#India – Every Move She Makes. They’ll Be Watching Her #moralpolicing #Vaw


skirtfinal

Rising hemlines lead to rising TRPs. Aradhna Wal examines a commercial news industry committed to sleaze, to lechery and to shaming young women

There’s something rotten in the states of  and . And it seems the Kannada and Telugu news channels have identified the problem — girls gone wild, fuelled by alcohol. On 14 May, Karnataka’s leading regional news channel, TV9 Kannada, ran a programme, Olage Serideru Gundu (literally, ‘once alcohol is inside’), a fine assortment of video nasties from across the country, showing the great evils of girls drinking — the ruckus on the street, clothes askew, clashes with cops.

For some years now, the disapproving cultural policing of a class of girls — ones who can afford to go out to drink — has become a staple on regional news in both states. There is massive viewership, particularly of sleazy ‘true crime’ reports, and so editors and programming heads encourage reporters to follow women and young couples, to stake out pubs, nightclubs and make-out spots. A cursory search on YouTube reveals the many news reports with such eye-catching titles as ‘Drunk women causing hulchul’, ‘Drunk women causing hungama’, or ‘How to ban rave parties to save the youth’.

“We show boys too, but a girl being daring on screen instantly catches the viewers’ attention,” says Shreeti Chakraborty, senior producer with a leading Kannada channel. One clip was of an altercation between four female students of NALSAR University of Law and reporters from the Telugu news channel ABN Andhra Jyothy, outside Rain pub in Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills on the night of 11 April. Shruthi, Megha, Prachi and Adwitiya angrily confronted a drunk man filming them on his phone. The confrontation attracted a mob and reporters from ABN. Apparently, the drunk man was a reporter who had telephoned his colleagues. The footage was picked up by other news channels. Several of them branded the girls immoral, drunk and half-naked and even questioned the pub’s licence.

Watching the ABN footage is instructive. The camera pans up and down the women’s bodies. It is exploitative; consent is not an option, probably not even worth a thought. The viewer is implicated by the camera’s roving eye, a fellow voyeur leering at barefoot girls in short dresses. The cameraman follows the girls to their taxi, thrusting his camera through the door, his taunts provoking the girls to shout insults. Their expressions of fury at being cornered were circulated on primetime news as the faces of unacceptable modernity, of aggressive young women out at night, women who must be checked.

One irate senior journalist with a leading Telugu news channel described the girls as “public nuisance”, and launched into a tirade about “minors” getting drunk, abusing reporters and partying late into the night. He blames this “anti-social behaviour” on both NALSAR and the students themselves: “They even shot a promotional video for the ‘daaru party’ on campus. Look at the things they say in that.”

Confronted by this (self ) righteous indignation, the students launched an online campaign on change.org to prove that they had been harassed by the media. They compiled evidence to show that they were neither minors, nor drinking after legal hours (11 pm), and the leaked video that the news channels broadcast was not a promo for the party. Raj Singh, the owner of Rain, has stated that the ages of everyone at the party were checked and the girls left around 11 pm, not past midnight as the reporters alleged.

“The police raided us at 11.45 pm after the incident was over,” says Singh. “At 12.45 am the reporters barged into my club, beat up my security guard and placed bottles on the bars to suggest that the pub was still open.” His decision to stand up for the girls has meant that his pub “has been raided almost nightly by every department imaginable looking for some illegal activity”.

In response, Andhra Pradesh’s Electronic Media Association of Journalists put up a counter petition on change.org, asking for the girls who “assaulted reporters” to be condemned. It garnered over 5,000 signatures. But during routine checks, change.orgtraced the bulk of these signatures to one IP address, proving that most were fake. After they removed those signatures, only 132 were left.

The girls’ determination to stand up for themselves sets them apart in a state where reporters looking to manufacture lurid stories appear to operate without any kind of sanction. “We had to fight back,” says Shruthi Chandrasekaran, one of the girls involved in that now infamous April incident. “What’s happening is just wrong and too many people seem resigned to it. We don’t even know what motivates the media’s malice towards us.”

Andhra Pradesh has some 16 regional news channels. Sevanti Ninan, editor of The Hoot, an online media watchdog, has written about how corporate ownership sets the terms and how the need to be profitable means a redrawing of the lines between public and private. In a market exploding with money and fierce competition, no channel can afford for viewers to switch off. Thus, there’s little distinction between what channels define as eyeball-grabbing reportage and salacious entertainment. News seems to essentially mean reality TV served with an indigestible side dish of hypocritical, moralistic commentary.

GS Rammohan, associate editor with ABN Andhra Jyothy, accepts that TV news has gone insane, driven by ratings and profit. According to the , what sells is sex and crime. “People enjoy watching other people’s private lives on TV,” he says. As long, apparently, as the “other people” are comely young women. The same senior journalist who denounced the NALSAR students stated matter-of-factly that channels look to show beautiful women onscreen as de facto policy. Local media in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, Rammohan says, are similar in this regard. Though Karnataka has six regional news channels as opposed to 16, its crime news coverage is famous for stings, both successful and attempted, on bars in Bengaluru, Mangalore and Manipal. Many of these stings are the work of reporters employed by Suvarna News 24×7 and TV9 Kannada, the two most popular regional news channels in Karnataka. Both blame the other for lowering the tone of the public conversation with leering, tabloid journalism.

Raoof Kadavanad, a crime reporter with a leading English daily in Hyderabad, watches the tactics of TV reporters with some bemusement. He describes how crime reporters seek out couples in public spaces and film them with hidden cameras. The footage is then screened to bolster the argument that the behaviour of young women in the city is deplorable. After the NALSAR incident, TV5 aired a segment about Hyderabad’s nightlife that deplored what was “happening to our sisters and daughters”

In July 2012, Tonic, another pub in Banjara Hills, was raided for having a party long after legal hours. The media filmed the raid, focussing largely on the women in that familiar, creepy style. Depressingly, this behaviour is typical. In January 2012, Suvarna broadcast a ‘sting’ on illegal bars in Bengaluru. The ‘illegality’ of said establishments was, of course, of less concern than filming the girls on their cameras. In 2011, a medical student was photographed at a party in Le Rock Cafe in Bengaluru. Her picture was published in a Kannada newspaper belonging to the Telugu channel Sakshi TV as an example of the malign influence of western culture on the present generation.

The combination of sanctimoniousness and aggression is visible. Girls are hunched over, hiding their faces, surrounded by baying men. The footage is edited insidiously, with strategic blurring implying nudity when a girl is wearing a dress deemed insufficiently modest. Shame is thrust on the girls. “It was terrifying,” remembers Shruthi, “to be chased by this man with a camera, who won’t even let you shut the car door.” Her fear has been felt before by innumerable women running away from cameras, desperately covering their faces with dupattas, scarves or their own hands.

