Tata Steel – spending gallons of water to keep golf course green, while 76 slums without drinking water


 

JVM protests at JAMSHEDPUR Jusco office

SATURDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER 2012 , Jamsehdpur
PNS

More than 3,000 residents of slum areas and JVM activists led by Jamshedpur MP Ajoy Kumar staged massive demonstration at Jusco office for nearly three hours on Friday over failure of the company in providing power and water in 76 urban slums near Tata Steel command areas.

Leading the demonstration Ajoy Kumar said that they were forced to take such an agitation for the benefit of nearly seven lakhs urban slum-dwellers after Tata Steel and Jusco officials failed to heed to their demands.

“Though we had several meetings with officials of Tata Steel and Jusco over the issues of providing power and drinking water to the urban slum dwellers but nothing has been done so far. This has been laid down in the clause of the lease agreement between Tata Steel and State Government that they would have to provide civic amenities to slums near company township. But unfortunately, nothing happened forcing us to take up agitation,” said the MP.

The MP said that the Jusco was requested to atleast provide community taps in such urban slums and the cost of which would be borne by MP fund.

The MP accompanied by JVM central secretary Abhay Singh and other leaders threatened that they would chalk out strategy if Tata Steel does not take up any efforts in providing civic amenities in the slums within 10 days.

“We might even lock up Jusco gate if they fail to address the issue. They should provide basic amenities to urban slums in accordance with the lease agreement clause,” he noted. Jusco general manager town services Dhananjay Mishra refused to comment on the issue.

The JVM leader said, that on the one hand, the company is spending thousands of gallons of water for keeping the golf course green, but it is doing nothing to meet the need of drinking water to the slums surrounding it.

Meanwhile, the JVM functionaries declared that they would carry out similar protest every weekend unless the basic civic facilities are not extended to all the slums surrounding the company

India -Paying wife for domestic work ? A salary plan that changes nothing


 

MAYA JOHN, The Hindu

Instead of asking a man to pay his wife for her domestic work, the state must create jobs for women outside the home in order to truly empower them

Recently during a press conference called by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Minister of State (Independent Charge), Krishna Tirath, proposed the formulation of a bill through which a certain percentage of a husband’s salary would be compulsorily transferred to his wife’s bank account to compensate her for all the domestic work she performs for the family. According to the Minister, this percentage of husbands’ salaries would not be taxed and would provide women the much needed source of income to run the household better, and more importantly, to spend on her own, personal consumption. In a later clarification, the Minister identified this payment as an “honorarium” and not a salary which is to be paid to wives for all the services they otherwise render for free.

This proposition has not gone down well, especially with women of higher income brackets who see such proposed action as unnecessary intervention in the realm of the private, i.e. the realm of familial relations. Many such women also believe that this government intervention amounts to reducing wives into “glorified maids” who need to be paid every time they walk into the kitchen, wash the baby, sweep the house, etc. Sadly, what is sidelined amid all the clamour and jokes about commercialisation of the mia-biwi relationship is the necessity of recognising the back-breaking work performed by women to sustain their families. Of course, what we also lose sight of is the sheer hollowness of such proposed legislation. For example, such legislation, if implemented, would not provide women a source of income which they earn independently of their husbands. Instead, women would continue to depend on their husband’s earnings and employment status, and thus, remain dependent on the family structure for their individual financial sustenance.Indeed, the problem with the proposed legislation is not that it is unnecessary and demeaning, but that it is informed by a poor understanding of economics surrounding household work and women’s labour in general. Clearly, the question then is whether the Indian state is even serious about uplifting the position of the woman within the home and in recognising her contribution to the national economy.

Historical issue

Assigning an economic value to women’s domestic labour is a long-standing debate. The international women’s movement has continuously debated the question and reached many important conclusions. It is now time for the larger society to engage with the movement’s propositions seriously. First, as a society we must learn to accept that there is sheer drudgery involved in day-to-day household work. The fact that such work is performed by a woman for her husband and other family members in the name of “care” and “nurturing” cannot be used to conceal that this is a thankless job which the majority of women feel burdened by. Just because some women do not have to enter the kitchen every day since their maid does the needful, we cannot write-off the helplessness with which the average woman walks towards her kitchen hearth, every day without fail. Here, there is no retirement age, no holiday, and definitely, no concept of overtime.

Second, we must realise that the process whereby women’s domestic labour has been rendered uneconomic activity, is a historical one. It was with the emergence of industrial society and the resulting separation between the home and the workplace that women’s housework lost value whereas men’s labouroutside the home fetched wages. Third, as a society we must accept that while many are uncomfortable with providing an economic value to women’s domestic labour, chores such as washing, cleaning, cooking, child rearing, etc., are already assigned such a value by the market when need be. After all, many middle-class homes buy such services through the hiring of maids, paying for playschool education, crèche facilities, etc. Fourth, women’s domestic labour must be accounted for in the economy precisely because it is one of the contributing forces in the reproduction of labour power expended by this country’s working masses. In fact, because a woman’s domestic labour is devalued by the economy, a man’s wage can be kept low. For example, if all families were to pay every day for services like washing, cooking, cleaning, etc., because women of the household did not perform such duties, the breadwinners of each family would need to be paid higher wages so that they can afford to buy such services off the market.

The solution

This being the reality surrounding women’s unpaid, domestic labour, where does the actual solution lie? Does it lie in redistributing limited family incomes between husband and wife, or, in redistributing the national income so as to enhance individual family incomes, and hence, the woman’s share within the improved family consumption? Importantly, while pressing for valuation of women’s domestic labour, the progressive women’s movement has always argued that if the value of unpaid housework is paid but does not add to or increase the total household income, such remuneration amounts to nothing.Hence, one of the most important conclusions reached on this question of unpaid domestic labour is that the state should pay for it, especially by providing women gainful employment, special funding, subsidised home appliances, free health care, etc. In this way, women would earn through an independent source of income and be freed of an overt dependence on the family structure for their consumption. There would also be a gradual undermining of the sexual division of labour which has resulted in women being tied to their homes and unable to do little else.

