Silent genocide- Kerala health model has failed in tribal heartland


STAFF REPORTER

: Ekbal

B. Ekbal says the Kerala health model has failed in tribal heartland.

B. Ekbal says the Kerala health model has failed in tribal heartland.

B. Ekbal, public health activist and neurosurgeon, who headed a six-member medical expert team appointed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to study the health problems faced by the tribal people of Attappady, has said that “what the team saw in this tribal heartland is silent genocide.”

The team has been sent to study the problems and suggest remedial measures as 48 tribal infants died of malnutrition during the past 16 months in the hill region.

Addressing presspersons here on Tuesday, he said: “The tribal population is facing extinction in Attappady. If the government does not intervene to stop this genocide, it will remain a black mark on Kerala society.”

He said such a grave situation had not developed suddenly, but over many years. So no particular government or political party was to blame.  Everybody was responsible for this deteriorating situation.

He said the medical team, during its two-day visit to the tribal hamlets, found that 99 per cent of the tribal women were anaemic. Almost all tribal children were malnourished.

Dr. Ekbal said the Kerala health model had failed in Attappady. He would no more speak about the model, which claimed that the State had achieved health standards on a par with those of some developed nations. But in Attappady, the health standards were much below the average health indicators of India. The infant mortality rate in Attappady was 66 per 1,000 births as against the national average of 40.

He said intervening in the health sector alone would be insufficient to address the grave situation in the tribal area. An integrated approach covering other sectors too was required.

He urged Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to appoint a young, dynamic IAS officer to coordinate the works of various departments in Attappady to implement the various special packages announced by the government.

No coordination

He said that what one could see was total anarchy in Attappady. There was no coordination among the various departments and the three grama panchayats to take urgent steps to provide relief in this emergency situation.

He said that tribal people were supplied the Matta variety of rice through ration shops, which they did not eat. They should be supplied their traditional food. Thus, there should be structural changes in the rationing system. Nutritious food such as milk, egg and bananas should be directly supplied to the Anganwadis. Accredited social health activists, Anganwadi workers and Integrated Child Development Scheme promoters should be given reorientation training to take up new challenges in Attappady.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme should be restarted in Attappady to provide employment to the tribal population. The tribal people should be brought back to their traditional agriculture, which had ensured food security to them.

The Right to Forest Act should be implemented in Attappady to provide land to landless people. It was only in Kerala that the Act had not been implemented.

 

 

Green energy from blue sea


Tiruvananthapuram, May 18, 2013

T. Nandakumar

File photo of Donghai Bridge Offshore Wind Farm, Shangai, China. Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT) is preparing to take up a wind monitoring study to identify potential offshore sites in Kerala.
AP File photo of Donghai Bridge Offshore Wind Farm, Shangai, China. Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT) is preparing to take up a wind monitoring study to identify potential offshore sites in Kerala.

Offshore wind farms to produce power for Kerala

A few years from now, wind farms located at sea could be churning out clean energy to feed the starved power grid in Kerala.

The Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT) is preparing to take up a wind monitoring study to identify potential offshore sites. The project is to be launched with the assistance of the Dutch government.

The Netherlands has made significant progress in harnessing wind as a renewable energy source. The country has set a target to build 6,000 MW of offshore wind power by 2020, mostly from the North Sea. During a recent discussion held with officials in Kerala, representatives of the Dutch government offered to collaborate in developing offshore wind farms.

ANERT director M. Jayaraju told The Hindu that the study would be followed by a pilot project, subject to a policy decision by the government. The project, he said, would be launched with the necessary safeguards to ensure that the offshore platforms did not interfere with fishing activities. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has identified the Kerala-Konkan coast as one of the potential sites for offshore wind farms in India.

Offshore wind farms are preferred because of the non-availability of land in densely populated coastal areas with high wind potential. The added efficiency of offshore wind power is another advantage over onshore wind turbines.

ANERT is also preparing to take up a wind-monitoring study to assess the potential for land-based wind farms in the coastal regions of the State. The study would be carried out at four locations with the help of the Centre for Wind Energy Technology (C-WET), a Chennai-based autonomous research and development institution under MNRE.

C.K. Chandrabose, Joint Technical Director, Wind Energy project, ANERT, said the year-long studies would generate real-time, on-site data on the wind potential of offshore and coastal regions in Kerala. The base data would be a crucial factor in attracting independent power producers to set up wind farms, he said.

ANERT is also gearing up to update the available wind monitoring data at potential sites on land. The total technically-feasible onshore wind potential of the State is estimated to be around 800 MW, limited to 17 locations in Palakkad, Idukki, and Thiruvananthapuram, where the wind speed is above 15 km/hr.

The main windy areas in the State are the eastern mountainous regions of Idukki district bordering Tamil Nadu and the elevated areas in the Palakkad gap. Ponmudi in Thiruvananthapuram is another potential site.

Mr. Chandrabose said monitoring stations equipped to generate wind data at a height of 80 metres had been installed at Kanjikode in Palakkad, Chelamala in Malappuram, and Pullikanam, Vandiperiyar and Kulathumedu in Idukki.

Meanwhile, two new wind farms, slated to come up soon at Kanjikode and Ramakkalmedu in Idukki will augment the State’s total installed capacity of wind energy. While the farm at the Kinfra Park in Kanjikode will add 22 MW, the one at Ramakkalmedu being set up by NTPC will add another 20 MW to the current installed capacity of 34 MW generated by KSEB at Kanjikode and independent power producers at Attappady and Ramakkalmedu.

 

