Indian girl trapped in life of cigarette rolling


A pack of Bidi cigarettes

A pack of Bidi cigarettes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By RAVI NESSMAN
Associated Press

DHULIYAN, India — Sagira Ansari sits on a dusty sack outside her uneven brick home in this poor town in eastern India, her legs folded beneath her. She cracks her knuckles, then rubs charcoal ash between her palms.

With the unthinking swiftness of a movement performed countless times before, she slashes a naked razor blade into a square-cut leaf to trim off the veins. She drops in flakes of tobacco, packs them with her thumbs, rolls the leaf tightly between her fingers and ties it off with two twists of a red thread.

For eight hours a day, Sagira makes bidis – thin brown cigarettes that are as central to Indian life as chai and flat bread.

She is 11 years old.

Sagira is among hundreds of thousands of children toiling in the hidden corners of rural India. Many work in hazardous industries crucial to the economy: the fiery brick kilns that underpin the building industry, the pesticide-laden fields that produce its food.

Most of the children in Sagira’s town of Dhuliyan in West Bengal state work in the tobacco dust to feed India’s near limitless demand for bidis.

Under Indian law, this is legal.

Sagira, who has deep brown eyes and a wide smile, joined her family’s bidi work when she was seven. At first she just rolled out thread for her older sisters and brother, then she helped finish off the cigarettes, pushing down the open ends. Last year, she graduated to full-scale rolling.

She is not alone. Her best friend, Amira, also rolls bidis. So do Wasima and Jaminoor and the rest of the girls in a neighborhood that is, at its heart, a giant, open-air bidi factory.

Parents and children roll cigarettes on rooftops, in the alleyways, by the roads. One woman draped in a red shawl in the yard behind Sagira’s house breast feeds her baby while rolling. Of the roughly 20,000 families in Dhuliyan, an estimated 95 percent roll bidis to survive.

Sagira is expert enough that even when distracted, her fingers continue to flit blindly through the tobacco shavings in front of her.

She says the work can make her ill, with a cold, a cough, a fever. Her head often aches. So do her fingers.

Sometimes, she takes her woven basket of tendu leaves and tobacco to the banks of the Ganges to roll in a circle with her friends. She stops every so often to splash in the river for a few moments. Then she gets back to work.

“I can’t play around,” she laments.

Manu Seikh, the bidi king of Sagira’s neighborhood, sits on a roadside bench. In front of him lie orderly stacks of rupee bills – tens, fifties, hundreds – large bags filled with one- and two-rupee coins and a small box holding his asthma inhaler.

He and thousands of middlemen like him are the linchpins that provide the veneer of legality to the bidi industry, insulating the powerful companies selling bidis from the families and children rolling them.

Seikh, 66, got his start in a bidi factory when he was 16, back when bidis were rolled on the factory floor.

A 1986 law barred children under 14 from working with bidis and other hazardous industries, but left a huge loophole that allowed children to assist their families with work performed at home.

So now, while the tobacco is threshed, cut and blended in factories, it is then given to Seikh and other middlemen to distribute to families for rolling. The bidis are then brought back to the factory for roasting, packaging and shipping. A pack of 10 to 12 will retail for 6 rupees, or 12 cents.

The informal nature of the work makes it nearly impossible to count how many of India’s 7 million bidi rollers are children, but estimates range from 250,000 to 1 million.

Every noon, adults and children carry baskets and tubs filled with bundles of bidis to Seikh’s corner stall, where his men scan them for quality, reject those deemed substandard and stack the others in shallow wooden boxes. A bookkeeper makes a note in a ledger and hands over a chit for payment.

Then the rollers receive more tobacco and tendu leaves for another day’s work.

Seikh blames poverty for forcing the children to work, and the government for failing to stop it.

“I am very concerned about children not going to school and losing their futures. But we are helpless,” Seikh says.

In his nearby factory, Ranjan Choudhary, 37, also distances himself from blame, even as boys aged about 7 or 8 slide bidis into plastic pouches and seal them on a small stove.

Whatever the child labor laws say, he sees the industry as “a lifeline” for the people.

“It affects children, but for them to survive, this is the only industry here. There is no other source of income,” he said.

