WTF : CITU’s demand government to Strengthen Cyberpolicing!

Mar 31, 2012

Published on the eve of the Seminar on IT organized at Kozhikode in connection with the 20th Party Congress of CPI(M)

Resolution on IT sector adopted in 11th National Conference of CITU held at Chandigarh

Information Technology (IT) Sector

Ensure social security and minimum wage for workers in IT sector

Institute comprehensive safeguards for women working in IT field

Strengthen Cyber-Policing against antisocial activities on the Net

Promote Free and Open Source Softwares(FOSS)

This Conference requests the Government to ensure social security in Information Technology sector by implementing various measures including minimum wage, welfare fund and social security registration. This Conference demands that the contributions made by men and women working in IT sector towards creation of a better world for humanity should get acknowledged properly and that they should get adequate compensation and a good and healthy working environment.

This Conference demands that Cyber-Policing should be strengthened and strong and effective actions should be initiated against all anti-national and anti-social forces who are bent upon exploiting bugs and loopholes in existing technology to engage in sexual blackmailing, funds pilferage, character assassination, terrorism and other anti-social and anti-national activities. This Conference also demands that institutional safeguards against gender exploitation should be implemented in all establishments in the IT sector considering the fact that IT employ a large number of women.

This Conference wholeheartedly welcomes the lofty anti-monopoly ideals put forward by free and open softwares(FOSS),alternatively called Swathantra Softwares. This Conference requests all concerned to take steps to replace all proprietary softwares with free and open source softwares. This conference invites the attention of all concerned to the possibility of hostile cyber attacks utilizing vulnerabilities present in proprietary softwares if we continue using such proprietary softwares.

This conference notes the rapid growth of employment in IT and e-Governance sectors in India including the so-called Unique ID card initiative being promoted by the Government of India; e-Governance is expected to make governance relatively more people friendly, transparent and accountable. However this conference notes with dismay that such transparency and accountability are unfortunately missing in the execution of most e-Governance projects. Outsourcing and contract labor is being widely practiced in most e-Governance schemes without much regard to the welfare of those actually working to make these projects successful. The employment conditions of those working for various e-Governance projects needs much improvement. Hence this Conference demands that the Government take all steps to mitigate the employment related problems faced by those working in various e-Governance projects and related sectors and publish the actions taken on the web.

In Kolkata, nine-year-old girl spends 9 hours in police lockup

KOLKATA, TNN , April 9 : After more promises of rehabilitation, the administration again cracked down on Nonadanga settlers protesting against their eviction. Police rounded up 69 agitators, including a nine-year-old girl, and locked them up at Lalbazar for nine hours on Sunday.

At night, 62 of them were released, while seven leaders of the anti-eviction movement were booked on non-bailable charges. Three days ago, urban development minister Firhad Hakim had promised to review the rehabilitation scope for Nonadanga evictees.

The seven leaders include Debolina Chakraborty, Sidhartha Gupta, Debjani Ghosh, Abhigyan Sarkar, Partha Sarathi Roy, Shamik Chakraborty and Amal Chatterjee. While Shamik and Amal are activists of Mazdoor Kranti Parishad, the others belong to different mass organizations.

On Sunday morning, shanty dwellers of Nonadanga assembled near Ruby crossing off EM Bypass to demand rehabilitation of the evicted squatters. “It was a scheduled programme and we had informed Kolkata Police well in advance,” said Shamik Chakraborty, one of the leaders of Nonadanga Uchhed Birodhi Committee – the anti-eviction forum fighting for rehabilitation of the squatters.

The demonstration began around 10am. It was being held away from the main thoroughfare, so there was no chance of traffic disruption, claimed the organizers.

Shortly before noon, a large police force, led by deputy commissioner Basab Dasgupta, visited the spot and reportedly asked the agitators to leave at once.

“We refused to give in. But they forced us to stop. They pushed us into the prison van and dispersed the gathering by chasing the protesters,” said Abhay, another leader of the forum.

Debolina Chakraborty, one of the organizers, said that initially they were taken to Tiljala police station and then to the central lockup at the Lalbazar police headquarters.

“Police arrested 69 of us including 39 women and a child of nine years,” said Parag Banerjee, one of the agitators. Police denied detaining the child and said 61 people had been held.

