Bombay HC Directs Bayer Bio Science Pvt Ltd to Compensate 45 lakhs Farmers #Goodnews


MUMBAIDEC 16, 2012, Outlook

The Bombay High Court has asked a seed manufacturing company to pay compensation of Rs 45 lakh to 164 farmers in Maharashtra for supplying defective seeds as a result of which the crop quality suffered.

The high court ordered the compensation while upholding an order of the Controller and Director of Agriculture which asked Bayer Bio Science Pvt Ltd to pay the compensation.

The company had challenged the order before the appellate authority which too upheld the order of Agriculture Director dated April 13, 2011.

By that order, the said authority has found 164 farmers entitled to compensation and asked the company to pay that amount within 30 days at 24 per cent interest under rule 12(9) of Maharashtra Cotton Seeds (Regulation of supply, distribution, sale and fixation of sale price) Rules, 2010.

The high court held that Seed Inspector and District Level Investigation Committee functioning under the Act and Rules have discharged their obligation within four corners of law.

“The Controller has looked into entire relevant material and thereafter ordered compensation to be paid to the farmers. In appeal, this exercise has been upheld. Both the authorities have looked into entire material produced before them. There is no perversity in the findings recorded”, noted Justice B P Dharmadhikari in his order on December 11.

“Similarly, there is no jurisdictional error. There are no allegations of bias or malafides. The impugned orders are, thus, in conformity with the scheme and spirit of 2009 Act and 2010 Rules. No case is, therefore, made out for interference in writ jurisdiction. Petition is dismissed”, the judge noted.

The impugned order of April 13, 2011, revealed that the company had disclosed in its leaflet the possibility of occurrence of Alterneria Leaf Blight disease in small percentage.

#Chhattisgarh govt to probe on botched rural eye camp #medicalnegligence


BS Reporter / Kolkata/ Raipur Dec 18, 2012, 00:08 IST

Chhattisgarh government, on Monday , has ordered a probe on the botched eye camp held in Mahasamund district in which 15 patients allegedly lost their vision.

The patients mostly from the rural pocket, had undergone cataract surgeries in the camp. The preliminary investigation suggested that they developed infection post surgeray. The state government had shifted all the infected patients to a hospital here for better treatment.

The state’s health minister, Amar Agrawal on Monday visited the hospital and talked to the patients. “A probe has been ordered and strict action will be taken against the doctors found guilty for any negligence in the camp,” Agrawal said.

Senior health official and eye expert Dr Subhash Mishra has been asked to investigate the matter and submit a report to the government within 10 days.

He announced that the state government would bear the entire expenditure for medical treatment of these patients.

The camp was organized by a social organisation Shree Krishna Agrawal Memorial Trust at the Community Health Centre at Bagbahra, about 100 kms from Raipur. In the camp, 145 persons had undergone the surgery that too in just two days on December 9 and 10.

The health department officials said Dr Charu Dutt Kalamkar and Amrita Mukherjee from the Trust and Dr PC Patra from the state government performed and supervised the surgeries in the camp.

After the surgery, 15 patients including eight women developed swelling and pus in the operated eye. When the matter spilled out in open, the authorities immediately shifted them to MGM eye hospital in Raipur.

The doctors attending on them confirmed that the seriousness of the matter and said the possibility of their sight recovery was bleak.

 

The Delhi Gang Rape Case, Examined #Vaw


By Rupa Subramanya, http://blogs.wsj.com/

Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
It’s all very well to loudly protest and then retreat behind the high walls of your urban fortress, says Rupa Subramanya.

This past week there was yet another account of a young woman being horrifically raped, brazenly and in public view on a bus plying the streets of Delhi.

  • The young woman, reportedly now fighting for her life in hospital, didn’t have the luxury of being driven around town in a chauffeured car surrounded by a phalanx of security personnel unlike politicians of both genders who are protesting this appalling crime in Parliament as I write this.

