#India – Dalits stripped of Dignity #Caste #discrimination


Frontline  

WITH the imposing Puthur hillock surrounded by lush green sugarcane fields offering a picturesque backdrop, Vadugapatti in Usilampatti block in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu gives the impression that all is well there. But the humiliation inflicted on a 11-year-old Dalit boy on June 3 and the abuses hurled subsequently at his widowed mother by a caste Hindu youth have unmasked the moral pretensions of the tiny village in the heartland of the Piramalai Kallars.

In a place where footwear is considered a status symbol rather than protective gear, a Piramalai Kallar youth, P. Nilamaalai, forced the Dalit boy, P. Suresh (name changed), to carry his sandals on his head as punishment. His crime: wearing footwear in the caste-Hindu area!

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) tooksuo motu notice of the case and held an inquiry in the village on June 11. D. Venkatesan, Director of the NCSC (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry), who was accompanied by A. Iniyan, investigator, confirmed that the incident had taken place. Dubbing it a “heinous crime against a juvenile”, he said that persons guilty of the crime would have to face “serious legal consequences”.

Following a complaint lodged by the victim’s mother, P. Nagammal, a brick kiln worker, the Usilampatti Town police registered a first information report (FIR) on June 6 and arrested Nilamaalai, his brother P. Agni and their father, A. Pathivuraja. The police have registered cases against them under sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.Even 10 days after the incident, Suresh found it difficult to come to terms with the humiliation he had undergone. Narrating his ordeal, he said it occurred when he and two other boys were returning from the Government Kallar High School where he was studying in Standard VI.

All the three boys belonged to the Dalit colony and had gone to the school to find out about the rescheduled date of reopening after the summer vacation. Nilamaalai waylaid them near a tamarind tree. After allowing the other two Dalit boys, who were barefoot, to leave, he upbraided Suresh for violating the ban on Dalits walking on the streets in the upper-caste area with footwear on. Reprimanding him for his mother’s “failure” to teach him the “etiquette” he had to follow, Nilamaalai forced the boy to put his footwear on his head and paraded him up to a platform used to stage cultural events.

According to Nagammal, Suresh stomached the insult and did not say anything about it to her or to his other relatives. However, sensing her son’s abnormal behaviour, she coaxed him a couple of days later into revealing his agonising experience. She took up the issue with Nilamalai’s brother Agni on June 5. But Nilamaalai not only justified his abominable action but also hurled abuses at her and allegedly threatened to eliminate her if she dared to inform the police. Contrary to his belief that the Dalit woman would grin and bear the dishonour, she lodged a complaint with the police. Nagammal said the local police wanted to settle the issue through a “compromise” and she had to approach Dalit activists to ensure that justice was done in the case.

K. Theivammal, coordinator of the Usilai Vattara Dalit Kootamaippu, an organisation working for the rights of the oppressed communities in Usilampatti block, said the police registered an FIR after much dilly-dallying. Though the police arrested Nilamaalai’s brother and father on June 7 on charges of protecting the accused, Nilamaalai was absconding until he was nabbed on June 9. Posters were put up throughout Usilampatti town and in several villages in the area demanding, among other things, the arrest of the main accused.

According to Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan, who visited the village close on the heels of reports on the incident, cases had been booked under Section 294(b) (singing, reciting or uttering any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place) and Section 506(1) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3(1)(x) and 3(1)(xiv) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Section 3(1)(x) of the Act deals with intentional insult or intimidation with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view and Section 3(1)(xiv) pertains to offences such as denying a member of an S.C. or an S.T. any customary right of passage to a place of public resort or obstructing such member so as to prevent the person from using or having access to a place of public resort which other members of the public or any section thereof have a right to use or have access to.

 

 

 

In denial 

Caste Hindus, however, dismissed the incident as an “aberration” in the otherwise cordial relations between the two communities. Vadugapatti panchayat president M. Thavam said both Dalits and Piramalai Kallars lived in harmony in the village. Though the incident was deplorable, it should not be blown out of proportion as it would harm the peaceful coexistence of the two communities, besides bringing disrepute to the village, he said.

The headmistress of the local school was also in denial. Nothing should be done to precipitate the issue, she cautioned. Of the 166 pupils in the school, which was established in 1921, 90 were Dalits and no discrimination was shown to them, she claimed.

However, Nagammal, who has not yet fully recovered from the shock, feels that the government should intervene immediately to ensure protection to her and her son. She wants the authorities concerned to shift her son to another school so that he can continue his studies without fear. Though the school reopened on June 10, the boy did not attend classes fearing reprisals from some persons belonging to the dominant community. She has also urged the government to allot a housing plot in a safer location so that she can live peacefully. Her demands have the backing of Dalit organisations, including the Usilai Vattara Dalit Kootamaippu.

The NCSC has urged the district administration to help the victim to find admission in a government school and hostel in Madurai town. The boy needs counselling and relief, the commission said.