PRESS RELEASE- Fact Finding Report on Kerala Arrests under UAPA #draconianlaws


Kannur,
17- 05 – 2013
Following the news reports about the arrest of 21 Muslim youths under UAPA in Narath (Kannur dt.) by the Kerala police, a team of National Confederation of Human Rights (NCHRO) visited the place yesterday and today, met the relatives of the arrested, people living in the neighbourhood of the place of arrest and police officers with a view to collect the facts regarding. The team members are: NCHRO National Secretary Reny Ayline (Trivandram), Executive Members Prof. A.Marx (Chennai), G.Sugumaran (Puducherry), Kerala state committee member Advocate M.Abdul Shukoor (Malappuram), Writer and Activist K.M.Venugopal (Kannur) and Journalist Mohammed Shabir (Mangalore).
All the youths arrested are sympathisers of Popular Front of India (PFI), a registered organisation . They are conducting a programme every year known as “ Healthy People, Healthy Nation” in which they impart physical fitness training, yoga, some martial arts as well as religious and moral education to young people. This year also they were conducting the programme in a building owned by one Thanal Trust which is also a registered body under Charitable Trusts Act. This building is situated in a densely populated area in Narath behind the Falah English Medium High School. It is a half-built building without proper doors or the windows and everything that happens within the four walls of the building is visible to everybody outside. All the youths who took part in the programme were coming from the neighbourhood villages and they used to return to their homes in the nights.
According to the eye witnesses of the arrest which includes Mrs P.M.Saleem, Mrs. Abdul Jaffar, M.Abdullah, K.P.Mussam Kutty, all neighbours living around that building, a team of four policemen first entered the building on April 23 around 12.30 pm. The people around thought that it might be a regular visit of the police who used to come there often in search of sand mafia who are very active in that area. But soon a large battalion of police came there and took all the people in the building with them.
The police version of the story goes like this. As per the FIR filed by them (Mayyil P.S. FIR No 276/13), these people were given instructions on bomb making and training in the use of arms. They were able to seize two country bombs, one sword, and some materials and instruments necessary to make the bombs. Accordingly cases were filed under sections 143, 147, 153(B), R/W 149 IPC, Sec 5(1)(a) r/w 25(1)(a) of Arms Act, Sec 4 & of ES Act and Sec 18 of UAPA) against all the 21 Muslim youths and they were remanded to custody.
But not only the parents and relatives of the accused but also the neighbours mentioned above told us that no such armed training took place there, all the physical exercises and classes were very peaceful. One of the neighbours M.Abdullah said that he used to send his wife for the religious classes conducted there. The only Hindu living near the building one Suthish s/o Raghavan also said the same. He also denied that any bomb making or arms trainings were imparted to them. The Jamath member Mussam Kutty and the principal of Falah English Medium School Mr.P.Mustafa also said that the programmes were very peaceful and no such arms training were given to the inmates.
We also met the President of the Narath Grama Panchayat Mr.K.V.Mamy and a ward member Abdul Salam Haji. The former is a member of CPI(M) and the latter that of IUML. They also said that no such arms and bomb making trainings are possible in their panchayat limit. Nothing of that sort happened, they said. The president also attended a training programme conducted by the Thanal trust few weeks back known as ‘Happy Family’ in which Dr Ashraff, a psychologist took classes for women. Thanal trust also use to distribute school kits to poor children and conduct ‘School Chalo’ programmes to school drop outs. The President also said that there prevailed a political enmity between PFI and IUML because the front was responsible for the defeat of the IUML candidate in the last Panchayat election.
We visited the houses of at least four accused persons and met their near and dear. They all said that all the accused were brought from the Thanal trust building on April 23 to the police station on a promise that they would be sent back after an enquiry. Only in the evening they came to know through the media that so many serious cases are foisted against them. No such arms and bombs were seized either in the building at the time of arrest or in their houses during searches. Some of their statements:
C.P.Musa, Former teacher , Kottancherry : “My son Fahad (27) is a B.Com graduate. He owns a Travel Agency. He is also a franchise holder of Western Union Money Transfer and people living in foreign countries use to send money to their relatives for building houses through him. As a teacher I can say that he is a very good student, he is very pious, use to pray 5 times a day, fast two times a week. He is a sympathiser of PFI. The police searched my house and also my son’s travel agency. They found nothing incriminating. They took only a copy of the Holy Quran and a marriage cd from my son’s office. We came to know his arrest through the media.”
A.P.Umar, Muzhappillangadi : “My son Rickas (22) is studiying M.B.A. He is not a member of any organisation. I came to know his arrest only through the media. Some political opponents must have given false information to the police. Police came to my house but found nothing.”
C.P.Mustafa, Auto Driver, Muzhappillangadi : “My son Jamsheed (20) is a student of civil engineering. Two days back I met him in the prison. He said that one investigating officer told him that if he accepted the charge, they would give him 2 lakh rupees in cash and a new house”
M.Sanfaras, Manager in a private company in Bangalore : “My brother Rshid (22) is a +2 student. Our father is no more. They raided my house and found nothing. My brother had no connection with any organisation. My mother and other family members came to know about his arrest only through the media.
Mr. Kalyattu Surendhran, the Station Officer of the Mayyil police station denied the allegations of the relatives of the accused. He said that it was true that arms and bomb making trainings were given to the accused. When we asked him that how such clandestine activities were possible in such a crowded place and that too in an open building without window doors , he was not able to give a proper reply. When we asked him about what sort of bombs were seized from them, he said that they were giving training to make “something like bombs” and two of which were seized by them. When we asked about other incriminating materials seized he showed a register in which it was stated that a cd about ‘love jihad’ and a pamphlet on the role of Sangh Parivar in blast cases were seized . The pamphlet ‘Spoadana Bheekatrathayil Sangaparivarathinte Paghu’ was written by one Jalarudin Vazhakkad and published by Jamathe Islami. Earlier it was published as a serial in the magazine ‘Praboadhanam’. When we pointed out that these were not banned documents and were available freely in the market, he replied, “may be”.
We also met the DySP P.Sukumaran and Inspector P.Balakrishnan in the former’s office .They told that UAPA was invoked on them not for the bombs seized there, but the mind set of certain Muslims are such that these laws were to be used against them. “Kerala is a beautiful country and there is no majority / minority problem here. There is no problem with the Christian minority; however, Muslim minority are not like that” said the DySP “We have arrested them not only for bomb making. We have seized there 172 incriminating documents which necessitated the application of UAPA”, said the Inspector. But that list of 172 ‘incriminating’ documents contain only items like Indian currencies, ID cards, paper cuttings..etc. The DySP also said that he had received a complaint from the local mosque committee that the activities in that building are to be watched. But when we met a Jamath member he denied that any clandestine activities took place in that building which we have already quoted.
Our Observations : 1. The Supreme Court directions given in D.K.Basu case were not followed in these arrests. The police has lied to the court that the parents were informed about the arrests by phone whereas they came to know about it only through the media.
2. It was not at all possible that any training on the use of arms and bomb making can be imparted to the youths in such a thickly populated and open place and that too in a building without doors or the windows. Such physical and moral training classes were conducted by PFI in the same place at least for the past three years and no complaints were received by the police about any clandestine activities. When the police visited there once, they didn’t find anything. All the neighbours living around the building also deny such allegations. We also wonder what sort of arms training could have been given to at least 21 people with a single sword and a few wooden sticks. It is ridiculous to say that some freely available pamphlets and compact discs are shown as incriminating materials. Since nobody had seen the police seizing “something like bombs” in the building, we strongly believe that the bomb story is hoaxed by the police to justify their action and malign the movement.
3. We are much worried about the way in which rumours are spread against the arrested youths by the intelligence through the media. Some sixty lakhs rupees found in the account of one accused is focused as large illegal foreign money involved in this act. Actually he is involved in a travel business and holds a consultancy for admission in self financing engineering and medical colleges. He receives money from migrant labours in foreign countries to build houses through a friend of him. The police were not able to find anything illegal in that account. Few days back one newspaper has published that the Narath accused were involved in Coimbatore serial bomb blast case. All the accused are young people and most of them were school going children when Coimbatore incident took place and some of them had not even born at that time. A Kish identity card seized from one of the accused is also projected as related to some anti national activity. But having a Kish ID is a normal thing used as an intermediary pass to move to UAE for those who have no permanent visa to that country.
4. Except one of them , all other 20 young men arrested were not at all involved in any other pending cases.
5. It is very sad that Kerala police has foisted such false cases against these innocent youths at a time when there is widespread concern expressed throughout the nation on # arrests of innocent Muslim youths. Most of them had been kept in prison for so many years and then released as they were innocents. Not only their prime youthful years were lost in prison, but stigmatized of being dubbed ‘anti nationals’ because of this arrest, they are not even able to get good jobs and decent livelihood. Recently, the Supreme Court also has condemned this. The Press Council Chairperson Justice Markandeya Katju had expressed concern about spreading such false propaganda against innocent Muslim youths in the media. He has also proposed an institution known as ‘The Court of Last Resort’ to extend help and save such innocent youths languishing in Indian prisons. It is no one’s position that those who plant bombs should go unpunished. As the editor of Tehelka magazine Shoma Chaudhri has written, “do not make false arrests and breed fresh despair, triggering new cycles of hate and revenge. In the clever calculations men make about security and State, they underestimate the power of human despair. When you lose faith that a system will play fair by you, it can breed fatal recklessness. It can make you abdicate from the rules that cement human relations. Despair can turn you from citizen to perpetrator, from the hunted to the hunter. Despair can be a deadly weapon”. Even parties like CPI(M) have now raised this issue. Recently the CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat took a list of 22 Muslims to President Pranab Mukherjee and demanded the Centre to take immediate steps to help such victims of “State-led injustice”. The demands included fast-track courts; rehabilitation and compensation for those had been falsely jailed; and a review of the UAPA
Our Demands
1. We strongly believe that all the allegations against these youths are false and the fake case foisted against these innocent youths should be immediately withdrawn and those arrested should be unconditionally released. Special care should be taken to allow the students to write their examinations.
2. We cannot find any logic to evoke a draconian Act like UAPA in this case. Since nationwide concern is expressed against this Act, we demand that UAPA should be repealed immediately.
3. The case against these 21 youths was deliberately foisted with a view to harassing them and spoiling the name of PFI. With spreading rumours against these innocent youths we find them stigmatized as ‘anti nationals’, which in turn will spoil their future. It is alleged that during interrogation, the police had chosen the poorest among them and offered two lakh rupees and a new house in exchange for accepting the charges and becoming an approver. We demand a judicial enquiry in this arrest by a sitting High Court Judge. The police officers responsible for foisting this case should be punished and the innocent youths should be given compensation.
4. Kerala is the state with highest literacy rate and the political, civil rights and trade union consciousness among the people are larger when compared to other states. We humbly issue a call to the political parties, writers and other intelligentsia to condemn the indiscriminate use of draconian laws such as UAPA against innocent youths.
5. From our conversation with the higher police officials we understand that they are biased against the Muslim minority in the state. We demand that sensitisation programmes should be conducted for the revenue and police personnel on problems faced by minorities, dalits and adivasis. Also, sufficient number of officials from minority communities is to be posted in areas in which the above sections of population are in large numbers .

Address: Reny Ayline, NCHRO, 44, Hilal Homes, Abul Fazal Enclave, New Delhi – 110025. Cell: 8606337319, 9633443798.

Equality fight in an unequal world #Feminisn #bookreview #SundayReading


By Deepti Menon, New Indian Express

12th May 2013 12:00 AM

  • Protests by women fighting for their rights have been part of a long history of feminist struggle.
    Protests by women fighting for their rights have been part of a long history of feminist struggle.

Feminism is not being part of an organisation; rather it takes inspiration from past heroines, aiding women to feel a continued responsibility, explains Nivedita Menon’s Seeing Like a Feminist. The title is inspired by James Scott’s Seeing Like a State, where the state “seeing” is all powerful, compared to the marginal position of the feminist.

This is a book about women and patriarchy, and about how the feminist views the operation of gendered modes of power. It is divided into six chapters, which deal with vital, interrelated themes.

Efforts have always been made to shield the institution of the patriarchal heterosexual family. Couples who choose inappropriate marriage partners come under the scanner. Women have been relegated to domestic work, which is less valued and unpaid, despite the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976. Domestic work is more demeaning and exhausting than that of a sex worker, probably why 71% of ‘servants’ have moved voluntarily to sex work.

In North India, a woman has no rights in her natal home after she moves to her husband’s home. In Kerala, only vestiges of the matrilineal system are seen. The Hindu Code Bills empowered Hindu women to choose their partners, and marry outside their caste. The Hindu Women’s Right to Property gave widows rights to their husband’s property, but the Hindu Succession Act nullified the position of daughters under matrilineal laws, by granting equal inheritance rights to sons. The three interlinked features of the Indian family are patriarchy, patriliny and vivilocality.