The industry’s chief trade group also brushed off responsibility.

“The child has every right to help the mother. As long as we don’t recruit the children to roll bidis, I don’t think we violate any act,” said Umesh Parekh, chief executive of the All India Bidi Industry Federation.

Bidi rollers should “themselves exercise restraint” in using children, he said, adding that his trade group had no plans to fight against child labor.

“The industry is not doing anything for that. It is for the government to do,” he said.

The government is reevaluating its child labor policy, said Mrutyunjay Sarangi, India’s labor secretary, but had yet to decide on any concrete action.

“We are having discussions,” he said.

India has tacitly recognized this Dickensian nightmare with a recent law making education compulsory up to age 14, said Bhavna Mukhopadhya of the Voluntary Health Association of India, an aid group. “Everything has a time, and I think this is the right time to do it … you have to ban child labor across the board, strictly,” she said.

But efforts to change the labor laws are complicated by the bidi industry’s clout in government. One company owner even sits in the national Cabinet.

Sagira’s town was once a textile center where her family for generations wove scarves and sarongs on hand looms.

Mired in poverty, they lived in a mud and thatch hut and could afford only a single meal a day for their 12 children. “We were starving,” said Sagira’s father, Mahmood Ansari.

Then the Ganges caused flooding that destroyed the family’s house – and its loom.

Meanwhile, merchants from other states realized the cheap labor here would be ideal for bidi work.

Sagira’s grandfather turned to bidi rolling, then her father when he turned 12.

Now, every day at 8 a.m., Sagira, her 17-year-old brother and sisters aged 18 and 14 begin a four-hour rolling session. They stop to bathe and have lunch, spend a few hours cutting the tendu leaves into neat squares and then roll for a few more hours.

Because of bidis, his seven children are far better off than he was, Ansari said.

The family gets 75 rupees ($1.50) for every 1,000 bidis rolled, totaling about $150 a month. That’s enough for three meals a day, with a little fish or egg once a week. A few months ago, Ansari used loans to replace the home of tarps and sticks his family had lived in for two decades with an unfinished two-room house of brick and plaster with dirt floors.

But there is not much hope for Sagira’s future.

She’s only been to school twice in the past month; she’s too busy, her mother, Alea Bibi, said. She only goes when there’s a reason, when new books are being handed out or to register for the aid the government gives to bidi rollers as an incentive to educate their children.

When she does show up, she is humiliated for her absences, made to hold her ears with her elbows outstretched and repeatedly sit down and stand up. It doesn’t work, yet each year she graduates to the next grade, regardless of her attendance.

She barely knows math, but can at least count to 25, the number of bidis in a finished bundle.

But at night, after the work is done, her brother, who rarely attends school himself, uses her schoolbooks to teach her to read.

She dreams of being a schoolteacher.

Far more likely, she will get faster at rolling bidis, which will improve her marriage prospects. Then, as so often happens here, her husband might stop working, and she – and eventually her own children – will become the bidi-rolling breadwinners.

Her father sees no way to break the cycle.

“We are destined to roll bidis,” he said.

Follow Nessman at http://www.twitter.com/ravinessman

 

The Cover Up


By- Anand Ranganathan

A mongoose is a strange animal. In the wild it lives largely underground, spending a considerable chunk of its time constructing large burrow complexes that are as gawk-worthy as any of the upcoming mega-commercial projects you come across from Ahmedabad to Greater Noida. In the cities, you can see it scampering about open drains of unauthorised colonies. But, people like the mongoose. Grandmothers speak of its back-to-the-wall scraps with the cobra, of its bloodied nose and bloodshot eyes and way of digging its teeth deep into its slithering thrashing enemy. A mongoose has bravado and because of this it is also narcissistic, and so it likes to parade around the battle scene much like a triumphant boxer. It knows no fear, has no sense of right or wrong and feels no remorse for its victim. The mongoose likes to move on.

Man too is a strange animal. He is narcissistic, knows no fear, and like the mongoose wants to move on. But man is not strange because of these qualities. No. Man is strange because he refuses to believe that he is an animal, because he demands what he calls ‘justice’, because he believes that the evil among his tribe will be punished.

