IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Narendra Modi replies to RTI query of Rohit Prajapati


English: Image of Narendra Modi at the World E...

English: Image of Narendra Modi at the World Economic Forum in India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PRESS RELEASE
15 October 2012
  • An open letter to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi by Rohit Prajapati.
  • In reply to Rohit Prajapati’s RTI application dated 23-04-2010 the Chief Minister of Gujarat’s office states that “In addition, would like to inform you that about point no. 1 & 2 of your RTI application dated 23-04-2010, information sought by you is about the period before date 25-1-2007 and government’s term was over in December 2007 and after new government came in as per our working method, old records were destroyed so demanded information can not be made available to you.”
  • “With your (The Chief Minister) emphasis on ‘information technology’ in governance, the soft copies of the correspondence should be present in some official databank, or one would assume that you or your office are deliberately withholding or denying information that should be in public realm and your public accountability as the chief minister stands questioned, following such a stand of destruction of official records on the mere pretext that it happened because of change in Government.” – Rohit Prajapati

 

Forest Rights Rally and mass Education programme in Adhoura, Kaimur, Bihar


Forest Rights Rally and mass Education programme in Adhoura, Kaimur, Bihar

11-12 October 2012

Kaimur Bihar

 

 

Ø     More than 5000 tribal, dalit and other forest dwellers did a historical rally in Adhoura Block of Kaimur district Bihar jointly by Kaimur Mukti Morcha (Jan Mukti Andolan) and National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW).

Ø     The two day programme was to mark the honor to the departed leader Dr. Vinyan who dedicated his life in Kaimur region to build up the forest rights movement. The programme was organized to start extensive programme to implement the Forest Rights Act 2006 in the difficult terrain of Kaimur region of Bihar.

Ø     There is complete lack of political will of Bihar Government to implement this Act that talks of mitigating the “historical injustices” inflicted on the forest people since the colonial days.

Ø     Adhoura, Kaimur region of Bihar is a very backward and lacks basic minimum facilities though getting huge funds for development to adress the issue of Maoism in the area.

Ø     Thousands of people from Kaimur region of Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and other parts of Bihar, UP, MP, Chattisgarh, started assembling in Adhoura since 10th october.

Ø     Large numbers of women were present in the meeting. On 11 October 2012 a massive rally was taken out in Adhoura to warn the officials and Govt. of Bihar to take stern action to implement the FRA in its true spirits.

Ø     The Forest Dept office, Block office and Police Station of Adhoura were gheraoed for not implementing the Act properly and against increasing atrocities on tribal and dalit people by feudals, forest department and Police.

Ø     All departments in Adhoura were shocked to see the spirit of tribal people and admitted that the Act has not implemented not at all in this very backward region.

Ø     On 12th October 2012 a mass education programme was undertaken on FRA by the leaders of NFFPFW, where BDO and Station officer were invited along with the Director of Van Vasi Ashram, Sh. Sadanand Rai. They admitted that never before such a big rally and conference has been organized and felt very happy that tribal in large numbers are getting aware regarding their rights.

Ø     BDO admitted that all the village level forest rights committees were not formed according to the rules and agreed to form them again comprising of tribal and forest people only. Station officer also said that in entire kaimur region main source of livelihood of tribal is forest and their rights have to be recognized. He said this is a civil law where police cannot interfere but indirectly various issues are related to such civil law that needs to be taken care of otherwise there will be rise in militancy. Both the officials assured that they will personally meet with DM and SP and ensure the implementation of FRA.

Ø     Vanvasi Ashram Director Sadananand Rai agreed to create an infrastructure to build up cooperative on the forest produce in the institute itself in association with NFFPFW as the amended rules gives direct control of forest produce to Gram sabha.

Ø     A set of memorandum of 20 demands were presented to both BDO and SO by Kaimur Mukti Morcha Women members Kamla devi and Prema Devi. It was agreed between officials and the people’s organization that the formation of new forest rights committees to start from first of November with the active support of Kaimur Mukti Morcha and NFFPFW. These committees will be formed in 104 villages of Adhoura Block and later will be formed in Rohtas Block too. After the FRC’s have been formed the training of all the FRC’s will be conducted in Block office to start filing both individual and community forest rights claim and as well as start the process of building the producer cooperatives so that the middlemen, forest department and other vested interests are eliminated. Many organizations will be involved to strengthen the process of building up of the cooperative that will involve NFFPFW, Kaimur Mukti Morcha, Vanvasi Kendra and independent trade union New Trade Union Initiative (Patna, Bihar).


