#India- Religious and education sectors get biggest foreign funding #FCRA


Love is my religion

Religious and education institutions are among the highest recipients of foreign funding, an apex body of voluntary organisations today claimed.

In its study report on ‘Status of the Voluntary Sector in India‘, which was released here, Voluntary Action Network of India (VANI) also alleged that instead of creating an enabling environment for the sector, the government was tightening its noose on voluntary organisations under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

“Nearly 19 per cent (Rs 1276.56 crore) of the foreign funds are pumped into education sector and religious bodies.

“We were told by the government that money to the tune of Rs 10,500 crore were entering India in this sector.

“We have been asking for the details but it is only in the last two years that we have had the detailed report from them and it clearly reveals who is getting the major funding from abroad,” VANI CEO Harsh Jaitli said.

“It is the religious bodies like mutts, dharamshalas, churches, religious foundations, corporate foundations, private schools hospitals etc, which are getting the major fund,” Jaitli claimed.

He also claimed that the government is tightening its grip on voluntary organisation as more than 4000 organisations got their registrations cancelled.

“We were told by the FCRA department this was an effort to weed out the dormant and inactive FCRA registered organisations, or on account of non-submission of returns, change of address and not updating the same with the department concerned, or no reasonable activities in the last couple of years but things got caught up in bureaucracy and voluntary organisations suffered on their account,” he said.

On VANI’s official website, the updated cancelled list of 4138 NGOs shows Tamil Nadu with the maximum number of cancellations at 794, followed by Andhra Pradesh (670), Kerala (450) and Maharashtra (352).

VANI officials ascribed the rise in Tamil Nadu figures to the NGOs protesting against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in the state.

“Voluntary organisations and NGOs which worked against corruption, nuclear issues and human rights violations are the worst sufferers, take what happened in the aftermath of the Koodankulam protests in Tamil Nadu,” co-chairperson Farida Vahedi said.

As least four NGOs were booked under FCRA for allegedly diverting foreign funds to aid the organisation of protests against the Koodankulam plant. Their bank accounts were frozen, the report said.

Source – agencies

 

India – Grain bank movement is saving farmers from starvation in Odisha


An Insurance Against Hunger

The grain bank movement is saving farmers from starvation and the cycle of debt and desperation
Baba Umar

BABA UMAR, Tehelka

May 31, 2013

Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

NOT MANY summers ago, only tamarind seeds, wild berries and mango kernels stood between the tribals of Ranjagoda village and death by starvation. However, activist Achyut Das found that there were no starvation deaths in the neighbouring villages in ’s Rayagada district, which had set up . “The concept, though, had never reached Ranjagoda,” says Das.

Until recently, Ranjagoda’s tribals had to part with most of their produce to pay back moneylenders. “Debt bondage was the root cause of starvation,” says Das. “With interest rates as high as 200 percent, most villagers lost their mortgaged land and productive assets. Many were forced to work as bonded labour for the moneylender, sometimes over generations.”

To help the villagers break out of the cycle of debt and starvation, Das mobilised them to form self-help groups. A local grain bank was set up with all 50 families of Ranjagoda contributing 9 kg of ragi, the local staple.

“Unlike rice, ragi can be stored for almost three years,” says Das. “So the villagers, who couldn’t afford to buy food in the lean summer months, could now borrow, say, 5 kg of ragi from the grain bank, and put back 25 percent more within five months.” It has been a decade since the initiative took off, and today Ranjagoda is able to loan grain and seeds to other villages.

The grain bank experience has been a boon for India — a food-surplus nation that has, paradoxically, always performed poorly in terms of the  (GHI). It has been placed below Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal in 2012 by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

As a way to battle hunger, the Centre announced plans to set up grain banks for the first time in 1996. So far, 21,751 village grain banks have been sanctioned across 20 states. “These can be set up in drought-prone areas, deserts, tribal areas and inaccessible hilly areas that remain cut off because of natural calamities. Foodgrain will be loaned to BPL families at one quintal per family under the scheme,” said Union Food Minister KV Thomas in October 2012.

In some cases, like at Pyallayaram village in Andhra Pradesh’s Medak district, the grain banks also offer seeds and chemical inputs like fertilisers and pesticides to impoverished farmers. “The grain bank has helped the villagers get rid of both moneylenders and seed-sharks,” says Girdhar Babu of Deccan Development Society, one of the NGOs behind the grain bank initiatives in the state.