Of course, what has not won much attention so far is the fact that the proposed legislation posits wages for housework rather than employment for women as a long-term solution. Indeed, questions have been raised whether the proposed legislation is implementable, but not whether it does the needful. For example, will the government be able to put in place the required administrative machinery? How exactly is the value of women’s household work to be calculated, or simply put, how many bais will equal a wife? Will the number of family members she rears determine whether she is entitled to greater compensation? And what of widowed women who do not have a husband’s salary to draw on?

Absolves the state

However, implementation is far from the real problem with such legislation. Mechanisms can always be put in place if administrative sincerity prevails. The real problem with the Ministry’s endeavour is the rationale by which it is driven. The proposed legislation should be criticised because it absolves the Indian state of the responsibility it owes to women who contribute daily in sustaining the national economy. Indeed, if the proposed legislation is formulated and implemented, it will only result in undervaluing and underpaying women’s domestic labour.

To elucidate, if we actually sit down to calculate the cost of all the different household chores a wife does for free, the figure would easily touch amounts that in no way can be compensated by a small percentage of the husband’s wages. Furthermore, with varied family incomes, such legislation would result in women being remunerated differently for the same kind and same amount of domestic work. In the case of the average working class or lower-middle class family where the total family income is anywhere between Rs.2,000 to Rs.10,000 per month, such legislation would assign women a pittance as an economic value for their back-breaking housework. This pittance will not empower the woman as the total family income remains the same. Without a growth in the actual family income, neither will such families be able to change their consumption pattern, nor will the nature of household work change so as to enable women to do other things instead of just labouring at home.

Clearly then, the issue at stake is how to minimise housework for women so that they too can step out of the home to earn, to enhance family incomes and to have greater say in family as well as public matters. Greater employment generation for women by the state, and widespread introduction of facilities like crèches at all workplaces, subsidised home appliances, unhindered promotion post child birth/maternity leave, etc. are the need of the hour. While direct employment helps to create women who are financially independent, the provision of the latter helps women to remain in the labour market, despite starting a family. If the average woman is to be freed of the yoke of household drudgery then it is evidently the Indian state which has to pay by creating concrete conditions for her greater economic participation outside the home.

(Maya John is an activist and researcher based in Delhi University.)

 

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE- CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya Arrested while Entering Koodankulam


 

Press Release

 

CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya

Arrested while Entering Koodankulam

 

New Delhi, 1 October 2012

 

CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya along with other CPI(ML) leaders was arrested today at Radhapuram, a few kilometers away from Idinthakarai, the site of the protest against the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant. CPI(ML) Politburo member S Kumaraswamy and Tamil Nadu State Secretary Balasundaram and other CPI(ML) leaders of Tamil Nadu were also arrested along with him.

At Tirunelveli town this morning, local CPI(ML) leaders were detained by police and prevented from proceeding to Idinthakarai. Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya and his team had proceeded directly to Indinthakarai from Tuticorin airport, but were stopped by a huge posse of police, at a short distance from Idinthakarai.

A Convention organised by the All India Left Coordination (AILC) at Mavalankar Hall, New Delhi yesterday had given a call for a fortnight-long Solidarity Campaign in support of the anti-nuke agitation at Koodankulam, from October 1-15. The CPI(ML) General Secretary’s visit to Koodankulam on October 1 was to kick off the solidarity fortnight. A videotaped message of Koodankulam struggle leader SP Udayakumar was also screened at the AILC Convention yesterday.

After his arrest, Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya said, “Why are citizens being prevented from meeting and interacting with the protesting people of Koodankulam? Such arrests expose the utterly draconian conduct of the Central Government and TN State Government, which are attempting to choke off the people’s protests by sheer force.” Commenting on the Koodankulam struggle, he said, “The names of places like Chernobyl and Fukushima became well-known after terrible nuclear disasters occurred there. But Koodankulam has become known the world over, for the brave agitation to prevent a disaster.”

 

Prabhat Kumar,

For CPI(ML) Central Committee

 

Press Release-DNA profiling Bill does not address the rights of suspects and prisoners


 

The use of DNA samples for forensics purposes has been increasing as law enforcement in India are relying on DNA samples as a source of evidence to solve crimes. India currently does not have a legislation specifically regulating the collection, use, and storage of DNA samples for forensics purposes.

To address this gap, in 2007 a draft DNA Profiling Bill was created by the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics. In February 2012 a new draft of the bill from the department of biotechnology was been leaked. The draft Bill envisions creating state level DNA databases that will feed into a national level DNA database for the purposes of solving crime.

On September 27th the Centre for Internet and Society hosted a public talk at the Indian International Centre focused on the draft DNA Profiling Bill. Presenting at the meeting were international experts Dr. Helen Wallace director of GeneWatch UK and Jeremy Gruber president and executive director of the Council for Responsible Genetics US, and Dr. Anupuma Raina senior scientist at AIIMs.

Opening the meeting was a presentation by Dr. Anupama that focused on how DNA analysis has been used in various cases in India. Dr. Anupama emphasized the important role that DNA plays and the usefulness of the technology, but also cautioned that the police are still perfecting the use of DNA samples for forensic purposes. She promoted the passing of the DNA profiling bill with the correct safeguards. Dr. Anupama also provided insight into the current procedure for DNA analysis in India noting that consent is taken from individuals before taking DNA samples, and that ethical clearance is taken before DNA samples are taken and used for research purposes. She also noted that labs are working on improving quality insurance and emphasized the importance of chain of custody in ensuring that DNA samples are not contaminated.

Following Dr. Anupama, Jeremy Gruber spoke about the US experience with DNA databases and explained how DNA testing was initially introduced as a tool for establishing additional evidence for convicting violent felony offenders or freeing innocent individuals on a case to case basis. He explained how the technology of DNA sampling and its use in forensic cases can be both a useful tool when used justly and democratically, or can be harmful when used unjustly and undemocratically.

