#India- wake up to the mining-politician nexus wreaking havoc in our politics


 

On 25 May, the ghastly Naxal attack on a convoy of Congress leaders in Darbha, Chhattisgarh, jolted political leaders across the spectrum. Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh — who has been driving the development agenda in the tribal areas and is known to advocate a more empathetic response to the alienation in these parts — was reported to have called the Naxals “terrorists”. Did this mean a complete shift in stand? Did he — and the UPA government in general — now advocate a “security-only” approach to the problem? Excerpts from a conversation with Shoma Chaudhury
Shoma Chaudhury

2013-06-22 , Issue 25 Volume 10

Jairam Ramesh | 59, Rural Development Minister.
Photo: 

After the recent attack on the Congress convoy, you referred to the Naxals as terrorists. Does that reflect a radical shift in your stand? Do you also now believe the issue should only be tackled by a security-centric approach? Bring on the air force!
That’s a completely bogus debate generated by NDTV. What I said was that there are geographical areas that need more intensive policing and security operations, without which no political and developmental activity is possible. At the same time, there are areas today where security operations have de-esca-lated and development and politics have taken the front seat. For example, there’s Saranda in Jharkhand and Jangalmahal in West Bengal. Or, for that matter, some parts of western Odisha and central Bihar.

We have a four-pronged strategy to deal with the Maoists, which includes security, politics, development, and a sort of redressal of past injustices and ensuring a rights-based approach. Unfortunately, there are places where all four cannot go on simultaneously. For instance, clearly, the five districts of Sukma, Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Kanker in southern  are fundamentally different from the other areas. Here, you have large areas that are so-called Maoist “liberated zones” where the writ of the Indian State doesn’t run. Sarpanches, Block Development Officers, superintendents of police and local political activists cannot go in there. So it’s meaningless to talk of political engagement and developmental activity in these areas until circumstances allow it.

I also said that the Maoists operate on a fundamental principle of spreading fear and terror. The NDTV journalist asked me, “So aren’t they terrorists?” I replied, in my book, anyone who spreads terror is a terrorist. What’s the big deal whether you call them terrorists or not? The fact is, it was a carnage; carefully executed and deliberately planned. If we still romanticise these guys, we are barking up the wrong tree.

There’s no doubt that the attack was heinous. But the semantics do matter. It shapes the response.
No. Frankly, the semantics don’t matter. This whole debate — security versus development, Digvijaya Singh versus P Chidambaram — is completely bogus. As I said, in any multi-pronged strategy, the relative importance of each component will depend upon the specific geography and circumstance. Two years ago, development was inconceivable in Saranda or Jangalmahal, both of which were “liberated zones” for many years. Today, you are seeing both developmental and political activity there.

But you can’t treat southern Chhattisgarh on par with these areas. What sets it apart is that the Maoist-affected area here covers nearly 10,000 sq km. Within that, Bastar is not in the same category as Sukma or Bijapur. And the whole Abujmarh area is sui generis. This area also spills over to Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and Khammam district and other parts of Andhra Pradesh. So it’s a tri-junction area.

In October 2011, the first time I went to Bijapur, only 80 out of 157 gram panchayats had MGNREGA activity and there were absolutely no roads. This year, I was in Bijapur two days before the massacre and work was going on in 111 gram panchayats and 12 roads are being constructed. So in two years, 31 gram panchayats that had earlier been inaccessible had come under the developmental radar. How did this happen? Fundamentally, because security operations had created an  that raised the confidence level of the people and reassured them that if they come out and participate in the activities, they will not be targeted.

This is not happening because I have been there five times or because the state government is doing something remarkable, but because the security operations have enabled the cycle to be completed.

But security operations have darker impacts too. Barely three weeks before the 25 May massacre, eight tribals — including three children — were killed by the forces at Edesmeta village in Bijapur, and 17 in Sarkeguda a year ago. Instead of greater militarisation, why is there no attempt for talks?
That’s not true. Talks take place on tracks 3, 4 and 5. You and I will not know whether talks are taking place. You can’t hold talks by saying like Swami Agnivesh that “Main talks kar raha hoon (I am engaged in talks)”. Look at Laldenga (of the Mizo National Front). He took on the Indian State for almost 25 years, but through a period of negotiations, the insurgents finally joined the political mainstream. So there could well be talks taking place with the Maoists just now.