Dowry has spread its tentacles almost everywhere, as women go to their husband’s homes to survive with limited rights, despite the Dowry Prohibition Act which deems both giver and taker guilty. Women, right from childhood, prepare for marriage, which sometimes leads to the ‘implosion of marriage’, when young girls refuse to conform to docile roles of wife and daughter-in-law. The author avers that feminists need to build up the strength to live in ways in which marriage is voluntary, and create alternate non-marriage communities.

In ancient times, the universality of gender as a social category was challenged in African and the North American countries, and even in the lives of the Bhakti saints. But the creation of a distinction between sex and gender is intrinsic to feminism, as from childhood onwards, girls and boys pick up gender-specific forms of behaviour, training to conform to set roles.

In the 1990s, the media began airing sexually explicit images, through cable and television channels. Questions on homosexuality and issues revolving around the civil liberties of eunuchs, bisexual and transgendered people have all been viewed through the lens of the feminist here.

Patriarchal forces call rape a blot against family honour, while feminists denounce it as a crime against a woman’s bodily integrity. The Pink Chaddi protest was a non-violent gesture of ridicule against intolerance. The modern slut walks are the latest chapter in a long, powerful history of inspirational feminist struggle.

Caste politics and patriarchy have stalled the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill to reserve 33% of seats in Parliament for women.

There is mention of the commoditisation of the female body, through advertisements showing scantily clad bodies and pornography. Feminists expose how this outlook can be transformed by thinking of women as consumers instead of victims.

Pregnancy and child bearing are the sole responsibility of the woman. The ideal feminist world is one in which women can control when and under what circumstances they deliver their children. Sexual harassment charges against celebrities, the ban of the veil in France, forcing women badminton players to wear skirts and queer politics have all been touched upon in this revealing book.

Thus, for Nivedita Menon, feminism is not about one triumphant moment against patriarchy, but about the ongoing shift that enables young women to say, “I believe in equal rights for women, but I’m not a feminist.” Many new positions, energies and challenges have transformed the feminist field over the years, and this book takes a bold look at these.

“It comes slowly, slowly, feminism does. But it just keeps on coming!”

 

Kerala – Environmental Activist is labelled “anti-national and terrorist” #WTF


 ‘Industry-politician nexus is trying to eliminate us’

Author(s): M Suchitra, downtoearth
Issue Date: Apr 24, 2013

Purushan Eloor is an environmental activist and research coordinator with Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithy (PMVS), which has been fighting against industrial pollution in the Periyar river, the lifeline of central Kerala. The river is alarmingly polluted by about 280 chemical factories located at Eloor-Edayar industrial estate, the largest industrial cluster in the state.

Purushan was member of the Local Area Environment Committee constituted in 2004 by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes, the Environment Working Group of Kerala State Planning Board and the Endosulfan Technical Cell of the Kerala government. Besides, PMVS is an accredited member of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board. But for the past one year, Purushan has been spending most of his time and energy in courts and police stations. He is facing investigations by the crime branch, special branch and the local police for “anti-national and terrorist” activities. Purushan spoke to M Suchitra about how industries and politicians conspire to eliminate environment activists in the locality and how factories continue to pollute the river with impunity. Some excerpts:

Purushan Eloor Purushan EloorWhy are police agencies investigating you and your organisation?

The state government ordered the probe. It is based on a complaint given by the Standing Council of Trade Unions to the chief minister.

What is this Standing Council of Trade Unions?

It is a confederation of prominent trade unions such as CITU, AITUC, INTUC and BMS. The patrons of the council include two state ministers. Its executive and non-executive office-bearers include influential politicians and members of Parliament and the Assembly. The council was originally formed to act as a mediator between industries and the government for the smooth functioning of factories by ensuring adequate power availability.

What are the charges against you?

Receiving huge foreign funds for derailing and destroying domestic industries, purchasing large coffee estates and resorts, uploading visuals insulting the national flag on Facebook, participating in secret camps organised by banned groups like Students Islamic Movement of India, association with those who work for terrorist groups in Pakistan and connections with Maoists.

Is there any truth in these allegations?

Each and every allegation is false and fabricated. Ours is a group of local environmental activists. Our organisation was formed more than two decades ago by the residents of Eloor and Edayar village panchayats, affected by pollution from hazardous wastes discharged by factories. We hold open meetings, agitations and campaigns against the pollution using money from our own pockets. Nothing is about us is a secret. We are ordinary people struggling for a safe environment. About 3,500 families around the industrial estate are affected by the pollution. We have been struggling for more than 20 years.

Then why does the council raise such allegations?

This is an outcome of the nexus between industries and politicians. The present investigation started early last year. First, a series of planted reports against us appeared in Big News, a publication which is not even registered. This was followed by a press conference by the Standing Council at Ernakulam Press Club. It got wide coverage in newspapers and channels. Subsequently, posters tarnishing us were put up everywhere. Then the council approached the chief minister and requested for immediate probe. They also published allegations against us in a blog called patriot.com

What is the basis of the allegation of denigrating the Tricolour on Facebook?

It is an effort to establish that I am involved in anti-national activities. For this they dragged in my friend Muhammedali, a resident of Eloor, working in Dubai. I know him from childhood. We are friends on Facebook, too. Like me, he also hails from a communist family. He was a CPI(M) member and was active in the library movement till he left for Dubai for a livelihood. The First Information Report (FIR) of the Crime Branch accuses Mohammedali of sharing visuals denigrating the national flag and spreading “I Love Pakistan” message through Facebook. The FIR also says by his close relationships with Pakistanis in UAE, he may indulge in anti-social activities. Just imagine, to trap me they tarnished an innocent person who is working far away from his home.

On Facebook have you posted or liked or shared anything against national interest?

Never. Neither he nor I posted or shared or liked anything insulting the flag or propagating anti-national feelings. Neither of us visited any Facebook page that carried the kind of things the FIR says. Interestingly, the standing council even handed over printouts of the photos allegedly posted on our Facebook to the Crime Branch.

How could they do that if you have not posted it?

They were fake.

Doesn’t it amount to cyber crime?

Yes. Mohammedali was extremely shocked. He filed a case in the Kerala High Court against the state government and the Crime Branch, praying for quashing of the false FIR against him. I have also filed a case. Besides, I lodged a complaint in the cyber crimes enquiry cell.

What was the outcome?

Whatever you do on the Facebook–posting, sharing, liking or tagging—will be recorded in its history. It is not difficult to find out whether you have committed a crime or not. After eight months of investigation, the cyber cell found that we were innocent. Since the allegations were serious I wanted to know the origin of all this. Google and VSNL informed the cyber cell that this blog was created in a computer in the office of Cochin Minerals & Rutile Limited, an industrial house producing synthetic rutile.

What does the government say now?

It ended up in an embarrassing position. A few days ago the Kerala Government submitted a statement in the High Court admitting that Mohemmadali’s Facebook did not contain any visual or post against national interest. The regional and national media gave wide coverage to this human rights violation by the government and its police.

Have you bought coffee estates and resorts?

No. But we, 11 friends, have together bought 4.29 acres (1.7 hectares) in Wayanad district. Of the 11, four are from our organisation. What I and my family have in Wayanad is only an old thatched house in a 64 cent plot. Recently, the government conducted a hunt for Maoists in Wayanad forests.

What is the plight of the Periyar now?

The river is dying. There are 15 dams upstream and 282 industries downstream. Of these, 110 are chemical industries. There are a number of scientific studies revealing the dismal plight of the river. Areas surrounding the industrial belt have become one of the toxic hot spots in the world. Most of the factories still discharge their raw hazardous effluent directly into the river. The riverbed has deposits of heavy metals like lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, nickel, cobalt and zinc. Studies by the Cochin University of Science and Technology have revealed that the river ecosystem has many dead zones. Massive fish kills occur frequently. At times the river flows in different colours. Many species of flora and fauna have disappeared. The industrial cluster is only 20 km from the Kochi backwaters which is a part of the Vembanad Lake, a Ramsar site. All hazardous wastes finally reach the backwaters. On the one hand, water flow has significantly reduced due to dams, and on the other, contamination of water, soil and air has increased. Pollution of the river and surrounding wetlands has almost wiped out the traditional occupations, including fishing and farming.

Which are the main polluting companies?

Most of the companies contribute to toxic pollution. But there are a few companies like Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL), Merchem and Binani Zinc which have never bothered to abide by the laws. HIL, a Central government undertaking, has been producing insecticides including DDT and endosulfan since 1956. Production of endosulfan was stopped in 2011 after public protests and verdict from the Supreme Court. DDT is the most notorious of the 12 chlorinated chemicals identified for total elimination by the Stockholm Convention. HIL is one of the few remaining DDT producing factories in the world. Water samples from a small stream called Kuzhikkandam Thodu, where HIL discharges its effluent, have revealed presence of more than 100 organic compounds including organochlorines like DDT and its derivatives, which are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). This stream joins the river.

But did the situation not change after the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee’s intervention?