He noted that there has been an increase in the routine use and retention of DNA by law enforcement today for purposes such as using DNA databases for familial searching purposes, and using DNA analysis to create profiles of individuals. Concerns that Jeremy Gruber raised with respect to the draft DNA Profiling Bill included the assumption in the preamble of the bill that DNA is an infallible piece of evidence, pointing out that when DNA is used for forensic purposes it is vulnerable to inaccuracies such as false matches, sample contamination, and analysis error.

He also made the point that the definitions found in the bill are overly broad and work to expand the scope by defining a wide range of crimes for which individuals will be added to the DNA database for. These broad definitions essentially turn the database into an all crimes database. Other concerns with the bill included that DNA laboratories are not clearly independent of the police, and that the bill allows for the additional collection of DNA from missing persons and victims.

In her presentation, Dr. Helen Wallace described the UK experience, where the first DNA database was established in 1995. In 2000 a major expansion of the UK DNA database took place, but was controversial for a number of reasons. In 2008 the European Court of Justice ruled that the regime of retaining DNA samples in the UK was unlawful and a breach of privacy. Now the UK law requires that only a barcode with identifying information be stored. Dr. Wallace also emphasized the fact that the number of convictions resulting from DNA detections has not increased as the UK DNA database has expanded, because the number of solved crimes is driven by the number of crime scene samples.

Thus, samples on a database are only useful if they relate directly to the crime scene and a possible criminal. Therefore the more profiles that are added to the database that are related to petty crimes, civil cases, victims, volunteers etc. the less efficient and accurate the database becomes. Dr. Wallace recommended that a DNA database contain only careful crime scene evidence in order to ensure samples are matched accurately. Concerns with the DNA profiling Bill emphasized by Dr. Wallace included that consent is not provided for in the bill, and court orders are not required. Furthermore, the bill does contain a removal process, and it is unclear what DNA profiling system will be used.

Responding to the presentations made by the speakers, members of the audience raised concerns over the use of DNA sampling in India for reasons beyond forensic purposes, such as requiring surrogate mothers and the children to undergo DNA tests. Other members of the audience pointed out that the bill does not address the rights of suspects and prisoners. Additionally the question of the evidentiary weight of DNA samples in court was raised, along with the concern that the broad collection of DNA samples from individuals is just another example of the growing trend by the Indian government to collect and store information about its citizens.

for more informationcontact

Elonnai Hickok

Policy Associate
Centre for Internet and Society
T: +91 80 40926283 | W: http://cis-india.org

Condemn Strongly the Brutal Assault of Masarat Alam and Mushtaq ul Islam in the Jail in Udhampur!


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025      Contact: thearrested1@gmail.com

Date: 01/10/2012

The Conditions of Prisons in the region of Jammu are Abysmal and Inhuman especially for Kashmiri Muslim Prisoners!

 

The CRPP strongly condemns the murderous assault on Masarat Alam and Mushtaq ul Islam in the prison in Udhampur. Such acts of brutality by jail authorities on political prisoners who have been put behind bars for their uncompromising political views is an age old strategy that was adopted by the British colonialists on the freedom fighters of the Indian subcontinent. Today the same strategy is being implemented much more brutally by India on Kashmiri Muslims who have been put behind bars for their political aspirations of Azadi! These kinds of brutalities and specific targeting of the political prisoners should be condemned by every freedom loving citizen of the subcontinent.

It should be noted that India is also a signatory of the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights which recognises the rights and status of the political prisoner. But when it comes to dealing with political prisoners India has a track record of being the worst lawless state. The living experiences of Kashmiri Muslims who have been specifically targeted through various draconian laws and lodged in different prisons in the subcontinent let alone undisclosed torture centres in Jammu & Kashmir bear testimony to these acts of impunity of the Indian state.

Today in the Indian subcontinent and especially in Jammu & Kashmir, prisons have become torture centres where the undertrials detained under the notorious PSA, AFSPA, or UAPA have become easy targets of brutalisation. The jails in the region of Jammu have attained the notoriety of being torture centres as is termed by many of the relatives of the political prisoners of the region. The assault on Masarat Alam and Mushtaq is a grim reminder of the continuing policy of brutalisation of the prisoners in the jails of Jammu. It should be noted that the Srinagar Bar Association and the various people’s leaders of Jammu & Kashmir have time again pointed out this brutal treatment of the prisoners in the jails of Jammu. The prison conditions in the jails of Jammu are the worst.

The prisoners are paraded naked, beaten to pulp, made to do things which are against their religious beliefs. Further they are provided with insufficient food and are made to eat in the lawns in the scorching sun at a time in Jammu when the temperatures were around 45 degrees. These reports were abuzz in the Srinagar press since July 2012. It should be noted that the Indian state is violating its own law when it is shifting a political prisoner from the prison nearer to his/her residence. Most of the political prisoners in the jails of Jammu are from the Kashmir valley and have been shifted to the region under the pretext of overcrowding of the prisons in the latter. Notwithstanding the fact that it violates the Jail Manual, an undertrial or detainee is made to cut grass, clean toilets and utensils. There have been orders from the courts for various committees appointed since 1994 to visit the prisons and take stock of the situation by talking to the inmates. But seldom are there any such visits or reports. There is hardly any media attention on such acts of impunity of the Indian state in Jammu & Kashmir except the regular negative profiling of Kashmiri Muslims. Only the relentless vigilant protests of the people of Jammu & Kashmir have ensured that the media and the powers that be forced to take up the issue.

CRPP would call upon all democratic and freedom loving sections in the subcontinent to unitedly condemn and expose this total disregard of the Indian state for the genuine democratic aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir and thereby the permanent reign of the terror of impunity enforced on their everyday life. We unequivocally demand that the Indian government release unconditionally all such people incarcerated for their political beliefs in the valley as well as other jails in the Jammu region immediately. We also demand that such people be granted the status of political prisoner pending their release and put an end to the reign of terror through the draconian instruments of PSA, UAPA and AFSPA which have made the state impervious to all kinds of civility, propriety and respect for the life of the common people in Jammu & Kashmir. All such officials who indulge in and abet the torture and mistreatment of the political prisoners in Jammu & Kashmir should be immediately brought to book!