Really? I seriously doubt it. I could say with fair amount of certainty it’s not. The last time there was even a semblance of it, Maoist leader Azad was killed off.
Frankly, I don’t know. In a sense, dialogue with them is impossible. If I show you a record of my conversations with Maoist ideologue Vara Vara Rao, you will see there is simply no meeting ground. It’s just entrenched ideological arguments. When P Chidambaram was home minister, he told the Maoists: don’t give up arms, don’t give up your ideology, don’t disband your cadres, just abjure violence and come for talks.

Yes, he said that in an interview with us. But what covert channels of talks did he set up?
As I said, we can’t know. In an interview to Swedish author Jan Myrdal, Comrade Ganapati put out two conditions: remove the ban on the CPI(Maoist) party and release all their leaders in jails, who can then become the interlocutors. The Indian government has three conditions, the Maoists have two. So, at what level should the talks take place? The only thing I do know is that the Indian State operates at multiple levels. To paraphrase former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, there are some known knowns, some unknown knowns and some unknown unknowns. We are operating in the realm of the unknowns here.

It’s quite possible some sort of talks are taking place, but the notion that if we address some of these issues, the Maoists will come on board — I think that’s a big question mark.

Instead, you may have an occasional Kameshwar Baitha (MP from Palamu, Jharkhand, and a former Naxalite) who says, okay, I have had enough; I will contest and go to Parliament. Alternatively, in Saranda, the villagers told me one of the sarpanches is a part of the Maoist cadre. What’s important in both cases is that the end result is they have become part of a political process. That’s good in my view.

The trouble is, in southern Chhattisgarh, absolutely no political process is taking place. I have been to Sukma and Bijapur three times; four times to Narayanpur. It’s only since last year that the Congress was beginning to even be visible on the ground, with hoardings, posters and rallies. We had a rally in Dantewada; the Parivartan Yatra was taking place; we went to Bijapur and Sukma. This unnerved the Maoists. This was the second attack on Nand Kumar Patel (the Congress president in Chhattisgarh) because for the first time he was challenging the status quo, engaging in intensive political outreach. The Maoists would have seen this as dangerous in the long run. How can we allow this to happen in our territory? So far, the Chhattisgarh government seems to have maintained a low-level equilibrium: you do what you want there; we do what we want here, and we don’t disturb each other. But in the past 14 months, Patel had challenged that equation. I’m not saying we would have won, but people were coming to the Congress rallies.

You have been driving the development process through your ministry. But that is not the only criteria. The big elephant in the room is mining. Does the Indian State have any new thinking on mining? There’s a sense that if the insurgency is curbed, rapacious mining will take over.
It’s always easy for a liberal crowd like you to find rationalisations for Maoist violence. You can always say the Forest Rights Act (FRA) hasn’t been implemented, or there is mining, so there is violence.

That’s a cheap shot! We have never rationalised the violence.
I don’t disagree with the substance of what you are saying. It’s true the Maoists are raising very serious concerns. In fact, the tragedy is that tribal issues have been brought onto our radar because of the Maoists. Our attention has been caught because of them. The Indian State has a track record of failures in the tribal areas. Laws have been enacted but not implemented. In fact, they have been brazenly violated. It’s also a fact that the tribal is caught between the devil of the Maoists and the deep sea of the security forces. But their methods are very wrong.

There’s no argument on that. Of course, their methods are wrong. But apart from the tribals sandwiched between the Maoists and the State, the dilemma is, there is only a thin layer of entrenched ideologues who make up the Maoist leadership. Our concern is for the foot soldiers, the tribals who make up their ranks. You yourself have said 40 percent of them are women. They are also the poorest of Indian citizens. Many of them have no desire to unfurl a red flag on Red Fort in Delhi. Their impulse is to defend their land, their chicken, their grain, their families, their huts.
They are still foot soldiers. They are coldblooded killers.

What was not cold-blooded about the security forces gunning down tribals while they were celebrating a seed festival in Edesmeta and Sarkeguda? We always get trapped in this dialectic of Maoist and State violence.
There are 15-year-old kids who kidnap people.

Should we not ask ourselves why then?
This root cause theory will get us nowhere.

