West Bengal – 5 year old girl raped, police shielding the accused #Vaw


 

15 May 2013

 

To

The Chairman

West Bengal Human Rights Commission

Bhabani Bhaban

Alipur

Kolkata – 27

 

Respected Sir,

 

I want to draw your kind attention on an incident of inhumane rape on a minor girl of only five years of age and subsequent inactions of police of Raninagar Police Station Our fact finding report provides the detail of the whole incident. It is revealed during the fact finding that the police of the said police station refused to register the complaint of the victim family in first instance and though arrested the alleged accused but after pressure from the influential  family of the accused; made him scot free, though, registered the complaint on later date, not arrested the accused till date. The accused boy is also a minor. The physical condition of the girl is grave.

 

The police personnel of Raninagar police station suggested the family of the victim girl for arranging early treatment of her while asked to register their verbal complaint as the family members was literate. The police personnel told the father of the minor child to make a written complaint against the accused so that they could take appropriate steps against the accused while the father of the minor victim asked the reasons regarding the release of the accused from their custody instead of producing him before the court. On 20.04.2013, Mr. Nabiul Islam lodged a written complaint on behalf of the minor girl before the Officer-In-Charge of Raninagar Police Station. But till date no appropriate actions have been taken by the police personnel of the said police station and the accused is at in large.

 

Hence we seek your urgent intervention regarding the following the matters:

·       The accused must be arrested immediately

·       The role of the police personnel of Raninagar Police Station regarding their negligence and acquiescence with the accused and his ‘influential’ family must be investigated by an independent agency, and subsequent charges must be framed against the involved police personnel in accordance to the law

·       The family of minor girl should be financially compensated for the medical expenses incurred

·       The family must be provided with security and safety during the trial.

 

Thanking you

Yours truly

 

Kirity Roy

Secretary, MASUM & National Convener, PACTI

 

 

 

Name of the victim: – Ruma Khatun (name withheld), daughter of- Mr. Nabiul Islam, aged about 5 years, residing at Village- Ramnagar Natun Para, Post Office- Ramnagar DK, Police Station- Raninagar, District- Murshidabad.

 

Name of the perpetrators:- Mr. Diken Seikh, son of Mr. Sentu Seikh of Village- Ramnagar Natun Para, Post Office- Ramnagar DK, Police Station- Raninagar, District- Murshidabad and involved police personnel of Raninagar police station

 

Date and time of incident: – On 18.04.2013 at 2 pm.

 

Case Details: -

 

It is revealed during our fact finding that Mr. Nabiul Islam the father of the minor victim is living with his wife Ms. Layla Bibi along with the victim girl. Though Mr. Nabiul Islam is from Backward Class of Muslim Community, he and his family does not possess the certificate for the same. The family lives under abject poverty but their names have not been listed in Below Poverty Line (B.P.L) list either. The girl used to attend the local ICDS (Integral Child Development Scheme) Centre.

 

On 18.04.2013 at 2 pm, the girl was playing at adjacent mango orchard to her house with her friends. In the mean time the accused Mr. Diken Seikh, son of Mr. Sentu Seikh came to the place and made consecutive sexual gestures towards the girl while she was playing. The accused thereafter allured the girl by giving her a chocolate and took her to a nearby wheat field. The victim suddenly pushed down the minor girl on the field and jumped upon to her body. He abruptly tore open her clothes and forced upon her. The accused raped the minor with savaged cruelty. The minor girl made alarm while she was wreaked in severe pain and became senseless. The accused left the bleeding girl and fled from the scene. Few villagers suddenly came to the spot and informed Ms. Layla Bibi; the mother of the girl, about the incident. Ms. Layla Bibi came to the place and rushed her daughter to Godhonpara Primary Health Centre for medical treatment. But the doctor of that Primary Health Centre transferred the girl to Berhampore Matri Sadan Hospital for better treatment after examining her injuries received during the alleged rape.

 

On the very day of the incident, the parents of the victim went to Raninagar Police Station to lodge a complaint. But the police personnel of the said police station suggested them to get treated the girl at first, and then to make the complaint.  In the meantime the police arrested the accused on the basis of oral complaint by the parents took him to the police station, not to juvenile home, but later released him after his family interfered and “influenced” the police, instead of producing him before the court. Fact finding revealed that the maternal uncle of the accused is an influential political personality of the locality.

 

On 20.04.2013, Mr. Nabiul Islam lodged a written complaint over the incident, and police registered the complaint as an First Information Report (F.I.R.) and initiated a case against the accused vide Raninagar PS Case No. 272/2013 dated 20.04.2013 under section 376 (2) (f) of Indian Penal Code. But till now no appropriate actions have been taken by the police personnel of the said police station and the accused is still at large.

 

On 25.04.2013, the minor girl was discharged from Berhampore Matri Sadan Hospital after a heroic battle over the critical injuries which she received during a savage aggression upon her.

 

On 03.04.2013 at 8 pm, our fact finding team called to Mr. Ajay Pal; Sub Inspector of Raninagar police station and investigating officer of the case over telephone (03481-238038) and wanted to know the details of ongoing investigation and about the intended arrest of the accused. But the said IO of the case told that he did not know anything about the incident and abruptly disconnected the line.

