Aruna Roy leaves National Advisory Council


May 29, 2013

New DelhiNoted social rights activist Aruna Roy has decided to leave the National Advisory Council (NAC). Her letter of resignation has been accepted by NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who also heads the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The task of the NAC is to provide inputs in the formulation of policy by the government, and to provide support to the government in legislative business.

In her letter to Sonia Gandhi, Roy listed differences with the government, specially over the refusal to give minimum wages to beneficiaries under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

The noted social activist said that despite its contribution to changing the lives of the rural poor, implementation of this crucial flagship programme remains a challenge.

“There is a huge group of MGNREGS beneficiaries who are critical, but supportive of the law. They are losing public and political space to a small, vocal, and powerful minority determined to undermine the basic objectives of the MGNREGS,” Roy said in her letter.

“This is in continuation of the conversation we had some time ago, when I had requested that I not be considered for another term in the NAC. I am grateful for your accepting my request, while assuring you continued support to campaigns for social sector causes being taken up outside the NAC,” Roy wrote.

She said that it was “extremely unfortunate” that the prime minister rejected the NAC recommendations on payment of minimum wages to MGNREGS workers and chose instead to appeal against the Karnataka High Court judgment ordering the payment of minimum wages to MGNREGS workers.

“Even more distressing is the government’s refusal to pay minimum wages even after the Supreme Court refused to stay the Karnataka High Court judgment. It is difficult to understand how a country like India can deny payment of minimum wages and still make claims of inclusive growth,” Roy said.

Listing the achievements of the NAC, Roy said: “It is a matter of great significance that the NAC has approved a pre-legislative consultative process and will send it to government for necessary action. In my opinion, the NAC is itself a kind of pre-legislative body that has benefited immensely from the public consultations it has held.”

The functioning of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, and its celebrated report in the aftermath of the Dec 16 gang-rape in Delhi, were also an outcome of a pre-legislative consultative process, Roy noted, hoping that the process of public consultation would become more robust.

Favouring immediate passage of the food security bill, Roy said: “Given the hunger and malnutrition scenario in the country, a food security bill should have been debated and passed by parliament by now.”

In her letter accepting Roy’s resignation, Sonia Gandhi said: “I respect your decision to move on from the National Advisory Council. I hope that we will continue to have the benefit of your wisdom and thoughts as a friend and supporter of NAC.”

 

IANS

 

#India – Press freedom on shaky ground #FOE #FOS


Since January, media has been under attack a number of times, with police failing to protect its rights. GEETA SESHU says all this forms a grim backdrop to World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
Posted/Updated Thursday, May 02 18:45:32, 2013, Thehoot.org

One death, one instance of arson, seven attacks on journalists and an equal number of instances of censorship in the first four months of this year in India – that’s the tally from the free speech tracker of the Hoot’s Free Speech Hub. Add this to the loss of jobs in media funded by ponzi schemes like the Saradha group (1,400) or in other newspaper groups struggling to stay afloat.

Barely four days before World Press Freedom Day on May 3, a Kannada newspaper Karavali Ale was the target of an attack by the BJP MLA from Surathkal in South Karnataka, Krishna Palemar. Copies of the newspapers were torched at the local bus station. Subsequently, the distribution of copies was disrupted.

According to a complaint filed before the Election Commission by Rohini S, Managing Director of Chitra Publications, which brings out Karavali Ale, the ‘criminal actions’ of Palemar sought to frighten the management and staff against publishing reports adverse to him. Earlier, the newspaper had carried a detailed report about the ‘hollow’ claims of the political leader about development in the area.

The complaint added that Palemar had committed a violation of the poll codes (Karnataka goes to the polls on May 5) and has demanded action for his criminal destruction of property. Despite requests to local police for protection , this was not forthcoming, the newspaper management said

While the current tussle between the newspaper and local politicians owing allegiance to the Hindu right is clearly poll-related, it is by no means the only one. On February 6, a staffer of the newspaper, Harish Puthran, was attacked by elements supported by Hindu Vedike leader Satyajit Surathkal for his news reports that investigated the links between the Hindu fundamentalist group and the local drug mafia.

Earlier, in 2010, Palemar succeeded in obtaining a High Court injunction against the newspaper from publishing adverse reports against him, after an earlier attempt to secure an injunction from the Bangalore City and Civil Sessions court failed.

Press Freedom in India: January-April 2013

A quick glance at the list of attacks and censorship of the media in just these four months reveals the range of issues journalists are routinely confronted with. The killings, the attacks, threats and the censorship can originate from any quarter – Maoists in Chhattisgarh, Hindu fundamentalist groups in Mangalore, police and security forces in Odisha and Kashmir or even the gutka don who organised an acid attack against a journalist in Parbhani.