NATIONAL FORUM OF FOREST PEOPLE AND FOREST WORKERS, (N.F.F.P.F.W.)
Near Homeguard Commandant Office

Saraswati Vihar, Near Kargi Chowk

Haridwar Bypass

DEHRADUN – 248001 (Uttrakhand)

Contact : 09412990913 (Munni Lal) 09412348071 (Vipin Gairola)

 

 

SC to review #deathpenalty for kidnap,ransom and murder


Dhananjay Mahapatra TNN 

New Delhi: For the murder of a 16 year-old Abhi Verma in 2005 after kidnapping him for ransom,three persons,including a woman,were awarded death penalty in 2006 that was upheld by the Supreme Court.
But,two of them got a fresh lease of life on Friday,as the Supreme Court stayed fresh execution warrant after they challenged the constitutional validity of Section 364A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that permits the courts to award capital punishment for kidnapping-cum-murder for ransom.
A bench of Justices Swatanter Kumar and S J Mukhopadhaya issued notices to the Centre and Punjab government after advocate D K Garg argued that Section 364A was meant to tackle kidnapping for ransom indulged in as a strategy by international terrorists to destabilize the country and not applicable to individual criminals.
The bench also requested Solicitor General R F Narimans assistance in the matter as Garg pointed out that the condemned prisoners had been living under the shadow of execution warrant since December,2006,and hence deserved to be punished with life imprisonment.
The trio Vikram Singh,Jasvir Singh and Sonia was convicted by a Hoshiarpur trial court for kidnapping minor Abhi and demanding Rs 50 lakh ransom from his goldsmith father,Ravi Verma.They murdered Abhi to eliminate evidence.The HC confirmed the death sentence in May,2008,and the Supreme Court dismissed their appeal on January 25,2010.
But,now they have raised an important question of law relating to validity of Section 364A,which was inserted in the statute retrospectively from 1993 after Parliament approved amendment of IPC in 1994.
Garg drew a comparison between Section 364 and 364A of IPC.He said: Section 364 deals with kidnapping or abduction in order to murder provide for a maximum punishment of life or 10 years,but Section 364A provided for death penalty for an additional offence of demanding ransom.
Thus,there is no rationale or justification for imposing death sentence for a mere additional ransom demand.This violated right to equality and right to life guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution, he said.

 

Dalit outfit takes out rally in Visakhapatnam


SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, The Hindu

Activists of the Dalita Hakkula Porata Samithi taking out a rally in the city on Saturday. Photo: A. Manikanta kumar
Activists of the Dalita Hakkula Porata Samithi taking out a rally in the city on Saturday. Photo: A. Manikanta kumar

They charged the government with diverting Rs. 17,000 crore allotted for Dalit welfare during the last 10 years on its publicity programmes

The Dalita Hakkula Porata Samiti took out a rally from the Collectorate to Ambedkar statue here on Saturday as part of its district unit’s 3rd Mahasabha and to express solidarity with the victims of attack at Lakshmipeta in Srikakulam district.

At a public meeting held at the conclusion of the rally, in which a large number of students and women participated, CPI’s Legislature Party Leader Gunda Mallesh demanded that the government complete the process of bringing in the SC, ST Sub-Plan Act and sanction budget to Dalits based on their population.

He charged the government with diverting Rs. 17,000 crore allotted for Dalit welfare during the last 10 years on its publicity programmes.

He regretted that many laws made for Dalit welfare were not being implemented and attacks on Dalits continued unabated while the government was not taking stern steps.

Honorary president of the district unit J.V. Prabhakar, secretary B. Venkata Rao, president V. Jayaprakash, CPI’s district secretary J.V. Satyanarayana Murthy, MLC M.V.S. Sarma, former Minister Ch. Ayyanna Patrudu, former MLA G. Demudu and leaders of several Dalit organisations and intellectuals spoke.

The meeting commenced after the leaders garlanded the statue of Dr. Ambedkar.

A meeting of DPHS would be held at the Ambedkar Bhavan, Marripalem, on Sunday.