Poverty and food insecurity caused by prolonged drought and loss of traditional varieties of seeds had broken the back of Pyallayaram’s local economy, forcing many villagers to migrate. Those who stayed back were utterly destitute and malnourished. “That was 20 years ago. Relying solely on government relief schemes had encouraged a culture of dependency,” says Babu. “That changed when 34 women of the village took things into their own hands and started growing their own food.”

Subsequently, the villagers established a grain bank for poor farmers to ensure a steady supply of quality seeds by preserving the traditional varieties and restoring cultivation on marginal lands. “We have repeated the same experiment with self-help groups in 85 other villages,” adds Babu.

 

#India – Stifling Dissent in the name of Public Interest #WTF


Date: 1 June 2013
Subject: Whose public interest? | Jayati Ghosh in Frontline

Preoccupations
Whose public interest?

The government of India has taken the stifling of dissent in the name of public interest to great lengths without encountering any resistance.
IN the United States, the Barack Obama administration is facing a lot of heat in a scandal that his Republican opponents say is “as big as Watergate”. This is not so, but clearly the issue has been taken seriously enough by the U.S. government to cause some heads to roll almost immediately.

So what exactly happened? In 2010, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling lifted government limits on independent political donations by corporations and labour unions in federal elections. This enabled a surge of political spending, which, as it happened, went mostly to conservative groups as they tended to be better supported by big business.

The task of one department of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS, the tax administration agency of the U.S. government) was to determine whether applicants observed the political activity limits and deserved tax-exempt status. It is alleged that between 2010 and 2012, this agency subjected conservative groups to special scrutiny, especially those associated with the right-wing “Tea Party” movement that wants lower taxes, smaller government and generally opposes Obama.

There is no evidence that tax-free status was actually denied to any of the organisations in question. Nor was there any question of otherwise inhibiting their functioning by placing restrictions on their activities. What this adverse targeting essentially did was prolong the period of time involved in reviewing the application for tax-free status and therefore delay the eventual recognition. (Incidentally, since such recognition gets granted with retrospective effect, the financial implications are also not so severe.)

Even in this relatively minor negative light on those with differing political opinions, the resulting public outcry has been loud and vociferous, and the response of Democrats and the administration has been immediate penitence. The IRS expressed regret, the criteria for scrutinising applications were immediately changed to make them more “neutral”, Obama announced how angry he was and promptly fired the head of the IRS, Steven Miller, while the person in charge of the offending department announced his early retirement.

These measures have failed to quell the anger and outrage. A Tea Party group based in California has sued the IRS, in the first of what may be several lawsuits against the agency’s supposed targeting of opposition elements. Some argue that by targeting it the IRS has brought the Tea Party back from the dead—the “intimidation” by the state has become a rallying cry for several public protests led by conservatives. The Obama administration continues to be on the back foot on this despite its relatively quick measures to undo the damage.

Indian situation Contrast this with what is happening in India at the moment. The Central government has blatantly used the recently amended Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act and other instruments available to it not only to target political opponents but, more worryingly, to target and suppress any forms of democratic dissent, especially those trying to bring out the voices of the people against the excesses of corporate power. And it is doing so with little opposition and almost no public outrage.

The most recent and egregious example of this relates to the INSAF Trust, a coalition of more than 700 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across India mostly engaged in grass-roots activities and people’s struggles. According to its website, INSAF was formed soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid primarily to promote and defend the interests of the people, and is devoted to resisting corporate-centred globalisation, combating communalism and defending democracy.

The organisations that are part of INSAF generally see themselves as facilitators of struggles oriented towards ensuring the human rights of citizens in India, not instigators of such actions.

On April 30, the Home Ministry issued an order summarily freezing the bank accounts of INSAF and suspending its official clearance to receive foreign funds. The terse order simply states that “acceptance of the foreign contribution by the said association is likely to prejudicially affect the public interest”.

That such a charge can be levelled arbitrarily against an association of organisations devoted to defending the democratic rights of deprived groups in particular, and strengthening the secular fabric of the polity and society, is really of grave concern. But the more appalling thing may be that such a draconian measure on the basis of this laconic and unsubstantiated charge is now completely legal under the revised Act that regulates foreign contributions in India.

