illiteracy, parity, religion, dysfunctional health system, etc., have been identified. At the same time, caste has been found by many researchers as another key determinant but surprisingly this factor is rarely examined in-depth. It is argued that caste and poverty are synonymous; implying that since most lower caste women are poor and poverty is a key determinant there is no need to brood over caste as a crucial and an independent determinant. The underlying premise vended here is that once everyone becomes rich, lower caste will also become rich and all problems will be resolved.

The above-stated utopian explanation is hard to accept and merits enquiry. In the late 1990s, a study in ~30 villages of Maitha block in Kanpur Dehat, Uttar Pradesh (UP) was conducted to see if maternal healthcare services utilization varied by caste in an extremely caste conscious society. Maitha block is a typical rural community in UP where poverty, ignorance, and a complicated caste hierarchy is the way of life. In most rural communities we see presence of various healthcare professionals; above-mentioned government healthcare providers, doctors, quacks, healers, Dai, etc. In Maitha also, all these healthcare providers are present but in terms of pregnancy care the complexity of providers is worth mentioning. It is interesting to note that other than the Dai who belongs to lower caste and assists with the delivery of the baby (massages the womb, holds the baby when the baby is coming out, bathes the baby after birth and gives the baby to the mother), there is also Dhankun who belongs to the lowest caste and her role is reserved for tasks considered to be dirtiest such as disposal of the placenta, cleaning of the vagina, cleaning of the blood soaked clothes and floor, and cutting of the umbilical cord. Access to this wide variety of providers depends on one’s caste and class status. Lowest caste women such as Dhankun cannot expect a Dai or upper caste nurse or doctor to come to her house and help her deliver the baby, dispose off the placenta, clean her and her baby, etc. Lower and lowest caste women settle for what is available at home or within their caste community, which is usually the unskilled providers. This study revealed that upper caste women were 5 times more likely to be attended by skilled/trained birth attendants (ANMs, doctors, and nurses) and Dai and Dhankuncompared to the lower caste women. The practice of untouchability and caste discrimination is starkly visible.

Other than the delivery care, this study also showed that ANC, TT, and contraceptives were also disproportionately utilized by upper caste women than the lower caste women. Interestingly, IFA were equally utilized by both upper and lower caste women. Again, it is inevitable to comment on the role of untouchability while examining these mixed findings. Sadly, the nature of service delivery explains the contrasting and complex mechanics. When a woman is provided ANC, TT, and contraceptives (copper-t, tubectomy/sterilization are the most preferred contraceptive choice in India whereas condoms, oral pills, etc., are used <5%) the provider [reluctantly] establishes physical contact, whereas, IFA tablets can be dispensed without any physical contact between two individuals.

These study findings are disheartening and disturbing. Here it is very pertinent to mention that the study took into consideration other socio-demographic (poverty, literacy, parity, etc.) factors in order to confirm that caste was indeed a significant independent determinant. It was found that other than caste only maternal literacy was another critical determinant but no matter which factors were added to the statistical model the caste factor continued to influence healthcare utilization in favour of the upper caste women.

Three women in rural India holding their babies(Image via Unicef)

It was difficult to come to terms with the stark reality of caste discrimination after 50+yrs of independence in our society through this study. Fellow researchers commented that this is not merely discrimination it is genocide. I disputed, I denied, I defended but lost the argument when it became evident to me how our society is discreetly executing mechanics to slowly but steadily efface certain people because they happen to belong to a caste group we despise but can not do without. The morbid health status will push them to mortal state… it’s just a matter of time. We all are party to this genocide some consciously and proactively other passively.

Health programs in our country do not address the issue of caste discrimination for the reasons best known to the MOHFW only, I presume. Healthcare providers are trained and educated in various streams like clinical skills, data management, counselling, etc., but no training or workshops are held to sensitize them towards eradication of caste discrimination or promotion of health equity. Such training requirements will not find a place in the annual health plans of the States unless researchers tirelessly demonstrate that caste discrimination persists and influence our health indicators. The study in Maitha revealed that 4 out of 5 critical healthcare services were disproportionally utilized across caste groups yet such evidence will be considered weak and rare. Like all other Ministries MOHFW is also crowded with upper caste bureaucrats who deny caste disparities and would be reluctant to allocate budgets for such sensitization programs. It is an uphill task indeed but unless policies are put in place not much can be achieved since lower caste women do not consider themselves worthy of maternal care, they do not demand healthcare from their family members let alone from the healthcare providers. In such a scenario it is imprudent to expect a wave of change to advance from a village(s) and emancipate all.

 

Creative writers speak up against #moralpolicing in Mangalore #VAW


 

‘There is no governance in State’

Hindu, deccan herald, TOI

Vaidehi, writer, speaking at a protest meeting in Udupi on Tuesday.
The HinduVaidehi, writer, speaking at a protest meeting in Udupi on Tuesday.