The censorship can range from police clamping down on coverage of the case of the Delhi gang-rape victim, elected representatives of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly who beat up a police inspector in the house but issued contempt notices against television channels for reporting the attack, defamation blocks on online media coverage of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) or the gag on the media of an entire state following the hanging of Afzal Guru.

In February, Nemichand Jain, a Hindi journalist working in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, was killed and a local committee of the Maoists left a pamphlet at the site taking responsibility for the killing. The incident, which sent shock waves amongst journalists in the area, again underlined the precarious nature of media work in a zone of conflict.

Jain worked both as a journalist as well as a distributor for several newspapers and the Maoists claimed he was a police informer. Journalists decided to boycott all information about Maoists following the death. The boycott was lifted after Maoists reportedly apologised, in yet another pamphlet, for the killing.

Needless to say, amidst this exchange of pamphlets, police are still ‘investigating’ the case.

Police are still also investigating the acid attack on Dinesh Chaudhary, reporter for Solapur Tarun Bharat, and his wife and teenaged daughter in Parbhani, Maharashtra in March this year. Chaudhary wrote about gutka don Syed Ali, who allegedly got two accomplices to throw acid on him. The duo managed to escape. The state home minister promised to take serious note of the incident and directed police to do their job. Till date, says the editor of the newspaper, Narayan Karanjkar, Ali is still ‘absconding’, though he has been spotted in the area on several occasions!

Odisha manages to be in the news for attacks on the media. In 2012, the Free Speech Hub conducted a special report on this state but when impunity rules, the journalist has no protection at work. Subhakant Padhihary discovered this when he was beaten mercilessly while covering an agitation in Bhubaneshwar on April 1. “When I was being caned mercilessly by the cops, Bhubaneswar DCP Nitinjit Singh was present, but he walked away,” Padhihary said.

Only yesterday, another journalist Amitabha Patra, and an editor of the magazine Nissan Lenin Ray, were arrested while covering a protest by villagers against the Lower Suktel Dam in Dunguripali of Balangiri district, Odisha.

The ‘Hindu taliban’ is what local journalists call attackers of Harish Putran, reporter for Karavali Ale, a newspaper from Mangalore, who was beaten up for a series of articles he did claiming that the Hindu Jagran Vedike had close links with a drug mafia.

The organisation became infamous for the pub-attacks and the raid on a homestay, which had led to the arrest of Kasturi television reporter Naveen Soorinje last November. After spending around four months in jail, Soorinje was granted bail by the Karnataka High Court and released in March 2013.

Sure, the media in turn has a lot to answer for. As the Hoot’s reports show, the media routinely forgets the North-east, invades the privacy of partying students in Hyderabad or when journalists fail to ask the right questions of their media owners. And these are just a few examples.

But as Camus said: A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.

 

PRESS RELEASE- National Green Tribunal constitutes Fact Finding committee for diversion of forest land to nuclear projects


National Green Tribunal constitutes Fact Finding Committee to determine ecological and environmental consequences of massive diversion of ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ (forest) land to Defense, Nuclear and Industrial Projects in Chitradurga, Karnataka

In a significant direction, the South Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal comprising of Justice Mr. M. Chockalingam (Judicial Member) and Prof. Dr. R. Nagendran (Expert Member) set up a two member committee of experts to visit Challakere Taluk in Chitradurga District of Karnataka and study the ecological and environmental consequences of diversion of 10,000 acres of ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ (traditional pasture grassland ecosystems and District Forests) for a variety of Defense, Nuclear, Industrial and Infrastructure projects. The expert members named by the Tribunal are Dr. S. Ravichandra Reddy, Retd. Professor of Ecology, Bangalore University and Dr. K. V. Anantharaman, Deputy Director, Scientist “C” (Retd.), Central Silk Board, Bangalore.

 

The decision to constitute the expert team was taken on 21st March 2013 based on applications filed by Leo F. Saldanha and Environment Support Group before the Tribunal during February 2013. The Applicants have consistently pointed out that the Karnataka Government comprehensively violated various forest, biodiversity and environmental protection laws while diverting about 10,000 acres of ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ for defense, industrial and infrastructure development projects. All this has also been done, without any Statutory Public Hearings and in total secrecy, thus comprehensively violating the Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent that forms a major basis of various environmental and human rights protection laws. Further, it has been vehemently contended that this diversion is in absolute contradiction to various policies of the Central Government that seek to protect grasslands and livelihoods of pastoralists.

