PRESS RELEASE- Fact Finding to assess the situation of escalated violence in Odisha


Press Release March 10th, 2013

A national-level fact-finding team consisting of civil liberties and democratic organisations and individuals visited Govindapur and Dhinkia villages of Jagatsinghpur District on the 9th of March, 2013. The objective of the visit was to assess the situation in the wake of escalated violence since the land acquisition process resumed in the area on the 4th of February 2013. The stationing of armed police platoons in the proposed POSCO project affected areas and finally the recent incident of the bomb explosion that left three killed and had one person severely injured prompted us to visit the area and share our findings with a larger audience and appeal to the Odisha government and local administration. During the visit, the team had a detailed discussion with the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) leader Abhay Sahu and other members, the personnel of Orissa State Armed Police and the State Police stationed at Gobindapur, leader of Gobindpur pro POSCO group Ranjan Bardhan, dalit landless labourers, a group of people in Nuagaon led by Tamil Pradhan (husband of the Sarpanch) and the local youth. The following day, on the 10th of March 2013, the team also visited Laxman Pramanik in the SCB Medical College Hospital, Cuttack.  We informed the District Collector and Superintendent of Police about our visit and sought an appointment but they told us that they were out of the district and thus not available to meet us.

The incident of March 2nd, 2013: Discussions with members of the PPSS and families of the deceased clearly indicate that the four people namely Nabin Mandal (30), Narahari Sahu (52), Manas Jena (32) and Lakhman Parmanik (46) were sitting at their usual meeting place after leaving a nearby betel vine in Patana village.  A powerful blast occurred that killed three people and left Lakhman Parmanik severely injured. Another person named Ramesh Raut had left the spot just a minute before to buy a paan.

Within hours of the incident SP Jagatsinghpur Sri Satyabrata Bhoi announced through the local and national media that the blast occurred while the deceased were making a bomb, even before any police personnel had visited the site or done any investigation.  According to Lakhman Parmanik in the hospital, bomb/s was/were thrown at them. He strongly refuted the accusation by the police that they were making bombs, adding “What gain will I make by lying when I am on the verge of death.” It was reported to be a powerful blast as its impact was felt and heard by most of the villagers as they recalled in discussions with the team. None of the police personnel reached the spot until nearly 15 hours after the incident. This is clear dereliction of duty given the fact that two platoons are stationed within a distance of a few minutes from the area. Even before the police came and took charge of the dead bodies, land acquisition started on the morning of 3rd of March 2013.

The Role of the Police: One, the police neither reached the area nor sent any help for taking Laxman Parmanik immediately to the hospital, despite PPSS informing the police immediately after the incident. Secondly, the police arrived only on the morning of 3rd of March at the scene of the incident and took charge of the dead bodies. Thirdly, families of the two deceased shared that the police arrived on the midnight of the 3rd of March, and asked them to sign a written statement stating that the victims died in the process of making the bomb which they refused to do. Fourth, when Kusumbati Sahu, sister-in-law of the deceased Narahari Sahu went to register an FIR at the thana of Abhoychandranpur on the evening of 3rd of March, the police refused to accept the FIR, scolded her that she has been sent by Abhay Sahu although they themselves were making the bomb and had come to lodge an FIR. She had to leave without registering the FIR. However it should be noted that the only FIR that was accepted by the Abhaychandranpur thana on 4th of March was lodged by Ranjan Bardhan against the 3 deceased, the injured Lakhman Pramanik, Abhay Sahu, Surendra Das and five others of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

Our observations of the Current Situation:

Following the March 2nd bomb blast the already existing tension in the villages have been greatly escalated.  The villagers are unable to move freely and are in constant fear of harassment and arrest by the police.  Since 4th February when the land acquisition process was resumed accompanied by a severe police lathicharge on the villagers, outbreaks of violence have become more frequent.  In Govindpur village, 2  platoons of police have been deployed, which has greatly contributed to the escalated tension in the villages.  At least 105 betel vines have been destroyed in Govindpur village in the process of land acquisition.  There was a lathicharge on 7th March on villagers demanding the removal of the police camp, in which 41 villagers including 35 women and children were injured.

This situation has also gravely affected the lives and livelihoods of the villagers. The situation of dalit landless labourers is very grave. Over 150 families depend on betel vines located on approximately 1 acre of  land. They are keen and clear that the plant is most undesirable since it is the only source of livelihood.  Two persons shared how they have got no compensation after sale of land. Most others said how there are no provisions for compensations for the landless in the acquisition process.  In fact, Laxman Pramanik, who has been gravely injured in the bomb blast is also a landless labourer, the sole breadwinner of a family of eight persons,  depending on the same. In short, the livelihood activities and mobility of the entire community is under threat. Any access to health care or medical treatment, however critical, is difficult to obtain as most of the community is under threat of arrest.

Demands:

In view of our discussions with all the affected persons, and the clear attempt of the police to blame the deceased persons in a premeditated manner, we demand

1.       A  high level judicial enquiry into the bomb blast incident resulting in the death of three persons and injury to one person, to ascertain the truth of the matter.

2.       The immediate withdrawal of the police camp from Gobindpur village as it is contributing to escalating tensions in the area.

3.       The cessation of the land acquisition process forthwith  in the Dhinkia panchayat area including Gobindpur village.

4.       Compensation on humanitarian grounds to the families of the deceased who were killed in the bomb blast and proper medical help for the injured person.

Team Consisted of:

Meher Engineer, Former Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata

Sumit Chakravartty, Editor, Mainstream Weekly, Delhi

Dr Manoranjan Mohanty, Retd Professor, Delhi University

Pramodini Pradhan, PUCL Odisha

Saroj Mohanty, PUCL, Odisha

Ranjana Padhi, PUDR, Delhi

Dr Kamal Chaubey, PUDR, Delhi

Sanjeev Kumar, Delhi Forum, Delhi

Mathew Jacob, HRLN, Delhi

Samantha, Sanhati

Partho Roy, Sanhati

Gyan Ranjan Swain, Ravenshaw University

Contact Email Id: sanjeev@delhiforum.net   : 09958797409

 

How Aluminum Foil is slaughtering us and mother earth ?