The rules of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, came into force on May 1, 2011 (ironically, on May Day, the day that is supposed to celebrate workers’ struggles). Rule 3 states that the Central government “may specify any organisation as organisation of political nature on one or more of the following grounds:

(i) organisation having avowed political objectives in its Memorandum of Association or bylaws;

(ii) any trade union whose objectives include activities for promoting political goals;

(iii) any voluntary action group with objectives of a political nature or which participates in political activities;

(iv) front or mass organisations like students’ unions, workers’ unions, youth forums and women’s wing of a political party;

(v) organisation of farmers, workers, students, youth based on caste, community, religion, language or otherwise, which is not directly aligned to any political party, but whose objectives, as stated in the Memorandum of Association or activities gathered through other material evidence, include steps towards advancement of political interests of such groups;

(vi) any organisation, by whatever name called, which habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like ‘bandh’ or ‘hartal’, ‘rasta roko’, ‘rail roko’ or jail bharo’ in support of public causes.”

There are several aspects of this rule that should be of great concern to every citizen. First, it is up to the government to decide which organisations fit this bill. Second, it contains an extraordinarily and even dangerously wide-ranging definition of undesirable political activity by an NGO. According to this new FCRA, any organisation that seeks to defend the interests of workers and peasants in any situation can be proscribed for being “political” even if it is not aligned with any political party. Third, even non-violent means of protest such as strikes and jail bharo (which were the lifeblood of the national movement, for example) are not to be tolerated.

Sweeping coverage This sweeping coverage effectively prevents most forms of democratic dissent and opposition from being expressed. It allows the government of the day to pick on any group it dislikes for whatever reason and just stop it from functioning. It stifles dissent generally, of course, but can also muzzle in particular those who attempt to raise their voices on behalf of the marginalised in society and those who are adversely affected by economic policies and processes that do not recognise their basic rights as citizens. This is especially the case because such people typically do not have access to the increasingly corporatised media or any other ways of working through the system.

In classic Orwellian doublespeak, therefore, such an order can really serve as a means of destroying those who are genuinely working in the public interest. It is worrying that this law was passed with so little discussion and open debate and so little apparent concern about how it could be misused by a government. Maybe one of the reasons that INSAF is unpopular with the government of the day is that it actually brought a case against this law on the grounds that it denies the rights of Indian citizens—a matter that is pending in the Supreme Court.

In any case, this issue is far too important to be ignored, as INSAF is just the current victim and there may be others next in the firing line. It portends a really disastrous and undemocratic trend towards authoritarianism, which is in any case a system that large capital is generally far more comfortable with. There have already been some straws in the wind in this direction. The current government’s intolerance towards anyone who openly disagrees with its own policies and narrow interpretation of national interest (particularly when such arguments conflict with the interests of national and international—indeed, “foreign”—capital) was evident in its handling of the protesters against the Kudankulam nuclear plant and the blatant citing of “the foreign hand” even when the protests were dominantly of the locally affected population. But now the net is being cast even wider, and apparently even without any particular need to cite either evidence or acceptable reasons for such aggressive state action.

So this treatment of INSAF may even be a test case—if the government in India gets away with this blatant abuse of power and undemocratic use of legislation to stifle dissenting voices, it may get further emboldened to adopt even more openly dictatorial methods. It is in our collective interest to assert the true significance of “the public interest” and show that it cannot be appropriated for its own purposes by whatever government is in power.

 

Indian Gov’t on Collision Course With Civil Society


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Activists bristle as India cracks down on foreign funding of NGOs


By , Monday, May 20, 7:14 AM E-mail the writer, WP

NEW DELHI — Amid an intensifying crackdown on nongovernmental groups that receive foreign funding, Indian activists are accusing the government of stifling their right to dissent in the world’s largest democracy.India has tightened the rules on nongovernmental organizations over the past two years, following protests that delayed several important industrial projects. About a dozen NGOs that the government said engaged in activities that harm the public interest have seen their permission to receive foreign donations revoked, as have nearly 4,000 small NGOs for what officials said was inadequate compliance with reporting requirements.
The government stepped up its campaign this month, suspending the permission that Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of more than 700 NGOs across India, had to receive foreign funds. Groups in the network campaign for indigenous peoples’ rights over their mineral-rich land and against nuclear energy, human rights violations and religious fundamentalism; nearly 90 percent of the network’s funding comes from overseas.“The government’s action is aimed at curbing our democratic right to dissent and disagree,” Anil Chaudhary, who heads an NGO that trains activists and is part of the INSAF network, said Tuesday. “We dared to challenge the government’s new foreign donation rules in the court. We opposed nuclear energy, we campaigned against genetically modified food. We have spoiled the sleep of our prime minister.”In its letter to INSAF, the Home Ministry said the group’s bank accounts were frozen and foreign funding approval suspended because it was likely to “prejudicially affect the public interest.”