There is a telling scene in the film Gandhi – its authenticity also referenced in the book Mohandas – where, at a meeting called to discuss Bapu’s decision to shelve the Non-Cooperation Movement in the aftermath of the Chauri Chaura incident, Nehru pleads: “But, Bapu, this is too drastic. The movement is a resounding success; the Brits are on their knees…and just because five policemen were killed you are calling off the whole thing?!” There is a moment of silence. Patel concurs emotionally while Jinnah’s poker eye stares through the monocle. Bapu says: “Tell that to the widows of those five policemen; you do that.” Historians may debate the effect the Non-Cooperation Movement may have had on the oppressor’s psyche had it continued unabated with the same vigour with which it was launched. But the fact remains that India got Independence precisely twenty five years after that one single sentence was uttered.

Men who are brave walk alone, but not those who have bravado – these men need a gang, a squad of like-minded people who see eye-to-eye but are blind to their leader’s failings; and onwards and upwards moves this bandwagon, from city to city, state to state, country to country, strength to strength. All along the route, for every man who shouts and screams, “Injustice!” there are a hundred who say “What nonsense!” For every man who feels for the widows of those five policemen, there are a thousand who shout him down with cries of, “The movement must go on! WE must move on!” For every woman who wants to be a mobile republic, there are a million who want their republic to have mobiles, and cars and washing machines and mining leases.

Injustice? What injustice? Pop into a lab if you want to see injustice; stand and stare at the rat who ekes out a pitiful cream-coloured dropping soon as its peritoneum is jabbed with a cruel needle; watch the guinea pig just before he’s about to become a guinea pig; admire the monkey who pretends death in case it is pulled out and sacrificed for a data point.

More at newslaundry

 

There’s no escape from the corporations that run India


Arundhati Roy, in Guardian

Domestic mega-corporations’ tentacles extend into every aspect of Indian life – but no one dares speak out against them

Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, is personally worth $20bn. He holds a majority controlling share in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), a company with a market capitalisation of $47bn and global business interests that include petrochemicals, oil, natural gas, polyester fibre, special economic zones, fresh food retail, high schools, life sciences research and stem cell storage services. RIL recently bought 95% shares in Infotel, a TV consortium that controls 27 TV news and entertainment channels in almost every regional language. Infotel owns the only nationwide license for 4G broadband. Ambani also owns a cricket team.

RIL is one of a handful of corporations that run India. Some of the others are the Tatas, Jindals, Vedanta, Mittals, Infosys, Essar and the other Reliance (Adag), owned by Mukesh’s brother Anil. Their race for growth has spilled across Europe, central Asia, Africa and Latin America. Their nets are cast wide; they are visible and invisible, overground as well as underground. The Tatas, for example, run more than 100 companies in 80 countries. They are one of India’s oldest and largest private sector power companies. They own mines, gas fields, steel plants, telephone, cable TV and broadband networks, and run whole townships. They manufacture cars and trucks, own the Taj hotel chain, Jaguar, Land Rover, Daewoo, Tetley Tea, a publishing company, a chain of bookstores, a major brand of iodised salt and the cosmetics giant Lakme. Their advertising tagline could easily be “you can’t live without us”.

The era of the privatisation of everything has made the Indian economy one of the fastest growing in the world. However, like any good old-fashioned colony, one of its main exports is its minerals. India’s new mega-corporations are those who have managed to muscle their way to the head of the spigot that is spewing money extracted from deep inside the earth. It’s a dream come true for businessmen – to be able to sell what they don’t have to buy.

Of late, the main mining conglomerates have embraced the arts – film, art installations and the rush of literary festivals that have replaced the 1990s obsession with beauty contests. Vedanta, currently mining the heart out of the homelands of the ancient Dongria Kond tribe for bauxite, is sponsoring a “Creating Happiness” film competition for young film students who they have commissioned to make films on sustainable development. Vedanta’s tagline is “Mining Happiness”.

The Jindal Group brings out a contemporary art magazine and supports some of India’s major artists (who naturally work with stainless steel). Essar was the principal sponsor of the Tehelka Newsweek Think Fest that promised “high-octane debates” by the foremost thinkers from around the world, which included major writers, activists and even the architect Frank Gehry.