Delhi’s crime problem, particularly crimes against women, should be kept in perspective. As reported here on India Real Time, Delhi has a large number of crimes in absolute terms, but that reflects its large population. In per capita terms, Delhi is nowhere near being India’s crime capital, nor the most dangerous place in India for women, although it’s worse in per capita terms than the other major metros such as Mumbai or Bangalore. In 2011 for example, there were 2.8 rapes per 100,000 residents in Delhi compared with 1.1 in Bangalore. As it happens, the “rape capital” of India is Durg-Bhilainagar in the state of Chhattisgarh with 5.7 rapes per 100,000 followed by Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh.

What’s more worrying is the increase in the number of crimes such as rape, according to data registered with the police. In 1973, for example, fewer than 3,000 cases of rape were registered with the police and by 2010 that statistic had jumped to over 20,000. This explosive increase in the number of cases reported does need to be interpreted with caution. As I and my co-author explore in some detail in our book Indianomix: Making Sense of Modern India, at least some of this increased incidence of crime may reflect both better reporting and a more accurate classification of the type of crime involved.

In a socially conservative place like India, rape was — and in many cases still is — considered taboo. So it’s not surprising that few cases were registered in the past. An increase in reporting in recent years may paradoxically reflect the good news that women and their families are now more comfortable in coming forward in reporting these crimes rather than suffering them in silence.

As a second matter, it’s probable that in the past many instances of rape were mis-classified as more generic crimes of violence, so part of the increase in the reported incidents may also reflect the fact that sexual assault against women is being correctly reported as rape and not as generic violence.

One explanation for the brazenness of sexual assaults such as this most recent one in Delhi is the fact that conviction rates remain abysmally low.

If a would-be attacker knows that his chances of being arrested and going to jail are slim, he’s less likely to be deterred than if he knew that his chances of going to jail were high and punishment would be severe. Here too, the government’s official statistics don’t tell a happy story. Back in 1973, about 44% of alleged perpetrators of rape were convicted. By 2010, that percentage had dropped to just over 26%. Again, to the extent that this statistic is driven by the denominator — that is, an increase in the number of cases reported — the news may not be as bleak as it looks.

Still, whichever way you interpret the numbers, public safety and law and order remain major problems in India, which are basic public goods that every citizen is entitled to.

Where the government has failed to provide these basic public goods and services, in the language of economics, what we see is a “second best” response to this failure. The market steps in to provide a good such as a water purifier or “inverter” (which captures and stores electricity) where the government has failed to provide clean running water and a steady supply of electricity.

It’s second best because these goods are costly and divert resources from other things people could spend their money on, to say nothing of being inefficient by failing to reap economies of scale.

Likewise, high-end housing colonies and even high-rise apartment buildings increasingly not only have private security which is standard, but also provide walking tracks, tennis courts, swimming pools, etc… The idea is to make these completely self-contained enclaves so presumably residents don’t have to rely on the poor or non-existent provision of public goods such as parks that are clean and safe. And clearly people who can afford to live in such high-end developments aren’t riding public buses.

It’s doubly ironic that senior politicians and bureaucrats, several of whom have been prominently protesting this most recent crime in Delhi, themselves have an escape route from the government’s failure to do its job. They don’t need to rely on the poor infrastructure that they provide to everyone else. It’s noteworthy that in major Western cities such as New York or London, you’ll frequently see politicians, investment bankers and other privileged and wealthy people use public transport and sit cheek by jowl with students, blue collar workers and office goers.

When you yourself ride the buses or subways, you have a personal stake in making sure that people who use them are safe. That’s a lesson that Indian politicians have yet to draw.

And if you had any doubt that senior politicians don’t have their feet on the ground, to take things to new heights, one news story reported on plans to build a helipad atop the President’s official residence so that he and other visiting dignitaries could take a 10-minute hop by air to Palam, Delhi’s old airport close to the centre of town which is now reserved for official use, rather than be bogged down in traffic.