Not much. In 2004, when the monitoring committee visited Kerala, it was shocked to see the situation here. The Hazardous Wastes Rules were notified in 1989. In 1997, the Supreme Court ordered state pollution control boards across the country to show cause as to why industries without requisite authorisation or waste treatment facilities should not be closed down. Kerala State Pollution Control Board never bothered to pay attention to the Supreme Court’s rulings and observations. The committee ordered to close down the factories which do not abide by laws. At least 100 factories would have to close down in this industrial estate. The state pleaded for time to make the factories set up adequate facilities. The monitoring committee also set up a Local Area Environment Committee (LAEC) for auditing pollution and monitoring the functioning of these 100 companies. Some of the companies sincerely tried to reduce the pollution level by setting up new facilities. LAEC was vigilant. At that time there were obvious changes in the pollution level. But many of the companies which started functioning in a better way have fallen back to their old system of discharging raw effluent directly to the river.

Why?

The main reason is inefficiency of the pollution control board. The Board is corrupt from top to bottom. It is not monitoring anything. It is not transparent and people-friendly. Besides, the board is not capable of giving suggestions and guidelines to the industries on how to reduce the pollution level. When it comes to the application of science and technology, the board is years behind. Also, there is always tremendous political pressure to turn a blind eye towards pollution. To reduce pollution we need to know the mass balance which gives you the exact picture on raw materials and amount of water used, production capacity, actual production and quantity of wastes, solid and liquid, and pollution level. In the past 40 years, mass balance has been determined for not even a single company. Then how can the pollution level be reduced?

What does the state government say about reducing pollution?

It is not interested in solving the pollution issues. In 2000, we had raised a demand for a permanent river monitoring station for assessing the pollutions levels. The state government promised us that it would set up the station within six months. Nothing has happened as yet.

Let us come back to the investigations against you. You say CMRL is behind the false charges against you. Was there any immediate provocation?

Yes. This company produces synthetic rutile. The byproducts are ferric chloride and ferrous chloride. Since ferric chloride can be used in water treatment, the company sells it outside. As for ferrous chloride, the company used to discharge it into the river. This was the reason for Periyar’s change of colour at times. When Local Area Environment Committee objected, it had even transported the effluent to neighbouring Tamil Nadu in tankers and discharged it directly into open fields. We had caught them red-handed while doing this. Three years ago, the company started a project in Sabarimala for treating water using ferrous chloride in a stream highly contaminated by E-coli. We objected to it. First, adding chemicals directly into the river or stream is against the law. More than that, the company was using ferrous chloride contaminated with heavy metals. We constituted a fact-finding team. The team found that the project was a failure. The company was using this project for publicity in media. Finally, it had to wind up the project.

You said it was the complaint given by the standing council of trade unions that led to the ongoing investigations. Does it mean that there is a huge divide within the community between factory workers and those who fight for safe environment?

We have never demanded closure of the industries. Our demand is that industries should abide by the law and stop destroying ecosystems. Workers and trade union leaders who hail from Eloor-Edayar area give us moral support. They know what we stand for. They are very well aware of the issues. Their families, too, suffer from pollution. But the real problem creators are top level trade union leaders and politicians. They instigate fear among workers about a possible closure of the industries.

Have the polluters paid any compensation?

We had demanded medical insurance cards for the residents for up to Rs 1,00,000. In the last two years of the previous government we got medical cards which allowed treatment up to Rs 35,000. Companies bore the expenses. But when the present government came to power in 2011, it stopped this scheme.

Why are only residents of Eloor-Edayar region fighting against the pollution? Residents, hotels and hospitals of the Ernakulam (Cochin) city also use the Periyar water though they get treated water. Why are they not bothered about the pollution? Why don’t they join the struggle?

We have tried our best to make them take up the issue. We have met all the residents’ associations in the city and requested them to join the struggle. But they keep away and prefer silence. There are about 280 factories and influential industrialists, politicians who get money from these industries, and there are many other interest groups. Leave city people, even organisations like Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad, which is supposed to be a people’s science movement, has not taken up this issue as it should have.

Why have they targetted only you?

Not only me. They target all those who actively work against pollution. The goons of the companies will do anything. They may even kill you. Recently, Shibu Manuel, who has filed a public interest litigation in the high court for scientific cleaning of the Kuzhikkandam stream was attacked by the goons of the companies. They broke his legs and arms. He suffered serious injuries. He was actively pursuing the case. It can happen to me too. I constantly get threats on my life. The police have cautioned me to take care not to move alone. So the message is very clear: Stop your activism or be ready to die. The industry-politician nexus is trying to eliminate us.

Does all this affect your morale?

Yes, very much. It is really painful to face allegations and investigations after years of fighting for a cause. Everywhere in our country, those who engage in grassroots struggles face similar situations. At times, I have the urge to live a quiet and peaceful life. The cases and courts consume your time, energy and money. All this would divert our attention from the main issues. That’s exactly what the industry-politician nexus wants.

Interviewee:
Purushan Eloor

 

Press Release- Release All Activists of the PFI Charged Under UAPA and Sedition Immediately and Unconditionally


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

29/04/2013

Protest Against the Criminalisation of Muslim Youth!

Scrap UAPA and All Draconian Laws!

 

 

On the 23 April 2013, around 11 in the morning, twenty one activists aged 20-25 of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested from a building that was under construction at Naraath, Kannur district, Kerala. The arrest as reported in the press was done under the leadership of DySP P. Sukumaran of the Kerala police. After the 21 activists were taken away from the site of the arrest, the police claimed to have seized two country bombs, one sword and materials that can be used for making country bombs along with literature of Popular Front of India and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). All these were displayed before the media at the site.

After the much publicised display of seizure materials before the media the police was quick to slap Sec 18 of the draconian UAPA as well as 153-B of the Sedition Act on the 21 activists. These draconian clauses were beside the sections slapped under the arms/explosives act and on unlawful assembly. The police also declared that they are looking into the ‘terror links’ of these activists. And that they will raid every office of the PFI throughout the State. Some sections of the media even went ahead to say that the possible links of these activists with the recent blast that took place near the BJP office in Bangalore is also being looked into by the police. And as this is being written the Karnataka police have already stated the possible role of SDPI in the Bangalore blast.

The first and foremost question that comes up is the haste with which the police evoked draconian laws such as UAPA and Sedition act on the activists of PFI for possessing a couple of bombs and some literature which was already in the public domain as it was distributed among the people in the campaign against the growing threat of Hindu communal fascism. This is typical of the modus operandi of all investigating agencies that enthusiastically implicate Muslim youth in every blast case or conspiracy or waging war against the state that one has witnessed in the states of UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh etc. It is significant that the arrests and sudden evoking of the UAPA is happening in Kannur district of Kerala known for violent partisan clashes between rival political parties (be it CPM, BJP/RSS, Congress) trying desperately to gain supremacy over their adversaries. As long as it is a fight between CPM and the RSS/BJP/Bajrang Dal/VHP combine as opposing parties, the rules of the game are simple. One can hear constant appeals from the ‘civil society’ for ‘peace’ and ‘harmony’ and the need to move away from the politics of an eye for an eye. It generally becomes a discourse on violence in abstract without any critical reference to the context (socio-politico-economic) in which this is being addressed. The need to shun violence completely from politics is foregrounded against the vote bank politics indulged in by the Congress, CPM, BJP or the UDF and LDF. Beyond that there is not even any inkling of a ‘terror plot’ let alone the question of ‘waging war’ against the state. But it goes without saying that there has been no dearth of reports of capture of bombs and weapons from the office of the CPM save incidents of RSS/BJP activists dying while moving with / making bombs in the same district.

Once there has been assertion from the side of the Muslims in terms of open and militant campaigns against the growing trends of Hindu communal fascism in the State in particular and the Indian subcontinent in general, the discourse of the ‘politics of peace’ has taken a different turn. Sooner than later one is witness to the state sponsored discourse on Kerala becoming a hub of ‘Islamic terror’ and highly publicised/sensationalised arrests of youth alleged to have been involved in ‘terror plots’. Beyond that, if any such ‘plots’ ever got proved before the court of law was not of much interest for ‘literate Keralam’. The PFI neatly fits into the logic of this narrative of the imminent ‘Islamic threat’ as any such mobilisation of the minorities away from or other than the established permutation and combination of the electoral donkey in UDF and LDF will disturb the electoral applecart of the Congress, CPM or even the BJP which is yet to make its electoral presence in Kerala.

It is still vivid in our memories that when the IT Cell, of the Kerala Special Branch Police’s illegal swoop into the mails of more than 250-odd Keralites in the state (most of them Muslims) was exposed before the public, instead of taking action on the officers responsible for such incriminating acts from the investigating agencies, the police threatened their own officer who stood against such acts of impunity and arrested the lawyer who was giving legal advice to the conscientious officer. The media house that carried the story was threatened and the leading journalist who published the story was not spared.

The timing of such sensationalised arrests and the spawning of speculation of a larger plot with the entry of the Karnataka police and reports in the media of the ‘involvement’ of the SDPI in the Bangalore bomb blast before the BJP office all indicate the same old game plan of an increasingly criminalised and communalised police and investigating agencies of India. As we have time and again mentioned the UAPA sanctions the perception of the reality as authentic not the reality itself. So for a motivated (on communal lines) police officer to quickly assume that the youth arrested from the building in Naraath can’t be but a ‘terrorist’ or can only think and act in an ‘unlawful’ manner or are capable of ‘waging war against the state’ fits perfectly with the ideology of the perception as reality and hence the arrests and knee jerk reaction of slapping UAPA and charges of sedition on the twenty one of them. A considerable section of the media which hatches such spurious stories only mystifies the perceptive reality and does not make any responsible effort to disentangle the often muddled versions of the investigating agencies and the police covering up their acts of impunity under the garb of the so-called ‘war against terror’.