 

The Applications contended that all these gross illegalities have been committed despite the widely known fact that these ecologically sensitive grassland ecosystems serve as a special and critical habitat to a variety of flora and fauna; large herds of the highly threatened antelope species such as the Black Buck (Antilope cervicapra) graze these grasslands, and the ecosystem is a typical habitat for critically endangered birds such as Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps, only 250 individuals known to survive in all of South Asia) and Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus). These grasslands ecosystems have for centuries supported the rearing of drought tolerant locally bred variety of Amrit Mahal Cattle, besides providing a wide range of livelihoods opportunities for communities in about 60 directly impacted villages located around the Kaval. It is in consideration of all these values that the Karnataka Government had designated such Kaval land as District Forests per the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969 and their protection was made sacrosanct by directions of the Karnataka High Court in 2002 and subsequent orders of the State.

 

The Challakere Kaval land ranges over 12,000 acres, and constitute the last remaining large contiguous semi-arid grassland in Karnataka. The State which boasted at the time of independence of possessing about 4,00,000 acres of ‘Kaval’ grasslands, is now, per the Forest Department submissions to the Supreme Court, left with only about 45,000 acres of such habitat. Producing incontrovertible evidence before the Tribunal, the Applicants demonstrated that the beneficiaries of the illegal transfer of such ecologically precious grassland/forest land include Defense Research Development Organisation (for drone testing and development), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (uranium enrichment facility), Indian Institute of Science (Synchroton), Indian Space Research Organisation (satellite centre), Sagitaur Pvt. Ltd. (Solar Farm), Karnataka Housing Board (township), and Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association and Karnataka Udyog Mitra (for a range of private industrial and ancillary units related to the defense sector) – all of which are projects with significant or massive environmental and social impacts. All of these proponents have been provided such ecologically precious land at a pittance of a cost: Rs. 30-35,000/acre.

 

The Applicants have also produced evidence that despite statutory notices of violation of environmental laws from Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, issued about two years ago, none of the project proponents have complied with any of the mandatory environmental and forest clearance norms and standards. Instead, a variety of project activities have commenced including the building of a 30 kms long high wall by DRDO in comprehensive violation of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006 which categorically bars commencement of any project activity until environmental and forest clearances have been granted. Such developments have blocked local pastoralists’ access to their pasture land and to lakes and streams which are critical drinking water sources for cattle. This is particularly worrying given the long periods of drought affecting the region causing extensive distress to impacted families. Besides, the massive wall has seriously constrained the movement of the highly endangered Black Buck, and could potentially isolate the population, thus weakening its genetic vitality. In addition, DRDO is on record to have conducted various bombing sorties in the grasslands, none of which appear to have been with any consent from civil and military authorities.

 

The Applications filed in February 2013 have prayed for interim relief of stay on ongoing illegal activities and for allowing access to grazing pastures for local pastoralists. In consideration of this aspect the Tribunal has repeatedly sought the response of the Karnataka Government and Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, including even directing Karnataka’s Principal Secretary for the Environment Department to appear in person on 13th March 2013. Yet, no response has been forthcoming. Taking this situation into account, the 21st March order observes that “(i)n the considered opinion of the Tribunal, the counter of the respondents have to be taken into consideration before deciding the question whether to grant an order of interim relief or not and hence, (the case hearing) has got to be adjourned granting time till 15.04.2013 to file their counter. It is made clear that if the counter is not filed by any of the respondents, it will be taken that they have no counter to offer.”

 

The Applications and related documents are accessible on the ESG website at: www.esgindia.org and a copy of the 21st March 2013 order of the Tribunal is enclosed.

 

Leo F. Saldanha

Applicant in 6/2013 as Party in Person

leo@esgindia.org

Bhargavi S. Rao

Coordinator (Education)

bhargavi@esgindia.org

Arthur Pereira

Trustee representing ESG in Application 12/2013

arthurjpereira@gmail.com

Environment Support Group

An overview of the allocation of lands and the purpose for which Challakere’s ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ lands are diverted

Sl. No.

Organisation

Village Name

Sy. No.

Extent of land in acres

Purpose

A

B

C

D

E

F

1

Defence Research Development Organisation

Varavu Kaval and Khudapura

343, 47

4000 and 290 respectively (total 4290)

Advanced R&D complex, a 3.5 km runway and test centre for long-endurance ( 48-72 hours) UAVs and UCAVs

2

Indian Institute of Science

Khudapura

47

1500

Synchrotron, Energy Research Centre and Advanced Aerospace Research Centre

3

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura

1, 47

1410 and 400 respectively (toatel 1810)

Special Material Enrichment Facility (Uranium)

4

Indian Space Research Organisation

Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura

1, 47

473 and 100 respectively (total 573)

Spacecraft Technologies

5

Karnataka Small Scale Industries Development Corporation

Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura

1, 47

250 and 50 respectively (total 300)

Various industrial ancillary units

6

Sagitaur Ventures India Pvt. Ltd.

Khudapura

N.A.

