Open letter to Shyam Benegal on Vedanta’s Creating Happiness


Dear Mr Shyam Benegal

Greetings !

I met you  first on a flight from  Kuala Lumpur to Mumbai in 2008 , and   I  considered myself to be lucky to meet you and used the  opportunity to talk to you for Dr Binayak Sen’s Release, the video     I was so delighted to find a voice in you for human rights and a voice for the voiceless- the tribals, who have been suppressed and have been the victims of the so called development model aggressively supported by the Government and our middle class for whom infrastructure amounts to development of the nation and will make india the super power at the expense of displacing the tribals.

Today I am aghast to know that you are in the jury of Vedanta’s “Creating Happiness Film Competition” , a short film contest for India‘s student film makers by Vedanta.

The claim by Vedanta on their  website http://www.creatinghappiness.in/about_us.html is the biggest  scam  of the century.

Do you know ?

Corporate mining giant  Vedanta has been violating the human rights of tribals in Odisha for  many  years now. The Dongria Kondhs, a primitive tribe, has been forced to relinquish their rights over their homeland, and cultural and livelihood resources to accommodate the company’s refinery and mines complex. The company’s mines, no matter how benign, will rip through a hill that is the sacred deity of the tribe that has lived in these hills for centuries without leaving a trace on the sensitive ecosystem of the biodiverse watershed forests. The hills that are slotted for mining are home to the Golden Gecko, a species that figures in IUCN’s Red List of endangered species. The Niyamgiri Mountains are the primary source of drinking water for the entire area, apart from being the source of two important rivers of Orissa Nagabali and Vamsadhara which are the lifeline of at least 50000 people downstream.

Zambia’s biggest mining company, Konkola Copper Mine (KCM), owned by Vendanta, in 2007  caused widespread water pollution when its acidic effluent entered the Kafue River, the main source of water of about 2 million people in the area. In Armenia it underwent a criminal investigation into its unlawful gold operations and was disallowed from any further activity in the country. In November 2007 the government of Norway withdrew all investments in Vedanta after its Ethical Council concluded the company ‘has caused serious damage to people and to the environment as a result of its economic activities’

A special monitoring body set up by the Supreme Court of India, the Central Empowered Committee, has submitted several reports highlighting the irregularities and corruption and recommended that the permission to mine the rich forests of the area should not be granted to the company. This report was also important in the decision of the Norwegian Council of Ethics ( See:  CENTRAL%20EMPOWERED%20COMMITTEE%20report.doc for this report).

Research by Amnesty International and other local and international groups documents the serious and continuing pollution caused by the refinery’s operations. Despite the string of decisions against Vedanta, the company has failed to remedy the pollution.

The 2010  Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests ( MoEF) report  says govt-panel-says-vedanta-violating-guidelines_446875.html

“That displacement, loss of livelihood, pollution, non-payment of compensation of land and objections to the project and its effects are some of the causes for discontent and protest” & “That these are aspects that are integral to the lives of the Dongria Kondh (local tribes people) and do not appear to have been considered while deciding to open up the mountain top for mining,”

The latest high court verdict states that Vedanta cannot circumvent conditions issued by India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), stipulating that plans for expansion of the refinery should go through a fresh environmental and social impact assessment and a public hearing process. Residents of 12 villages who live in the shadow of the massive refinery – mostly Majhi Kondh Adivasi (Indigenous) and Dalit communities who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods – have long campaigned against the expansion.

