Indian Gov’t on Collision Course With Civil Society


Police accost women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.Police accost women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.

NEW DELHI, May 23 2013 (IPS) - For years India’s pro-liberalisation, Congress party-led coalition government chafed at civil society groups getting in the way of grand plans to boost growth through the setting up of mega nuclear power parks, opening up the vast mineral-rich tribal lands to foreign investment and selling off public assets.

Now, at the end of its tether, the Interior Ministry has cracked the whip on hundreds of non-governmental organisations engaged in activities that “prejudicially affect the public interest.”

 

“…The government is trying to promote globalisation while cracking down on the globalisation of dissent.” — Achin Vanaik

On Apr. 30 several NGOs were informed that the bank accounts through which they receive foreign funding had been frozen. 

“It is shocking what the government has done – but not surprising given the increasingly authoritarian, undemocratic and repressive measures being directed…against anyone who is seen to challenge or disagree with their positions and decisions,” Lalita Ramdas, anti-nuclear campaigner and board chair of Greenpeace International, told IPS.

Ramdas said NGOs concerned with nuclear power, human rights, environment and ecology – areas where corporate and industrial interests were likely to be questioned – appeared to be particular targets of the government order.

Among the worst affected is the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of more than 700 NGOs that is currently challenging, in the Supreme Court, the government’s restrictions on foreign funding reaching groups that engage in activities that can be described as “political” in nature.

In its court petition INSAF described itself as an organisation that believes that “the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India need to be safeguarded against blatant and rampant violations by the State and private corporations.”

INSAF said it has “actively campaigned against land grabs by corporations, ecological disaster by mining companies, water privatisation, genetically modified foods, hazardous nuclear power (and) anti-people policies of international financial institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”

INSAF declared in court that it “firmly believes in a secular and peaceful social order and opposes communalism and the targeted attacks on the lives and rights of people including religious minorities, and regularly organises campaigns, workshops, conventions, fact-findings, people’s tribunals, solidarity actions for people’s movements and educational publications.”

“With that kind of a profile we were expecting this crackdown,” Anil Chaudhary, coordinator of INSAF, told IPS. “Still, the government could have waited for the Supreme Court verdict.”

“At this rate,” he said, “organisations working against discrimination of women and (advocating) for their empowerment through participation in local bodies could be termed “political”, as (well as) organisations working for farmers’ rights.

“The same arbitrariness can be applied to green NGOs trying to protect the environment against mindless industrialisation.”

Chaudhary thinks it unfair that NGOs critical of government policies are being singled out. “Instead of selectively freezing the funding of groups under INSAF, the government should order a blanket ban on all foreign funding.”

Among INSAF’s many campaigns is an intiative to bring international financial institutions like the World Bank under legislative scrutiny for their activities in India.

It cannot have escaped the government’s attention that INSAF’s campaigns have run parallel to powerful movements for transparency and clean governance led by social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, founder of the Aam Admi Party (Common Man’s Party) that plans to contest general elections due in 2014.

 

Kejriwal, whose social activity led to the passage of the 2005 Right to Information Act, has also been closely associated with transparency campaigns led by Anna Hazare, who mounted a Gandhian-style fast against corruption in April 2011 that rallied over 100,000 ordinary people.

Street protests demanding good governance have since been a thorn in the side of the government.  When they peaked in December 2012, following the gang rape of a young woman in a bus in the national capital, police took to beating protestors.

The government, starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has also been frustrated by NGOs’ efforts to stall work on a string of mega nuclear parks along peninsular India’s long coastline, especially at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Mithi Virdi in Gujarat and Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

In February, the government froze the accounts of two leading Tamil Nadu-based NGOs allegedly associated with the protests at the site of the Kudankulam plant, signalling a new and tough stance against civil society groups fighting the displacement of farmers and fishermen by mega development projects.

The two NGOs, the Tuticorin Diocesan Association and the Tamil Nadu Social Service Society, received four million and eight million dollars respectively over a five-year period that ended in 2011, according to declarations they made to the government.

With strong backing from the Church, the groups continue to operate despite the freeze on their assets.

During the same five-year period a total of about 22,000 NGOs across India received roughly two billion dollars in foreign contributions, going by government records.