Inline images 1

   VG was admitted in district hospital for injury at genital organ  

Inline images 2

 

Signature and acceptance of Mr. Ajay Pal, S.I.                                                                                        of Raninagar P.S. as Investigating Officer of the case 

 


Kirity Roy
Secretary
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
(MASUM)
&
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity
40A, Barabagan Lane (4th Floor)
Balaji Place
Shibtala
Srirampur
Hooghly
PIN- 712203
Tele-Fax – +91-33-26220843
Phone- +91-33-26220844 / 0845
e. mail : kirityroy@gmail.com
Web: www.masum.org.in

 

NHRC moved over chaining of mentally-ill woman #Vaw


J. BALAJI, The Hindu, Feb 15,2013

In a most heart-rending situation, a poor family (parents) in Odisha’s Balasore district has chained their 30-year-old mentally challenged daughter in a bamboo grove just because she behaves violently and they do not have money for her treatment.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which has taken suo motu cognisance of the incident based on a media report, issued notices to the Odisha Chief Secretary and Balasore District Collector seeking reports about the girl and the steps taken by the government for her medical treatment within two weeks.

The media report was forwarded by NHRC’s Special Rapporteur (East Zone-I) Damodar Sarangi seeking intervention of the commission.

The woman, belonging to the Below Poverty Line (BPL), is residing with her parents in village Jirtala or Kasba Jaypur G.P. in Balasore district. She has been suffering from mental illness for the last over six years. She has been resorting to violence and assaulting people quite often. To ward off further trouble, the villagers along with her family members have chained her to a bamboo grove.

 

#India- Urban poor to be identified on vulnerabilities


By , TNN | Jan 14, 2013, 04.36 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The urban poor will now be identified on the basis of social, economic and occupational vulnerabilities as the housing and poverty alleviation ministry has decided to junk the Planning Commission‘s income benchmark.

As of now, families earning below Rs 4,824 a month are put in the bracket of urban poor.

The move comes as the ministry is finding it difficult to identify beneficiaries in metropolises and other cities, where few families earn below the BPL cutoff while many of them live in vulnerable conditions.

It has also been noticed that income certificates are forged or are being procured after bribing officials.

As the socio-economic census is going on across the country, the ministry is working on a mechanism according to which urban poor will be defined according to people’s vulnerabilities. Under the mechanism, families will be divided into two groups — those automatically included the other automatically excluded — in the poverty bracket.

Those automatically included in the poverty bracket will be the homeless and jobless. Automatically excluded will be families with a pakka house, motor vehicle or electronic appliances such as air-conditioner or refrigerator.

Those included will be graded by the ministry on the basis of economic, social, occupational and housing vulnerabilities. Based on data from the caste census, families will be graded and assigned points according to their needs.

“The formula will help in identifying poor in terms of vulnerabilities and government schemes will target the vulnerable group. It will result in better targeting,” housing and urban poverty alleviation minister Ajay Makentold TOI, adding that the identification of urban poor will be based on the recommendations of the Hashim committee.

“Those living in slums will automatically be eligible for benefits under the slum-rehabilitation scheme,” the minister said.

The new mechanism is also aimed at ensuring distribution of benefits of government schemes to city-specific “vulnerable” basket as per the specific needs in a particular city.

If a family scores very high on the housing vulnerability index, it would be given priority under slum upgradation schemes and Rajiv Awas Yojana, an official said.

Once the census is complete, the city-specific urban poor basket will be ready. “We will take it up with other ministries also to adopt the new criteria,” Maken said.

 

__._,_.___

 

Ration shop dealers demand withdrawal of cash transfer scheme #AADHAAR #UID


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 7 DEC, 2012,PTI

 

NEW DELHI: Ration shop dealers today threatened to go on strike demanding that direct cash transfer scheme should be withdrawn, and accused the government of being lethargic in strengthening the food distribution system.

 

 

The All India Fair Price Shop Dealers’ Federation said it would close down various rations shops across the country for one day on December 11, which would have an adverse impact on farmers.

 

 

The Federation has written to Union Minister K V Thomas intimating him about their intention to go on strike.

 

 

“We demand immediate withdrawal of Cash Transfer scheme. This scheme will not only ruin ration shops across the country but will completely destroy the public distribution system of the country.

 

 

“They (government) should strengthen the existing public distribution system across the country so that each and every member of BPL and APL families gets food to eat,” general secretary of the Federation, Biswambhar Basu, said.

 

 

The government proposes to roll-out the Aadhaar-enabled cash transfer for 29 schemes from January 1 in 51 districts, spread over 16 states. It also plans to cover the entire nation by the end of December 2013. Later, cash transfer would cover 42 welfare schemes.

 

 

 

 

 

The case against cash transfers #UID #Aadhaar


If the system doesn’t work, don’t fix it, just dismantle it, the government appears to be saying in the matter of cash transfers in lieu of subsidies, writes Sachin Kumar Jain

Public distribution system (PDS)

Since 2005, the government has indicated a preference for a policy of cash transfers in lieu of  subsidies it provides to people under various welfare schemes (health, education, agriculture, food rations, etc). The Delhi government has initiated a cash-for-food pilot in two urban slums. Their logic is that people are then free to ‘buy’ these services in the open market.

Therein hangs a tale. The World Bank and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are  key organisations pushing cash transfer policies in India, arguing that people do not receive their entitlements and benefits related to basic services, and so it is time to adopt alternatives, the best one being to transfer cash instead of providing services and substance.