India’s great land grab continues, with police forcibly evicting tribal villagers in Orissa from land sold to UK-based Vedanta Resources to use as a toxic waste dump . Activist Satyabadi Naik’s shocking video of police crackdown on a peaceful protest by women of Rengopalli and other villages against Vedanta’s toxic Red Mud Pond in Lanjigarh. This video was recorded on 23 Jan 2012. Watch the Video  urgent-villagers-protest-against-vedanta-red-mud-pond

Vedanta is not creating happiness but it is faking happiness, and  in the short films below you will see the REAL FACE OF VEDANTA

The Real Face of Vedanta

Niyamgiri – The Mountain of Law

iii. The Protector of the Streams

iv. Controversy over best environmental management award to vedanta

I hope after reading my letter and seeing the videos you will also pull out from the Jury of Vedanta like Gul Panag did, when she became aware of the various human rights violations by Vedanta. The  film competition ends on March 20, 2012  and I hope you will  truly stand for human rights of the people of Odisha.

Infact, I would like to invite you to be  on  the jury of an independent film competition  on human rights violations by corporates “ Faking Happiness “, I will send you the details soon.

Regards

Adv Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Mumbai

Feb , 20, 2012

Related Links

https://kractivist.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/open-letter-to-piyush-pandey-on-vedantas-creating-happiness/

 

Rapist agrees to marry victim, seeks FIR quashing.


NEW DELHI: After spending a year in jail on charges of rape, a man has approached the Delhi high court seeking quashing of the FIR against him on the ground that he and the victim have decided to get married.

HC has granted Sanjay partial relief in the form of interim bail till February 14, for getting married to the alleged victim. But Justice Suresh Kait also directed Sanjay to produce the proof of marriage, and only after the court is assured, will it consider his plea to quash the FIR lodged by the woman against him.

According to the FIR, both Sanjay and the victim were employed as domestic help in the house of a businessman in Anand Niketan. Sanjay’s employer and his family went out of Delhi in February last year. According to the complaint of the victim and the case of the prosecution, Sanjay took advantage of the situation and raped the victim. The woman registered her case with Dhaula Kuan police station and Sanjay was arrested on February 18, 2011.

After a year in custody, the couple had an out of court settlement where the accused agreed to marry the victim so that she doesn’t face any ostracism in life. Once the couple came to a settlement, the woman indicated she was willing to withdraw her allegations against Sanjay and both approached HC.

Sanjay had a change of heart in jail and decided to tie the knot with the victim and end their woes, said Sanjay’s lawyer.

TNN news

 

Presumed Guilty: After 14 wasted years in prison, life begins anew


PRAYAAG AKBAR NEW DELHI | 19th Feb

Mohammed Aamir at his home in Sadr Bazaar. Aamir spent 14 years in jail before being acquitted in January this year. Photograph: ABHISHEK SHUKLA

n the night of 20 February 1998, in the Sadr Bazaar area of Delhi, a young man walked to the neighbourhood hakeem seeking treatment for a persistent kidney stone problem. The 18-year-old had just said his namaaz at the Madrasahwaali Masjid and, in pain, decided to walk across the desolate marketplace — by day this is one of the busiest spots in the city, but at night it empties like a sieve — even more so in the ’90s, when Indian retail did not shriek with the vehemence of today.

As the boy walked he noticed an unmarked white Maruti Gypsy sidle up along the kerb behind him. It moved slowly, prompting him to quicken his pace, though he continued to walk, staring ahead. The Gypsy overtook him and then, without warning, a pair of hands shoved him in the back. He raised his hands to protect himself from falling, but before he knew it he’d been hauled into the Gypsy. Blindfolded, hands tied and mouth gagged in a matter of seconds, trapped in a mélange of elbows, insults and accents, he was driven to a destination 40 minutes away and deposited in a room. Here he was routinely beaten, tortured, fed at the rarest possible intervals, and made to sign blank papers and disclosure agreements. There was no question of providing access to legal representation.

The boy left that room seven days later, when he was taken to Delhi’s Tees Hazari Court to be charged with 17 cases of murder, terrorism and waging war against the nation. By the time he was acquitted of the charges brought against him — the High Court ruled that any evidence connecting the accused to the bombings was “woefully absent” — Mohammed Aamir was 32 years old. He spent 14 years “ground in the mortar and pestle” of the Indian justice system (main kanoon ke chaal mein pis kar aa raha hoon). In the years before he could once again walk into the modest room in Azad Market where he was born, his father had died, his mother left mute and paralysed by a stroke.