Confusion has taken place over the number of the arrest as DC SSD Sujay Chanda said, “We have arrested 61 persons under 151 IPC (considered as preventive arrest) and the case was registered at Kasba police station.” He denied that nine-year-old Monika Kumari Shaw was arrested. TOI, however, confirmed that the child was in the lockup with her mother till 9pm with all other arrested agitators.

At night, police released 62 of the detainees on personal release bond, but they booked seven leaders in connection with a case registered at Tiljala police station on Wednesday.

On that afternoon, six persons – including an 18-month-old infant – were injured in a lathicharge on a rally of the evictees. “These seven persons have been arrested under Sections 143,149,332,341,342 353 of IPC which suggests that they had provoked people in wrongful activity, assembled illegally, and wrongfully restrained and resisted policemen,” said a senior officer. The forum however claimed that Sarkar, Debjani and Partha Sarathi Roy were not present in Wednesday’s rally.

Amitava Bhattacharya, secretary of Mazdoor Kranti Parishad, condemned the arrest. “It was a peaceful assembly and it was an announced programme. It’s a fascist step taken by the government to gag the voice of democratic protest,” said Bhattacharya.

The forum has decided to march from College Square to Writers’ Buildings on Monday. Rights organizations like APDR and Bandi Mukti Committee and USDF have said they will join the rally. “We strongly condemn the arrest,” said Choton Das, secretary Bandi Mukti Committee.

State government perhaps in a bid to take strong arm policy against the Nonadanga anti-eviction movement. Despite an assurance from state urban development minister Firhad Hakim on Thursday to review the rehabilitation scope of the evictees, on Sunday once again police operation was conducted against the agitating evictees. Cops rounded up 69 agitators including a nine-year-old girl and put them in Lalbazar Central lock up till late evening since noon.

Later at night cops released 62 among them but rounded up seven leaders of the movement in stringent non-bailable charges.latter two are known activists of Mazdoor Kranti Parishad then previous five are from different mass organizations.

Toward Universal Health Coverage

Published: April 5, 2012

Two recent events underscore the disparity between the United States and the rest of the world on health coverage. Last week, American reactions to the Supreme Court hearings showed how deeply divided the nation is on the subject. This week, at an international forum in Mexico City, country delegates from around the globe made clear that they are not only aiming for universal coverage but also rapidly getting there.

Except for the United States, the 25 wealthiest nations now have some form of it. Others are not far behind, including Brazil and Thailand. Even nations at lower income levels, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Rwanda and Ghana are working toward it. India, South Africa, China and Colombia are on the move, too.

Mexico has just crossed the goal line. Its reformers would be the first to say that many more improvements are needed, but their accomplishment is nonetheless noteworthy because they faced challenges no less daunting than the United States does today — and had fewer resources to draw on (Mexico’s economy is one tenth the size of the United States’). Special interests resisted change, dysfunctional fragmentation impeded progress, and poor, highly needy groups dispersed in remote locations had to be reached.

One of the hardest challenges was that many Mexicans — from top leaders to ordinary citizens — were skeptical that any solution would help. So the reformers had to find powerful evidence, which included pilot-testing of their proposals. Also key was a strategy that combined expansion of coverage with two other initiatives. A new means of paying doctors and hospitals ended incentives to provide as many services as possible. An emphasis on prevention helped avert illness and its high costs. All three were essential: If the latter two elements had been absent, expansion of coverage would have been too expensive.

The United States now faces this same problem. If the Supreme Court strikes down the Obama law, there could still be a hefty expansion in coverage because much of that expansion has already happened, and voters would resist having it taken away. But the cost-containment components in the law would be killed, so costs overall could shoot up — the exact opposite of what many opponents of the bill want.

What other lessons are there from Mexico’s and other countries’ efforts?

For starters, the ABCDE of successful reform is crucial.

A — agenda — means that a compelling case has to be made, linking health improvement to other societal concerns, such as economic growth, job creation and political stability.

B — budget — is about securing adequate resources, though the United States, which spends far more on health already than others do per person, needs to focus on spending more efficiently.

C — capacity — is about ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place to meet the expanded demand.

D — deliverables — means that the reforms have to deliver on their promises if support for them is to be sustained.