In a paper on the issue, the UNDP argues: “Cash transfer schemes are also being advocated in the Indian context as a measure of enhancing the efficiency of delivery of government programmes. It is well known that the administrative cost of delivery of services in the country is high, there are substantial leakages, and inter-sectoral coordination is not optimal. It has been argued by some that the amount of Rs 2,000 billion that is spent annually on food, fuel and fertiliser subsidies may be better utilised by providing cash directly to the beneficiaries or to the gram panchayats (locally elected village councils) that in turn can implement schemes for the poor… CCT (conditional cash transfer) schemes have been observed to promote more regular health check-ups among pregnant women and children in countries with a good and functioning health infrastructure.” (http://www.undp.org.in/content/cct/CCT_DP.pdf)

The UNDP paper further advocates conditional cash transfers to improve education levels, health indicators and social wellbeing. It says: “Conditional cash transfers are different from unconditional cash transfers — grants to vulnerable persons/groups on the basis of certain predetermined eligibility criteria. Social transfers such as pensions to senior citizens, the physically challenged, children, etc, are the most common unconditional cash transfers. The main difference as compared to CCT schemes is that they are unconditional programmes and do not attempt to influence individual/household consumption preferences. They recognise the vulnerability of those whom the scheme addresses and make provision of a cash grant to enable individual/group coping mechanisms, often in response to guaranteed human rights. These constitute protective social security measures.” Still, the UNDP has provided funding of $10 million, in four phases, to the Delhi government to pilot cash-for-food, which will replace food from the public distribution system (PDS).

In a survey conducted by the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and the Right to Food Campaign, in Delhi’s slum settlements in May-June 2011, a mere 201 out of the 4,005 BPL (below the poverty line) women interviewed stated that they preferred cash transfers; 91% of BPL families wanted the distribution of subsidised foodgrain to continue. Of course, they looked forward to structural improvements in the PDS.

During documentation of a series of case studies on food insecurity and hunger among tribals in Madhya Pradesh, by Vikas Samvad, it was found that people from tribal communities overwhelmingly prefer food, for various practical reasons.

Seventy-year-old Puswa Mawasi of Madulihai village in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district possesses a BPL ration card. But he has never received more than 20 kg of foodgrain, that too of inferior quality. Often, he visits the ration shop only to find it shut. Sukvariya, a 68-year-old woman tells a similar story.

Anjanwada is a village in Sondhwa tehsil of Alirajpur district that has been affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project. The dam has submerged the livelihood resources of 60 of the 63 families residing in the village, yet all these families have been allotted APL (above the poverty line) ration cards. If a villager falls ill, it’s inevitably life-threatening as it takes three hours by boat to navigate the reservoir waters to the nearest primary health centre (which is almost always shut). No public transport system has been set up either by the Narmada Valley Development Authority or the state government.

During our field survey, we asked Puswa Mawasi whether people would be willing to accept cash transfers as an alternative to foodgrain rationing, considering the dismal state of the public distribution system. He thought for a while before replying: “Then we would have to go to Majgawan tehsil headquarters to get our rations from the private dealer.” After a pause, he added: “The cost of foodgrain keeps going up day by day. That would be the end of us, and we would all die of hunger… Our government took more than 12 years to increase the old age pension amount. No, we only want food.”

Sukvariya Bai chipped in: “Cash? No, never. Even today, the liquor contractors spell death for us. If cash flows in place of food, it would not go towards foodgrain but be spent on liquor and gambling. The young seek new pleasures every day. Every rupee we get will be splurged on such frivolous pastimes. Just reform the ration shops and their staff. That’s enough for us.”

The adivasis of Anjanwada speak with one voice. “Will we be cured if cash comes into our hands? The hospital staff already fleece us. Things would get even more difficult with private healthcare. No, we don’t want cash. Just give us foodgrain and healthcare,” they say.

The Nandi Foundation, which supports the idea of cash transfers and putting an end to government involvement in social welfare administration, conducted a survey in 12 districts of Madhya Pradesh in 2010, to assess the opinion of beneficiaries about the policy change. It found that 95% of women opposed the idea of dismantling the public distribution system and replacing it with cash transfers. Women firmly believe that the cash will never come into their hands because, in most families, control of money is in the hands of men who do not always spend it on basic necessities.

Forty economists from around the world (working in internationally renowned universities like Harvard, LSE, D-School, IGIDR, ISI, Princeton, Columbia, Warwick, etc) have written (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-06-01/news/29608448_1_pds-) to the prime minister urging universalisation of the public distribution system. They have also appealed against cash transfers replacing foodgrain rationing. Acting on the appeal of these learned economists, an intensive study of 1,227 households was undertaken in March-June 2011, in 100 randomly selected villages of nine districts, covering Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, under the leadership of Indian researchers Professor Jean Dreze and Ritika Khera. (http://infochangeindia.org/a-pds-that-works-is-better-than-cash-transfers.html)

The study showed that 91% of people in Andhra Pradesh, 88% in Orissa, 90% in Chhattisgarh, and 81% in Himachal Pradesh want only foodgrain. Only 11% in Tamil Nadu, 15% in Rajasthan, and 22% in Jharkhand prefer cash. It is revealing to note that among those giving priority to cash, most are males.

The people surveyed pointed out that there are no other shops besides the government ration shop, in most habitations. So where would they go with their cash? At least at present, foodgrain was available and was being distributed equally. With cash there would be no such equity.