Aluminium foil "booster" bag

 

How Aluminum Foil is slaughtering us and mother earth ?

 

Approx one kilogram of aluminum is used to create about 300 feet of foil (GreenFeet) , The disposal of this trash foil is also challenging. Foil discarded into the environment can take decades to degrade. Foil in a landfill could last at least 400 years, if not longer (GreenFeet). When aluminum foil is incinerated along with other trash, toxic metals and gases are released into the atmosphere. There is really no good way to dispose of aluminum except recycling.

 

Aluminum numbers among the most abundant elements: after oxygen and silicon, it is the most plentiful element found in the earth’s surface, making up over eight percent of the crust to a depth of ten miles and appearing in almost every common rock.

 

It takes around 4 tonnes of dried bauxite to produce 2 tonnes of alumina, which in turn, provides 1 tonne of aluminium. The conversion of alumina to aluminium is highly energy intensive so the cost of electricity has a significant impact on the price of aluminium.

 

Since bauxite occurs so close to the earth’s surface, mining procedures are relatively simple. Explosives are used to open up large pits in bauxite beds, after which the top layers of dirt and rock are cleared away. The exposed ore is then removed with front end loaders, piled in trucks or railroad cars, and transported to processing plants. Bauxite is heavy (generally, one ton of aluminum can be produced from four to six tons of the ore), so, to reduce the cost of transporting it, these plants are often situated as close as possible to the bauxite mines.

 

A tremendous amount of fossil fuels are used to mine, transport, and refine the ore. On average, it takes 15.7 kWh (kilowatt hour) of electricity to refine one kilogram of aluminum from alumina (an intermediate product in the conversion from bauxite to aluminum) (International Aluminum Institute). You should look at your electric bill to get an idea of how much energy a single kWh really is. And this is for just one step in the process. The full process, from mining to producing aluminum ingots, has been estimated to be responsible for 1% of the global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global climate change (International Aluminum Institute). One percent is a heck of a lot for a single industry.

 

Aluminum foil’s popularity as a packaging material is due to its excellent impermeability to water vapor and gases. It also extends shelf life, uses less storage space, and generates less waste than many other packaging materials. The preference for aluminum in flexible packaging has consequently become a global phenomenon. Aluminum foil is inexpensive, durable, non-toxic, and greaseproof. In addition, it resists chemical attack and provides excellent electrical and non-magnetic shielding.

 

Creating aluminum foil from raw, virgin materials has a devastating impact on the environment. This large mining activity causes local erosion and deforestation, pollutes water sources, disrupts ecosystems, and produces air pollution. The biggest worry for most people is the possibility that aluminum could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

It is evident that aluminum is widely used & most found metal in the Earth’s crust. This “Innocent metal” has plenty hazards when people get exposed to high concentrations( beyond threshold limit). Aluminum are ready to form as ions which is easily soluble in water thus causing major health problems. They get inside the human body through injection, ingestion and inhalation. Long lasting exposure may cause Dementia, Nervous Disorder, Listlessness, Pulmonary Fibrosis etc..

 

The main challenge faced by the agriculturist is the acidification of the soil, which happens due to aluminum too. This aluminum readily forms ions that get soluble in water thus leach the nutrients in the soil, leaving it acidic. These aluminum based acids still continue its journey reaching the herbivorous animals which eat these plants. These plants are already affected by the aluminum based acids. Not confining to this alone, it also cause hazards to birds which get fed from lakes which are acidified. These acidified lakes break the eco-system, causing decline in fishes and amphibians life. Thus the environment natural eco-chain is disturbed and leads to major disaster in some places. Thus aluminum, even though it helps in cutting down the carbon foot print and GHG’s, on the other side, it affects the human & other living organisms life.

 

Stop buying Aluminum foils , reject buying products packed in Aluminum. Remember it takes 400 years for a piece of Aluminum foil to decompose in earth until than it is a carrier of pollution .

 

Complied by @ rahulyogideveshwar

 

Short link of this page : http://wp.me/P30ieV-36

 

Data compiled from various websites

 

 

The feminist and the sex worker: Lessons from the Indian experience


By Srilatha Batliwala
Himal Mag
Despite decades of tension between feminists and sex workers, it is finally becoming clear that the former has much to learn from the latter.
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Photo: Alessandro Vincenzi

From the earliest days of ‘second wave’ feminism, the issues of choice and consent have been central to feminist thought throughout the world. Much of early feminist analysis focused on how patriarchies manifested themselves in terms of male control over women’s lives: their sexuality and reproduction, their mobility, their work, employment and assets, and their access to and participation in the public realm. This control not only constricted the range of women’s choices, but often denied their right to make choices at all. The issue of consent was fraught with far greater political complexity, and viewed by many feminists with some suspicion, since it was widely used by anti-feminist and religious ideologues to justify gender discrimination. Feminist thinking on consent – connoting acquiescence, willing acceptance or even active support – therefore appeared more often in the context of women’s ‘false consciousness’, as a manifestation of women’s co-option into maintaining patriarchal rule. In terms of both choice and consent, few issues have been more rigorously debated in recent decades than that of sex work; but today, it seems that feminism itself has quite a bit to learn from sex workers.

In the Indian context – on which this article focuses – analysis by both scholars and activists has addressed the question of feminism’s ambivalent approach to sex work and sex workers, and the implicit lack of understanding of how choice and consent operate in this realm. There are several possible roots to the feminist dilemma: unconscious internalisation, for example, of Brahminical patriarchy and Hindu nationalist reconstructions of the home and family as a sanctified site of ‘pure Indian-ness’, and the role of women’s chastity and sexual exclusivity in maintaining this purity. Similar constructions of women as guardians of communal identity, purity and the highest moral values were visible among Muslim and Christian communities as well.