It is high time that the UAPA and all such anti-people, draconian laws which criminalise all forms of dissent/political expression of the vast sections of the people be scrapped forthwith. We at the CRPP strongly condemn such motivated arrests of activists of people’s movements and stand for their right to freedom of expression and dissent. Since the motivation to slap charges of UAPA and Sedition on the PFI activists is political it becomes important to demand the unconditional release of all the activists as to expect a ‘fair’ trial for them would be live in a mystified world. The CRPP calls upon all the freedom loving and democratic people of the subcontinent to join hands to defeat these criminal, communal and fascist designs of the Indian state and its counterpart in the UDF-led Kerala government.

In Solidarity,

SAR Geelani

President

 

Amit Bhattacharyya

Secretary General

 

MN Ravunni

Vice President

 

P Koya

Vice President

 

Rona Wilson

Secretary, Public Relations

 

#India – What Are We Doing To Our Kids ? #sexualabuse


Shocking statistics. Devastating stories. Our dirty national secret. Nishita Jha & Revati Laul bring you a horrifying report on the rampant sexual abuse of children in India
Nishita JhaRevati Laul

NISHITA JHA
REVATI LAUL

4-05-2013, Issue 18 Volume 10

Illustration: Anand Naorem

Illustrations: Anand Naorem

To begin with, hear the story of one child. On 17 December 2012 — just one day after the gangrape of a young paramedic in New Delhi shook the world — a three-and-a-half-year old baby girl returned from school with her clothes streaked with vomit and blood.

Her father, Gagan Sharma (name changed), had moved from Kolkata to a slum in west Delhi in 2003 in search of a better life. The little girl had been listless and reluctant to go to school for weeks. Now, when her mother asked her what had happened, she told the story haltingly, riven by fear.

She spoke of a bald man — the principal’s husband — who had threatened to hang her from a ceiling fan if she dared to open her mouth. She spoke of how he had taken her to the bathroom, made her lie down, and inserted his penis and fingers into her vagina and her anus, blaring music in his room to drown any noise. She spoke of how he had done this to her many times before, forcing her to keep quiet by saying terrible things would happen to her parents if she talked about it.

The girl’s mouth was full of ulcers from a drug the alleged perpetrator — a man called Pramod Malik — had forced her to take to render her unconscious while he raped her.

The fact of the rape is horrific enough. Here’s what came after. According to the parents, it took them 12 hours at the police station to get an FIR registered. They were taunted by a woman sub-inspector for living in a colony of “disrepute”; their own reputation was questioned; the little girl was asked to recount her story in front of three policemen. The woman sub-inspector prefaced the inquiry by telling the little girl: “Tell the truth or insects will crawl all over you and your mother and father will be beaten.”

Despite these threats, the little girl repeated her story exactly as she had told it to her parents. In the magistrate’s court, she was challenged again. She told her story again. The medical examiner, however, ruled out rape and left the report vague. The headmaster was let out on bail on 28 February. On the other hand, Gagan Sharma’s landlord asked him and his family to leave. They are still struggling with the case.

Now, hear the story of a second. Asha, an 18- year-old in Gowandi, a slum in Mumbai, is a volunteer with a community-based NGO called Aastha Parivar that helps slum-dwellers and sex workers — the poor and the marginalised — lodge complaints with the police. One day, her 14-year-old friend Neelima (name changed) complained about being harassed by a boy next door. Emboldened by her training at the NGO, Asha took her friend to the police to complain. They rebuffed the girls rudely. The boy stepped up his harassment, standing at his doorway and masturbating when Neelima passed. Asha went to the police again. This time the cop gave her a scrap of paper with a number: “Jab rape hoga, tab bulana,” he smirked, (“Call us when there’s an actual rape.”)

A month later, Neelima’s naked body was found cut in pieces and dumped in a drain. Her neighbour — the boy she had been complaining about — had disappeared without a trace. Incensed, Asha went to the police again with a description of the neighbour. This time she was ordered to leave the slum and create no more trouble.

Here’s the story of a third. In Ahmednagar, a city in Maharashtra, a 13-year-old girl was forced to inhale chloroform by her own father so he could knock her out and rape her.

And a fourth. In 2010, in Paravoor in Kerala, another father filmed his own 14-year-old daughter taking a bath before he raped her. He then pimped her out to customers across the state, before selling her. Over the next two years, she was raped by 148 men.

And a fifth. In April this year, the 16- year-old daughter of a rich mining baron based in Gurgaon confessed to her teachers and principal that her father frequently took her on “bonding trips” all by herself, raping her in anonymous hotel rooms across the country. Her father also used to beat her mother. A case was filed just as he was going to take her off to Dubai. By the time child welfare groups reached the girl’s home, however, relatives had had their way: the shutters had come down. Though the father had been taken into custody, in the presence of her family, the adolescent refused to speak. Mother and daughter have now withdrawn their story before the magistrate’s court.

And a sixth. A 50-year-old mother from Punjab speaks of how her husband sexually abused their daughter when she was four. He would lock her in a room and tell her that if she made a noise, her stuffed toy lion would eat her up. When she noticed the bite marks on her child, the mother began to ask questions and reported her husband to the police. The case took three years to reach the court. Since there had been no penile penetration, the case was registered under the arcane clause of “outraging the modesty of a woman”; the father was let out on bail within one day. The mother, herself a survivor of childhood sex abuse, filed for divorce. The father agreed not to meet his daughter till she was 13. However, when she turned 15, he petitioned the courts for visitation rights. His daughter testified in court that she wanted to have nothing to do with her father. She is 19 now and still has nightmares.

Child A - AGE 14 | Paravoor, Kerala

Occurred 2010 | Convicted in 2012
The nightmare began in 2010, when her father filmed this 14-year-old having a bath, and then raped her. After that, he pimped her out to customers across Kerala, before finally selling her. In the span of two years, she was raped by 148 people, of whom 102 were finally arrested and 19 given life sentences.
Child B - AGE 13 | Ahmednagar, Maharashtra

Occurred 2011 | Accused under trial
Her father would first sedate this 13-year-old with chloroform, then rape her. This Class VIII student was tortured, burnt and threatened with dire consequences if she dared tell anyone. She finally gathered the courage to talk to her uncle, who in turn contacted an NGO. The father was charged and arrested.

Hear these stories and then imagine them amplified thousands of times — in every brutal variation — in every part of the country. Imagine 48,838 children raped in just 10 years. Imagine what it means when you are told this staggering figure — which is a National Crimes Record Bureau statistic — is possibly only 25 percent of the actual child rapes going on in the country. And that only 3 percent — a mere 3 percent — of these make it to the police. Imagine what it means when you are told child rapes have seen a chilling 336 percent jump from 2001 to 2011.
illustration2

Imagine this, and you begin to have a small measure of how deep the inhuman phenomenon of child rapes runs in India.

THIS WEEK, the barbaric story of a five-year-old girl in east Delhi, raped and bitten by two drunk neighbours — who inserted candles and a plastic hair-oil bottle into her before trying to strangle her — has brought the phenomenon of raped minors into hard and timely focus.

Since this horrific story hit the headlines, others that were merely footnotes in the country’s consciousness have started getting foregrounded in the media. How a nine-year-old from Silchar, Assam, was kidnapped, gangraped and found with a slit throat on the same April day as the five-year-old in Delhi. How a 10-year-old Dalit girl was raped by a 35-year-old Rajput in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh. How a compounder in Bhopal would rape his three-year-old daughter while his wife went to drop their five-year-old son to school. And how a 75-year-old man in Tripura was arrested for raping a 10-year-old.

While this intense but delayed media attention is positive, it is still selective — privileging only the most violent, the most sensational, and the rapes most ‘similar’ to the case in New Delhi. But to do only that would again be to miss the landscape. Violent rape of minors is only one aspect of a hellish self that India must now confront.

A 2007 Human Rights Watch report, which quoted a government survey of 12,500 children from 13 states across the country, found that 57 percent children — that is more than one in every two children — said they had been sexually abused in some way. Twenty percent of these children admitted to being aggressively assaulted: they had either been penetrated; made to sexually fondle an adult; or been forced to display their own genitals. And clearly, gender is no bias where child sexual abuse is concerned: of the 57 percent children who said they had been abused, more than half were boys.

One of the most crucial aspects of child sexual abuse and rape that must be acknowledged, therefore, is that it is rampant, indiscriminate and cuts across class, geography, culture and religion. It happens in cities and villages, by fathers, brothers, relatives, neighbours, teachers and strangers.

There is a temptation to cast only predatory working-class men in the mould of rapists. Both the paramedic’s rape and that of the child in east Delhi this week fit that narrative. It is easier — even comforting — to think such heinous crimes are only done by deviant, drunk men, incapable of processing their depraved sexual urges; men who can be hung and exterminated. It is much harder to confront the dark reality within the walls of one’s own homes.

