India -Noted activist Dr. Sunilam granted bail #goodnews


 

By Newzfirst Correspondent2/15/13

 

Jabalpur – The Madhya Pradesh High Court Friday suspended the life sentence of noted activist Dr. Sunilam Mishra and granted him bail in a 14 year old case of rioting. A sessions court in Multai on 19 October 2012 had sentenced Dr. Sunilam and two others to rigorous life .

 

The High Court, Jabalpur has suspended the life sentence awarded to Dr. Sunilam and two others in a 14 year old case of rioting.The HC has also granted bail to them, Aradhana Bhargava, defense counsel of Sunilam told Newzfirst.

 

The High Court also granted bail to Prahlad and Sheshrao, who were also convicted along with Dr. Sunilam in the same case.

All the three were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment on 19 October 2012 by a sessions court in Multai under the provisions of section 307 (attempt to murder) and 302 (murder) for seven years on each count.

Dr. Sunilam was charged under sections 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 145 (unlawful assembly), 152 (assaulting and obstructing public servant when suppressing riot), 333 (causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 307(attempt to murder), 302 (murder) and other serious sections of the IPC.

Dr. Sunilam was leading a farmers’ agitation against the district administration of Betul on 12 January, 1998. As the agitation turned violent, 24 farmers were killed in the police firing that was ordered to bring the situation under control.

The MP Government lodged 66 false cases against Dr. Sunilam, who was also a leader of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, and other farmers in one single incident of police firing in Multai.

In January 12, 1998, 24 innocent farmers were shot dead and 250 injured during police firing in Multai,  a town of Madhya Pradesh’s Betul district.

Dr. Sunilam, socialist politician and a two time MLA in Madhya Pradesh Assembly was also a part of Indian People’s Movement against WTO and the anti-corruption movement in the country.

 

LGBT discourse & cultural imperialism in Pakistan


Thursday, 14 February 2013 22:15by Hashim bin Rashid, http://www.viewpointonline.net/

Hope for them lies in the constitutional change and culturally located critiques such as Bol. Only through these, and not US cultural imperialism, shall they be able to be reintegrated into a social fabric they were so brutally de-rooted from by the last imperial cultural project

This more than any other article I have written before requires that the audience for it is defined before one sat down to write it. It also requires that I define myself and the particular sense in which I am situated within these debates.

The article has four audiences. First: those western intellectuals, activists and governments that wish to ‘help’ the LGBT community of Pakistan. Second: members (English-speaking only) of the LGBT community of Pakistan. Third: non-members of the LGBT community who support their cause. Four: those who find the idea of being LGBT repulsive to their faith and their notions of what it is to be human.

All ideas articulated in this article are for all four – unless otherwise stated. The need to speak arising out of the genuine fear members of the LGBT community that I know have experienced after the US Embassy in Islamabad’s intervention [On June 26, 2012 the American Embassy in Islamabad held its first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride celebration], purportedly to ‘protect them.’ Never have I seen such fear come after a promise to protect from a superpower. Nor has such a non-story ever been played up as much.

Within Muslim cultural history:

The first point shall be to run through my own story. Situate myself and to allow the reader to re-situate their understanding of a part of Muslim culture that may have been hidden from them, withheld or they may have otherwise ignored.

I think we may best be served by choosing a reference urban bourgeoisie culture in Pakistan will identify with. Let’s work with a couplet from Iqbal’s Shikwa:

Aik hi saf mein kharay ho gaye Mehmood o Ayaz
Na koi banda rha na koi banda nawaz
[Mehmood and Ayaz stood in a single file
Neither remained servant nor master]

Iqbal chose to present them by isolating the historical metaphors attached to them. Iqbal chose the metaphor of master-slave becoming equals. What Iqbal conveniently ignored was that Mahmud and Ayaz, in the Sufi tradition, became the quintessential Muslim male lovers. The theme under which they were historically represented was love, not equality. The same sets of stories are translated across a number of narratives considered distinctively Muslim.

Male love, as a means to intellectual and spiritual growth, has been integral to Sufi traditions in Persia, Arabia and the subcontinent. The fundamental rupture that produced both Rumi (with Tabrez) and Bullah (with Shah Inayat) comes from a male possessing supreme spiritual depth. There are other Sufis that find that inspiration within an innocent youth.