1250

Integrated Solar Park Development along with Grid Connected 25 MW Solar PV Power Project

7

Karnataka Housing Board

Khudapura

47

50

Developing Housing Layout and sale of constructed villas

Total

9323 confirmed

 

-- 
Environmental, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives
Environment Support Group - Trust
1572, 36th Cross, Ring Road
Banashankari II Stage
Bangalore 560070. INDIA
Tel: 91-80-26713559~61
Voice/Fax: 91-80-26713316
Web: www.esgindia.org
Email: esg@esgindia.org

 

Journalist Naveen Soorinje granted bail #goodnews


His arrest had raised many important questions about the violation of democratic rights and media freedom in India
Tehelka Bureau

March 18, 2013

Naveen Soorinje. Tehelka photo

Naveen Soorinje, the private Kannada channel reporter who was arrested for exposing an assault on women by Hindu extremists in Mangalore has finally received bail after four months. Justice Sreedhar Rao of the Karnataka High Court granted the bail after a surety and a bond of Rs 5 lakh. Naveen is likely to be released either today or tomorrow after the order copy is received and signed. “Finally justice has been done after four months. I hope the freedom of the press will not be muzzled any longer by the present government and the local police in Mangalore will not resort to harassing those media persons who exposed the issue,” his lawyer Nitin R said.

“We are very happy with the news and want to congratulate and thank all the people who rallied around him in support,” his brother Prem Soorinje said.

On 7 November, Soorinje was arrested by the Mangalore Police who lumped him along with the Hindu Jagaran Vedike group who groped and attacked the boys and girls celebrating a birthday at a homestay in Mangalore on July 28, 2012. Since he and his cameraman had caught the men chasing, slapping, and groping teenaged women, the arrest made this one of the most bizarre examples of shooting the messenger. The 43 attackers who were charged in the case were identified on the basis of Soorinje’s footage. TEHELKA had raised many important questions after his arrest and the violation of democratic rights and media freedom.

 

#India- Abolish the #deathpenalty- #Humanrights


Rajeev Dhavan – India Today 

Afzal Guru
Afzal Guru

When people kill it is homicide. When the State hangs, it is legicide. When terrorists kill, it is collective murder.When terrorists are killed, it is justified as counter-terrorism. When innocents are massacred, it is genocide. When the great empires of the day kill thousands of innocents it is called collateral damage for the greater glory of the world.

Afzal Guru’s hanging was celebrated as national pride to symbolise that India and the Congress party had not gone ‘soft’. This was to offset the BJP’s electoral campaign against the UPA’s soft state. To the cynic and the thoughtful, Afzal’s hanging became a political farce about collective revenge, national honour and electioneering for 2014. If his hanging was a deterrent for terrorists in the Valley or otherwise, the facts belie the truth. If a chain of hangings are to follow, why talk of mercy?

Discourse

Is India clear about the death penalty, state killings by hanging, mercy petitions and legicide? Years ago mandatory death sentences were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. From 1980-83, the new formula was death in the ‘rarest of rare cases’. Given shrill polities and social clamour for death, are we returning to de facto mandatory death sentences while retaining the de jure ‘rarest of rare’ clausula? Recently on 2nd March 2012 Justices Alam and Desai opined that mandatory death sentences for all under the Narcotics Act were contrary to the Constitution’s due process and civil liberties. The BJP wants mandatory death sentence for all terrorists. Unable to contain the political implications of this clamour, the Congress has joined the ‘mandatory’ bandwagon.

Omar Abdullah took a pragmatic, not a principled, view that death for Afzal would shake up Kashmir. Instead it shook up Hyderabad! Parliament dare not make death sentence for terrorists or rapists mandatory. It would be struck down. Instead this is achieved through politics, inciting people and numbing the conscience of the President.

The Parliament attack occurred on 13 December 2001, and Afzal was arrested on 15 December 2001. The High Court acquitted two accused, Geelani and Afsan, and on 4 August 2005 the Supreme Court convicted Afzal to death and awarded 10 years for Shaukat. President Pranab denied mercy on 3 February 2013. After six hurried days, he was executed. The quality of mercy was not just strained but ignored. Both Kasab and Afzal were hanged within days of the Presidential rejection of their mercy petition – ignoring the right to approach the courts to challenge the rejection.

Indeed, in 2013 the Karnataka High Court stayed the execution of Saibanna while it examined the legality of the presidential rejection. Recently, the Supreme Court has stayed the execution of Veerappan’s aides until it heard arguments on the rejection of mercy.

Afzal

Afzal had no such chance. Afzal’s wife was informed of the death two days later – by speed post, sent a day before the execution! Home Secretary R.K. Singh said his family was informed. Indira’s killer’s family met the condemned before execution. Mr. Singh deserves suspension and Minister Shinde removal for his outrageous defence of secrecy.