As Enakshi Ganguly, co-director of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, says, “Minors who live in slums are certainly vulnerable because, in most cases, both parents work and have nowhere secure to leave their children. But middle- and upper-middle- class children are also vulnerable because they live in such closed communities, they have no one to talk to about their abuse. They are under immense family pressure to preserve ideas of ‘family honour’ and not speak up.”

The scars the 50-year old mother from Punjab carries is emblematic of the wounding and unmapped silence that grips India. “I was sexually abused from the age of 10 until I was 19 by a member of the family who was like a father to me,”
she says. “This stayed unaddressed because there was no way one could talk about it. Being abused by a man who you look up to, seek protection from and who claimed to love me, completely changed a part of my soul. I suffered from a deep sense of self-loathing and blame. I could no longer connect with people or my inner self. I have always had trouble trusting people or asserting myself. Soon I found myself attracting the same kind of abusive relationships. There is also a deep sense of shame I feel towards my body. It has been 31 years since I was abused, but I’m still ashamed of wearing fitted clothes or deep necklines. And even today when I see a man with a child, I feel nauseated.”

Sociologist Shiv Visvanathan encapsulates the heart of the problem. “I think the Indian family is in deep crisis,” he says. “The violence in our families — the perversions, the sexuality, the silences — are creating a tremendous crisis that we are not looking at; that we don’t even want to look at. We focus on the ‘scandalous’ nature of these incidents. But it is a scandal that is taking place every day. Unless we look at its everyday nature, nobody is going to understand the heinousness of it.”

VIEWED FROM a different prism, the story of child rape in India is also a story of deeply ingrained callousness. When the parents of the five-year-old raped in east Delhi had found her missing and gone to the police, they refused to file an FIR and did not even undertake a cursory search. In the end, it was her shrill, insistent wailing that helped neighbours locate her, locked in a room in the very building in which her parents lived.

Look at the shocking data, based merely on reported cases, and you can almost hear the clamour of children still waiting to be found. The story of raped minors in India then is also the story of its missing children. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a child goes missing in India every eight minutes. (Recall the gruesome Nithari murders when panicked parents from an east Delhi slum kept reporting their lost children but no action was taken till their bodies started turning up in raped and cannibalised parts.)

Where do these children go? TEHELKA cover story, The Nowhere Children by Neha Dixit, 1 November 2008, discovered that human trafficking was the third largest illicit industry after arms and drugs.

In a room cramped with young girls, the air thick with perfume and whispers, Reshma, 18, a sex worker in Mumbai, is no stranger to the epidemic of incest and rape in India. “Why do you think fathers or brothers are any different?” she asks with a hard-earned worldliness, “Hai toh voh bhi mard hi na? (After all, they too are men, aren’t they?)”

Trafficked from Chennai at the age of six when her mother died, Reshma was raped in every way imaginable — or “trained” to use her words — at seven different homes in Mumbai before being sent to a brothel madam when she turned 14. “The first time, I was asked to set his clothes out on the bed before he went to work. He came out of the bathroom, picked me up and forced me face down on the bed. He lay down on me. I started to cry and said, “Uncle I can’t breathe, why are you doing this?” The man told her if she shouted, he would tell everyone she had tried to steal from him.

Reshma soon learnt the easiest way to stay out of brutal harm was to remain silent. Soon after, she was sent with a pimp and groups of young girls to London, Dubai and Malaysia to sleep with men as old as 60 or 75, for a premium rate. She doesn’t flinch when she says civilian women in the country are safe only because there are sex workers in the world — warriors of a different kind — to ensure there is a vent for baser male desires. Each girl in the room has stories more barbaric than the other: chilli powder applied to genitals; hands and legs tied while one customer after another uses their bodies in any way he sees fit; daily beatings; in-house abortions. “Wives and daughters cannot withstand what we do,” says Reshma.

 Child C – AGE 14 | Kannur, Kerala

Occurred 2010-11 | Convicted in 2011
It was only when she could take it no more that this 14-year-old girl confided to her schoolteacher that her father, a daily wage labourer, had been raping her for the past year. After the intervention of a local NGO, the girl was shifted to a shelter home and her father sentenced to life imprisonment.
Child D - AGE 13 | Delhi

Occurred 2012 | Accused out on bail
This three-year-old came home from school with vaginal bleeding and vomitsoaked clothes. Her principal’s husband had been raping her, and had threatened to hang her from the fan if she told anyone. The medical examiner ruled out rape and registered a vague report, and only when local NGOs and political parties got involved did the case come to court.

Aastha Parivar, the Mumbai-based NGO, routinely finds young girls in brothels, who claim to be adults but are no older than 14 or 15. Asha — who had tried to help Neelima — recently rescued one such girl. She travelled to her village in Rajasthan, found her birth certificate, got a letter from the gram panchayat and finally came back to Mumbai to threaten her pimp to release the girl. But when she took the girl home to Jodhpur, the family, who had been perfectly happy to pick up money orders from the post office for the past six months, was suddenly too ashamed to take her back.

In most cases, once these young girls are trafficked, the pimps make a fresh set of false papers for them, which is how they are able to travel abroad with no trouble. Clearly, there is an entire system working in collusion: among the 148 men that slept with the young girl in Kerala, who had been trafficked by her father, there was an NRI doctor, an actor, a retired naval officer and various businessmen.

It is no surprise then that these children — the ones who are not the subject of Facebook pages and popular protests — should have learned to think like adults, to weigh morals against money and choose the latter. “The younger you are, the more you can charge,” Reshma says matter-of-factly, pointing to Bilquis, a dimpled 14-year-old who had her first abortion last month.

IN WHICHEVER diabolic form it comes — rapist fathers or rapist strangers, rape within the home or in brothels, whether it is with prepuberty children or adolescent girls — there is a systemic failure that needs urgent redressal.

Inevitably, the police is the first interface. And inevitably, like most stories in India, the story of police response to rape is a complex one.

At one level, there is plain brutishness and malevolent prejudice. A TEHELKA sting last year, The rapes will go on by G Vishnu and Abhishek Bhalla, 20 December 2012, captured the venomous chauvinism with which many police officers and constables view women and rape. Shockingly, this sometimes extends to children as well. Some of the cases mentioned in this story already illustrate that. But, depressingly, there are thousands more.

Sudha Tiwari, a child rights activist, recalls a case from the 1990s, when a 13-year-old was raped by her father. The parents had had a fight and the mother had gone to her parents’ place leaving her daughter behind. At night, the father climbed onto his daughter, stripped her naked and raped her. Hearing her screams, the neighbours came in and dragged the father to the police. They refused to register a case. The next day, Tiwari and other activists got involved and took the father to the police station again, forcing them to file a case. They did file the case but not before taunting the mother. “You are frigid,” they told her, “that’s why your poor man has no choice but to go to his daughter to satisfy himself.”

According to Tiwari, they see less of that level of criminal boorishness in the police now (though activists elsewhere in the country have different experiences). But, contrary to the clamour in the media and public domain, there are seemingly no shortcuts.

The presence of women cops, for instance — one of the great demands of all street protests — is no automatic safeguard. Bharti Ali, of HAQ, has some sobering insights. “We often have serious issues with women police officers,” she says. “They want to hush things up and refuse to register cases because they are facing so much brutality in their own personal lives, they have no empathy for others.” She speaks of how women cops are scared to go home wearing uniforms because they have no power within their own homes. “You can’t be walking in uniform into a place where an hour later the neighbours can hear screams of you getting beaten up.”

But frustration, prejudice and entrenched social bigotry do not account for the whole police story either. In the curious twists that India can be replete with, it appears the police are wrongly incentivised.

During Mayawati’s reign, the Uttar Pradesh Police were infamously loath to register any cases against Dalit atrocities because she had wanted the crime rate to be brought down: the only way to create such miracle change was to keep the books clean and pretend there was no crime.

In Delhi this week, the cops allegedly tried to bribe the parents of the five-year-old to bury the case. It’s unclear whether they were merely being venal and exploitative or were scared of having such a brutal crime happen on their watch.

Either way, Ganguly, also of HAQ, points out how ill-thought-out the incentives are. “The police are rewarded for being crime free. No one gives them credit for reporting cases in a timely and competent way; for lodging sound FIRs and investigating a case well. So where is their motivation to investigate and prosecute these cases? They would rather just stay out of trouble and wash their hands off it. Pretend their areas of jurisdiction have no crime.”

Child E – AGE 14 | Maliwada, Maharashtra

Occurred 2006 |  Convicted in 2010

An autorickshaw driver approached Childline when his 14-year-old daughter went missing. It took three years to rescue the girl, during which she had been sold into prostitution and taken to various places in the state and Goa. After a four-year battle, 20 high-profile individuals, including politicians and traders, were sentenced to two life-terms each.
Child F - AGE 14 | Mumbai

Occurred 2009 | Accused at large

She complained to the police twice that a 14- year-old girl in her slum was being sexually harassed by a neighbour. The police laughed it off, asking her to call when an actual rape took place. A month later, the girl’s naked body was found cut to pieces and dumped in a gutter. The boy had disappeared overnight.