The influx of Muslims into the subcontinent itself gave credence to such. Ayaz, the fabled lover of Mahmud, has served as governor of Lahore. Babur, the first Mughal king, himself expresses his love for another male, Baburi, in the Baburnama.

Thus – even late manifestations of sub-continental Muslim culture were able to integrate a more fluid understanding of masculinity.

A tryst with British cultural imperialism:

And it is this that brings us to the second point I wish to make: the significant influence of earlier British imperialism (colonization, you may call it) in re-shaping the legal and cultural contours of being LGBT in the subcontinent. The effects of these shifts are integral to how the late hegemonic Muslimness has imagined masculinity and femininity.

First, at the level of discourse, a run through of the British Gazetteers (and I do encourage you to read any) on the subcontinent reveals their discomfort with sub-continental sexuality. A prime concern remained, what the British would read, as gender fluidity. And it could not be digested under heavily Christian Victorian values.

Thus, this translated into how the British employed power – and importantly how one could legitimately consider the clear, categorical distinctions between male and female that sub-continental urban spaces are intimate with, as being a product of the colonial period.

Second, at the level of law, it was the British that introduced laws criminalizing being ‘LGBT’ (if the category could be read into history).

Being transgender was made a crime under the Indian Penal Code 1860. All hijras were added to the Criminal Tribes act and the legal requirement to try someone for being transgender was merely cross-dressing.

The consequences of this legal shift have, sociologically, not been fully traced out. But, in a recent research project I supervised, traces of the discourses of criminality affiliated with the transgender community (which also found themselves into the Supreme Court of Pakistan judgment granting them ‘third sex’ status) took formal roots within State practice.

The transgender became the criminal. And so comes to be that Pakistan’s hijra community continues to suffer (uniquely) from police harassment.

Speaking from within culture:

Third, at the level of Muslim discourse, it is in the colonial period that Muslims, accused of being morally and sexually lax, began to reinvent themselves and constitute a new set of fundamental values. One of the new values set up was the strict separation of male and female genders – a binary that did not know itself in history quite similarly.

Thus we move to the third point: to turn to existing cultures within Pakistan that are open to the idea of being LGBT – and doing so while being ‘culturally located.’

Here, I must make a candid admission. History is the subject I am more comfortable with. Existing culture is a matrix that requires much careful study.

The sense is however that Seraiki masculinity and masculinity with segments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa operates on a different node. Within urban spaces, the fashion circle is also understood to operate with different understanding too.

Again, these are not clear-cut derivations. But again it is important to realize these exist.

What is also important is to realize that not all turns to queerness are healthy or voluntary. It is a question that a number of people have narrated from their experiences in same-sex boarding schools during the age of their puberty.

A student, otherwise of the devout variety, suggested that it would be impossible for one to not have a queer encounter at a particular private boarding school and then he narrated his own story of frustration and desire.

In so many ways, the imposed silence on questions about sexuality remains a key note for people of all persuasions reading this article. Anyhow the boarding schools example may give those who condemn being LGBT more ammunition than I would like them to have.

So, we must remind them of madrassahs and the repression around child molestation that prevails within them. Again, as a journalist, I have encountered an instance of a madrassah student backtracking on an expose because of fears that he shall be murdered by groups sent after him.

Again, this is not to stereotype, but to demarcate areas where silence and jokes cover up for the lack of serious discourse.

A turn to social sciences and Bol:

And at this note about discourse, I turn to the fourth point of the article: to turn to discourses from within the social science to articulate a distinction between ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ – which if a step be taken back is very much common sense.

It is clear that our understanding of gender comes from social mores. I was cultured into being a male – according to the culture that surrounds me. I accepted. Female culturalization operates similarly. There are specific disciplinary regimes that go into constructing one’s gender.

The question to ask is: if gender was natural, why would anyone need to tell what being a male or being a female is?

It is a powerful moment within Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol when the sister slaps her transgender ‘brother’, dressing up in female clothing in front of the mirror, and says, “Is this how men behave?,” in ignorance of the real biological sexuality of him.

The question the movie is able to articulate is: how are we to deal with alternate biological sexualities?

The question engaging in LGBT discourse makes you ask is however a bit different. It is: how are we to deal with alternate social sexualities?

I have my answer. But there is no point to imposing it here.

No to Western cultural imperialism:

But it is important to make this articles fifth point: that the US declaration of support was not needed and should not be welcomed by LGBT activists.

That is the only normative claim in the article that I stress upon.

