#Kolkata- Loose women and other urban Indian tales #Vaw


I am writing this to share a recent incident that brought me face to face with many issues I feel are of wider importance, and to use this as a collective sounding board for possible future action.

My idea is simply to tap into the wider experiences and insights of the community of people this may reach, who are invested in creating a more just and equal environment for everyone. Since some people reading this may not know me personally, I will begin with some information on myself.

I live in Kolkata. I am a freelance journalist and travel around a bit. I run an award-winning indie youth media collective called Jalebi Ink. I am also a single mom, by choice. I haven’t faced any significant negative situations about my choice/status.

Till now. Here in Kolkata.

Two days back, a nasty run-in happened with some older boys (17-18) in my colony (Behala) and with their parents.

These boys had been harassing my 13 yr old son for a while. But he wouldn’t let me intervene saying no, they will make more fun of me. Things came to a head in an incident in the park where these boys caught hold of him and in public pulled his pants down while the rest watched and clapped.

What I did and what followed was illuminating.

I went to the leader of this gang and asked him to cease immediately. The gang was there. They shrugged it off with non-chalance. Your son is a liar, they said. This is all in fun anyway. Shoulder shrugs and a lot of smug laughter.

An altercation followed with the boys, and their parents and neighbours which turned nasty and in the next 15 minutes, I (a five foot one inch woman) was surrounded by a pack of these boys and their parents, and even their maids. It was like a chakravyuh. They shoved me around. They proceeded to hurl every known gendered and cliched abuse. They threatened to beat me and my son up. “I will kill you and your son,” the boy said. I slapped him and his pal who had smugly admitted that he had “only touched my son’s pants”. The boys came at me with their fists balled up. But were held back by some friends.

There were onlookers – no one did anything

They came to my house after that, with more people. Same thing happened. More abuses – and extolling of virtue of their sons. “Bring out your son” “Chool chhaata mohila” (short- haired woman), “we know what you are”, “frustrated” “loose” “harlot” “your son is abnormal” etc.

My mother and father (who has Parkinsons) stood behind asking them to leave with folded hands. He was told to get lost.

The neighbours did nothing – they walked past on the stairs, looking away.

I filed a complaint. They too did – ostensibly as I had “assaulted” these 17-18 yr olds.

The cops came and asked my son questions. They were decent enough. They told my son the bullying will stop. All that. But they may have done that as I had called up several of my media friends who in turn would have put pressure on them. They said we’ll see what we can do and went off.

The father of the leader of the pack of boys incidentally is a local real estate promoter with links to local councillors. The house they stay in is forcibly occupied and belongs to someone I know.

It is sad what this place has become. I feel that the more women get out of stereotypes, the more reactionary society becomes.

A chool chhata (short haired), pant pora (pant-clad), westernised, single woman = ‘loose character’, as per Bengali middle-class morality. This is a dangerous trend that I have noticed over the years – the simmering violence within middle-class Bengalis and the growing tendency to ostracize independent single women based on warped notions of morality. It’s mob mentality in its most vicious form, the shocking part being that these are the so-called ‘educated’ bhadroloks, not uneducated people from deprived backgrounds.

Like a friend pointed out, the external trappings of middle-class society have changed. Everyone thinks they’re ‘modern’ now. But the mindset is still feudal. Add to that a growing propensity for violence, and you have a dangerous cocktail.

It’s like living in the dark ages. Everything they said to women then, they are saying now. Women have to have male figures around as “protectors” and “guardians”.

The police fellow’s pen had hovered for a while over the “son of” section in his report when I said write my name. When I fill govt or even other forms (as in banks etc), there is a predominant “Wife of” “Daughter of” section. His glance had changed when I told him I am a single mom.