But the body? Surely the family have a right to the body rather than a State burial. They had, and have, a right to a namaaz-e-janaza. Or is Afzal to be damned in the life hereafter? Don’t quote Prison Rules. The government’s alleged fear is that his tomb will symbolise martyrdom. Who can prevent that? Or a memory stone in his honour at Sopore? Would the army crush it to pieces? Why punish Tabassum, Afzal’s wife? Unmarked graves and unceremonious cremations was British policy that ill becomes a post colonial republic. Give Tabassum the body.

Punishment

Innumerable convicts await death row – a death in itself. Unwise Law Minister Ashwin Kumar, who knows little law, seemed more concerned with speed than justice. In Bachan’s case (1980) the court factorised both the aggravated crime (public interest) and individuating of concern for the criminal (mitigating justice) as separate live elements in sentencing. The former could not drown out the latter. Recently on 20 November 2012, Justices Lokur and Radhakrishnan exposed the sentencing error in looking at the crime and ignoring the criminal totally. This is the flaw in the Machi decision’s (1983) ‘rarest of rare’ test which seems to be on everyone’s lips as they look at the crime and ignore the criminal. The Supreme Court has now exposed a dozen of its own errors in this regard. What we have done is shocking: restored the mandatory death penalty by the back door.

The presidential mercy has become a farce. Mercy petitions are not a will-of the-wisp. They have developed a culture of killing. Imagine the Justices Radhakrishnan and Misra’s distress on reading a trial judge’s advocacy of slashing, beheading, lynching and death sentence as the only way to eliminate crime. That too, in a judicial verdict. This is the state we have reached. A UN report states that over 150 countries have abolished or do not use the death penalty. Building on earlier resolutions, in 2012, the General Assembly resolved for no more death penalties – supported by the African Republics Tunisia, Niger and South Sudan. Even Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia abstained rather than vote against.

One last comment: Judges should straighten out the law. Parliament should abolish the death penalty. Tihar should deliver Afzal’s body to his wife Tabassum.

- The writer is a Supreme Court lawyer. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinion of the newspaper.

 

Media Release: Bail Granted for Indian Journalist, but Worries Persist Over Political Pressures


Media Release: India

February 25, 2013

Bail Granted for Indian Journalist, but Worries Persist Over Political
Pressures

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the grant of bail
to senior journalist
http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-deeply-concerned-over-criminal-c
harges-against-indian-investigative-reporter> K.K. Shahina, in the southern
Indian state of Karnataka after a hearing in a district court on 22
February.

Shahina, who currently works for Open magazine in the state of Kerala, south
of Karnataka, faces charges of criminal intimidation of witnesses following
a story she wrote for the weekly magazine Tehelka. The story which appeared
in December 2010 cast doubt on the charges of terrorism brought against a
prominent Islamic cleric from Kerala state.

Facing the possibility of arrest since January 2011, Shahina was granted
anticipatory bail by the Karnataka High Court in July 2011. Following
summons issued after charges were formally laid against her in January this
year, Shahina appeared before a court in Somwarpet in Kodagu district of
Karnataka, to renew her bail.

IFJ sources indicate that the courtroom where the bail hearing was scheduled
was besieged by activists of the right-wing political group, the Bajrang
Dal, on 22 February, just as Shahina made her appearance.

Shahina and friends, who accompanied her to the hearing, were reportedly
threatened by the Bajrang Dal activists who also insisted that a
cameraperson show them the visuals he had recorded, to ensure that they
could not be identified in public.

The IFJ joins partners in India in urging the authorities in Karnataka state
to ensure that conditions for a fair trial are maintained.

“We see this prosecution as an effort to silence fair and independent
reporting through legal injunction and harassment”, said the IFJ
Asia-Pacific.

“If the victimisation of a journalist is further compounded by an atmosphere
of fear and intimidation created in the environs of the courtroom hearing
her case, then we fear the likely chilling effect this could have on free
and fair reporting”.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on  +612 9333 0950

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/ifjasiapacific>
@ifjasiapacific

 

Notice to Karnataka govt on withdrawal of case against Naveen Soorinje #mediagag #foe


 

Bangalore, Feb 6 (PTI): Karnataka High Court today ordered issue of notices to the government and a regional television channel reporter on a PIL challenging the withdrawal of case against him in connection with attack on boys and girls in a homestay in Mangalore.

The division bench headed by acting Chief Justice K Sreedhar Rao ordered issue of notices to the government and reporter Naveen Sooringe on a PIL by advocate M P Amruthesh, seeking revocation of the cabinet decision to withdraw the case against Sooringe.

The petitioner said the government “without applying its mind” had withdrawn the case against Sooringe due to media pressure. He contended that there are 44 accused in the case and withdrawing the case only against Sooringe was “illegal and against Article 14 of the Constitution”.

He further submitted that the accused in the case were charged under various sections of IPC, the Indecent Representation of Women Act and Karnataka Prevention of Development and Loss of Property Act.