Perhaps perversely, economic policy debates in India tend to centre on sophisticated matters such as whether redistribution programs should be replaced by cash transfers or whether multi-brand retail should be opened to foreign direct investment. Serious economists as well as politicians make plausible arguments on both sides of these and many other debates. But where there is a consensus across the board, from the most ardent libertarian on one end of the spectrum to the most diehard leftist on the other, is the necessity for the government to adequately provide basic public goods and services, not just infrastructure such as water and power but a law and order system that delivers justice.

It’s all very well to loudly protest — whether you’re a politician, news personality, or a middle-class social activist — over what just happened in Delhi and then retreat behind the high walls of your urban fortress. Real reform that will keep India’s women safe will require people to take ownership over these vital public goods and not just comment on them from a distance.

Rupa Subramanya writes Economics Journal and is co-author of “Indianomix: Making Sense of Modern India,” published by Random House India. You can follow her on Twitter @RupaSubramanya.

 

 

Delhi gang-rape: Rapists wanted to ‘teach girl a lesson’ #WTFnews #Vaw


Edited by Prasad Sanyal | Updated: December 18, 2012 16:39 IST NDTV

Delhi gang-rape: Rapists wanted to 'teach girl a lesson', say police sources

New DelhiThe six men who raped a Delhi student on a bus had decided to “punish” her for trying to stop them from attacking the male friend who was accompanying her, police sources said.

Four of the men have been arrested; two are missing and the police are searching for them in Rajasthan and Bihar, sources said.

The men, including the bus driver Ram Singh, had taken out the bus for a joy ride on Sunday evening. They spotted the student and her friend at the Munirka bus stop in south Delhi and called out to them saying the bus was headed to Dwarka, where the woman lives.

On the bus, the sources said, an argument began when the accused asked the man what he was doing with a young woman at that time of the night. The police sources said because she fought back hard, the assailants decided to “teach her a lesson”.

The police said a man employed as a carpenter too has come forward now to say that the men on the bus used a similar ruse to rob him of Rs. 8,000.

Less than an hour before the rape incident, the men on the bus reportedly called out to the carpenter in R K Puram sector 4, and offered him a ride. He got on and was robbed, he has alleged.

The man was then dumped out of the bus on the busy outer Ring Road near the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, the police said, and the bus turned around to head towards Munirka, where the student and her friend boarded it.

 

Egypt: The Next India or the Next Pakistan?


By , NYT
Published: December 15, 2012 

I WANT to discuss Egypt today, but first a small news item that you may have missed.

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

Go to Columnist Page »
Three weeks ago, the prime minister of India appointed Syed Asif Ibrahim as the new director of India’s Intelligence Bureau, its domestic intelligence-gathering agency. Ibrahim is a Muslim. India is a predominantly Hindu country, but it is also the world’s third-largest Muslim nation. India’s greatest security threat today comes from violent Muslim extremists. For India to appoint a Muslim to be the chief of the country’s intelligence service is a big, big deal. But it’s also part of an evolution of empowering minorities. India’s prime minister and its army chief of staff today are both Sikhs, and India’s foreign minister and chief justice of the Supreme Court are both Muslims. It would be like Egypt appointing a Coptic Christian to be its army chief of staff.

“Preposterous,” you say.

Well, yes, that’s true today. But if it is still true in a decade or two, then we’ll know that democracy in Egypt failed. We will know that Egypt went the route of Pakistan and not India. That is, rather than becoming a democratic country where its citizens could realize their full potential, instead it became a Muslim country where the military and the Muslim Brotherhood fed off each other so both could remain in power indefinitely and “the people” were again spectators. Whether Egypt turns out more like Pakistan or India will impact the future of democracy in the whole Arab world.

Sure, India still has its governance problems and its Muslims still face discrimination. Nevertheless, “democracy matters,” argues Tufail Ahmad, the Indian Muslim who directsthe South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, because “it is democracy in India that has, over six decades, gradually broken down primordial barriers — such as caste, tribe and religion — and in doing so opened the way for all different sectors of Indian society to rise through their own merits, which is exactly what Ibrahim did.”

And it is six decades of tyranny in Egypt that has left it a deeply divided country, where large segments do not know or trust one another, and where conspiracy theories abound. All of Egypt today needs to go on a weekend retreat with a facilitator and reflect on one question: How did India, another former British colony, get to be the way it is (Hindu culture aside)?