Ever since my father was diagnosed with Parkinsons, my mother has taken over all the document, bank etc work completely. And yet, they still ask her to fill in who she is a wife of or daughter of. It is frustrating. When will this end? It was well-known writer Githa Hariharan, who slammed home the point that a mother can be the sole guardian of a child. Before that, a father’s signature would always be required on forms. (http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120229/jsp/opinion/story_15193043.jsp#.UWZSOZNTCSo)

I want to drive home to these boys and their parents that what they did was wrong on so many levels. What they did to a kid. Their strange warped perception of women. And the fact that they think it is fun to bully a 13 year old. The fact that they invaded my space and abused me. They did not bother about an old and ailing person. The boys who labelled me as a ‘fallen woman’ were teens, some of them going to the new crop of ‘international’ schools that have mushroomed in Calcutta. They have a music band. And yet they have such regressive mindsets.

I am looking for ideas and suggestions. From media stories, justified legal intervention to interventions or campaigns in the colony maybe. Blank Noise is a great organisation that does some amazing campaigns on harassment faced by women. Check them out here:http://blog.blanknoise.org/

Regards,
Anuradha Sengupta
www.jalebiink.com

#India- World Bank team faces protests in Odisha #Posco


By Express News Service – BHUBANESWAR

11th April 2013 09:05 AM IE

The protest against World Bank, which has been holding a series of consultations on environmental and safeguard policies across the country, continued in the State with people’s organisations staging a demonstration in front of a city hotel where its team is staying, here on Wednesday.

The organisations targeted the World Bank’s latest round of consultations for review of its environmental and social safeguard policies to which representatives of the State Government, corporate sector and NGOs are invited. The protestors were critical of the Bank’s impact on the State which led to proliferation of the private sector by illegally closing the PSUs in various public sectors such as education and health.

“The World Bank Group claims that it has lent around $26 billion to India between 2009 and 2013. However, this is spent through different anti-community policies, programmes and projects and have helped the corporate sectors only. Poverty has increased during this period,” said Sivaram of CPI(ML), who was leading the protests. The protestors said thousands of people have been displaced from their homes and were forced to live cattle’s life due to induced displacement and migration. The Bank’s programmes on environment have ruined the environment of Odisha while unnecessary loan for forestry sector development has put a burden on the State in terms of debt.

Lok Shakti Abhijan president Prafulla Samantra said the demonstration was part of the series of protests against the World Bank whose officials had to face the same fate by the activists on April 5 at New Delhi and April 8 at Bangalore.

The protesters slammed the NGOs saying that many profit-oriented organisations in the State are hand-in-glove with the World Bank projects and are engaged in many anti-community activities. These NGOs are also equally responsible and accountable to the people of the State, they said. Members of CPI (ML), Odisha Chasa Parivesh Surakhya Parishad, Lok Shakti Abhijan, Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti and Krushaka Samukhya were among others who participated.

 

In Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, no Narmada water for dalits #WTFnews


Fact-finding Report on Implementation of Food Security Programme in Kalahandi district, Odisha

Vijaysinh Parmar, TNN Apr 10, 2013,

CHITALIYA (RAJKOT): In the villages of Jasdan taluka in drought-hit Saurashtra, dalit women prefer to remain silent. That’s for the fear of the upper castes in a state whose chief minister Narendra Modi is busy trying to conjure up an eclectic image to subserve his perceived prime ministerial ambitions for 2014 polls.

“Those people (upper castes) will abuse us again if we speak,” mumbled one of the women, only to be given a warning look by the others.

The water scarcity in Saurashtra is due to deficient rainfall, but the calamity is man-made for the dalits. Members of the community claim they are not allowed access to Narmada water, the only source of drinking water, by upper caste members. Ironically, upper caste farmers have their own borewells and don’t need Narmada water as much.

The dalits in ten villages of the taluka allege they are not even allowed to draw water from the main sump. “We have to listen to casteist remarks and are even threatened if we get close to the sump,” said Jaya Makwana, who fetches water under scorching sun from a source 3km farther. The worst affected are villages of Chitaliya, Khadvavadi, Kanesara, Parevala, Jivapar, Nani Lakhavad, Kothi, Barvala and Devdhari. There are around 100 dalit families in each village dominated by Kolis.