I agree. By extension, one could argue the root cause of the Gujarat riots. But…
Root cause theories are very dangerous. I would say one has to completely and strongly reject the violence, yet address the symptoms. This is not to deny a lot of violence has taken place in the name of development. I often say that, but I’m in a minority. It’s true, mining is taking place; mining leases are being given, even in Saranda. I have written repeatedly to the prime minister saying we have had a security success and are striving for at least a moderate developmental success. Please don’t jeopardise it by opening up Saranda to the mining lobby. But it has happened.

In his farewell speech in 1961, Eisenhower warned America against the military- industrial complex. I think we have to wake up to the mining-politician complex in our country, which is wreaking havoc in our politics, in the tribal areas. These guys have absolutely no compunction, no social conscience. They are not doing it because it’s essential for economic growth. It’s just a sort of developmental theology. I’m against it. It’s not that mining has to be stopped altogether. But we have to do it in a calibrated, nuanced, prudent manner. We must ensure socially and environmentally responsible mining. It should not increase the misery of an already deprived community, but that is happening. So our track record has no doubt given ample ammunition and fodder to the Maoists. But still we have mining buccaneers masquerading in Parliament as political leaders.

How do you read what happened in Andhra Pradesh? It’s often cited as a success model.
I applaud what Andhra Pradesh did, but in a national context, we just exported the problem. In the past, Andhra Pradesh used to be the main theatre. Hard security measures over 30 years, as well as a process of development and political engagement helped sort out the state. But basically the Maoists spilled into the adjoining states. The forests of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra used to be a sanctuary for the Maoists. Now the sanctuary has become the arena.

This is why the Centre has a very important role to play in the tri-junction areas and quadri-junction areas: the Odisha- Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand border; the Odisha-Andhra-Chhattisgarh border; the Andhra-Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border; the Bihar-Odisha-Jharkhand border; the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh-Madhya Pradesh-Uttar Pradesh border.

But the lesson to learn from Punjab and Andhra Pradesh is that, within the state, unless the local police and local intelligence network is up to the task, there is no way pumping in 70,000-80,000 paramilitary forces will work. But the SP of Sukma in Chhattisgarh told me he has only 1,000 men when what he really needs is 3,000. This is the story in district after district.

There seems to be no fresh legal or constitutional thinking on this. Even in the British era, the tribal areas were seen as special zones. What is the thinking within the Indian State? The Fifth Schedule is almost toothless and Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act as you said has not been implemented.
Let’s not undermine what the Indian State has attempted to do. At least it did not adopt the American or Australian policy of extermination. The Gandhi and Nehru route was to bring them into the mainstream but at a pace that they determine. So, let’s not be self-flagellatory about what we have attempted to do. To bring 80 million people into the ‘mainstream’. It has no precedent anywhere in the world. Actually, I’d rather not use the word mainstream; it’s an abused word. We have tried to ensure their constitutional rights through a democratic process.

There are many reasons why we have had greater success in the case of the Scheduled Castes than we have had with the Scheduled Tribes — primarily it’s because they affect elections in far less constituencies. There are many obligations in the Scheduled Areas that have not been met. Land alienation has taken place on a large scale. Land transfer regulations have been violated. Non-tribals have usurped tribal land. There is no denying that, but we have to just keep moving forward and get it sorted now, instead of moping. PESA was passed in 1996. FRA was passed seven years ago, but even in a politically conscious state like Kerala, when I visited the Attapadi hills of Palakkad district — one of the most deprived tribal areas — only half of the tribals’ claims under FRA had been dealt with. But the answer to all this cannot be armed confrontation.

Ironically, an RSS man from a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Sarguja district in north Chhattisgarh told me part of the reason the forests in the area are intact is because of the Maoists. If not for them, the forests would long have been cut and cleared for development.
That’s an intellectually lazy argument. The forests are intact because of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). The FCA has nothing to do with the Maoists. Having been the forest minister, I can tell you the FCA is seen to be draconian from the development point of view. But from the forest point of view, it has been the single most important reason why the forests have been intact. Had it not been legislated in 1980, many of our forests, Abujmarh, for instance, would not have existed.

You have been travelling constantly on the ground since you took over as rural development minister. How many  affected constituencies have you been to?
Out of 82 Naxal-affected districts, I have been to 47; some of them I have been to three to four times; some five-six times.