Unexpected protests have surfaced from among the Congress party’s partners in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Devi Prasad Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party and member of parliament, reminded Interior Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde that the UPA is “committed to protecting and promoting secular, democratic and progressive forces in the country.”

“Effectively, the government is trying to promote globalisation while cracking down on the globalisation of dissent,” commented Achin Vanaik, professor of political science at the Delhi University.

The government’s move stands in stark contrast to promises made not two years ago at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid and Development Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, where 159 governments and member organisations honoured the vital role played by the non-profit sector by pledging to foster an “empowering” climate for civil society.

In his most recent report to the United Nations General Assembly, Maina Kiai, special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, noted with grave concern that India has repressed “peaceful protestors advocating economic, social and cultural rights, such as…local residents denouncing the health impact of nuclear power plants.

 

NAC Working Group on Universal Health Coverage Final Recommendations


09th May, 2013
The National Advisory Council had constituted a Working Group of its Members on “Universal Health Coverage”. The Working Group looked into the issue to propose measures to ensure quality health coverages to all the citizens which are equitable, affordable and unviersal.
02. The Working Group has had several rounds of consultations with the concerned central Ministries, senior officers of the State Governments, Civil Society and Experts. Based on the consultations, the Working Group has come up with the set of draft recommendations in this regard.
03. The draft recommendations of the Working Group are now placed in public domain for comments.
 
 
Comments may be sent to the Convener of the Working Group of NAC by 25th May, 2013 by email at wg-uhc.nac@nic.in 

 

UN Survey on women Make your voice heard #Vaw #Womenrights #Gender #Justice #1billionrising


 Survey on discrimination against women in economic and social life

 Make your voice heard

 

Dear all,

the Working Group on Discrimination against Women invites you to contribute to its 2014 report by taking the survey on discrimination against women in economic and social life available at this link:https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Questionnaire_on_Economic_and_Social_Life

The Working Group on Discrimination against Women is a special procedure established by the Human Rights Council in 2010. It has been tasked to identify, promote and exchange views on good practices to eliminate discrimination against women in law and in practice. The Working Group will devote its thematic report, to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2014, on women’s economic and social life, in particular during time of economic crisis. The inputs you will provide through the survey will inform the report. The deadline for reply is 1st of March 2013.

Depending on your expertise and experiences, you might want to respond to only some of the questions or some of the sections of the survey. Please be assured that all responses will remain confidential.

Please see the survey’s introduction for further details.

The Working Group thanks you very much for your time and efforts.

For more information on the Working Group see:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WGWomen/Pages/WGWomenIndex.aspx

 

Open Letter to World Congress on Information Technology( WCIT) on barriers of Participation #mustshare


9 December 2012

 

 

Open letter to the WCIT

 

 

 

Dear Secretary General Touré and WCIT-12 Chairman Al-Ghanim:

 

We, the undersigned members of civil society, are attending the ongoing World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12), both physically and remotely. We appreciate your efforts to engage with global civil society and trust that you will take this letter in the same spirit of constructive engagement.

 

We believe that openness and transparency should be the hallmark of any effort to formulate public policy. In the months approaching the conference, and in our experience at the WCIT so far, we have discovered that certain institutional structures continue to hamper our ability to contribute to the WCIT process in a meaningful and constructive manner.

 

Now that the conference is in session, we wish to call your attention to three immediate and pressing matters: the lack of any official standing to the public comments solicited prior to WCIT at the ITU’s invitation; the lack of access to and transparency of working groups, particularly the working groups of Committee 5; and the absence of mechanisms to encourage independent civil society participation. We address these in detail below.

 

Public Comment Solicited By ITU Effectively Excluded. Prior to the WCIT, the ITU assured civil society that it would provide an opportunity for meaningful input through public comment. As many organizations explained at the time, the inability to see specific country proposals compromised the ability to offer a detailed response. Nevertheless, primarily based on documents leaked to the public, 22 organizations from four regions expended considerable resources and effort to make the most of this single, albeit highly limited, opportunity to engage on the substance of the proposals as they existed at that time.

 

Unfortunately, the ITU has provided no mechanism for inclusion of the public comments in the WCIT working papers. They are not made accessible through the document management system (TIES) in the same manner as proposals submitted by members, nor are any of the comments reflected in the numerous working drafts reviewed by WCIT delegates. As a consequence, delegates appear entirely unaware of these comments, and the diligent work of civil society organizations that accepted the ITU’s invitation to participate through the public comment process is in danger of being lost. From a practical standpoint, the possible help these public comments could provide in resolving some of the contentious issues before the WCIT is wasted.