Read more here

Protest Rally by DUSU and SFT-India to condemn the human rights violation in Tibet- Feb 21


Delhi University Students Union (DUSU)’ in coordinationwith Students for a Free TibetIndia will hold a strong protest action at Delhi University North Campus to highlight the Self-immolation Issue in Tibet and Chinese military crackdown.

So far more than two dozen Tibetans in Tibet have torched their bodies and a dozen others died under the Chinese open fire calling for freedom in Tibet and return of the Dalai Lama from exile.

Most recent self-immolation case happened yesterday, an 18 year old teenaged Tibetan, Named Nangdrol set himself on fire in Amdo Ngaba, the nerve centre of almost all the Tibetan self-immolations in the recent months.

Date: Tuesday, 21st Feb 2012
Time: 11am to 12 noon
Organised by: Delhi University Students Union and Students for a Free Tibet-India
Venue: March will start from (Delhi University North Campus) Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station to Arts faculty.

Press Contact:

Dorjee Tseten (National Director of Students for a Free Tibet-India): 9911521009

Priya (Delhi University Student and SFT-Delhi Chapter leader): 9958866153

Regards,

SFT Delhi,
C/O Students for a Free Tibet,
12/14 Chushi Gangdruk Complex,
Majnu-Ka-Tila,
Delhi – 110054

http://www.facebook.com/sftdelhi | http://www.twitter.com/sftdelhi | http://www.sftdelhi.wordpress.com
http://www.sftindia.org | http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org

Anti-nuclear conference in Japan calls international day of action, March 11


“We now stand at a crossroads. We have the choice to break out of the nuclear fuel chain and move towards efficient, renewable and sustainable energy that does not threaten health or environment.”

The Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World was held at Pacifico Yokohama on 14 and 15 January 2012. 6000 people on the first day and 5500 on the second, including 100 international participants from over 30 countries, gathered at the conference, with a total of 11,500 participants.

The conference was broadcast live over the internet, with an audience of approximately 100,000. At the closing of the conference, the Yokohama Declaration for a Nuclear Power Free World was announced. The 11 March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and related melt down at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has led to great suffering for the people of Japan and has increased radioactive contamination across the globe. It has also sounded a warning bell throughout the world about the long-term health, environmental and economic risks of nuclear power. As with Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the accident at Fukushima has reminded us once again that nuclear technology is unforgiving and accidents cannot be contained. The situation is not under control as declared by the Japanese Government.

The nuclear power plant is still unstable and workers continue to work under life-threatening conditions. Radioactive contamination is spreading. This is a regional and global emergency. People are either forced to flee with their children or live with unacceptable health dangers and prolonged radiation exposure. In Fukushima prefecture, evidence of radioactive material has been found in the breast milk of mothers and the urine of children. Lives are threatened, including those of future generations. The regional economy has been destroyed. Every step in the nuclear fuel chain has created Hibakusha, a term initially used to describe survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, but now used for all victims of radiation exposure. Uranium mining, nuclear weapons testing, accidents at nuclear power plants, and the storage and transport of nuclear waste have all created Hibakusha. The experience of these Hibakusha around the world is one of secrecy, shame and silence. The right to information, health records, treatment and compensation has been inadequate or denied with excuses of “national security” or due to cost. This lack of accountability is not limited to Japan, but is a problem fundamentally present in the nuclear industry everywhere due to the corrupt relationship between governments and the nuclear industry. We now stand at a crossroads. We have the choice to break out of the nuclear fuel chain and move towards efficient, renewable and sustainable energy that does not threaten health or environment. For the sake of future generations, it is our responsibility to do so.