Votaries of cash transfers

K Seethaprabhu, senior assistant country director in India for the United Nations Development Programme, in her paper titled ‘Can Conditional Cash Transfers Work in Rural India?’ writes: “The Indian government is seriously studying the implications of introducing such programmes to address India’s nutritional challenges. In March 2008, ‘Dhanalakshmi’ — a CCT for female children with insurance cover — was introduced on an experimental basis in 11 educationally backward blocks across Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Punjab. The programme provides for cash transfers to the family of a female child on their fulfilling specific conditions: birth and registration of the child, immunisation, enrolment and retention in school. If the girl remains unmarried until the age of 18, insurance cover of Rs 100,000 will be given to her. Several state governments have launched variations of CCT programmes, providing incentives to promote the birth, survival, and education of girls. For example, the Ladli scheme of the governments of Delhi and Haryana puts money in the bank at various stages; the full amount is provided to the girl when she turns 18.”

This approach leaves the question of inequality unanswered. While advocating conditional cash transfers, institutions like the UNDP combine it with unconditional cash transfers, further complicating the issue. They also emphasise the need to strengthen public service institutions like schools, hospitals and the public distribution system.

The World Bank, in its report ‘Social Protection for a Changing India’, launched in May 2011, said: “No country in the world has a well-functioning PDS system. India is no exception. India’s public distribution system has limited benefits due to huge leakage and wastage.” It recommends cash transfers as an alternative to providing subsidised food for the poor. Quoted here is part of a news report (based on the abovementioned World Bank report) on the World Bank’s recommendation, which says: “Leakages and diversion of grains are high. Only 41% of the grain released by the government reaches households, according to 2004-05 NSS (the latest data available), with some states doing much worse. In 2001, the Planning Commission has estimated this leakage of BPL grain at 58% nationally.”

The report, prepared at the request of the Government of India, shows that India’s policymakers and the World Bank are travelling in the same boat and do not believe in drastic reforms in the PDS. Instead of reforms, they are ready to dismantle the system. They don’t want to accept the argument that the PDS is fundamentally necessary to protect food producer farmers, offset price fluctuations and ensure food security to the country at large. They forget that India is not a country with an 85% urban population or 5% poor population — where cash transfers have worked to some extent. It is still a rural economy-based country where 77% of the population survives by spending just Rs 20 ($ 0.44) a day. India will have to retain control over production and public service delivery mechanisms to ensure equality and the availability of essential services which we demand as entitlements.

Government is shrugging off responsibility

It is now an accepted fact that the government system is so corrupt and disorganised that it cannot deliver basic services to the citizens of this country. Any direct government hand in administering foodgrain, healthcare, education and social security would mean the breakdown and ruin of these services. That’s why it’s being said that it is better that people begin to accept a system of receiving cash relief, in accordance with certain eligibility norms.

In financial year 2010-11, the central and state governments spent a total of Rs 3.69 lakh crore on the social welfare sector (education, healthcare, livelihoods, social security, etc). The total amount of subsidy on the social sector, in 2011-12, is Rs 1.62 lakh crore, which is about Rs 20,000 crore more than in the previous year. Public expenditure on the social sector is declining; the cash transfer policy will contribute further to this decline.

The Planning Commission sees benefits in adopting cash transfers, asserting that the government should not have a direct administrative role in the social sector. It advocates that the government should either shut down its ration shops, hospitals and welfare programmes, or adopt a policy of direct cash transfers in lieu of these services in order to enable the private sector to develop. In a paper titled ‘Introducing Conditional Cash Transfers in India: A Proposal for Five CCTs’ (2010), the Planning Commission said what the World Bank wanted to hear. “India has had a long history of untargeted or poorly targeted subsidies, which are in need of replacement, especially because the fiscal burden of these subsidies has become increasingly unbearable after the multiple fiscal stimuli post-2008 economic crisis.” The Department of Food and Civil Supplies in 2008 asked for a Rs 242 crore budget to provide food coupons instead of foodgrain and allow people to use them as cheques to buy food from the open market. Once it is properly set in place, the public distribution system will be shut down.

This year, while reading his budget speech in Parliament, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated that instead of distributing subsidised kerosene and foodgrain the government would directly deposit cash payments into the accounts of beneficiaries. When it was pointed out that cash transfers would prove inadequate if the prices of kerosene and foodgrain rose (once official controls were withdrawn) the government had no answer.

The only refrain was that since subsidies provided under various welfare programmes seldom reached the beneficiaries, the only real solution was to directly transfer cash to them. And that this would offer them the freedom to choose whichever alternative service or commodity they desired that was available in the open market.

The version of the National Food Security Bill approved by the ruling government’s Cabinet committee has a provision to gradually transfer cash amounts in place of foodgrain rationing. While dealing with the question of reforms in the PDS, the proposed NFSA (draft approved by Cabinet), makes clear its intentions on cash transfers. Chapter 13, Section 3(g) of the Bill says: “Introducing scheme for cash transfer to the targeted beneficiaries in lieu of their foodgrain entitlements… in areas and manner to be prescribed by the central government.”

It costs Rs 3.65 for every rupee of development funding to percolate down to the beneficiaries. If the relief meant for poor families in the 150-odd central and state government-run programmes is provided in cash, it would mean that every poor and vulnerable family would receive Rs 2,140 a month, raising them above the poverty line. Will this suffice to provide them access to foodgrain, healthcare and education at the prevailing open market rates?

Until now, the poor have been receiving services directly from the government, which, to some extent, limits the scope for corruption. Once people begin receiving cash amounts, instances of fraud will increase.

Where cash transfers can work

Today, 42 crore of India’s most destitute are able to survive because the public distribution system provides them 35% of the foodgrain they require. The sad fact is that there is no true assessment of poverty in the country. As much as 39% of India’s poor population does not even have a ration card; they get no government welfare relief whatsoever.

