Pakistan adheres to nuclear non-proliferation: Malik

Islamabad, July 12 : Pakistan strictly adheres to the policy of nuclear non-proliferation, Rehman Malik, advisor to the prime minister on interior affairs, said.

The country’s nuclear programme is in the safe hands and no one has access to its nuclear assets, Malik said Thursday at a conference that deliberated the subject.

“Some powers have wrong conception” about its nuclear programme, he said, adding Pakistan is capable to defend itself.

He urged the world community to “end discrimination against Pakistan” and accept the country’s role in international affairs, the Online news agency reported.

Malik said Pakistan has sacrificed more than any other country in combating terrorism. He said 39,000 people died in terror related violence in the country. (IANS)

Sunday Reading -Satyamev Jayate- Aamir Khan silent on Ambedkar and Reservation !

Silence Eva Jayate
Aamir Khan not only deviously censored any discussion of Ambedkar and Reservation, but seemed content to use the 1920s language of high-caste reformers
S. Anand

This Sunday morning I received a call from a friend who alerted me to the tenth episode of Aamir Khan-anchored Satyamev Jayate since the focus was on caste and untouchability. I mumbled something about his spoiling my Sunday, but tuned in nevertheless. It began with Kaushal Panwar narrating her harrowing tale for about twenty minutes: from her childhood where she was forced to join her mother in cleaning shit to her pursuit of a PhD in Sanskrit. I was glad that the audience heard her say that the discrimination she had experienced in her school in a Haryana village was no different from what she faced in the enlightened campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi—where she continues to be denied a rightful job.

Following Kaushal, we were allowed a glimpse into the life of Balwant Singh, author of the tract An Untouchable in the IAS. I noticed a shot of him looking up to a larger-than-life portrait of Dr B.R. Ambedkar in his Saharanhpur house, and realized that so far—30 minutes into the show—there had been no verbal mention of Ambedkar. Balwant Singh, among the first dalits to enter a career in civil service in post-independence India, had said in his interview that he was perhaps the first and only IAS officer ever to be demoted to the rank of tehsildar. That had been edited out. I intuitively felt the show was going to scrupulously avoid any mention of two key ideas—Reservation and Ambedkar. I was hoping to be proved wrong. I wasn’t.

How did Kaushal Panwar do her BA, MA and PhD and land a job with Delhi University? What is it that facilitates access to hitherto-excluded spaces for dalits? What is the one policy that enables dalits to stop cleaning shit and reclaim their humanity? The one weapon that helps them get an education? Get a job? Reservation. And who made this policy possible? Ambedkar. But Aamir Khan wouldn’t mention the R and A words even once for fear of alienating his middle class audience, which as a friend perceptively said, is fed “bourgeois moralism of the most pathological sort,” on a programme where “the only solution turns out to be nothing more than emotional catharsis”.

Not surprisingly, Khan would also not mention the fact that an atrocity is committed on a dalit every 18 minutes according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The penchant Khan and his research team showed for various laws and statistics in the first two episodes of SJ that I had seen—on prenatal sex determination and domestic violence—was nowhere on display here. Hence no mention of the Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989 and its dismal failure to curb violence against dalits. No discussion of a case like Khairlanji, where, in 2006, the mother and daughter, Surekha Bhotmange and Priyanka Bhotmange, had not just been raped repeatedly but tortured in ghastly ways (stripped, paraded naked, with fact-finding reports saying bullock cart pokers were thrust into their vaginas, and that Priyanka was raped even after her death). An interview with Bhaiyalal Bhotmange, the sole survivor of the Khairlanji carnage, may have not fit into the preordained script.

Then the show featured documentary filmmaker Stalin K. Padma and several clips from his three-hour film India Untouched. Again, the cherry-picked excerpts skirted any reference to A and R. In a cringe-worthy moment, Stalin even fawned on Khan and congratulated him for taking up the issue of untouchability on television 65 years after independence.

This was followed by homilies from His Holiness, Justice (retired) C.S. Dharmadhikari, who in his self-introduction, pretending to denounce labels, paraded every label of privilege that adorned his CV—including the ‘blessings’ allegedly bestowed by Adi Sankara on his ancestors. This man could equally pompously announce his Deshastha Brahmanness as his apparent rejection of it. I would have given up right then but for the fact that I had spotted Bezwada Wilson in the audience, and I was waiting to see if this leader of the Safai Karamchari Andolan—a man who had pioneered the demolition of dry latrines across India—would salvage the morning. He too was asked to narrate his early life, and he too shed tears. As did Khan with practised ease.

The next day I called Wilson and told him I was annoyed that even he did not bother to mention Ambedkar and Reservation. Wilson clarified that he indeed had. It had been edited out, as was his rant against the Supreme Court and Parliament—since both institutions had been dragging their feet on the issue of manual scavenging. Then he revealed something that shocked me. He said he had not been in the audience when Kaushal Panwar was being interviewed by Khan. I countered saying I had seen him ‘reacting’ to what Kaushal said on stage. “Even I saw myself in the audience and hence was shocked,” said Wilson. He said Kaushal had been interviewed in total isolation, in an empty studio. And yet on Sunday we saw, every once in a while, close-ups of fretful, anxious, pained and agonised faces of members of the studio audience as Kaushal was narrating her story. They even clapped on cue, like when Khan asked Kaushal her heroic father’s name. Clearly, all this had been manipulated and faked—with clever editing and splicing of shots.

I checked with Kaushal if this was true. It was. I further found that Khan and his team had shot interviews with two members of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry—its chairman Milind Kamble and key advisor Ashok Khade. They were informed just a week ahead of the 8 July telecast that their interviews wouldn’t be aired since they “did not fit in with the story”. In fact, when Chandra Bhan Prasad, mentor to DICCI and an exponent of ‘dalit capitalism’, watched the show with Kamble in Pune, they could not believe their eyes. Kamble’s interview with Khan had been shot with Dharmadhikari and Kamble seated next to each other on the studio couch; but Kamble had been weeded out. Prasad wondered if some ‘dirty trick editing’ made this possible. More likely, Dharmadhikari took a leaf out of Khan’s book and did not mind giving a ‘fresh take’ minus the unsuitable presence of Kamble. I also discovered that every participant on the show is forced to sign a ‘confidentiality agreement’ saying they will not speak about their participation—recorded many months ahead—in any social media.

In his weekly column in The Hindu, Khan began his discourse with “Gandhiji’s struggle” for “those ostracized as untouchables”. Perhaps Khan and his ghostwriters did not ever hear about what young Bhimrao had to face right in Satara at age 10. After a few paragraphs extolling Gandhi, Khan mentions “Babasaheb Ambedkar” in passing, as someone who led the drafting of the Constitution. Since the bulk of SJ’s episode chose to focus on manual scavenging, and since Dharmadhikari and Khan chose to highlight Gandhi’s imagined role in the fight against this practice—an issue largely and sadly neglected even within the dalit movement—let us turn briefly to what Gandhi said about “the most honourable occupation”.

Gandhi wrote in Harijan in 1934: “I call scavenging as one of the most honourable occupations to which mankind is called. I don’t consider it an unclean occupation by any means. That you have to handle dirt is true. But that every mother is doing and has to do. But nobody says a mother’s occupation is unclean.” In another essay entitled ‘The Ideal Bhangi’ in 1936 he wrote, “My ideal Bhangi would know the quality of night-soil and urine. He would keep a close watch on these and give a timely warning to the individual concerned. Thus he will give a timely notice of the results of his examination of the excreta. That presupposes a scientific knowledge of the requirements of his profession.” It is this stranglehold of Gandhism that has kept manual scavenging alive.

Ambedkar held a view that was the exact opposite: “Under Hinduism scavenging was not a matter of choice, it was a matter of force. What does Gandhism do? It seeks to perpetuate this system by praising scavenging as the noblest service to society! What is the use of telling the scavenger that even a Brahmin is prepared to do scavenging when it is clear that according to Hindu Shastras and Hindu notions even if a Brahmin did scavenging he would never be subject to the disabilities of one who is a born scavenger?” Ambedkar argued that in India a man is not a scavenger because of his work, but because of his birth irrespective of whether he does scavenging or not.