 

Filipino Supreme Court suspends cybercrime law


Main Article Image

2:13pm | 9 October 2012 | by Michael Skinner

The Filipino Supreme Court today issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the newly enacted Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. The TRO comes on the heels of large scale demonstrations, Blackout Tuesday, both online and offline from citizens and journalists who claim the new law is tantamount to a new “cyber authoritarianism.” Access joined with Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA.ph) in calling on lawmakers to repeal the law, and on Tuesday delivered an open letter to the government calling on them to junk the law. This letter was backed by the 13,000 of people from over 100 countries who signed a petition urging for the law to be taken off the books.

In light of the recent decision, Access applauds the Supreme Court in its decision to stay the law while it determines whether it violates civil liberties. We will continue to push lawmakers to repeal the law, or at the very least craft significant amendments that protect the rights of Filipinos.

As PIFA stated in response to the court’s ruling, “PIFA invites all netizens to consistently participate in its efforts to pressure our legislators to repeal RA 10175. Let us make them know that we will not elect, tolerate, nor bow down to anyone who has no qualms in trampling upon our basic human rights offline and online.”

As it stands now, the Supreme Court’s suspension will last 120 days while critics gather the evidence needed for oral arguments on January. The government on the other hand will have 10 to 15 days to respond to the petitions with its position. This will be a test for President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III who was supportive of the law and of the controversial libel provision. Though the court has issued the temporary order, the fate of the law and of the Filipino citizens still remains in the air.

The law, which was modeled on provisions from the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, falls short of its predecessor due to weak and sometimes vague language. Even lawmakers who signed the bill are now having doubts, indicating that review and amendments are be necessary.

At the heart of the debate is the application to the country’s stringent libel laws to digital communications. Facebook posts, emails, and even text messages are subject to scrutiny under the new legislation. Supporters claim that these new provisions will help combat cyber bullying, but critics suggest that the laws could be used to suppress political dissent by ushering in a new era of “cyber authoritarianism”.

In order to enforce these new rules online, the law also allows law enforcement officers to collect and review Internet traffic data on users effectively creating a mechanism for warrantless surveillance of the entire internet population. Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) Chair Geronimo Sy likened the surveillance to an “online version of CCTV,” and stressed that the government would only access the data to prosecute “bad elements”.

Thousands of citizens and journalists, as well as international organizations, have protested and petitioned the Supreme Court to strike down the law. Activists organized “Blackout Tuesday” the same day the SC handed down the TRO. While thousands of protesters hit the streets in front of the Filipino Supreme Court, thousands more mobilized an online response. Websites, social media profiles and blogs all went black on Tuesday in a showing of solidarity, much like the SOPA and PIPA protests online in the US earlier this year. “Considering how much there has been a public outcry about this law…It is judicious of the judiciary to issue a Temporary Restraining Order, ” Said Human Rights Commissioner Coco Quisumbing. The widespread response has had an immediate effect on lawmakers who are seeking to distance themselves from the controversial law.

Access will continue to work with PIFA and other organizations to repeal this law. While today’s ruling is a step in the right direction, the court could still come back and allow the law to come into effect. That is why we must be vigilant in pressuring the Filipino government to stand up for the rights of it’s citizens and scarp this law for good.

Indian nurses still an exploited lot: Study


Agencies Posted online: Sun Oct 14 2012, 11:15 hrs
Thiruvananthapuram : They are hailed as “angels on earth” but the personal and professional lives of nurses in India are rather ‘miserable’, especially of those working in private health sector, with low salary, poor working conditions, among others, compounding their woes, a study has revealed.