The first answer is time. India has had decades of operating democracy, and, before independence, struggling for democracy. Egypt has had less than two years. Egypt’s political terrain was frozen and monopolized for decades — the same decades that political leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh “were building an exceptionally diverse, cacophonous, but impressively flexible and accommodating system,” notes the Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond, the author of “The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World.”

Also, the dominant political party in India when it overthrew its colonial overlord “was probably the most multiethnic, inclusive and democratically minded political party to fight for independence in any 20th-century colony — the Indian National Congress,” said Diamond. While the dominant party when Egypt overthrew Hosni Mubarak’s tyranny, the Muslim Brotherhood, “was a religiously exclusivist party with deeply authoritarian roots that had only recently been evolving toward something more open and pluralistic.”

Moreover, adds Diamond, compare the philosophies and political heirs of Mahatma Gandhi and Sayyid Qutb, the guiding light of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Nehru was not a saint, but he sought to preserve a spirit of tolerance and consensus, and to respect the rules,” notes Diamond. He also prized education. By contrast, added Diamond, “the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood leaders, who have been in the driver’s seat since Egypt started moving toward elections, have driven away the moderates from within their party, seized emergency powers, beaten their rivals in the streets, and now are seeking to ram a constitution that lacks consensus down the throats of a large segment of Egyptian society that feels excluded and aggrieved.”

Then there is the military. Unlike in Pakistan, India’s postindependence leaders separated the military from politics. Unfortunately, in Egypt after the 1952 coup, Gamel Abdel Nasser brought the military into politics and all of his successors, right up to Mubarak, kept it there and were sustained by both the military and its intelligence services. Once Mubarak fell, and the new Brotherhood leaders pushed the army back to its barracks, Egypt’s generals clearly felt that they had to cut a deal to protect the huge web of economic interests they had built. “Their deep complicity in the old order led them to be compromised by the new order,” said Diamond. “Now they are not able to act as a restraining influence.”

Yes, democracy matters. But the ruling Muslim Brotherhood needs to understand that democracy is so much more than just winning an election. It is nurturing a culture of inclusion, and of peaceful dialogue, where respect for leaders is earned by surprising opponents with compromises rather than dictates. The Nobel Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen has long argued that it was India’s civilizational history of dialogue and argumentation that disposed it well to the formal institutions of democracy. More than anything, Egypt now needs to develop that kind of culture of dialogue, of peaceful and respectful arguing — it was totally suppressed under Mubarak —  rather than rock-throwing, boycotting, conspiracy-mongering and waiting for America to denounce one side or the other, which has characterized too much of the postrevolutionary political scene. Elections without that culture are like a computer without software. It just doesn’t work.

 

#India-Areva closes in on key agreement for Jaitapur plant #nuclear


Sandeep Dikshit, The Hindu, Dec 18, 2012

A file photo of the site of the proposed Jaitapur nuclear plant in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.
PTI A file photo of the site of the proposed Jaitapur nuclear plant in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.

Unperturbed by protests against its proposed nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, the French civil nuclear energy major Areva is now in the closing stages of striking an “early works agreement” with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited.

This agreement, which is actually a series of studies to ensure that the reactor is in conformity with local conditions, is likely to take nine months. “Areva’s discussions with NPCIL are on. We hope to achieve closure as soon as possible. We are eager to start [on the studies] so as to fully define the project,” said diplomatic sources.

They drew attention to French Ambassador Francois Richier’s observations at a recent Indo-French nuclear seminar. “I hope the discussions will be completed soon,” he had said, which would make the Jaitapur project “the first to come up since the 2008 Nuclear Suppliers Group exemption to India.”

While Kudankulam I and II will be the first mega units to come up in India, the agreement with Russia [then Soviet Union] was signed over two decades ago and negotiations over the next two units are deadlocked over the Nuclear Liability Act. Similarly, the American bid to set up nuclear plants in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh is also held up.