E — evidence and evaluation — stresses the importance of continuously probing for ways to improve.

Another lesson is that universal coverage cannot be achieved through employer plans alone, since they don’t reach the large numbers of self-employed, unemployed, retired people and those who work in small businesses.

Still another lesson is that one size definitely does not fit all. A country’s culture and politics matters. Take, for instance, the roles of government and the private sector. The fears some Americans have about big government are not borne out by results in other countries, where the private sector continues to have a vibrant roles, especially in the provision of services, while the government concentrates more on financing, stewardship of the whole system and ensuring a level playing field.

The U.S. health care system already has much more of a public-private mix than is commonly realized — in some ways far more that in less developed countries. Also, success doesn’t come overnight: An eight-year transition period was needed in Mexico, and some countries have taken longer.

Historically, many things that today people everywhere agree should be collective responsibilities were once purely private matters. The United States, for example, led the way in making education universal long before most other countries did.

Experiences from elsewhere — including lessons about what not to do — can help the United States to better craft whatever is best for its own unique needs and preferences. They can also suggest ways to use American ingenuity to get beyond rancor and ideology and get down to the nuts and bolts.

The trend elsewhere toward universal coverage and Mexico’s achievement this week stand as reminders of how much the United States can attain if it finds its way again to the problem-solving leadership role

David de Ferranti, a former vice president of the World Bank, is president of the Results for Development Institute in Washington. Julio Frenk, a former minister of health in Mexico, is dean of the Harvard School of Public Health

At Home with Violence: Ethnic LIfe in Colombo by Sharika Thiranagama


Colombo, where every anti-Tamil riot in Sri Lanka has begun, is, at the same time, a city of many Tamil-speaking (and other) minorities. This paper takes Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka and the urban heart of Sri Lanka to argue that Colombo has had to perform its Sinhala nationalist credentials constantly because it is “a city which is not one” (Tagg 1996). The paper examines the ways in which people make themselves at home in an ethnically divided city that has never fully been intelligible to its dwellers as one city. Here violence is taken as critical to Tamil phenemenologies of the city. Riots, bombs, and the checkpoints that crisscrossed Colombo made violence a constant feared spectacle of the urban, images of the possible bound by past violence. Yet Tamil spaces of relative safety also presented themselves, due to fear of the separatist LTTE and exploitation by other Tamils, as spaces of un-safety. This paper will takes these everyday practices of inhabiting Colombo as a minority to reflect further on the major dilemmas and political conflicts now facing Sri Lanka in its post-war future.

Speaker Bio: Sharika Thiranagama’s research has focused on various aspects of the Sri Lankan civil war. Primarily, she has conducted research with two different ethnic groups, Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims. Her research explores changing forms of ethnicisation, the effects of protracted civil war on ideas of home in the midst of profound displacement and the transformations in and relationships between the political and the familial in the midst of political repression and militarization.

POSCO’s steel dreams laid to rust

 With the National Green Tribunal scrapping environment clearance, Posco’s seven-year-wait is extended further, reports Bibhuti Pati in TEHELKA 

ON 30 March 2012, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) delivered a judgment that has sent India’s largest FDI back to the drawing table. In the landmark order, the NGT suspended the conditional environment clearance granted last year, and directed the environment ministry to carry out a ‘fresh review’ of the POSCO project. The project, a 12 million tonne iron and steel plant, has been one of India’s most hotly debated industrial projects. More than seven years since it was first proposed, the project has been symptomatic of India’s development riddle itself. While POSCO supporters see the project as a boost for India’s investment credentials, adversaries point to major irregularities and violations of law, human displacement, and the potential of largescale environment disaster.

In a vindication of protests against POSCO, the NGT in its order has noted that the full impact of the project is yet to be measured, since environmental impact assessments were made only for a 4 million tonne plant, not the full 12MT which POSCO plans to expand to. This is what TEHELKA had earlier reported, detailing the loopholes in the ministry’s clearance. While the environment clearance was given for a 4 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) steel plant, resources — land, water and iron ore — were allocated for a 12 MTPA project. (See ;Whose steel? Who’s stealing? TEHELKA 11 December 2010).