A government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the government is not against criticism. But when an NGO uses foreign donations to criticize Indian policies, “things get complicated, and you never know what the plot is,” the official said, adding that NGOs should use foreign donations to do development work instead.

The United States is the top donor nation to Indian NGOs, followed by Britain and Germany, according to figures compiled by the Indian government, with Indian NGOs receiving funds from both the U.S. government and private U.S. institutions. In the year ending in March 2011, the most recent period for which data are available, about 22,000 NGOs received a total of more than $2 billion from abroad, of which $650 million came from the United States.

Government bars groups that oppose nuclear energy, human rights abuses from accepting overseas donations.

U.S. officials, including Peter Burleigh, the American ambassador at the time, quickly moved to assure Indian officials that the U.S. government supports India’s civil nuclear power program. And Victoria Nuland, then the State Department spokeswoman, said the United States does not provide support for nonprofit groups to protest nuclear power plants. “Our NGO support goes for development, and it goes for democracy programs,” Nuland said.
Although Singh was widely criticized for his fears, the government froze the accounts of several NGOs in southern India within weeks.“All our work has come to a stop,” said Henri Tiphagne, head of a human rights group called People’s Watch. “I had visited [the] Koodankulam protest site once. Is that a banned territory?”

But the government’s action appears to have had its desired effect. “NGOs are too scared to visit Koodankulam or associate with us now,” said anti-nuclear activist S. P. Udayakumar.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said many NGOs are afraid to speak up about the suspension of their foreign funding approval, which is “being used to intimidate organizations and activists.”

Analysts say the government’s way of dealing with dissent is a throwback to an earlier era. But Indian authorities have been particularly squeamish about criticism of late. As citizens have protested corruption and sexual assaults on women and demanded greater accountability from public officials, authorities have often reacted clumsily — including beating up peaceful protesters and cracking down on satirical cartoons, Facebook posts and Twitter accounts.

Donors look elsewhere

Officials say NGOs are free to use Indian money for their protests. But activists say Indian money is hard to find, with many Indians preferring to donate to charities.

A recent report by Bain & Co. said that about two-thirds of Indian donors surveyed said that NGOs have room to improve the impact they are making in the lives of beneficiaries. It said that a quarter of donors are holding back on increased donations until they perceive evidence that their donations are having an effect.

“They give blankets to the homeless, sponsor poor children or support cow shelters,” said Wilfred Dcosta, coordinator of INSAF. “They do not want to support causes where you question the state, demand environmental justice or fight for the land rights of tribal people pitted against mighty mining companies.”

INSAF, whose acronym means “justice” in Urdu, has seen its portion of foreign funding increase significantly during the past 15 years. Now it receives funds from many international groups, including the American Jewish World Service and Global Greengrants Fund in the United States, and groups in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

The top American donors to Indian NGOs include Colorado-based Compassion International, District-based Population Services International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“It is not a question about money, it is a fight for our right to dissent,” said Chaudhary. “I don’t need dollars to block a road.”

Asked last week about the Indian government’s moves against foreign-funded NGOs, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the department was not aware of any U.S. government involvement in the cases. The spokesman said such civil society groups around the world “are among the essential building blocks of any healthy democracy.”

The situation in India is not unlike the problems that similar groups face in Russia, where a law passed last year requires foreign-funded NGOs that engage in loosely defined political activities to register as “foreign agents.”

 

‘Main Hoon Balatkari’ song puts Yo Yo Honey Singh in deep trouble


With the Punjab and Haryana High Court coming down heavily on the lewd lyrics of songs sung by singer-rapperHoney Singh, the Punjab Police Friday booked him for singing vulgar songs in public.HONEY-SINGH

case was registered against the singer under provisions of Section 294 (singing, reciting or uttering any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place) of the Indian Penal Code in Punjab’s Nawanshahr town, some 80 km from here, a police official said.