These historical and social processes basically constructed women’s bodies, particularly their sexuality and ability to reproduce, as capable of maintaining or polluting caste and communal purity. Combining with tenets of Brahminical Hinduism – which permeated not only other castes through what sociologist M N Srinivas termed the ‘Sanskritisation’ process, but non-Hindu communities as well – a sliding scale of chastity was prescribed. Oppressed-caste women had to be sexually monogamous within marriage, but simultaneously available to upper-caste men, while upper-caste women’s chastity was non-negotiable and strictly imposed through the additional measures of restricted mobility and seclusion. Some parts of women’s bodies naturally became more sacrosanct than others – the vagina, for instance. As such, a woman who sold the labour of her hands and feet was still considered a good woman, no matter how filthy or arduous the work, or even if she belonged to an untouchable caste; but one who sold sexual labour was beyond the pale. So, while sex workers were part of the social landscape in every part of the country, they were symbols of the fall from grace that kept ‘good women’ under chaste control.

In this writer’s opinion, this is the hidden heart of the matter. Emerging from societies that held women’s sexual organs as a vehicle both to purity and pollution, Southasian feminists were, until recently, unable to critically examine the patriarchal underpinnings of this paradigm. The first sign of this internalisation was in the tacit hierarchy that emerged in forms of violence against women, where rape became implicitly categorised as the most heinous crime a woman could suffer. It could be argued that this was mainly due to the stigma attached to the rape victim, where the social consequences that ensued were far heavier than, for instance, a victim of domestic violence, who would at least be pitied or receive some grudging acknowledgement, if not justice. In a sense, rape was like leprosy – leading to social ostracism – while domestic violence was like tuberculosis, which, though far more contagious, elicits sympathy and support. But this difference in feminist reaction could also have been due to feminism’s deeply embedded but unquestioned sense that violation of the most sacrosanct part of a woman’s body was the ultimate, and therefore most unforgivable, expression of male dominance and control.

Therefore, sex work and sex workers presented a unique challenge to the feminist discourse, and resulted in several positions (or divides) in feminist approaches to sex work. But at the root has always been the fundamental dilemma: How could feminists accept prostitution – the sale of sexual services by women to men – as a legitimate form of employment, when it represented the grossest expression of women’s commodification? For many feminists, only two options seemed acceptable: to treat the individual prostitute as a victim lacking in agency, one who symbolises the ultimate oppressiveness of the patriarchal regime, and who is in need of rescue and rehabilitation; or as women of false consciousness, morally decrepit agents of the patriarchal system, whose work results in the oppression of other women. However, given that a large number of India’s feminist founding mothers came out of left political parties, a third strand also emerged. This line of thought did not engage in moral judgment, but instead argued that because sex work is a form of work, all labour rights and protections must be extended to sex workers.

Meanwhile, underlying all these feminist positions was the basic assumption that a world without sex work would be a better place – therefore making them political bedfellows of religious and political conservatives engaged in campaigns against sex trafficking.

Not hapless victims
In India, encounters between organised sex workers and feminist groups have been infrequent and strained. Sex-worker organisations have never been invited to participate in national conferences of women’s groups; in fact, in the early 1990s, a tentative attempt by a local sex-workers group to attend such a national conference created acute discomfort among the organisers, who rejected the request on grounds that the group did not constitute a ‘feminist’ organisation. Sex workers are puzzled by why the dialogue with feminists is predicated upon an assumption that they must renounce – or, at least, express an intention to renounce – their occupation, or reiterate the ‘hapless victim’ mythology. For their part, feminists wonder why sex workers expect their support on issues such as violence, police harassment or legal reform, while making their occupation itself a non-negotiable.

Another curious element in feminist approaches to sex work has been the tendency to isolate analysis of sex work from other forms of work performed by women, including those from similar classes, skill levels and mobility. Studies of women workers in the unorganised sector, both in India and elsewhere, have repeatedly underlined high levels of exploitation, sexual harassment, poor working conditions, violence at the hands of employers or agents, wide range of health hazards, and lack of social security and legal protection. Almost all of these studies, as well as the experiences of activist and women’s organisations across India, testify that poor women in a range of informal-sector occupations routinely face sexual exploitation and violence – the supposed hallmarks of sex work – as well as a form of trafficking, when they migrate in search of livelihoods. Consequently, feminist organising within the informal sector has been imbued with the assumption that women have the agency and capacity to challenge their exploitation and mobilise for their rights within these occupations. For some reason, however, the nature of their victimhood has been viewed differently from that of women in sex work, an equally informal occupation.

The only right that sex workers have been able to mobilise for has been to be ‘rescued’ from sex work itself. Indeed, the only time a link is made between women workers in general and sex work in particular is to argue that one of the negative impacts of economic reforms is the migration and entry into sex work of women from impoverished families. Thus, analysts like Manjima Bhattacharya argue that sex workers are marginalised from three directions: ‘the criminality associated with their work, the morality that keeps them ostracised, and the informality of their labour which deprives them of bank accounts, insurance, or employment security.’ She concludes: ‘Recognition of their labour and economic contribution is one of the first steps in mainstreaming sex workers and according them dignity and rights.’

Ironically, religious and political conservatives have usurped some feminist discourse on sex work in their anti-sex trafficking crusades. Outlining a series of assumptions and positions on prostitution adopted by some feminists and anti-trafficking groups, researchers Sandhya Rao and Cath Sluggett have written:

Traditionalist and conservative groups use the feminist construct that prostitution violates women per se, but their argument has very little to do with women’s equality. Rather they feel that prostitution threatens traditional sexual arrangements … The anti-trafficking movement has drawn upon radical feminism, evaluating prostitution as that which degrades all women. This is connected to a wider analysis of power and male domination. Radical feminists would [deny] that their arguments are based in morality; yet the moral message is evident in their claims … an idea of female sexuality that is contaminated by sex and all the more so when sex is separated from love and exchanged for money. None of these understandings leave room for the female sex worker to speak of her own subjective experience. In this way, the depiction of the sex worker as a subjugated, helpless victim, living a life of misery, needing rescue and rehabilitation, becomes essential to justify the anti-trafficking movement. In fact, this has little to do with the reality or self-image of sex workers themselves. Seizing upon stories of atrocities of rescued sex workers, while ignoring the empowered narratives and analysis of sex-worker organisations and movements, is a studied and conscious process.