Dalit residents of the village say the June 3 incident has brought to the fore various problems faced by them. According to Theivammal, different discriminatory practices prevailed in all the six villages—Vadugapatti, Ramanathapuram, V. Kallipatti, Kongupatti, Puthur and Vilarpatti—that come under Vadugapatti panchayat. Dalits describe the peace meeting held in the village by the Deputy Superintendent of Police and investigating officer on June 9 as a knee-jerk reaction by the authorities.

M. Jayakumar, Suresh’s maternal uncle, said the practice of insulting members of the oppressed community for wearing footwear in front of caste Hindus occurred every now and then. Only recently was a girl student of the local government school, M. Malarvizhi (name changed), beaten with a broomstick for walking with footwear on a street in the caste-Hindu area, he said.

K. Mangayarkarasi (name changed), a brick kiln worker, said her son was taken to task by caste Hindus for wearing footwear while crossing a street last month. Dalits are not even allowed to ride two-wheelers in caste-Hindu areas. There is no proper pathway to the burial ground used by them. According to some residents, non-Dalits had warned them also against complaining to visiting government officials and activists of human rights organisations about the discriminatory practices.

 

 

Stressing that the Vadugapatti episode should not be taken as an isolated one, M. Thangaraj, organiser of the Madurai district unit of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), listed the discriminatory practices: segregated dwelling units; separate burial grounds for Dalits; denial of access to places of worship, common meeting place, village squares or community halls; ban on the use of footwear in front of caste Hindus; and the two-tumbler system in tea shops. In many villages in Usilampatti block, B.R. Ambedkar’s picture was not to be found in government offices and schools, he added.

As in the case of several villages in the region, the Dalits of Vadugapatti are farmhands and have to depend on the dominant community for their livelihood. They have been working as manual labourers in brick kilns or as agricultural workers in land belonging to caste Hindus. In Vadugapatti village, there are around 220 Dalit families and 500-odd caste-Hindu families. With the monsoon playing truant in the past several years, Dalit youth have migrated to the northern States seeking jobs in snack-making or fast food units.

“As many as 120 brick kilns are located in Usilampatti and Chellampatti panchayat unions. They are owned by caste Hindus. Almost 90 per cent of the workers involved in brick-making are Dalits brought from the western and northern districts of Tamil Nadu. Most of them are treated as bonded labourers,” Thangaraj said.

The TNUEF is planning to launch an agitation shortly to ensure that Dalits in Vadugapatti walked on the thoroughfares in the village wearing footwear, he said. Thangaraj asked the authorities concerned to take stern action against those who practised untouchability in any form. Strong action from the government in one village would send a warning signal to the forces of oppression in the entire region, he opined.

Director of the NCSC Venkatesan said the villagers had been told that discriminatory practices against Dalits and various forms of untouchability not only were inhuman but were against the law of the land. Expressing concern at the escalating incidents of atrocities against Dalits, he said these would be taken up at the State-level review meeting of the NCSC slated for July.

Significantly, discrimination against certain communities insofar as wearing footwear has a long history in Tamil Nadu. The senior archaeologist C. Santhalingam said there was historical evidence to show that using footwear was treated as an exclusive right of certain groups in ancient Tamil land, though footwear might have been originally treated as something to protect the feet, particularly in tropical climatic conditions. A 12th-13th century A.D. stone inscription in the Kongu region speaks of a decision by the Kongu Chola administration to lift the ban on wearing footwear by Kammalars (artisans) and Idayars (cowherds), he said.

 

Manu, FIaw-Giver- Gender, and their centrality in Ambedkar’s work #Bookreview


For equality Ambedkar tried a fundamental reform of Hindu personal laws, in vain
REVIEW
Manu, FIaw-Giver
Matters of gender, and their centrality in Ambedkar’s work
Against The Madness Of Manu: B.R. Ambedkar’s Writings On Brahmanical Patriarchy
AGAINST THE MADNESS OF MANU: B.R. AMBEDKAR’S WRITINGS ON BRAHMANICAL PATRIARCHY 
SELECTED AND INTRODUCED BY
SHARMILA REGE

NAVAYANA PUBLICATIONS | PAGES: 266 | PRICE NOT STATED

Here is a book that offers something new and stimulating, and it matters little if you are already acq­u­a­inted with the scholarship around Bab­asaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar or not. Sharmila Rege, well known for her collection of ‘testimonies’ by Dalit women and her writings on caste and gender, has gleaned from the huge corpus that now constitutes Ambedkar’s leg­acy a selection of his writings, which she has ably introduced and commented on.