While homophobia seeps deep into the social contours of postcolonial Muslimness, the space for acceptance has been more than it has been in the traditional west.

The need for violent LGBT struggles in the subcontinent has not been needed in the same way these were needed in the West. The liberal discourse in the West, the change in the stance of the Christian Papacy is the product of the particular socio-material conditions of the West – where persecution has known itself to be worse and more systematic than anywhere, or any period, within Muslim societies.

Postcolonial Muslim perspectives, even if keeping queer identity a pedestal down on the social ladder, had not declared them worthy of persecution (doctrinally).

The current declaration of exile of ‘all such individuals’ by Jama’at i Islami is in fact unique.

And it is so due to the attempt by the new imperial power (US) to create a cultural hegemony over what it is to be queer.

It would have been best for the US to stay out of matters in Pakistan. And it would be best if it learns before a systematic persecution of LGBT actually begins.

As a concluding note, however, it must be said, that all that has been said above, promises nothing for the most systematically discriminated against queer community in Pakistan: the hijra (transgenders).

Hope for them lies in the constitutional change and culturally located critiques such as Bol. Only through these, and not US cultural imperialism, shall they be able to be reintegrated into a social fabric they were so brutally de-rooted from by the last imperial cultural project.

Let us hope that US cultural imperialism does not do more damage to the queer cause in this already fractured socio-polity we label Pakistan.

 

Executing the Mentally Retarded: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia #mentalhealth


FEB 13 2013, 11:54 AM ET
The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have an opportunity to reinforce their historic ruling banning capital punishment for criminals with low IQs. They should take it.

supremeswoundedban.jpg

Reuters

The story of Warren Lee Hill, which is poised to reach its apex next week, is really the story of how vast the gulf is sometimes between the lofty pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court and the manner in which lesser functionaries of law and justice implement the letter and the spirit of those pronouncements. For in the case of Warren Lee Hill, we see nothing less than the state-sanctioned defiance of a recent Supreme Court mandate: Thou shalt not execute the mentally retarded.

Hill is a capital inmate in Georgia, long ago convicted of murder, who is scheduled to be executed next Tuesday. This is happening, at least for now, because Georgia officials have come up with a way to satisfy themselves that Hill is not mentally retarded. They have accomplished this psychological miracle by enforcing a restrictive state law which makes it virtually impossible for any capital defendant to ever prove his or her mental retardation. And they say they are entitled to apply this law because the Supreme Court said so.

Georgia is pressing ahead with the execution even though Hill’s lawyers have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that, with an IQ of 70, he has “significantly subaverage intellectual functioning.” The state is pressing ahead because Hill’s lawyers were only able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Hill’s mental retardation caused “impairments in adaptive behavior which manifested during the developmental period.” Not good enough, say Georgia officials. The second part of the test also must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

This is in conflict with the Supreme Court’s 2002 pronouncement, in a case styled Atkins v. Virginia, that the execution of mentally retarded murderers violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Aware of the growing national consensus against such executions, and mindful of the rule that the Supreme Court must by obeyed, the state has gotten around the problem simply by claiming that Hill is not mentally retarded.

It’s one thing to require the state to prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s another to require a mentally retarded individual to save his own life by applying such a standard.

Filing their briefs, Hill’s lawyers late last week asked the Supreme Court justices to spare their client and, in so doing, to fortify their ruling in Atkinswith blunt new language that requires officials in states like Georgia to give meaningful effect to the new constitutional prohibition. The justices should rush to embrace this desperate request. A right without a remedy is no right at all. And what Georgia — and other states — have done sinceAtkins is deny men like Hill (and Marvin Wilson, executed last summer in Texas despite an IQ of 61) the remedy they deserve.

Atkins v. Virginia

The Supreme Court did something in Atkins v. Virginia which it does too often in close cases — which, in fact, officials throughout the ages have done too often: It came up with a neat compromise that left for a future day the true ramifications of its choice. While it announced a ban against the execution of the mentally retarded, at the very same time, it gave recalcitrant states a map to getting around the ban. The broad stroke was widely hailed as a great victory for human rights, but the details doomed men like Marvin Wilson — and perhaps Warren Lee Hill as well.