“We have registered a case against singer Honey Singhfor his vulgar songs following the high court directions,” Superintendent of Police S.S. Bhangoo told over phone from Nawanshahr.

The police officer was, however, evasive when asked as to why a case was not registered against the singerwhen a complaint against him was filed by an NGO earlier this year.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had Tuesday directed the Punjab Police to book Honey Singh for singing songs based on sexual themes and innuendoes.

A division bench of the high court said that Honey Singh‘s “songs make us hang our heads in shame”. The bench said that singers like him should be boycotted as his songs were disrespectful to women.

Honey Singh had courted controversy over the lyrics of his song “main hoon balatkari” (I am a rapist). However, he claimed that he had only sung the song but had not written the lyrics.

A voluntary organisation called HELP (Human Empowerment League Punjab) had filed a police complaint againstHoney Singh and some other singers in January this year. However, no action was taken against them. It is only after the high court‘s intervention that Honey Singh has been booked by the police.

The NGO in its complaint had claimed that the songs of these singers projected women in poor light, promoted violence against women and even encouraged rape.

“We welcome the directions of the high court and the case registered against Honey Singh. This should have happened much earlier. We will take up the matter of vulgar songs by other singers as well,” HELP’s general secretary Parvinder Singh Kitna said.

By , canindia 

Jaipur: 5 deaf, mute orphan girls raped and beaten by school staff #Vaw #WTFnews


PTI  Jaipur, May 18, 2013

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Five deaf and mute orphan girls were allegedly raped and beaten by staff at a residential school run by an NGO in Kanota area in Jaipur.

Four persons, including the director of the NGO ‘Awaaz Foundation’ have been arrested after the incident was reported to police on Saturday, DCP (East) Shweta Dhankar said on Sunday.

“The girls, aged between 15-17 years, were staying at the hostel run by Awaaz Foundation where two employees Ashok and Suresh had been sexually exploiting them for some time. The girls were raped and beaten, and when they approached the NGO officials, their complaints were ignored,” she said.

The girls were from a juvenile shelter home in Gandhi Nagar and had been sent to the residential school, which runs with the support from the Social Justice department, to undergo a training, police said.

The case came to light when the girls returned to their shelter home, run by the state government, in Gandhi Nagar after completing the course.

“We have arrested Alpana Sharma, who runs the NGO, and employees Geeta, Suresh and Ashok. A few more arrests are likely to happen soon,” the DCP added.

Police said that 109 students were staying at the hostel, which has been functioning for the last six years.

Meanwhile, People’s Union for Civil Liberties activists today protested in front of the girls’ home in Gandhi Nagar and demanded action against the culprits involved in the case.

 