The government system cannot be made accountable or free of corruption, so the alternative proposed is not to reform it but to divest it of its purpose and functions and let the people repose their trust in the market.

India is moving towards a system of cash transfers in accordance with certain eligibility criteria. Whether it is foodgrain payments or health services payments, the government will make cash transfers available only to those it accepts as poor. According to present official criteria, a poor family in a village is a family that spends less than Rs 15 per day per capita; the amount in urban areas is Rs 20 per capita. Such exercising of government discretion in transferring money raises the basic fear that the system may no longer remain public or open.

The Indian initiative appears to be influenced by the cash transfer programmes prevalent in South American countries. These are countries where urbanisation has been taking place for the past 200-300 years, and 80% of their populations live in cities. Gender discrimination is comparatively low, as is corruption.

Our Planning Commission fails to see that these countries have developed stable welfare services. They have provisions to extend economic help to families with school-going children, and the programmes are successful because the school system works well. They also have hospitals and other services, making cash transfers a meaningful exercise. In India, the infrastructure for basic welfare services is collapsing; any policy of cash transfers could have disastrous results.

The cash transfer systems of Brazil and Mexico are touted as examples to be followed. But it should be understood that only 5% of the populations of both these countries are below the poverty line, whereas the Indian figure is 46%. This means they require a system of cash transfers catering to only small numbers of beneficiaries, a model that’s unlikely to be viable in India. Similarly, there is a difference between using cash transfers as an alternative to providing basic services, and using them to promote infant care and nutrition in maternal security programmes. Should we really be telling pregnant women to accept Rs 1,400 and get their deliveries done wherever they wish? Or should we be strengthening our healthcare infrastructure and network?

We need, therefore, to be clear about the consequences before deciding to operationalise any system of conditional cash transfers. Seventy per cent of India’s population still lives in villages where few banking institutions are available. As many as 26,000 rural banks have downed their shutters since 1992, and commercial banks have shown no interest in social welfare schemes. That’s why it’s difficult to reach cash to village populations.

We have seen cash disbursals being made to promote maternal security and pension schemes, but even in these cases many beneficiaries do not receive their entitlements because of corruption. This proves that cash transfers do not put an end to corruption, as is claimed by proponents of such a course of action. Eventually, we need to reform and strengthen our infrastructure and systems and make them more accountable.

What’s more, it is important to note that the Supreme Court has defined food, nutrition, and social security as basic human rights. These rights cannot be compromised or curtailed by BPL eligibility and other conditions. Conditional cash transfers limit basic rights. They have only been successful where government systems are capable and influential. In India, the government system is weak and helpless. In such a scenario, the monopoly of the private sector could prove dangerous.

It is being said these days that India is now a developed economy and public distribution programmes only sully the country’s image by suggesting backwardness. That’s why such programmes need to be discontinued. But what intellectuals fail to realise is that the government buys 4-6 crore tonnes of foodgrain every year, at its minimum support price, to run the public distribution system. If foodgrain were not distributed through the public distribution system, the government would buy less from farmers, who would then no longer have the luxury of being able to sell their produce within a radius of 10 km from their villages. This would increase their dependence on companies like ITC and Cargill, leading to a situation where multinational companies, not the government, determine the price of foodgrain.

The public distribution system plays an important role in India, providing security to farmers, controlling price, and providing emergency supplies and foodgrain in areas/states facing scarcity. A system of cash transfers would end this role and destabilise the foodgrain market. Farmers are also participants in the public distribution system; they need to be consulted.

Equally important, the government should introspect on its reluctance to strengthen the infrastructure and working of the public distribution, healthcare and education systems. Is the government implementing such policies merely to benefit the corporate-capitalist forces? If that is so, we need to put a stop to such anti-people policies.

(Sachin Kumar Jain is a right to food activist and freelance journalist based in Madhya Pradesh)

Infochange News & Features, September 2011

 

Notes from an illuminating journey #sundayreading


ANKITA AGGARWAL, The Hindu

People at Gola block office in Ramgarh district listening to the yatris demand for universal old age pension
People at Gola block office in Ramgarh district listening to the yatris demand for universal old age pension

 to Food campaign launched a series of yatras in north India last month. Ankita Aggarwal joined the Jharkhand yatris and got a taste of the woes of the villagers.

The National Food Security Bill, tabled in Parliament in December 2011, is a travesty of the right to food. There have been regular agitations ever since for a comprehensive food security act, which guarantees adequate nutrition to everyone. Last month, the right to food campaign launched a series of yatras (convoys) in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and West Bengal to take this issue to the people.

I joined the Jharkhand yatra on October 11 in Bokaro. Baleshwar Bauri, who seemed to be leading the yatra at that time, is a Dalit from Dhanbad. He joined the Total Literacy Campaign in 1992 and was later a part of Asangathit Mazdoor Vahini, which agitated for minimum wages in the unorganised sector. He has also worked with Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS), the right to information movement, and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Encouraged by the achievements of earlier struggles, he is hopeful that the campaign for a comprehensive food security act will also succeed.

The next day we moved to Ramgarh and gathered people at the Gola block office compound. After talking about our demand for universal old age pension, we asked the few elderly people intently listening to us whether they were getting pensions. One of them, a woman, said that her pension was yet to be sanctioned in spite of her giving money and murga (chicken meat) to the middlemen. Another woman, a widow, had also paid money to get her pension sanctioned but was still waiting for it. People said that in their villages (Chadi, Chokada, Hupu, Navadih, among others) there were many other cases of old people or widows who were not getting a pension. Even those who do get a pension often receive it after delays of up to six months.