Another popular tactic used by reporters is to wait around with traffic police conducting its weekly drunk-driving tests at various checkpoints around Hyderabad. Every Friday and Saturday night, a small group of reporters armed with lights and cameras film these checks, waiting for women who might be stopped. “Channels use that footage in different packages to say different things for months. People enjoy it,” says ABN Andhra Jyothy’s Rammohan.

In Bengaluru, Ajit Hanamakkanavar, the Crime Bureau Chief of Suvarna, acknowledges that “news has crossed over the line to  and reality TV”. “In the TV business, the remote control is your biggest enemy. No one watches serious, investigative stories,” he adds. The channel has a “legal team at the ready” to deal with accusations of slander and defamation. The reporters are often tipped off about the bar raids by the police. “A commissioner will not be my source,” says Hanamakkanavar, “but a constable will be.” A senior police officer confirmed that the constabulary and reporters often share information.

Both Rammohan and Hanamakkanavar put the blame squarely on upper management. The top brass have cynically turned moral policing into a lucrative business. Many of the reporters, who often come with their own cultural baggage, actually believe they are making a valuable difference, providing a much-needed check to out-of-control youth. It is not enough for them to observe society; they feel the need to become enforcers of a particular, usually imaginary, cultural code. Sampath Kumar, a crime reporter for ABN, earnestly tries to explain how “these people” can be kept in check “through fear of the media and by being made to understand that their behaviour is wrong”. He claims the reporters have the public on their side and that tip-offs come just as often from their audience as from the police.

In Karnataka, there is also a penchant for blaming the outsider, or the ‘foreign hand’ — students and professionals, who flock to cities from other states and countries, and bring money, decadence and loose morals. The pressure to make the money to lead extravagant lifestyles also results in crime, say reporters. Rajesh Rao, the Mangalore crime reporter for TV9 Kannada, says that he’s “seen what goes on in these pubs, what drugs are exchanged. These petticoat parties where girls wear short clothes”. Suresh Kumar Shetty, the Mangalore crime reporter for Suvarna, worries about the effects the “lavish lifestyle” of rich students from outside the state have on locals.

Like Rao, Shetty admits that his channel has attempted to smuggle cameras into popular bars. He once asked two friends of his, who were not reporters, to enter a bar as a couple and film the goings-on. To validate the rightness of the cause, he refers to the tragic suicide of Sneha, an 18-year-old Mangalore girl, in February this year. A drug addict, she reportedly killed herself because she couldn’t afford the next fix. Her parents spoke about a girl who used to top her class at school until she started going to parties in hotels and pubs and was introduced to drugs.

This story fits conveniently into Rao and Shetty’s argument that local youths are tempted into vices they cannot afford and that the media must protect them. Naveen Soorinje, the Mangalore reporter for Kasthuri TV, disagrees. With vehemence. He made national headlines last year after the 23 July 2012 homestay incident in which activists from the Hindu Jagarana Vedike attacked boys and girls at a birthday party. Soorinje’s coverage shed light on what had happened, yet he was named as an accused in the case by the police. Released on bail in March this year, all charges against Soorinje were dropped by the Karnataka government on 14 June. Having consistently reported on cultural policing, he points out when right wing groups such as the Sri Ram Sene go on one of their periodic moral policing jaunts in Mangalore, the media, tipped off by these groups, is close behind. It’s a cosy relationship. The media gets political backing for its own occasional hand-waving about decadent modern culture and the right wing groups get the soapbox and spotlight they so desire. “When the right wing groups are not around,” says Soorinje, “TV channels film young people in pubs and ask ‘what is the Hindu sangathan doing now?’ When TV9 does something, Suvarna tries to catch up by doing something more sensational.”

This role of social responsibility is championed by TV9 Telugu’s executive editor Dinesh Akkula and Input Editor Arvind Yadav. According to them, the story of Telugu media is one of transformation — from a cutthroat business to responsible journalism that is the hallmark of the likes of TV9. “Maturity is coming in slowly,” says Akkula, “we stick to the guidelines recommended by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA). We don’t target specific people or groups, but we show what’s in the public interest.”

In TV9 Telugu’s infamous Planet Romeo sting (February 2011), a reporter posed as a gay man on the site Planet Romeo and befriended other members, eliciting intimate details while recording his conversations. The ‘report’ was broadcast with lots of hand-wringing about how Hyderabad was falling prey to the fashionable gay culture. The conversations were played on TV, revealing identities, personal sexual preferences and histories. Prominent gay rights lawyer Aditya Bandopadhyay filed a complaint and the NBA fined the channel 1 lakh, a piffling sum for a network of TV9’s size.

That appalling piece of reporting shows that it’s not just middle and upper-middle class girls in the firing line, but all manner of easy targets. The Telugu news channel NTV 24×7 once filmed transgenders at an LGBT awareness event held by the NGO Suraksha and then aired that footage in a completely different context, when a man was murdered at a popular cruising spot. TV9 Kannada did a major expose in 2009 on the “Devdasi tradition” among sex workers of Kudligi in Bellary district. The story’s fallout, as documented in a fact-finding report by Vimochana, a women’s organisation, and Nava Jeevana Mahila Okkuta, a Dalit Women’s Collective, was that these sex workers, previously accepted by a wider community, were now ostracised. They had lost their only source of livelihood, couldn’t send their children to school and were shunned by the neighbours. The TV9 journalist, Prakash Noolvi, went on to win the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award in January 2012. “The reporter didn’t hide the faces of these women,” says Akkai Padmashali, the media coordinator of Sangama, an LGBT organisation. “They cheated these women by posing as clients. One had even been visiting them for sex.” She angrily recounts the many times reporters secretly film sex workers to extort money from them.

Activists and intellectuals point to how a large section of society gives legitimacy to the media and other self-appointed moral police. People will be outraged by a girl being beaten up, but will also say that she should not have been out drinking in the first place. Conservatives who might be of completely different backgrounds find common ground when setting limits on women’s behaviour. Shaming is a cultural reality. Madhavi Lata, a scriptwriter and former reporter for NTV, is honest about the fact that truth is often warped to fit viewers’ preconceptions. But even she asks why “these girls give people the chance to say something about them. They could go out for a drink in more decent clothes”.

Hyderabad-based activist Tejaswini Madabhushi recalls media reaction to the 5 January ‘Midnight March’ in the city, an attempt to take back the night from sexual predators and the moral police. “Vernacular news reporters,” says Madabhushi, “kept asking us why we wanted to go out in the night and provoke men like them.”