That’s pretty intensive. When you speak to people first-hand there, what are the issues they raise?
Harassment by the local forest administration, which is the first face of the government they encounter. They also complain about the police, lack of electricity, teachers, doctors, health centres, etc. After a visit to Bijapur district, I wrote to the prime minister. As an Indian, I felt appalled and ashamed that the only two agencies providing basic healthcare facilities in the district were Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Red Cross.

There is no explanation for this. After 66 years of Independence, why are we unable to assure basic health services? Why are the roads and power supply the way they are? Why don’t post offices and banks function? When I ask bank officials, they say they can’t recruit locally and others don’t want to serve in tribal areas. If you recruit locally, someone will take you to court saying it’s unconstitutional. There are all sorts of issues. But the fact is, if the Indian State actually wants to do something, it can do it. It has enough powers. I see that effort in Bihar and West Bengal; I don’t see it in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or Odisha. Some Congressmen were very upset when I praised West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But supported by Suvendu Adhikary, Mamata did a political outreach programme in Jangalmahal. I took part in a rally there, it was unprecedented. The former CRPF DG told me, ‘Sir, the photo of Mamata kissing a tribal baby is equal to five CRPF battalions going there.’

But the point is, no matter how much one disagrees with what’s happening in some parts of the country, you cannot pick up the gun. Am I picking up the gun because I have been overruled on Saranda?

I agree. It’s just a slightly glib argument because in cities, people beat each other if they can’t find parking spaces or don’t have electricity for a few hours and then are judgmental about those who react to their houses being burnt, women being raped, kids being killed, grain being stolen.
Let’s concentrate on addressing the issues the Maoists raise but let’s not romanticise them. Let’s not justify the root cause theory. I’m all for concerted action on mining, displacement, forest rights, etc. I wrote to three chief ministers — Arjun Munda, Naveen Patnaik and Raman Singh — telling them how their own officers have told me there are literally thousands of tribals in jail without due process and on flimsy charges. Why can’t they be released? I have been bombarding them with letters. They don’t do it. But one has to persist. Remember, Bihar was once a hotbed of Maoist activity, but now only two areas of Jamui and Gaya are affected. So the democratic process can prevail.

shoma@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 25, Dated 22 June 2013)

 

#India – Why were 103 women sterilised and left to die in a family planning camp #Vaw


 

On February 5, 2013 a mega female Minilap Ligation operation camp was held at Manikchak Rural Hospital (RH) of district of Malda, in West Bengal. On this particular day 103 women were sterilised. It was reported in the local media that the women who were sterilised in this camp were kept on the open ground (hospital campus premises) in semi conscious state, and their relatives were asked to take them back home immediately after the operation. This was highlighted in the media (NDTV and other news channels) as gross human rights violation and later enquires were conducted by the state health department and the national human rights commission. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to West Bengal’s Principal Secretary Health West Bengal and the Malda district magistrate, taking cognizance of an NDTV report that showed how nearly a hundred women were dumped unconscious.

Civil Society Fact-Finding: There was strong opposition to this from civil society groups as it is felt that despite government guidelines on quality assurance and standard procedures to be followed in camp settings are not being followed and implemented properly. This is a summary of this fact-finding exercise.

On April 6, 2013, an independent fact finding was conducted by a team comprising of public health experts, health and women’s rights activists and members of networks including Heath Watch Forum, Bihar; Coalition Against Two-Child Norm and Coercive Population Policies and Human Rights Law Network (HRLN). National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR) supported the team by sharing the ethical guidelines and checklists for case documentation. The team members are working actively on issues related to reproductive health and rights and are engaged in post ICPD processes in India. Dr. Prabir Chatterjee, RCH Raiganj, West Bengal; Praveer Peterfrom HRLN, New Delhi; Kanti from Smokus local NGO Raiganj, Leena Uppal from Coalition Against Two-Child Norm and Coercive Population Policies, New Delhi; Devika Biswas from Health Watch Forum, Bihar (also filed the PIL in Supreme Court earlier in 2012 about 53 women who were sterilised in a government school in Araria district of Bihar) formed the team.

The main aim of the fact-finding was to systematically document whether the standards specified in different guidelines (a) ‘Quality Assurance Manual for Sterilisation Services, 2006′, (b) ‘Standard Operating Procedures for sterilisation services in camps, 2008′ (c) ‘Standards for Female and Male Sterilisation Services, 2008′ were adhered to during this camp and assess whether the providers are maintaining standards of care as specified in the service guidelines.