In Solidarity,

SAR Geelani

Working President

Amit Bhattacharyya

Secretary General

Rona Wilson

Secretary, Public Relations

Who is in Whose Land?- Thackeray Family’s Bihar Connection


CARTOON COURTESY-
Ram Puniyani
India is facing lot of communal-ethnic strife where the place of origin and religion of people is the marker due to which they are attacked. Many a retrograde political ideologies are based on the ‘first comer’ assertions. The deeper problems related to social resources, economic deprivations and socio-political inequalities are being presented as problems related region or religion of people. In Mumbai, one can see this in its extreme form, in the politics of Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Both these outfits have a regional-religious chauvinist agenda. They switch from region to religion at the drop of the hat. They also keep combining the two in the aggressive street politics.
The rising star of this sectarian politics, Raj Thackeray, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, threatening ‘others’ with his usual ‘methods’ of ‘direct action’. Why the state lets the ‘direct action’ of these sectarian outfits go unpunished, is another side of the coin of the story. Recently (Sept 2012) when the Bihar official wrote to Maharashtra police authority that Maharashtra police should have informed the Bihar police before arresting the two criminals who had broken Amar Jawan Jyoti in August 11, 2012 violence, Raj Thackeray retaliated by saying that MNS will declare all the Biharis as infiltrators. As such what Bihar police was asking was a mere routine followed by police of one state while acting in the other state. Thackeray, in order to bake his political bread made it an issue.
While he was talking in this language, an interesting point came up. Congress General Secretary Mr. Digvijaya Singh dug out some history from the writings of grandfather of Raj Thackeray and father of Bal Thackeray, Mr. Prabodhankar Thackeray (?Thakre). Incidentally the spelling Thakre was changed to Thackeray not too far back in History. Singh quoted Thakre senior’s collected works, Prabodhankar Thackeray Samagra Vangmay: Khand (Volume) 5, published by the Maharashtra Rajya Sahitya Ani Sanskritik Mandal when BJP-Shiv Sena was ruling the state. This quote is about the geographical background of the community from which Thackeray’s come, Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP). Singh quoted page no. 45 of the volume 5, which says that Magadha’s corrupt Kshatriya king Mahapadmanand was persecuting his subjects by levying various taxes on them. Many a families from CKP community left Magadha to escape the persecution and greed of Kshtriya ruler and left for Nepal, Kashmir and Bhopal.
The same book mentions that out of those who left Magadh (now Bihar), around 80 families settled in Taal Bhopal and Prabodhankar’s family was one amongst them. As per Singh, Prabodhankar mentions that the Muslim ruler of Bhopal was very kind and was great help to the Thackeray family. This Thackeray family later migrated to Mumbai.  Uddhav Thackeray, cousin of Raj and son of Bal Thackeray, said his grandfather is generally talking about the CKP and not his family in particular. Still Uddhav did not give the alternate version of their families past. Interestingly Parabodhankar’s account breaks another myth. Today his descendents and the practitioners of sectarian politics propagate that the medieval period was a dark period of India as there were many Muslim kings and Nawabs, who were doing atrocities on Hindus. Their version also glorifies Hindu Kings in general. Here in Prabodhankar’s account, a Khstriya (Hindu, warrior caste) king is tyrannical forcing the subjects to leave his kingdom while the Muslim Nawab is helpful for Thackeray family. Stereotyping the kings as per their religion, communal historiography has played a very negative role in the history of our society. In Pakistan and India both, even today such perceptions are part of popular understanding. There is a need to learn from what Thackeray senior writes in his book.
How do we judge citizenship today? Do we have a right to go from one state to another or not? Theoretically it will be accepted by all that it is legally correct. Still in various places and more particularly in Mumbai, Shiv Sena and its clone MNS have been creating havoc on this issue. Their sectarianism is not restricted only to region, but also to religion. In both matters their basic understanding is also totally fabricated and far from truth. As migrants have been taking place in to Metros, big cities, depending on survival opportunities. In pre independence times major migration took place amongst other places to Kolkata in particular. In Mumbai in the decade of 1960s to 1980s, when industrial production was booming here major migrations took place. And the major migrations to Mumbai did not take place from outside Maharashtra. They were from mainly Konkan region of Maharashtra. Even today the migration is taking place, the major migration is to Delhi and Punjab, Mumbai is third on the list. The latest Tata Institute of Social Sciences report tells us that 70% of immigrants to Mumbai are from within Maharashtra itself. In these migrations employment is the reason only for 15% of those coming here to Mumbai. The major reasons for coming to Mumbai are related to such migration being a post marriage relocation and education.
Currently Thackeray family, the original inhabitants from Bihar in the past, are pursuing their spewing of venom against Biharis in particular. Their targets have been changing. The Shiv Sena was propped up by the Mumbai industrialists to break the strength of workers unions. Shiv Sena was then subtly helped by the ruling Congress. Shiv Sena initially attacked the South Indians, with the slogan ‘Uthao Lungi Bajao Pungi’ (Beat up the lungiwallahs, South Indians). Then their targets shifted to Gujarati’s for time being. In between Shiv Sena also postitoned itself on the bandwagon of Hindutva politics of RSS, and took the lead in 92-93 Mumbai violence with slogans like ‘Muslaman ka Do hi Stan: Pakistan ya Kabristan’ (Muslims can have only two abodes: Pakistan or graveyard). They demonized the Muslims, all this has come out in the Srikrishna report, which is yet to be implemented in letter and spirit.
Lately, North Indians are the major targets of the politics of regionalism. This Shiv Sena-MNS politics is totally against the norms of our Constitution. The aggressive politicians also need to present the reality in an honest manner. If 70% of immigrant to Mumbai are from Maharashtra are Marathi Manoos,(Marathi speaking people) what do you do with them? There are problems. But the problems are not with Biharis or Nepalis coming here to explore survival options. The whole concept of development and the state polices need to be organized in a way where some areas don’t get burdened by the pressure of population. The victims of politics based on region and religion are the poorer lot, while in later case the poor rich divide has been abolished during last two decades.
At another level, religion, nation state, and regions are concepts which should help the humanity grow. Spencer Wells has shown that genetic lineage of the human race goes to Africa! Nation state is the concepts, which came to overcome the tyranny of the kingdoms. Nation states have a contribution for human society, only in so far as they bring in democratization of society and do away with feudal values. Regions in a nation state are meant to provide mechanisms for regional growth and barring that they should be fluid and inclusive in all sense of the word. The ilk of Thackeray needs to learn the moral of story from their lineage. It will do us good if they can also learn a bit from Tagore’s universalism and Spencer Wells theories about migrations of human race.