Pop culture too reflects this attitude. Audiences cheer when Telugu heroes verbally and physically abuse heroines. It’s part of a nationwide acceptance of . Sandhya, a leading gender rights activist in Hyderabad, says people “want to see women as sex objects. Studios call us for panel discussions and pit us against someone from the right wing. We tell them to leave the girls alone and start telling the boys how to behave.” R Akhileshwari, a senior print journalist, points out that it’s “always the woman’s body” that is the locus of censure or dispute. “Why do these channels not look at the liquor shops on the road, where men buy drinks, enjoying a session right there by the roadside?”

Perhaps legal challenges will force TV channels to modify their intrusive behaviour. “It is a violation of privacy,” says Bengaluru-based lawyer Akmal Rizvi. “It can be interpreted as stalking, which comes under Section 354D of the IPC.” One of Hyderabad’s eminent lawyers says, on the condition of anonymity, that some reporters “blackmail people for money by threatening to show their faces on TV”. The NALSAR students cited the reporters’ violations of the NBA’s regulations concerning stings and media ethics. The reporters argue that roads are public areas.

“Moral policing on TV goes back to the ’90s when crime shows started,” says Deepu, a Bengaluru- based documentary filmmaker with Pedestrian Pictures. He reiterates the point that journalists are part of the social fabric that consumes these shows. But the very morality these channels pretend to is hypocritical. “Why would you want to see that picture of the skimpily dressed girl if you are so moral?” asks Nisha Susan, freelance journalist and writer, who began the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign in 2009 in response to Sri Ram Sene goons beating up women in a Mangalore pub. Thousands of people around the country responded to her call to send the thugs the aforementioned items of women’s underwear. She adds that each generation must push the boundaries for acceptable female behaviour and be prepared for the inevitable friction.

As of now, vernacular media is working hard to play to its audience’s prejudices. An audience that tunes in repeatedly to be scandalised. Perhaps one day, these channels will be overtaken by their viewers as they’re forced to adapt to changing times. One day, the audience will note the rage on a young girl’s face as she is backed into a corner by a reporter wielding a camera. And then they’ll no longer listen to the reporter’s claims that it is the young girl whose behaviour is immoral.

aradhna@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 27, Dated 6 July 2013)

 

#India- Religious and education sectors get biggest foreign funding #FCRA


Love is my religion

Religious and education institutions are among the highest recipients of foreign funding, an apex body of voluntary organisations today claimed.

In its study report on ‘Status of the Voluntary Sector in India‘, which was released here, Voluntary Action Network of India (VANI) also alleged that instead of creating an enabling environment for the sector, the government was tightening its noose on voluntary organisations under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

“Nearly 19 per cent (Rs 1276.56 crore) of the foreign funds are pumped into education sector and religious bodies.

“We were told by the government that money to the tune of Rs 10,500 crore were entering India in this sector.

“We have been asking for the details but it is only in the last two years that we have had the detailed report from them and it clearly reveals who is getting the major funding from abroad,” VANI CEO Harsh Jaitli said.

“It is the religious bodies like mutts, dharamshalas, churches, religious foundations, corporate foundations, private schools hospitals etc, which are getting the major fund,” Jaitli claimed.

He also claimed that the government is tightening its grip on voluntary organisation as more than 4000 organisations got their registrations cancelled.

“We were told by the FCRA department this was an effort to weed out the dormant and inactive FCRA registered organisations, or on account of non-submission of returns, change of address and not updating the same with the department concerned, or no reasonable activities in the last couple of years but things got caught up in bureaucracy and voluntary organisations suffered on their account,” he said.

On VANI’s official website, the updated cancelled list of 4138 NGOs shows Tamil Nadu with the maximum number of cancellations at 794, followed by Andhra Pradesh (670), Kerala (450) and Maharashtra (352).

VANI officials ascribed the rise in Tamil Nadu figures to the NGOs protesting against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in the state.

“Voluntary organisations and NGOs which worked against corruption, nuclear issues and human rights violations are the worst sufferers, take what happened in the aftermath of the Koodankulam protests in Tamil Nadu,” co-chairperson Farida Vahedi said.

As least four NGOs were booked under FCRA for allegedly diverting foreign funds to aid the organisation of protests against the Koodankulam plant. Their bank accounts were frozen, the report said.

Source – agencies

 

#India – Mining scam in Karnataka keeps getting bigger


BANGALORE, June 17, 2013

Sudipto Mondal, The Hindu 

Karnataka government lost Rs. 2000 crore in Commercial Taxes. File photo
The Hindu Karnataka government lost Rs. 2000 crore in Commercial Taxes. File photo

The epic proportions of the illegal mining scam that was uncovered by the Karnataka Lokayukta in its 2011 report may actually have been just one act of a much larger, more complex and multi-layered drama.

 

There is now new evidence to suggest that the Lokayukta’s final report on illegal mining – a political game-changer that sent the powerful to jail and catalysed a regime change in the state – is just one part of the mining story. A six-month-long investigation by The Hindu, with help from whistleblowers in the Railways, the Karnataka Commercial Taxes Department and the CBI, points to losses to the State exchequer between January 2006 and December 2010 that are, at the very least, Rs. 1 lakh crore or eight times the estimated figure given in the Lokayukta report. The investigation also shows that the State lost Rs. 2,000 crore in commercial taxes.

 

The new information suggests that the dominant narrative on illegal mining, namely, that illegal ore was mainly exported to China to feed an infrastructure boom triggered by the Beijing Olympics, is actually a very partial telling of the mining scam story. The new data with The Hindu furthers the depth and reach of the mining scam, a part of which was so exhaustively covered in the Lokayukta report.

 

Some our central findings are as follows.

 

The Lokayukta report says that 12.57 crore tonnes of iron ore was exported overseas from Karnataka between 2006 and 2010. However, documents with The Hindu reveal that nearly 35 crore tonnes of ore was transported out of Bellary in the same period. If one were to deduct the 12.57 crore tonnes exported (as per Lokayukta report), the remaining the 22.43 crore tonnes was sold in the domestic market.

 

The Lokayukta report estimates the losses to the exchequer at Rs. 12,228 crore. The organisation’s calculation was based on the fact that the government had given permits for extraction for only 9.58 crores tonnes of ore. Subtracted from the 12.57 crore tonnes exported, it meant that 2.98 crore tonnes of ore was illegally mined and exported. The Lokayukta estimated the price of ore exported at an average of Rs. 4,103 per tonne.

 

What explains the divergence between the findings of the Lokayukta and those of The Hindu? The Lokayukta has relied on Customs Department data on ore shipments exported from 10 ports in Karnataka, Goa, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh between 2006 and 2010, to calculate the quantum of ore that left the country.