While the figure of Ambedkar has burst forth in public life across the country in the last two decades, his writings have been rather slow in finding their place, whether in movements or academe. And as Sharmila Rege points out, his thinking on gender has been engaged with the least, which is what she has sought to rectify in this volume. She argues convincingly in the introduction that feminists must reclaim Ambedkar. He already enjoys a huge following in popular culture in Maharashtra, one in which posters, music and pamphlets bring out his life and work in ways that she finds both “confusing and diverse”. Some feminist scholars have rediscovered the centrality of caste for understanding gender discrimination since the 1990s, as in studies of the non-Brahmin movement, or in the historical emergence of “Brahminical patriarchy” in early India. Ambedkar himself was, as the writings included in this volume amply attest, deeply convinced that the subordination of women was an essential facet of the creation of a caste system, and it is a failing that current scholarship and anthologies on his work have not brought this out.

Ambedkar argued in an essay that Brahminical endogamy was imitated by others to become our caste system.

The volume is divided into three sections. The first one, entitled Caste as Endogamy, introduces two pieces by Ambedkar, the first written as early as 1916. Ambedkar intervenes in the anthropology of the time to show how “unnatural” and yet durable was the creation of a class (of Brahmins) that superimposed marriage within the group when exog­amy (marrying out) was the norm hitherto and elsewhere. It is this endogamy that was, according to Ambedkar, subsequently imitated by other classes to become a caste system that has given India its cultural unity. The next essay written much later opposes the widespread view that it is the Buddha’s misogyny that led to the downfall of women after the Vedic period, and places the onus squarely on the Manusmriti. The second section, from which the book takes its title, shows us Ambedkar locking horns with several religious texts and figures. ‘Manu’s Madness’ can be found in his categorisations of various kinds of castes (especially so-called mixed castes), marriages and forms of kinship, where his obsession with hierarchy is mirrored by the “graded violence” (this is Rege’s apt term) that is meted out to a woman based on her caste location. Another short critical piece on Rama and Krishna included here, which was first published posthumously in 1987, triggered widespread protests, leading to its initial withdrawal, followed by counter-protests and its subsequent republication. The third section takes us to the eve of Indian independence, the Constituent Assembly and the first years of the new nation seen from the prism of the fate of the Hindu Code Bill. Ambedkar was India’s first Law Minister and it was he who took it upon himself to subject Hindu personal laws to a fundamental overhaul in the name of gender equality. Yet, as he put it in his presentation to the Constituent Assembly, there was nothing radical in the proposals, all that was being attempted, he said euphemistically, was “repairing those parts of the Hindu system which are almost become dilapidated”. This section has an excellent choice of pieces to convey the extent of what he attemp­ted, the pain in seeing the Bill stalled, fragmented and diluted over a period of four long years, and the reasons he fina­lly gave for resigning.

Instances of Manu’s madness can be found in the gradations of punitive measures invited by violations of strict social codes.

This book of under 250 pages manages to cover an enormous terrain along with commentary that delves into Ambedkar’s life and times, offering valuable and thought-provoking interpretations of his work. Questions are thrown up for this reader—about the method of seeking the meaning of caste through speculations about its origin in a distant time; about the very focus on the “rise and fall of Ind­ian womanhood” and why this was such an obsession; on the explicit role that sexuality played in classical texts in suturing the links between caste and gender, and so on. But these kinds of que­stions demand that we engage more with Ambedkar, and read this excellent book from which there is much to learn.
(Mary E. John is senior fellow at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi. Her recent publication is Women’s Studies in India: A Reader)

 

#India – Chhattisgarh Diagnostics Privatisation Cancelled #goodnews #healthcare


The plan for privatisation of diagnostics services in Chhattisgarh has been cancelled. The RFP and tenders which had come in are no longer valid. This is a victory for  Jan Swasthya Abhiyan in Chattisgarh , The most heartening part of the struggle was the overwhelming support that this issue got from varied quarters.
indiahealth

Chhattisgarh diagnostic project on hold

SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The HINDU

State government says the policy requires a “fresh look”

The Chhattisgarh and Union governments have decided to halt the prestigious public-private partnership (PPP) project in diagnostic services in the State.

While Chhattisgarh’s Principal Health Secretary M.K. Raut said privatisation of diagnostic services was rolled back “for the time being,” the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) refused to partially fund the outsourcing of diagnostic services. Last February, the State government invited private players to “set up shops” in the health facilities sector. Defending the programme on the government’s behalf, the Health Department’s technical assistance body, the State Health Resource Centre (SHRC), said that “outsourcing of health services” to private laboratories would enhance efficiency and facilitate delivery of services.

Mr. Raut, however, denounced the flagship privatisation project, which required a “fresh look.”

“In [the] near future we will take a fresh look at the project and decide a course of action,” he told The Hindu . A “revised PPP model” would be in place “in the coming months.”

Chhattisgarh has 154 community health centres (CHC) and 756 primary health centres (PHC). The government, Mr. Raut said, may consider implementing the PPP model in “a few” remote CHC and PHCs. “It would depend on whether it is possible for us to reach those areas or not. The PPP in diagnostic services will not be implemented in the district hospitals or 5,211 sub health centres.”