The justices who signed onto the majority ruling in the case were acutely aware in Atkins that, by leaving the key question to the states, they would enable officials in some jurisdictions to continue to execute mentally retarded defendants whom other states would spare. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:

To the extent there is serious disagreement about the execution of mentally retarded offenders it is in determining which offenders are in fact retarded. In this case, for instance, the Commonwealth of Virginia disputes that Atkins suffers from mental retardation. Not all people who claim to be mentally retarded will be so impaired as to fall within the range of mentally retarded offenders about whom there is a national consensus. As was our approach in Ford v. Wainwright, with regard to insanity, “we leave to the State[s] the task of developing ways to enforce the constitutional restriction upon its execution of sentences.”

In other words, the court in Atkins was ready to extend full Eighth Amendment protection in “easy” cases of mental retardation, but not in “hard” cases where there might be “serious disagreement” between experts about the level of retardation. This cop-out was part of the ruling, even as the court acknowledged that “some characteristics of mental retardation undermine the strength of the procedural protections that our capital jurisprudence steadfastly guards.” Justice Stevens continued in this vein:

Mentally retarded persons frequently know the difference between right and wrong and are competent to stand trial. Because of their impairments, however, by definition they have diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others.

Despite its grand constitutional claim, Atkins allowed states to continue to manipulate the results of “close” capital cases of mental retardation by trotting out their medical experts and their psychiatrists, in order to conclude that the condemned was not so mentally retarded as to fall within the protections of the Eighth Amendment. This scenario resulted last year in theshocking execution of a Texas man “who could not handle money or navigate a phone book, a man who sucked his thumb and could not always tell the difference between left and right, a man who, as a child, could not match his socks, tie his shoes or button his clothes.”

To its eternal shame, placing federalism above core protections in the Bill of Rights, the Supreme Court turned its back on Marvin Wilson, that man in Texas. It should not turn its back on Warren Hill. By requiring him to prove his mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt, and by dismissing the substantial proof of retardation he did establish, Georgia took cynical advantage of the court’s deference in Atkins. The Supreme Court should put to right this ongoing injustice. It should no longer countenance such continuing disrespect.

Hill v. Humphrey

Georgia argues in this case that the Supreme Court should just leave it alone. It argues that what its officials have done in the Hill case — the many hearings, the many layers of appellate review, the culling of experts on the topic of Hill’s mental status — is precisely the sort of due process the justices in Atkins intended for them to undertake. Georgia’s relevant mental evaluation standards are quite liberal, the state lawyers argue, especially in comparison with those of other states. “Georgia’s burden of proof as to claims of mental retardation is not unconstitutional,” the state bluntly told the court.

And then Georgia reminded the justices of the oversight scenario they had purposefully chosen to avoid in Atkins: creating a national constitutional rule that would protect individual defendants, but that would also run into the types of federalism concerns that so disturb this Supreme Court. Even if the court “chooses to retract that portion of Atkins leaving the task of developing procedures to the States,” the state lawyers wrote, “this Court will be in the position of setting out detailed guidelines to ensure what it deems constitutional is met as there are many variables in each state’s statute.”

Hill’s lawyers aren’t asking the Supreme Court to force Georgia to roll over. They instead are asking the justices to issue a ruling that ensures that no state may require a capital defendant to prove his or her mental retardation using the most onerous “reasonable doubt” standard. The “substantive protection” the court promised in Atkins, the defense argues, is “eviscerated” by a uniquely harsh state law with such a requirement. “Georgia stands alone among American jurisdictions,” Hill’s lawyers write, “in denying the protection of Atkins v. Virginia to capital defendants who probably have mental retardation in fact.”

The heart of their case — and perhaps the best argument against the cruelty of the Georgia statute — is that the nature of these psychological cases makes it easy for a prosecutor to generate “reasonable doubt” of mental retardation simply by offering up an expert who will cast that doubt. “Because of the detail and complexity of the information and expert judgments that enter into the diagnostic process,” Hill’s lawyers remind the court, “a prosecutor can almost always hope to fashion some argument for reasonable doubt if the issue goes to trial — particularly in the context of an ugly crime.”

It’s one thing to require the state to prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s another thing to require a mentally retarded individual to bear the burden of saving his own life by such a standard. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the only former trial judge on the court, surely will appreciate that distinction. Whether Justice Anthony Kennedy does as well will likely determine Hill’s fate. It was Justice Kennedy who voted for the Atkins ban and who also wrote the opinion in the more recent ban on the execution of juvenile murderers. He’s the critical fifth vote Hill would need, both to stay the execution and to extend the promise of Atkins.