 

By contrast, The Hindu has looked at the total quantity of ore transported out of Bellary by road and rail. Railway documents show that 20 crore tonnes of iron ore was transported out of Bellary from six railway stations and 14 railway sidings between 2006 and 2010. Of this, nearly 19 crore tonnes of ore was marked “for export”.

 

From data sources in the CBI and Commercial Taxes Department, we know that lorries carried at least 14 crore tonnes of ore out of Bellary by road in the nine months between September 2009 and June 2010. “This was when the Bellary [Reddy] brothers had rebelled against B.S. Yeddyurappa’s government. The rebellion was a smokescreen to intensify illegal mining. At least 20,000 trucks were leaving Bellary each day in that period,” a CBI official told The Hindu.

 

Leaving out these nine months, on each day between 2006 and 2010 an average of 1,000 lorries left Bellary, with an average load of 32 tonnes of ore per truck. This adds nearly another 4 crore tonnes to the overall tally.

 

Therefore nearly 35 crore tonnes of iron ore was transported from Bellary in four years time by lorries and railway wagons.

 

Officers in the Commercial Taxes Department and the CBI concur on the point that 35 crore tonnes of ore could not have been exported from the ports near Bellary. “All the 10 ports [from where stolen ore was being exported] put together simply don’t have the capacity to handle such massive traffic,” said one Commercial Taxes officer.

 

These sources agree with the Lokayukta report to the extent that only 12.57 tonnes was actually exported. “On this count, the Lokayukta report is accurate as it is Customs Department data on which the report is based,” said an officer.

 

However, the remaining 22.43 crore tonnes of ore, although marked “for export”, was supplied domestically, he says. This, the officer claims, was done to evade commercial taxes.

 

#India – Assam tops 2012 list of custodial deaths in India #Prisonerights


, TNN | Jun 15, 2013,

Assam tops 2012 list of custodial deaths in India

Surprisingly, the NCRB did not record a single case of police custodial death in Assam in 2011.
GUWAHATI: In a major embarrassment for the state, the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) figures for last year have listed Assamas having the highest numbers of police custodial deaths. “Last year, 11 persons who were in police remand died in lock-ups in Assam. Though autopsy, case registration and magisterial enquiries were conducted in all the cases, no policemen were chargesheeted or convicted in these cases in 2012,” said the NCRB report.Andhra Pradesh came second in the category with five such cases, followed by Maharashtra with four deaths, as recorded by the national agency. A total of 38 such deaths were recorded in the country last year.

Surprisingly, the NCRB did not record a single case of police custodial death in Assam in 2011. Andhra Pradesh was in first position in 2011 with 11 cases and Madhya Pradesh second. Maharastra stood in the third in 2011 as well.

Assam Police, who are embarrassed and under fire because of the report, have demanded a rechecking of the figure published in the NCRB report. “We are concerned, but we first need to go through the details of every case thoroughly,” said Assam Police chief J N Choudhury.

Concerned about the matter, former police chief Hare Krishna Deka said that Assam Police should take the matter seriously and act promptly. “There should be a thorough study of the cases by the CID, which should prepare a detailed report citing reasons behind the incidents and measures to prevent it. Besides, the top brass of the state police should also make surprise visits to police stations to check any wrong action by police officers on lock-up inmates,” Deka said.

The former DGP added, “Moreover, we need to find out whether or not the magisterial inquiries were completed. These probes and their follow-up actions should be very prompt.”

Earlier this month, the Assam Human Rights Commission (AHRC) ordered a magisterial enquiry into the custodial death of one Palash Baruah at Jorhat Medical College Hospital while he was in judicial custody. Palash was lodged in the Jorhat District Jail.

As per an Asian Centre for Human Rights report, ‘Torture in India 2011′, stated that a total of 14,231 persons, or an average of more than four persons per day, died in police and judicial custody in India between 2001 and 2010
.

 

Press Release : NAPM Demands a Political Resolution on Telangana


NAPM Demands a Political Resolution on Telangana

Condemns Undemocratic Extraordinary Steps against the Telangana Agitators

June 14, New Delhi / Hyderabad : Andhra Pradesh is in turmoil once again over the demand of a separate Telangana. The struggle for a separate Telangana has been ongoing for a long time now. The central and state governments as well as the major political parties in the state have played opportunistic and partisan political games with people’s sentiments. Exploiting people’s emotions for vote bank politics, parties have supported formation of unholy alliances and politics of divide and rule. The uncertainty over the demand for a Telangana state must end now so that people can carry on their occupations and work without anger, ill-will and anxiety.

The formation of smaller states in the Indian Union is, in general, a significant step towards bringing the locus of political power closer to the people. Small states in India, given the population size of the country, will still be big by international standards. With a population of about 3 crores, Telangana, if and when created, will be viable as a state of the Indian Union. Demands for making governments responsive and accountable, need for redressing administrative inefficiency, and popular aspiration for a better life have set the stage for a new phase of states’ reorganization.

The people’s movement for Telangana has reached new heights in recent years. People’s struggles and sacrifices have made it clear that the demand for a separate state of Telangana now represents the aspirations of an overwhelming majority of the people in this region.

The Andhra Pradesh Assembly convened on 10th of June has remained paralysed on the issue of Telangana. It’s unfortunate to see the extraordinary measures that have been taken up by the government to suppress the ‘Chalo Assembly‘ call, given by the Telangana Joint Action Committee, an umbrella organisation of several pro-Telangana groups

National Alliance of People’s Movements believes that while it is necessary to maintain the law and order situation, suppression of democratic people’s protest by maas illegal arrests of activists, threatening the people of Telangana, and cancellation of monthly pensions and essential commodities through fair price shops to people participating in Telangana agitation, is totally unacceptable.

NAPM, no doubt, has always supported the demand for smaller states, whether in Jharkhand or Uttarakhand but has  also warned that without change in the paradigm of development and system of governance, there can be no fundamental change in the politics or relations of power in favour of the toiling masses. We repeat this warning in the case of Telangana, having witnessed the continued injustice and exploitation in the newly formed states. NAPM, however, supports the popular demand for Telangana which will benefit not only the agitating people from the Region but all in the present State of Andhra Pradesh whose lives and livelihood are continuously affected due to keeping the issue burning with struggle as well as oppression becoming an unending politics to be faced by common people.

Hence, NAPM calls for an immediate political resolution on the issue of Telangana. In spite of widespread support in Andhra Pradesh for the Telangana cause, there seems to be an impasse over statehood for the region. The Telangana movement offers credible hope of changing the iniquitous structures of power and control in the state and its failure could see the forces of lawlessness acquiring new strength, with disastrous consequences for the common people.