Vaidehi, writer, said on Tuesday that the attack on the partying youth at a homestay in Mangalore last week had shown that there was neither government nor governance in the State. She was speaking at a public meeting organised by the Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike (KKSV) and Catholic Sthree Sanghtan (CSS) to protest against the attack, here.

Ms. Vaidehi said that it was not necessary for any vigilante group to teach Hindu culture to others. Many miscreants were forming vigilante groups for protecting Hindu culture. But they were bringing disrepute to the Hindu culture by violent and illegal acts. “It is necessary to fight such forces in a united manner,” she said.“It is not our culture to dishonour women,” she said and regretted that government is silent over the act of Hindu Jagarana Vedike activists who took law into their hands.

Stating that the Home Ministry has failed to initiate measures against the offenders, she said that there are already increasing number of female infanticide cases in the society and these incidents may compel women to take decision against giving birth to girl child.

The repeated attacks on women raised doubts about the existence of a government in the State. “What is the government doing? Where is the Home Minister? Where are the MLAs? Where are the police?” Ms. Vaidehi questioned.

Writer Sukanya Kalasa said that the activists of the vigilante group which had beaten the students at the homestay had stated that the girls were not wearing traditional outfits.

“But all the men who attacked them were wearing trousers and shirts. They should have worn the traditional ‘mundu’. They are dictating dress code to others, but not following it themselves,” she said.

DRESS CODE

It was not possible for parents to impose dress code on children. The outfits worn by people kept changing with changing times. “What happened to the students at the homestay might happen to our own children. This cannot be allowed,” Ms. Kalasa said. Sharada Bhat, writer, said that the homestay incident in Mangalore had raised doubts in the minds of people as to whether they were living in a democracy or were under the rule of Taliban.

President of district unit of Mahila Congress Veronica Carnelio said that the inaction of the State Government in punishing the perpetrators of the pub attack in Mangalore in 2009 had emboldened the activists of other vigilante groups.

Though the Regional Commissioner of Mysore Division M.V. Jayanti had submitted a report to the Government over a month back on the “rave party” which took place at the St. Mary’s Island (in February), the Government had still not made it’s findings public, Ms. Carnelio said.

KKSV president G. Rajashekhar, honorary president Gopal B. Shetty, Dalit Sangharsha Samiti leader Jayan Malpe, CSS leader Reena Roche, and Jamaat-E-Islami Hind leader Idris Hoode were present.

 

Writer Sharada Bhat alleged that law and order mechanism in the state is collapsed. It is a kind of despotic rule by the government that reminds the governance of Taliban.

Democracy is losing its roots and the incident of home stay attack is an act of brutality. She said that women should raise their voice against the havoc and demanded police to immediately arrest all the activists who were involved.

Udupi district Komu Souharda Vedike member Phaneeraj said that the incident of law and order anarchy is not a new phenomenon in the region. The activists of Hindu organisations are involved in creating chaos since 2001 in the area. It seems as though these people are assigned to take law and order into their hands. He said it is astonishing that police were the mute spectators’ when the incident was going on. They failed to take immediate actions when the girls and boys present in the birthday bash were thrashed by the activists, he said.

Phaneeraj questioned the relevance of the charges of IPC Sections filed against TV scribes by the police department.

Forwarding the memorandum to Governor through Tahsildar, Udupi district Komu Souharda Vedike President G Rajashekar strongly condemned the attack. He said as the resort was a private entity, it is not criminal offense to organise birthday parties or any other sort of parties. After all it is not Hindu Jagarana Vedike activists who should take action against the illegal activities taking place in the homestay, when police are available to look into it.

The footages that appeared in TV channels are the evidence and government should intervene and should take immediate action against the attackers and also the masterminds behind the attack, he added.

Writer Sara Abubakar wondered that when the high court has said that women can work in pubs, what is wrong in women partying in a private place. “These attackers respect neither our Constitution nor our women. No one has the right to assault a woman. Who are these goons to decide what kind of dresses should girls wear,” she fumed.Terming Saturday’s incident as a criminal conspiracy, she said when the visual media was in the know, why didn’t they inform police.

“Capturing these kind of incidents has become entertainment for TV channels,” After the pub attack, the accused were released on bail within a few days.

 

 

No, we’re not trying to censor the Internet: Sibal #Joke


New Delhi: Government has no plan to manage content on Internet but there should be a mechanism to redress complaints of aggrieved citizens, Telecom and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said.

He also asserted the country has the sovereign right to bring all media networks, including social media, under Indian laws.

“The government will not be involved in managing anything. We do not want to interfere, we do not want to manage but if there are citizens who are aggrieved they should have a redressal mechanism,” Sibal said during a round-table on Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules 2011.