The rapid pace of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Subcontinent, and the demonisation and targeting of female sex workers in prevention rhetoric and programmes, finally brought some feminist activists – especially from the health sector – into a closer alliance with sex-workers organisations. The injustice of focusing on sex workers as significant carriers of the disease, rather than their male clients, brought at least some feminist groups to support sex-worker organisations in pushing for condom use and the right to reject a client believed to be infected. These organisations were also able to demonstrate that, when organised, the capacity of sex workers to choose safe sex, or even to refuse to service non-compliant clients, was far superior to that of the majority of Indian women.

Over the course of this long and rather torturous historical relationship, many feminists – including this writer – have slowly come to re-examine the approach to sex work. This reappraisal has been largely due to the growing visibility, views and compelling analysis of sex-worker movements in India and beyond, and the open challenges that these have thrown to feminist organisations and the national women’s movement as a whole. The turning point occurred at the National Autonomous Women’s Conference, held in Kolkata in 2006 after a gap of nearly a decade, where women of all backgrounds from across the country came together to share their experiences. Unlike previous such gatherings, however, this one included women with disabilities, hijras and, most conspicuously, sex workers – and the latter strongly voiced their views. Thus, over the past few years a new dialogue has begun, and many feminist scholars, researchers and activists are beginning to listen and learn, rather than lecture or prescribe.

The citizenship approach

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Art: Venantius J Pinto

Organised, politically aware sex workers are making their claims within a new framework. A composite of their arguments for visibility, voice and rights would read something like this: We may not have had a choice about whether or not to do sex work, or the other choices available to us for livelihood and survival were worse. When and if we find better alternatives, we ourselves will change occupations. But for now, we consent to be in this occupation, or we choose to remain in it as the most economically advantageous option at this time. We are neither victims nor harlots, but citizens. We demand recognition as workers and all our rights as citizens.

What can feminists learn from this? First, the views of organised sex workers and their movements are framed within the discourse of citizenship rights, an approach that feminist analyses of sex work have never used. At its most basic, citizenship is defined as the relationship between an individual and a particular state, and defines citizens as having both rights and responsibilities within those settings. However, feminist critiques of this theory have addressed the ways that this kind of definition fails to address unequal power dynamics, such as based on gender, race, class, etc. Organised sex workers, among other politically marginalised groups, have been able to push for the recognition of this discrimination and hold the state and its machinery accountable to them.

This claiming of citizenship rights places sex workers in the same space as other marginalised and ‘illegalised’ constituencies; the claims made by, for instance, slum- and pavement dwellers are very similar. What is striking is that in embracing the citizenship approach, both sex workers and other groups facing exclusion and stigma are shifting the debate to new ground, away from the arenas of moral probity and social sanction and towards citizen rights. Certain organised sex workers’ groups have negotiated such rights with town municipalities, the police and even politicians – the successes of the VAMP collective in negotiating basic services with the municipality and improved protection against violence from the police in Sangli town, and of the IFPEC network’s electoral poll boycott to gain political support for their demands in Chennai, are excellent examples. The state and local authorities have been forced to deal with these women as citizens, not as sex workers; in so doing, they have demonstrated their choice of equality and refusal to consent to discrimination.

Another lesson comes from the possibilities that open up because of the way sex work breaks down otherwise rigid moral and social boundaries. While in no way seeking to minimise the enormous range of problems that sex work entails, we must also recognise that for women, sex work can paradoxically be liberating: they no longer have to behave within the parameters of the ‘good’ woman, or observe the cultural norms, taboos or submissiveness typically expected of other women. In such a situation, women sex workers are free to make choices that are not available to their ‘good’ sisters. They can speak openly, for instance, about the violence, humiliation and duplicity of clients, police, pimps, lovers and the larger community in a way that poor women in the mainstream of society often need years of consciousness-raising to emulate.

Of course, this kind of voice and power requires organisation. The evidence is quite clear, for instance, that ‘upmarket’ individual sex workers actually have less power to set the terms of their work than poorer but organised women working in brothels or red-light districts. And like unorganised-sector workers everywhere, unorganised sex workers are exploited by the structures of the sex industry itself – by brothel owners, pimps, police and others. On the other hand, even unorganised sex workers are no worse off than other unorganised workers, whose hours, low wages, health hazards and lack of social security receive scant attention from state machinery.

The further lesson for feminists here is that despite decades of organising among diverse classes of women, feminist movements have not been as successful in catalysing this sense of liberation in the most intimate sphere of women’s lives – their relationships with their own bodies, or in their sexual lives. As a consequence, feminists have collectively been far less effective in enabling women to negotiate sexual interaction with their partners –ensuring condom use, or not consenting to sex when they are ill, in advanced pregnancy, or simply too tired, for instance – that organised sex workers consider a right. Furthermore, even the limited choice that organised sex workers have in setting the terms of their trade appears more advanced than what has been accomplished through organising among other unorganised women workers, with a few notable exceptions. Indeed, it is hard to find examples of movements of unorganised women workers that are as vibrant, visible and vocal, or have made as many significant gains, as sex-worker movements have accomplished for their members in some parts of India.

Lessons from sex workers
Even within the domain of sexuality, sex-worker movements are pushing feminist theory by re-positioning sexual services – and, hence, the entire morass of choice and consent – in a fundamental way. They have taken sex out of the domain not only of morality but of the relationship paradigm entirely. The members of these movements are saying that providing sex can be a relatively uncomplicated physical service similar to nursing or cleaning. Therefore, it can also be a livelihood choice: one can freely consent to be in sex work, especially for those whose skill set and socio-economic location restricts access to ‘better’ work.

Organised sex workers also seem to suggest that when they mobilise politically conscious movements, they can assert equal or greater power and control than women in equally un-regulated sectors of the market. For instance, they can negotiate condom use, working hours, time off, housing and habitat, and health care; they can also choose clients, choose the kinds of services they will provide, and resist and penalise violence of various kinds. And they seem to be telling feminists that condemnation of sex work is evidence of their own co-option into the patriarchal belief system, an unquestioned acceptance of the mythology of the sanctity of sexual interactions.