Medha Patkar, Ramakrishnam Raju, Prafulla Samantara, Dr. Sunilam, Gabriele Dietrich, Arundhati Dhuru, Saraswati Kavula, P S Ajay, Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant, Vimal Bhai, Madhuresh Kumar, Sashank Rajwadi

 

 

Indian priest arrested for sexually assaulting girl in US #Vaw


The diocese has placed the priest on administrative leave.

Posted on June 12, 2013, 

Blue Earth:An Indian Catholic priest has been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a girl at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Blue Earth in Minnesota, US.

Father Leo Koppala, who is serving the Winona diocese in the US, is currently lodged in the Faribault County Jail.

The priest’s name still remains on the Marquee at his church in Blue Earth, despite facing second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges.

The diocese has placed the priest on administrative leave, saying that they had not received complaints on his conduct in the past.

The alleged incident happened last week at the home of the girl’s grandmother where he had been invited to dinner.

A criminal complaint filed in Faribault County says after dinner the young girl went downstairs to watch television.

It goes on to accuse the 47-year-old priest, who belongs to Nellore diocese in Andhra Pradesh, of grabbing the girl, kissing her, touching her breasts.

The complaint also alleged that the priest told the 11-year-old girl that when she was done with school, he wanted them to… quote… “be free together.”

If proved guilty, the priest could face up to 25 years in prison.

Source:  http://www.ucanindia.in/

 

 

#India – Face to Face: Kishore Chandra Deo, Union Mininster for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj


 

Akash Bisht Delhi

A five-time MP from Araku (ST) constituency of Andhra PradeshKishore Chand Deowas first elected to the Lok Sabha way back in 1977. He also served one term in the Rajya Sabha and was a member of the Congress Working Committee.  He was sworn in as theUnion Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj in 2011 and has also been a chairperson of several important parliamentary committees. In the wake of the cold-blooded murder of tribals in ChhattisgarhHardnews spoke to the veteran politician

 

Q | On May 17, eight tribals, including three children, were killed by the security forces in Ehadsameta in Bijapur district in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. This comes nearly a year after 17 innocent villagers were killed in cold blood by the security forces in Sarkeguda.

Last year, when it happened in Chhattisgarh, I had raised the matter with the appropriate authorities and had taken it up with the then Union home minister and also written to the state government. I can only say that this is most unfortunate because if innocent tribals start losing their lives in this manner then it will only create more resentment among them. This kind of action will further drive them into the arms of the extremists. I have said time and again that, to understand the reasons for the extremist problems, we have to get to the roots of it. I want to reiterate that the problem in these areas cannot be treated merely as a law and order one. The problems at the grassroots are far deeper. We have recognized the problems and created an Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for selected tribal and backward districts.

Exploitation is one of the biggest problems staring at tribal populations in these areas. The threat of mining is severe. If we talk about development then the UPA believes in inclusive growth and it means that the process of development should take along people from the poorest, exploited and marginalized sections of society.

Recently, I came to know about the exploitation of tribals in Mahan Coal Fields (Singrauli) in Madhya Pradesh. I got feedback from the locals that the district administration and main functionaries of panchayats have been manipulated by private miners. I am told that merely 15-20 people of the gram sabha had passed contrived resolutions. This was against the directions from the panchayati raj ministry that the gram sabha meetings have to be video recorded. It also goes against the directions of the tribal affairs ministry that community rights have to be recognized. A contrived gram sabha not allowing community rights to the tribals goes against every constitutional provision. This is the first time I was hearing that tribal communities do not want their rights. This is their mainstay and basic source of their livelihood; that is why I sent guidelines and circulars defining what community rights and resources mean. Thus, when such situations arise, you have such unfortunate events like what happened in Chhattisgarh.

Probably, it’s one of those incidents where force was used to tame the people, but this will only polarize people against the State. After all, the State has to gain the sympathy of the people and they have to realize and recognize their rights. The security forces have to be within the perimeters of the existing laws and if you keep flouting laws and conventions then this is what it will result in. This is very sad.

Q | It has been reported that the post-mortems of the dead tribals were being conducted in the open.

It is not only gory, it is inhuman and this is not the way you deal with your own citizens. Health and law and order are under the jurisdiction of the state government. This doesn’t mean that I am trying to play politics; these things have happened under Congress governments too. I have not spared my own party governments and chief ministers. This is not a party matter and is above politics. These situations, when they develop, become a threat to our nation’s security. It is beyond party matters. The states will have to take up the responsibilities and security forces have to restrain themselves when it comes to dealing with innocent people.

It’s no excuse to say that they were being used as human shields and hence they massacred them. Why were they being used as human shields? You have to go into the causes for that. Once you understand that then you can get to the root of the problem. I have discussed this with the present home minister and he understands this very well. He was totally in agreement with me that this is not the way to handle such situations. I will again be writing to the chief ministers, the home minister and environment and forests ministry. If mining clearances are given without the consent of tribals then you will only be antagonizing them. 

Q |There were protests and anger after the gangrape of a young girl in Delhi, but not many spoke about Soni Sori and how she was tortured and sexually assaulted by the Chhattisgarh police.

I was the one who took up her case. It was raised in the Rajya Sabha by an MP. There was an instance when AIIMS refused to admit her despite a court order. I ensured that she was admitted to the hospital and given proper treatment. We need to create awareness among people about their rights.

 

Q | There are reports that Operation Green Hunt is still being pursued by security forces.

If there are any such reports then I will take it up with the appropriate authorities. I am not opposing that certain operations need to be carried out in certain areas, but there has to be some cause. Going around in a trigger-happy mood and shooting innocent people is not the way to go about it.

 

Q |What role do these gram sabhas and panchayats play in tribal areas? Recent reports suggest that there has been an increase of 25 per cent in centrally sponsored schemes but India still ranks very low in the Human Development Index. The scenario is worse in tribal areas.

They play a very vital role in these impoverished regions and if gram sabhas are allowed to play their role, they will do it. The problem is similar to what I mentioned earlier in Mahan Coal Fields. The tribals wanted to file claims under the Forest Rights Act but their claims were not accepted by the local authorities. If you want to empower people, gram sabhasmust be held regularly. I have sent circulars and they need to be video recorded. Video recording is no big deal today and there are cameras available everywhere. Twenty years back they could have said that it is a utopian idea, but that is not the case now. This is to prevent contrived gram sabha resolutions; if people are allowed to play their roles, half of our problems will be solved.