Villages Visited: The team visited six villages in Malda district from where women had come for the operation.  Villages included Niranjanpur, Nawada Maheshpur, Fakirtola, Gopaltola, Bagditola and Najiruddinpur. Women who had undergone operations on February 5, 2013 and their families were interviewed. Meetings and interviews with the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Block Medical Officer of Health (BMOH) of Malda district, five ANMs and four ASHAs were also conducted.

Key Findings: The fact-finding report describes the concerns and challenges faced by the women and their relatives, who underwent operations in the camp. It also throws light on the lack of basic minimum standards adhered by officials in the camp.   

One of the key finding was the fact that the standard camp protocols of the GOI were not followed. Infection control practices were inadequate. Though the GOI guidelines emphasise maintenance of prevention of infection, however the health care providers are unable to monitor or maintain records of infection control mechanisms followed at such family planning camps, given the large number of operations that that they conduct in a single day.

A total of nine women were interviewed. All women interviewed reported that they were not provided options for informed choice at the camp. All the women and their families voiced an environment of utter confusion and chaos at the camp. Women reported pain and minor complications after the operations, lack of complete knowledge about the operation procedure, consent being only in terms of thumb impressions and out of pocket expenditures during and after the operations.

A quick analysis of number and sex of children of all the women interviewed clearly showed a high preference for male child. Most of these women reported that they have been waiting for at-least one son before they go in for permanent sterilisation.  

Discussion: Women, who have undergone inhuman treatment where their dignity and rights have been denied, must be provided some form of redressal. The Family Planning Insurance Scheme which includes provisions for compensation to women who face failures and complications (and death) should be expanded to include humiliation of this nature. The Department of Family Welfare must also audit and ensure strict compliance of the quality assurance mechanisms it has already issued. The state government urgently needs to put the grievance redressal system/complaint box in place and ensure that such negligence is not repeated and the underlying deficits are addressed effectively.

It is hoped that the analysis from fact-finding will be of use to the larger community concerned with the experiences of women who have used family planning services and who are going to use them in future. It is also hoped that these findings will be deemed as relevant by the district officials at Malda, West Bengal who have been a part of this fact-finding process. 

We request you to share this summary widely and to urge your governments to stand up for women’s rights including their right to control their own bodies, fertility and sexuality!

Download Fact Finding Report

 

Mumbai- Activists slam govt’s nuclear policies


Nikhil M Ghanekar, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, May 12, 2013

First Published: 01:26 IST(12/5/2013) | Last Updated: 01:27 IST(12/5/2013)

On Saturday, the Coal-ition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) and anti-nuclear activists criticised the Centre’s policy of expediting civilian nuclear energy projects when most developed nations have shunned the technology following the Fukushima disaster.
CNDP founder Achin Vanaik and activists such as Praful Bidwai and Vaishali Patil spoke on nuclear disarmament, the secrecy around nuclear power and the huge costs of producing nuclear energy at the seminar- ‘Coming out of the nuclear trap’.

Bidwai said the department of atomic energy had propagated myths about the advantage of nuclear power. “The costs of producing nuclear energy are exorbitant… the cost of decommissioning reactors is half of what is used to build them.”

 The seminar’s organiser Kumar Sundaram criticised the Supreme Court’s decision on the Kudankulam plant. “The court did not take into account the safety standard violations. But this judgment will not deter other protests,” said Sundaram.

#RIP- Justice JS Verma, who headed the anti-rape law panel, no more


Edited by Amit Chaturvedi | Updated: April 22, 2013 22:53 IST

Justice JS Verma, who headed the anti-rape law panel, dies

New DelhiFormer Chief Justice of India Justice Jagdish Sharan Verma, who headed a three-member panel to examine laws on crimes against women, died today due to multiple organ failure. He was 80.The new anti-rape law passed by Parliament in March incorporates some of the recommendations made by the Justice Verma Commission. The panel of Justice Verma, Justice Leila Seth and Gopal Subramaniam was set up in the aftermath of the December 16 gang-rape of a medical student in Delhi last year.

The Verma Commission put together its report in just 29 days. Justice Verma had urged the government to match his team’s commitment by implementing the changes urgently.

He was honoured at NDTV‘s Indian of the Year Awards on April 15 for fighting for justice for the Indian woman.