The problem isn’t going to solve itself. And the Supreme Court is the only means of help. The Georgia Supreme Court, Hill’s lawyers assert, “has already made its intentions clear: it will not disturb the reasonable doubt standard in mental retardation cases ‘unless the Supreme Court or the United States so requires at some future date.'”

That day is here. If it is not Hill it will be another man, in another state, who is mentally retarded but unable to prove so to the satisfaction of a state judge because of some arbitrary legal standard. There is no standing still on Atkins. The court must either go forward or go back. And it must do so quickly.

 

Land rights activists angered as India’s forest act undermined #humanrights


The government’s decision to allow major infrastructure projects to go ahead without obtaining consent for forest clearance paves the way for the violation of village land rights, say rights groups

Matthew Newsome

Friday 15 February 2013

guardian.co.uk

The living tree root bridges of Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, India - 2011

—-

Land and tribal rights in India have been dealt a new blow after the government announced last week that major infrastructure projects will be exempt from obtaining consent for forest clearance from tribal communities living in the forest, a decision that undermines the importance of the country’sForest Rights Act.

 

Tribal and forest rights activists say the decision by India’s ministers leaves village councils (gram sabhas) powerless to reject the building of roads, railways, transmission lines, canal systems, pipelines or other projects that potentially violate their land rights.

 

“This is serious breach of trust and a huge step back in ensuring the dignity and survival of traditional forest-dwelling people across the country. Forests are going to be cleared to make way for a particular kind of economic development; it will adversely impact communities and the environment,” said Dr Swati Shresth, from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.

 

The decision was adopted at a meeting convened by prime minister Manmohan Singh and attended by environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan and tribal affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo. “The ministry took a decision that, subject to [the] Forest Rights Act, there will not be requirement of consent of each of the gram sabhas through which such linear projects such as roads, canals, pipelines, transmission towers etc pass,” said Natarajan.

 

The 2006 act is a landmark piece of legislation recognising the rights forest-dependent communities have over the landscape they have traditionally inhabited. It mandates that forest dwellers cannot be resettled unless their traditional rights have been recognised. It is seen as the single most important piece of legislation protecting and preserving the country’s biodiversity and the rights of tribal groups. By no longer gaining the consent of communities, the government stands accused of effectively overturning key provisions of the act.

 

“All traditional forest-dependent communities can be impacted including those who might have procured rights under the FRA and those who are still struggling for its implementation in their area,” said Shresth.

 

In 2009, the ministry of forests and environment (MoFE) made the consent of affected forest communities mandatory for all projects that would destroy forests. The move was in response to the attempt by British mining company Vedanta to clear swaths of forest in Orissa state belonging to the Dongria tribe. Last week’s announcement effectively revokes the 2009 order.

 

However, the government rejects claims that it is diluting rights in the name of streamlining big business, saying it will continue to enforce the provisions of the act “where there is significant impact on lives and livelihoods”.

“The proposed changes will enable land grabbing and the violation of rights of traditional forest dwellers, and sends a clear message that rights granted under the FRA are not inalienable, but subject to the whims of the government of the day,” said Shresth.

 

Such concerns were expressed to the prime minister’s office in a letter signed by a coalition of international forest rights movements. “We believe that it is against the democratic principles to make centralised decisions about the extent of social impact worth considering while diverting forests over which individuals and/or village community may have ‘inalienable’ forest rights vested through FRA. Overriding of such processes can lead to the danger of assuming that all rights can be monetised and negotiated,” it said.

 

Activists say this move will allow industry to build roads or canal systems for mining projects to transport extracted minerals to the refinery.

 

“The only objective is mining access. Mining companies need six road highways and optical fibre installations. Tribal communities don’t want this, and don’t want their precious forests replaced by these. The only beneficiaries of this amendment are the mining companies. This is about GDP, not about the rights of India’s tribal communities,” said Sanjay Basu Mullick from the All India Forum of Forest Movements.

 

The order threatens the area’s biodiversity, which risks discrediting India’s status as the current chair of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and of the Nagoya protocol, and the implementation of these international obligations on sustainable use and protection of biodiversity.

 

Against a backdrop of sluggish economic growth, government ministries have been lobbying the MoFE to exempt major infrastructure projects from FRA obligations. The country’s national highway authority took the MoFE and the ministry of tribal affairs to the supreme court in January, seeking FRA exemption for projects. According to the authority, 101 infrastructure projects had been frozen due to clearance delays.