Khan and his team not only deviously censored any discussion of Ambedkar and Reservation, they seemed content to use the 1920s language of high-caste reformers. A friend chided me saying I shouldn’t expect Khan to be an activist. But surely my friend did not know how Khan manipulates and fools his audience—in the studio and outside—to nod and cry at moments he chooses. Wilson said, “In fact, during the shoot it was not I who actually began crying. Aamir Khan started to cry, so I was forced to cry along.” Khan obviously thinks we can flush away middle class shit with tears.

S. Anand is publisher, Navayana. A shorter, edited version of this appears in print. OUTLOOK

Parties put up joint fight against nuclear plant

Staff Reporter

SRIKAKULAM, July 12, 2012In a show of solidarity, leaders of all political parties on Wednesday vowed to extend their support to the people of Ranasthalam mandal who were agitating against the setting up of a nuclear power plant at Kovvada, 30 km from here.

A public meeting was held at Ranasthalam to mount pressure on the government to halt the land acquisition process.

Land acquisition

The local people feared that the government was silently continuing its activities, including land acquisition, by offering huge packages to property owners at Kovvada and other surrounding villages. Recently, the Technical Director of Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited Bhardwaj visited Srikakulam and reportedly interacted with revenue officials over the land acquisition process.

NPCIL requires around 2,000 acres of land to set up 1,000 MW the plant with an estimated cost of Rs.1 lakh crore.

Kalisetti Appalanaidu, coordinator of the all-party committee, told The Hindu that a movement would be launched against the project and an important meeting would be held July 17 to finalise the action plan. As part of the agitation, local leaders would submit memoranda to people’s representatives and senior officials. Rajagopal of the Congress and G. Kirankumar of the YSR Congress alleged that the government was forcibly trying to set up the project without even conducting a public hearing.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders K. Appala Naidu (TDP), Chapara Sundarlal (CPI(M)), T. Durgarao (BJP), Panchadi Rambabu (Lok Satta) and Tandra Prakash (New Democracy) flayed Srikakulam Joint Collector Pola Bhaskar who reportedly spoke in favour of establishment of the Powergrid project in the district. “Officials should understand the feelings of local people. It is not proper for them to extend support to industries at the cost of ecology of the district,” Mr. Sundarlal said.

  • ‘Government is silently continuing its activities by offering packages to property owners’
  • All-party panel to launch movement against the project, action plan finalisation on July 17

N-fuel complex in Rajasthan faces public anger

Sunny Sebastian

The Hindu

There appears to be considerable opposition from the local population to the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) proposed to be set up at Rawatbhata near Kota in Rajasthan. The complex, with an envisaged capacity of 500 tonnes fuel a year, is to cater to the four PHWR (Pressurized heavy water reactors) plants of 700 MWe capacity each coming up by 2016 in Rajasthan and Gujarat. In capacity, the Rawatbhata fuel complex is to be next to only Hyderabad NFC in the country which produces 850 tonnes fuel a year.

A “jan sunwai” or public hearing, organized by the Department of Atomic Energy and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) at Anu Pratap Colony in Rawatbhata on Wednesday witnessed angry protests from the local villagers. The hearing — the villagers said they were never consulted when the nuclear power plants were set up one by one, starting from 1973 — first of its kind, found the villagers and representatives of the casual labourers union complaining of unfilled promises made by the management in the past.

The hearing was attended by NFC Hyderabad’s senior official N. Sai Baba, Pollution Control Board representative K.C. Gupta, Additional District Magistrate and scientists from NEERI besides scientists, Surendra Gadekar, Sanghamitra Gadekar and energy expert, Soumya Dutta. Dr. Sanghamitra rubbished the environment study on the complex prepared by NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Institute) and termed it as a “document of untruths”.

The palpable tension perhaps justified the heavy presence of police in the premises of the New Community Centre where the hearing was held. The complaints pertained to poor development of the area, lack of employment avenues to the local population and the requirement of huge quantity of water for the existing power plants as well as the proposed fuel complex.

On June 15, the villagers held a massive rally at Rawatbhata protesting against the risks brought about by the existing plants and the proposed fuel complex. The latest incidence of radio active exposure has been as recent as that of June 23, when two workers got affected by radio active tritium vapour at Unit 5. A case currently debated is the affliction of contract labour Nand Kishore Mehar, who complains that he is not being admitted to the hospital or allowed to access the report on his urine status.

The radiation threats, complaints of risks faced by the casual labourers – who, the labourers said, are removed once they get affected — and denying the medical facilities available at the well equipped hospital in the nuclear plant premises to the local population also were points highlighted by the public and the social activists. “People are being evacuated from the area in the name of four wildlife sanctuaries but then how can the authorities allow a nuclear fuel complex in the same area,” wondered Harak Jain, leader of the local Sangarsh Samiti.

Besides, the locals feared that the uranium brought to the place for processing by truck or by train would contaminate the water and air in the area and as such the Chambal river itself was at risk.

Body of Mentally ill woman dug up at home for disabled funded by WB govt

Kolkata : In yet another shocking case that puts a serious question mark on the state of our society, reports claimed on Friday that mentally ill women lodged at a rehabilitation centre in West Bengal were subjected to sexual abuse.

The caretaker of the rehab centre allowed in outsiders in evenings, who then sexually abused the inmates. The centre, located in Dhonekhali in Hooghly district, is home to around 50 mentally ill women. The horrific case of cruelty came to light after the body of Guria, a 30-year-old woman inmate of the mental asylum, was found buried in the backyard. An inmate informed an NGO about Guria’s death, which then passed on the information to a TV news channel.

As per reports, Guria was sexually assaulted and beaten to death by Shyamal Ghosh, a resident of Uttarpara village near Khajurdaho, who allegedly harassed women inmates. He is still absconding. Ghosh is considered to be a close confidant of Uday Chand Kumar, secretary of the rehabilitation centre. Inmates of the state-run asylum have alleged that Shyamal Ghosh, the prime accused, often used to torture them and claimed that he had severely thrashed Guria a few days before her disappearance.

Uday Chand is under police custody; yesterday, he was remanded to 10 days police custody by a local court. Police have also arrested cook Najiya Khatun and gateman Mathur Patra of the centre.

Two others, Tarumal Das and Prafulla Mallick, who buried the body of the 32-year-old destitute dumb woman, Guria, after her death on July 01, are also under police arrest.

The mental asylum is run by a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) and funded by the central government. The West Bengal government yesterday cancelled the license of the rehabilitation centre and ordered that all inmates be shifted to other homes with immediate effect.

Body of woman exhumed after allegation of unnatural death

11 July 2012

Hooghly : The body of a destitute dumb woman who died at a private home for orphans and the mentally was exhumed this evening to ascertain allegations that she had died an unnatural death at Khajurdaho in Hooghly district.

The order for exhumation of the body came after the Block Development Officer of Dhaniakhali Biswanath Ghosh filed an FIR at the Gurap police station, police sources said.

The body was exhumed in the presence of Hooghly District Magistrate S Ranjarajan and Superintendent of Police Tanmoy Roychowdhury.

The sources said that the authorities of the home, Rehabilitation Centre for Mentally Ill persons (Women), claimed that the 32-year-old woman was killed when a ceiling fan fell on her head on July one. After obtaining the death certificate the authorities buried the body as per the custom of the private home run by a person named by Uday Chand Kumar, they said.

Villagers, however, alleged that there was foul play behind the death of the woman and informed the police, the sources said. They questioned that since the woman died an unnatural death why her body was not sent for a post mortem examination. The villagers gheraoed the home during the day alleging that atrocities were being committed on woman and girl inmates.

The SP said that an investigation would be made into the cause of death of the woman.The name of the woman, who was from Bankura district and was found by the police and left at the home on May 22, was not known. She was named Guria at the home. State Women and Child Development minister Sabitri Mitra said in Kolkata that she had asked the Hooghly district magistrate to inquire into the incident. Stating that her department was not informed of the incident by the home authorities, she said that the state government would take strong action if necessary.

WBPCC President Pradip Bhattacharya said that a CID probe should be ordered if not a CBI inquiry into the incident.