The government had issued request for proposals (RFP) from private health service providers to set up diagnostic services at public hospitals and health facilities, paid for by the taxpayer. The proposal was severely criticised by health activists and Mr. Raut said the “RFP and the floated tenders are closed chapters now.”

Explaining what compelled the government to retract a project floated only few months back, he said the “gaps need more scrutiny.” “We have to figure out a mechanism to monitor private players in remote areas.”

The Health Department is also not sure how the private players can be regulated. “A diagnostic chain may use government premises to market its services to the outpatients. We need to ask, why the government should provide incentive to a private player to do business using public facility,” said Mr Raut. He clarified that the government would not dismantle its “existing infrastructure and retrench staffs” to create space for the private players.

Owing to inadequate and chaotic public health care services in India, patients turn to private facilities, which are mostly unregulated and where quality is a concern. With the Union Health Ministry’s growing focus on more privatisation in health care, it was clear decades back that the health budget would not get the necessary boost. Rather, in view of the growing flow of private finance in health sector a National Health Policy was formulated in 2002 and the PPP model was suggested.

Chhattisgarh, known for abysmal health care in remote regions, has followed that model as it could not fill the post of 965 radiographers and laboratory technicians over the last several years. To fill those vacancies and provide necessary equipment to the health centres, the State health budget needed an additional funding of at least Rs. 30 crores, which was not available. Besides, trained technicians are generally reluctant to work in remote areas. In this context, the government opted for the PPP model.

However, in a span of four months the policy changed and Mr. Raut said the government had a “new PPP policy” in place and the “diagnostic sector policy has to fall in line with the new one.”

The NRHM has also refused to partially fund the present model and asked the State to “revise the proposal based on the Government of India recommendation” and submit a supplementary programme implementation plan.


  • Private players were invited to “set up shops” in the health facilities sector last February.
  • The Chhattisgarh Government has put the scheme on hold pending a “fresh look”.

 

#India – Mental Health Care Bill cleared by Cabinet


Music and Mental Health

The Union Cabinet  cleared the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 that makes access to mental health care a right of all persons

Submitted on Fri, 06/14/2013 – 16:55

The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 that makes access to mental health care a right of all persons. Such services should be affordable, of good quality and available without discrimination, it said. The proposed law decriminalises suicide.

The Bill, in consonance with international laws, has the provision of Advance Directives — described as a progressive and far-sighted step. No person who has recorded an Advance Directive to State that he or she should not be admitted to a facility without consent can be so admitted.

A rights-based Bill also has a provision wherein a person with mental illness can appoint a nominated representative to take decisions for him or her. Under the provisions of the Bill, government has an obligation to provide half way homes, community caring centres and other shelters for mentally ill people. This has been planned under the District Mental Health Programme in the 12th Plan.

In 2005, the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health reported that 10-12 million or one to two per cent of the population suffered from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and nearly 50 million or five per cent from common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, yielding an overall estimate of 6.5 per cent of the population. The prevalence of mental disorders was higher among women, those who were homeless, poor and living in urban areas, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told The Hindu.

The new Bill, once approved by Parliament, will repeal the Mental Health Act, 1987, which had vested extraordinary power in the hands of the treating psychiatrists. There was enough evidence of misuse and unscrupulous families collaborating with psychiatrists in addition to badly functional or non-functional Central and Mental Health Authorities primarily because of lack of funds.

Under the proposed new law, there is provision for voluntary admission with supported admission limited to specific circumstances; appeals can be made to the Mental Health Review Commission, which will also review all admission beyond 30 days and free care for all homeless, destitute and poor people suffering from mental disorder. The Bill provides right to confidentiality and protection from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, in addition to right to live in a community and legal aid. It bans the electric-convulsive therapy without anesthesia and restricts psychosurgery, Mr. Azad said.

He said the Bill tries to address the needs of the families and caregivers, and the needs of the homeless mentally ill. It provides for setting up Central and State Mental Health Authorities, which would act as administrative bodies, while the Mental Health Review Commission would be a quasi-judicial body to oversee the functioning of mental health facilities and protect the rights of persons with mental illness in mental health facilities.

Credit and Source: The Hindu

 

A Conversation With: Journalist Naveen Soorinje


By ROHINI MOHAN
Naveen Soorinje.Courtesy of Daya KukkajeNaveen Soorinje.

On July 28, 2012, Naveen Soorinje, a journalist with the Kannada television network Kasturi Newz 24 in Mangalore, Karnataka, covered an attack by a mob from the right-wing group Hindu Jagarana Vedike on a group of boys and girls having a birthday party at a suburban resort. A cameraman, Seetharam, who goes by one name, filmed the brutal assault, which lasted half an hour.