Significantly, this judgment comes just days after PM Manmohan Singh assured South Korea that efforts were under way for an early implementation of the POSCO project in Odisha. Singh told South Korean business leaders in Seoul that the government was “keen to move forward with the project,” while adding, “India is a stable and profitable long-term investment opportunity.”

The NGT bench consisted of members Justice CV Ramulu and Devendra Kumar Agarwal. The tribunal observed: “A close scrutiny of the entire scheme reveals that a project of this magnitude, particularly in partnership with a foreign country, has been dealt with casually, without there being any comprehensive scientific data regarding the possible environmental impacts. No meticulous scientific study was made on each and every aspect of the matter, leaving lingering and threatening environmental and ecological doubts unanswered.”

Just 48 hours before the tribunal ruling on POSCO, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out serious irregularities in the allocation of land to private promoters, misuse of emergency provisions for land acquisition and under-valuation of compensation for private land owners by the Odisha government. “The government misused the emergency provision under Section 17(4) of the Land Acquisition Act in several cases, depriving the land losers of the opportunity to be heard,” said the CAG report, tabled in the Odisha Assembly. The audit report pointed out that the state government acquired nearly 438 acre by paying a compensation of Rs 11.85 crore while the present market value of the land is more than Rs 65 crore.

The Odisha government had signed an MOU with POSCO for the steel plant to be set up near Paradip port, in Jagatsinghpur district in 2005. It has been embroiled in controversy since.

In August 2010, POSCO’s forest clearance was suspended following complaints of violations of law.

An enquiry committee constituted under Meena Gupta, a former MoEF secretary, was formed to review the project. In October 2010, three members of the enquiry committee submitted a landmark report saying environmental and forest clearances were illegal, while Meena Gupta dissented to say that the project can be cleared with additional conditions. On 31 January 2011, the MoEF with Jairam Ramesh as environment minister upheld all clearances to POSCO, while prescribing some additional conditions, mostly consisting of studies to be done in future. In June 2011, Prafulla Santra, an activist and convener of National Alliance of People’s Movement, challenged the final order in the NGT. This tribunal was created by the environment ministry two years ago to provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts. POSCO has the option of appealing against this ruling in the Supreme Court.

In its ruling, the NGT questioned the appointment of Meena Gupta as the chairperson of the review committee, which was set up by the MoEF, stating that the ministry had ignored the views of the other three members and accepted Gupta’s arguments. “Whether Meena Gupta’s actions are fair or not, they are definitely hit by her personal, official, departmental bias. This is in gross violation of principles of natural justice,” the tribunal stated.
CAG pointed out irregularities in the allocation of land to private promoters by the ruling BJD

Describing this order as a ‘conspiracy’ against the state, ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLAs have now asked the state government to clear doubts over the fate of this Rs 52,000-crore mega project. The issue was raised in the Odisha assembly during zero hour, when members of the treasury bench along with those of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) expressed concern over the NGT order.

Meanwhile, POSCO has said that it is a law-abiding firm and would comply with all the directives in this regard. “The National Green Tribunal has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to review afresh the clearance and we will ensure that we follow all directions given to us,” said a company official.

Welcoming the verdict, anti-POSCO activists strongly criticised Jairam Ramesh and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for selling the livelihoods of 4,000 people and the laws of the land to the highest bidder. For the last seven years, activists of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) have refused to allow any construction work to begin. Villagers in Dhinkia, the panchayat most severely affected by the project, have been demanding scrapping or relocation of the project. They claim it will deprive them of their major source of income from the betel vines spread across nearly 3,000 acres of forest land.

“IT IS painful for a citizen of an independent and democratic nation to realise that his/her elected representatives are willing to serve an unscrupulous and erring corporation even if the people who have elected them suffer in terms of life and livelihood,” said petitioner Prafulla Samantra. “In light of the verdict, I demand scrapping of the project and booking the firm for all violations. Book the culpable officers for criminal conspiracy against the people and the land.”

“It is heartening to realise that the rule of law has been upheld by the National Green Tribunal,” added senior environmentalist Biswajeet Mohanty. “As a democracy, we cannot bend laws and overlook violations just for the sake of accommodating the largest FDI in India. The entire POSCO project is shrouded with illegalities. Land acquisition, environmental clearances, forest clearances and port clearances have been done in blatant violation of the laws of the country. The objections by the MoEF’s own officers and expert committees were over-ruled by the MoEF. This ruling establishes that both the (Odisha) state and the centre violated environmental laws to favour this project proposal.”