Recent strikes and agitations by nurses in private hospitals in different parts of the country demanding better wages and working conditions have not made any significant change in their state of affairs, according to the recent study on Keralite nurses working in hospitals in New Delhi.
continued to be a major problem faced by nurses.They face ill-treatment not only from doctors and the management, but also from co-workers, said Sreelekha Nair, Junior Fellow at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi, who conducted the study.
Corroborating her findings, Indian Nursing Council member P K Thampi said nurses are being exploited by hospital managements. “It is virtually a slave-landlord relationship between nurses and managements’, Thampi said.
Referring to the modest salary the nurses get in private sector, he said a majority of them have done their courses by taking educational loans of Rs four to six lakh.The minimum instalment they had to pay would come to around Rs 6000 to Rs.10000 while the salary they receive is only around Rs.2500 to Rs.6500, Thampi said.
“Despite the poor state of affairs majority of them stick to their job as they have no other option,” Thampi said.
According to Sreelekha, who published a book titled ‘Moving with the Times-gender, status and migration of Nurses in India’, “not just their superiors but even the relatives of the patients verbally and, like in some cases as reported in newspapers, physically harass them.”
Nursing being a “women majority profession” also contributes to their low status and this had been pointed out by most nurses interviewed as part of the study, she said.
“Nurses share several stories of their saving the patients’ lives;However, they feel that their contributions in patient care were not valued.It is true that the name of doctors who participated in important events, for example, the first heart surgery or such historical occasion, are known to everyone but the nurse who is part of that event is not mentioned even in records,” the study said.
Another method of exploitation of nurses is the bond system enforced on entrants to the profession by hospital managements.In most cases, managements “confiscates” certificates and this would prevent them from seeking better opportunities in India or abroad.
“Women who formed the sample of the study vouched for this fact and revealed this happens across the country”, Sreelekha said.
Nurses in private sector hospitals are also cheated in many other ways. The actual amount paid to them is lower than what has been recorded in the payment register on which the nurses are compelled to put their signatures, the study said.
In the private sector,their pay structure ranges between Rs.2500 to Rs.6500 at the entry level and there are instances of nurses being paid as low as Rs.1000 a month.
“Difference in salary in private and public sector hospitals is very high, especially after implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations.Increase in pay is core demand of the nurses who went on strike,” the study said.
Regarding working conditions, both private and public hospitals are on the same footing. “Very poor nurse-patient ratio is a central characteristic of both private and public sector hospitals in India.”
Public sector hospitals are so overwhelmed by patients that they are admitted even on floors because beds are not available, it was pointed out.
“Low salary, poor working conditions, special circumstances of work of nurses that involve caring for strangers and that include handling of body fluids make the status of nurses low in the society”, the study said.
“Low status is not limited to professional sphere alone but rather spills over to their personal lives. All aspects of their personal lives are influenced by the fact that they are women nurses. There are stories of rejection and resistance by future in-laws just due to prejudices surrounding only this group of women workers…”, the study said.
Referring to migration of Indian nurses abroad, mostly from Kerala, looking for better jobs, the study said they choose nursing as a career and undertake a number of adventures.
“Nursing is not a livelihood option alone but a life strategy for many.The moment they take the decision to be a nurse, a life plan, where they plan for their career, societal upward mobility and marriage and family, gets readied. But only time can tell whether every plan is executed on time”, Sreelekha added.

 

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DNA investigation: Sardar Sarovar Project hit by illegal mining


Published: Saturday, Oct 13, 2012, 8:44 IST
By Sandeep Pai | Place: Indore | Agency: DNA

Rampant illegal sand mining across the Narmada valley on land acquired by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) from oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is not only threatening the delicate ecological balance of the area but could also reduce the project life of the dam.

While truckloads of sand is being mined without any permission, the activity also contravenes the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979, which expressly states that land acquired for the SSP may be used only for agriculture or for reservoirs.

The project life of the SSP, meant to irrigate 18 lakh hectares of land in Gujarat, 75,000 hectares in Rajasthan and 37,500 hectares in Maharashtra, is expected to be reduced because the mining is in the dam’s submergence areas, environmentalists say.

The illegal mining started after the collectors’ of the Badwani, Alirajpur, Khargone and Dhar districts in MP gave out mining licences on government lands adjacent to the NVDA’s acquired land. The licences were granted once in 2009
and again in 2011, for a period of two years.

The mining contracts are themselves a subject of debate as the government lands also lie in the submergence areas on both sides of the Narmada River. But more dangerously, illegal miners are now blatantly breaching boundaries of assigned mining areas, extracting sand instead from areas acquired by the NVDA.

In response to a Right to Information application, the NVDA has stated that it has not leased any land. “Thus, any mining activity on their land is illegal,” says social activist Medha Patkar, who has repeatedly raised the issue with the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) over the last two years.