‘EU-India Free Trade Negotiations Threatening Access to Medicines’


World Trade Organization

World Trade Organization (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By  Kajal Bhardwaj and Hans Löfgren

Indian firms are major global producers of relatively affordable generic medicines. Access to such drugs make the difference between life and death for billions of people in the Global South.

The Economist noted recently that ‘America should not use trade deals to swaddle drug makers in excessive patent protections’. Nor should the European Union (EU) impose obstacles to the supply of generic drugs by Indian firms beyond those already mandated by the World Trade Organization’s Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

Free trade negotiations between the EU (reported to be close to completion) constitute a clear threat to the role of India as the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’. From Independence in 1947 until the1970s, India relied on imports of highly priced medicines as a result of the patent regime inherited from the British.

In 1970the Indian Parliament changed the patent regime and till 2005 product patents were not issued on medicines in India. The Indian government in this period also put in place industrial policy measures in support of local industry. The result was a strong and vibrant generic industry producing safe, effective and affordable generic medicines.

The case of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) provides the most dramatic illustration of the global impact of Indian drug firms. In 2001 an Indian company, Cipla, introduced first line triple combination AIDS medicines at $350 per person per year, a stunning offer at the time.

The then GlaxoSmithKline CEO Jean-Pierre Garnier described Cipla as price-undercutting ‘pirates’. Other Indian firms followed Cipla’s model and today 80 per cent of the 8 million people living with HIV who are on treatment in developing countries are on Indian made generics.

As a result of competition from and between Indian generic producers, the price for first line AIDS medicines has come down from as much as US$15,000 in 2000 to less than US$120 per person per year for the current preferred first line triple combination in2012.

The TRIPS Agreement mandates minimum intellectual property rights (IPRs), including 20-year patent protection for products and processes in ‘all fields of technology’ including medicines.

With associated policy practices, rules, and trade agreements, TRIPS sustains a global regime of private monopoly rights which is widely recognized as impeding access to essential medicines in the Global south.

While TRIPS is not the only obstacle to public health, product patents complicate and delay the production and market entry of lower cost generic drugs.

In the sphere of global politics, a coalition of public health advocates, non-governmental organizations and governments, such those of India, Thailand, South Africa and Brazil, has sought to limit the impact of IPRs on access to medicines. The Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health- the Doha Agreement – is the major achievement of this campaign.

Adopted at the fourth WTO ministerial conference in Doha in 2001, the Declaration confirmed and extended the right of WTO members to utilize a range of ‘flexibilities’ available under TRIPS, which make possible the circumvention of patent rights to meet pressing population health needs. It is fai rto say that several policies that challenge the norms, rules and basic political economy of the global IPR regime have attained legitimacy as a result of the widespread acceptance of human rights and public goods discourses to the field of health.

Many of these policies and ‘flexibilities’ were included in India’s new TRIPS-compliant patent regime by the Indian Parliament in 2005.

Health advocates, patient groups and the Indian government have effectively used these safeguards to ensure that only truly innovative medicines receive patents in India and where patented medicines are exorbitantly priced, generic production can be sanctioned to ensure access and affordability.

This was evidenced by India’s first compulsory license issued in March this year on Bayer’s cancer medicine sorefanib tosylate that Bayer was importing and selling in India for $5000 per person per month. The generic equivalents cost between $120and $160.

But in the same period of limited public health gains the governments of the North have pursued, with increasing vigour, bilateral and regional free trade agreements(FTAs). Many of these include so-called TRIPS-plus provisions (not required under TRIPS) which have the effect of entrenching and extending IPR protection and thus delaying the market entry of cheaper generic drugs.

Till recently, the European Union (EU) did not feature among the aggressive developed nations pursuing TRIPS-plus measures. But FTA negotiations with India, which started in 2007, raise serious concerns. Leaked negotiating texts of the IP and Investment Chapters show that the European Commission (EC), in a stark departure from its traditional model of trade negotiations, has demanded ambitious TRIPS-plus measures. After 11 rounds of negotiations, talks are now being held in smaller groups instead of full rounds of negotiation.

Both sides are aiming to conclude the deal by the end of this year or in early 2013.

There are three distinct areas of concern: Intellectual Property provisions, the Investment provisions and the Regulatory Standards provisions. The leaked chapters show that the EC has demanded longer patent terms, data exclusivity and TRIPS plus IP enforcement measures from the Indian government.

A key area is the EC push for aggressive IP enforcement, widely considered the latest front in the IP battle between the North and the South. Best reflected in the secretly negotiated ACTA which was recently rejected by the European Parliament, IP enforcement entails measures that significantly alter how IP holders like multinational pharmaceutical companies can use public resources, public money and public authorities to enforce their private rights.

Referred to as anti-counterfeiting measures, the rhetoric around IP enforcement uses the different meanings of counterfeit (i.e. fake in GOVERNMENT GAZETTE OCTOBER 2012 97EU – India Trade Relationseveryday parlance and trademark violation under the TRIPS Agreement) to argue that such measures are required to ensure that patients have access to safe and good quality medicines. However, the safety and quality of medicines requires investment in drug regulatory frameworks, not IP enforcement.

In fact, there is increasing evidence that aggressive IP enforcement hampers access to medicines. The clearest impact of this has been seen in 2008 and 2009 when generic medicines on their way from India to Africa and Latin America were seized at European ports.