Finally, sex-worker movements are breaking through the rhetoric of the ‘poor, hapless victim’, and of the stranglehold of external actors in setting the terms of the discussion. Sex workers are becoming the subjects of their own analysis, breaking free of this ideological and conceptual stranglehold. They are asserting their consent to be involved in sex work – whether they entered it by choice or not – and consequently challenging the victim imagery. But more importantly, they are making shocking and uncomfortable arguments about their choice in remaining within the line of work: that it gives them a higher income, more purchasing power, better long-term economic security and independence, and far less drudgery than the other options available to them. How can members of such a dubious, stigmatised profession make such seemingly audacious, non-victimised claims? Further, how many feminist movements can claim to have parleyed their organising into the sort of political power that many sex-worker movements have demonstrated?

If feminists such as myself re-examine our views in light of the radically different perspectives offered by sex-worker movements, we would almost certainly arrive at a different definition of notions of choice and consent. We would recast choice not as just ‘real’ or ‘false’, but as occurring within a spectrum that is defined by context. Consent would be looked at as not only a manifestation of ‘agency’ within socially recognised institutions (marriage, family, state, market) or for socially acceptable alternatives, but as the right to choose a social situation outside of these structures. A long-term partnership for the production of new paradigms and strategies is the need of the day, and I believe that sex workers are a key source of learning for the future of the feminist project. The question is whether we have the humility and courage to ask for a seat at their table, rather than invite them to ours.

~ Srilatha Batliwala is a scholar associated with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, based in Bengaluru.

URGENT PRESS RELEASE- condemning attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, Christians in Pakistan


URGENT
PRESS STATEMENT
Sunday, March 10, 2013

CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, MUMBAI

The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Mumbai condemns the attack on innocent Hindus in Bangladesh over the past week and Christians in Pakistan yesterday by a angry mob of 7,000 and more. We appeal to all Indians and the wider human rights community to join us  in condemning these dastardly attacks.

While condemning the targeted and  violent attacks against Bangladesh’s minority Hindu community, the CJP calls upon the Indian government and international organisations to ensure that the Bangladeshi authorities provide them with better protection. There have been disturbing reports that individuals taking part in the protests called by supremacist Islamic parties (including reportedly led by Jamaat-e-Islaami, Bangladesh) have vandalised more than 40 Hindu temples across Bangladesh, scores of Hindu homes and shops have also been burned down, leaving hundreds homeless. The attacks have come in the wake of protests to implement the findings of the country’s ongoing war crimes tribunal, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT). The role of the Jamaat-e-Islaami-Bangladesh has been pointed to in the recent anti-minority attacks. In Pakistan, regarding the targeted attack against a group of Christians in Lahore, the CJP urges the Indian government and international organisations to lend voice to their demand that the   the Punjab government should have given the Christian community more protection in Lahore following the false allegations of blasphemy.

All of us undersigned condemn these dastardly attacks and call for the immediate punishment of those guilty. It is long overdue that the demands of human rights activists from all countries in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal. Afganistan, Srilanka, Burma and Bhutan are met and a South Asian Commisison/Authority for Human Rights  Protection is established that looks into all instances of cross border human rights  violations, atrocities against women and children and traffking, caste atroctries and attacks on identities, ethnicities and religious minorities. CJP has been part of efforts to set  up this kind of mechanism for over a decade.

Teesta Setalvad
Secretary & trustee

Other trustees: IM Kadri (Vice President), Raghunandan Maluste (Vice-President), Arvind Krishnaswamy (Treasurer), Alyque Padamsee, Cyrus Guzder, Javed Akhtar, Taizoon Khorakhiwala, Anil Dharkar, Rahul Bose, Javed Anand, Ghulam Pesh-Imam, Cedric Prakash

Letters from Pussy Riot’s Prison blog #womenrights #womensday


The thoughts of a prisoner

Anastasia Kirilenko 8 March 2013

Today is International Women’s Day, a holiday in Russia, though possibly with few celebrations in the penal colonies where the Pussy Riot women are being held. Open Democracy Russia is proud to publish two letters from the prison blog of one of them, Maria (Masha) Alyokhina, to Anastasia Kirilenko.


The thoughts of a prisoner – they’re not free either. They keep returning to the same things.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich

‘Unfortunately, by the time you get this letter my thoughts will probably have changed completely; perhaps even my problems will have radically changed. Most importantly, I could be sent to another penal colony before the parole hearing.  So I will limit myself to talking about the present, and there’s quite a lot to say about that. As to what happens later on, we’ll see.

‘I’m still in solitary, but this absolutely doesn’t stop me thinking about how to change the system. Indeed, it’s impossible not to think about that here. The word “system” is itself a cliché, but even the phrase “improve the efficiency of prisons” is wrong, mainly because efficiency is a result. A result can be achieved by a combination of methods: here the method is a statute.  It is, of course, a very tall order to change things (lots of them) at the level of legislation, but I increasingly realise that the method/result is not at all what’s so upsetting.

‘There is a kind of objective reality in Putin’s policies whereby one can go to prison for nothing. Inside the prison one can also be punished for nothing, and prison, like any institution, is usually a mirror of the way things are.

‘When we try to change the state of affairs, be it at the micro (prison) or macro (politics) level, we become involved in a process. This is what gives me no peace: that process is enacted by live people, who are zealous, while at the same time hating their work (not quite the right word, it’s probably more that they’re sick of it and don’t really like it – we have to keep an eye on the censor!), but they nevertheless carry on meticulously contributing to that process.  It’s not days or months, but years and years…and what do they get for it? What are they doing it for? True, they have families and children, but the children carry on their work, they are the heirs, who have automatically absorbed it all. Time goes by and we see those children working zealously, sometimes wilful, at other times giving the commands.  Giving orders is the real thing, which is perhaps why our people are so unwilling to work.