Over 100 complaint letters were written during the same period by individual villagers and by panchayat representatives to police officers and district collectors. However, no action has been taken.
At least half a dozen gram sabhas have passed resolutions stating that prior approval of the gram sabha has not been obtained for the mining activity. The resolutions all state that the sand mining should be stopped.
Activists estimate the loss to the exchequer to be about Rs100 crore per year. In 2011, after a complaint about illegal mining in the submergence areas of SSP, the collector of Badwani conducted an investigation in two villages — Pendra and Barda — and recovered Rs3 crore in fines from illegal miners. “If we calculate for even 40-50 villages, the amount of revenue loss would exceed a few hundred crores per year,” said Srikant, an activist with Narmada Bachao Aandolan (NBA). As many as 192 villages are directly impacted by the SSP.

The collector’s report even named members of the sand mining mafia of the Badwani district, but no prosecution was initiated.
One complaint by the NBA to Union minister for environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan in August said the government is on one hand spending crores of rupees for “catchment area treatment” that is mandatory as per the environment clearances issued to the SSP, and on the other hand is a mute spectator to hundreds of truckloads of mud, the topsoil discarded by sand miners, is being thrown into the reservoir. This could seriously affect the lifespan of the project, the NBA complaint pointed out.
A visit to the villages shows complete disregard for rules and the environment. In Perkhard village in Dhar district, huge heaps of top soil and even trees uprooted by miners have been thrown into the river. Large tracts of land acquired by the NVDA have turned into trenches due to unabated mining.

In Chottabarda village in Badwani district, DNA saw several trucks ferrying tonnes of sand. “On one side we have the Narmada and on the other we have these huge sand mining trenches. When the rains came this year, an entire settlement of fish workers was not able to move out – they were surrounded by water on all sides,” said Dayaram Yadav, former sarpanch of Chottabarda.

Villagers who protest are threatened, even assaulted, say villagers. “When I tried to stop the miners, they tried to strangle me,” said Om Prakash, from Piplav village in Badwani.

Complaints sent to the central government’s Narmada Control Authority and the NVDA were just forwarded to district collectors, to which the standard official response has been that no illegal mining is underway.

Afroz Ahmed, NCA director, said that whatever complaints he got were forwarded to the NVDA. “I have not received any reply from NVDA despite reminders,” said Ahmed. On his part, joint director of NVDA AK Khare simply denied that any illegal activity was going on. “All allegations are false,” he said.

Mass Protest Rally in Rohtak against increasing #VAW against women in Haryana @15oct #mustshare



In the context of deeply entranched patriarchal values and mindset coupled with rampant consumerist culture and alliance of reactionary and opportunist forces, there is almost a flood of cases of rape and violence against women in Haryana as is evident from 13 cases of gang rape taking place in just one month. This has created almost a terror like situation and insecurity in the minds of especially the young girls, working women and their families. The dalit women are particularly being targeted due to their more vulnerability.

The ruling Govt. in Haryana, instead of taking cognizance of the whole situation and punishing the culprits, has termed it as a “political conspiracy” to defame their rule and there ends its responsibility for providing a safe and secure governance. The opposition party led by Om Prakash Chautala Supremo has even gone ahead by taking sides with the khap panchayats and casteist forces and supporting their demand for lowering the marriageable age for young girls to 15 years. Majority of political parties and other forces, instead of understanding the gravity of the whole situation and fighting against this heinous crime, are unfortunately engaged in appeasing the casteist and reactionary forces for the safety of their vote banks. In order to fight against this shameful display of opportunism, it is left to the democratic minded and justice loving people of the state and the nation to collectively come forward to counter this dangerous trend and bring the criminals to book. At the same time we need  to ensure appropriate action against those policemen and  other administrative officers who do not fulfil their duties properly and show negligence and laxity in dealing with the criminals.

Simultaneously, we shall have to fight strongly against the neo liberal policies of the government so as to pressurise the state and ruling Govt. for proper and equal  distribution of resources particularly to the women and the weaker sections so that they  no longer remain soft targets for various kinds of violence and crimes. Along with this, there is a strong need for social reform movement at various levels of society against indecent portrayal l of women  in media, against alcoholism and patriarchal values, traditions and mindset. All the conventional forces who are making the demand to lower the marriageable age should not be spared.

AIDWA calls upon all Women’s organisations, democratic forces and concerned individuals to join in the mass protest rally to be held in Rohtak on 15th of October, 2012 at HUDA Complex Park at 11.00am. Our united efforts would undoubtedly help in a significant way to put a strong pressure on   on the political and administrative forces to act in a responsible way in dealing with violence against  women. We need to send a strong message to the criminal forces too that they can not escape scot free and would be strongly punished for any act of violence and crime.