Commenting on the Act, which has been opposed by all companies vying for business in India because of a clause that puts the onus of an accident on suppliers, the sources said Areva’s basic principle was to abide by the law of the land and at the same time ensure that the company’s interests were protected. But as the Rules have not entered into force, there is uncertainty about how it will all end up. In addition, the Supreme Court is hearing a petition on safety in civil nuclear plants. “But this question is not for us to solve,” they said.

Protests

The second issue facing the French company are mass protests in and around Jaitapur that has led to the loss of a life in police firing. Unlike the Russians, who suspected a foreign hand in protests at their site in Kudankulam, the French are taking the protests at Jaitapur in their stride.

“It is the beauty of democracy that all are allowed to demonstrate. France had such demonstrations for long and one good effect was it obliged the industry and the government to take care of safety concerns and also accept transparency. This approach helped the French to accept nuclear energy without fears. Today France has 60 reactors or one reactor for every 10 lakh people. Demonstrations are legitimate and we will try to address their safety related concerns,” the sources said.

The third stumbling block after the Limited Nuclear Liability Act and the protests is the absence of an India-Japan civil nuclear cooperation agreement. This will make it next to impossible to source crucial parts for the reactor vessel made by the Japan Steel Works.

Indian officials expect Areva to approach South Korea with which India has a civil nuclear agreement. According to South Korean diplomats, Areva and Korean Electric Power Company (Kepco) have worked together in the past, but have also competed against each other for a major United Arab Emirates tender, which was won by Seoul.

Kepco’s stand

At the same time, it remains to be seen whether Kepco will be content with supplying a few parts for the reactor, when South Korea feels that after signing the civil nuclear agreement with India [after just three meetings], New Delhi might award it a nuclear reactor park of its own.

Diplomatic sources are confident of surmounting these issues. “This is not the first time France is central to India’s nuclear energy programme. Our cooperation started in 1951 and the long term commitment to work together in nuclear and space segments triggers all kinds of cooperation easily and solves all problems.”

 

#India- 11 convicted in Guwahati molestation case #Vaw


13 policemen will face trial for charges of gang rape in the case of Vakapalli tribal women  #Rape #Vaw

.

Mnaipur Mail

GUWAHATI, Dec 7 NNN: Five months after the incident had occurred, a local court in Guwahati today convicted 11 of the 16 accused.

On Friday, Kamrup chief judicial magistrate S.P Moitra after the hearing of 24 witnesses, convicted 11 including prime accused Amarjyoti Kalita who was arrested from Varanasi almost a month after the incident. However, the terms of sentence is yet to be pronounced. This is so, because, not happy with the judgement, those convicted persons have sought a re-examination of their case within 30 days.

In the month of July, the police had arrested  the youths for molesting and trying to strip a 16-year-old on the busy GS Road in Guwahati at late night. The girl, a class 11 student, was pounced upon soon after she emerged from a party organized in a bar.

Some 20-25 men attacked the teenage girl as she was about to board a vehicle on her way home. They pawed her for almost 30 minutes and tore off a part of her dress before the police team came to her rescue.

On the basis of video footage, the police got cracking.
One of the molesters turned out to be an employee of the state government-run IT agency Amtron. He was identified as Amarjyoti Kalita.

Days after the incident, a team of National Commission for Women had met the girl and recorded her version. The girl is said to be daughter of a deceased police officer.

In July, RTI activist and peasant leader Akhil Gogoi had alleged that the journalist – Gaurab Jyoti Neog, reporter of NewsLive TV channel – had instigated a mob to molest the girl and filmed it on his mobile phone. Gogoi’s allegation was based on a video footage screened at the Guwahati Press Club.

The news channel had denied the charge as baseless.

It is worth noting that as part of its measure to prevent such incidents, Assam government in November had raised the all-women commando company christened as Virangana, meaning ‘women warrior’.

One hundred women commando personnel attired in black uniforms were groomed to face any situation. They were given concerted training in martial arts, using of guns, handling bikes of all types and vehicles. These ‘women in black’  would also be required to act as decoys in areas prone to eve-teasing and molestation. Such areas include the vicinities of bars and hotels.