In the same meeting we asked people how they would feel if food rations under the Public Distribution System (PDS) were replaced with cash transfers. Without pausing for a second to think, some people said that they preferred rice to cash. When I asked if anyone would rather get cash, nobody in the group of about 50 people said “yes”. I then asked one of the old men who wasn’t getting a pension why he preferred rice. He said that money would get spent within a few days on other things. A younger man shouted from the back that if the old man was given money, he would squander it on alcohol.

A yatri’s story

Farkeshwar Mahto, one of the yatris (travellers), told me how he got involved in “social work”. He said that in 1999, when he was about 18 years old, a Dalit widow in his village was branded a daayan (witch) by her relatives who actually wanted to scare her away and seize her land. This woman was stripped, paraded in the village and sexually assaulted. Shaken by this incident, Farkeshwar decided to join struggles for justice. He was confident that the campaign’s demands would be accepted, because the government – he felt – is afraid of the people and needs their votes. He also said that some people, after listening to the yatris, asked whether they belonged to a political party and said that they wanted to vote for them.

Sometimes we would do a street play on a negotiation between the government and the public on PDS entitlements. The play was written by Bhagirath Das, another Dalit from Dhanbad, who also writes and sings songs on various social issues. When I asked him about the role of this creative work in the struggles he had been part of, he said that the public was bored of bhashans (speeches) and was more attracted to songs, plays and slogans. He felt that these were great means of communicating to others what social movements are trying to achieve.

On October 14 we reached Geddu Amba toli in the Angara block of Ranchi. In this village, people had mobilised last year to protest against the non-distribution of PDS rations in April and May. After a dharna at the Block office and other agitations, they had succeeded in forcing the administration to distribute the missing rations. This was an encouraging story, in a State where people generally feel so powerless to prevent corruption.

Jharkhand has expanded its Below Poverty Line (BPL) list to include more rural households in the PDS. All families among the (so-called) Primitive Tribal Groups have Antyodaya cards which entitle them to 35 kg of rice every month, free of cost. BPL cardholders also get monthly rations of 35 kg of rice, at one rupee per kg. A survey of the PDS conducted last year in Dumka and Ranchi districts found that actual purchases of PDS rice by BPL cardholders were around 70 per cent of the official entitlements. This was lower than in any other State covered by the same survey (except Bihar), but still represents an important step forward in a State where most of the PDS grain was diverted to the black market just a few years ago.

The yatris came from very diverse social backgrounds. Arif Ansari, 20, was assisting the driver in the bus we were travelling in. Soon after the yatra began, he took a liking for our songs, slogans and plays, and decided to join in. There was of course no looking back. Arif said that he didn’t have a ration card, but that after listening to so many people speaking about the need for everyone to have a ration card, he was hopeful that his family would be able to get one too.

Onward to Delhi

On October 16, a large convention on the right to food took place in Jamshedpur, where yatras from different States (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal) converged. The Bihar yatra had begun from Jalhe Bogia village in Gaya district, where, sometime in 2005, hunger forced people to exhume a dead goat and eat its meat. Yatris from Chhattisgarh recounted many complaints of hardship due to the diversion of land and water for industries. In West Bengal, the yatra played a crucial role in the State government’s decision to start distributing additional allocations of 5 kg of foodgrains a month to 5000 households in every district. Various speakers stressed that ensuring food security requires addressing related issues of food production, procurement, storage and distribution.

In all the States where yatras took place, people earnestly supported the campaign’s demand for abolishing the division between BPL and APL (Above Poverty Line) households, and for a universal PDS. They wanted not only cereals from the PDS, but also pulses and oil, which are crucial for good nutrition. The campaign’s demand for excess food stocks to be immediately distributed through the PDS also received overwhelming support.

It was most energising to be part of a gathering where people from different States (some of whom had travelled for more than two days to reach Jamshedpur) had come to share their struggles for the right to food. The participants also danced, sang songs and exchanged slogans in several languages. The convention ended with a resolve to intensify the movement for a comprehensive food security act and agitate in the capital during the winter session of Parliament. I look forward to meeting all these people again, this time in Delhi.

 

Gujarat-Not vegetarianism or dieting, Mr Narendra Modi


Indira Hirway, The Hindu

LOSING TRACK: The growth process in Gujarat has paid limited&#1
APLOSING TRACK: The growth process in Gujarat has paid limited attention to the well-being of the masses. File Photo

Low wage rates, poorly functioning public schemes and patchy access to water and sanitation are the real explanation for Gujarat’s persistent malnutrition

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s remark in an interview to Wall Street Journal that high malnutrition persists in his State because Gujaratis are mostly vegetarian (implying vegetarianism causes malnourishment) and are middle class, and more conscious about their looks and putting on weight than their health, created a furore. What explains Gujarat’s paradox of hunger amid the seeming plenty?

Economic growth and malnutrition do not have a one-to-one relationship. However, if malnutrition persists even after high growth, there can be two sets of reasons: one, people are not aware about the importance of nutrition and/or there are cultural practices that do not allow people to consume nutritious food. For instance, they eat expensive but unhealthy food (Incidentally, there is no evidence to show that vegetarian food causes malnourishment). Two, economic growth does not create large-scale productive employment with decent work conditions i.e. with reasonable wage rate, good working conditions and social protection.