Turning away from nuclear energy goes hand in hand with nuclear weapons abolition, and will contribute to lasting world peace. The global solidarity shown towards the people of Fukushima and the spirit of those gathered at the Yokohama Global

Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World demonstrates that connections between people are truly what will create the foundations for our future.

We call for:

1. The protection of the rights of those affected by the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident; including the right to evacuation, health care, decontamination, compensation and the right to enjoy the same standard of living as before 11 March 2011;

2. Full transparency, accountability and responsibility of the Japanese Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the establishment of an independent body to disseminate information to the public to reverse the history of concealing information from the public and releasing contradictory information.

3. Ongoing comprehensive data collection and radiation measurement of humans, food, water, soil and air to inform the urgent and necessary measures to minimise the populations exposure to radiation. Data collection will be necessary for generations and inter-agency governmental undertakings and the support of the international community are required. Corporations that have profited from the nuclear industry should carry their share of the costs.

4. A global road map for the phase out of the nuclear fuel chain – from uranium mining to waste – and the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants. The ‘safety myth’ has been destroyed. Nuclear technology has never been safe and has never survived without massive public subsidies. Renewable energy is proven and ready to be deployed on a decentralised and local scale if only policies to promote it were advanced to support local economies, such as Feed-in-Tariffs.

5. Currently closed Japanese nuclear power plants to not be reopened. Japan’s energy needs can be met by implementation of policies including the Feed-in-Tariff law that has been adopted and the structural separation of ownership of transmission and production of energy.

6. The prohibition of export of nuclear power plants and components, especially to industrialising nations in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

7. Support for local and municipal authorities that play an important role in creating a society not dependent on nuclear power. We encourage solidarity between local municipal leaders, regional parliamentarians and civil society to promote strong communities, decentralization, bottom up approaches and an end to economic, racial and gender discrimination.

8. Actions, demonstrations, seminars and media events to be held throughout the world on 11 March 2012 to protest the treatment of the citizens of Fukushima and call for a nuclear power free world. Based on the above principles, the participants of the Global Conference have launched the “Forest of Action for a Nuclear Power Free World”, containing concrete plans for action.

These many recommendations will be submitted as appropriate to the Japanese Government, governments of other nations, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development(Rio+20) and so on. 10,000 people came to the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World in Yokohama, and 30,000 watched online. We, the participants are determined to maintain an international network to support Fukushima, cooperation among those affected by radiation through the Global Hibakusha Network, the establishment of the East Asia Non Nuclear Power Declaration Movement, and a network of local municipal leaders and mayors.

‘Freedom must bring responsibility’


IN 2008,the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) had organised an exhibition on MF Husain to protest the India Art Summit’s reluctance to display the legendary artist’s works. This attracted the ire of some right-wing groups who attacked SAHMAT. Ironically, they ended up destroying Delhi-based photographer Parthiv Shah’s photos of Husain rather than the controversial paintings. The 48-year-old lensman tells Janani Ganesanhow artistic freedom brings its own set of responsibilities for both the artist as well as the State.

 

EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW

What should the State’s role be when a work of art is publicly censored through violent means?
It is not just the State, it is also up to the artist or the organiser to execute something (they believe in). If you want to invite someone to an event, you can do it quietly as well. You can’t take it on and then expect everyone else to protect you. And people who want to protest can do so. But they don’t have any right to hurt me or my photograph. Or on the other hand, if you want to be defiant, then be prepared for the consequences.

When you say the artist should take responsibility for his/her acts, are you suggesting that Article 19(2) should be done away with?
I don’t know how many artists are familiar with the law. They usually don’t come together to form a guild or society like lawyers or architects. Recently, there was an artist who exhibited his paintings of Husain painting Vidya Balan nude and another of Arundhati Roy having sex with Mao. Now this is artistic freedom, but I don’t know what Roy has to say about this. How do you draw lines? When somebody gives you freedom, you are also responsible for it.