Body dug up at home for disabled funded by govt


GURAP (HOOGHLY) : The highly decomposed body of a 32-year-old woman was dug out of a shallow grave in the compound of a state-funded rehabilitation centre for the physically and mentally challenged in Hooghly’s Khajurdaha area, some 50km from Kolkata. Local MLA Ashima Patra has demanded a forensic test to see if she was sexually abused.

Investigators are not ruling out homicide and have arrested the owner of the rehab centre, Uday Chand. There were injuries all over the body, including a grievous wound to her head, police said. The victim, identified as Guriya, died on July 1 but Hooghly police had no clue till a news channel started showing a report on the mysterious death on Wednesday after being tipped off by an NGO.

Police said Uday buried Guriya’s body without informing the administration. It was only on July 3 that he handed police a ‘death certificate’ stating the speech and hearing impaired woman had died of cardio-respiratory failure. Despite the two-day gap, police did not verify Uday’s statement. Now, they suspect the certificate to be fake.

Tip from inmate led to discovery of corpse

Guriya was rescued from the streets by Bankura police on May 22 and sent to the Khajurdaha home. She died on July 1 and Uday allegedly buried the corpse.

The crime would have been buried but for some inmates of the home. Although they are all either mentally challenged or speech and hearing impaired, a few of them — or at least one — managed to get the news out to an NGO run by a former CPM minister on Wednesday. Within minutes, journalists swarmed the rehab home. The police were taken unawares by the media frenzy and ran to the scene only when they saw the live coverage on TV. District magistrate S Rangarajan and SP Tanmoy Roychowdhury also rushed there.

Police picked up Uday and after sustained interrogation, he broke down and revealed where he had buried the body. Additional SP Tathagata Basu said: “The body was exhumed after the SDPO (HQ) Bankura lodged a complaint with Gurap police station.” Police have initiated a case, suo-motu.

“The body has several injury marks, including a severe head wound,” said the SP. As the news spread, villagers started gathering at the home and demanded that all the officials of the rehab home be arrested. “We are not ruling out the possibility of a homicidal assault. The probe hinges on the post-mortem report. The death certificate submitted to the police is not authentic. We are examining if it was forged,” said Basu

Social welfare minister Sabitri Mitra and Dhaniakhali MLA Ashima Patra promised tough action against the “heinous crime”.

Arrest in Hooghly home death

July 11, 2012

Gurap (Hooghly) : The secretary of a home for mentally ill women in Hooghly’s Gurap has been arrested in connection with the “unnatural death” of a 32-year-old inmate on July 1.

A team led by district superintendent of police Tanmay Roy Chaudhuri visited the home, run by an NGO, Dulal Smriti Sansad, and ordered that the body, which they learnt had been buried in the compound, be exhumed.

Secretary Uday Chandra Kumar was arrested after this.

“We found the body had injury marks. We have arrested the secretary on the charge of murder and causing disappearance of evidence. The body has been sent for post-mortem,” said the SP.

On May 23, Guria, a mentally unstable woman, was found loitering at a bus stand in Bankura. “Police was ordered to keep the woman in the home,” an officer said.

Kumar said Guria died on the night of June 30 after she fell from a height. “A doctor was called and he declared her dead, saying she had died of cardiac failure. The doctor also wrote a death certificate,” said Kumar. “We then buried her body on July 1 morning.”

It is still not clear why the home authorities did not inform the police and instead decided to bury the body.

The police were informed by the district social welfare department where a complaint was lodged only today.

The driver of an ambulance belonging to the home, Sunny Roy, was also arrested this evening. “We are looking for two more persons, Shyamal Ghosh and Sanjib Das, who live nearby. We have complaints from inmates that these youths used to get physically intimate with them,” a police officer said.

State to monitor homes for mentally challenged


KOLKATA : Deeply concerned over the death of a mentally-challenged woman Guria in a home at Dhaniakhali in Hooghly, the state government has decided to closely monitor all 18 private-run such homes in West Bengal to prevent the recurrence of any such incident. It has also convened a meeting of all private-run homes at the Writers’ Buildings on July 27.

The body of 30-year-old Guria was found in the backyard of the home — Dulal Smriti Samsad — in Hooghly. After the body was exhumed on Wednesday, the police found injury marks on the victim’s body. “We are deeply shocked over the incident. On the chief minister’s instruction, we have cancelled the licence of the home which was run by an NGO. Four persons, including the secretary of the home have been arrested. The body has been sent for post-mortem. I will visit every home in the state to ensure that such incident do not happen again,” state women and social welfare minister Sabitri Mitra said on Thursday.

However, according to the government sources, the licence of the home had expired on March 31, 2012 and thereafter it was being run without any valid licence. On being asked why the state government did not take action against the home authorities for running the facility without any licence earlier, the minister failed to give any satisfactory reply.

Meanwhile, the Hooghly district administration has been asked to shift all the inmates to other homes.

2 held in home row

July 12 2012

Gurap (Hooghly) : Two more persons were arrested today for allegedly helping to bury the body of the mentally challenged woman at the Hooghly home.

Licenses of all the three homes running under the NGO Dulal Smriti Sansad in Hooghly have been cancelled.

Three persons, including the secretary of the home at Gurap, Uday Chandra Kumar, have already been arrested in connection with the “unnatural death” of the 32-year-old woman on July 1.

BJP supporters holding a demonstration outside a Chinsurah court, where the trio were produced today, beat them up them with brooms.

The three persons, Kumar, Ranjit Mandi and Sunny Roy, were remanded in 14 days’ police custody. Sunny is the driver of the ambulance belonging to the home while Ranjit is a local youth who allegedly frequented the home.

“We have arrested two more local youths — Taru Mal and Prafulla Soren — who had helped bury the woman in the home compound,” said Tanmay Roy Chaudhuri, the district superintendent of police, adding all five were charged with murder.

The police are still looking for two other local youths who some inmates said were known to secretary Chand and often got physically intimate with them.

According to some of the inmates, an officer said, the woman had committed suicide by hanging herself from a rod in the window. A rape is yet to be confirmed.

Rehabilitation centres under scanner

Jul 13, 2012

KOLKATA : The state-funded rehabilitation centre in Hooghly’s Khajurdaha, where the decomposed body of a woman was dug out on Wednesday, was functioning without licence since April this year. This brings to light the state’s casual approach about the way these centres function.

On Thursday, state social welfare minister Sabitri Mitra said at a press conference at Writers’ Buildings: “We have cancelled the licence of the home today.” But a press release handed out by the minister revealed that the licence had, in fact, expired on March 31 this year.

Asked how the rehabilitation centre for the physically and mentally challenged could continue to function without licence for nearly three-and-a-half months, Mitra said, “We asked them to renew the licence, but they did not respond.” However, questions have already been raised on the effectiveness of government control over these homes. Licences are issued under the Women’s and Children’s Institutional (Licencing) Rules, 1958, and due to the “serious violation of human rights of the home inmates”, the government decided not to renew the licence with retrospective effect, as per the order of the government.

The inmates of the home – 46 at the short-stay home, 16 at the home for mentally challenged and 25 at a cottage home – would be shifted out according to availability of accommodation elsewhere. “There are woman cops guarding the place and till all the inmates are shifted out, the district administration will arrang for their food,” Mitra said.

There are 30 state-run homes in the state, out of which two are defunct at present. There is capacity to provide shelter to 2,375 inmates, but currently about 1,000 inmates stay in these homes. Also, there are nearly 10,000 inmates living in 114 homes run by private organizations, which receive state and Central government funds and are provided with licences by the state government. However, questions are being raised on how the state holds visits to these homes and whether visits are held regularly at all.

According to Mitra, visits are held from time to time. She said she had called all NGO representatives who run such homes throughout the state on July 27 at Writers’ Buildings.

Rehab centre licence cancelled after ‘unnatural’ death of woman


KOLKATA : The West Bengal government on Thursday cancelled the licence of a private home in Hooghly district where a woman died unnaturally and her body buried without police permission. Five persons, including its owner, were arrested. The licence of the home, Rehabilitation Centre for Mentally Ill Persons Women) at Khajurdaho in Hooghly district, run by NGO Dulal Smriti Samsad, was cancelled with retrospective effect from April 1 this year, after it was found that it had expired on March 31, Women and Child Development Minister Sabitri Mitra said here.