 

Tamil Nadu to regulate sale of acid to curb attacks on women #Vaw #Womensday #goodnews


 

Reported by Sam Daniel, Edited by Sabyasachi Dasgupta | Updated: March 08, 2013 , NDTV

 Tamil Nadu to regulate sale of acid to curb attacks on women
ChennaiTamil Nadu would soon be the first state to regulate sale of acid across the counter in an effort to stop acid attacks against women. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has announced that the state would pass an ordinance to regulate sale of acid.The move comes after the death of two women who were targets of acid attack which once again triggered calls for checking easy availability of acid.

21-year-old Vidya was targeted after she refused to elope with the man her family had agreed to give her hand to. The man threw acid on her while she was alone at her workplace in Chennai. Another young woman, Vinothini – an IT professional from Puducherry, also died recently after the man she refused to marry threw acid on her.

Despite the move by the state govt, the families of these victims also want punishment against the attackers. Vidya’s mother J Saraswathi told NDTV, “Whatever crime they commit, they should suffer the same, only then they would realise the mistake.”

Ms P D’Souza, a govt official, welcomes the move. She told NDTV, “I think sale of acid should be regulated. The purpose of purchase should be checked. The moment they think of buying acid they should remember what would be the aftermath.”

Centre’s National Crime Records Bureau has no statistics on acid victims. Some estimates suggest there could be at least 100 acid attacks on women every year. Experts say the government should also strive for a change in mindset towards women.

R Geetha, an advisor to Women’s Rights Movement, told NDTV, “Today women are looked upon as sex objects. They’ve to be looked at as individuals.”

Ms D’Souza said, “It should start right at our homes; if parents stop discriminating boys and girls and demonstrate respect for women, the mindset of boys would change.”

 

#Delhi-Dial 9818099012 for women-related complaints #mustshare #Vaw


9818099012. This is the mobile number for Sudhir Yadav, the nodal officer appointed to deal with women-related complaints in Delhi. Being the first ever helpline under the direct monitoring of a senior police officer, it means quick results (hopefully).

Source: Deccan Herald

 

Man held for trying to molest woman in Noida #Vaw


Published: Sunday, Feb 24, 2013, 14:01 IST
Place: Noida | Agency: IANS

The son of a retired IAS officer has been arrested on charges of attempting to sexually assault a young woman who had come to a hotel to learn yoga, police said Sunday.

“We have arrested the accused, whose conduct has been most shameful,” Superintendent of Police Yogesh Singh said.

Police sources identified the young man as Vivek Sharma, son of Deo Dutt Sharma.

In her complaint, the victim alleged that the drunk man tried to force her into his car at a luxury hotel here. When she screamed for help, the hotel staff telephoned the police.

#Delhigangrape: poor coordination within police, Usha Mehra Commission #Vaw


Edited by Shamik Ghosh | Updated: February 22, 2013 , NDTV

Delhi gang-rape case: poor coordination within police, says Usha Mehra Commission

New DelhiA government commission appointed to study the fatal gang-rape of a medical student in Delhi has blamed the capital’s police for poor coordination, allowing the bus on which she was attacked to remain on the roads months after it failed to get important clearances.Amid the massive protests that followed the savage attack on the student on the moving bus in December, Retired High Court judge Usha Mehra was asked to review the police’s role. Six suspects have been arrested for the  gang-rape and murder.

Justice Mehra has pointed out that the bus had been fined several times for different violations, and was refused basic clearances and permissions in March, but was not impounded. She said this proves a huge and dangerous gap between the transport police and other sections of the force.

However, she found that after the attack, when the student and her male companion were spotted bleeding on the road by a passer-by, a police van responded within six minutes to a call for help. On this front, she said, the police should not be faulted.

Justice Mehra indicted the thin public transport system in Delhi, stressing that more government-operated buses should run at night.

Calling for reforms that include training policemen to handle complaints of rape more sensitively, she said that even after December’s attack, the response of the police to women remains “callous.”

After December’s attack stirred anger and a national debate on women’s safety, the government appointed  the Usha Mehra Commission to study the incident; three legal experts formed the Justice Verma Commission, which suggested changes needed urgently to laws that deal with crimes against women.

Some of the Verma Commission’s recommendations were included in a new set of anti-rape laws cleared by the government, which must be approved by Parliament within six weeks.