 

“The move is part of a larger endeavour to restore investor confidence by a government facing general assembly elections in 2014. Various environmental protection rules have been seen to be responsible for a slump in the growth rate,” Shresth added.

I

 

“We don’t want more money… we don’t want Jaitapur”


Mumbai, February 15, 2013

Staff Reporter, The Hindi

The Maharashtra government’s decision to give increased compensation to the Project-Affected People (PAP) of the proposed 9900-MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP), in the backdrop of French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India, has met with serious opposition.

The farmers and fishermen fighting against the JNPP on Thursday rejected the increased compensation package declared by the government, calling it a “cruel joke.”

“Never in our struggle against the project in the last three years, had we asked for increased compensation. We are against the nuclear project and will not let it happen even if the compensation is increased further,” said Pravin Gavankar, president, Janhit Seva Samiti, a people’s body fighting against the proposed power plant.

“The corrupt government feels that villagers can be bought. We want to tell them that we do not want money and we do not want the project,” he said.

The government had on Tuesday approved increased compensation. As per the revised package, the PAP would now get Rs. 22.5 lakh per hectare instead of the earlier compensation of Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 4.5 lakh per hectare. However, the government has made it clear that the increased compensation would be solely for the JNPP and not for any other project in the State.

The JNPP, to be set up by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), is a part of the India-France civilian nuclear cooperation. In 2010, prior to the visit of the then President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had given environmental clearance to the project, with 35 conditions.

“The spineless Indian government seems hell-bent on satisfying the French government at any cost, rather than its own people. Every time those French officials visit India, our government makes announcements related to JNPP. It is the lowest level to which any government can fall,” said Satyajit Chavan, convener, Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti, an umbrella body of organisations opposing the JNPP.

The protesters have planned a m

arch in Mumbai during the State Assembly session to be held next month.

 

Gujarat High Court stays construction work at Mundra SEZ #goodnews


Author(s): Anupam Chakravartty, downtoearth
Date: Feb 14, 2013

12 companies had gone ahead with construction of individual units despite court questioning commencement of work without environment clearance

imageDredging on the Mundra coast has destroyed more than 1,000 ha of mangroves (Photo: Vaibhav Raghunandan )

The Gujarat High Court has ordered a stay on the construction of individual units in Gujarat‘s Mundra special economic zone (SEZ). These companies were going ahead with construction in spite of the court’s last year’s order that halted work because the developer had commenced work without obtaining the mandatory environmental clearance first. These individual units have imported goods and availed duty exemption of Rs 3,300 crore till now and were operating without any environmental clearance.

The multi-product Rs 14,000 crore SEZ in Kutch is being developed by Adani Enterprises which had started building roads and flyovers, and a joint venture company, Alstom SA Bharat, had started construction work for its power project in the SEZ when the high court halted work at the site last year. But some other companies went ahead with construction of their individual units.

On Thursday, the Gujarat High Court ordered a stay on the construction of these individual units in the SEZ as well. The order was given on a petition by the affected villagers who challenged the construction of these units without environmental clearance.

In all, 12 companies were found constructing their units in the SEZ, prompting the filing of a fresh petition. “We filed a fresh petition as the construction continued without any environmental clearance,” says the legal counsel for the affected village residents, Anand Yagnik.

A bench comprising chief justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala issued notices to all the 12 companies. The bench also sent notices to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the managers of the SEZ. The next hearing is likely in another 15 days. Adani or the individual companies were not available to comment on the latest court order.

According to one of the petitioners, Jajubha Bhimji Jadeja, a resident of Navinal village in Kutch, the 12 companies not only developed their units but also imported goods worth Rs 2,086.89 crore in 2010-11 and exported goods worth Rs 302 crore. “Further, the companies also received an import duty exemption of Rs 3,300 crore in spite of no environment clearance from MoEF,” said Jadeja in the fresh petition.

Earlier, fisher people of  Navinal had filed a petition, saying their daily fish catch has been affected by the construction activity at the Mundra port; the port and the SEZ are part of an integrated project. Right To Information replies and other documents showed that most of the Mundra SEZ is situated on village common land used for grazing.

On February 11, 2011, responding to a public interest petition by Mundra’s farmers, the Gujarat High Court served a notice to the Adani group and the revenue department of the Gujarat government for illegally taking 93.48 hectares (ha) of Navinal’s pastures for Mundra SEZ. Navinal is just one of 23 villages whose sarpanches sold grazing land for the project, spread over 18,000 ha, by allegedly keeping the gram sabhas (village councils) in the dark.