Punjab: Widespread Drug Addiction

What hit this land of plenty? 75% of the youth. Every third student. 65% of all families in Punjab are in the throes of a sweeping drug addiction. With little or no hope in sight. Sai Manish examines why
No way out A young addict, after chasing smack at Angarh, in Amritsar

Photographs by Tarun Sehrawat

Tehelka, Special Report
THE RAILWAY barrier in Angarh, a locality in the border city of Amritsar in Punjab signals the end of too many things. The rule of law. The reign of sense. The fear of crime. The signs of normality. Even the divisions of caste. Drug and crime infested as the area is, people dread having to wait at the barrier for a goods train to pass. Here, 13-year-olds are killed in Diwali gambling brawls; 20-year-olds run amok looting shops in a drug-crazed haze; illegal explosive factories abound near LPG godowns; and Kashmiris peddling ‘sulfa’ — an inferior quality of brown hashish — share the streets with young intravenous drug users (IDUs).

Angarh is just one symptom of a monstrous crisis: a staggering 75 percent of Punjab’s youth is hooked to drug abuse, a figure the state government itself submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2009. One out of every three college students in the state is on drugs. In Doaba, Majha and Malwa — regions particularly affected — almost every third family has at least one addict. Every kind of drug is readily available here. From smack, heroin and synthetic drugs to over-the-counter drugs like Buprenorphine, Parvon Spas, Codex syrup and spurious Coaxil and Phenarimine injections. This is a state where 30 percent of all jail inmates have been arrested under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and the DGP has kicked up a political storm by saying it is impossible for him to control the flow of drugs into his prisons. But the sharp irony is, this matters little because, like Angarh, scores of other towns and villages in Punjab are more notorious than any prison cell.

Walking down a street in Angarh, littered with the implements of death — empty Coaxil bottles, dirty syringes — 16-year-old Sukhbir Sandhu asks for Rs 30 to go home to his mother. “I’m not begging,” he says, “just asking. I am a Jat. I have a big farm and I’ll pay you back when we meet next.” Sukhbir, the son of fairly well-to-do farmers, is dressed in Nike shoes but has scabbed finger tips, puss-filled injection holes on his arms, and the skin peeling off under his eye and his jittery disposition belie his age. When he is refused the money, he almost starts to cry. He finally admits he wants to buy a bottle of AVL (Phenara mine maleate) injection fluid, a drug meant to treat respiratory failure in cattle and horses. What has the potential to resurrect a dying horse, he says, is good enough for him to feel like a living man. If we give him another Rs 100, he says, he will get us the best in town. Still refused politely, Sukhbir leaps across a gutter to what should have been a public toilet but is now a preserve of those who chase smack and inject AVL all day long. In that filthy cocoon, he finds solace chasing fumes off a silver foil in the company of those who “caught him young”.

Boys like Sukhbir are the reason why someone like 35-year-old national body building champion Satbir Singh, who runs a gym in Angarh, swears nothing can be done to save the future of Punjab. “There were 40 of us in the same class in school. Only 10 of us, including me, are alive today. All the others died doing smack and prescription drugs,” he says.

The stories of the boy and the man are intertwined. At 16, Sukhbir will be lucky to be alive on his 21st birthday. At 35, Satbir has already seen his classmates die of violent overdose. At 16, the boy can’t visualize a future beyond his next hit. At 35, Satbir is looking to groom future bodybuilders who, true to the Punjabi gene, will grow into ‘real men’. At 16, the boy has already been slashed twice on his face by blades tied to the underside of a fellow addict’s middle finger. At 35, Satbir throws a mock punch at his 4-year-old son who is trained enough to block it and punch back, clearly daddy’s boy. At 16, the boy walks every day from his village to Angarh not to look for work or buy books but to get his next kick. At 35, Satbir came back to this criminal town to start a gym because there was no work to be found and even his sporting credentials had failed to bag him a Punjab police job. (The Rs 4 lakh bribe he was asked to cough up was beyond his means at the time.) At 16, the boy’s father often wishes his trouble-making son would just never come home. At 35, Satbir is a son who had prayed his father would come home alive from the 1971 war.