Tata Steel and Rio Tinto (which has a sordid track record of its own) were among the chief sponsors of the Jaipur literary festival. . Many of the world’s best and brightest writers gathered to discuss love, literature, politics and Sufi poetry. Some tried to defend Salman Rushdie‘s right to free speech by reading from his proscribed book, The Satanic Verses. In every TV frame and newspaper photograph the logo of Tata Steel (and its tagline, “Values Stronger Than Steel”) loomed, a benign, benevolent host. The enemies of free speech were the supposedly murderous Muslim mobs, who, the festival organisers told us, could have even harmed the schoolchildren gathered there.

Yes, the hardline Darul-uloom Deoband Islamic seminary did protest at Rushdie being invited to the festival. Yes, some Islamists did gather at the festival venue to protest and yes, outrageously, the state government did nothing to protect the venue. The battle for free speech against Islamist fundamentalism made it to the world’s newspapers. It is important that it did. But there were hardly any reports about Tata, the festival sponsors’ role in the war in the forests of central India – a war ostensibly waged against Maoists, but actually against all those who are resisting displacement by corporations such as Tata.

There were no reports either about the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, which make even thinking an anti-government thought an offence. Or about the mandatory public hearing for the Tata Steel plant in Lohandiguda which local people complained actually took place hundreds of miles away in Jagdalpur, with a hired audience of 50 people, under armed guard. Where was free speech then?

No one mentioned Kalinganagar where, in 2006, police fired on those who protested against the construction of a boundary wall by Tata Steel. No one mentioned that journalists, academics and film-makers working on subjects unpopular with the Indian government – like the surreptitious part it played in the genocide of Tamils in the war in Sri Lanka, or the recently discovered unmarked graves in Kashmir – were being denied visas or deported straight from the airport.

But which of us sinners was going to cast the first stone? Not me, who lives off royalties from corporate publishing houses. We all watch Tata Sky, we surf the net with Tata Photon, we ride in Tata taxis, we stay in Tata hotels, sip our Tata tea in Tata bone china and stir it with teaspoons made of Tata steel. We buy Tata books in Tata bookshops. Hum Tata ka namak khatey hain. We’re under siege.

But which of us sinners was going to cast the first stone? Not me, who lives off royalties from corporate publishing houses. We all watch Tata Sky, we surf the net with Tata Photon, we ride in Tata taxis, we stay in Tata hotels, sip our Tata tea in Tata bone china and stir it with teaspoons made of Tata steel. We buy Tata books in Tata bookshops. Hum Tata ka namak khatey hain. We’re under siege.

If the sledgehammer of moral purity is to be the criteria for stone-throwing, then the only people who qualify are those who have been silenced already. Those who live outside the system; the outlaws in the forests or those whose protests are never covered by the press, or the well-behaved dispossessed, who go from tribunal to tribunal, bearing witness, giving testimony.

But the Litfest gave us our aha! moment. Oprah came. She said she loved India, that she would come again and again. It made us proud.

Read original article- Capitalism: A Ghost Story

Chhattisgarh Vs Jayaswal throws light on murky mine sector


 In a petition filed in the Delhi high court, the state alleges that the firm forged papers to get iron ore mining lease

Ruchira Singh reports in Mint

New Delhi: The Chhattisgarh government has filed a writ petition in the Delhi high court against the Central government over Jayaswal Neco Ltd’s applications for mining leases in a case that throws light on the murky world of mining in India.

The state alleges that the mid-sized steel-maker forged documents in its application to get iron ore mining leases in Rowghat in Bastar district and that the Union government directed it to consider the application favourably—even after the state showed investigative reports that said Jayaswal Neco had allegedly faked paperwork to show it had conducted prospecting (preliminary exploration) in Rowghat when it had actually not done so.

Neither the company secretary of Jayaswal Neco nor India’s mining secretary responded to e-mails or phone calls seeking comment.

India’s mining sector has been in the spotlight over allegations of rampant illegal mining and activists, government officials and company executives have spoken about the opaque way in which many leases are issued and the way some unscrupulous miners secure their interests.

The Jayaswal Neco case, which will be heard on 30 April, may reveal the inner workings of miners and government officials—especially if the court finds the allegations contained in the 205-page petition to be true.