The department has also ordered that all inmates be shifted to other homes with immediate effect, Mitra said, adding that the steps were taken on the advice of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Uday Chand Kumar, the owner and secretary of the home, cook Najiya Khatun and gateman Mathur Patra were arrested Wednesday night, Hooghly police sources said. The three were produced in a local court in Hooghly and remanded in ten days’ police custody today. Two others, Tarumal Das and Prafulla Mallick, who buried the body of the 32-year-old destitute woman, Guria, after her death on July 1, were also arrested this morning, the sources said.

A meeting has been convened with all the authorities of government homes on July 26 to review the situation, Mitra said.

Right problems, wrong solution

Himanshu Thakkar, Hindustan Times

Recently, at least three activists have faced attacks on their lives for raising concerns over the adverse effects of power, water and mining projects. On June 22, Bharat Jhunjhunwala, former professor, Indian Institute of Management, was attacked in his home in Devprayag, Uttarakhand. The assailants damaged his house, abused him, threw black ink on his face and threatened to return and burn his house down if Jhunjhunwala did not stop protesting against hydropower projects and dams in the state. The perpetrators are known; their faces were flashed on news channels. But the governments, both state and central, do not find it necessary to arrest them.


On July 6, the Right to Information (RTI) activist and leader of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Akhil Gogoi, faced what he himself describes as a “murderous attack” in Nalbari, Assam, by people sent by a minister from the Tarun Gogoi-led state government. For years now, Akhil, leader of the largest mass-based anti-dam movement in India, has been raising his voice against corruption. He is also spreading awareness on how big dams in Assam are creating more environmental problems than they aim to solve. To suppress his movement, some politicians and public officials have accused Akhil and his supporters of having connections with the Maoists. Several cases have been filed against him and others and Akhil has been arrested many times. He is admitted in a hospital following the recent attack.

On July 7, environmentalist and another RTI activist, Ramesh Agarwal of Jan Chetna in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, was shot at by an unidentified youth. One  bullet hit him in the thigh. Agarwal has been hospitalised since. His ‘mistake’ is that he has been campaigning for the implementation of basic norms of public hearings and environment impact assessments for power and mining projects. In May 2011, Agarwal was put behind bars following a complaint filed by a big corporation. The state government has been trying to protect the interests of the corporate instead of listening to people’s complaints on environmental norms.

This is not the first time an activist has been attacked. In the past, some activists have lost their lives too. What’s worrying is that the frequency of such attacks is increasing. This shows that some people want to silence activists and that they are getting help from governments to execute their nefarious plans. Protests against the undemocratic imposition of the so-called development projects are on the rise too. From Kashmir (NHPC is unable to take forward the work on Uri 2 projects for months now due to agitations) to Kerala (opposition from locals has stalled the Athirapally hydropower project on the Chalakudy river), from Gujarat (agitation against the 4,000 MW Mundra thermal power project) to the North-east (work on the 2,000 MW Subansiri hydropower project has come to a halt due to a campaign led by Akhil), protests are spreading far and wide in the country. These protests are not against just big projects; people are also opposing relatively smaller projects which are affecting their lives. Therefore, we need to understand that adverse effects of projects, not their size, are inviting opposition.

The reasons that are triggering protests range from inadequate social and environmental impact assessments – there’s none for projects below 25 MW – sham public hearings, absence of compliance of laws, benefits bypassing the poor and lack of democracy in planning and decision-making processes.

We need urgent, effective action from project developers and state and central governments. There is also an urgent need for action from the judiciary, media and civil society. By not taking any action against the perpetrators, the UPA and the BJP, it seems, are busy strangulating RTI and the National Green Tribunal. It must be understood that terror can’t bring about development or suppress dissent. Instead, such attacks will fuel more protests in times to come and will engulf the rulers too.

Himanshu Thakkar is with South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People. The views expressed by the author are personal.

India-Tap new sources of Power

By K K Jain

10th July 2012 11:56 PM

India is facing power deficiency for decades and the situation is likely to continue for quite some time. With India’s GDP growth keeping above 6-8 per cent, the power requirement is also slated to go up at the same rate. There is a direct correlation between the growth in the power requirement and the GDP growth rate.

As per the data published by CEA (April 2012) our current installed power generation capacity is 2,01,637 MW, of which 1,13,782 MW is thermal coal, 18,381 MW is thermal gas, 1,199 MW is diesel, 4,780 MW is nuclear, 38,990 MW is hydro and 24,503 MW is through renewable sources. The renewable sources include the installed capacity for small hydro plants as well (3,000 MW).

To work out the technologies to be used to meet the growing power needs, we need to see the investment required to create 1 MW capacity for each of technology, the cost and availability of fuel and the risk and hazards for these technology options. We would also need to see the carbon footprint left by each technology.

We have the technology readily available for coal-based thermal power plants. However the availability of coal is becoming a constraint. The NTPC has to import coal to meet part of the coal requirement. Besides, Indian coal has high ash content and hence has lower calorific value and results in huge ash handling requirement. Coal-based plants costs only around `5.5 crore/MW and cost of coal comes to around Rs 1.2-1.5 per unit with Indian coal and much higher for imported coal. Coal-based plants leave a carbon footprint of around 2.2 kg/unit.

Gas-based thermal plants entirely depend upon the availability of gas and it is comparatively cleaner fuel, as it results in 60 per cent less carbon emission per unit of electricity generated. The investment required per MW capacity is also the lowest at around `4 crore/MW. The cost of gas per unit of electricity depends upon the price of the gas. At $ 4.2/mmbtu being paid to Reliance the cost of gas comes to around Rs 1.35/unit. Seeing the benefits of gas, we need to line up gas from the normal gas fields, shale formations, CBM blocks or contract for imports. Japan has signed up long term gas import contracts after it has closed down its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster.

Hydel power has been the second largest source of power. We have an installed base of around 39,000 MW for hydel capacity, while the total potential for hydel power is around 1,45,000 MW. This indicates less than 30 per cent of our hydel potential is exploited. Various hydel projects are stuck up for clearances from environment, forest departments and for issues of resettlement of displaced population. It requires an investment of around `7 crore/MW and the fuel cost is nil. Hydel plants also get a carbon credit of around Rs 1 per unit. We also have a potential of around 15,000 MW for micro hydel projects of which only 3,000 MW has been harnessed so far.

Hydel plants also have advantage of being able to take load changes quickly. Due to this reason, the percentage provided for hydel power should preferably be more than 35 per cent. Our share of hydel power is only 19.5 per cent.

India has a wind power potential of around 48,000 MW and has a current installed base of around 10,500 MW. It requires around `6-7 crore/MW investment for creating a wind farm. Here again the cost of fuel is nil and there is a carbon credit of around `1/unit. However, wind turbines have a load factor of only around 30-35 per cent due to varying wind velocities. Its intermittent nature also raises issues of storage.

General Electric Company has pioneered concept of hybrid farms in which both wind turbines and the solar panels are installed. This ensures more steady power during the day time and minimum power from the wind turbines in night. Germany is pioneering off-shore installation of wind turbines to bridge the gap left by the closer of nuclear power plants.

Solar power is another source of energy, which is abundant, in-exhaustible and absolutely clean. The world’s total power requirement is around 20 terrawatts while the solar influx coming on the planet earth is 1,78,000 terrawatts. India’s total power needs are only 0.25 terrawatts. The solar photovoltaic cell is one of the promising methods of converting solar influx into electricity. In 1970 the cost of solar cells was $ 100/watt and the price of crude was around $ 1.5/barrel. Today, the cost of solar cells has dropped to $ 1.5/watt and crude has gone up to $ 100/barrel. These trends are likely to continue and by 2020 the cost of solar cells may drop to $ 0.5/watt and the crude would have gone up to $ 200/barrel. At this time, solar electricity would be cheaper than oil, gas, coal or nuclear power. New thin film technologies, like Cadmium Telluride and Copper-Indium-Gallium-di-Selenide (CIGS) are evolving to drive down the costs further.