Panchayati raj is a state subject and every state has its own Panchayati Raj Act. My job is to raise awareness, issue guidelines and monitor. Officially, guidelines have been issued. For instance, they need to hold four gram sabhas every year. I would be happy if they have 40, but they have to be genuine. If the state governments do not comply then there is very little that one can do. This year we have launched the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sashakti karan Abhiyan (RGPSA); this is demand-driven. The annual budget allocation for the panchayati raj ministry is Rs 300-350 crore. I have got Rs 6,200 crore from the Planning Commission for the Five Year Plan under RGPSA. That makes it close to Rs 500 crore annually. The Union ministry for rural development has agreed to give one per cent of its annual allocation because most of their schemes have to be implemented and channelized through the gram panchayats. It may be only one per cent for the rural development minister, but for me it is nearly Rs 1,000 crore, as his annual budget is Rs 99,000 crore per annum. So, in total, it makes Rs 1,500 crore a year which is substantial as compared to what I was getting earlier.

I am ready to give funds to strengthen the panchayati raj infrastructure. I have put some conditions and they have to comply with provisions of the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution. First, they will have to hold elections within six months as prescribed by the Constitution. Then, they will have to devolve their funds, functions and functionaries and hold gram sabhas regularly. I have evolved this marking system where I will be marking them according to these constitutional provisions. States that will comply will get funds accordingly, and since all state governments want funds, so, I think. I will be able to convince them.

Another important thing is that I am not thrusting these funds for any specific purpose. One state may say that they have sufficient panchayat ghars and they don’t want money for that but they want money to pay salaries. I have asked them to give me plans and, based on the requirements, I plan to give them the money. The Union communications ministry has promised that they will give broadband connections to 2,46,000 panchayats in the country by 2014. In fact, they have already done it for 50,000 panchayats. In remote and tribal areas, where there is no power, we will have solar systems. So, the states that need money for computers or solar equipment, I will give them money. We have four software systems that many states are using and six more software systems have been developed and people are being trained. Once the training is over then the state governments will have 10 software systems to use. There will be social accounting and e-governance, and everything that is going on in these panchayats will be documented. This will help us monitor these schemes and take them forward. 

Q | Which are the states that are doing well?

There are certain states that have been doing well but nobody has devolved all the 29 items that are in Schedule 5 of the Constitution. Some states comply with 12, some with 14. States like Kerala, West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka have been doing very well. In the last couple of years, Haryana has been lagging behind, but now it is performing well. I have started a trend of giving awards for the best performing states. Now, we are also giving awards to specific panchayats for good practices. All this is to sensitize them and give them incentives to make them aware. Recently, there was a Commonwealth Conference for local bodies in Uganda. Unfortunately, the ministry of external affairs made the urban development ministry as the nodal ministry, although the Commonwealth was keen that we participate. I wanted to send some panchayati raj representatives to the conference to give them a sense of empowerment.

 

Q |What about states that are performing below your expectations?

We have not made a list of that. Jharkhand is one such state that hasn’t had elections in 12 years; they had elections when Arjun Munda came to power. The elected representatives are there but what will they do if you don’t give them any funds or devolve any functions? I had written to the chief minister and had gone to Ranchi. Ultimately, the call has to be taken by them.

Another example is Jammu and Kashmir. They had elections after 12 years, but no functions have been given to these elected representatives. No funds are given to them for whatever reasons. They said that because of Article 370 they are not bound by the 73rd and 74thamendments. I said fine, they must be having a Panchayati Raj Act of their own so they should devolve powers according to that. That is not happening. In my state, Andhra Pradesh, there have been no elections in the last two years — hence, there are nopanchayats. So, whom do you talk to? I have been writing to them and there is a constitutional requirement that they have to do it in six months. Besides, this is a Congress-ruled state.  

Q | In north India, panchayats are feudal in nature and Dalits and minorities have no say in them. Similarly, in tribal areas, tribals have no say and local bodies are easily bought off by big business and multinationals. How do you counter this?

Gram sabhas have a special role to play in these areas under statutory provisions within the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act. This was enacted by the central government in 1996. Fifteen years have passed, but, unfortunately, out of the nine scheduled states, only three have made rules. Six have not even done this and they have made their own rules. According to PESA all state governments have to amend their Panchayati Raj Act to see that they are compliant with PESA, but they have not done so. According to PESA, gram sabhas will not be in the panchayat level, but it will be held in every habitation. This is a clarification that I have sent to all state governments of the scheduled states.

Ultimately, they have to take the call. By empowering the gram sabha, we can give the people the role, however indirect it may be, to partake in the process of governance and development. This is one way to draw tribals into the mainstream and to make them feel that they are part of governance. This should get them out of these threats of taking to extremist ways.

In the scheduled areas, even if multinationals buy the panchayats, they cannot enter since there are constitutional provisions and safeguards under Article 244 and the Fifth Schedule. Constitutional safeguards and provisions cannot be overridden by resolutions of gram sabhas or panchayats and even by the devious methods deployed by the state government to flagrantly and blatantly overcome constitutional safeguards. This is totally illegal.

Governors have special powers, so I have written to governors of all scheduled states. I received a reply from the governor of Chhattisgarh. I have written to the governor of Odisha arguing that constitutional provisions have been totally violated in the case of Vedanta. It is a scheduled area and Vedanta is a private company which has no locus standi there. I have written to the governor of Andhra Pradesh who chose to abdicate his powers and rights and I had to take other action.

If you take the case of the Orissa Mining Corporation which is registered under the Companies Act, 1956, these are corporations that can’t take land in Schedule 5 areas. Irrespective of that provision they give land on lease to private companies like Vedanta. This is completely against the provisions of the Constitution. In recent times, there have been a number of cases where shares have been disinvested in such companies. Article 244 of the Constitution can only be amended by Parliament in the manner prescribed in Article 368 of the Constitution. Hence, by disinvesting and taking this surreptitious route, are they not subverting constitutional provisions and bypassing the authority of Parliament?

I have sent a letter based on the Supreme Court ruling on Vedanta. The Supreme Court, in its order, has mentioned about Article 144 (1), but they have not gone deep into the matter. Probably, the counsel who was arguing this case didn’t raise this. The counsel was from the ministry of environment and forests. By the time I became minister, it was too late for the tribal affairs to get involved in this case. But I did raise a lot of hue and cry and I saw to it that an affidavit from my ministry went to the Attorney General who gave it to the Supreme Court. That is the reason why they have made my ministry the nodal authority for looking at the Forests Rights Act and PESA compliances in the Vedanta case.

 

India – Grain bank movement is saving farmers from starvation in Odisha


An Insurance Against Hunger

The grain bank movement is saving farmers from starvation and the cycle of debt and desperation
Baba Umar

BABA UMAR, Tehelka

May 31, 2013

Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

NOT MANY summers ago, only tamarind seeds, wild berries and mango kernels stood between the tribals of Ranjagoda village and death by starvation. However, activist Achyut Das found that there were no starvation deaths in the neighbouring villages in ’s Rayagada district, which had set up . “The concept, though, had never reached Ranjagoda,” says Das.