The elite women commando company was conceived in July this year following the molestation of a woman outside a bar in Guwahati.
Kanakeswar Borgohain, the spokesperson of Assam police had said last month that the recruits for the force underwent rigorous training at the Dergaon Police Training College in central Assam. The police spokesperson had also said that sixteen of the best trainees were sent to Tamil Nadu for advanced commando training.

“We have no reports of any other state in India having floated an all-women commando force specifically to check crimes against women,” Borgohain had added.

#India- inter-caste marriage- couple faces threat to lives



Tribune News Service

Priyanka and Suresh fear threat to their lives due to their inter-caste marriage.
Priyanka and Suresh fear threat to their lives due to their inter-caste marriage. A Tribune Photograph

Sirsa, December 16
A newly wedded couple is facing threat to its lives for breaking customs and marrying outside their castes.

Priyanka Kaswan, who belongs to a Jat family from Panniwala Mota village in Sirsa, married Suresh, a Dalit youth from Kheowali on December 14.

Since their marriage, the couple is living under threat from the girl’s family members and some other close relatives.

“When we went to the district courts to seek security for us immediately after our marriage, Raja Kaswan, my close relative, came there and warned us that both of us will be liquidated,” Priyanka alleged in her complaint addressed to the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA).

Both Priyanka and Suresh have given identical complaints to the CJM-cum-secretary of the authority to Advocate Usha Kaswan, a lawyer on the panel of the DLSA.

The couple said they had again received threatening calls from Priyanka’s brother. He threatened to kill them once they came out of the protection home. Suresh has also expressed apprehension of threat to the life of his family members.

Meanwhile, couples staying in the protection home complained of poor amenities, broken windowpanes, and lack of cleanliness. “There is no kitchen where we can cook food and we have to order food from outside,” alleged the couples.

 

A Conversation With: Human Rights Activist Binayak Sen


By MALAVIKA VYAWAHARE, NYtimes
Dr. Binayak Sen.Courtesy of The Gandhi FoundationDr. Binayak Sen.

Binayak Sen, 62, is no ordinary doctor. Few doctors, after all, spend three decades working in a region threatened by what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the “single biggest internal security challenge ever faced” by the country. And that was before Dr. Sen was jailed on charges of “waging a war against the state,” which prompted a group of Nobel laureates topetition for his release.

Dr. Sen was released in 2009, after spending two years in jail, but still faces charges of supporting the Maoists, also referred to as Naxalites, which he denies.

The Maoists have been leading an armed movement to capture political power in 13 states in India over four decades, and claim to be fighting for the poor, dispossessed and marginalized. Dr. Sen ran mobile clinics in the interior of Chhattisgarh, one of the states most affected by the Maoist insurgency. In 2005, he led a 15-member team that published a report criticizing the Salwa Judum, which  Human Rights Watch calls “a state-supported vigilante group aimed at eliminating Naxalites.”

The Chhattisgarh state government alleged that his work, and in particular his association with the Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal,  amounted to helping wage “a war against the state.” Although that charge was dismissed, he was found  guilty of sedition and conspiracy, and sentenced to life imprisonment by a lower court in Chhattisgarh in 2010. He was granted bail by the Supreme Court in 2011 and an appeal against the conviction is pending in the Chhattisgarh High Court.

A group of 40 Nobel laureates described him as “an exceptional, courageous, and selfless colleague, dedicated to helping those in India who are least able to help themselves,” in a 2011 letter appealing for his life sentence to be overturned.

India Ink had several conversations with Dr. Sen, both over the phone and e-mail, to discuss how human rights activism grew from his work as a doctor.

Q.

Describe your journey from being a doctor in rural areas to being labeled a Maoist sympathizer.

A.

My work in Chhattisgarh was with village communities, some of the poorest in India, and training health workers to look after their needs. Earlier, I had helped establish a hospital for mine workers in the area. As a logical outcome of my work, I was involved with human rights work, and was the general secretary of the state unit of the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties.