So there should be some level of censorship?
I wouldn’t call it censorship. Suddenly, there is a bomb blast and we wake up for a while and go back to sleep. This whole freedom of expression debate is similar to that. Did Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) file an FIR on the people who threatened to attack? If not, then as the JLF team, prominent individuals (present there) should have filed a case. Nobody wants to do anything about this. People reap their own advantages from controversies.

How would you, as an artist, define morality?
Morality changes with the society. There are no rules on morality. As long as you don’t hurt somebody else, it is okay. For that, the whole society has to evolve together. But in India, it is not going to happen now, given the vast differences.

Janani Ganesan is a Correspondent with Tehelka
janani@tehelka.com

‘Our policy is to ban first and hear later’


A SENIORSupreme Court advocate, Rajeev Dhavan has been one of the most trenchant critics of censorship. His book Publish and Be Damned: Censorship and Intolerance in India examines the relationship between political and social censorship. On a winter evening in his South Delhi residence, Dhavan, 65, tells Shonali Ghosal why the liberal space can be easily throttled in India.

Are the seven heads under Article 19(2) too open to interpretation by the government to curb freedom of expression (FoE)?
The seven heads of reasonable restriction in Article 19(2) are interpreted mechanically. If it falls into that slot (defamation), the court will say (it’s a) reasonable restraint. Nobody examines defamation and contempt of law as reasonable restraints. Some of these restraints are huge. For example, public order, decency, morality can mean anything; friendly relations with foreign states is also ambiguous. Free speech would be suffocated. Although the Supreme Court has been strong in protecting FoE as in the case of Price and Page Act, 1962 and Bennett and Coleman on advertisements (1972), nevertheless this wooliness in Article 19(2) is over-extended not just by courts but also by civil society. We find a Shiv Sena interpretation, an RSS interpretation, a CM Modi interpretation and, regrettably, a CPM interpretation when it interfered with Taslima Nasrin’s book.
Can there be a realistic litmus test to determine what is or isn’t a reasonable restriction?
No, because all the categories are fungible. One must realise that the right is fundamental and not the restriction. This is why the government and people censoring have to say “is this the least invasive way we can interfere with each other’s speech?” This is a message to civil society that the Constitution is a principled document. Free speech can never be answered with violence. If those concerned with Salman Rushdie have something against The Satanic Verses, which I personally think is a brilliant interpretation, it should be words against words.

But shouldn’t an artist be allowed to contest another person’s right to be offended?
Everyone has a right to contest what anyone says but what one does not know is how, where and in what way will the contestation take place. The Constitution is abused in ways where the State, at times, has taken a lackadaisical approach to free speech. The Satanic Verses was banned under the Custom’s Act, it was never given a chance to be heard. The policy is to ban first and hear later.

Are we killing the liberal space in India by arming and encouraging all objectionists alike?
The so-called liberal space where people talk and reason with each other is very easily throttled. Take the Khushwant Singh versus Maneka Gandhi case, the HC order stood for years until Sanjay Kaul reversed it. Getting injunction from the court on whatever ground is easy like in the cases of Khushboo and MF Husain where criminal complaints have been filed. Even Justice AM Ahmadi refused to aggregate all cases in one court. The process is the punishment — civil or criminal. Just going through the process of arrest, of bail, of being banned is enough to unsettle anyone.

With ‘offended individuals’ filing cases, artists have to keep attending to cases across the country. While protecting the right to object, isn’t the law neglecting the artist?
The unfortunate law is that a case can be filed wherever the offending exercise of free speech reaches. Former editors tell me that people filed cases in Assam just to make it inconvenient. One recent development that is worrying is that Mumbai has become the defamation capital. The reason: outside Maharashtra, the fees you have to pay is ad valorem fee (in proportion to the amount claimed). In Mumbai, the fee levels out so that you can claim huge amounts on low fee as was witnessed in the Justice PB Sawant case where the court ordered 100 crore damages. You don’t have to pay through your nose by way of fees. In Maharashtra, defamation has become a game to intimidate and harass. The corporates do very well on this.