The first reason may have played a marginal role, but empirical evidence suggests that the second reason is important in Gujarat. To start with, in spite of a slightly higher workforce participation rate compared to other States, the quality of employment is extremely poor in Gujarat; with the result that a large part of the workforce does not have enough purchasing power to buy enough food for the household. About 89 per cent of men workers and 98 per cent of women workers in the State are informal workers (the all India figures are 90 and 96 per cent respectively), who usually earn low wages, have poor working conditions and low social protection.

Wage rates

The wage rates of casual and regular workers of both men and women workers in rural and urban areas are very low compared to other States. As per the latest National Sample Survey Office statistics, the daily wage rates of casual men and women workers in rural areas are lower than the corresponding rates in India, with the State ranking 14th (Rs.69) and ninth (Rs.56) in men’s and women’s wage rates respectively among the major 20 States. In the case of urban casual workers’ daily wages, the State ranked seventh (Rs.109) and 14th (Rs.56) for male and female wage rates. In the case of regular rural workers also the State ranked 17th (Rs.152) and ninth (Rs.108) in the male and female wage rates respectively. The corresponding ranks for urban areas are 18th (Rs.205) and 13th (Rs.182) respectively among the major 20 States in India.

In short, in spite of the high growth rate, wages in the State are repressed with the result that most workers do not have the purchasing power to buy adequate nutritious food.

Special schemes

There are problems with the functioning of major special schemes for nutrition. As regards the Public Distribution System (PDS), till recently the State was providing much less than the stipulated 35kg food grains to Below Poverty Line (BPL) households on the ground that the number of BPL households in the State was much larger than what the Centre had estimated and was providing for. The State was not willing to use its own funds to meet the deficit. Several studies including our own study have shown that PDS, Mid-Day Meal and Integrated Child Development Services (particularly for pregnant women and mothers) are not working well in the State. A common observation of these studies is that these schemes work well when there are local organisations putting pressure on local administration. The instructions from the top are not implemented well at the ground level, largely because there is no strong monitoring. And as only a fraction of the State is covered by such organisations, the schemes work well only in limited areas. In other words, the possibility of improved nutrition through these special schemes also is not good.

Water and sanitation

Finally, the recent data of the 2011 Census of Population has shown that Gujarat lags behind many States in providing potable water and safe sanitation, which are critical in transforming food intake into nutrition. The Census shows that about 43 per cent of rural households get water supply at their premises and only 16.7 per cent households, treated tap water. About one fifth of the rural households, mainly women, walk long distances to collect water ­ impacting adversely on their health. In the case of urban areas, the situation is slightly better: 84 per cent households get water at their premises and 69 per cent, treated water.

As regards sanitation, Gujarat has a long way to go. According the 2011 Census, 67 per cent of rural households do not have an access to toilets and more than 65 per cent households defecate in the open, polluting the environment. The State ranks 10th in the use of latrines. Our recent study adds that 70 per cent villages in the State have yet to organise waste collection and disposal, and 78 per cent have yet to put up drainage for managing liquid waste. In the case of urban areas, the State ranks ninth in terms of the use of latrines. As studies have shown, in spite of the efforts made, waste management is a serious problem in most urban centres.

As a result, the incidence of diseases is fairly high: our recent study shows that 44 per cent villages have reported frequent occurrence of jaundice; 30 per cent, malaria, 40 per cent, diarrhoea, and 25 per cent, kidney stones, skin diseases, joint pain, dental problems, etc. In the case of urban areas also there are frequent reports of outbreak of diseases.

In short, the growth process in the State has paid limited attention to the well-being of the masses. It is not surprising therefore that National Family Health Survey 3 has shown that Gujarat not only ranks low in nutrition of women and children but has also performed very poorly in the recent decade. There is a need for the State to take a fresh look at its growth process.

(Dr. Indira Hirway is Director and Professor of Economics at the Center for Development Alternatives, Ahmedabad, and co-author of the State Human Development Report 2004.)

After 65 years of #Independence- ‘ YEH KAISI AZADI HAI”


At the stroke of midnight when the world sleeps, India awakes,

Yes! India has woken up to freedom, but for whom?

After 65 years of Independence, The poor have no kapda, roti, makaan so let them have cell phones. The UPA government is close to finalising a Rs 7,000 crore scheme to provide one mobile phone for every Below Poverty Line (BPL) household in the country. The scheme will be called ‘Har haath mein phone” (phone in every hand) and would give 200 minutes of free local talktime to the beneficiaries.

The Planning Commission SAYS  that anyone spending more than Rs 965 per month in urban India and Rs 781 in rural India will be deemed not to be poor. The  poverty line cut-off figures, are those spending in excess of Rs 32 a day in urban areas or Rs 26 a day in villages will no longer be eligible to draw benefits of central and state government welfare schemes meant for those living below the poverty line. For them  spending Rs 5.5 on cereals per day is good enough to keep people healthy. Similarly, a daily spend of Rs 1.02 on pulses, Rs 2.33 on milk and Rs 1.55 on edible oil should be enough to provide adequate nutrition and keep people above the poverty line without the need of subsidized rations from the government. Just  Rs 1.95 on vegetables a day would be adequate. A bit more, and one might end up outside the social security net.

People should be spending less than 44 paise on fruits, 70 paise on sugar, 78 paise on salt and spices and another Rs 1.51 on other foods per day to qualify for the BPL list and for subsidy under various government schemes. A person using more than Rs 3.75 per day on fuel to run the kitchen is doing well as per these figures. Forget about the fuel price hike and sky-rocketing rents, if anyone living in the city is spending over Rs 49.10 a month on rent and conveyance, he or she could miss out on the BPL tag.