In this capacity I was instrumental in documenting and exposing deaths due to hunger and malnutrition, and to the displacement of over 600 tribal villages by the state-sponsored militia called Salwa Judum, or S.J., in southern Chhattisgarh. Last year, the S.J. was banned by the Supreme Court of India.

But it was in 2007 that I was labeled a Maoist supporter, for reasons best known to the Chhattisgarh state government. I was arrested in 2007 and charged with sedition, as well as under internal security acts, spent two years in jail during the trial, was released on bail by the Supreme Court,  convicted and sent to jail again, before again being released on bail in 2011. My appeal against the conviction is still pending in the state high court.

Q.

What was your association with the Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal?

A.

I was approached by Narayan Sanyal’s family to help him with his legal cases and his health needs. In my capacity as a P.U.C.L. activist, I visited him in jail several times in the presence of senior jail officials, as they testified at my trial.

Q.

Could you tell us about your time in prison?

A.

My time in prison was a time of deep despair, as I was unable to figure out the logic of the juridical action against me. At the same time it gave me an opportunity to know the stories of many fellow prisoners who were undergoing the same trauma as myself.

I came across many such instances where people had spent substantial amounts of time and were later let go. In some instances the judges have indicted the police for fabrication of evidence and illegal detention, but nothing has happened.

I did not do anything that was, to the best of my knowledge, wrong or illegal.  I didn’t expect anything like this happen to me; I had in fact worked with the government to provide essential services in these areas. After coming out of jail, I have been part of a nationwide process for the repeal of unjust and oppressive laws.

There was no physical intimidation that I faced in jail. However, I was kept in solitary confinement. Life in jail is itself a form of mental intimidation.

Q.

Do you consider yourself fortunate that you received a great deal of media attention when you were arrested?

A.

I faced a virulent media trial in Chhattisgarh in the print and electronic media, as well as on the Internet. The ordinary journalist in Chhattisgarh relies to a large extent on government (including police) handouts. It was the contribution of dedicated national journalists who turned their spotlight on the real story.

It was only over a period of time that a campaign against the patent injustice in my case built up, and many prominent citizens at the national and international levels besides sections of national media took a positive view about me.

Q.

What is your understanding of the Maoist problem in India? Does their use of violence overshadow the issues they are fighting for?

A.

It is surprising that so much of the public discourse is about the issue of violence. Large sections of the population in the “affected areas” are living in a state of perpetual hunger, to the point of famine, and lack appropriate and basic health care. Their access to common property resources, essential for their survival, is denied to them as a result of state action, to a point where the very survival of entire communities is called into question – but this does not become the center of the discourse.

I have clarified on many occasions that I do not condone the violence either of the agencies of the state or of those who oppose the state.

Q.

You were recently part of a conference called “Resist the Silent Emergency” in Delhi; what is the “silent emergency” in India?

A.

The conference to which you refer was mainly devoted to documenting and chronicling widespread fabrication of cases and the use of sedition-like laws to suppress dissenting voices across the country. The silent emergency refers to the suppression of fundamental rights to freedom of thought and expression, without the declaration of an actual internal emergency as in 1975.

Q.

You have spoken about the need to establish alternative agencies and systems. What has given rise to the need?

A.

First of all, I want to clarify that I have always engaged with the state to help it function better. I was recently part of the steering committee for health in the 12th five-year plan, and earlier part of the advisory group on structural reforms in health care for government of Chhattisgarh.

However, recent developments make it plain that the planning commission is unlikely to carry out its stated commitments to the universalization of health care. The alternative strategies that most public health workers are advocating, is the universalization of health care and for increased resource allocation in the health and nutrition sector.

Q.

Some suggest we need to involve international bodies in improving health care. Does that signal a lack of faith in the country’s own systems of checks and balances?

A.

The distress due to chronic hunger, lack of health care and widespread displacement of the people, who constitute one sixth of mankind, cannot be constrained only by questions of national identity. These are matters of concern for the entire world community.

(This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.)