‘The process is the punishment — just going through arrest, bail or being banned can unsettle anyone’

Should there be a distinction between content one can avoid (a book, a television show) and that you can’t (billboards) when citing disrespect or indecency?
Freedom of speech is subject to time and place. If you’re in a crowd and you say something to someone, that’s immediate. You have the option to read or not read a magazine. Many countries mark sections of magazine stores if they stock adult content. But all this content is available on the net. There are ways, at least on TV to restrain channels. Internet access is another thing altogether but you don’t break a walnut with a sledgehammer as Mr Sibal wants to do. These things require debate rather than the knee-jerk reactions of Kapil Sibal and Markandey Katju.

Shouldn’t we define the caveat about incitement of violence much more narrowly?
Categories on which reasonable restrictions can be made have to be reasonably broad but require Constitutional interpretation to ensure that you don’t ban plays like Tamas or a film like Ore Oru Gramathile. The court has been good in the late ’80s and early ’90s, which is evident from cases like The Bandit Queen where the Delhi High Court took a very aggressive view to cut out portions, which would’ve been removed. The Supreme Court reversed the order as it should have. Intolerance to free speech is on the increase and we don’t know how to deal with it.

Shonali Ghosal is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
shonali@tehelka.com

Open Letter to Navin Jindal



Dear Mr Jindal,
I just finished watching a few videos showing security forces mercilessly beating villagers in Orissa, along with some heartrending pictures of the attack. One of the pictures was of a year and a half old child with a broken foot, another of a seventy year old woman with her blood drenched face, and yet another of a tear stricken eighty year old man with blood oozing from his forehead. Another video shows a laborer lying on a hospital bed with his broken leg, moaning from an unbearable pain, and unable to work for next three months.

I was seized with uncontrollable anger and shame as I watched these videos. I was ashamed of myself that while all these atrocities were being perpetrated, I was powerless to stop them. And who was the target of my anger? This I will describe in this letter.

Mr Jindal, According to one survey, you are the richest person in this country. You make more than 66 crore rupees annually. That comes to more than 5 crore rupees per month. As per Government economists, any villager who earns more than Rs 28 per day is not considered poor. So according to the Government, your income is 66000 times the income of an average person above the poverty line.

I cannot believe that you are so much richer than a person earning Rs 28 a day because you work 66000 times harder. You acquired your ill-gotten wealth by robbing the indigents of this country of the resources hidden beneath their lands, and by selling them. Do you see any difference between a hood who knives and robs someone on the one hand, and you who rob the poor by shedding their blood, on the other? You may disagree, but the poor on whom you have unleashed such brutality with the help of police and local hoods, cannot see even an iota of difference.

The civilized urban dwellers of this country are awed by your patriotism because the Supreme Court of India, as per a case filed by you, passed a judgment according to which every citizen of this country can hoist the tricolor every day at his or her home. But do you think that people mercilessly beaten by your hoods would be enthused to hoist the tricolor when the police and the Government who swear by it forcibly acquire their lands, and anyone brave enough to ask for compensation is brutally beaten by your hoods, and the police stands by silently during this open and ferocious attack on the public.

Mr Jindal, this tricolor is symbolic of the equality between you on the one hand, and the millions of poor people of this country for whom you have nothing but contempt, on the other. You should be thankful that the indigents of this country are not aware of this powerful symbolism, or else they would have grabbed you by the collar, dragged you out from your palatial dwellings, beaten you and brought you to the police station where the station in charge would have thrown you in prison, had his oath to the tricolor been sincere. But, Mr Jindal, it is clear you insist on soaking this tricolor with the blood of innocent people. Don’t you dare to turn the tricolor red. Otherwise the poor will drench this tricolor in their own blood, fly it, and then stand you in a queue, where you will be forced to work all day like other poor people to earn a daily wage of Rs 28. You run a management college. Do your students know that a vast gulf separates what your college teaches, and the barbarism inherent in your own ‘management style’? Do the students of the Jindal Global Law School know how its founder routinely tramples upon and has complete contempt for Law and Constitution.