At stake are iron ore deposits of 280 million tonnes (mt) valued at over Rs. 80,000 crore, in
Rowghat iron ore deposits A, B, C, D, E situated in the reserved forest area of Narayanpur forest division of Kanker forest circle of Bastar, the writ petition says.

Jayaswal Neco, a 1mt steel producer based in Nagpur, is listed on BSE as Jayaswal Neco Industries Ltd and has been trying to get four mining leases in the Rowghat iron ore deposits on the grounds that it had prospecting licences in 1999 and, therefore, must get preferential allotment.

These forests are Maoist territory, but are nonetheless attractive for steel companies given the shortage of mineral resources in the country. Tata Steel Ltd, also eyeing the deposits, impleaded itself in the case and has been named respondent number three, after the Union government and Jayaswal Neco.

“Any deposits in that area are valuable because of the proximity to steel plants (in east India) as well as the general quality of the ores,” said Ravindra Deshpande, metals analyst at Elara Securities (India) Pvt. Ltd.

Rowghat’s deposit F belongs to Steel Authority of India Ltd’s Bhilai Steel Plant, and amid security fears, the company has retained Chhattisgarh State Power Transmission Co. Ltd and the railways to create the required infrastructure before developing the mine.

Prospecting claims

Jayaswal Neco’s prospecting licences (PLs) for a total of 1601.47 hectares in and around Rowghat’s deposits A to E, were valid for up to two years and in 2000 the company made an application to the Chhattisgarh government asking for mining leases (ML) in the very same areas claiming preferential rights under the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act (MMDR Act), the writ petition shows.

Till 2006, its applications remained in the initial stages. Then, the divisional forest officer, Narayanpur, informed the state’s mineral resources department that Jayaswal Neco had not undertaken any prospecting operations. The department’s suspicions were further aroused, the writ shows, when state government officials scrutinizing Jayaswal Neco’s application found references to the “state government of Chhattisgarh” in back-dated papers. Chhattisgarh had not been created at the time (the state was formed in November 2000).

In 2007, the state government rejected all applications after Jayaswal Neco failed to provide proof justifying its claim.

“As prices of iron ore had started rising, there was a lot of pressure from companies to get mining leases,” said an official in the Chhattisgarh government who did not want to be identified.

Jayaswal Neco filed a “revision application” with the appropriate authority in the central government’s mines ministry. “With their revision application, respondent number two (Jayaswal Neco) filed photocopies of two letters dated 20.1.2000, purportedly having been written by the Conservator of Forest (CF), Kanker Forest Circle to the Divisional Forest Officer, Narayanpur, conveying permission for prospecting operations in 186 ha and 388 ha of PL areas,” the writ says. “However, no such letters were ever issued by the CF, Kanker, which are prima facie and to our belief, forged documents.”

The state government wrote to the secretary of mines for instituting an inquiry by the office of the controller general, Indian Bureau of Mines, in Nagpur.

“Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of the Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd. (MECL)/Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) conducted an inquiry into state government’s complaint and submitted a detailed report to the ministry of mines confirming that the alleged irregularities had in fact been committed in the Office of Regional Controller, IBM Nagpur,” the writ says. “In the CVO’s report, prospecting reports submitted by respondent number two were found to be ante-dated and acknowledgements issued by the Office of Regional Controller, IBM, Nagpur to respondent number two, to be forged,” it adds.

Centre’s role

Read full article here

The illegitimate children of the Republic


Javed Iqbal | Monday, March 19, 2012, DNA

Torture has long been employed by well-meaning, even reasonable people armed with the sincere belief that they are preserving civilisation as they know it.

Aristotle favoured the use of torture in extracting evidence, speaking of its absolute credibility, and St Augustine also defended the practice. Torture was routine in ancient Greece and Rome, and although the methods have changed in the intervening centuries, the goals of the torturer — to gain information, to punish, to force an individual to change his beliefs of loyalties, to intimidate a community — have not changed at all.’ — from The Dynamics of Torture, by John Conroy.

The medical report on adivasi teacher Soni Sori’s condition while she was in police custody submitted in the Supreme Court stated that stones were found lodged in her vagina and her rectum.