This then is the tale of two Punjabs. Satbir is a remembrance of a land once described by Alexander the Great in a letter to his mother as “the land of a leonine and brave people, where every foot of the ground is like a wall of steel, confronting my soldier” and Swami Vivekananda as the “heroic land first to bare its bosom to every onslaught of the outer barbarians.” A land — until only recently — of farmers and soldiers whose stereotype was proud resilience.

Sukhbir, on the other hand, is the face of Punjab as it stands in the first decade of the 21st century. Fading and injured.

So what explains this monstrous drug upsurge in the state that is leaching it of its sap? Some of the answers are as shocking as the statistic.

DURING THE recent election campaign in Punjab, Election Commission officials were shocked by the scale of drug abuse in the state. It is not just bhukki or doda, traditional poppy husk, commonly used in the Doaba and Majha belt or opium derivatives like smack and heroin that were in circulation. What really staggered the officials was the carte blanche political parties had given to chemists to distribute dangerous prescription drugs to youth in a bid to woo their vote. A week before the polling date, EC officials had impounded close to 3 lakh capsules along with 2,000 injection vials of Avil and 3,000 cases of Recodex cough syrup. Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi described the drug haul in Punjab as “unique”, surpassing any state he had ever conducted elections in.

“The political patronage given to drugs during these elections was shameful. At a time when drug abuse should have been a raging social issue, leaders of the state used it to swing votes,” says Sartaj, a Punjabi folk singer, whose lyrics often focuses on the need for the youth to give up their will to self destruct. None of Punjab’s political stars from the Congress, the BJP or the Akali Dal made even a pretence of confronting the scourge. “Why would they?” says Dr Rajesh Kumar, who retired as the medical superintendent of the Civil Hospital in Moga. “Many of the chemist shops are flourishing with the help of politicians and addicts rarely want to face the truth. To pose tough questions and force them to introspect is a risky proposition for leaders.”
‘I have seen those I shared a classroom with die violent deaths due to drug overdoses. Out of a class of 40, only 10 are alive today,’ says Satbir Singh

There are other reasons for Punjab’s slide to hell. Primary among them is its proximity to Afghanistan and Pakistan and its geographic position on the global drug trade map. Almost all of Punjab’s 553 kilometre border with Pakistan is guarded by electric fencing. With typical sub-continental illogic though, this has scant effect because the switch is turned on only after 6pm in the summer and 4pm in the winter. The border also has some riverine gaps but this is not the preferred route of smugglers. It’s much easier to work the intermittently activated electric fence.

If you drive to Khemkaran, a border outpost in the drug torn Tarn Taran district of Punjab, the road signs do not display India’s habitual cautionary note: ‘Do not drink and drive’. Instead, here they read: ‘Don’t do drugs and drive.’

On the way to Khemkaran comes Khalra, a small border town widely known as a major transit point for the drug trade. Local farmers here say most of the drops take place under the nose of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Rangers on either side of the fence. The most common conduits are the drainage pipes that run across the strip of no man’s land in between the two nations and women couriers. BSF officials claim they have occasionally caught local women with 50 kilos of heroin stitched to their bodies but, by and large, women are chosen as couriers because they are subjected to less stringent checks.

Not all of this is new. There has always been some inflow of opium, smack and heroin from Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the US war in Afghanistan has choked access to lucrative western markets, driving more of it into India. Curiously too, many locals and paramilitary officials in these towns speak of a 1975 Intelligence Bureau report that had warned that Pakistan, newly defeated in the 1971 war, would hit back at India through many clandestine means, one of which would be to convert the youth of Punjab into drug addicts who could then be “trampled down like a weed”. People here believe that sustained programme is now manifesting itself.

A BSF officer at Khalra has a startling story. “We conducted a recruitment drive in Tarn Taran district in May 2009. There were 376 vacancies. More than 8,000 young men turned up. But most of these men were so unfit and weak we had to come back with 85 vacancies. The drug abuse here will soon have serious security implications. These boys’ forefathers were strong and healthy so their bodies could bear the brunt of the intoxicants they abused. But these boys are different. Constant abuse has eroded their bodies. Put all four generations together and you will notice the difference. It doesn’t take much to imagine what the current lot of 5-10 year olds will look like if they fall into the drug trap.”

