#India – Dalits stripped of Dignity #Caste #discrimination


Frontline  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

In denial 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.”

 

Puducherry prescription: separate buses, hide girls in overcoats #WTFnews #Vaw #Moralpolicing


KAVITA KISHORE, The Hindu  , Jan 6, 2013

Education minister T.Thiyagarajan holds discussion with Principals of various government schools regarding the ' Safety Measures for Adolescent Students' in Puducherry on Saturday. Photo: G. Krishnaswamy
The HinduEducation minister T.Thiyagarajan holds discussion with Principals of various government schools regarding the ‘ Safety Measures for Adolescent Students’ in Puducherry on Saturday. Photo: G. Krishnaswamy

Separate buses for schoolboys and schoolgirls, overcoats for girls, ban on mobile phones on campuses and restricted interaction of girls and boys — these are the steps the Puducherry government has decided on to enforce to prevent harassment of girl students.

The measures came after a meeting between Education Minister T. Thiagarajan and principals in the wake of the rape of a 17-year-old student by two men on Tuesday.

By reducing contact between boys and girls, it was possible to prevent basic misbehaviour and it would also reduce “temptation,” said an Education Department official.

Instead of ‘dupatta,’ a student should wear an overcoat. Squads would be formed to check use of mobile phones by students, Secretary of Education G. Ragesh Chandra told The Hindu. These guidelines were for both private and government schools and a similar meeting with college principals would be held next week, he said.

Principals’ suggestions

During the meeting, the principals emphasised need for greater interaction of parents and teachers, advanced intimation to parents if special classes were conducted and maintenance of a record of the mobile phones of parents and guardians so that they could be informed if their wards were not present.

The move for separate buses came after several principals voiced concern that “when boys and girls travel together, they often did not get off the bus even when their stop arrived,” Mr. Chandra said.

“Many principals also observed that boys and girls sat inside the bus even before classes were over for the day, as the buses are parked on school premises. By having separate buses, these activities could be prevented.”

The measures drew flak from academicians and activists.

 

Healthcare Models in the Era of Medical Neo-liberalism #mustread


A Study of Aarogyasri in Andhra Pradesh, EPW

By-N Purendra Prasad (purendra.prasad@gmail.com) teaches at the department of sociology, University of Hyderabad

and P Raghavendra (raghavendra868@gmail.com) is a research scholar in the department of sociology, University of Hyderabad.

The experiment in restructuring the healthcare sector through the Aarogyasri community health insurance
scheme in Andhra Pradesh has received wide attention across the country, prompting several states
governments to replicate this “innovative” model, especially because it supposedly generates rich electoral
dividends . However, after a critical scrutiny of this neo-liberal model of healthcare delivery, this paper
concludes that the scheme is only the construction of a new system that supplants the severely underfunded
state healthcare system. It is also a classic example of promoting the interests of the corporate health
industry through tertiary hospitals in the public and private sectors.

Medical neo-liberalism is characterised by the commodification of health that transforms individuals
from patients to consumers. Unlike patients, consumers who seek healthcare bear the responsibility for the
choices they make or fail to make regarding their health. As consumers are positioned to make choices about healthcare,
they also have the obligation to utilise products and services that are available to ensure good health or to treat illness and
disease. Fisher (2007) points out that patients as consumers have embraced the neo-liberal logic of healthcare so that they
too see illness in reductionist terms and seek pharmaceuticals as targeted magic bullets. With growth in customised products
and medical costs, access and affordability to healthcare has become a key issue across the world.
In the Indian context, the increased disease burden on the poor along with rapidly growing healthcare costs has been the
subject of debate for sometime now. Services in government healthcare institutions have declined over the past two decades
at the primary and secondary level, leaving the sick-poor with no option but seek private healthcare services. Several
studies have pointed out that rising expenditure on health and education is one of the main contributory factors to high
indebtedness and subsequent suicides among peasants in different parts of the country in the last 10 years (Sarma 2004;
Ghosh 2006).
Clearly, healthcare has assumed huge political signifi cance for the neo-liberal state with new and innovative (populist)
healthcare programmes being launched in several states in different forms. Among these, Rajiv Aarogyasri, a community
health insurance scheme introduced by the Government of Andhra Pradesh (AP) on a pilot basis in 2007 and implemented
in 2008 is being hailed by many experts as a model to be emulated – the scheme covers 6.55 crore people belonging to
183 lakh below the poverty line (BPL) families.Aarogyasri needs special attention as it is supposed to have mobilised a large number of voters for the ruling Congress Party during the 2009 assembly elections who helped it return
to power for a second term. This scheme’s popularity is so huge that several delegations from different states in India have
been regularly studying its logic in order to replicate it and reap similar political benefi ts. States such as Kerala, Tamil
Nadu (Kalaignar Scheme), Delhi (Apka Swasthya Bima Yojana), and Karnataka have already formulated a similar template
and are in the process of implementing it. The Maharashtra  government too announced the Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana, a free medical care scheme for the poor in 2011, committing Rs 800 crore in the fi rst phase to benefi tnearly 50 lakh families earning below Rs 1 lakh per annum ineight districts.