In order to intimidate and harass villagers demanding compensation, you entrap them in false cases in faraway provinces, so that no one would dare to raise their voice against you. Before every land grab, your hired goons brutally attack anyone who dares to raise their voice against you. You bribe the police who throw such activists in prison. Just a few days ago, the Chhattisgarh Hight Court filed a summons against you, but given the contempt your company has for the Law, it did not even accept the notice. How can they even dare to serve the court order, when it is your money that pays for all the police vehicles in the Raigadh district, and when it is your money that has built all the police stations? Do you also teach the Law students in your college such brilliant ways to circumvent the Law?

To facilitate land grab for your benefit, the Junglemahal region of West Bengal is now infested with Government troops. These poor soldiers are now fighting against the poor people of the region resisting the armed might of the State. The poor are killing each other. When this brutal war is over, when the poor have killed each other to the last, and when you have seized their lands, you will sell the precious mineral wealth underneath these lands to foreign multinationals.

You may call this lawless looting business as usual. But your violent, brazen and shameless deeds are continuously stoking the anger of millions in this country. We will make every effort to channel this anger lest it dissipate, so that they can realize the ideals of equality, and social and economic justice which form the bedrock of our Constitution, and so that India becomes a real democracy rather than the pathetic caricature it has become, where the faux symbolism of the tricolor matters more than its meaning.

If, after reading this letter, you think that I am wrong, I am willing to engage in a public discussion with you on these issues.

Himanshu Kumar
( Translation- Sanjeev Mahajan, USA )

Read original letter in Hindi

 

In Mumbai, buy a baby boy in seven days for 2 lakhs


  Feb 20, 2012 –Mumbai: In an explosive sting operation that lasted for about a week, MiD DAY blows the lid off a thriving baby-selling racket in the city, in which infants are sold like commodities for Rs. 2-3
lakh.

Two MiD DAY reporters posed as a couple and approached the syndicate operating out of the innocuous, even respectable, setting of an orphanage for disabled kids in the far suburb of Ulhasnagar. At the end of the seven days, a six-day-old male child was sold to the undercover scribes for Rs. 2.30 lakh, with zero paperwork and no waiting time.

A resort for innumerable childless couples in this city desperate to enjoy the joys of parenthood without the hassle of the long-winded legal adoption process, the orphanage offers many options for the illegal transaction.

The easiest of these is pay the cash and take the child home within a week, bypassing the interminable waits (anywhere over 2 years) and the extensive documentation required to establish your credentials and financial status. All one needs do is produce an identity proof — authenticity no bar — and the alleged racketeers hand over the child along with the birth certificate with your name on it.

The babies are procured from marginalised couples, who perforce or willingly, sell their offspring for a few thousand rupees: the promise of square meals or some extra money is enough to induce the poor women into being exploited and making reproduction their trade. While they get a minimum amount, the few employees abetting the illicit trade pocket a major share of the rewards.

The kingpin of the racket has been supplying newborns to builders, businessmen and other affluent people across the state, deprived of natural parenthood.

Other than the straightforward purchase, the alleged offenders offer the alternative of surrogacy at the price of Rs. 10 lakh. The surrogacy option included choosing to establish sexual contact with
a woman who would then bear the child in her womb, rather than the more traditional IVF (in-vitro fertilisation). For this, the rate card is contingent on the financial standing of the customer, and the demands of the surrogate mother. She may ask that her accommodation and medical expenses be borne till the time she delivers, other than her fee of a couple of lakhs.

After confirming the presence of the syndicate, we decided to ‘buy’ a child to establish the existence of this child trafficking.