India has good sunshine for more than 300 days, resulting in 1 KW solar panel giving an output of 1,800 units/year, as compared to only 850 units/year in Europe.

Intensive research is also going on to store electricity cheaply and efficiently, because all renewable sources are intermittent. Newly evolved liquid metal batteries give potential to make storage batteries in MW capacities.

Nuclear power is also a serious contender for reliable source of power. However, the investment required for creating nuclear power plant is around Rs15 crore/MW. This becomes viable only if the interest rates are lower like in Japan, Europe or the US. At 12-15 per cent interest in India, nuclear power ceases to be cost-effective. Our plan to add 40,000 MW of nuclear power in coming decade, would result in financial damage of Rs 3,00,000 crore. Besides, there would be risk of radiation leaks and storage of spent fuel. Nuclear plants also have longest lead time to build.

We need to follow a strategy of running gas and thermal power plants efficiently and making an all-out effort for 100 per cent utilisation of our hydel and wind potential. We also need to put in R&D efforts for creating readiness for solar technologies so that we can utilise it effectively in future. The major sources of electrical power in the future are likely to be hydel, wind and solar.

Human civilisation’s progress started with using muscle (man and animal) as source of power. Then came energy from wood, followed by fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas that could be transformed to electricity. Now is time to plan for a major shift and get more power from renewable sources. We need to reinvent fire.

K K Jain is a professor at IBS, Mumbai. E-mail:

NHRC raps states for denying silicosis deaths

Down to Earth

Author(s): Sayantan Bera
Date: Jul 11, 2012

Issues show-cause notices to Jharkhand and Delhi for payment of monetary relief

After a wait of six years, Sadhana Das, 45, finally has some hope of getting compensated. Her son Sasthi Das had died in 2006 after working for three years in a quartz crusher unit in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. He was only 25. The landless family had to sell household utensils after exhausting all its savings to pay for Sasthi’s treatment. Sasthi and 21 of his fellow workers succumbed to silicosis, an irreversible lung disease, caused due to inhaling silica dust.  The company, K K Minerals, shut shop and opened another unit a kilometre away in Musabani block.  There is no known medical treatment for silicosis—victims report extreme weakness, breathing trouble, constant cough and weight loss, following which they die.

Sadhana DasSadhana Das holds up photographs of her son Sasthi who died of silicosis in 2006. He was only 25

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), according to its press releases on 9 and 10 July, 2012, hauled up the state governments of Jharkhand and Delhi. NHRC’s show-cause notice to the Jharkhand chief secretary asks the state to explain “why the next of kin of the 22 workers who died of silicosis be not recommended monetary relief”. The commission has also sought a report on “action taken regarding medical treatment and rehabilitation of workers who are suffering from silicosis and are alive.”

The show-cause notice issued to the Delhi  chief secretary notes: “prima-facie it is established that the Government of NCT of Delhi has failed to protect the 21 workers out of 44 from the occupational disease caused due to inhaling of silica in dust.” NHRC also wrote that subsequent to its notice to the Delhi government, it first denied that there was any case of silicosis among the mine workers of Lal Kuan. NHRC then constituted a medical team which confirmed silicosis. The issue was brought to the commission by PRASAR, a Delhi based non-profit.

K K Minerals K K Minerals has shifted its factory after 28 workers died due to silicosis, say the affected families. Medical reports of 22 could be arranged. Their case was taken up by NHRC

Silicosis is prevalent among workers involved in  extraction and cutting of quartzite, gneiss, granite and slate, foundries, glass manufacturing plants, brick making, manufacture of pottery, porcelain, refractory materials and siliceous abrasives, road building, demolition work where potential sites of silica exist and blasting work using explosives.

“The magnitude of the problem can be gauged by the fact that Jharkhand has a mining history of 200 years. Presently, the state has 15,000 dust generating mines and units and our estimate is that over 2.5 million workers are suffering from silicosis,” says Samit Kumar Carr, secretary general of the non-profit Occupational Safety and Health Association of Jharkhand (OSHAJ). Carr brought the plight of the families to the notice of NHRC and has painstakingly collected evidence—medical reports and X-ray plates—so that the families can receive compensation. “If compensation is awarded in one case, it will have ramifications for the entire country,” he says.

x-rayX-Ray plate of a silicosis patient. The silica dust enters the lungs and is deposited in the alveoli. They obstruct breathing

Jharkhand suspended doctor for diagnosing silicosis

The NHRC order notes a claim from the chief secretary of Jharkhand in May, 2011 that the state has no certifying surgeon who can diagnose silicosis. After the admission, NHRC handed him a letter from the deputy secretary of East Singhbhum, addressed to the principal secretary of Jharkhand (dated May 18, 2011). “It was mentioned in the letter that a team of doctors was constituted under the district mining officer in which six persons were found suffering from pneumoconiosis,” notes NHRC. Pneumoconiosis is a broader category of occupational lung disease, of which silicosis is one.

Down To Earth has a copy of a report submitted in March 2005 by a team of government doctors, signed by the in-charge of Musabani primary health centre, V Murli Krishna. The report mentions the following in its conclusion: “all the above patients examined by us, have had exposure to fine stone dust particles for prolonged periods, unprotected. They developed silicosis, some in early stage, and some in progressive massive fibrotic stage. The only treatment available for silicosis is prevention and avoidance to fine dust exposure.”

There were, in fact, eight people diagnosed by the medical team. All of them have died since. Sukhram Gop, who was diagnosed at “an early stage of silicosis”, died in December 2005, eight months after the report was submitted. “We never received a paisa for his treatment or any compensation after his death. They suspended Krishna for two years and later transferred him to Jamshedpur,” recalls Monika Gop, Sukhram’s widow who is now struggling to get her daughters married.

The denial by the Jharkhand government raises questions about whose interests the state is protecting. Silicosis is a “notifiable” disease under the Factories Act of 1948, implying each case has to be reported to the district authorities so that compensation and preventive measures can be taken. Further, it is a compensable disease under the Workman’s Compensation Act, 1923. For instance, Sasthi Das should have received nearly Rs 13 lakh in compensation.

About 30,000 silicosis deaths go unreported each year

“In India, millions who work in crusher units in Jharkhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and other states are affected by silicosis. An estimated 30,000 die every year,” says Carr. “But till date not a single family received compensation. The disease could be prevented by using engineering controls like dust extraction devices which most units do not use to save costs. Doctors write tuberculosis instead of silicosis to avoid the legal obligation of reporting it to higher authorities,” he adds. The rap from NHRC might change things for better.


‘The Last War Crime’ Debuts at Cannes–but Censored in US.

Date: 13 July 2012

By Jeanine Molloff


During this summer of Occupy and subsequent police brutality, the subject of torture is hotly denounced by protesters and conveniently ignored by candidates. Like that ostrich diving head first into the sand of political expediency–Americans want to focus on the alleged debt crisis or gay marriage–anything that absolves us from the messy subject of tortures committed in our names by the Bush/Cheney administration and which continue under Obama to the present day. The entire Bradley Manning debacle speaks volumes to this accusation.


In spite of strong evidence identifying Dick Cheney as the mastermind behind this torture regime–the subject remains taboo, both in the ‘news’ business and in Hollywood–that is until Hollywood executives watched trailers for the anti-war documentary–The Last War Crime.

Written, produced and directed by a new talent known only as ‘The Pen,’ this film documents the torture protocol ordained by the Bush-Cheney administration. Since it first circulated a trailer on the web; it has been heavily censored and cyber attacked. You Tube has removed it at intermittent intervals and MTV (which is owned by Viacom) has refused to sell air time for a commercial.

Apparently, there are some things that Viacom won’t accept money for—namely any film or story which exposes the regular torture ordered by Vice-President Cheney. Curious about this documentary and the blatant censorship–(I couldn’t download it)–I contacted the artist aka The Pen. Here is the interview.

JM : What are you hoping this film will accomplish in terms of genuine political change?