The Supreme Court had given the Chhattisgarh government 55 days to respond, and sent her back to the Chhattisgarh jails, and revealed once again that the rule of law and the Constitution are divorcing themselves from the aspirations of citizens, whose fundamental right to life has to be protected by the courts, not something the state is allowed to take away the instant she is considered a Maoist sympathiser.

Her hearing was supposed to be held on January 25, but never came up. Instead, Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg, whom she accused of torturing her, won the president’s medal for gallantry on Republic Day for his conduct during an encounter with the Maoists in 2010. Since then, her case has been listed but hasn’t been heard, it being over five months since she was tortured.

To the state machinery, it remains a story of he said-she said, as torture in police custody leaves no witnesses besides the tortured themselves. But in this case, the accused has a medical report from Kolkata to confirm her allegations. Even then, custodial violence is endemic.

The National Human Rights Commission is on record saying that 1,574 custodial deaths took place between April 2010 and March 2011. And between 2001 and 2011, there were around 15,231 custodial deaths, according to the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The unaccounted and the unaccountable:


Meena Khalko, 16, was killed in an alleged encounter and accused as a Maoist. Allegations surfaced that she was raped and murdered. The Chhattisgarh home minister parroted his police officials, who said she was ‘habitual about sex’ and had links with truck drivers.

Read the Full Article here

 

Unreliable Aadhar data to be used for Food Bill


200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SAGNIK DUTTA NEW DELHI | 18th Mar , Sunday Guardian

A customer pushes a shopping trolley down an aisle at a retail supermarket in Mumbai on Friday. ‘It is unlikely that UIDAI will improve the efficiency of the government’s welfare schemes this year.’ REUTERS

hile the government is banking heavily on the Aadhar data supplied by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for the implementation of the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) and better targeting of fertiliser subsidies, the reliability of the data is in itself in question.

In fact, a Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on Finance had questioned the legality of the collection of biometrics for creating a citizen database in December 2011. Also, the process of creation of a citizens’ database was outsourced to a third party with no means of adequate monitoring of their activities. The Union Finance Minister seems to have placed immense faith in this one-technology driven initiative to deliver many ambitious fiscal targets. But most of the UID-based delivery schemes will be pilot projects to be rolled out in a few chosen districts. It is unlikely that they will improve the efficiency and accuracy of the government’s gargantuan welfare schemes this year.

Pranab Mukherjee, in his Budget speech, said, “To ensure that the objectives of the National Food Security Bill are effectively realised, a Public Distribution System using the Aadhar platform is being created.” The Finance Minister also mentioned, “The recommendations of the task force headed by Nandan Nilekani on IT strategy for direct transfer of subsidy have been accepted.” Speaking to this newspaper, Anupam Saraf, a former Governance Advisor to the Government of Goa and an independent leadership, strategy and innovation mentor, said, “The process of registering individuals under Aadhar was assigned to third parties. There is no way to ensure that the third parties will not register non-existent individuals. This leaves a lot of room for massive scams, corruption and leakages if the data is used for distribution of subsidies. Thus the proposed Food Security Bill and targeting of fertilizer subsidies will be based on data which is not reliable. Instead of better targeting of subsidies, it will only lead to more leakages.”

Saraf added, “A population register is already maintained by the Registrar General of India at present. The registration of citizens and the issuing of national identity cards are already provided for under the Citizenship Act 1955. This population register could have been used as a database for targeting subsidies instead of the Aadhar data.”

“Also, there has been no audit of the UID project by an independent authority. The CAG should audit the entire process of creation of a people’s database,” Saraf said.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance in December 2011 had said, “The collection of biometric information and its linkage with personal information without amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 as well as the Citizenship (registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards Rules 2003, appears to be beyond the scope of subordinate legislation, which needs to be examined in detail by the Parliament.”

Koodankulam Alert March 20 -2012


Koodankulam Update March 20, 2012 7:30 AM

Police have arrested 18 men more at Koodankulam last night but nothing happened here at Idinthakarai at night. Some 5,000 women, men and children slept around St. Lourdes Church. Some 185 men and women and their Parish Priest Fr. Suseelan were arrested at Koottapuli village when they sat down by the side of the road protesting against the police peacefully. They are
being held at Tirunelveli armed reserve camp. The other group of 9 people including our Struggle Committee members Adv. Sivasubramanian and Rajalingom, arrested yesterday and now charged with sedition including Sections 121, 121A and 153A, has been taken to Tirunelveli also and we do not know where they are being held.