Several IP enforcement provisions that were in the now rejected ACTA appear to still feature in the EU-India FTA negotiations. These provisions empower patent holding companies to seek measures against generics producers that are not limited to damages. The freezing of bank accounts, the seizure of properties and documents and several other harsh penalties are proposed as measures to strengthen the arsenal of patent holders.

Other provisions would drag the whole supply and distribution chain into potential litigation, creating a strong disincentive for chemists to stock generic medicines, truckers to transport them or even those building machines for generic companies to continue working with the generic industry and could pose a serious threat to the work of humanitarian organisations.

In 2011, the EC received a mandate from the European Council to include an ‘investment ‘chapter in EU-India FTA negotiations. The investment chapter would contain provisions designed to protect the interests of European investors in India and would be similar to provisions contained in bilateral investment treaties (BITs).

These provisions would allow multinational companies to sue the Indian government in secret international arbitration over laws and policies that benefit health or the environment including for the protection of their intellectual property. For instance, Australia’s tobacco control and plain packaging laws are being challenged under such provisions on the grounds that they violate the trademarks of big tobacco companies.

Resolutions passed by the European Parliament in April and May 2011 directed the EC to ensure that these investment provisions do not hamper generic production or the use of TRIPS flexibilities or other health policies.

The inclusion of regulatory standards in FTAs seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon. In February 2011, news reports suggested that the EC was demanding that India harmonize its drug regulatory standards with the standards set by the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH).

Developing countries (also known as then on-ICH countries) have argued against the adoption of ICH standards as they are too burdensome and expensive not only for developing country regulators but also for companies in these countries.

According to critics of the ICH standards, public health should be the first concern in non-ICH countries and higher technical standards must be justified by public health needs.

According to the EC it is no longer demanding that the Indian government agree to longer patent terms or data exclusivity. But it appears to be still pursuing demands for TRIPS-plus IP enforcement, investment measures and regulatory harmonization. In April 2011, the Indian Prime Minister’s Office issued a press release stating that nothing in the EU-India FTA would go beyond TRIPS or India’s domestic law.

Sources indicate that the EC has now shifted negotiation tactics to argue that several of their demands (like data exclusivity) are within the TRIPS framework or are already present in Indian law (like TRIPS-plus IP enforcement).

In February 2012, the 11th EU-India Summit was held in Delhi.
According to news reports, both India and the EC stuck to their stands on various contentious issues in the FTA.

As the negotiation texts continue to be secret, it is difficult to ascertain the actual shift in the position of the EC. Even if the EC drops its demand for EU-style data exclusivity, it may still argue that data exclusivity is required by the TRIPS Agreement.

The European Parliament has repeatedly issued resolutions directing the European Commission to ensure that access to medicines not be affected by the FTA. In May 2011, the European Parliament specifically asked the EC not to demand data exclusivity of the Indian government and recognized the importance of the use of TRIPS flexibilities by India.

Several of the health safeguards included in the Indian patent regime are at risk of being overturned or undermined by TRIPS-plus provisions demanded in the negotiation for a FTA with the EU. If accepted, these demands would have an impact not only in India but on patients across the developing world.

The EU’s FTA negotiations have drawn concern from UN agencies and international organisations such as UNITAID, the Global Fund on AIDS, TB and Malaria, Oxfam, MSF and many others. As recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, ‘developed countries should not encourage developing countries and LDCs to enter into TRIPS-plus FTAs and should be mindful of actions which may infringe upon the right to health’. Several other developing countries (such as Thailand) are engaged in FTA negotiations with the EU and reports indicate that the EC is demanding TRIPS-plus measures of these countries as well.

If so, the global protests sparked by India’s FTA negotiations will only intensify and the already weakened position of European countries as the promoters and defenders of human rights is likely to be further eroded.
__________________
Kajal Bhardwaj is a lawyer working on issues of HIV, health and human
rights in New Delhi.

Hans Löfgren is Associate Professor of Politics and Policy Studies, Deakin University ,Melbourne, Australia. He is the editor of The Politics of the Pharmaceutical Industry and Access to Medicines: World Pharmacy and India (Social Science Press, New Delhi, forthcoming 2013)

EU-India Free Trade negotiations in Government Gazette, October 2012  http://governmentgazette.eu/?page_id=13

Every third senior citizen in India abused, mainly by son #elderlyday #Indiashame


 

 India no country for Elderly

Kounteya Sinha, TNN Sep 29, 2012, 04.45AM IST
(More than half of the abused…)

NEW DELHI: Indian sons, and their wives, aren’t treating their aged parents well. A study on abuse of India’s elderly, conducted across 20 cities and involving over 5,500 older people, has found that almost 1 in 3 (32%) have faced abuse. The son has been found to be the primary abuser in 56% of cases, followed by the daughter-in-law in 23% cases.

The study, to be presented to President Pranab Mukherjee on October 1, celebrated globally as the International Day of Older Persons, said more than 50% of those abused had faced it for more than five years. More than half (55%) of those who were abused did not report it to anyone. Around 80% of them did not report the matter to uphold family honour.

Delhi actually witnessed an exponential increase in abuse of the elderly. In 2011, Delhi’s abuse of the elderly rate stood at 12%. In comparison, 29.82% elderly people in Delhi said they faced abuse in 2012.

The study, conducted by Help Age India, found that abuse was highest in Madhya Pradesh (77.12%) while people in Rajasthan (1.67%) were most well behaved with the elderly in their family. Nearly 30% or 1 in 3 elderly persons reported abuse in Maharashtra while the abuse rate was just above 1 in 4 (27.56%) in Tamil Nadu. It was 60% in Assam, 52% in UP, 43% in Gujarat, 42.86% in Andhra Pradesh and 40.93% in West Bengal.

The study also brought out some shameful figures for Delhi. While nearly 30% of Delhi’s senior citizens had faced abuse, the primary perpetrator of abuse was the son in 60% cases, followed by the daughter-in-law in 24% cases. In Delhi, 76% of those abused did not report it, while of those who felt abused, 69% had felt disrespected with 35% facing it daily.