As for healthcare,  Rs 39.70 per month is sufficient to stay healthy. On education, the plan panel feels those spending 99 paise a day or Rs 29.60 a month in cities are doing well enough not to need any help. Similarly, one could be considered not poor if he or she spends more than Rs 61.30 a month on clothing, Rs 9.6 on footwear and another Rs 28.80 on other personal items.

But THE FACT IS , around 400 million unorganised workers struggle to survive without any tangible right, though they substantially contribute to the national income. No employment regulation, no pension, no maternity benefits, no accident compensation, no provision to get even the minimum wages or health care. Instead, crumbs of social assistance schemes are thrown at them by the state as charity.

“Independence begins at the bottom . . . A society must be built where every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its own affairs . . . It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without . . . This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be a free and voluntary play of mutual forces. In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever-widening, never-ascending circles. Growth will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom, but it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual. Therefore the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle, but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it.”

Mahatma Gandhi believed that the overall impact of the state on the people is harmful. He called the state a “soulless machine” which, ultimately, does the greatest harm to mankind. It was for this that he developed the two-pronged strategy of resistance (to the state) and reconstruction (through voluntary and participatory social action). The dream of Swaraj remains unattained even 65 years after independence.

Ye Kaisi Aazadi Hai? asks Jagjit Singh, the acclaimed singer, joining the campaigners of Social Security Now, a network of trade unions, civil society organisations, peoples movements and concerned individuals fighting for securing Social Security Rights for the countless, voiceless unorganised workers. Written by renowned poet Nida Fazli, and filmed by Pravin Mishra, the song invites you to join in on the demand for Social Security as a Right for unorganised workers! The video  vividly articulates the frustrations of millions of marginalized Indians who find their dream of Swaraj slipping away. India’s tryst with destiny has now turned into India’s tryst with Nehru dynasty. India’s hope for Swaraj is sailing through rough waters.

This is your song. Please send the link to all the concerned Indians.

Freedom of Expression

The lyrics
यह कैसी आजादी है

चंद घराने छोड़ के भूखी नंगी आबादी है

जितना देस तुम्हारा है
उतना देस हमारा है
दलित, महिला, आदिवासी , सबने इसे सवांरा है

ऐसा क्यों है कहीं ख़ुशी है
और कहीं बर्बादी है

यह कैसी आजादी है….

अंधियारों से बहार निकलो
अपनी शक्ति जानो तुम
दया धरम की भीख न मांगो
हक्क अपना पहचानो तुम
अन्याय के आगे जो रुक जाये वह अपराधी है

यह कैसी आजादी है….

जिन हाथों में काम नहीं है
उन हाथों को काम भी दो
मजदूरी करने वालों को , मजदूरी का दाम भी दो
बूढ़े होते हाथों पों कप, जीने का आराम भी दो

दौलत का हर बंटवारे में, मेहनतकश का नाम भी दो
झूठों के दरबार में, अब तक सचाई फरयादी है

यह कैसी आजादी है
चंद घराने छोड़ के भूखी नंगी आबादी है

Translation in English

What sort of freedom is this ?
Besides handful of people, the whole nation is poor and starving

The nation belongs to me as much as it belongs to you
Dalits, women, tribal, all together have built the nation
Why is that, somewhere there is happiness
and elsewhere there is darkness

What sort of freedom is this ?

Get out of the darkness and realize your power
Do not ask for mercy, Recognize you own rights
Whoever stops in front of injustice is a criminal
What sort of freedom is this ?

The hands which do not work, need employment
Pay the laborers fair wages
Give social security to the elderly
Give full due contribution to laborers in distribution of wealth,
Truth is still begging for justice , in the court of liars

What sort of freedom is this ?
Besides handful of people, the whole nation is poor and starving

LETS MAKE THIS VIRAL, LETS MAKE THIS  OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM

Haryana to launch Urban Health Mission


Chandigarh, Fri Feb 10 2012,

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Thursday announced that a State Urban Health Mission would be launched to provide comprehensive health services particularly targeting the slum areas.

The Chief Minister also announced that under the Indira Bal Swasthya Yojna (IBSY), free treatment would henceforth be provided to all children.

Earlier, free treatment was being provided to only children hailing from Below Poverty Line families, an official release said here.

Hooda announced these decisions while presiding over a meeting with senior officers of Health Department here.

The State Urban Health Mission will seek to set up Urban Health Centres over a population of one lakh which would provide curative, promotive and preventive health services.

Besides, poly-clinics and dispensaries will be operationalized in many cities.

Outreach services will be provided through health officials and community health motivators. This mission will be implemented in a phased manner initially focusing on urban areas with large slum population.

Hooda said that so far the Rural Health Mission launched by the central government had largely catered to the need of rural population but in view of rapid urbanisation in Haryana, there was an urgent need to address the health needs of a large section of the population residing in urban slums who were vulnerable to higher disease burden and were likely to have poor health indicators.

Under the Urban Health Mission, government would also upgrade its district hospitals located in major towns and provide additional hospitals in cities having more than five lakh population.

The objective of the programme is to provide affordable and accessible basic healthcare facilities near the place of residence for the poor who are otherwise forced to spend a large part of their income on health care.

Under IBSY, free treatment would include surgical intervention, implants, aids and medicines in government institutions at the district as well as the tertiary level institutions like PGIMER and AIIMS.