A national social health insurance scheme called the Rashtriya Swashthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) waslaunched as a centrally-sponsored scheme in 2008 to cover 2.3 crore families and seven crore benefi ciaries. The AP government has already announced that Aarogyasri will soon become a  universal health scheme and cover non-BPL families as well.

Given the pre-eminence of the scheme, it is important to assess the scheme by locating it in the historical evolution of healthcare systems in India in the context of its underlying socioeconomic and political dynamics.

Read full article here

 

#India- Tweets against Chidambaram’s son land man in jail #censorship #law


PRISCILLA JEBARAJ  , The Hindu

A file photo of Karti Chidambaram. Photo: K. Ananthan

The HinduA file photo of Karti Chidambaram. Photo: K. Ananthan

Ravi Srinivasan faces up to three years in jail if found guilty

Does a tweet on reports of corruption, sent out to 16 followers, deserve a possible penalty of three years of imprisonment? The answer seems to be yes, at least according to Congress leader and Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti, who filed a complaint against small-time Puducherry businessman Ravi Srinivasan, and the Puducherry police which charged Mr. Srinivasan under Section 66-A of the Information Technology Act, 2008.

Section 66-A deals with messages sent via computer or communication devices which may be “grossly offensive,” have “menacing character,” or even cause “annoyance or inconvenience.” For offences under the section, a person can be fined and jailed up to three years.

Mr. Srinivasan, a 45-year-old supplier of plastic parts to telecom companies and a volunteer with India Against Corruption, had on October 20 tweeted from his Twitter account @ravi_the_indian : “got reports that karthick chidambaram has amassed more wealth than vadra.” Other such tweets reportedly made references to Mr. P. Chidambaram.

Mr. Srinivasan is however appalled by the reaction his tweet has provoked. “At 5 a.m. on Tuesday [October 30] morning, I was woken up and pulled out of my house by CBCID men and told I was under arrest because of my tweets,” he told The Hindu. “My wife and two daughters were in shock. What wrong have I done?”

The police told him he was being charged because of an e-mail complaint sent by Mr. Karti Chidambaram to the Inspector General of Police, in which he accused him of malicious intent to defame a good man. He was produced before a judicial magistrate and released on bail that evening.

Mr. Chidambaram was out of the country on Wednesday, and remained unavailable for comment. But he did post a short statement on his own Twitter account @KartiPC. “Free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have a right to seek constitutional/legal remedies over defamatory/scurrilous tweets,” he said to his 3,655 followers. He did not respond to queries on Twitter.

Mr. Srinivasan — whose Twitter tagline reads: Jai- hind guy, want to see India as no 1 in every sphere, believer that india can do it — has only posted 110 tweets in his one and a half years on the microblogging site. He has a grand total of 16 followers, as of Wednesday evening.

“My tweet refers to reports I read about Karti Chidambaram and Robert Vadra in the newspapers. It is not even my own opinion. I don’t know what is defamatory about it,” he said. “When I read the kind of tweets other people have written on corruption, I do not know why I am being targeted.” He wondered if his involvement with the IAC, and participation in their activities in Puducherry, has brought this upon him. In his latest tweet, he asked the IAC for “moral support.”

Interestingly, on October 22, Mr. Chidambaram had tweeted about a story in The Hindu on the arrest of two people who had allegedly harassed singer Chinmayi Sripada on Twitter, and were charged under Section 66-A of the IT Act. Linking to The Hindu’s article, Mr. Chidambaram’s tweet added: “food for thought for you know who! :)”

Activists campaigning for online freedom of speech say this kind of charge under the IT Act was inevitable, given the ambiguous nature of Section 66-A. Pranesh Prakash, policy director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society, says the clause is “overbroad,” “unconstitutional,” and does not satisfy Article 19 (2) of the Constitution which allows for restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.

He points out that there is no equivalent law for any offline communication, whether in verbal or printed format. “If you write a book that annoys or inconveniences me, even deliberately, I have no civil or criminal recourse. But if you send an e-mail message, or post a tweet, you could face three years in jail,” says Mr. Prakash. “That’s higher than the two-year imprisonment for causing death by negligence.”