Around 86% of elderly felt that the most effective measure to control elder abuse was through sensitizing children and strengthening inter-generation bonding and 14% felt increased economic Independence was the solution.

The study said that in India, the family has been the mainstay of social support. “Even in this age and time, 58% of older persons in India are living with the family. The findings of this report also affirm confidence in the ability of the family to care for its older members,” the report said.

The National Policy on Older Persons has also recognized the importance of family for the well being of older persons and has decided to have programmes to promote family values, sensitize the young on the necessity and desirability of inter-generational bonding and continuity and the desirability of meeting filial obligations.

“State policies will encourage children to co-reside with their parents by providing tax relief, allowing rebates for medical expenses and giving preference in the allotment of houses. The policy also says that short-term staying facilities for older persons will be supported so that families can get some relief when they go out,” the study said.

The report made an interesting recommendation. In order to prevent elder abuse, it said there should be nationwide programmes in schools and colleges for sensitizing children and young adults towards the ageing and the aged, sensitization of healthcare workers to recognize and develop a protocol for treatment, develop a robust social security system that not only ensures income security to the older persons but also gives them opportunities for income generation.

 INDIA NO COUNTRY FOR ELDERLY

A review conducted by the Union health ministry has found that most states have failed to honour or execute the much-touted National Programme for Healthcare of Elderly (NPHCE).

Of the 91 districts expected to start a geriatric clinic by now, only 22 have managed to do so. Worse, just a dozen districts have set up a 10-bed geriatric ward.

aryana and Leh in Jammu & Kashmir — have started running a bi-weekly geriatric clinic in a community health centre. And, only two districts – Mewat and Leh — have started a weekly geriatric clinic in a primary health centre.

In Punjab, a geriatric clinic and geriatric ward will come up in Bhatinda, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur soon.

Ministry officials say none of the steps – setting up of a geriatric clinic, ward or holding bi-weekly clinics — have been rolled out in states like Andhra PradeshAssamBiharTamil NaduWest Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

A ministry official said, “We have released funds under the NPHCE for creating the stipulated wards and running the clinics in 91 districts across 21 states. Initially, we sent the funds to 30 districts by March, 2011, and then to the rest by March, 2012. However very few states have done any work. In the 12th Plan, we intend to take NPHCE to all the districts in the country. Our target is to reach 100 districts every year.”

India will soon become home to the second largest number of senior citizens in the world. Though it is still a nation of young people, the health condition of its elderly is worrying.

The ministry’s own data says one out of every four elderly persons in India is depressed; one in three suffers from arthritis while one in five cannot hear. While one in three suffers from hypertension, almost half have poor vision. Ministry estimates say the number of people in the 60-plus age group in India will increase to 100 million in 2013 and to 198 million in 2030.

The elderly population will increase to 12% of the total population by 2025, 10% of which would be bedridden, requiring utmost care.

According to the 2006 World Population Prospects, by 2050, the number of Indians aged above 80 will increase more than six times from existing 78 lakh to about 5.14 crore.

“And yet, states haven’t woken up to putting in place systems or infrastructure to take care of its elderly,” a ministry official said.

The NPHCE expects to have 20 institutions with a strength to produce 40 post-graduates in geriatric medicine per year, additional 6,400 beds in district hospitals and 1,000 beds in medical colleges for the elderly by 2017.

India recently joined 10 other south-east Asian countries to adopt the Yogyakarta Declaration on Ageing and Health, committing to improving national response to the health of ageing population.

 

A Feminist in Pieces #gender #mustread


By Smita Shashank Pendharkar

I am a Feminist In Pieces. With a thousand grains of life scattered over three continents, I have no real home nor a sense of real belonging. The voices around me often say that I am living in three diasporas, breathing-in three cultures, communicating in three distinct idioms. I often feel less like a citizen of the world, and more like a nomad of the imaginary, traversing a terrain and incessant borders that exist only for me. With roots that barely grip the earth I stand on and a voice that seldom resonates with the souls around me, I am a walking contradiction belonging to no particular world, to no particular continental womb.

 

I am a Feminist in pieces. Born of a Black mother miles and miles away. Birthed of a culture that celebrates color, rhythm, and unity, I am weaved into a brilliant quilt of reds, blacks, golds and greens. I have stood with my fist clenched in revolution against police brutality, for “taking back the night” and towards building a stronger nation, but in the end I have always stood alone at the crossroads of this deeply matrixed life and wondered about which one leads home.

 

I am a Feminist in pieces. Fighting for the rights of my Sistas. With a headwrap as my crown and a body studded with symbols of “my history,” I have taken more than one journey towards the light, towards the freedom that my Sistas and I sought in honor of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Assata Shakur and Angela Davis. Still tied to my mother’s umbilical cord, I walked tall knowing that I was Black, African, Beautiful, and destined to fulfill “the dream.” I walked tall, Black, African, and Beautiful…or did I ?

 

I am a Feminist in pieces. Struggling to hold myself together. Bursting at the seams with Black pride, American patriotism, and an indescribable Indianness, I am a cocktail for which there is no recipe. The voices inside me say that I am less a rooted revolutionary and more the seasonal pollen that floats above the fields. Settling wherever the gentle and furious winds take me, I belong to no one place, no one culture, no one ideology. I am an alien wherever I go simply because the soil that I hover above never takes my roots, never beckons to me, never embraces me.

 

I am a Feminist in pieces. Asking questions for which there are no real answers. Breathing movements of which I am never really a part of because They say that I am seated, by birth, at the top of the social hierarchy. A heathen of sorts because of my Brahminism; an oppressor because I have light skin and Aryan-esque features; and, a perpetrator of violence against the invisible masses because I own much more than a shack situated on the banks of a polluted city.

 

I am a Feminist in pieces. My voice now suffers from spiritual and moral laryngitis, consumed by a guilt that I understand but will not own; bothered by the social infection of poverty and oppression, I have cared for and cared about those who have laid blame squarely on the shoulders of my ancestors and I. My sense of conviction and pride, rickety from accusations, tremulous under the rage of the benighted beasts of My caste-ocracy, and erratic in the presence of contention, are reduced to that guilt I understand but will not own; that guilt I understand but will not wear; that guilt I understand but cannot feel.