The Pen:” The Last War Crime Movie is about indicting Cheney for torture. And isn’t that something billions of people want to see? They say sometimes life can imitate art. But first we felt it was important that we retrace our country’s steps as to how torture was used to get the false intelligence to sell us on a war with Iraq. The real story of how this happened has been buried under an avalanche of pseudo history. They want people to forget the Downing Street minutes and the foreknowledge that the British had that Cheney and Bush were determined to invade Iraq, even if they had to “fix the facts around the policy” to do so. They want to obliterate the memory of the flimsy legal arguments in the torture memos. So we dig out all the true facts, and put them on the big screen, together with an entertaining narrative story about what it would have been like if justice had already prevailed.

The people who committed these war crimes believe they can escape accountability by changing the way people think, by selling the American people on the idea that torture was a great thing that got us wonderful intelligence to protect us. But the only people making these arguments are the torturers themselves and their propaganda advocates. All other percipient witnesses confirm the opposite, which we knew already, that torture does not even work, and that any actionable intelligence they got was obtained before they started torturing people. So part of the mission of this movie is to counter their ongoing lies initiative, to change the way people think back to the truth, and then we can have good policy change, which is political change.

JM : Do you expect more interference, and if so–in what form?

The Pen: Based on what we have run into already, the attempted YouTube censorship (which we forced them to reverse after more than 7,000 direct protests), the rejection of the ad submitted to MTV (Viacom Inc.), it is clear that we are encountering serious censorship interference from the very beginning. Obviously we are telling a story that certain people don’t want heard. The American people believe that we have free speech. It was on that justification that the Supreme Court said in the Citizens United decision that the gloves were off, and that corporations with unlimited war chests should be permitted to flood our political process with money favoring their point of view. But now we see that the other side of that bargain was a fraud, that these same corporations believe they can discriminate against points of view they disagree with. So for the actual people, we find that even if we have the money, we cannot even BUY “free” speech.

This is not a tolerable situation. Must we generate thousands of protests every time we want to run an ad when it is rejected for political reasons?

Already Viacom has received over 12,000 protest messages in response to our call to action there, and in that situation apparently they think “we the people” can just be ignored. We are seriously considering a federal lawsuit, the argument has to be made, that if they accept political advertising of any kind, at least in that case, it must be some kind of 14th Amendment equal protection violation to practice what we would call “speech discrimination”. Only by bringing such a case can we determine if we actually have free speech or not.

JM: Has there been any direct retaliation or threats connected with the release of this film aimed at you? Any suspected retaliation?

The Pen : Gandhi is reputed to have said, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win”. At this point we are still mostly at the attempted “ignore you” stage.

JM: What has Hollywood’s reaction been to this film’s coming debut? Are you encountering the same kind of cowardice that Michael Moore experienced after his Oscar night comments about the war?

The Pen: We are just starting to get the word out about this film. The censorship attempts are doomed to fail, but we still don’t have enough visibility to where the rest of the Hollywood film community would be called on to react. It would not surprise me if some of the censorship we’ve been talking about was based in part on cowardice. Of course we all remember when Michael Moore called out the fiction of the basis for the war in Iraq at the Oscars. But in that case another reasonable possible explanation is that those who booed him then would object to any attempt to politicize the Academy Awards ceremony. The problem is that when you say you don’t want to hear about this political issue here, and you don’t want to hear about it there, you may end up with the dynamic we are confronting now with The Last War Crime movie, that the corporations that dominate our media really don’t want these issues talked about anywhere.

JM: Anything else you would want to add?

The Pen: “The soul of America is on trial right now. We have thrown not just international law overboard, we have repudiated our own long established law. We have always considered waterboarding to be torture. We have always prosecuted waterboarding in the past as torture. So what’s the difference now, that the war criminals have a big “R” after their names? We are called by history, the real history, to stand up and speak out about this, to bring America back to its highest calling. So if your readers are interested in participating in the Viacom action they can go to , where you can also see the ad that MTV

rejected. And there is a Facebook page  where we are posting video clips, still shots from the movie, including behind the scenes shots, and more on a daily basis, so you can follow our progress and help get this movie out in real theaters where it belongs and deserves to be.”

It should be noted that as of May 22nd, 2012, The Last War Crime was presented at the Cannes Film Festival. There was no refusal to air the film, no censorship–corporate or otherwise. Apparently the independent artistic community in Cannes and similar venues knows something that evades the vapid corporate offices of Hollywood.

This article was published at NationofChange at:

India: Target-Driven Sterilization Harming Women

Reproductive Rights Integral to Contraceptive Services
July 12, 2012
Health workers who miss sterilization targets because they give proper counseling and accurate information about contraception risk losing their jobs in many parts of the country. The Indian government should work with civil society to ensure that mechanisms to monitor progress in contraceptive use emphasize quality and respect for reproductive rights.
Aruna Kashyap, women’s rights researcher

(New Delhi) – India should eliminate coercive female sterilization practices as it implements plans for the expanded contraceptive services it announced at an international conference in London, Human Rights Watch and two reproductive health rights networks, the Coalition Against Two Child Norm and Coercive Population Policiesand CommonHealth Coalition for Maternal-Neonatal Health and Safe Abortions, said today.

The Indian government announced on July 11, 2012, at the London Summit for Family Planning that it has brought about “a paradigm shift” in its approach and will emphasize promotion and provision of contraceptives for birth spacing. The Indian government announced that its new strategy focuses on “making contraceptives available at the doorstep through 860,000 community health workers,” providing services for inserting intrauterine devices (IUDs) on fixed days in public health facilities, and improving post-natal services for IUDs, especially in those public health facilities that have large numbers of women coming to give birth. But the ongoing focus of the Indian central and state governments on achieving numerical targets for use of contraception, especially female sterilization, has contributed to a coercive environment for several decades, and should not be replicated going forward.

Unless India’s approach to contraception is revised, community health workers may come under increased pressure to meet contraceptive targets, the rights groups said. The government’s plans should ensure that all community health and nutrition workers give women adequate information about HIV prevention, sterilization, and other contraceptive choices.

Two years after the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, India announced that it would take a “target-free” approach to family planning. Since then, the Indian government has stopped setting centralized targets. But in practice, state-level authorities and district health officials assign targets for health workers for every contraceptive method, including female sterilization.

In much of the country, authorities aggressively pursue targets, especially for female sterilization, by threatening health workers with salary cuts or dismissals. As a result, some health workers pressure women to undergo sterilization without providing sufficient information, either about possible complications, its irreversibility, or safer sex practices after the procedure.

“Health workers who miss sterilization targets because they give proper counseling and accurate information about contraception risk losing their jobs in many parts of the country,” said Aruna Kashyap, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Indian government should work with civil society to ensure that mechanisms to monitor progress in contraceptive use emphasize quality and respect for reproductive rights.”

In June, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than four dozen Female Health Workers and early childhood careand nutrition workers, called anganwadiworkers, andAccredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) from two districts in Gujarat state about their family planning work in rural areas, as well as various health experts. Both Gujarat districts have large adivasi(indigenous tribal) populations, which are among the most impoverished groups in the state.

More than 50 health workers told Human Rights Watch that district and sub-district authorities assigned individual yearly targets for contraceptives, with a heavy focus on female sterilization. Almost all said that their supervisors or other higher-ups threatened them with adverse consequences if they did not achieve their targets.

These included threats to withhold or reduce salary, negative performance assessment, or suspension and dismissals. In one case, a health worker reported that she was asked to falsify records to show she had met targets or else she would be reported for poor performance. One women’s rights organization that has more than a decade of experience working with community health workers in various parts of Gujarat confirmed that state and district health authorities have consistently set such targets and threatened health workers.

Experts from across India have repeatedly voiced concerns about contraceptive targets leading to coercion and poor quality services. This was highlighted during state-level consultations and a national conference hosted by the Family Planning Association of India in New Delhi in June. At that conference, experts reiterated their decades-long demand for contraceptive choice and better quality services instead of a focus on numbers of people accessing contraceptives or undergoing female sterilization.

“Information about contraceptive choice and quality of services should not be sacrificed for numbers,” said Dr. SundariRavindran, steering committee member of the CommonHealth Coalition. “Hounding a poor woman to get sterilized without proper information and leaving her to deal with negative reproductive health consequences cannot be seen as success.”