 

LET US UNITE TO FIGHT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

 

AIDWA – 011- 25700476, 25703565            Jagmati Sangwan- 09416630805

 

A doctor walks into the heart of darkness


Oct 14, 2012 - Javed Anand, in Asian Age
First, if you’ve not seen it already, go find the recent issue of a national weekly which has “The Silent Killers of Chhattisgarh” as its cover story. It’s not the story that I’m talking about but the picture on the cover for it has many stories to tell.
Stay with the picture for a bit. A young mother, an adivasi woman with a child in her lap, faces the camera. As for the child, except for the bloated belly, you see more bones than flesh. You can easily count the ribs. The child in apparent anguish is bawling. But you get the feeling you may not hear any sound even if this was a video shoot.
If a single picture of a victim of acute undernourishment could be disturbing enough, what are we to do with facts no less disturbing? According to the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau, we learn from Dilip D’Souza’s The Curious Case of Binayak Sen, more than 60 per cent of scheduled tribes in India have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5. The World Health Organisation (WHO) puts this statistic in perspective: if more than 40 per cent of the population of a community has a BMI of less than 18.5, the community can be considered to be in a condition of famine. In other words, famine and starvation are an everyday reality for the scheduled tribes of our “socialist republic”.
Let’s go back to the picture, give it another look and consider if it’s telling us something about ourselves. Then ask ourselves the question: Should we be proud of India the “Emerging Superpower”, or should we be ashamed of being Indians?
Perhaps years ago Dr Binayak Sen — product of one of the highly prestigious Christian Medical College, Vellore — asked himself some such question and found an answer: Those who are not a part of the solution are a part of the problem. The answer took him and his colleague, Dr Saibal Jana, in 1983 to the Dalli Rajhara mining belt in Madhya Pradesh, now Chhattisgarh, to offer their services to a medical centre set up by workers for workers, Shaheed Hospital.
From the perspective of today’s Mr and Ms Middle Class especially, Dr Sen is an obvious “loser”. As it happens, the ’60s generation of which he is a part produced many losers such as him. Something called “social concern” took the good doctor away from the glitter of the metropolis to the heart of darkness. He was lucky having acquired a professional expertise which was badly needed where he went.
Once there, he should have stuck to the trodden path: prescribing pills and injections, recommending tests after tests, hospitalisation… But his alma mater had taught him to reach out to the person(s) behind the patient, to think of preventive healthcare.
Thus Dr Sen and his colleagues discovered that at the root of the ailments of the patients who came to him was chronic hunger. What pills, what injections can you prescribe for treating “stable famine” malady? Healthcare, he realised, was a human rights issue. Experience was driving Dr Sen towards “dangerous territory”. He began entertaining dangerous thoughts such as “structural violence” against the poor and the hungry, even suggesting that, “this situation fits the definition of genocide: not by guns or machetes or gas chambers, but by creating conditions for communities” (Dilip D’Souza’s words), “in which the survival of (these communities) is at risk” (Dr Sen’s words).
To compound matters, Dr Sen gravitated towards the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and ended up being elected general secretary of its Chhattisgarh unit. On request, Dr Sen in his dual capacity as a doctor and as PUCL general secretary visits an ailing Maoist leader, Narayan Sanyal, in the Raipur Central Jail, with written permission from the jail authorities.
Ah ha! So this up-to-no-good doctor with dangerous thoughts is mixed up with Maoists? Not just Maoists, the ISI as well! Proof: An email from his impounded computer shows a message addressed to the ISI. The well-known Indian Social Institute (ISI) Delhi! So the dangerous doctor is arrested and charged with sedition: waging war against the Indian state.
Read D’Souza’s book with an open mind and you cannot but conclude that in place of hard evidence all that you find in the voluminous chargesheet against Dr Sen are insinuations and innuendos, apart from falsehoods and mindlessness. Many years ago the Supreme Court was constrained to remark that policemen are like “criminals in uniform”. The remark is most apt for the Chhattisgarh police in the context of Dr Sen’s case. What’s more scandalous, however, is the December 2010 verdict of the trial court that held Dr Sen and two co-accused guilty of sedition (among other charges) and sentenced to life imprisonment. Allow D’Souza to take you through parts of the judgment, hold your breath and decide for yourself.
A January 2011 appeal against the conviction is currently pending before the Chhattisgarh high court. Over-ruling a nay from the high court, the Supreme Court has granted bail to Dr Sen. It’s difficult to see how the trial court’s verdict can stand the scrutiny of the high court and the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, it is hopefully a matter of some consolation to Dr Sen, his colleagues and family — and us — that their trials and tribulations have charged the demand for the expulsion of the long-outdated sedition charge embedded into the Indian Penal Code by our colonial masters.