Bharti Ali points out other imponderables. “Police sensitisation has been happening,” she says, “but though a lot of the rules are now in writing, all of it is contingent on how receptive a particular DCP is. For instance, we were having a monthly meeting with all stakeholders — the Child Welfare Committees, the Juvenile Justice Boards, social workers, the magistrate and the police — in the Outer Delhi district. But it’s all stopped now because the new DCP doesn’t think it is useful.”

childDelhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar may have been right when he said he would “resign a 1,000 times if that would prevent rapes”. The prevention of rape may not always be in his hands. But the response to it certainly is. He — and his peers in the system — have to square up to that.

IT IS crucial to drive home at each juncture of this story that more than anything else, it is families and parents who are failing India’s children the most. Apart from being the main perpetrators themselves, the violence of silence is all-pervasive. It is imperative to break this silence.

Harish Iyer, 32, an equal rights activist, believes he was “set free” when his best friend told his entire college that he was being abused. Iyer, the son of a well-to-do businessman and a homemaker, was raped regularly between the ages of seven to 18 by an uncle close to the family. “The first time he raped me, he forced my mouth on to his penis. If I tried to scream, he would choke me harder,” says Iyer. Soon after, when Iyer’s aunt was away, his uncle crawled into bed with him and sodomised him. “Every time I tried to scream or protest, he would hurt me more. I learnt the easiest way to make it end was to just stay quiet. After a point, whenever he entered my room, I would just take my clothes off, lie down and wait for it to be over.”

Iyer’s mother, who told her friends that her increasingly reticent son was “just different” from other kids, could never fully comprehend what her son meant when he told her he disliked his uncle. On the sole occasion Iyer, terrified and filled with shame, told her he was bleeding, she told him he was “probably eating too many mangoes”.

Over the 11 years that he abused him, Iyer’s uncle devised newer and increasingly more sadistic methods for his pleasure. He opened up his nephew with tongs when he was not receptive, poked him with needles to make him bleed, inserted various objects into his anus. On occasion, he even forced him to perform sexual favours on other men.

Ravi Kant, a Supreme Court lawyer and director of the anti-trafficking NGO, Shakti Vahini, says the maximum incidences of fathers raping daughters that he has witnessed happen in upper-class, elite families. But he hasn’t been able to take even a single case through to its just end. “There is so much pressure within the family, the fathers brothers, their wives, everyone suddenly appears on the scene once ‘family honour’ is at stake,” he says.

But even as one persists with these reiterations, it is important to map the other key vulnerabilities in the system. Juvenile justice homes are one such black hole.

A report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights has listed four reasons why these shelter and rehabilitation homes have become sites of such intense sexual assault and exploitation. First, most states have not formed Inspection Committees, which are mandated to inspect juvenile justice homes at least once every three months. Secondly, there are hundreds of unregistered childcare homes in the country that fall outside the purview of any regulatory mechanism. Thirdly, though the Juvenile Justice Act, 2007, provides for separate facilities for boys and girls, for the most part, this is not complied with. Finally, though there are 462 district-level Child Welfare Committees in 23 states mandated to verify the viability of childcare institutions, most of these exist only on paper. (Bizarrely, in October 2010, the Karnataka government even prohibited members of the welfare committees to visit childcare institutions without prior permission from the institution heads. In effect, this order prohibited any random or surprise inspections.)

Unfortunately, the judicial infrastructure and attitudes around child rape can often be as bruising and opaque.

Following the 2007 Human Rights Watch study, which revealed one in every two interviewed children had been abused, Parliament had passed a landmark Bill for the prevention of sexual offences against children last November. According to the Prevention of Child Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, separate and stringent punishments are to be meted out for each kind of violation of a child’s innocence, including exposing the child to pornography, taking nude photographs of him/her or exposing the child to one’s private parts. Further, the Act attempts to make legal proceedings ‘child friendly’ by decreeing that the victim’s testimony be recorded by an officer not in uniform (preferably female), at a place of the child’s choosing. Under no circumstance should the child be detained at a police station. Additionally, the Act declares that anyone who knows of a child being abused and fails to report the matter to the police can and will be punished.

There were other good interventions. The Act made it mandatory for legal aid to be provided to minors who have complained of rape. This was meant to be implemented by state-level commissions and Child Welfare Committees, statutory bodies set up to administer shelters and children in need of protection and care under the Juvenile Justice Act.

This was a path-breaking clause because even though a public prosecutor is appointed to all such cases, there was a desperate need for legal counsel for parents who don’t want to suffer the laborious process of filing a case, being threatened, or even putting their child through the repeated trauma of testifying before a magistrate.

But sadly — depressingly — on ground, all of this is just so much white smoke. As already mentioned, most of the state-level commissions don’t even exist. And recently, when the Ministry of Women and Child Development wrote to all the state secretaries asking them to report back on what had been done to set up state-level commissions to implement POCSO, only Odisha and Haryana wrote back.

Child G - AGE 8 | Delhi

Occurred 2008 | Accused set free by trial court
His eight-year-old daughter was raped by a neighbour’s son. When he filed a case, the court deemed the accused a juvenile despite electoral rolls putting his age at 20 and medical tests determining that he was at least 18 years and two months old at the time of the crime. After two weeks in judicial custody, he was let off.
Child H - AGE  3 | Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

Occurred 2012 | Convicted in 2013
He would rape his three-year-old daughter when his wife went to drop their five-year-old son to school. A compounder by profession, he knew how to rape his daughter in a manner that would cause minimal visible damage. The abuse only came to light when he was caught in the act. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in January.

India’s darkest, most ugly and hellish epidemic and no government functionary is even interested to write back. Like most Indian laws, POCSO too appears to be written for an imagined law-enforcing machinery.

This criminal absence of response becomes even starker when contrasted with how effective these interventions could be — if acted upon.

Bharati Sharma, former chairperson of a Child Welfare Committee in New Delhi, and founder of the NGO Shakti Shalini, describes one such case. In 2007, a five-year-old girl was briefly left alone at home by her parents. Her mother had gone back to the village with her younger sibling; her father had gone or work on night duty. A female neighbour was supposed to stay the night with her but got slightly delayed. In that short span of time, a neighbour entered the home and raped the child so brutally she was hospitalised for a month. The community banded together and informed a social worker from the NGO World Vision. They got an FIR filed.

This is where Sharma stepped in. Her outfit managed to get a lawyer from HAQ for free. It made all the difference. The parents had wanted to give the child up to a shelter home out of shame. But the Child Welfare Committee and the lawyer counselled them out of it. He used to visit them at home, patiently explaining the process to them — something a public prosecutor will rarely have the time to do. The magistrate, in this case, was so insensitive, the hearing for the child’s statement was fixed and postponed seven times, forcing her to appear repeatedly in court. The lawyer took this up with the Delhi High Court and had guidelines issued for all stakeholders: police, doctors and lawyers. The whole case took three years, but the perpetrator was sentenced for 10 years. And the family was able to go back to their existing home, without abandoning the child.

“That’s how crucial legal aid or the lack of it can be while dealing with rape of minors,” says Sharma. “Often parents have no clue what to do; they don’t have the finances and are under a lot of trauma. Under such circumstances, a dedicated lawyer for a minor victim can literally mean the line between life and snuffing its future out.”

Yet, despite all the public noise over rape in recent months, almost no government has paid acute attention to galvanise any of this on ground.

THE GANGRAPE on 16 December and the child rape this week have triggered unprecedented protests in Delhi and across the country. While these protests have undoubtedly been a powerful catalyst — breaking the silence, searing the country’s consciousness, ringing in at least some important legislative changes — their demands and their echo chambers in the media and political establishment have also veered towards two issues that threaten to derail more substantive changes. This is the demand for death penalty for child rape and the banning of pornography.

Apart from all the usual ethical and legal arguments against having death penalty in a civilised democracy, to ask for it in the context of child rapes is almost suicidal. Repeatedly, we have seen families loath to break the omerta and speak about their children being raped merely to save “family honour”. Imagine what a steel wall of silence — what a complex concertina of social backlash — will descend if speaking up will mean death for one’s fathers, brothers, uncles and neighbours.

The question of banning pornography is slightly more complicated, but perhaps equally inconsequential.

Bharti Ali of HAQ does believe that regulating of pornography might be necessary now, given the hyper-sexualised content available to children on their cell phones, computers and television screens. “Rather than changing the channel though, it might be a better idea to let a child watch a film where the actors are making out to the end, so that he or she can place sex in a context instead of looking at it as an isolated, unemotional act,” she says.

But Asha points out that pornography has existed before the Internet and will continue to do so. It is impossible to control. In any case, for children growing up in tiny, box-sized 8ftx8ft shanties, crammed children and adult in joint families, the sexual act can never remain hidden. Privacy is not a luxury the poor can afford. Even in the cases of juvenile rapists that she has encountered, Asha says boys find it easier to “scare a little girl” into doing what they want rather than look for money to watch a blue film at the local parlour or visit a brothel.

Our desire to weed out the scourge of rape from India has to start a lot deeper.

SUNITHA KRISHNAN refuses to engage with the din emanating from New Delhi just now. Twentyfive years ago, Krishnan, then 16, was gangraped by eight men. Among the many injuries the ordeal caused to her body and mind, it also left Krishnan partially deaf — this is her second ear surgery in four years. Despite social pressure to define herself as a ‘victim’ of rape, Krishnan has been not just a survivor of, but a champion against sexual violence. She has consistently refused to hide her identity or her face, insisting that rape survivors must be the first to “shift the shame”.

