Setback to Irish anti-abortion plans #reproductiverights


LONDON, April 6, 2013

HASAN SUROOR, The Hindu

The Irish government’s move to relax the strict anti-abortion laws in the wake of the uproar over the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in October last year after being refused abortion, suffered a setback on Saturday as the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) rejected a series of proposals to review the ban.

IMO’s annual conference in Killarney voted down a motion calling for abortionto be allowed in cases where there was a substantial risk to the life of the mother. It also rejected motions on allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest and certain other special circumstances.

This is likely to put the main professional medical body on a collision course with the government which has promised to bring in legislation to make abortion legal in case where the mother’s life may be at risk.

IMO’s move came two days after an inquiry into Savita’s death found that she could have been saved had doctors not focused all their attention on saving the foetus. Doctors refused her repeated requests for abortion even when her life seemed in danger.

“The investigating team considers there was an apparent overemphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heart stopped, together with an under-emphasis on the need to focus an appropriate attention on monitoring for and managing the risk of infection and sepsis in the mother,” the inquiry said

Savita, (31) was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to Galway University Hospital on October 21 last year and was found to be miscarrying.

Two views of the crowd in Chhattisgarh’s jails


Ashutosh Bhardwaj : Jagdalpur, Mon Apr 08 2013, Tehelka
FPTribals of a Bastar village in a rally for prisoners’ rights.

Chhattisgarh‘s jails remain among the country’s most crowded, a finding that comes amid allegations from Maoists and activists that the government is unnecessarily keeping Bastar tribals prisoner after having promised to release them. The government, for its part, has denied it ever made such a promise, and stressed any decision on release is the prerogative of courts.For every 100 prisoners it has the capacity to accommodate, Chhattisgarh actually has 256, according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau figures (till 2011). This is called occupancy rate. Chhattisgarh’s rate has gone up from 237 in 2010, then the highest for the country. Its 256 for 2011 puts it behind only Andaman & Nicobar Islands (500) and Lakshadweep (362), both of which have few prisons.

Maoists last week organised a “prisoners’ rights week” by tribals in interior villages of Bastar, accusing the government of going back on an agreement to expedite the release of their comrades and innocent villagers in exchange for Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon’s freedom nearly a year ago.

The government set up a “high-powered committee to review all cases” in which investigation and prosecution was pending. In the year since, the only release has been of Raipur-based Raja Dhruva, 22, on May 9, 2012. He was accused of violating the Excise Act.

“We never promised to release anyone. The agreement was to review pending cases,” says government spokesperson N Baijendra Kumar. “The committee has met many times, made many recommendations. These are in courts; they have to decide.”

DGP Ramniwas dismissed the Maoist allegations as propaganda and said the committee has recommended the release of over 60 undertrials and “it is for the courts to decide”. The government did refrain from opposing the bail of some top Maoist leaders whose release had been demanded. The bail pleas were, however, rejected in court.

In a state that topped Maoist-related violence in the last decade, and one with a large tribal population, most inmates lodged in Bastar jails under Maoist cases are indeed tribals.

In Jagdalpur Central Jail, of 546 prisoners accused of being Maoists or Maoist supporters, 512 are tribals, 53 of them women. This is according to the response to an RTI application by activist Swami Agnivesh. In Dantewada jail, the response said, 372 tribals are among 377 prisoners being held under such cases. In Kanker jail, tribals account for 134 out of 144.

Many such cases end in acquittal for lack of evidence. All 10 tribals accused in the Tadmetla incident, in which 76 cops had been killed in 2010, were acquitted recently. Soni Sori, accused of being a Maoist supporter, was acquitted in four of seven cases.

Activist Himanshu Kumar alleges “a systematic elimination of tribals” by booking them under false charges. Prison officials say the high tribal count is natural. “Maoists recruit their lower level members, Dalam and Sangham, from locals, mostly tribals. It’s the top Maoist leaders who are exploiting innocent tribals,” DG (Jail) Giridhari Nayak says.

The highest number of undertrials booked on Maoist-related charges are in Jagdalpur jail. How its 581 convicts (total inmates 1,638; capacity 629) are treated is the subject of another debate. The department terms it the “industrial jail” for the goods it produces; Maoists claim tribal convicts are forced to “work like cattle”.

The jail promotes weaving, carpentry, and metal and woodwork, the daily wages being Rs 15 for skilled labour and Rs 12 for unskilled. In 2011, its products were worth Rs 87 lakh. “Tihar jail with 5,000 convicts registered production of Rs 4 crore. If you consider production per convict, my jail will rank among the best in the country,” says superintendent Rajendra Gaikwad.

“It has become a sort of industrial jail. They can be absorbed in the society after their release,” says DG Nayak.

In a March 23 statement, Maoist leader Ganesh Uike said, “Jail officers make prisoners work as bonded labourers… several do not work, but their accounts get credited and the money goes to officers.” The department says Rs 75 lakh was given in 2011, half of which went to the families of their victims.

Arun Sarkar, 44, convicted of murdering his wife, is the jail accountant. “I learnt typing and computers here,” he says. Lingaram Kodapi, an accused in Essar-Maoist payoff case, too is lodged here. In letters he has written from jail, and which have surfaced, he has alleged torture by jail officials.

 

Bhopal gas tragedy survivors stage demonstration in Mumbai


STAFF REPORTER, The Hindu April 1o, 2013

  • CALL FOR LIABILITY: More than 200 survivors of the Bhopl gas disaster protest at the office of Dow Chemical International Private Ltd at Vikhroli in Mumbai on Tuesday. Photo: Special Arrangement
    CALL FOR LIABILITY: More than 200 survivors of the Bhopl gas disaster protest at the office of Dow Chemical International Private Ltd at Vikhroli in Mumbai on Tuesday. Photo: Special Arrangement
  • Police trying to prevent protesters from entering the office. Photo: Special Arrangement
    thPolice trying to prevent protesters from entering the office. Photo: Special Arrangement

Around 200 survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster held demonstrations in front of the Dow Chemical’s office in Vikroli in suburban Mumbai on Tuesday, demanding that the company take up the criminal, civilian and environmental liability of Union Carbide, which they now own.

The demonstrators said they were protesting against Dow Chemical’s continuing business in hazardous chemicals when the survivors were dying in Bhopal and the next generation was facing health problems.

Earlier, the protesters stormed the Godrej compound, where the office of the company is situated. “From the year 2000, we have been making it clear to Dow Chemicals that if they decide to buy Union Carbide, they will have to take all the liabilities too,” said Satinath Sarangi who led the demonstrations. “Cleaning toxic material is one of them and they are simply ignoring that.”

Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha said women and children were suffering from chronic illnesses after drinking contaminated ground water. “Dow Chemical, since it has taken over the company, is now directly responsible for this and we have come here to make them realise that.”

Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morch said that the Union Carbide in 1989 had paid compensation only for 3828 deaths, whereas the total number of deaths had crossed 25,000. “Apart from that, the actual number of people injured in the tragedy according to the government is 5,68,293, but the company has paid compensation to only 1,02,000. They are simply not bothered about the rest.”

The demonstrators submitted a charter of demands to the representatives of Dow Chemicals.

In spite of repeated attempts, the company refused to comment.

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