No Justice For Insaf


SABA NAQVI, Outlook Magazine, May 27, 2013
 
Right to protest suffers another setback with this forum stifled
On April 30, 2013, the Union ministry of home froze the bank account of a coalition known as INSAF (Indian Social Action Forum) and suspended its registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act or FCRA. INSAF is a network of 700 NGOs, people’s movements against acquisition of lands and forests and other resistances from Koodankulam to Kashmir. It has been a sort of facilitator, a clearing house for donations and support to various struggles. The home ministry believes its actions to “be prejudicial to public interest”.
On May 13, less than two weeks after the attempt to stifle INSAF, news agency Reuters filed this report: “Foreign institutional investors’ (FIIs) ownership of the BSE Sensex stocks touched its highest in eight years as of the January-March quarter, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a research report. During the Jan-March quarter, FIIs were net buyers of Indian equities, while domestic mutual fund companies and state-owned insurer lic were sellers, it said. According to regulatory data, FIIs have been net buyers for 15 consecutive sessions, bringing their total investment for the year to $12.70 billion.”
The contrast is quite remarkable. We celeb­rate those who come to set up business, invest in the stock market, mine our natural resources, build nuclear plants and run them. These investors in smart suits and sharp shoes are to be feted and waited upon. They are the good people with the big bucks who fit into the idea of India as an economic powerhouse, the winners in this game of globalisation.
Then there are the wretched of the earth who stand in the way of this wonderful progress. These little people inconvenience the big plans, be it the POSCO project in Orissa, SEZs across the country or the nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu. There seems to be no ambiguity on the issue for those who run the country, frame its laws and implement them: those who resist are a danger to public order.
Given the recent action on INSAF, one can only presume this is the Orwellian standard that will now be applied in a future India. Without getting into the complexity of FCRA, there is something seriously wrong with the spirit of the law. Basically, it can be countered not by legalese but by a very simple argument: if a government can get billions of dollars worth of foreign investment for a specific project that is cleared on paper, why can’t a meagre amount of foreign funds reach activists who wish to help those who actually live on the land where these projects are planned? And we are talking small change here, a few thousands to a few lakhs compared to the billions on the other side.
How did we end up creating a world where those who make the blueprints are celebrated while those who sweat it out with people are seen as dangerous?
The attempt to crack down on INSAF has been made possible because of the amendments to FCRA in 2010. Rule 3 of the law now says that the activity of any organisation that “employs common methods like bandh or hartal, rasta roko or jail bharo” will be deemed political in nature although it is not a political party. The government, of course, has the right to define such organisations.
The point here is not to argue against a scrutiny of funds that come for political activity. The rules, in fact, began to be tightened in 1984 when several Sikh organisations using violent methods were getting funds from abroad. The VHP likewise raises money outside India for activities that are certainly political. But how can legitimate struggles against specific policies, the leitmotif of a healthy democracy, be seen in the same light as advocacy of separatism, violence or communal hatred? The UN Human Rights Cou­ncil resolution adopted on March 21 this year actually called upon states to ensure that “restrictions are not discriminatorily imposed on potential sources of funding aimed at supporting the work of human rights defenders”.
And if we are so suspicious of foreign funds coming for those who influence public opinion, why leave out the media? According to a FICCI report, FDI inflows to the information & broadcasting sector, including the print media, was $2.17 billion in India in Apr 2010-Mar 2011. The same report says that “India has one of the most liberal investment regimes and the media and entertainment industry has significantly benefited from this.” But we see no grand conspiracy about the “foreign hand” if the news channel we watch or the newspaper we read is partly owned by foreign groups when in fact there is evidence that the media now accepts certain agendas unquestioningly.
The INSAF story is at its core an action against the idea of legitimate protest on which this country was built. In an age of corruption at every level, it’s an obvious attempt to intimidate those who challenge certain notions of “progress” and care about things other than profit margins.

 

NAC Working Group on Universal Health Coverage Final Recommendations


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

 

Making Choices: The Rhetoric and The Reality #Gender #Vaw


By Sanjana Gaind, ultraviolet.in

 This is the third of a series of posts written from the experiences at CREA of implementing a program called “Count Me IN! It’s My Body: Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Young Girls through Sports”. The first and second posts are here. CREA is a feminist human rights organization based in Delhi (www.creaworld.org).

Sanjay: Yeh aapka kaaryakram theek nahin hai. (This programme of yours is not right.)

Me: kyun? (Why?)

Sanjay: Ladkiyon ke sanskaar bigaad raha hai.  (It is corrupting the values of girls.)

Me: Kaisey? (What do you mean?)

Sanjay: Bahar maidan mein khel rahi hai, football ke liye ladai kar rahi aur humarein muhn lag rahi hai. (They are playing outside in the field, fighting for the football with us, and talking back to us.)

Me: In teeno mein se, aapko dikkat kis baat se hai? (Out of these three things, what bothers you the most? 

Sanjay: Sabhi se hai. Humko teeno ki hi aadat nahi hai na. (All three of them. We are not used to such behaviour of girls.)[1]

On any given day, I would argue with him incessantly, making it very clear that the problem is not with the girls but with him. But, that day, I let him have the last word. Not because I had nothing to say to him, but because I felt a great sense of achievement and pride on behalf of the girls who had upset him and had challenged the patriarchal order and structure which is his comfort zone. He is visibly upset with the young girls in his village who have begun to question his authority. There are many other such men and boys in other villages as well, where the girls have begun to occupy and reclaim spaces like public grounds, which have traditionally been seen to be “male-only” spaces. They are angry, upset, and disturbed by this sudden demand for space by the girls.