He also pointed out that the case had been withdrawn despite Sooringe’s bail being rejected by district court in Mangalore and also the High court.

On January 31, the cabinet decided to withdraw the case against Sooringe who is in judicial custody since his arrest on August 27, 2012.

 

#India -Illegal eviction of Five Thousand People at EWS Quarters, Ejipura, Bangalore #NHRC


 

 

Justice K.G.Balakrishnan,

Hon’ble Chairperson,

National Human Right Commission.

 

Date : January 31, 2012

 

Dear Sir,

 

            Sub : Illegal eviction of Five Thousand People at EWS Quarters, Ejipura, Bangalore

 

Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore’s local government along with the police demolished around 1200 tin-sheds , evicting 5000 slum dwellers  at the economically weaker sections (EWS) quarters in Ejipura from 18-21 January, 2013. About 1200 women and 2000 children were affected by this action. The four-day demolition drive razed around 900 tin-sheds that were erected at the quarters more than 11 years ago. No written notice was served to the residents. The demolition was accompanied by violent police action which included pulling people out of their homes when they pleaded for the house not to be destroyed ; lathi-charge of women and elders who resisted the demolition and the arrest of twenty one women[1] [1].

 

Since the night of 18th January, hundreds of families have been living out in the open, braving the cold. Toilets in the area have been demolished, water supply has been cut and there is absolutely no shelter provided. Senior citizens, children and pregnant women in the area  have been living in the open with serious risk to their health. Rosemary (60) one of the thousands rendered homeless by the eviction , died on the evening of January 22, after spending nearly three days out in the open. Her daughter says the death was a direct consequence of the demolition stating that she had barely eaten anything in the last few days[2].

 

People have been promised houses in Sulekunte village along Sarjapur Road. Sulekunte village is on the outskirts of Bangalore some 15 kms away from EWS quarters. The long distance means that residents would have to spend a lot for their commute to the city daily, for work. Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB) is supposed to build apartments for the 900 families in a 5-acre plot there. This may take any time between 1-3 years. Until then the government has failed to provide any alternative arrangements, even temporary, for the evicted people. BBMP claims that it is not responsible in providing interim relief to only 1512 original allottees and not the tenants and sub-tenants living at the quarters.

 

These actions are infringement of fundamental rights of the residents of Ejipura as the government has failed to abide by its constitutional obligations to guarantee the ‘Right to shelter’ and ‘Right to life and livelihood’ to its citizens.

 

Background:

In 1992, the Ejipura Quarters were built for policemen but were rejected by them as the quality of construction was very poor and even basic facilities like water and sanitation were not provided. The civic agency then allotted the quarters to the EWS. Many allottees continued to live in those poor conditions while some of the allottees rented it out to others who were in a worse off position than them. Thus, these buildings housed a number of poor people who were allotted the house and some very poor families, who stayed on rent in these blocks. Due to poor quality of construction of the EWS quarters, some of the blocks started cracking and collapsed in 2002, killing 3 people. Later, all the blocks even though experts ruled that with repairs, theywould be safe for living. Since then, many have been living in common tin sheds by the side of the demolished quarters.

 

Earlier in 2005, the BBMP passed a resolution to provide housing on the same land for all residents, including those it now dismisses as “illegal occupants” or “squatters”. In 2006, the BBMP had issued guritina cheetis/hakku patras (rights/identification certificates) to the people who were on rent from the original allotttees. These are the people whoim the BBMP now terms as encroachers.

 

Later, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between BBMP and Maverick Holdings was signed to develop the land. As part of the joint development agreement half of the land is to be used for the construction of 1,512 EWS apartments. The other half will be used by Maverick Holdings to construct the mall. Eviction of residents for the project has been stalled several times since its inception with residents and rights groups staging protests, alleging that it smacks of a land scam.Incidentally Maverick Holdings are also the beneficiaries of another Joint Venture Programme on Magrath Road, which was initiated as multiple car park but instead got developed into the Garuda Shopping Mall. Complaints have been lodged against the said project and the said company before the Lokayukta that is seized of the matter presently (Case no.426/2008 with Karnataka Lokayukta).

 

Pursuant to this, the original allottees filed a case in High Court which ruled last August that BBMP and Maverick should go ahead with the project and that only original allottees should be given the new flats. Court also ordered Maverick Holdings to pay Rs. 30,000 to the original allottees still staying in the quarters, as compensation and ordered BBMP to provide rehabilitation for 1512 original allottees, except those who have accepted compensation, at Iglur on Hosur Road. It authorised BBMP to evict/eject all occupants from the site and if necessary taking aid/assistance of police force. Unfortunately, the order did not hear the people who were on rent and disregarded that those who are staying on rent for more than 15 years and, in turn, disregarding their right to housing on basis of perpetuity. (Writ Petition 45915/2011)

Later the people who were on rent, approached the Karnataka High Court(Writ Petition 42743/12) asking that the order in (Writ Petition 45915/2011) be stayed. The Karnataka High Court is still hearing the matter and even as it is doing so, BBMP and the police carried out these demolitions.