Read Full Report here


Tribals hold public hearing on Niyamgiri Hills

Tribals of mandla

Tribals of mandla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monday, 09 April 2012 00:21 PNS | BHAWANIPATNA

A public hearing on Niyamgiri hill was conducted on Sunday by hundreds of tribes under the banner of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti with the active participation of Kalahandi and Rayagada tribals at Jagannathpur village of Lanjigarh block. The tribals did not include any Government staff and company officials in the meeting.

The tribals ascertained that they are having their birth rights over the Niyamgiri hill and hence they won’t allow mining on their sacred mountain. Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti president Loda Sikoka welcomed the tribals and said that the hill is neither the property of the Odisha Government nor does it belong to the Central Government.

Loda said when the industries had not come at Lanjigarh, the tribals were living a peaceful life. Police sent many innocent tribals branding them as Maoists as it was anticipated that they would be involved in anti-project stirs.

Among others, Lingaraj Azad, Satya Mahar, Giridhari Patra, and Kumuti Majhi protested industrialisation over the properties of the tribals and vowed not to leave an inch of the sacred mountain.

The Story of One School Why 650 children came and only 200 remained

By Prakhar Jain

Education in ruins The residential school in Chintagupha, Sukma

WITH THE Right to Education Act (RTE) completing two years, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal may feel smug about the decline in dropout rates. But close to 40,000 children in the Naxal-hit districts of Chhattisgarh are yet to even enrol in schools. To them, the impressive figures of the Human Resource and Development Ministry regarding addition of classrooms matter little.

Most of these children missing from schools in these areas are actually victims of conflict. During the time of the now disbanded Salwa Judum, the state-sponsored anti-Naxal militia, and later Operation Green Hunt from 2005 to 2010, the biggest casualties apart from human lives were schools and education. Salwa Judum destroyed schools as they went on a rampage vacating villages suspected of supporting Naxals; while Naxals did the same, fearing that schools would be used as camps by the security forces.

Many schools were shut permanently, while some were shifted next to the roads along the Salwa Judum camps. The residential school in Chintalnar, around 80 km from district headquarters Sukma, was among those shut in 2005, forcing all the children to go back to their homes. “More than 650 children turned up for admission when the school reopened in 2010, but we were able to take just 370 of them. There were just too many to be accommodated with the limited infrastructure available,” recalls Jairam Sinha, an instructor in the school, pointing to the school building. The building is a small house with four rooms measuring 10 ft by 10 ft.

Since then, the number of students has come down to 200, as many have run away. Still, nearly 150 boys are crammed, often 2-3 to a bed, in an abandoned, dilapidated house nearby that serves as a temporary hostel. The girls sleep in the school itself. The irony, however, is that even the new school building, which has been under construction for the past two years, won’t be able to accommodate the sanctioned strength of more than 500 children. And Jairam Sinha says there are more than 2,000 children in a 10-km radius from Chintalnar who don’t go to school.

One big hurdle in reaching Chintalnar and constructing the new building is the 45-km long virtually non-existent road, which connects it to the nearest supply town of Dornapal. The road has seen some major blasts by Naxals in the past few years, claiming the lives of several security personnel. “Transportation is a challenge on that road as whatever little is sent has to be sent under heavy security,” says Alex VF Paul Menon, Collector of Sukma.

This, however, is by no means the most dismal scenario. Hundreds of villages scattered in the forests of south Chhattisgarh exist with no sign of administration. Due to Naxal threats and difficult terrain, neither the government nor any NGO is aware about the children left out of the formal education system. KR Pisda, school education secretary of Chhattisgarh, says, “According to our estimates, there are around 15,000 children who are yet to be enrolled in four districts of Dantewada, Bijapur, Sukma and Narayanpur.” However, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in 2009 estimated that there are 40,000 such children in seven districts, and the situation hasn’t improved since then.