‘When I arrived here and started to write to human rights campaigners, and then to complain, it was of course not because I had failed to understand the system and was relying on their honesty, but because I simply couldn’t do anything else. To behave differently would have meant contributing to something that no one actually likes. To this life of simply doing time. I think that it’s here, in the area of action (decision) that human will is the key.  An action carried out acquires a life of its own; it is the basis of an identity, perhaps not even the basis but something absolutely vital, the essence of what is right, a completely intuitive thing.

‘We women prisoners will get hold of shawls, we’ll work for 200 roubles a month and say nothing, we’ll wash in a dirty barn, 50 of us together hosing ourselves down from an old mayonnaise bucket (a very necessary commodity!), duck and weave, inform on people and play double games.  The same things go on in the world outside, but they’re called by different names there. Do you remember what Mandelstam wrote “We were decent people and have become scum”?  Though now I wonder if there were ever any decent people.’

Maria Alyokhina, one of the members of the controversial Pussy Riot group, is serving a two-year term of imprisonment. Photo: (cc) Demotix/ Anton Belitskiy

Kirilenko:  ‘Is Mandelstam your favourite poet?  What about his poem about Stalin, the one for which he was exiled? Did that poem mean anything to you?  Did it have any bearing on your part in the protests?’

Alyokhina:

‘Of course his poem has a resonance for me.  Once you have become acquainted with the life described in it, it couldn’t be any other way.

‘I am amazed by the people who put up barriers: this is art and that is modern art. Real art is always contemporary, because it’s on that astonishing boundary with time or outside it, while at the same time (☺) breaking down the barrier.  It’s a gesture from Freedom to eternity. An artist understands this, but a person looking at it from an ordinary, everyday point of view sees only the form.

‘One has the impression that 20th century philosophy in its entirety has passed us by, because people seem to have forgotten the values of things, despite the many years of work on conceptualisation put in by the existentialists.  Any action or assistance rendered in everyday life has to be regarded first and foremost as an attempt to come just a little nearer to each other to try and find an opportunity for dialogue.

‘The gloom inspired by the presidential representative [mechanical engineering assembly shop manager] Kholmanskikh or the ‘comrade deputies’ who languish inside the Duma is the result pure and simple of the failure of communication between people in Russia. It seems to me that we, as a society, or, if you like, a nation, have allowed this to happen and we are thus responsible.

‘[The philosopher Merab] Marmardashvili had the wonderful idea that all concepts –“freedom”, “honour” or, for instance, “democracy” – only have any meaning because for centuries people have given them substance with their blood and their bodies, but what are we doing?  One has only to listen to the words on the wind to understand.

‘Putin can spend a thousand hours on the air droning on about “sport-patriotism”.  Everyone will understand – or perhaps not everyone, just us?  In the Moscow pre-trial detention centre I actually went to talk to a priest, not at a service, just in an attempt to establish some kind of a dialogue.  It became apparent that for him there was no difference between the president and the tsar (seriously!) and that our society is held together by resignation (for resignation, read ignorance).  He then suggested I should kiss his hand! It’s both terrible and strange, but this kind of truth is very close to us.

‘I’m all right: I’m not taking tranquillisers any more – I only took them for a week, mainly for insomnia.

‘Everyone has seen our (mine, Katya’s and Nadya’s) faces, but I don’t want us to be just faces. It’s not just that I don’t want it, but that would be worse than anything else. I can only hope that with time the image of the revolutionary woman will be backed up by a serious narrative, rather than just emptiness.’

 

Today the Pussy Riot women in prison are being isolated from society to prevent them stirring up the Russian electorate with their political ideas. But even in Stalinist times the prisoner was entitled to correspondence. And progress doesn’t let the grass grow under its feet: the combination of internet technology and the postal service now means that the prisoner doesn’t need to disappear completely from the public eye.

Masha was a student of journalism at the Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing [former Maxim Gorky Institute, Moscow].  She wrote prose and verse, so I hope she will find writing a blog interesting too.  Since she’s been inside, she’s been trying to defend the rights of all the prisoners in the penal colony, which resulted in the ‘bitches’ (habitual criminals) being sent along to sort her out.

So now she’s in solitary confinement. Perhaps no bad thing. ‘In prison one cannot avoid thoughts about how to change the system.’ She continues to write poetry, but she regards herself as still a student, so her poetry is just for her close friends.

The Irony of Iconhood: The life and times of Bhanwari Devi #Vaw #Sexualharassment #Justice


https://i1.wp.com/www.lawisgreek.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/bhanwari-devi.jpg

by- Laxmi Murthy
“Only justice can fill my belly, not awards,” says Bhanwari Devi in response to a question from the audience about whether or not she had been recognised by international awards. She was speaking at a meeting organised by the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore. The previous day, along with other leaders, Bhanwari had roused a massive rally in Mangalore with her fiery calls for solidarity and action against violence against women. The Mangalore March 8th program itself was phenomenal, from all accounts (I couldn’t go), and I hope Madhu, Shakun or others will share some of the spirit and verve of the rally, Women in Black event and the seminar. The unprecedented coalition of women’s and progressive groups (almost a hundred) to raise a voice against the saffronization of Karnataka’s coastal belt and increasing attacks on women, has been the outcome of dedicated work by the Forum Against Atrocities on Women (the Mahila Dourjnya Virodi Vedike, Karnataka). That none of the events, which saw the mobilization of more than 5000 women, made it to even the Bangalore editions of the dailies (can’t even dream of the national media bothering!) is a matter of dismay, but won’t go into that right now.