The round-table saw participation from Members of Parliament, Internet companies and industry bodies like CII, FICCI and Assocham.

Kapil Sibal in this file photo. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

“All networks have to be subject to Indian laws. That is are our sovereign right” he said, adding that social media also needs to work with various stakeholders to ensure that it exercises due diligence in context of content that is hosted on it.

He said the government will organise many such round- tables with participation of all stakeholders in order to evolve a consensus on the matter.

“The good part is that the government is saying that it is not looking at censorship, not looking at controlling or managing the content. I think those statements are very important,” Nasscom President Som Mittal said.

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’ Brien said as Internet is a people’s medium so its freedom should be maintained.

He, however, added there should be a mechanism to check harmful content but states should be consulted on defining any such matter.

PTI

Koodankulam: Latest Ground Report


 

dianuke.org

Jyothi Krishnan visited Koodankulam along with Aruna Roy on 24th July 2012, to express solidarity with the local protestors. We are thankful to her for sharing her experiences and pictures here.

Jyothi Krishnan

The government’s repeated statements of commissioning the first two nuclear reactors at Koodankulam has not deterred local the protestors in any way. Local people have been on continuous struggle for a year now, which includes the ongoing relay fast as well as the intense, indefinite fast in the month of March 2012 in which thousands participated. Our visit to Koodankulam and Idinthikkarai on 24th July 2012, our meeting with people from both these villages and the large number of people who had assembled at the protest site at Idinthikkarai, was clear proof of the people’s determination to put an end to the government’s nuclear plans on their land.

Together in Struggle: Aruna Roy and Dr. S P Udayakumar

When we reached Koodankulam, members of the Struggle Committee, Ganeshan and Rajalingam met us at the main gate of the KKNP plant. We walked through the Koodankulam village which is just 1.5 kilometres away from the plant, where about 20,000 people live. A quiet, coastal village, mostly inhabited by the Nadar community who are engaged with trade of various kinds. Amongst the people we met, four were elected representatives of the Koodankulam grama panchayat (three of whom were women members). The women and men we met as we walked through the Koodankulam village, groups of women sitting together and rolling beedis, shop keepers, passers-by, all of them had one consistent story to narrate- the story of how the police harassed them for protesting against the nuclear plant. All the people we met, including the panchayat members, had been charged with police cases for being a part of the protest against the nuclear plant. The situation is no different in the Idinthikkarai village. The women and children in Idinthikkarai were as vociferous as their sisters in Koodankulam. We spoke with Udayakumar, Pushparayan and other struggle leaders. Udayakumar and Pushparayan have been on self-imposed exile at Idinthikkarai for almost five months now. If they move out of Idinthikkarai, they may be arrested by the police. They have been confined to the Parish Priest’s Bungalow where they have been staying these past few months and the front porch of the St Lourdes Church where the relay fast is staged. In anticipation of the police arresting these two leaders, women and children sleep in large numbers around the Parish Priest’s Bungalow. The youth of the village, whom we met that day, also sleep on the village outskirts. In short, people are on the alert day and night. People from the neighbouring village of Koodankulam also take the responsibility of providing security to these two leaders.

It is an irony that while India plans to increase nuclear power generation from the existing – to by 2032, basic living conditions are still a dream for a majority of the poor in India, both rural and urban. While the country has pumped in crores of money into the KKNP, a small stream let that flows through the Koodankulam village has degraded into an open sewage channel with stagnant water. It would undoubtedly be the source of many communicable diseases in the area, particularly amongst the children. Such instances of sheer neglect makes us disbelieve the claim that energy security will improve the living conditions of the poorest in our country. The Tamil Nadu government offered a 500 crore development package in March 2012, soon after it withdrew its support for the local struggle. It was evident that the underlying motive behind providing this development package was to detract the local people from protesting against the plant. It is sad that the government was prompted to assure the people of houses and roads only when they expressed their strong dissent against the plant. More so that the government believes that it can negate people’s dissent in such a manner. One of the main components of this development package is the provision of cold storages that will enable the fisherfolk of the surrounding villages to store their fish catch. If the plant is to function, the daily release of water used to cool the plant is bound to affect the fish catch. The fish will also be exposed to routine doses of radiation. That of course does not appear to be a concern of the government.