State authorities in some parts of India also use incentives – including cars, gold coins, and drawings for prizes – to “promote” sterilization. Because male sterilization is not well-accepted socially, this almost always means female sterilization. The most recent District Level Household and Facility Survey from 2008shows that of the 54 percent of the population that reported using any method of contraception, female sterilization accounted for 34 percent and male sterilization accounted for 1 percent of contraceptive use.

Aside from family planning programs, sterilization is pursued through other programs that are entirely funded by state governments. For example, five states have introduced “girl child promotion” programs, which provide monetary benefits to parents of girls, with a final cash benefit if she reaches the age of 18 unmarried. But to receive benefits, a couple must produce a sterilization certificate.

Experts have repeatedly called for the Indian central government to refashion its family planning program to take into account social factors related to childbearing, including early marriage, the preference for sons, infant and child mortality, and the country’s lack of social security for the elderly.

The Indian central government’s failure to implement social security programs has been a major deterrent to contraceptive use since many families say they rely on their children, especially sons, to care for them in old age. India created a National Policy for Older Persons in 1999 and passed the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. But little has been done to implement the policy and law.Indian experts participating in the Delhi conference pointed out that pursuing an agenda of sterilization without addressing old age security only increases the risk of illegal sex-selective abortions.

“Son preference and choices about birth are intrinsically linked to fears about old age insecurity,” said Dr. Subha Sri, steering committee member of CommonHealth coalition. “By failing to address old age security for the poor, India is both turning its back on families pressured to meet targets and increasing the likelihood of sex-selective abortions.”

India’s family planning program focuses predominantly on women, with little interaction and engagement with men. At the same time, it is men who often decide when to have sex and how many children to produce. For India to be successful in its renewed efforts at family planning, it should engage effectively with men too, the rights groups said.

With early marriage prevalent in many areas and with India having the highest number of adolescents in the world, information about reproductive and sexual health should become an important part of both school curricula and health services for adolescents. India’s 2003 Youth Policy specifically recognized that “information in respect of the reproductive health system should form part of the educational curriculum.” But nearly a decade after the Youth Policy was introduced India has yet to introduce compulsory sex education for adolescents.

“In sex education, there are no shortcuts to engaging with both adolescents and men,” said Dr. Abhijit Das, steering committee member of the National Coalition Against Two Child Norm. “India should treat age-appropriate compulsory sex education – both inside and outside schools ­as integral to its new chapter on family planning and find a way of engaging men effectively.”

As India moves into its new phase of contraceptive services, the Indian government should:

  • Consult with health rights experts and create a panel to develop measureable indicators for monitoring access to and use of contraceptives beyond numerical targets, which focus on spacing between two consecutive births, informed decision-making, and quality care;
  • Pilot test a minimum package of integrated sexual and reproductive health services that includes a range of contraceptives and compulsory age-appropriate sexuality education for adolescents in and out of schools;
  • Set up an independent grievance redress system that includes civil society members to report coercion and poor quality contraceptive services and to facilitate remedial action;
  • Give priority to training male workers to provide information and counselingto men about safer sex and contraceptive choice;
  • Review all existing girl-child promotion schemes, direct state governments to revise these schemes to stop forcing sterilization as the primary contraceptive method, and develop guidelines for such schemes.
  • Examine the issue of social security for the elderly as an issue of national priority and take measures to review and implement the National Policy on Older Persons.

For details of the findings of Human Rights Watch’s research in Gujarat state, statements of health workers, and information about India’s family planning program, please see below.

Pressure for Female Sterilization and IUDs; Threats and Incentives 
In June, Human Rights Watch interviewed health workers about family planning practices in two districts in Gujarat. More than 50 health workers said that each of them was assigned individual targets for family planning services, including female sterilization and insertion of IUDs, that they were expected to meet every year. Almost all said that their supervisors or other higher-ups inappropriately pressured them with threats to achieve such targets.

Threats to Meet Sterilization Targets
Five Female Health Workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that each of them, together with their male counterpart (called a Multipurpose Health Worker), had to ensure that at least 30 women were sterilized annually. They delegated meeting this target partly to ASHAs, the community health workerswho helped “motivate” women to undergo sterilization. At the village level, anganwadi workers also said they had sterilization targets to achieve and were expected to speak to women they knew.

One angawadi worker, Truptibein (name changed), recalled a planning meeting for anganwadiworkers with their supervisor in April:

Each of us has to bring five women for operation [sterilization] in one year, the CDPO [Child Development Project Officer] told us in the meeting. This announcement they make every year… It has been like this almost since the time I was appointed [in the late 1980s]. If we don’t do this, they say they will deduct our salary or that our salary will be stopped.

Truptibein said that when these targets are not met:

They shout at those who have not fulfilled their targets during meetings. It’s humiliating. They say, “If others can achieve the target, why can’t you? You must know some women? You must have relatives or some contacts after working in the villages? Use them and get women operated [sterilized].”

Alokabein(name changed), a municipal corporation community-based health worker (officially called a link worker) who works in a slum in Gujarat told Human Rights Watch:

I have to bring one woman every month for the operation. The MO [medical officer] or my supervisor says, “Go bring them from wherever you want, it’s not our business. Find them. But you must bring one woman for operation every month. If you cannot even bring one woman in a month for operation it means you are not doing your work properly.” They say they will complain about us. [Or] remove us from our jobs if we don’t complete this target. We are told, “Until a woman agrees for the operation keep hounding her.”

To meet targets, health workers said they repeatedly visited women to convince them to get sterilized. Truptibein said, “I have to keep going to women’s houses. Sometimes in one week I go 10 times to one woman’s house.”

Alokabein said:

These government officers and doctors don’t know what it is like to work and live in the same basti [area]. If we don’t get the mother-in-law and husband to agree for sterilization, tomorrow they will create problems for the daughter-in-law and they will all show up in our houses since we live in the community.

Gujarat state is not alone in the practice of threatening to punish health workers who fail to meet sterilization and other family planning targets. The Indian government’s Advisory Committee for Community Action,a health advisory body, reported in 2011 that the Madhya Pradesh state government had suspended health workers for not meeting family planning targets.

Even though Gujarat has established targets for many forms of contraceptives, health workers said pressure from supervisors was strongest when it came to female sterilization. Two health workers said they felt constrained to present women only with the choice of female sterilization and emphasize that option over other methods of contraception. Alokabein said she risked the ire of her supervisor by discussing other contraceptive options:

To fulfill targets they operate [sterilize] really young women—20, 22, 24, 25 years. These women are really young and then their bodies gain weight after a few years and they find it very hard to work… They [supervisors] tell us not to tell women these things. But women can see for themselves that this happens so they are reluctant. So I tell young women to use Copper T [IUD] if they don’t want to go for operation. If my supervisor finds out I’ve been saying this in the slum she will shout at me. Maybe I’ll lose my job, but maybe she won’t be that angry because I can tell her I’ve fulfilled my Copper-T target. But because she doesn’t go to the slum and I make the reports, she doesn’t know all this and I get saved. I feel really bad telling women they should only do operation. This kind of pressure for operation is not correct.

Examples of Threats to Meet IUD Targets
Health workers in Gujarat told Human Rights Watch that they also faced threats and pressure if they did not meet targets for women agreeing to use Copper-T, an IUD.They said that they had an annual target for Copper-Ts, and in some cases were pressured to falsify records to show that the targets were met. Alokabein said she was asked to bring at least three women every month for insertion of the Copper-T:

One month I was not able to fulfill my Copper-T target so my supervisor said, “Don’t you know three women’s names from your slum? Just write three women’s names and give it.” I felt really bad and fought with her. I said “How can I write three women’s names even if they haven’t come for this?” She got really angry with me and told me to just write three names if I did not want to get into trouble for not meeting my target. So I wrote some three women’s names saying they had come for Copper-T.

These problems are not unique to Gujarat. Indian health rights activists have for decades pointed to the flaws in this target-driven incentives-disincentives approach and shown how this approach violates women’s reproductive rights.

Incentives to Meet Sterilization Targets
In addition to threats against health workers, some states have offered “incentives” for sterilization, drawing widespread criticism from Indian civil society. In 2011, the Madhya Pradesh government announced that anyone opting for sterilization would get a Tata Nano car, and at least one district announced gun licensesfor men who agreed to be sterilized.Similarly,several districts in Rajasthan statein 2011 announced lucky draws for couples who opted for sterilization, giving away expensive prizes including cars, bikes, and refrigerators.