 

Dr Rina Mukherji wins case of sexual harassment against ‘The Statesman’ after 10 years #Vaw #Justice


The Cost of Justice

February 13, 2013 News, feministindia.com
Rina Mukherji-1In 2002, Dr Rina Mukherji, then a senior reporter working for The Statesman complained of sexual harassment against Ishan Joshi, the news coordinator for the paper. On October 12, 2002, she was fired from her job.

Dr. Mukherji, then approached Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI) , the West Bengal Commission for Women and the Labour Commissioner. The Statesman refused conciliation proceedings and the labour suit moved to the Industrial Tribunal against the management of The Statesman . Ten years later, on February 6, 2013, the Court ruled in her favour. Rina Mukherji recounts her struggle for justice in this first person account

A full decade. That is the amount of time I have taken to win justice. More than three years of the period was lost due to vacant courts bereft of judges or stalling of proceedings on various pretexts by lawyers from the opposing side.

I was lucky to have been supported by many in the profession, as also outside it. Professor Jashodhara Bagchi, the then Chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Women, went through a harrowing time trying to settle the dispute with The Statesman. Her experience, though, exposed the flaws in the system and led us to realize that the Commission lacked “teeth.” We also realized that an employer could easily upstage a complainant by dragging a dispute to court, and with the judicial system we have, a matter would drag on for years. In the meanwhile, a complainant loses precious years of professional life, and is blacklisted by employers.

Even if you land up a full-time job with an employer who is extremely supportive of your plight, it is difficult to work when you have to keep shunting between courts for months (and years) together. In my case, I had a labour suit to attend in Kolkata, and two libel suits-one civil and the other criminal with the latter in Delhi, to attend to. I was left with no option but to freelance, notwithstanding the regular drain on my resources.

One of the worst problems when you have a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace-is that no lawyer is willing to take up the case. They are apprehensive of losing the case, since they lack experience in such matters. (This again, is because of the deafening silence on such issues in a patriarchal society, which manifests itself in women keeping away from reporting on them). In my case, it was a media house, and hence even scarier! If not for Ms. Sutapa Chakrabarty of the Human Rights Law Network, (HRLN), an NGO providing legal aid to those who suffer a breach of their human rights, I might have had to plead my case myself.

There is another point I wish to make about those who swear by the names of celebrated legal luminaries. The lawyers at HRLN who fought my case were young and bright; and most of all, committed. Shamit Sanyal, Debashis Banerjee and his wife, Rajashri Banerjee, and Ambalika Roy brought a degree of commitment that is undeniable.

In fact, Debashis Banerjee worked hard to put forth the winning arguments that ultimately decided the case in my favour and got me an award from the Industrial tribunal granting my reinstatement and full back wages from the time of my termination by the management of The Statesman. And this was –to quote him- the “first case he had taken up as an advocate.”

The police, even if they be sympathetic and helpful, are utterly confused about how to deal with a white-collar offender. Eve-teasing or molestation by roadside miscreants is easy for them to deal with. But an educated man who is highly-placed in an organization can refuse to co-operate with the police investigation and easily get away with it due to loopholes in the legal system.

The Vishakha Guidelines were formulated with the best of intentions. But sexual harassment complaints committees in organizations are, more often than not, a total farce since the Guidelines presuppose organizations to be fair in bringing offenders to justice when a complaint is made to them. In my case, there was no such committee at The Statesman during my tenure. The pressure put in by Network of Women in Media in India ( NWMI), had my ex-employers hurriedly set up their committee.

My complaint, however, was never investigated into. Even as they refused to take cognizance of my complaint, The Statesman actually promoted the offender to a higher position.

One only hopes women will have a better deal once the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill becomes an Act in the near future.

The industrial tribunal has awarded me reinstatement and full back wages from the time I was terminated in October 2002 on the ground that it was illegal. However, the libel suits-filed against me by The Statesman and Ishan Joshi for having tarnished their reputation are yet to be decided. I still have a long way to go for a full victory.

Rina Mukherji is a senior journalist currently based in Kolkata. She has worked for over two decades in the print and online media specializing in issues related to sustainable development, the environment and human rights . She is the recipient of the 2011-2012 Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity ( Eastern Region) and several international fellowships for reporting on science, the environment and public health

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