Widely known as “the homestay attack,” it was only one of a rising number of incidents of sectarian moral policing in the developing and modernizing city of Mangalore. But when Mr. Soorinje and Mr. Seetharam were arrested in November, along with 43 others, and charged with conspiracy, rioting and unlawful assembly, the case inspired an intense campaign for media freedom and Mr. Soorinje’s release from jail. Mr. Soorinje was freed on bail on March 23, and the charges against him and Mr. Seetharam were finally dropped on Friday.

In an interview with India Ink, Mr. Soorinje spoke about what he learned during his time in jail and the dangers he sees in extremist groups and in the complicit police in Mangalore.

 

Q.

Since your arrest in November 2012, you maintained that you only recorded the attack and were not a participant. What led to charges being dropped now?

A.

Civil society groups and journalists appealed to the Karnataka chief minister’s office for charges to be dropped. They had approached the earlier B.J.P. [Bharatiya Janata Party] regime, but that was the government that in a way put me in jail, so we didn’t expect them to release me. It was only after the new C.M. from the Congress Party took charge that he signed the petition to drop charges against me. Of course, when the Congress was the opposition party earlier, they didn’t do anything then.

Q.

How were your five months in Mangalore jail?

A.

This might sound odd, but it was good that I saw the inside of a jail. As a journalist, my view of crime stopped at the arrest, police and trial. The life of imprisonment was a blind spot. I found that the increase in communal tensions in Mangalore has led to even the jail being segregated. In the A block, are the Muslims and Dalits, largely convicted or accused of terrorism, smuggling or theft. The B block is the Hindu block, with thugs from right-wing groups — people who attacked girls for talking to boys, or for drinking. I’m Hindu, but since the attackers I filmed and thereby got arrested were in B, the cops thought I’d be safer with the Muslims and Dalits.

I stayed in different wards every few weeks, chatting with whoever was willing to talk. It was eye-opening, the abysmal conditions, the twisted interrogations, the stories of so many innocents or one-time petty criminals that languish in prison for ages while their trials go on for decades.

Q.

Have threats and intimidation against journalists grown in the past few years in Mangalore?

A.

Yes, it has been a crucial part of the communal groups’ intention to intimidate society. After the pub attack of January 2009 — I was a print reporter then — [the Hindu extremist group] Sri Ram Sena upped its violent projects. Hindu boys and Muslims girls can’t eat ice-cream together, can’t sit together in a bus. The attacks on college kids were all over.

I’m lucky to have a secular, fair editor. I’d reported on all this with a group of like-minded reporters. We shared tip-offs, created maximum coverage. We were disgusted with the random attacks on women and even more ashamed by most media that focused on the so-called moral degradations — girls’ drinking and smoking and going with boys — than the assaults by these communal thugs.

We got life threats. People came around my house, screamed on the phone. They burned the press of the local paper I worked at, set fire to the editors’ chair. My editor was arrested; I was chased a few times. The head of Sri Ram Sena, in a press conference, said that it is not enough to kill one fellow. Openly, he said,” We should take out one more journalist, then Mangalore will be fixed.”

Q.

What have the police done to stop this?

A.

These lumpen elements have free rein because of two things: people’s discomfort with modernity and westernization, and police complicity. In the homestay attack, when the police turned up, they conversed with the attackers for over half an hour. One victim tried to escape, but the police caught him and brought him back. In custody, the police allowed the attackers to beat him.

Why did they detain the victims? The Mangalore police do this — take the scared, assaulted kids to the station, call their parents, and then give them advice. “Don’t send your girls with boys, don’t let Muslims and Hindus interact in college, why is your child drinking, don’t you know Indian culture?” This is moral policing, what else? Beat, and then give unsolicited advice to the wrong person.

Q.

The police blamed you for not informing them about the attack even when you were tipped off earlier by a source.

A.

That is untrue. I repeatedly called the inspector of the local police station, Ravish Nayak, from my official number. Nayak did not pick up. The attacks had begun by then, and there was mayhem; the poor girls were screaming. I asked my friend Rajesh Rao of channel TV-9 to call the police. He also called Nayak, again in vain.

My cameraman and I were the first people there, and we tried to record everything. Other journalists came in minutes. We all shot, but we couldn’t stop the drunk, crazy goons attacking the young boys and girls.

It was a birthday party. When I got there after a local source tipped me off — not one of the attackers, as my phone call record shows — a girl was sitting on the porch, and two boys were playing games on their mobile phone. There was no rave party, as the goons alleged.

Q.

You were also accused by the police of abetting the attack because you didn’t stop it.

A.

This is an old dilemma in journalism: do you stop the action or do you report it? But here, I had no dilemma. I was screaming and requesting, “Don’t hit the girls.” The camera has caught my voice, but the attackers were unwilling to listen. They were like a pack of lions. I couldn’t physically stop them. No one could. [Read a translated version of Mr. Soorinje's full account of the attack here.]