 

Toilets Can Be Temples


 
Vol – XLVII No. 42, October 20, 2012, Editorial , Economic and Political Weekly
Indians have to accept that sanitation is not a dirty word.
What a lot of fuss about a remark that is at worst a predictable alliteration and at best an attempt to provoke a discussion on something we hate to talk about – sanitation. Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh, who is not averse to hogging media attention, chose to launch the Nirmal Bharat Yatra against open defecation by making the deliberately provocative statement that India had more temples than toilets. As he had hoped, his remark has triggered a discussion. However, the discussion has not been on the pitiful lack of toilets but on religion.
The Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson decided that Jairam Ramesh’s remark “hurt the fine fabric of faith and religion” – forgetting that the “fine fabric” of human dignity is hurt each day as almost half the population of this country is forced to defecate in the open. And the Congress Party, instead of reiterating its commitment to an urgent need like s­anitation, chose to tie itself up in knots, as it has been doing lately, by talking about how it respects “the sanctity of every religious place irrespective of the community it belongs to”. In this pointless exchange of words, both parties missed a chance of demonstrating their understanding and commitment to the concerns of the aam aadmi and aurat. In fact, Jairam Ramesh has to be commended for emphasising that sanitation has an important gender dimension and that it is women and girls who suffer most the consequences of a toilet-less existence. One cannot recall another senior government functionary in recent times repeatedly reiterating this important aspect of sanitation.
If the public space for debate had not been so dominated by the corruption scandals being unearthed each day, sanitation might well have become the talking point. Around the same time as Ramesh launched the Nirmal Bharat Yatra from Sevagram, Wardha, which will end in November at Bettiah in West Champaran, Bihar, the Supreme Court directed all states to ensure that within six months every school had separate toilets for girls. This is after it had already given similar directions last year but which many states had failed to implement. The record of most states on this question of separate functioning – the key word being “functioning” – toilets for girls is dismal. Only 44% of schools that come under the Right to Education (RTE) have separate toilets for girls. This is the national average but the performance of individual states on this count is shockingly poor: Chhattisgarh, 20%; Jammu and Kashmir, 22%; Madhya Pradesh, 23% and Bihar, 27%.
The lack of toilets is not the only reason girls drop out of school between the ages of 11 and 14, but it is an important one. In their absence, young adolescent girls have to risk going out into the open fields during the day, or run all the way to their homes. Other factors also contribute to girls dropping out – the distance of the school from their homes, the lack of public transport, their burden of household chores and looking after siblings, the lack of female teachers, the absence of safety during the journey to school even if there is transport, and early marriage. Yet the absence of toilets is an easier problem to fix than some of the others and could start making a dent in the high dropout rate of girls from schools.
On the larger question of sanitation, there are few who will deny that this issue takes on a peculiar twist in the Indian context. While personal cleanliness is raised to the level of a religious rite, there is little concern about dirt and filth in public spaces. As a society we continue to accept that some people are born to clean the dirt so that others can avoid thinking about it. Why, for instance, despite the ban on manual scavenging in 1993, do lakhs of dalits, the majority of them women, still do the daily and inhuman task of removing human faeces from the estimated 26 lakh dry toilets in different parts of India? And why does this not raise enough of a stink? Typically, instead of implementing the existing law, the government has now tabled a new law in Parliament that includes those who clean sewers and septic tanks. Are we to believe that a new law will end this shameful practice if nothing has happened to abolish it, 65 years after Independence? Ultimately, if we are to end manual scavenging it is the casteist mindset that has to be abolished
You can have programmes to end open defecation, or give subsidies to build individual toilets, or offer panchayats incentives to construct community and public toilets. But things will change only when Indians decide sanitation is not a dirty word; that no one group of people is destined to clean up after other people; that toilets can be the temples of a modern, just and democratic country.