Unable to bear both injustice and thirst, women from these villages recently approached the deputy collector with their tale of woes. But the women were allegedly threatened on their return for taking up the issue with the authorities. “Should we remain thirsty because we are untouchables?” Makwana fumed.

Narmada water in Chitaliya is so erratic that villagers would not even get supply once a week. After the trip to the deputy collector’s office, water is being released once in five days. But the dalits say the main sump is still off-limits for them while the small one doesn’t get a drop.

The sump in the dailt area of Kothi village was never connected with the Narmada pipeline. “Our only source was a hand-pump which went dry last month,” said Maniben Makwana, 65, a dalit.

“We are looking into complaints of discrimination. We have also directed the water resources department to connect hand-pumps to the pipeline,” deputy collector R H Gadhavi said.

 

Protests TV won’t show Golibar Demolitions Protest. Hunger Strike for 7 days and counting


By- rapper activist,  Ashwini Mishra

43 families living in Ganesh Kripa Society lost their homes in the first week of April in the illegal Golimar demolitions. The demolitions, driven by Shivalik Builders continued even after Union Minister of Housing Ajay Maken requested the Maharashtra CM to stop them. These demolitions have been driven by a huge scam and the demolitions were supposed to be stopped till investigation was completed.

As of now 43 families are now living on the Maidan but their spirit remains strong. At time of this video, they along with Medha Patkar have been fasting for 5 days to protest the illegal demolitions. By law the builders have to provide the residents alernative accomodations. But no such action has been taken. Stand in solidarity with the people of Golibar and protest this brutal denial of housing rights of the poor.

India’s elites have a ferocious sense of entitlement


JANUARY 2013

A revealing set of US studies has got Urvashi Butalia thinking about how the rich behave in Delhi.

My office is located in an urban village in the heart of Delhi. Originally surrounded by fields where people grew crops, these areas now house apartment blocks and shopping malls. All that’s left of the old village is the cluster of houses in which many of the erstwhile residents live, and where a few small traders have set up offices and shops. Some old practices remain though, and there’s a strong sense of community. Come evening, houses in Shahpur Jat empty as women and children spill out on to the narrow streets where a village haat – a market where you can get fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs, plastic goods and virtually anything else you care to name – springs up. Or at least, that’s how it was until about a year ago. I still remember the day that marked the beginning of the end of this little daily ritual.

Babu Babu / Reuters
Privilege looms large in the southern Indian city of Chennai.Babu Babu / Reuters

It was around 6 o’clock on a late summer day, not yet dusk. As people shopped and went from cart to cart selecting the best and sometimes the cheapest, cars and auto-rickshaws negotiated the narrow gaps between them, taking care to avoid children and animals.

Then along came a large SUV, driven by a young and obviously wealthy man. He honked loudly for people to get out of his way; no-one really bothered. He tried again, he leaned out of the car and shouted, he revved up his car. No effect: the cart standing nearby was doing brisk business, another one went past and gently grazed his car. Suddenly, before anyone could realize what was happening, this young man leapt out, caught hold of the cart laden-with-onions standing in front of his car, tipped it over, spilling its contents on to the road, lifted the heavy metal scales and hurled them at the vendor, who just managed to duck and escape being badly injured. People scurried away, the young man stalked off, climbed unhurriedly into his car and drove off. Since that day, the village market has disappeared, the people are too frightened to come on to the road, children don’t play there and cars can now drive freely down it.

This isn’t an unusual scene in India and it’s not about road rage. It’s about being rich, and the privilege, callousness and arrogance that comes with it. It’s something I’ve always wondered about: the rich have so much, what does this wealth do to their minds that they always want more, they don’t want anyone else to have anything? Indeed, why does wealth make them lose all sense of humanity and compassion?