In the meantime, Muhilan, another leading activist of PMANE was arrested on his way to Idinthakarai and he is kept at the police headquarters in Tirunelveli.
Police have clamped down Section 144 in our area prohibiting people from congregating in any manner. So no one can walk or move around. Despite this curfew, people keep coming to Idinthakarai by boats and on foot. There is an unprecedented
deployment of police around Koodankulam and it is highly condemnable that the police are harassing the peaceful protesters to this extent. Some 15 of us (8 men and 7 women) including Pushparayan and myself are on indefinite hunger
strike here at Idinthakarai demanding:
[1] the immediate release of our comrades,
 [2] the withdrawal of the Tamil Nadu cabinet resolution,
 [3] a thorough and complete probe of geologists, hydrologists and oceanographers into the safety issues of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant,
 [4] release of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) signed secretly by the governments of India and Russia on liability in February 2008, and
 [5] conduct safety drills and evacuation drills in the 30-km radius of the Koodankulam project.

There could be public health problems and food shortage in a few days here at Idinthakarai. We appeal to the people of
Tamil Nadu to be aware of this assault on the Tamil community.

We appeal to the people of India to be mindful of impending nuclear nightmares in our highly and densely populated country such as ours. We appeal to the people of the world to keep a watchful eye on the forceful implementation of a mega-nuclear project on our people without giving us any basic information about the project or conducting any public hearing. They are preparing to load uranium fuel rods into the reactor without conducting any safety or evacuation drills. This kind of
Fascist development is taking our country to another round of New East India Companies  and Neo-colonialism.

Please do everything you possibly can to condemn this police harassment and nuclear madness and to express your solidarity.

Struggle Committee
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy

PUCL condemns the unprovoked arrests if the ANTI-KKNPP ACTIVISTS


PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES– TAMIL NADU AND PUDUCHERRY

Hussaina Manzil, III Floor, 255 (old No. 123) Angappa Naicken Street, Chennai 600 001.

Phone: 91-44- 25352459

President: Dr. V. Suresh General Secretary: S. Balamurugan

94442-31497 94432-13501

19 /03/ 2012

To

The Chief Reporter FOR FAVOUR OF PUBLICATION

PUCL CONDEMNS THE UNPROVOKED ARRESTS OF THE ANTI-KKNPP ACTIVISTS

Sir/Madam,

PUCL, TAMIL NADU-PUDUCHERRY strongly condemns the arbitrary and illegal exercise of police repression by the Tamil Nadu State Government against peacefully demonstrating local protestors in Koodankulam today, 19.3.2012. What exposes the deceitful move of the State Government is the fact that the State Government which had been conducting discussions with the protesting villagers, did not even bother to inform the public about its final decision ; while so, the Tamil Nadu State Government moved in more than 5,000 armed police early this morning encircling Idinthakrai and neighbouring villages. The operation resembled a military action of `encirclement and suppression’ and was wholly an unnecessary show of police might against peaceful, unarmed demonstrators.

The Police action against idinthakrai villagers resembles the Jalianwalabagh incident and raises concern about the true intention of the State Government’s action coming immediately after the Sankarankovil bye-elections. The least the State Government could have done is to take the Koodankulam and Idinthakarai villagers into confidence and engage in democratic discussions. Such Police action is wholly unwarranted and is meant to intimidate local villagers and citizens.

We condemn the State Government’s dishonest police crackdown as an act of democratic betrayal without parallel.

We condemn the illegal arrest of villagers as also the arrest of Sivasubramaniam, Advocate and Rajalingam at the struggle committee office which was set up near the plant with the concurrence and approval of the District Collector and the State government aothers. PUCL demands immediate and unconditional release of all arrested villagers. PUCL also demands immediate withdrawal of Police force from the area. PUCL also calls upon the state government to resume dialogue with the villagers and desist from using force and unleashing repression.

With Regards,

(Dr. V. Suresh)

National Secretary.

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