 

After Mass Sterilization In India, 100 Women Apparently Left In Field To Recuperate #Vaw #WTFnews


More than 100 women in India were apparently left out in a field after a mass sterilization at a hospital in the Malda district of West Bengal, according to multiple reports.

“Helpers” were said to have moved the women — many of them unconscious from anesthesia administered during the invasive medical procedure — from the hospital and laid them out in an open field nearby. Medical officials told Agence France-Presse that there was not enough space at the hospital for them to recover indoors.

“Over 100 women, mostly poor, came to the camp for the surgery. Immediately after the procedure, the doctors asked the helpers to move each of them to the adjacent field,” the state’s director of health services, Dr. Biswaranjan Satpathi, told AFP.

According to the Press Trust of India, the mass sterilization was carried out on Tuesday at the Manikchak Rural Health Center.

Indian TV network NDTV captured footage of the women being carried from the hospital and placed on tarps outside. According to the broadcaster, doctors at the government-run hospital broke several medical rules, such as greatly exceeding the number of procedures that can be performed in one day — said to be set at 25 per doctor. Reports differ on how many doctors carried out the procedures. NDTV, for example, claims only two doctors were responsible for the sterilizations; Tamil News Network says four doctors were involved.

Dr. Bidhan Mishra, the district’s chief medical officer of health, has launched an investigation into the doctors involved, noting that proper post-operation procedures were not followed, the Tamil News Network reports. The National Human Rights Commission is also looking into the incident.

An NDTV reporter at the hospital in Kolkata described the scene, remarking that women were brought out on stretchers and dumped on the ground outside the hospital.

“Their relatives are massaging their feet, and that’s about all the after-care they seem to be getting after the sterilization operation,” she says during the video clip.

Sterilization is performed to prevent women from becoming pregnant. In India, government policies encourage women to have the tubal ligation procedure as a means of birth control, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

Adequate after-care and hygiene following the routine operation has been an ongoing issue in the country for years. While the U.K. pledged £166 million (about $260 million) to fund sterilization programs, the aid has been used to cover the costs of forced sterilizations of the poor, the Guardian reports.

Click over to NDTV to watch video footage of the women being carted away from the hospital in Kolkata, or watch the clip above.

 

Why the Govt’s Ordinance is an Eyewash and a Mockery of the Justice Verma Recommendations


Bekhauf Azaadi Campaign

The UPA Govt, in a Cabinet meeting held on 1 February, has introduced an ordinance that it claims will address the most urgent concerns on sexual violence. In fact, the Government has been completely reluctant to acknowledge and implement the Justice Verma Committee recommendations: the PM refused to accept it from Justuce Verma, the Ministry of Home Affairs removed it from their website, the Govt never adopted any transparent process of discussion to decide the way forward on implementing the recommendations, rather they said Justice Verma ‘exceeded his brief’. Now, they claim that their ordinance has ‘implemented’ the Justice Verma recommendations. Is this true?

The fact is that the Government’s ordinance is a mockery of the letter and spirit of the Justice Verma recommendations.

Why? Let us take a closer look.

The Justice Verma report radically redefined the way in which sexual violence is understood, because it firmly called for safeguarding women’s autonomy – including her sexual autonomy. This means that sexual violence should be understood as any sexual contact that is forced on a woman unless she has explicitly said or indicated ‘Yes’ to it. It is irrelevant whether she is married or not, or whether the perpetrator is a policeman, judge, magistrate, public servant, politician, or army officer: the accused/perpetrator cannot enjoy impunity in any case! The ordinance completely mocks this basic principle.

 

The ordinance is nothing but the Govt’s old discredited Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012 with some extra window dressing. What’s WRONG with this ordinance?