Let me tell you another story: my neighbour in the upper-middle-class area where I live is a man who owns luxury hotels. His house is huge, but no sooner had he moved in than he appropriated about half of the pavement space to the front and side of his house, claiming it for his own. This means less parking for others, less pavement for children, less walking space for everyone. Of the 400-odd houses in this area, at least half have done this. At the same time they have also collectively seen off the only roadside tea stall in the area that served all the service providers – the guards, the drivers, the domestics, the sweepers.

Who could study the rich?

Where does this kind of behaviour come from? You’d think if people had more than they need, they would be generous about it, and would see, reflecting on themselves, that others might want to have more as well. Not so. Until recently, every time I asked myself this question, I wondered if I was just being prejudiced, or imagining things. And then I read about the experiments carried out in the US by researchers Michael Kraus, Dacher Keltner, Paul Piff and others about what wealth does to people socially and psychologically – their conclusions are telling.

Who in India would have the temerity to study the rich?

There haven’t, to my knowledge, been any such studies in our region of the world. Indeed, in India, it’s always struck me as strange that, while there are any number of books about the poor (perhaps they provide an easy subject because they’re poor and don’t have the power to refuse to be subjects of research), there are no studies about the rich or their behaviour.

The question does arise: who would study the rich, or perhaps we should ask who could study the rich? In a society that is so deeply hierarchized along both class and caste lines, which scholar or scientist would have the temerity, and the access, to do so?

For us, wealth is so completely tied in with political power, and often to crime without punishment. Take any recent scam in India and you will find proof of this.

Recently, two wealthy brothers, fighting over a piece of property, shot each other dead. The history of their many businesses showed how liquor licences had been sold to them by the state at ridiculously reduced prices. The nexus of industry and politics is exceedingly tight; and the media are tied into this too – without advertising from the corporates, they would not survive.

This somewhat lethal combination has acquired the status of a ‘natural truth’ in India’s hierarchized society and it is seldom questioned. The behaviour of the rich is taken as just that, and the oft cited refrain is: ‘that’s what they are like!’

The culture of taking

Indeed, the ferocious sense of entitlement that the rich carry with them at all times has also helped to legitimize so many inequalities in India. Take, for example, a simple urban phenomenon: parks within the city. These are the places where poor people can hang out, do nothing sometimes, and where the homeless often find a bed. But the assumption seems to be that our public parks are only meant for the rich, and so the poor are often pushed out and denied entry.

Eating the children’s sweets

In recent years, scientists in the US have been investigating the ways in which having money affects personality and behaviour. Their results have been remarkably consistent. The rich are different – and not in a good way. Their life experience makes them less empathetic, less altruistic and generally more selfish, according to Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘We have done 12 separate studies measuring empathy in every way imaginable… and it’s the same story…’1

For example, less privileged people are better at deciphering the emotions of people in photos than rich people. In video recordings of conversations, the rich are more likely to check cell phones, doodle, avoid eye contact; while less privileged people make eye contact and nod their heads more often, signalling engagement.

In another test, when poorer people were awarding points representing money, they were likely to give away more than richer people.

Keltner also studied the activity of the vagus nerve, which helps the brain to record and respond to emotional inputs. When participants are exposed to pictures of starving children, for example, their vagus nerve becomes more active. Keltner has found that those from poorer backgrounds experience more intense activation.

One of his students, Jennifer Stellar, did a similar experiment using heart rate, which slows with feelings of compassion. Unlike those of poorer students, the heart rates of the richest students did not change when they viewed pictures of children with cancer. ‘They are just not attuned to it,’ Stellar told the New York Magazine.2

In 2012 another University of California researcher, Paul Piff, published a paper entitled ‘Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behaviour’. Using quizzes, online games, questionnaires, in-lab manipulations and field studies, Piff also found that living high on the socio-economic ladder makes people less ethical, more selfish, more insular and less compassionate.