It is common today in India for mobs to call the local media informing them of a planned raid or attack. This is their way of getting publicity. Just 20 days before this homestay attack, a girl was molested publicly by a gang in Guwahati, Assam. In that, the cameraman was egging the attackers on, instructing them. So it may seem like I was in the same situation, but I was not.

Q.

How do the people of Mangalore react to this? Have the sectarian groups influenced their actions?

A.

Mangalore is both modern and conventional. That friction is being exploited. People live their lives as they please, but in private. In public spaces like buses, colleges, restaurants, there is a lurking fear.

The homestay incident was in July 2012. After that, there have been 10 other assaults. None have been investigated, and visual evidence is limited. Moreover, some tabloids — why, even big dailies — mangle the issue. If the Bajrang Dal [a Hindu fundamentalist group] has slapped a girl who was smoking, the headline will say “Smoking girl slapped.” It’s a combination of right-wing ideology and power driving the police, goons and some of the media.

Q.

You are still with Kasturi TV, and still in Mangalore. Has this experience changed the way you report or live now?

A.

There is an angle of caste that I’ve begun to understand. For example, all the boys and girls attacked in the homestay are Muslims or from backward castes. The accused goons are also from backward or lower castes, barely educated until third or fourth grade. All the leaders — of Sri Ram Sena and of the Vedike — are high caste, sitting happily in Bangalore, never arrested, only giving wildly inflammatory speeches on Hindutva to their minions without any consequence. I’ve realized that accountability must go further than the immediate actors.

I used to always try and do balanced reports — you know, quote both sides. But now I want to expose the attackers even more strongly. There is nothing to redeem them.

Rohini Mohan is a journalist based in Bangalore. She is working on a book about the civil war in Sri Lanka.

[This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.]

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/

 

#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.

 

#Gujarat- NHRC irked over denial of scholarships to dalit students


TNN Jun 14, 2013

AHMEDABAD: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of the TOI report alleging denial of scholarships to 3,125 dalit students in Ahmedabad district. Out of this, applications of 1,613 students for scholarship are pending, whereas, 1,512 have been denied due to lack of funds. Allegedly, the state government had no answer for the Rs 3 crore that was to be spent on scholarships for dalit students.

The commission, shot off notices on Thursday to state chief secretary, Varesh Sinha and has sought a reply within four weeks. The commission also observed that, “the contents of the newspaper report, if true, paints a worrisome picture and constitute a gross violation of human rights of the dalit students. In view of their socio-economic backwardness, they deserve to be given special care and that is why such special provisions for scholarships to them have been made. Any failure in their implementation would defeat the whole purpose.”

The data was procured from the department of social justice after an RTI application was filed by dalit rights activist of Navsarjan Trust Kirit Rathod. It took Rathod three years before he could land on this basic information from the department.TNN “This is the level of transparency that the Gujarat government shows when it comes to the rights of the common man and the downtrodden classes. It took me three years to access information which should ideally should have been on the government website.”

The data in the RTI comprises only of ITI, science, arts, engineering and medical colleges. The information commission failed to provide the information for the dalit kids studying in schools

 

In the land of Gandhi and Modi, Dalits still render water ‘impure’ for others #WTFnews


 

 

Dailybhaskar.com | Jun 13, 2013,

 

Ahmedabad: Just 45 kms from the cosmopolitan hub of Ahmedabad, a village in Bavla Talika district has been found to be using caste as a parameter for distribution of water supply. On the scale, the highest castes of Rajputs and Patels have exclusive access to the well in the morning from 8 to 10 am, with Bharwas and Vaghris using the well from 10 to 12 am. Dalits, or Harijans as they are locally known, are only allowed access after 12 am till 2 pm.
According to a report, the pipelines carrying water are also arranged so each caste has a different one for their exclusive use. While the two upper castes can and do use each other’s water interchangeably, graphic warnings levying ‘strict penalties’ on Dalits if they are caught using others’ water decorate the surrounding walls.
In fact, a DNA correspondent notes that so ‘derogatory are the pictorial prohibitions and the language used in them that the person who wrote them could be easily charged under Atrocities Act.
Surprisingly, the casteist practise has the backing of village panchayat.
“We have put up the notice to streamline water distribution as we have separate pipelines for areas where people of different castes reside,” Pratapsinh Dodia, the husband of sarpanch Nimisha Dodia was quoted saying by DNA.
“And people don’t like when those from other communities use the same well. Villages are different from cities,” he conceded.
Throwing light on what upper castes call ‘tradition’,  local NGO Navsarjan Trust workers told DNA that even Dalits have stopped protesting against ‘inferior treatment’ as they have become used to it. Startlingly, coordination officer of the NGO Ramila Parmar was quoted by DNA claiming that such water distribution procedure can be found all over the state.
“We have lodged a complaint with the chief minister via e-mail. We are surprised by such things happening in the constituency of panchayat minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama,” said Navsarjan project director Kirit Rathod.