Pressure for female sterilization comes up in other government programs beyond family planning. For example, the condition of sterilization is attached to “girl child promotion” programs in five states in India. Associate Professor T.V. Sekher of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the author of a United Nations Population Fund-sponsored studyabout Indian programs to promote acceptance of girl children and correct son preference, said that Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh state governments had programs in which couples had to produce sterilization certificates to be eligible for benefits (including monetary payments). This led to female sterilization because that was considered more socially acceptable than male sterilization, he said.

Poor Quality Information and Lack of Informed Consent
The quality and nature of information that health workers provide women and their families to convince them to be sterilized is questionable, raising doubts about informed consent, Human Rights Watch found. Sheetalbein (name changed), an ASHA, said, “I tell these women you can get yourself operated. They put rings inside and tie the birth tubes and you can go back to the doctor and take the rings out if you want to have children again.”

This inaccurate information contradicts the 2006 Standards for Female and Male Sterilization, which clearly states that sterilization is difficult and expensive to reverse. The International Federation for Obstetricians and Gynecologists in its 2011 Guidelines for Female Contraceptive Sterilization states that:

Information for consent includes, for instance, that sterilization should be considered irreversible, that alternatives exist such as reversible forms of family planning, that life circumstances may change, causing a person later to regret consenting to sterilization, and that procedures have a very low but significant failure rate.

At least two health workers reported to Human Rights Watch that women came back to them and reported that they wanted to have the sterilization procedure reversed. Several other health workers reported that female sterilization procedures had failed. None of them had discussed these possibilities with women before taking them for sterilization.

Similarly, contrary to Indian central government standardsfor pre-sterilization counseling about how the procedure does not prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, several Female Health Workers said that they were not aware of any HIV-related information they needed to provide to women before or after sterilization. When specifically asked whether they or the other outreach workers explained the risk of HIV to couples and counseled them to engage in safer sex even after sterilization, they said they were not aware of this.

Health workers told Human Rights Watch that both they and their male counterparts actively seek out women for sterilization because they “found it easier to convince women than men” to be sterilized.

Targeting Families with Sons, Larger Families
The preference for sons remains one of the most complex challenges for family planning in India. Families from Gujarat told Human Rights Watch that they preferred sons because of their capacity to do agricultural work and because they could support parents in old age, and felt girls get married and go away to their in-laws’ homes. Women who have borne sons are sought out by health workers as prime candidates for sterilization, sometimes without their informed consent.

Health workers from two districts of Gujarat told Human Rights Watch they targeted women who had already given birth to sons. One ASHA who was herself under pressure from her supervisor to be sterilized said she did not want to undergo the procedure because she had only one son, who was very young. She said that she approached women who had already had sons, and that most families prefer to have at least two sons before they agree to sterilization. Another ASHA said, “I tell women you have had two boys so you can get the operation done.” The Center for Health and Social Justice and Manjari, a nongovernmental organization, has also found that health workers target families with sons for female sterilization in Rajasthan.

In addition, health workers said Gujarat state’s unwritten two-child norm influenced whom they targeted for sterilization. A few health workers said that doctors from public and private hospitals told them to press women who had already had two live births to be sterilized. ASHAs from two villages said they conducted a survey to find families that had more than two children, and went to those homes to encourage women to be sterilized.

Indian health rights activists have repeatedly underscored the importance of tackling son preference and old age security effectively, while implementing family planning programs. Most recently, Indian experts from across the country reiterated the need to abandon the small-family norm and address social security for the elderly at the national conference on family planning in June. Activists at the conference cited sex-selective abortions as a danger of aggressively pursuing female sterilization and a small-family norm in the context of son preference.

Sterilization and IUD “Camps”
Many states in India perform sterilization en masse through “camps,” which involve using surgical facilities for one or more days for dozens of procedures. Recently, Tamil Nadu state also started conducting IUD camps.

In 2008, the Indian central government developed guidelinesfor “fixed day static services” to move away from the earlier method of conducting sterilization through periodic camps. However, these have actually resulted in what health workers now refer to as “weekly camps.” According to the 2008 guidelines, a district or block health facility should conduct 30 sterilization procedures every week. The 2008 guidelines supplement the Indian government’s 2006 Quality Assurance Manual for SterilizationServicesand the 2006 Standards for Female and Male Sterilization Services. These guidelines require that sterilizations be performed only with informed consent and counseling about possible complications, and require hygienic conditions and adequate equipment. Yet experts told Human Rights Watch that not all camps meet these requirements, sometimes resulting in complications from sterilization surgeries and even deaths.

Following orders of the Supreme Court in public interest litigation brought in 2003, the central government created an insurance plan to compensate families for deaths arising from female sterilization-related complications. But the focus on the numbers of women sterilized at these camps has overshadowed concerns about quality. Experts have repeatedly expressed concern that this insurance program is not being implemented properly and that quality continues to be a problem.

For example, in February 2012, a health rights activist from Bihar filed a public interest litigation  with the Indian Supreme Court alleging lack of informed consent and poor quality services when 53 women were sterilized in Bihar state within two hours.

Health workers in Gujarat told Human Rights Watch that between 40 and 150 women are sterilized in weekly camps in their district. Dr. Abhijit Das from the Centre for Health and Social Justice, a leading Delhi-based health rights organization, told Human Rights Watch that he found at least one gynecologist in Madhya Pradesh state conducting 250 to 300 sterilizations on some days.

In one state, a study found that the state’s approach to female sterilization forced doctors in the public hospital to commit so much staff time to sterilization camps that other basic reproductive health care suffered. A civil society team that investigatedmaternal deaths in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh state found that the senior gynecologist from the district hospital was absent four days in a week, performing sterilizations in camps.

Recent evidence suggests that the “camp” approach is being expanded for insertion of IUDs as well. A gynecologist from Tamil Nadu told Human Rights Watch that Tamil Nadu has started conducting camps in primary health centers for insertion of Copper-T IUDs. She told Human Rights Watch that camps in her district insert IUDs in 30 to 35 women a day. She expressed concern about the quality and availability of sterile equipment at primary health centers to handle this many procedures and also expressed concerns about informed consent.

Policies and Numerical Targets
India adopted a “Target-Free Approach” to Family Planning in 1996 and introduced the National Population Policyin 2000, which “affirms the commitment of government toward voluntary and informed choice and consent of citizens while availing of reproductive health care services, and continuation of the target free approach in administering family planning services.” The “target free approach” does not, in fact, eliminate targets, which were originally driven by the notion of populationstabilization. Even though on paper it leaves setting targets to states using a community-needs approach, little has changed on the ground.

Despite the policy’s stated commitment to reproductive health, informed consent, and choice of contraceptives, local experts have consistently criticized it for continuing “population control” and “population stabilization” as the approach for family planning. Experts from across the country at the June conference in New Delhi recommended that the Indian central government review the National Population Policy to shift its focus from demographics to individual rights.

Female sterilization continues to be the predominant method of family planning in India. The preference for female sterilization as a method of family planning is reflected in funding patterns, said the Centre for Health and Social Justice, based on its analysis of budgetary allocations for annual health plans for 2011-2012. Even states that have achieved replacement fertility continue to pursue female sterilization as a key contraceptive method. For example, recent health survey data shows that even states like Tamil Nadu– which has already achieved replacement fertility – pursue female sterilization as the predominant method, though it has recently shifted attention to IUDs using the camp approach.

Every state sets targets in its annual health plan for female sterilization, male sterilization, insertion of IUDs, and distribution of contraceptive pills. A central government body, the National Project Coordination Committee, reviews these targets and allocates funds for family planning in every state.

Sterilization targets are increased manifold at times. For example, Dr. Abhijit Das from the Centre for Health and Social Justice, found that in Bihar state fewer than 150,000 sterilization operations were “achieved” in 2005-2006 and the target for 2011-2012 was set at 650,000 – nearly a four-fold increase. Similarly, he told Human Rights Watch that Madhya Pradesh set a target of 700,000 for sterilization, doubling what was achieved in earlier years.

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July 2012
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