Plight In Numbers

• 40,000 children out of schools in seven Naxal-affected districts of Chhattisgarh
• 185 schools shut down since 2005 in Dantewada district; 86 damaged by Naxals
• 50 percent of schools don’t have boundary walls to stop children from running away
• 42 percent is the average literacy rate in Dantewada, Bijapur and Sukma
• 26 percent is the drop-out rate at primary level against the national figure of 7 percent
• 4 out of 5 children drop-out before reaching class eight

Regular schools in these areas have rarely been successful. Residential Ashram schools and Porta Cabins (structures made of bamboo), being run by the Tribal Welfare Department and the Department of School Education under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, are a common sight all across these districts.

What is, however, odd is the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camps right next to most of them. During Salwa Judum days, many schools were used as camps by the CRPF and police and were vacated only in 2011 after repeated warnings by the Supreme Court. But the new camps that came up later have been constructed quite close to the schools. Many see this as a way to check ration supplies to Naxals, often siphoned off from those meant for schools. This, in turn, make the schools vulnerable as they too can come in the line of fire in case a CRPF camp is attacked by the Naxals.

It is common knowledge in these areas that the initiation process to become a Naxal starts early and sometimes children are recruited for Bal Sanghams (Naxal schools) at an early age of six. At the age of 12, these Bal Sanghams get promoted to other ranks, which also includes armed cadres.

Gopal Buddu, 20, was taken away by Naxals at the age of 13 from his village Kamkanar in Bijapur district. “I was forced to go with them as resistance would have meant trouble,” says Buddu. After six years of hardship in the jungles and working as a bodyguard of the Division Commander, one fine day in 2011 he surrendered before the Bijapur police. Buddu has now been rehabilitated in the Chhattisgarh Auxiliary Armed Police Force.

Most parents now, however, see schools as a safe haven for their kids as they also provide protection from being taken away forcibly by the Naxals. Therefore, the longer the children remain out of schools, more their chances of getting picked up by the Naxals. Shanta Sinha, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) says, “It’s important to give access to education to the children and then let them decide their path after they are empowered to think.”

EVEN IF a child gets enrolled in a school, retaining and keeping track of them is a huge challenge. Recently, the NCPCR found out that around 35 tribal children had been taken to Kerala by contractors to work in brick-kilns. “We wrote to the Kerala government asking them to send these children back to their schools in Chhattisgarh,” says Sinha. The state government there was able to track 25 of them while 10 could not be traced.

Himanshu Kumar, who used to run an NGO, Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, in Dantewada district, says, “We used to work with tribal activists, who knew every student by name and village. They were quite quick in tracing them as soon as they disappeared from schools.” He has, however, now shifted to Delhi after his house was bulldozed by the police in 2009.

In places like Dantewada and Sukma, where the drop-out rate is 26 per cent at the primary level, way higher than the national average of around 7 percent, radical steps are required to retain students. “In partnership with the government, we are working on a doable Management Information System on Child Tracking, psycho-social support for children affected by violence, and a set of standards and protocols for residential institutions on child protection, which would enable tracking of children both at the community and institution level,” says Shaheen Nilofer, who heads UNICEF Chhattisgarh, which is probably the only agency with access to remote areas in Sukma, Bijapur, Narainpur and other south Bastar districts.

It’s not that the administration is not working at all, but the focus currently is on creating school infrastructure at places accessible by roads. Close to Dantewada town, a huge Education City, comprising residential schools for boys and girls, is being built at a cost of Rs 100 crore. The project, when completed, would be able to accommodate more than 2,000 children. But relocating so many children from villages would itself be a huge challenge.

In these areas, the Naxals recruit children, as young as six, from the villages for their Bal Sanghams OP Chaudhury, collector of Dantewada, says the aim is to send a message to people in interior areas that such kind of development is possible in their village too. “We want the community to come forward and take ownership of these projects,” he says.

The Right to Education Act (RTE) says that “the appropriate government or local authority shall undertake school mapping, and identify all children, including children in remote areas… within a period of one year from the appointed date…”

The idea seems difficult to implement in these areas, but certainly it is not impossible to accommodate children who wish to learn, by improving the infrastructure of the existing schools and restoring the ones destroyed during the conflict. Then only, in a real sense, would the strategy of winning hearts and minds work.

Prakhar Jain is a Correspondent with Tehelka.

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April 2012
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