Here I just wanted to share what some of us were talking about soon after Bhanwari’s talk. Many of the questions, particularly from the press (and apparently this happened even in the meeting earlier in the day), kept pushing Bhanwari back into the victim mode and somehow managed to zero in on her vulnerabilities. It is no surprise then, that she broke down on stage even 20 years after she was gang raped.
Some of us tried to steer the discussion to the context in which she worked – the context in which women’s safety as workers led to the Vishaka Guidelines. Again, no surprise, that nothing much has changed for Sathins on the ground. They continue to work in precarious conditions, for a monthly pittance of Rs 1600 (raised from Rs 200 in 1the 1990s, after determined work by the Sathin Karamchari Sangh, many of us in women’s groups in Delhi at the time were part of the support group, so are aware of just what an uphill battle that was). The task of “consciousness raising” or stopping “social evils” like dowry, sex selection, child marriage etc can be extremely precarious, especially at the village level. How many of us, asked  Shyama Narang in the audience, would enter people’s houses and demand that they stop child marriage or refuse to take dowry? Bhanwari was raped while attempting to overturn exactly these sorts of practices. Needless to say, there is no job security, no transport, and no support at all from the government for doing this risky work.
Throughout, her focus was on individual effort, collective action and non-government efforts if any change was to come about. She spoke of her efforts to educate her daughter Raneswhari (a bright and confident young woman who accompanied her to Mangalore-Bangalore) – she is now an MA B.ed and teaches in a school. Bhanwari spoke of the support she had received from her husband, activists in Jaipur and women’s solidarity in general. As for the rape case, Bhanwari does not talk much about, frustrated by the legal process and the appeal by her rapists pending in the High Court.
It is deeply ironical that the icon of the Vishakha Guidelines to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace finds the whole effort of law reform utterly futile and of no real help to women. Her response to deal with perpetrators of violence against women is to round them up and beat them. She was also in favour of death penalty for rapists, while responding to a question from a journalist in the audience: what should be done about the juvenile perpetrator of the ‘Delhi gang rape”? Predictably, today’s item in the Times of India (why are we not surprised?) says, “Fearless fighter wants all Nirbhaya rapists to be hanged”.
Bhanwari’s anguished response underlines once more why the best opportunity to undertake law reform might not be during times of trauma, emotional distress or mass mobilization, despite popular notions or even a progressive groups’ understanding of “striking while the iron is hot”. The job of reviewing or making laws is better done when one is somewhat removed from the situation. It is in the nature of Commissions and government response to agitations that they pick and choose what suits the status quo, but to appear to be responding to popular sentiment and “public mood” (however that is defined) gives the regime brownie points that the feminists are loathe to give.
As for Bhanwari, her life goes on, and that’s the wonderful part. True grit, impassioned activist, flame of hope – all the clichés in our lexicon can’t even begin to describe her.

 

Three killed in industrail accident Jindal Power Ltd (JPL) , Chhattisgarh


By Indo Asian News Service | IANS – Thu, Mar 7, 2013

Raipur, March 7 (IANS) At least three workers were
killed and two others critically injured in accident Thursday at a
captive power plant owned by the Jindal Power Ltd (JPL) in
Chhattisgarh‘s Raigarh district, police said.
“The tragedy occurred Dongamahua captive power plant when a few
workers were engaged in boiler maintenance work,”

Additional  Superintendent of Police Praful Thakur told IANS over phone.
“The death toll could rise. We have launched an initial probe, no one would be spared if found guilty,” Thakur added.
The deceased have been identified as Alikh Barik, 35, of Odisha, Ajay Gupta, 30, of Uttar Pradesh and Mitra Bhanu, 19, a local resident. The injured were taken to JPSL-managed O.P. Jindal Hospital in Raigarh.
According to sources, the company has announced a compensation amount of Rs.12 lakh for families of each of the three killed besides a
monthly pension of Rs.2,500.
The JPL mishap is the second such industrial tragedy in the state in
2013 after five workers were killed Jan 31 at Ambuja Cement Plant in
Bhatapara in Baloda Bazar district.

 

Another Death in the “World’s Best” Nuclear Plant (KKNPP)


English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

English: Construction site of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Deutsch: Baustelle des Kernkraftwerks Kudankulam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. Alok Suman Roy, a 26-year-old young man from Odisha, has died of electric shock at the KKNPP Unit-1 today (March 9, 2013) morning. He died in the tunnel route of electrical lines at Unit-1. Acknowledging the death, the KKNPP administration claims that he died in Unit-2. But workers there confirm that he died in Unit-1. If the KKNPP officials admit the truth that the death occurred in Unit-1, they may have to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions about the safety and the viability of the failed project.
It is pertinent to note that an older man from Koodankulam died in January 2013 inside the plant and another young man, Mr. Kalyanasundaram from Tirunelveli, died on December 6, 2012 of electric shock. Why do so many people die of electric shock there? What is wrong with the Russian plants? Is the KKNPP ready for an open and independent probe into all these deaths?
The PMANE expresses its sincere condolences to the unknown and unseen family of the departed soul in distant Odisha.
The Struggle Committee
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

 

 

 

Iron Irom’s long protest penned #AFPSA #Vaw #Womenrights


DNA Correspondent l @DNA

abhaydeol

( pic courtesy- Nitesh Mohanty at the kitab khana event)

A book on Irom Sharmila reiterates the cause she is fighting for.

“Irom’s story has been written in a first-person account and in a non-intellectual way so that people can easily understand and get involved in her cause,” said writer and filmmaker Minnie Vaid.

The book by Vaid, Iron Irom: Two journeys, was released at Kitab Khana on Friday.

“The book is an introduction to Manipur and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the army atrocities because of it. No amount of books written on her are enough. People need to think about her and engage with her issues. The movement has to be to repeal AFSPA,” Vaid said.

Irom, who hails from the strife-torn state of Manipur, has been on a hunger strike for the last 12 years and has urged the government to repeal the draconian law AFSPA after she saw the body of her best friend raped by the members of the Assam Rifles, a unit of the Indian Army at an army camp in Imphal.

Irom, a poet, is also the world’s longest hunger striker.

The Root, which had organised the event, had displayed 60 postcards from India and abroad for Irom. “These were to send her a message that she is not forgotten in a land of busy people,” said Nitesh Mohantay of The Root.

The book was released by actor Abhay Deol.