 

We have no doubt that the invitation to submit public comment was extended in good faith, and believe that the lack of any mechanism for including these comments in the deliberations of the WCIT is a result of this being the first time the ITU has attempted this form of public engagement.

 

We ask that you work with us to find an effective manner to bring these public comments into the deliberations while they remain relevant, for example by including them as Information Documents (INF) in the document management system.

 

Lack of Transparency of the Working Groups. We applaud the decision to webcast Plenary deliberations and the deliberations of Committee 5. Nevertheless, the decision not to webcast or allow independent civil society access to the working groups, particularly the working groups of Committee 5, undermines this move toward transparency and openness. The decisions made by the WCIT will impact the global community. The global community deserves, at a minimum, to see how these decisions are made. By contrast, the failure to provide access to the working groups lends legitimacy to the criticism that the WCIT makes vital decisions about the future of the public Internet behind closed doors. While transparency cannot substitute for substantive engagement, it is a valuable end in itself that lends legitimacy to all public policy exercises.

 

We ask that you further enhance the transparency of the WCIT by allowing access to and webcasting of  the Committee 5 working groups.

 

Absence of independent civil society participation. Finally, those of us attending who are not associated with a member state or sector member delegation are restricted in our ability to participate on behalf of civil society. We recognize this is not a deliberate effort to exclude civil society representatives, but a function of the ITU’s structural rules. Nevertheless, these restrictions hamper our ability to provide the WCIT with the benefits of an independent civil society perspective, and report back to the global community.

 

We are aware that several member state delegations have actively reached out to their civil society communities and included representatives of civil society in their member delegations. We commend the efforts made by these governments and encourage other governments to take similar action. Nevertheless, these civil society representatives are first and foremost members of their delegations and have limited opportunities to express an independent civil society view. While the participation of civil society representatives benefits both the member delegations and the WCIT’s deliberations as a whole, it cannot substitute for engagement with independent members of civil society.

 

We recognize that the current institutional structures do not facilitate independent civil society participation in the work of the ITU. Given that it is unlikely that institutional changes can be implemented during the WCIT, we ask that the two above issues be addressed immediately and that the ITU commit to reviewing and putting in place mechanisms that will encourage greater participation by civil society.

 

We wish to acknowledge your efforts to reach out to civil society and enhance openness and transparency at the WCIT.  We hope you will take our concerns in equal good faith, and work with us to resolve these issues as expeditiously as possible.

 

We look forward to further discussions and to building upon these first steps of multi-stakeholder engagement.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Access, International

African Information and Communications Technology Alliance (AfICTA), Regional

Article 19, International

Center for Democracy and Technology, USA

Center for Technology and Society/Getulio Vargas Foundation (CTS/FGV), Brazil

Delhi Science Forum, India

Free Software Movement of India

Global Partners and Associates, UK

Index on Censorship, UK

Internet Democracy Project, India

Internet Society Bulgaria

Internet Society Serbia, Belgrade

Karisma Foundation, Colombia

NNENNA.ORG, Côte d’Ivoire

Public Knowledge, USA

Society for Knowledge Commons, India

Software Freedom Law Centre, India

Wolfgang Kleinwachter, University of Aarhus, Denmark

 

 

We encourage other civil society organizations and their members to endorse this statement. Please email WCIT12civilsociety@gmail.com to add your support.

 

People under surveillance, Privacy law for whom ?