The following is an in-depth account of the sting — as narrated by MiD DAY reporters Bhupen Patel and Shubha Shetty-Saha — starting from February 13, when they found out where the racket is taking place, and concluding seven days later with the sale of a baby.

Read more here

Differently-abled passenger off-loaded SpiceJet Flight for flying unescorted


 

 Feb 20, 2012- An independent, widely travelled woman with cerebral palsy was forced off a Goa-bound plane minutes before take-off from Calcutta airport on Sunday morning because the pilot had reservations about her being on board without an escort.

Jeeja Ghosh, 40, works with an advocacy group of the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy and has been staying and travelling the world on her own since she was a student. So imagine her shock when a smiling flight attendant on board the SpiceJet flight SG 803 walked up to seat 35D to tell her she would need to get off the plane.

“But tell me why?” protested Jeeja, who had clocked thousands of air miles without ever being told her condition was a barrier to flying alone.

The flight attendant, polite but firm, said she would know the reason once she was escorted out of the aircraft. “No, tell me first,” she demanded. No answer.

Flight SG 803 took off for Mumbai en route to Goa on schedule without Jeeja despite her being issued a boarding card, and all because the pilot wouldn’t budge from his stand that a passenger with cerebral palsy should not travel alone.

A senior SpiceJet official said the airline would need to “find out what exactly happened” before making a statement.

Jeeja, who did her postgraduation in social work and disability studies at Leeds in the UK, was to attend a conference in Goa. She narrates to Metro how humiliated she felt on being deplaned for a medical condition she has long overcome to become an educated and successful working woman.

I work for Ankur, an advocacy group through which we fight for the rights of people living with disabilities. I am a frequent visitor to Calcutta airport as I travel regularly to attend workshops and conferences across the country. I visit Delhi the most for work.

On Sunday morning, I was supposed to head for Goa on board SG 803, via Mumbai. It was a SpiceJet flight scheduled to take off at 8.05am and I reached the airport at 7am to check in. I got my boarding pass and informed the airline staff that I would need assistance to board the flight. A person escorted me to the plane and soon I was in my assigned seat. Little did I know what awaited me.

A few minutes later, I noticed the flight crew in a huddle and heard people murmuring my name and pointing at me. Then an airline employee came up to me and politely said: “You will have to accompany me.”

Startled as I was, I asked him the reason. He kept repeating I would need to come out of the aircraft to know the reason. By then, several members of the airline crew were hovering around me. Some of my co-passengers asked why they were bothering me, but they wouldn’t listen. They kept saying I would need to deplane.

“I am a regular flier. All I need is a little bit of assistance,” I tried to convince them, knowing that my condition was the only reason they could target me.

Soon I was seated in a car headed for the terminal. I was seething. I have never felt so insulted. Their sheer insensitivity made me cry.

I called up my senior at work, the executive director of the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy. She tried to convince the airline authorities that I was capable of travelling alone, only to be told that the pilot (Utprabh Tiwari) had a problem flying the aircraft with a “handicapped passenger” travelling unescorted.

The airline staff kept saying: “Very sorry, madam. The pilot insists he cannot take you on board alone.”

I found it nauseating, more so because this man did not have the courage to come up to me and say he had a problem accepting I could take care of myself.

I asked the airline personnel to either arrange for a refund or issue a new ticket to Goa. They gave me a ticket for the Monday morning flight.

The assistant general manager of SpiceJet in Calcutta told me he had spoken to his seniors and that he would make sure I wasn’t harassed and humiliated again.

But what about the pilot’s attitude towards me? His mindset reflects the mental block of society towards people like me. At least I knew where to go and voice my protest. I shudder to think what would happen to another person with disability who has not had similar exposure or opportunities as me.

The airline later issued a statement apologising for the inconvenience caused to the passenger. The airline expressed regret for the incident, and said that the matter will be investigated and action taken

AS TOLD TO SREECHETA DAS, The Telegraph

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