It is unfortunate that in a country where the housing rights of millions are not met, land m,eant for housing for the economically weaker sections is being used to build a mall. Utilization of public lands by the Government is controlled by the Public Doctrine and the Joint Venture defeats the public trust doctrine inasmuch as it allows the Private third party to extract profit from the public land which was meant for the housing of poor and vulnerable sections of society. It is pertinent to note that the land has been earmarked for the construction of houses for economically weaker section, and it was for this purpose that the EWS quarters was constructed, and the present Joint Venture takes away from the sanctioned character of the land.

BBMP’s Agreement with the Private builder is unreasonable, arbitrary, unfair and opposed to public policy, public interest and the public trust doctrine.

 

 

When on the one hand the efforts of the Hon’ble Supreme Court is to respect and realise the constitutional rights of the urban homeless, this demolition of the EWS slum, stands at cross-purposes with these efforts. It is just and necessary that immediate steps be taken to ensure that the displaced families have proper shelter, access to basic and other services.

 

Action Requested

We request the National Human Rights Commission to immediately look into this issue and ensure that the rights of the affected people are restored. We requerst the commission to direct the Government of Karnataka to -

1.       Conduct a an enquiry on the gross human rights violations  by the state  authorities during the demolition and eviction drive and

conduct a public hearing on the whole issue.

2.       Provide immediate housing or basic shelter in the same spot or at least in the same area.

3.       Grant compensation to all victims for injuries caused to them and damaging their belongings.

4.       Scrap the current PPP project and houses for all the original allottees and current residents to be provided in the same spot.

 

We request your urgent action in this matter to address the mammoth humanitarian crisis .

 

Yours Sincerely,

Isaac Arul Selva

Karnataka Slum Janandolana

 

Prabahakar R

Dalit and Minorities Land Protecttion Forum

 

Medha Patkar

National Alliance of People’s Movements

 

Is this journalist behind bars because he spoke too often, too loud against communal forces?


Soorinje’s story has been playing out below the radar of national attention

January 24, 2013, Issue 5 Volume 10

IN A week when two national parties have found new helmsmen, a former CM has been convicted to 10 years in jail, another CM has been rapped by his own father for misgovernance, a state government is on the verge of collapse, and a major report on rape laws has been submitted to the home ministry, it might seem a bit odd to devote this column to something else altogether.

But over the past two and a half months, an important story has been playing out below the radar of national attention. It pleads a greater hearing. On 7 November 2012, Naveen Soorinje, a 28-year old reporter working with the Kasturi News 24 channel in Karnataka, was arrested on daunting charges: conspiracy; unlawful assembly; rioting with deadly weapons; criminal trespass; causing grievous hurt; and assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty.

Ironically, three months earlier, it was Soorinje’s story that had helped the police book 43 goons from the right-wing Hindu Jagaran Vedike for breaking into a private birthday party in Mangalore and molesting and beating the girls there. Now, in a cruel twist, the police had booked him as the 44th assaulter. In the last week of December, crushingly for Soorinje, the Karnataka High Court struck down some of the charges but still denied him bail. It held him guilty of colluding with the assaulters because he did not inform the police and because, according to the judge’s ruling, he had “encouraged the happening of the incident and assisted in videography of the event, and thereafter facilitated its telecast in television channels, which has caused greater damage to the dignity and reputation of the victims”. Soorinje’s argument that he was outnumbered by the goons and all he could do was record the crime as a journalist has been ignored. He is now waiting to appeal for bail in the Supreme Court.

Soorinje’s story has many disturbing implications for democracy and media freedom. This ruling sets a very dangerous precedent. There have undoubtedly been several cases in the recent past when the media has crossed a grey line and become, in some sense, not a chronicler of events but an uncomfortable magnification. The lumpen moral police, in particular, love the idea of spectacle: they often invite television crews before going on their brute rampage. Should the media report these incidents or should they cut off the vandals’ life breath by refusing to shoot? Should they tip off the police immediately? This must — and should — be subject to an urgent debate. But unless a journalist or media house is accused of actively exacerbating the crime — as in the Guwahati molestation case when the reporter’s role came into serious question — it is outrageous to arrest a journalist on these grounds.

Journalists are sometimes privy to secret information that can make for an exclusive story. It is understandable to expect them to report information of a bomb or a murder plot, a vandal attack or even a potential poaching incident to the police. But if this is stretched further, in the future, can they be arrested for meeting and getting an exclusive interview with a Maoist, insurgent, terrorist or underworld don because they did not tip off the police? Clearly, that would be a frightening absurdity.