Yet, when TEHELKA contacted her to talk about the rape of minors, she chose to remain silent. “Do the story when there is no noise about it,” was her terse reply to our email. In a sense, it was not surprising. At our first meeting, she had lambasted the media’s biased coverage, saying that journalists never hounded rapists, and even when they did, it was always the lower class, anonymous perpetrator that they wrote about — never the father taking his daughter on solitary vacations, or the uncle always coming over when no one was home.

When Krishnan spoke of a “certain kind” of rape that is reported, she referred to the privileging of rape by strangers over rape by family or institutions. The insinuation is — New Delhi will take to the streets over the gangrape on the bus, or for the five-year-old raped by her neighbour, but never for the countless boys and girls violated as a matter of routine in their own homes, or the girls violated by officers of the state. Even the new anti-rape Bill, generally considered a step in the right direction, stays coy on the issue of marital rape, or rape by the armed forces. The only way to make sense of the sharply accelerating incidences of sexual violence against children is to stop looking at them in isolation. There is something that these rapes by strangers, families, caretakers and customers have in common: the noise that they create is not just getting incredibly loud, but it is also extremely close.

Child I - AGE 7 | Mumbai, Maharashtra

Occurred 1988-99 | Case never filed
He was raped regularly between the age of seven and 18 by his uncle. His uncle became more sadistic as time went by, opening him up with tongs when he was not receptive, poking him with needles, inserting foreign objects into his anus. When he told his mother that he was bleeding, she dismissed it, saying he had been eating too many mangoes.
Child J - AGE  8 | Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

Occurred 2010 | Convicted in 2010

The eight-year-old was raped so brutally by her maternal uncle’s 15-year-old son over three months that she had to be hospitalised with severe vaginal bleeding. Her younger sister was also raped. The girls told their mother about the abuse, but she tried to hush it up. They finally complained to their father, who lodged a police complaint. After an inquiry, the rapist was sent to a juvenile justice home.

Two weeks ago, when we had met in New York at Newsweek’s Women in the World summit, Krishnan sat alone on the steps of the Lincoln Theatre eating her lunch, “I don’t feel too comfortable in crowds,” she smiled, as if to explain why we could not have this conversation in the banquet hall inside. At 4 ft 6 in, Krishnan is as tall as she was when she was 16. She says her case was “doomed” from the beginning because she could not recall the faces of a single one of her assailants. “All I remember from that night is a smell,” she says. A smell. And the lasting fear of being in crowds.

nishita@tehelka.com

revati@tehelka.com

 

#India – Tribal women hit hardest by development: study #Vaw #Womenrights


 

STAFF REPORTER, The Hindu

When displaced by development projects, many migrate to cities as servants, some are lured into prostitution

A study conducted by Centre for Development Studies (CDS) on impact of development on tribal people has found that tribal women are the worst sufferers in this process of change.

The study, titled ‘Withering Valli: Alienation, degradation and enslavement of tribal women in Attappady’ and undertaken along with the Kerala Research Programme on Local Level Development, says the “displacement for development projects has deprived tribesfolk of their land and forests from which much of their food came”.

“Today, they have to walk much longer distances than in the past to collect food and fodder. Impoverishment forces women to migrate to towns and cities as domestic servants. Many of them are also lured into prostitution. Development schemes have effected a thorough change in the socio-economic and cultural life of the tribal women.Transactions are increasingly made in man’s name. Improved facilities of development like transportation, health, housing, and technology have not reached women.” The study has also found that “women continued to work hard and have no time to enjoy the fruits of development. Women’s work is considered unskilled and unproductive in the market sense.”

Women also have to be at the beck and call of officials and contractors who come to tribal areas to implement projects of development, the study observes. “When development programmes are allotted to women, they have to go to various offices to get the programmes sanctioned. Some women have to undergo sexual abuse at the hand of officers. In order to get grants or subsidies for house construction and building of cattle-shed, women are sometimes forced to oblige to officials. Among the victims of rape and sexual harassment, 95 per cent are tribal women and children. Of this, all the victims were tribesfolk belonging to the age group of 6-16 years.”

There are no witnesses to the thousands of unreported atrocities on tribal women like rape, sexual harassment, and murders except the forests, mountains, and valleys, the report says.

The government promotes and even rewards mixed marriages, between tribal women and settlers from other parts of the State, with monetary awards. But the settlers who marry tribal women usually have wife and children back home. After a period, the settlers go back to their own native places leaving their tribal wives and children in lurch.

Among the sexual exploiters of tribal women, the people involved are the police, government officials, contractors, smugglers, flesh-traders, and immigrant farmers. Incidents of death and murder of tribal women have also become common; and almost in every case, the culprits go unpunished. ”

 

Panel for ban on mining in 37 % of Western Ghats #goodnews


PRISCILLA JEBARAJ, The Hindu

Identifying 37 per cent — or about 60,000 square km — of the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive, a high-level panel has recommended that “destructive” activities such as mining, thermal power, major construction, and some hydel power projects should not be allowed there.

However, the panel was silent about any restrictions in the remaining 96,000 square km area, thus creating the perception that it had diluted earlier recommendations that the entire Ghats should be declared as an eco-sensitive area.

The panel, headed by space scientist and Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan, which submitted its report to Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Wednesday, was initially set up to review the more stringent recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil.

The Gadgil report had wanted the entire area of the Ghats to be graded into three levels of eco-sensitive zones, each of which would have different restrictions. It had faced uproar from State governments and industries which were alarmed by the curbs on development in almost 70 per cent of the biodiverse range of mountains spanning six States.

The new high-level panel has taken a different approach. Taking advantage of Dr. Kasturirangan’s connections with ISRO, it has used satellite data to produce a far more detailed database, with a resolution of 24 square metres as opposed to the 9 square km used by the Gadgil report. It then used remote sensing technology to distinguish between “natural landscapes” and “cultural landscapes” which include human settlements, fields and plantations.

It recommends “a prohibitory regime on those activities with maximum interventionist and destructive impact on the environment” on about 90 per cent of the area of “natural landscapes”. The four major restrictions in this area would be a total ban on fresh mining and a five-year phase-out of current mining, a ban on thermal power, all “red” category industries, all townships and any construction above 20,000 square metres. Hydel power projects will be allowed subject to certain conditions, in stark contrast to the Gadgil recommendations, and a small window of hope has been provided for the future of the controversial Athirapally hydel power project in Kerala. Also, the land-use change restrictions recommended by the WGEEP have been discarded.

Explaining that restraints cannot be imposed on areas where people already live and work, the report argues: “It is not wilderness area, but the habitat of its people, who share the landscape with biological diversity. It is not possible to plan for Western Ghats, only as a fenced-in zone, with no human influence.” Instead, the report called for incentivising green growth in the “cultural landscape” areas.

After submitting the report, Dr. Kasturirangan said the next step must be to focus on the biodiversity that is still left. “It is imperative that we protect, manage and regenerate the lands now remaining in the Western Ghats as biologically rich, diverse, natural landscapes. We have reached a threshold from which we cannot slip further,” he said.

WGEEP panel member and TERI executive director Ligia Noronha feels this is not the right approach. “The Western Ghats are not just about what is left. We should be protecting the whole of the Ghats. That is why we wanted a gradation of zones, a more nuanced approach to eco-sensitive zones. [The Kasturirangan panel] seems to have gone back to the mindset of carving out certain protected areas, rather than keeping the whole ecosystem in mind,” she says.

However, Kasturirangan panel member Sunita Narain, who also heads the Centre for Science and Environment, said that their report was actually “implementable..Senior Environment Ministry officials quietly agreed, expressing the hope that the “more sensible” recommendations would attract less opposition from the States.

Ms. Narain also pointed out that the Kasturirangan panel had left the ball firmly in the Central government’s court.

“We want to ensure effective protection right now, not in ten years’ time,” she said.

 

Kerala makes #Aadhar card mandatory for RTE admissions #UID


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 
by Dolashree Mysoor Posted on April 14, 2013

 

The Kerala government has made

 
Aadhar cards for RTE admissions mandatory, participation in events and
application for scholarship under the Kerala RTE Rules (read more).
The government has decided to distribute benefits to children from
disadvantaged groups on the basis of a unique identification number.
The Kerala State Information Technology Mission (KSITM), along with
IT@schools is organizing camps to ensure that ll students obtain Aadhar
cards.
As per the Kerala RTE Rules, it is
mandatory for every local authority to ensure that an Aadhar card is
distributed to every child in order to maintain records. These records
must be maintained transparently and must be made available in the
public domain. Children’s enrollment, attendance, learning assessment,
and transition must be tracked within this system. Schools are also
under an obligation to maintain records of unique identification number
and other biometric information of all children. In fact, such records
also have an impact on the grant of recognition to schools.
It is worth asking the question – will
admission be denied to children from disadvantaged backgrounds for the
want of a unique identification number? When the state has a duty to
ensure completion of elementary education of every child, can the state
deny admissions to children who do not possess an Aadhar card?  It is
also noteworthy that the rules do not mention the Aadhar Card as a
document for securing admission to schools. In case a child does not
have a birth certificate, the Rules allow the local authorities to
consider Hospital/Anganwadi/Mid-Wife/ Auxiliary Nurse register records
or an affidavit from the parents.