 

 

“ Narendra Modi’s claims are full of untruths”


SUJAY MEHDUDIA, The Hindu, June 12, 2013

Anand Sharma. File photo

The HinduAnand Sharma. File photo

The Gujarat Chief Minister was not a leader who would unite the Indian polity, but a divisive leader and a fountainhead of communalism, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma says.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is an arrogant man who has mastered the art of using untruths and half truths to his advantage and making sensational claims, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said on Tuesday. Mr. Modi was not a leader who would unite the Indian polity, but a divisive leader and a fountainhead of communalism, he told The Hindu here.

Mr. Sharma said the recent developments in the BJP were its internal problem. If anyone believed the Congress was worried, it was totally misplaced. “I think those who actually need to worry are the senior leaders within his party and the constituents of the NDA. He has been given a position by a divided party which is in disarray and rudderless.’’

Mr. Modi was a leader who beat his own trumpet. His sycophants too were busy beating drums, unmindful of the reality around them. “It is shocking that Mr. Modi could resort to such lies and mislead the people with claims that fall flat on their face when put to scrutiny. His claims on developments in Gujarat are full of untruths. What I am giving are official figures and not something manufactured as Mr. Modi does all the time.”

Gujarat was way behind Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh or even West Bengal in access to safe drinking water. Gujarat led the national average with a 25.66 per cent school drop out rate, well above States like West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tripura and Sikkim. In literacy, Gujarat was way behind States like Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Manipur. The percentage of people living below the poverty line stood at 31.8 per cent in Gujarat as compared to 29.9 per cent in Andhra Pradesh, 24.1 per cent in Haryana and 19.7 per cent in Kerala. Infant morality rate was 44 per cent in Gujarat compared to 30 per cent in Delhi, 13 per cent in Kerala, 28 per cent in Maharashtra, 14 per cent in Manipur and 24 per cent in Tamil Nadu. What kind of development model was this, he asked.

Mr. Sharma said he was astonished when Mr. Modi talked about the State attracting the highest foreign direct investment (FDI). He gave out highly inflated figures every time. The Reserve Bank of India statistics from March 2000 to March 2013 painted a very different picture.

From May 1999 to April 2004, when NDA was in power, the country attracted $25 billion in FDI. During May 2004 to April 2013 of UPA rule, the country attracted $265 billion. According to figures given by RBI regional offices for the period April 2000 to March 2013, Mumbai emerged on top with $63 billion. Delhi got $36 billion plus, Chennai $11.08 billion and Bangalore around $10 billion. Gujarat got $8.6 billion in 13 years, he said.

 

Mumbai -To fix whistleblower, bank moves from verse to worse


ALOK DESHPANDE, The Hindu, June 13, 2013 

Embarrassed by revelations about its curious dealings with corporate clients, the Bank of Maharashtra has declared war on whistleblowers. File photo
The Hindu–Embarrassed by revelations about its curious dealings with corporate clients, the Bank of Maharashtra has declared war on whistleblowers. File photo

Union leader Devidas Tuljapurkar faces victimisation and possible dismissal by the Bank of Maharashtra, as it suspects him of being the whistleblower behind a story in “The Hindu” on July 7, 2012.

For one unfortunate whistleblower, things have gone from verse to worse. Embarrassed by revelations about its curious dealings with corporate clients, the Bank of Maharashtra has declared war on whistleblowers. And since it can’t pinpoint them, the bank has gone after internal critics on novel grounds. It has chargesheeted a Union leader and ex-Director of the BoM for acts “prejudicial to the interests of the Bank.” That is, for publishing 19 years ago, a poem it calls ‘vulgar and obscene,’ in the Union’s in-house magazine, ‘Bulletin.’ That poem is the basis of the Bank’s charge sheet against a worker with an impeccable service record.

In 1984, the Marathi poet Vasant Dattatraya Gurjar wrote a satirical poem titledGandhi Mala Bhetla Hota (Gandhi met me) which shook the literary world with its polemical content. In 2013, Devidas Tuljapurkar, General Secretary of the All-India Bank of Maharashtra Employees Federation, faces victimisation and possible dismissal by the bank, ostensibly because the Bulletin, of which he was editor, carried that poem in 1994!

The real reasons for going after Mr. Tuljapurkar appear to have little to do with poetry and seem far more prosaic. He has been a thorn in the flesh of his management. Both, as an alert employee and, for a while, as Workman Director on the bank’s Board. He has also drawn the RBI’s attention to the BoM’s odd handling of some corporate accounts and advances which, he charges, are being favoured at the expense of BoM’s main depositors — lakhs of small farmers, working people and retired employees. But the BoM leadership has something more against him. They suspect him — with no basis or proof — of being the whistleblower behind a story in The Hindu, July 7, 2012. That story exposed how the bank had granted a Rs. 150-crore loan to a defaulter owing BoM Rs. 40 crore by greatly weakening the terms of the original sanction letter. The defaulter company was a part of the United Breweries (UB) group headed by Vijay Mallya. The expose embarrassed Bank Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Narendra Singh, sparking a whistleblower witch-hunt.