The increasing number of female bodies in a playground, running, playing, jumping, laughing, and fighting is upsetting norms, challenging controls, and transforming spaces. These are bodies that are meant to be invisible inside and not visible outside in public spaces. These are bodies that are meant to be monitored and controlled inside homes, those four-walled bastions of patriarchy. In this established order, how they choose to dress, choose to roam, choose to express, and choose to interact with others is not their decision. However, now in small and not-so-small ways, these structures of power, of domination and silencing are being challenged. While some men and boys are not very happy with this overt display of female bodies in the field, there are others who are being supportive and encouraging of this trend. Some react angrily, some positively, and some violently.

It is not just the men and boys who are curious about what is happening. When sessions on topics like bodily changes, menstruation, sex, pregnancy, choice, consent, pleasure, rights, and autonomy are held as part of the It’s My Body programme, many mothers accompany their daughters to these meetings to check what is being ‘taught’. The local health workers are keen to participate in sessions on health, hygiene, nutrition, and menstruation. Sessions on sex, sexuality, choice, consent, and pleasure make them uncomfortable. The discomfort is not just at their end.

We also share this anxiety in talking about these issues freely and openly. The fear of backlash and antagonism makes us choose our strategies, messages, mediums and language strategically and carefully. The title of the programme, ‘It’s My Body’, when translated into Hindi— Mera Sharir, Mera Adhikaar, comes across as ‘bold’ or ‘radical’ and there is some hesitation in using it, both on our part as well as that of organisations co-implementing this programme with CREA[2]. The programme is very often projected as a programme on Reproductive Health, and the ‘S’ and ‘R’ in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are used cautiously. Words like ‘hak’ , ‘adhikaar’, ‘pasand’, ‘anand’ ,’yaunikta’ (right, preference, pleasure, and sexuality) are used selectively and only in certain ‘safe’ settings and spaces. But, what happens, when these conversations are translated into actions outside these constructed ‘safe’ spaces?

When Rashmi (name changed), from Jharkhand, insisted on wearing jeans in the village, her mother pulled her out of the programme. Neha (name changed) has refused to marry the boy her parents chose for her because she doesn’t like the way he looks. Her parents are shocked and unhappy with this new assertion of her right to say ‘NO’. Kavita(name changed ) slapped the boy who grabbed her hand at the tea shop. The first thing that she had to explain to her parents, family, and others was – why was she roaming outside the house in the evening? Sunita, Mamta, and Jyoti (names changed ) come to attend these meetings on their bicycles. Some boys hide behind the trees place thorn traps on the way to puncture their bicycles, so that they can trouble and tease them. As a result, the girls have stopped staying back for volleyball practices in the evening and head home before it gets dark.

There are several question marks and circumscriptions outside of these ‘safe’ settings, where girls feel ‘empowered’, informed, and confident. All our conversations and discussions in these spaces and the choices girls make often have repercussions. What is the kind of resistance they face outside these safe spaces? How do they negotiate with those who are not part of this ‘safe’ space? How do they retain this confidence when they are outside this setting? What are the struggles they face to be a part of this group? Why is it that if something goes wrong, it is the girls who have to back down? Why does the fear of harassment, abuse, and violence hold them back from participating in these collectives?

The fear of the consequences for some of these young girls, who are questioning, challenging, and transforming the established social order, is ever-present. This compels us to reflect on our own strategies. We often ask ourselves whether we should tone down the rhetoric? Or should we let this fight run its own course? How do we make our processes of change more inclusive to include others who serve either as gatekeepers or as allies in this process? Creating exclusive, rights affirming and safe spaces for women and girls is necessary. But is that enough when the application of these rights is in the “real world”?

Sanjana Gaind works at CREA as Program Coordinator – Young Women’s Feminist Leadership. Sanjana is interested in the application of artistic and creative methodologies in activism and development. She has used mediums like theatre, music, art and sports in her work with young girls and women on issues of gender, sexuality and rights.

Big Thank You to Meenu, Shalini, Pooja and Rupsa for the ideas and feedback they shared.


[1] This conversation took place with a 26- year-old man in Jharkhand on 11 March 2013, at an International Women’s Day event that was organised by CREA and Mahila Mandal, as part of CREA’s ‘It’s My Body’ programme. Sanjay [(name changed]) is the captain of the village football team.

[2] It’s My Body- Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Adolescent Girls through Sports, is a programme led by CREA and co-implemented with ten women-led, community-based organisations in rural and urban areas of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.