Until recently, Ranjagoda’s tribals had to part with most of their produce to pay back moneylenders. “Debt bondage was the root cause of starvation,” says Das. “With interest rates as high as 200 percent, most villagers lost their mortgaged land and productive assets. Many were forced to work as bonded labour for the moneylender, sometimes over generations.”

To help the villagers break out of the cycle of debt and starvation, Das mobilised them to form self-help groups. A local grain bank was set up with all 50 families of Ranjagoda contributing 9 kg of ragi, the local staple.

“Unlike rice, ragi can be stored for almost three years,” says Das. “So the villagers, who couldn’t afford to buy food in the lean summer months, could now borrow, say, 5 kg of ragi from the grain bank, and put back 25 percent more within five months.” It has been a decade since the initiative took off, and today Ranjagoda is able to loan grain and seeds to other villages.

The grain bank experience has been a boon for India — a food-surplus nation that has, paradoxically, always performed poorly in terms of the  (GHI). It has been placed below Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal in 2012 by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

As a way to battle hunger, the Centre announced plans to set up grain banks for the first time in 1996. So far, 21,751 village grain banks have been sanctioned across 20 states. “These can be set up in drought-prone areas, deserts, tribal areas and inaccessible hilly areas that remain cut off because of natural calamities. Foodgrain will be loaned to BPL families at one quintal per family under the scheme,” said Union Food Minister KV Thomas in October 2012.

In some cases, like at Pyallayaram village in Andhra Pradesh’s Medak district, the grain banks also offer seeds and chemical inputs like fertilisers and pesticides to impoverished farmers. “The grain bank has helped the villagers get rid of both moneylenders and seed-sharks,” says Girdhar Babu of Deccan Development Society, one of the NGOs behind the grain bank initiatives in the state.

Poverty and food insecurity caused by prolonged drought and loss of traditional varieties of seeds had broken the back of Pyallayaram’s local economy, forcing many villagers to migrate. Those who stayed back were utterly destitute and malnourished. “That was 20 years ago. Relying solely on government relief schemes had encouraged a culture of dependency,” says Babu. “That changed when 34 women of the village took things into their own hands and started growing their own food.”

Subsequently, the villagers established a grain bank for poor farmers to ensure a steady supply of quality seeds by preserving the traditional varieties and restoring cultivation on marginal lands. “We have repeated the same experiment with self-help groups in 85 other villages,” adds Babu.

 

Chhattisgarh- What will Bastar’s children reap from this bloody war of binaries?


SANJAY RAWAT
No kind conflict Tribal kids have no escape from the red war
GROUND ZERO
An Ill Sowing Festival
What will Bastar’s children reap from this bloody war of binaries?
SUPRIYA SHARMA, in Outlook

A few hundred metres short of where the Maoists would launch an attack that would propel them as far as the pages of the New York Times, a young adivasi boy, not more than ten years old, stood in the dull afternoon heat, facing perhaps the biggest dilemma of his life. He knew what lay ahead on the road. He possibly struggled with the burden of what to do about it for a couple of moments before he flagged down a motorcyclist. “All he said was ‘aage kuch hai’,” recounts Om Prakash Singh, a 42-year-old businessman and Congress party worker who was racing ahead of a convoy of party leaders on his motorcycle when he noticed the boy and slowed down to hear him out.

Singh ignored the boy’s words of caution. A few minutes later, he heard an explosion ring through Darbha Ghat. While Singh had safely crossed the bend where 30 kg of ammonium nitrate laid buried, the convoy of about 25 cars had not. An explosion heaved the road. What followed was a bloodbath its survivors are not likely to forget.

But what about that boy? He would remain unknown and unheard. And it is best that way. For he had violated the rule of self-preservation that Bastar’s adivasis drill into their young as early as they learn to speak: see everything, but stay mum.

Last year, when I returned to Chhattisgarh after a break of eight months, I was told things were looking up in Bastar. The official figure of lives lost in the Maoist insurgency had plunged to 107—the lowest in eight years. The state had lost the top spot in the casualty table to Jharkhand. Beyond the statistics, I looked around for signs of change. A construction boom was under way in the district headquarters. Bijapur had a swimming pool. Dantewada had a new cricket ground with grass as green as the lawns in Lutyen’s Delhi. People in the towns were breathing easy. Even the villages seemed somewhat better off. At least the ones along the highways.

Then I ventured off the roads and spent a few days inside the large expanse of forests where adivasis live to the sun, the seasons and the rules of the Janatana Sarkar. Here, in the second week of March, the news that an encounter had taken place in Kanchal, a village deep south, just 25 km short of Andhra Pradesh, floated to the village where I was staying. Fear had travelled like radiation, distorting the face of a young boy—let’s call him Joga—who had made plans that morning to take his cows down to sell at a border market. Now, it was no longer wise to go, he surmised. The security forces could still be around. He could be caught, beaten, taken away. At 16, Joga had internalised the twisted logic of the conflict: You may have to pay for what you have not done.

The Greyhounds, Andhra’s elite anti-Naxal force, had stormed Kanchal in the early hours of morning. They had wanted to bust a group of Maoists camping near the river. The Maoists escaped. But a village woman, Kunjam Deve, who was filling a vessel of water, fell to the bullets. Three days after her death, I found Deve’s daughter Bhime, aged 17, standing by the river bed, crying her heart out.

A little tribal boy, all of 10 years, had warned a motorcycle-borne Congress worker of the danger ahead. He wasn’t heard. Or understood.

The summer grew blistering inside the Maoist territory. On April 16, the Greyhounds came further inside Chhattisgarh and killed nine Maoists, including a senior leader, in Puvarti village. A month later, on the night of May 17, in Edesmetta village, men, women and children gathered to cajole the village spirits to send new life their way—the village was celebrating Beeja Pandum, the seed festival marking the beginning of the sowing season—but instead, CRPF jawans turned up to deliver death. Eight villagers died in firing by the CRPF. Three were children.

Regardless of who was killed, the pertinent fact, from the point of view of the Maoists, was that the security forces were frequently entering their terrain, carrying out attacks and outrages, and going away unchallenged and unharmed. “Hatyare sarkari shastra balon par jawabi hamla kar shaheedon ka khoon ka badla lenge (We will avenge the death of our martyrs at the hands of the murderous government security forces),” said the Maoists’ note on the Puvarti encounter. At the bottom of the page, printed in fine red, were thumbnail pictures of the Maoist guerrillas who had perished. How long before a publication rolls off the Maoist press featuring dead government soldiers, I thought.