November 5, 2012
by Ranjit Sur, sanhati.com
India is probably heading for enactment of an Individual Privacy Law. On 16 October, the fourteen member committee headed by Justice(Rtd) A P Shah submitted its report to the Planning Commission, which had initiated the process by forming this committee. In its 90 page report, the committee tried to address the complexities of the issue. Justice Shah in his forwarding letter wrote, “So we can expect an initiative for enactment of the law soon”. At the same time, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also expressed his desire to have such a law while expressing his concern for misuse of RTI act by “frivolous and vexatious use of the Act”. “The citizens’ right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone’s personal privacy. The issue of a separate legislation on privacy is under consideration of an expert group under Justice AP Shah.” He said this while addressing a convention of Information Commissioners recently.
The day Manmohan Singh’s speech was reported, the New Delhi edition of The Hindu published an interesting report with the heading “10,000 phones, 1,000 e-mail IDs under the scanner” . The report informed, “Today, various law enforcement agencies are tapping almost 10,000 phones across India, while over 1,000 e-mail accounts are under the scanner, after clearance from the union Home Secretary. …In August this year, the maximum number of phones were being tapped by the Intelligence Bureau (5,966) of which 2,135 were fresh interceptions, while 3,831 were in continuation. Similarly, the State Intelligence units were tapping 1,104 phones (577 fresh and 527 in continuation) followed by the Andhra Pradesh Police with 863 phone interceptions (399 fresh and 464 in continuation) and the Delhi Police with 757 phones (738 fresh and 19 in continuation). ………. In the case of e-mails, the IB was snooping on 1,043 IDs in August — 460 under fresh sanction and 583 in continuation, while the State Intelligence units were tracking 136 (94 fresh and 42 in continuation); the DRI took permission from the Union Home Secretary to track 5 accounts….. Notably, to avoid any leaks, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has developed capabilities to intercept phones without keeping telephone operators in the loop. Called the “Central Monitoring System”, its trials are currently on and the system is likely to be in place early next year.”
So it is clear that the Government of India is tapping and hacking hundreds and thousands of phones and emails; thus violating individual privacy of hundreds and thousands of citizens. It is known to all that the unofficial figures of tapped-phones/hacked-emails are perhaps much higher than what The Hindu reported. Almost all the State Governments tap phones of innumerable opposition leader and activists. Even the Chief Minister of Bengal Ms Mamata Banerjee recently complained that her phone was being tapped by the Central Government. Hundreds of activists in Bengal paradoxically also complain of their phone being tapped by WB Government. So the question is, for whom the privacy law will be enacted?
In August 2011, Mr. Milind Deora, the Central Minister of State for Communication in a written statement in the Rajya Sabha, informed that the Central Government has started full surveillance of Facebook and Twitter walls and friend circles. All the comments, write-ups on walls are under full scanner of investigative agencies. Not only that, the Government has acquired technology to block and monitor websites and blogs, locally and centrally. On many occasions, The Hoot has reported many such misdeeds of the government. Recently Facebook, Twitter and You Tube were blocked in Jammu and Kashmir. Sites of cartoonist Asim Trivedi and Kamayani Bali were also blocked. Section 66(A) of the IT ACT has become a source of tension for many activists. Many mobile phones of Bengal activists have been disconnected for alleged misuse of this Act. Actually any one can be sent to jail for violation of this section on ‘Offensive SMS’ where ‘offensive’ is defined in such a manner. So again a question arises – do lakhs of Facebook-Twitter users not have the right to privacy? Don’t they have the freedom of expression and right to information and communication as enshrined in Indian constitution? For whom will the Individual Privacy Law be enacted? Who are these individuals?
One more Act which is waiting in queue, as reported in DNA dated 16 May 2012, needs serious attention of the Civil Society. The report, DNA profiling: Very soon, govt will know you inside out reported, “In a controversial move that threatens to increase the intrusion by the state into the lives of ordinary citizens, the UPA government is set to introduce a DNA Profiling Bill in the winter session of Parliament. Once it becomes a law, the bill will grant the authority to collect vast amount of sensitive DNA data of citizens even if they are “suspects” in a criminal case. The data will be held till the person is cleared by court…The bill has already raised the hackles of many groups working on privacy issues who are worried that if it becomes a law, it would empower the government to create intrusive databases.”
Moreover, there is the UID Project, which would cost approximately 45 thousand crores of Rupees. The Biometric card AADHAAR containing the unique number will store all information of an individual and will have to be used in all purposes of life. Information pertaining to all individuals will be centrally maintained in a server. An “enter” will give all the details of an individual’s movements, sales and purchases, financial details, readings, medical bills etc. It will be an all-pervasive unique instrument of state vigilance on an individual for 24×7, 365 days. So the question once again, for whom will the Privacy Law be enacted?
The A P Shah committee was formed after the episode of the Tata- Radia tape leaks. Ratan Tata himself raised the question of Individual’s right to privacy. Members of different chambers of commerce also raised the issue of right to privacy. So the Government rushed to form the AP Shah Committee. This time Manmohan Singh himself is not at all ambiguous and clearly announced for whom the law is needed and for whom he is concerned. In the above-mentioned meeting of Information Officers, he clearly noted that industrialists should be kept out of RTI purview so that their individual privacy is not violated. One more indication was clearly there when he mentioned “frivolous and vexatious use of the act ” – he was referring the DLF-Vadra deals and it seems that he is willing to save people like son-in- law of the Nation, Robert Vadra, from public scrutiny. So, while 10 lakh applications were filed in a single year under RTI act last year, the men in power and those surrounding them are actively seeking a law of individual privacy. Similarly, civil society and rights activists also wish to have a privacy law to save the citizen’s every day life from continuous state intrusion. But how far they will be able to get the interests of the common people reflected in the new law is a million rupee question and to be seen in the near future.
[ The writer is a Kolkata based Rights activist ]