Dr. S P Udayakumar interpreting Aruna Roy’s speech in Tamil

As most of us know, the protest against KKNP heightened following the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. Since August 2011, people from the neighbouring villages have been on continuous protest, a strong, non-violent protest. The government and the KKNP have on their part shown no inclination to engage in a dialogue with the people. The only response from the side of the government has been to charge the peaceful protestors with police cases, which includes non-bailable charges of sedition. There are people who have been charged with as many as 200 cases. Aadilingam, a visually challenged sixty-year old man from Koodankulam village had been charged with 200 cases. Selvamani, Ward Member of Koodankulam panchayat says she has no clue about the number of cases that she had been charged with. Swayambhu Nadar, a resident of Koodankulam village, an old man with severe diabetics and hypertension, barely able to walk, was imprisoned for 15 days. During this period, he had to be hospitalized. Each one had a similar story to share. Residents of the neighbouring villages of Vyravikenaru, Kurunjikulam, Vijayapathi, Aavadiyalpuram, Kamaneri, Kadutala, Tillainagar, Arasarkulam, Puthenkulam and Puthenpuli, all of which are located within a 30 km radius of the plant fear the consequences of a nuclear plant located in such close proximity. A total of 1.2 million people live within a 30 km radius of the plant.

No matter what the safety claims of the KKNP be, the fears and apprehensions of such a large population of people cannot be wished away. The KKNP has taken care to locate the staff quarters 10 kilometres away from the reactors. The Koodankulam village is just a kilometre away, and even closer is the tsunami rehabilitation colony that was built after the tsunami affected the area in 2004. In the fishing village of Idinthikkarai, the thatched sheds in which the fisher folk keep their nets face the two large domes of the reactors. If the plant functions, water released from the nuclear plant will wash the shores of Idinthikkarai in no time. Does this fall within the safety definition of the government and KKNP? People were angry about the mock safety drill that the KKNP conducted last month, which was a mandatory requirement. Instead of conducting it in the villages of Koodankulam or Idinthikkarai, they conducted it at a location 10 kilometres away. While the authorities did not intimate the local people, they brought people from outside for this exercise. When the local people questioned them, they said that they were conducting a survey of the incidence of dengue fever in the area. It is a shame that our institutions make a mockery of all regulations and assume that people will believe their claims. It was evident that people have lost all trust in the government, disillusioned and dismayed at the manner in which their legitimate dissent has been negated. And each step taken by the government aggravates this distrust. What kind of governance is this? On the one hand we talk of local self governance and panchayati raj. On the other hand, the government negates any form of self governance.

While the intensity of the struggle heightened during the past one year, discontent and dissatisfaction has been brewing ever since the KKNP acquired agricultural land for the project. Land on which they grew various varieties of pulses, beans, cotton and tamarind, was taken up by the KKNP. Some of them fought court cases, but the land was acquired. They were paid a meagre amount as compensation, ranging from Rs 200-1200 per acre of land that was acquired. They were promised jobs and development, but none of this was fulfilled. Deprived of agriculture, today a large number of women in Koodankulam earn a living by rolling beedis, getting Rs 100 for every 1000 beedis that they roll. They earn Rs 1000-1500 a month.
All the villagers- the women who roll beedis, the fisher folk, small traders like Perumal who owns a shop selling electrical equipments, the grocer, the vegetable-seller, contribute 10% of their weekly earnings to the movement, in order to meet the campaign expenses. Most villagers have joined in, except for a few contractors. While a few rich households do not openly participate in the protest, they contribute money. It is these regular contributions and of course, the conviction of the people, that have kept the movement going. People have continued to work while the normal pace of their lives has been thrown apart by police arrests and intimidations. And despite this, the Prime Minister alleges that the movement has been instigated by foreign funds.

Aruna Roy Talking to women in Idinthakarai village

Women were present in large numbers at the protest site. We were moved by the conviction with which they spoke. Said an elderly woman, “We have lived more than half our lives. We may not be around for long. But what about our children and theirs?. How can they live in such unsafe conditions?’. It was when the Fukushima disaster took place that they were convinced about the potential danger that lurks less than a kilometre away. ‘Those two domes began to frighten us’, says Poomani. ‘For a year now, coming to the samara pandal has become a daily ritual. We are forgetting how we used to lead normal lives’, said another. It is a common sight to see children sleep in the samara pandal, while their mothers attend meetings. Their exemplary behaviour in the samara pandal, as though the children had completely understood what was required of them in these difficult times. Young men and women were also present. One young man broke out into tears as he spoke with sorrow and anguish, saying that all they thought of during the past one year, was of police arrests. They were living in fear of their leaders getting arrested. There are innumerable cases where passports of local people, (including young persons absent from the struggle and protests, but inhabitants of the area) have been impounded and where fresh applications for passports have been turned down. The youth feel that they have nothing to look forward to if this plant is commissioned.

Truly, this is one of the most remarkable struggles that India has seen. If the government is serious about governance, then they should be courageous enough to place all information, facts and figures about the Koodankulam nuclear plant before the local people. Let there be an open debate on the issue. Let it not think that it can silence people’s demands for justice. What the people fear most, is the fatal consequences of exposure to radiation. Can the government assure them of a safe future?

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