#India – Film debut at 92 #Sundayreading


Mirror tracks the making of the first 15-minute documentary on Mumbai‘s landmark Dadar Parsi Colony

Reema Gehi
Posted On Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 10:23:27 AM
Joshi envisioned an agiary within the neighbourhood so that its Parsi residents wouldn’t have to tread too far to offer their prayers
Dogwalker Rohinton Unwalla with chicken-loving boxer Max and actor Boman Irani‘s Golden Retriever Laila
BPP Trustee and architect Jimmy Mistry is interviewed by Anand Kulkarni (in white), while sound engineer Rohan Puntambekar and cinematographer Kuldeep Mamania look on

Max and Rohinton Unwalla see no reason for public display of affection to be tagged as nuisance. In one quick swoop, love meets devotion when Max’s candy tongue flutters across Unwalla’s face, before finally enveloping his nose as the two take a breather after their morning walk on the steps of Building no. 782 at Dadar Parsi Colony.

Unwalla, better known around the lanes that wrap the iconic Five Gardens as Ronny Uncle, meets Max, the boxer, Maxie the Lhasa and Laila the Golden Retriever each morning at 7 am after a quick brun-maska-chai breakfast with his old colleagues from Godrej.

Since he retired in 1999, the 65-year-old has become an indispensable cog in the wheel of this neighbourhood’s survival, walking the residents’ pets and shacking up with them in his ground floor flat when their owners are on holiday.

Ronny Uncle has made it to the star credits of a 15-minute documentary, the first to trace the 92-year-old story of Dadar Parsi Colony, directed by Anand Kulkarni.

The young filmmaker plans to release it on March 21 which the community celebrates as Navroze or new year. It is late evening; the sun threatening to shut shop any minute.

We are on a terrace overlooking half the metropolis. The trinity of writerdirector- editor Kulkarni, cinematographer Kuldeep Mamania and sound engineer Rohan Puntambekar are ready for their first shot of the day.

Architect and trustee of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat Jimmy Mistry, who until now has only corresponded with Kulkarni over email, is expected to arrive at his palatial residence Della Towers — the only 22-storey building in a cluster of 250 buildings in the Maharashtriandominated middle-class neighbourhood of Dadar that houses 10,000 members of the Zoroastrian faith, making it the largest Zoroastrian enclave in the world.

The colony was conceived in 1921 by a young civil engineer named Mancherji Joshi, and inaugurated by celebrated merchantphilantropist Sir Jamshedjee Jeejeebhoy.

Kulkarni, who has spent every day of the last three months roaming its leafy bylanes was struck by the thought of capturing it on film whole researching a movie on the contribution of Mumbai’s Parsis.

Zareen Engineer was one of the first residents Kulkarni would meet, and later realise was Mancherji Joshi’s granddaughter.

“Anand excitedly asked me all sorts of questions about how it all started,” laughs Engineer, at her spacious home overlooking the Five Gardens. “It’s possible that I have repeated that story a 100 times, but I didn’t mind sharing it once more for the film.”

Sooni Davar, her elder sister, who has dropped in for a yoga session, says the legacy has built it own odd fallacy. “Because he built the colony, they think we must be millionaires. He was a middle-class man, and died one. He paid his rent faithfully until the end.”

A different colonisation

It was the early 1920s, and Joshi was a civil engineer posted with the Improvement Trust (equivalent of the BMC). Parsi pockets of Fort and Grant Road were undergoing redevelopment, leading to widespread displacement.

Joshi discussed his plan for a piece of land in the suburbs to build homes for the underprivileged and middle-class residents.

Architect Mervanji Framji Surveyor and civil engineer Jehangir Engineer helped Joshi plan the colony.

With funds from wealthy members of the community and the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, a plot was purchased in Dadar. “But before the buildings, he created 14 gardens in the colony, which we work hard to maintain,” says Engineer, founder of the Mancherji Edulji Joshi Residents’ Association.

“Those who say sparrows and parrots have left in the city, should visit the colony,” she says with pride about the green lung that houses trees as old as 80 years.

The wide roads that wind through the area — Lady Jehangir Road, Jam-e- Jamshed Road and Dinshaw Master Road — have all been named after philanthropists who helped fund them.

Engineer says Joshi envisioned a gymkhana, the Dadar Madrasa, a library, the Palamkote hall to host religious ceremonies and an agiary, all within the neighbourhood. It was dedication enough for the residents to create the casket of his statue that’s now a city landmark, while he was alive. All these feature in Kulkarni’s film.

The support staff

Rana Chakraborty
When the 250-building colony was conceived, it had no fence, just a simple rule — no building could stand higher than two storeys 

Kulkarni scripted the film while spending his Sundays at the Gymkhana. “Everyone seems to know everyone. They keep waving at each other.” The three-member team says they wouldn’t have managed to complete a film that’s cost them Rs 4 lakh without the help of random pedestrians like those at the Five Gardens, who asked if they could help, and Hemal Ghoshal, resident and secretary of Mount Pleasant building, who offered her home to store equipment.

Shernaaz Engineer, the editor of Jame- Jamshed, a weekly community newspaper, put in an announcement, requesting old residents to share print and video footage they may have.

“That worked,” says Kulkarni, “We even had a 48-year-old Parsi lady call in to check if she could ‘act’!” It’s possibly this camaraderie that businesswoman and philanthropist Padma Shri Anu Aga refers to in the film, when she says of the neighbourhood she grew up in: “There’s scope for lasting friendships because of the way the colony and structure was built.”

When Joshi conceived the colony, it had no fence, just a simple rule – no building could stand higher than two storeys, and a 15-feet open space between buildings was mandatory.

Saving the Oasis

It’s this very oasis that the residents are battling to save. The residents’ association has opposed the BMC’s plan to build a concrete-granite gazebo inside a children’s park, which they believe will reduce the Grade II B heritage garden’s size and mar the greenery.

It was by the time that Kulkarni was into the third draft of the script that he learnt of the residents’ tenacious fight with the builder lobby that’s keen to modernise the area through the redevelopment model that pertains to old cessed properties in the island city. “I feel part of their voice and struggle. I hope the film makes a difference.”

►►►  Because he built the colony, they think we must be millionaires. He was a middle-class man, and died one, paying the rent faithfully until the end

–  Sooni Davar (on grandfather Mancherji Joshi) with sister Zareen Engineer

 

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