 

Civil Society Declaration: Rights must be at the centre of the Family Planning Summit


Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women'...

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Sexual Fantasies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CALL FOR ENDORSEMENT

 

Amnesty International, Center for Reproductive Rights,  Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN),  International Women’s Health Coalition and RESURJ have prepared a statement *Rights must be at the centre of the Family Planning Summit *in advance of the DFID/Gates Family Planning Summit which will be held in London on 11 July 2012.

 

We would like to invite you or your organization to endorse this statement (at bottom of this email), which will be presented to the organisers prior to the Summit.

 

To endorse this statement, please send the following information to CRR’s Kate Meyer (kmeyer@reprorights.org).

 

Name of organization or individual (please specify which):

Country:

Name and email of contact person:

 

Please also circulate this statement to your contacts and networks. The deadline for endorsements is Monday, 11 June 2012.

 

* We will circulate the statement again after endorsements have been received.

 

——————–

 

Rights must be at the centre of the Family Planning Summit: Civil Society Declaration

 

We, civil society organizations working to promote women’s and young people’s human rights, call on world leaders on the eve of the “Family Planning Summit”, hosted by the UK Government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights are at the centre of all efforts to meet reproductive health needs, including family planning.

 

Contraceptive information and services – “family planning” – form an essential part of the health services that women need throughout their lives. Any steps to increase demand for contraceptives must actively support efforts to improve comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health. Contraceptives must be provided through primary healthcare, with full regard for women’s human rights and the specific needs of young and unmarried women and other groups.

 

Our experience, built over decades of work around the world, has taught us that the failure to take actions guided by women’s human rights – to health, to life, to live free from discrimination among others – can have devastating consequences. Policies that accept or tacitly condone forced sterilization, the coercive provision of contraceptives, and the denial of essential services to the young, poor and marginalized women that need them every day have violated, and continue to violate, women’s human rights.

 

Nearly twenty years ago, governments at the International Conference on Population and Development agreed that respect for women’s reproductive autonomy is the cornerstone of population policy. Any return to coercive family planning programs where quality of care and informed consent are ignored would be both shocking and retrograde. The Family Planning Summit must ensure that the clocks are not put back on women’s rights: women’s autonomy and agency to decide freely on matters related to sexual and reproductive health without any discrimination, coercion or violence must be protected under all circumstances.

 

In order to expand contraceptive access with full respect for women’s human rights, we urge governments, donors and other actors supporting the Family Planning Summit to:

 

·           Take all possible measures to ensure that this initiative is designed with quality of care and human rights at its core, so that no coercive measures are introduced in the provision of contraceptives;

 

·           Ensure that meaningful participation by women, including young women, is built into all stages of program design and implementation to ensure that services are responsive to their needs and to prevent any human rights violations;

 

·           Ensure that the provision of contraceptives is integrated into existing and new sexual and reproductive health services, and that a full range of contraceptive methods is offered;

 

·           Design and implement a system for monitoring, evaluation and accountability to track and measure its impact on the rights of women as this initiative is rolled out, and urgently make necessary corrections should violations come to light;

 

·           Commit to tackling the existing legal and policy barriers that hinder access to contraceptive information and services, without which efforts are likely to be ineffective and exacerbate disparities in access.

 

In 2012, nothing less will do.

 

Endorsed by:

Center for Reproductive Rights

Amnesty International

Development Alternatives With Women for a New Era, DAWN

International Women’s Health Coalition

RESURJ