 

The Broken People[1] all over the world, in sync with their hatred of everything I embody, rebel against the permanency of their untouchability, reviling everything that reminds them of centuries of collective humiliation, dehumanization and a life entrenched in suffering. But I too have suffered. My gender, My feminine mystique, My voice from the lips that cannot speak, have also been exploited, battered and forced into a deep slumberous silence. So now I often wonder, am I not broken too?

 

I am a Feminist in pieces. Seeking to deconstruct that which I am to re-construct that which I think I should be. Willing to rage against the winds of resistance, I am a Feminist carrying my pieces with heart and passion for a Cause that I cannot even call my own – for a Cause They will not allow to be my own. Caste aside, Raced aside, all this enGendering has collapsed me, unraveled me, crippled me, left me as nebulous as I was before the union of my parents’ spirits.

 

But still I rise, with my pieces in tow because I see why I was made a Woman and why Feminism nourishes me. So I’ll look forward to the day when my Black mother draws me into the strength of her breast; when I am no more just an alien Buffalo Soldier trudging forth past the red rock giants; and, when this country of my skull accepts me as a Woman without deference…and reverence of pativrata[2].

 

A Feminist in pieces no more will I be, I will have transcended the chaos of three diasporas, three lives, three distinct Women. My holy trinity will meld into one, and I will finally be a Feminist in peace, in one whole piece.

 


[1] The word “Dalit” means Broken People, in the most literal sense. Dr.B.A. Ambedkar, the Indian equivalent of Malcolm X, rejected the oppressive labels, i.e. “untouchables” or “shudras,” given to people of the “lower castes” by Upper Caste hindus. “Dalit” is an empowering word and has led to the resurgence of contemporary Dalit Identity Politics, social justice movements and socio-political leadership.

[2] A value concerning morality and the importance of female subordination in a heterosexual marriage. Pativrata, a word which may sound new even to Hindus outside India, Pati means husband and Vrat denotes vow. A woman who staunchly remains loyal to her husband is a Pativrata.

 

Smita Pendharkar

PhD Candidate, Sociology
Dept. of Humanities & Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B)
+91 9819868511
smita.pendharkar@iitb.ac.in

Radiating Death: How #Walmart Displaces Nearby Small Businesses


 

 

Radiating Death: How Walmart Displaces Nearby Small BusinessesReuters

In 2006, months before a Walmart store was opened in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago’s West side, researchers counted 306 businesses in the surrounding area. Two years after the Walmart opened, 82 of those businesses had closed.

That some businesses, particularly small businesses, would close after a large retailer moves into the neighborhood is to be expected. But, as the researchers found, the pattern and severity of those closures was far from typical. The closer a business was to the new Walmart store, the more likely it was to close.

“No matter which direction you go from Walmart, there’s a very high rate of business closures in the immediate vicinity, and the further away you get there’s less and less,” says University of Illinois Chicago economics professor Joe Persky, one of the authors of the study, which wasjust published in Economic Development Quarterly.

Farther out from the store, about four miles or so, the rate of closure is about average, or roughly 24 percent of small businesses, according to Persky. “Small businesses often close. They have a high turnover.”

But the closer a store was to the Walmart location, the greater the likelihood it would close. Persky and his colleagues found that for every mile closer to the Walmart, 6 percent more stores closed. Close in around the store’s location, between 35 and 60 percent of stores closed.

And depending on the type of business, the impact of a Walmart moving in can be much worse. Persky says that the per-mile closure rate increase for drugstores is almost 20 percent. For home furnishings, it’s about 15 percent. For hardware stores, it’s about 18 percent per mile. For toys, it’s more than 25 percent per mile.

The research also shows that during the study period, from 2006 to 2008, overall sales tax revenues went down in the two ZIP codes closest to or encompassing the Walmart. Before the store opened, the sales tax revenues for these two ZIP codes were growing at rates of 6.7 percent and 4.3 percent per year. After the Walmart opened, they each saw a boost – up to nearly 18 percent in the ZIP containing the Walmart and slightly up to about 5 percent in the ZIP next door. But by 2008, both of those growth bumps had faded, and the ZIPs were seeing declines – negative 11 percent sales tax revenue growth in the ZIP containing the Walmart and negative 3 percent in the neighboring ZIP. The researchers also argue that by 2008, the amount of jobs lost because of store closures was just about the same as those created by the Walmart store’s opening. It was, Persky says, a wash.

“You may have reasons to want Walmart and you may have reasons not to want Walmart, but economic development is not one of those reasons,” Persky says. “And yet that’s been, in many cases, the primary argument for bringing Walmart to the city.”

Walmart disputes these findings and argues that its stores are magnets for both growth and economic development. In a study commissioned by the company, an independent researcher argued that the assertion of jobs creation being “a wash” was incorrect and only looked at jobs created by Walmart and not other jobs that also developed after the store opened. That study[PDF] found there was actually a net increase of more than 400 jobs in the area.

“Anyone who has actually walked the neighborhoods on the west side, talked with elected officials there or met with surrounding area businesses, knows the positive economic impact our store has had on the surrounding area,” says Walmart spokesperson Steven Restivo. “The businesses that typically surround our stores either offer a product or service we don’t or are strong in areas we’re not. Just drive around the vicinity of a Walmart and you’re likely to see small, medium and large businesses co-existing.”

Persky says he understands some of the criticism of his research. He concedes that the study did not include any data on stores that opened during the 2006 to 2008 period, just those that closed. But he argues that any openings would have been reflected in the sales tax revenue data collected.

Persky argues his study offers proof that Walmart openings can be bad for small business, especially those located close to the new stores. And while he says the results shouldn’t be used as an argument for or against the retailer, he does call into question Walmart’s role in local economic development.

Photo credit: John Gress / Reuters

Nate Berg is staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angele