But no whistleblower was found. And after several transfers of senior officers within the bank, the search hit a dead-end. Ironically, it was an unthinking action of the Reserve Bank of India that handed the BoM management a scapegoat: Devidas Tuljapurkar.

Mr. Tuljapurkar told The Hindu, “Last October, I wrote a letter to RBI Governor D. Subba Rao highlighting questionable corporate advances and imprudent banking decisions of BoM at the instance of CMD Narendra Singh.” The letter, written in his capacity as a Union leader, was backed up with facts and documents. Having served as a Director on the Board of BoM from 2004 to 2009, he was very familiar with the rules and procedures.

However, the RBI failed to protect his identity as a whistleblower. In one of those unthinking acts of bureaucracy, the RBI routinely forwarded Mr. Tuljapurkar’s letter to the very BoM management that it exposed, for their comments. The bank had found its scapegoat and Mr. Tuljapurkar’s ordeal began. “Since I had written a letter to RBI, the management assumed that it was also I who had leaked that story about gifting a Rs. 150-crore loan to Mallya’s company. They wanted to corner me, so they started scanning my history,” he says.

And all they could come up with was a poem from 1984. Vasant Gurjar’s poem is a political satire that is scathing about the followers of Mahatma Gandhi who, in the poet’s view, were merely serving their own interests. In 1994, the poem was published in the ‘Bulletin’ the house magazine of the Union. In March 1995, an organisation called the ‘Patit Pavan Sanghatana’ filed a complaint against the Bulletin for publishing the ‘obscene’ and ‘vulgar’ poem. As editor of the Bulletin, Mr. Tuljapurkar was made an accused in the case.

This May 3, 19 years later, the BoM management issued an internal charge sheet against Mr. Tuljapurkar. It accuses him of ‘publishing such an inflammatory, vulgar, obscene and objectionable material in the magazine “Bulletin” meant for bank employees …” And claims that circulating that issue of the Bulletin on the BoM’s premises (in 1994) was “prejudicial to the interests of the Bank.”

Interestingly, the ‘State Performances Scrutiny Board, Government of Maharashtra’, headed by well-known Marathi poet F.M. Shinde, has a very different take on the poem. In January 2011 the Scrutiny Board made it clear that the poem is neither obscene nor vulgar. “What Gandhi had envisioned about Swarajya is nowhere to be seen. The poet has expressed this in satirical form,” Mr. Shinde had said.

Apart from ignoring the Board’s view, the BoM seems to take no notice of the Supreme Court’s order in the case against Mr. Tuljapurkar. “After the FIR in 1995, we approached both the sessions court and the High Court to discharge me from the case. But that was rejected and our appeal is pending in the Supreme Court,” he says. “The apex court, in its order dated July 7, 2010, stayed all proceedings in lower courts in this case and the actual trial has not even started in any court.”

The charge sheet accuses Mr. Tuljapurkar of not disclosing this pending litigation against him while serving as the Workman Director of the bank and for knowingly making ‘false statements’ in the forms of the bank. BoM CMD Narendra Singh took personal interest in the entire matter, says Mr. Tuljapurkar. The CMD placed the 19-year old case before the board meeting in January this year, recommending action against the union leader.

All this sidesteps the truth that Mr. Tuljapurkar’s name was mentioned in the FIR as editor of the Bulletin and not in any ‘personal capacity.’ It also ignores the fact that even charges in the case are yet to be framed. Calls, faxes and emails from The Hindu to Mr. Singh have so far drawn no response.

Meanwhile, an outraged All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA), to which Mr. Tuljapurkar’s union is affiliated, has called for an agitation across the entire BoM on June 17. “We demand immediate withdrawal of the charge sheet slapped against him and thorough investigation of loans sanctioned by the bank to various corporates ever since the present chairman took charge,” CH. Venkatachalam, General Secretary, AIBEA, told The Hindu. He added that the BoM being a public sector bank, every citizen had a right to express concern about its financial health. “We shall fight back any attempt at victimisation.”

If the departmental inquiry against Mr. Tuljapurkar proceeds the way bank management wants, it could result in his dismissal. A whistleblower exposing the questionable actions of a public sector bank could be dismissed for publishing a poem in 1994. He is also a man who, while a director of the bank, transferred all the money he received as sitting charges for Board meetings to the Union’s account via cheque, accepting no monetary benefits as a director.

“I wrote to RBI because I found Mr. Singh’s financial moves unhealthy for the bank’s future. Hence I’m being targeted and victimised. They aim to make an example of me so nobody in future will dare raise his voice. It has to be stopped,” he said.