 

  • Rejecting Justice Verma’s recommendations to ensure gender-specificity (male) of the perpetrator of rape and gender-neutrality for victims, the ordinance makes rape a ‘gender-neutral’ crime. This means that a man can accuse a woman of rape!!
  • The ordinance criminalises consensual sexual activity between 16-18 years; such sexual activity, even by consent, will automatically be seen as rape. This will give a handle to the moral-policing brigades and communities who harass inter-caste and inter-religious friendships and relationships, by branding young boys as ‘rapists.’ See what is happening in Mangalore now: Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini brigades have been entering ice-cream parlours, rounding up teenage couples and handing them over to the police; the Chhattisgarh police in Bhilai is doing the same. Such forces will get a handle to use the rape law against boyfriends.
  • The ordinance refuses to include marital rape in the rape law – and it continues to give a lesser punishment for rape of a separated wife by a husband. The Govt’s press release about the ordinance shamelessly says that “Verma criminalises marital non-consensual sexual intercourse” but the Govt will not do so! So, according to the Govt, not every ‘non-consensual’ sexual act is rape; a husband is allowed to force sex on his wife! Even if the wife is separated from her husband, the law will be ‘understanding’ and ‘lenient’ towards him if he rapes her, since she was ‘once his wife’! This means that the ordinance continues to see the wife as the husband’s sexual property, rather than as a person is her own right, with the same right to say YES and NO to sex as any unmarried woman! We know domestic violence is common in marriage: can’t the husband who batters his wife, also rape his wife?! Our govt is saying he will have the right to rape his wife!
  • The ordinance rejects Justice Verma’s recommendation of the principle of ‘command responsibility’ in case of custodial rape by police or army: i.e the principle that a superior officer will be held responsible if a junior officer commits rape or sexual assault. This principle is crucial if one considers the manifold cases of custodial rape like that of Soni Sori – where a senior officer Ankit Garg ordered his juniors to sexually torture her; or a case like Kunan Poshpora, where an entire village of women in Kashmir was gang-raped by the Army – something that could not have taken place without the awareness and blessings, even orders, of higher officers!
  • The ordinance fails to include sexual violence in the context of caste/communal massacres in the category of ‘aggravated sexual assault’ – as recommended by Justice Verma report (p 220).
  •  The ordinance rejects the Justice Verma’s recommendation that no sanction be required to prosecute judges/magistrates/public servants who are accused of sexual violence; and similarly that the AFSPA be amended to do away with the requirement for sanction to prosecute an army officer accused of sexual violence. Justice Verma’s argument was clear: no army officer nor any judge or public servant can claim to have raped in the course of his duty! The ordinance, by rejecting Justice Verma’s recommendations, ensures impunity for powerful rapists.Similarly the ordinance makes no move to implement the electoral reforms called for by Justice Verma, specifically against candidates and elected representatives accused of serious sexual offences.
  • The ordinance introduces death penalty in the rarest of the rare cases of rape. This is a deliberate red herring. For one thing, death sentence is already a possibility in cases where rape is compounded with murder. By introducing it in the rape law, even Congress leader and advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, speaking on NDTV, expressed the ‘personal opinion’ that this would further lower the conviction rate because it would deter the court from sentencing! Currently, let us remember that the Courts are reluctant even to give the minimum 7 year sentence for rape, and keep finding excuses to reduce it to as low as 3! Will the same Courts not become even more reluctant to convict, if conviction will mean death? 
  • The Justice Verma report recommended imprisonment for 5 years for a policeman who failed to follow the law (i.e registering FIRs or proper investigation); the ordinance admits for a jail term of just one year for this offence.
  • The ordinance completely ignores the recommendations of changes in medico-legal protocol, including prohibition of the two-finger test and ensuring rape crisis centres and proper medical care and examination of rape survivors; as well as police reform, public transport and other measures. 

 

The ordnance makes of mockery of all those recommendations of the Justice Verma committee that actually reflected the idea of protecting women’s autonomy: be it a 16-year old girl who has sexual contact with her boyfriend to a married woman who says no to her husband, the ordnance just fails to accept a woman’s own autonomy and consent as crucial to deciding if rape occurred or not! The ordnance continues to make excuses for certain powerful perpetrators of rape: it continues to ensure that certain institutions of power (marriage/police/army/judges/magistrates/public servants/politicians) remain protected from prosecution for rape.

We refuse to accept this eyewash! We demand full implementation of the Justice Verma Committee Report!

We can defeat the Govt’s ploy to dilute and subvert the JVC recommendations only by being on the streets and continuing to fight! 

Bekhauf Azaadi has called for a protest against the ordinance and demanding implementation of JVC on 4 Feb at 2 pm at Jantar Mantar. Please do join. There will be several other protest and campaign actions in the days to come, please do join each of them, and make sure the Govt does not get away with betraying our movement and the JVC Report.