Shot at CRPF firing killed 3 kids in Edesmetta. This boy survived. (Photograph by Supriya Sharma)

With the clarity of hindsight, one can argue it is not surprising that the bloodied bodies of Mahendra Karma and Nand Kumar Patel and not dead soldiers would become the face of a Maoist victory pamphlet. Since the humiliating losses of 2010, inflicted by the Maoists in a mine attack and ambush, the CRPF has come a long way. It is better equipped and trained. It has more camps and boots on the ground. For the Maoists, under pressure to deliver a victory, it was easier to blow up a political convoy than ambush a security patrol. Except, by doing so, they have ensured that when children living in their area are gunned down by the CRPF, no one would care.

Three days before he found himself crouching in a ditch, ducking the spray of bullets coming from the automatic weapons of young adivasi guerrillas, Congress MLA Kavasi Lakhma had climbed a hill to reach Edesmetta, to condemn the killing of the three children and five others and to ask for the CRPF soldiers to be punished. A year ago, Lakhma had his party boss Nand Kumar Patel by his side when they made a similar demand in Sarkeguda, the village where the CRPF troops had shot dead 17 people, including children.

Tasked with breathing life into a comatose Congress when he took over as the state chief in 2011, the mild-mannered Patel had first shown mettle when he had taken on the state government in March that year over a police rampage in Dantewada. The police had burnt homes and granaries in three villages—not for the first time. But for the first time perhaps, the state Congress raised a ruckus. Patel led a delegation to the villages, held up the state assembly for days, and kept the story alive in Chhattisgarh’s newspapers, otherwise not keen to report police violence. The Congress’s repeated attacks ensured that this year, with elections coming up, the Raman Singh government took no chances and swiftly ann­ounced Rs 5 lakh in compensation for the Edesmetta victims. But with dead bodies of Congressmen landing up in faraway districts, there is no opposition left for a future protest.

In the Times of India office in Raipur where I worked, I was the sole journalist. The rest of my office colleagues were young men and women employed in the paper’s marketing department. Some of them were freshly out of college. Born and raised in the city, they had travelled to Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Vishakapatnam, but not to Bastar. They sourced bright ads of Bastar tourism but saw it as an area of darkness. It filled them with vague fears. Those fears have intensified this week. The landmine explosion has opened up a bigger chasm between the youth of Raipur and the youth of Bastar.

The Maoists fear that TV will turn the minds of villagers towards consumerism. “Dimaag gol gol ghoom jayega,” said rebel leader.

And yet, never before has the gap been narrower. For the first time, a generation of adivasi children, living and studying in ashramshalas, the residential schools run by the government, is being raised on more than just stale textbook narratives. Along with mid-day meals, satellite TV has been made compulsory in school. Already, the adivasi children and youth have taken to cricket with a vengeance. Young men shop for jeans and sneakers and crave for mobiles and motorcycles. They still love to lock their arms and sway while singing Gondi songs lustily. But at a school annual day I attended in January, they reserved their greatest enthusiasm for the ‘taara rara’ of Daler Mehndi.

Urban radicals may believe revolutionary fire cannot be doused by stoking material aspiration through a culture of consumption. But the Maoists are more pragmatic. The party does not want electricity in its villages, because with electricity would come TV, and by watching TV “logon ka dimaag gol gol ghoom jayega”, as a Maoist commander told me. It is not surprising then that in the football tournament it organised in February, the CRPF gave out solar-powered TV sets with satellite dishes even to teams that lost.

The state’s push to woo the young is unmistakable. It did not begin as coherent policy but as the drive of a young collector who “wanted to do something big”. When he arrived in Dantewada in 2011 at the age of 29, O.P. Choudhary wasted no time in drawing up an ambitious plan to spend Rs 100 crore on building an education city with schools, hostels and polytechnics. While the campus came up, he built a library, a plush auditorium, a cricket ground in the district headquarters. It was no less than a blitzkrieg. Every week, buses brought children from the village ashramshalas to watch movies and play games. And those who had dropped out of school began showing up at a newly created livelihood college to train the in industrial stitching, plumbing, welding, computers, hospitality. When I visited the college in January, a young boy exp­ertly folded a table napkin five times and gingerly stuck it in a glass, looking pleased with his newfound skill.

But the state cannot create opportunities for all, and even if it could, not everybody would want to take them. Many children who come to study in the state’s ashramshalas eventually want to go back to their villages in the Maoist territory. Their life is inextricably linked to family and community. And after three decades, the rebels are part of the clan. Not many young people would easily break rank. Not for an outside world that has much to offer but not respect.

Two days after the attack, when the clamour for sending new troops to Bastar reached a feverish pitch in TV studios, the CRPF quietly began its long-planned rally to hire adivasi youth. Some 2,000 constables were to be recruited, 280 from each district of Bastar. But over three days, only 46 turned up in Sukma; Dantewada fared better with 233, but only half of them were adivasi. Some would argue it was because of the Maoist attack. But I wondered if it would have been any different at any other time. Between state and rebel, Bastar’s youth have no simple choice; it’s complicated by everything that complicates the lives of young people elsewhere—family, love, ambition, personality. But the choice they don’t seem to have—not now, not unless they leave Bastar—is between war and peace.

In his ten years, the boy who stood on the highway has lived through the bloodiest years of Bastar. It seems unlikely peace would come his way before adulthood.


(Former NDTV reporter Supriya Sharma reported for the Times of India from Chhattisgarh for two years.)

 

Odisha opposes construction of Polavaram dam in Andhra Pradesh


Odisha Government asks Planning Commission not to grant revised investment clearance to the controversial multi-purpose project

The site where the proposed dam will be built in Polavaram. File PhotoThe site where the proposed dam will be built in. File Photo

Bhubaneswar, Jun 1 (PTI): Strongly opposing construction of Polavaram dam in neighbouring  government today asked the Planning Commission of India not to grant revised investment clearance to the controversial multi-purpose project.

“As the matter is sub judice in the Apex Court, it will be prudent to wait till the judgement is given as the project parameter and estimates may change,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Stating that the Odisha government has filed a suit in the Supreme Court challenging the Ministry of Environment and Forest’s environmental clearance, Patnaik pointed out that the state administration also opposed to the R&R (rehabilitation and resettlement) clearance accorded by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA).

“The state government has prayed the apex court to declare both the clearance null and void,” the Chief Minister said.

Patnaik also said that no public hearing was conducted in the affected Malkangiri district of Odisha.

“Instead, the public hearing was conducted in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh,” he said adding that the environmental clearance granted by the MoEF in favour of Polavaram project was set aside by the National Environment Appellate Authority (NEAA).

The NEAA also directed to conduct public hearing in the affected areas of Odisha and Chhattishgarh, the Chief Minister said in the letter to to Planning Commission.

However, the orders of NEAA were challenged by the government of Andhra Pradesh in the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

The AP High Court has issued an interim order on 31 December 2007 suspending the orders of the NEAA until further order.