In Soorinje’s case, the arguments against him already seem to have seriously skidded off the rails. According to him, he was not tipped off by the goons but by a frightened local he does not want to expose. His call records corroborate that he did not get any call from the goons. He also claims that he did try to call the police — both the Mangalore Police Commissioner (who, it turns out, was out of town) and a local inspector, Ravish Nayak. Neither picked his call or called back. Unfortunately for him, Soorinje’s calls to them, therefore, have not registered in his call records either.

The story gets more darkly ironic because Soorinje, who grew up in an agricultural family, has a track record of exposing the communal forces in Karnataka. According to his peers in the media, it is unthinkable — insupportable — that he would ever be party to such an attack. Many, in fact, suspect his arrest is driven by political vendetta: he was speaking up too often and too loud.

Last week, a small group of journalists went on a hunger strike to protest his arrest. The state home minister promised to intervene. Nothing has happened. The fact that the national media has failed to take up this story of a hinterland peer under assault is only serving to perpetuate the inaction.

Shoma Chaudhury is Managing Editor, Tehelka.
shoma@tehelka.com

 

More houses razed at Ejipura in Bangalore #slum demolitions


DEEPA KURUP, The Hindu, Jan 21,2013

By the end of the evening, more houses had been razed, leaving only a short row of the tin-sheet tenements standing.
By the end of the evening, more houses had been razed, leaving only a short row of the tin-sheet tenements standing.

Only a few rows of tin-roofed tenements remain now

On Sunday morning, after spending the night out in the cold, thousands of residents of the EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) Quarters here in Ejipura managed to stall four earth movers making way into their shantytown. But hours later, post noon, the bulldozers — under the supervision of policemen and a BBMP official — moved in and demolished a large chunk of what was left of the quarters, where at least 2,000 families lived.

By the end of the evening, more houses had been razed, leaving only a short row of the tin-sheet tenements standing.

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike claimed that the “entire area will be cleared out by Monday”. With nowhere to go, hundreds of families bundled up their belongings, stacked up their television sets and bedding in a row, and cooked out in the open. Even clean drinking water is a challenge, given that water supply and electricity to the area were cut-off four days ago, they said.

The BBMP says, and it has submitted to court, that it has offered rehabilitation, including accommodation and Rs. 30,000, to those living there.

However, the money has gone to 1,512 original allottees, of which barely over 120 are residents here. The rest of the tenants — at least 1,600 families that have been given BBMP “hakku patras” — have been left in the lurch. This shantytown is being brought down to make way for a glitzy mall developed by Maverick Holding and Investment Pvt. Ltd. and a residential complex for the 1,512 allottees co-developed by the civic body.

The crowded thoroughfares here are replete with tales of false promises, deceit and corruption. Sahai Mary, who works as domestic help in the National Games Village complex nearby, says that in 2004 they were given “hakku patras” promising them homes. “Every election, politicians have promised us homes. Where are all of them now?” she asks. Sahai Mary, a single mother of three, alleged that even the local youth association was “bought over”.

In fact, the BBMP council had, in 2005, passed a resolution that it would provide alternative accommodation to all the residents here. Residents say that a few months ago men who claimed to represent the area MLA showed them land in Anekal, which turned out to be privately owned by a businessman.

Sahai Mary points out that all her children will lose their school year if they move far from here, and rents in the area for a one-room tenement start at Rs. 5,000 with an advance payment starting at Rs. 50,000.

“How can we afford that much money?” asks Ameena Begum, 45, whose daughter was among the 23 arrested by the police on Saturday. Most of them pay between Rs. 500 and 700 for their rooms. They point out that most owners, who have taken the BBMP’s “interim settlement”, are yet to return their security deposits.

Traumatic episode

And if the trauma of losing their homes was not enough, these residents have been living in fear for the past week. Manikandan (30), a mason, says he hasn’t slept since the demolition drive started because every night “rowdies” would appear past midnight, sometimes extorting money from old women, and at other times, simply threatening them to leave.

Shanthamma (56), who lives with her mentally-challenged son, weeps inconsolably as she narrates how on Friday night they forced her to part with her life’s savings of Rs. 5,000.

She insists on showing her ration card, Aadhaar documents and voter identity card to prove that she is indeed a resident.

B.T. Ramesh, engineer-in-chief, BBMP, said that the High Court of Karnataka had ordered the evacuation. He said that the BBMP had tried to build temporary sheds in Sarjapur, but the plans were thwarted by a senior Minister.

Asked about the allegations that he had vested interests in the Rs. 2,000-crore project, he said: “Even the tendering has not begun. It’s all false. Moreover, we have been warning them [about eviction] since October.”