One experiment showed that rich participants, when placed in a room with a bowl of candy designated for children, were the most likely to help themselves to the sweets. Another showed they were three times more likely to cheat than those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

In another study, Piff and his researchers spent three months observing the behaviour of drivers at the busy intersection of two major highways. They graded cars one to five, with five the most expensive. They found that drivers of grade-five cars were the most likely to cut off other drivers. Piff then devised an experiment to test drivers’ regard for pedestrians. A researcher would enter a zebra crossing as a car approached. Half of the grade-five car drivers cruised right into the crossing, regardless of pedestrians. ‘It’s like they didn’t even see them,’ said Piff.2

Can the rich redeem themselves? It will take another set of studies to show what happens if they give their riches away.

  1. Michael Kraus, Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner, ‘Social Class as Culture: The Convergence of Resources and Rank in the Social Realm’, Current Directions in Psychological Science, August 2011.

  2. Lisa Miller, ‘The Money-Empathy Gap’, New York Magazine, July 2012

There’s also a particular way in which the rich adopt the moral high ground. In a recent incident, three poor Dalit boys inadvertently caused a small fire in a local community centre where they worked. Their local community leader pleaded with the centre manager to let them off with a warning, but he was told, in no uncertain terms: ‘No, you can’t be soft on these people, they have to be punished, else they will never learn.’ Very likely, all three lost their jobs. Very likely, they were the only earning members in their families.

The studies in the US speak of the ‘culture of taking’ that comes with privilege. So, for example, the better-off person is more likely to take sweets meant for a child than a less well-off person. If you replace sweets with money, you’ll find this is rampant in India. Funds set aside for development schemes that are supposed to help the poor, are frequently siphoned off by the rich. Land that belongs to the poor – including adivasis – is taken for setting up factories (the Nano plant, for example) without compensation ever being paid.

Why do those who have so much want more? Why do they behave so badly towards their fellow human beings, and why is their behaviour so widely accepted as ‘natural’? Perhaps the day is not far off when we, in what are known now as emerging economies, will start to look for answers to these questions.

Urvashi Butalia is a feminist and historian who founded the independent non-profit publishing house Zubaan in 2003. She is a regular contributor to New Internationalist.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 459This feature was published in the January 2013 issue of New 

 

Amnesty International Reports on Death Penalty Trends


death-penalty

By 
Published: April 9, 2013

At least four countries that had not used the death penalty in some time — India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia — resumed doing so last year, the rights organization Amnesty International says in its annual compilation of capital punishment trends.

Amnesty, the London-based group that has made abolition of the death penalty one of its signature causes, also says the number of executions in Iraq nearly doubled in 2012 compared with a year earlier, which it characterized as “an alarming escalation.”

Nonetheless, its yearly review, released early Wednesday in London, said the overall shift away from death sentences and executions continued in 2012.

“In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past, ” Salil Shetty, secretary general of the organization, said in a statement. Amnesty said only 21 countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012, the same as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier.

It said at least 682 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide in 2012, two more than 2011, and at least 1,722 death sentences were imposed in 58 countries, compared with 1,923 imposed in 63 countries the year before.

“Only one in 10 countries in the world carries out executions,” Mr. Shetty said. “Their leaders should ask themselves why they are still applying a cruel and inhumane punishment that the rest of the world is leaving behind.”

Amnesty also pointed out that its compilation excluded what it said were the thousands of executions it believes were carried out in China, where the number of capital punishment cases is kept secret. The organization said it still believed China remained the world’s top executioner.

Besides China, the top executors in 2012, Amnesty said, were Iran with 314, Iraq with 129, Saudi Arabia with 79 and the United States with 43. The report also noted that only nine American states executed prisoners in 2012, compared with 13 the year before, and that in April, Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty.

 

After India, Australia too eyes tighter drug patent standards #Novartis judgement Impact


Rema Nagarajan, TNN | Apr 11, 2013, 05.31 AM IST

NEW DELHI: India is not alone in raising the bar for granting patents on pharmaceutical products. Australia, having reviewed pharma patents, has questioned the benefit of allowing patent extension beyond 20 years and is looking to tighten patent standards which have been found to be “less than rigorous” in the past. The draft report of Australia’s pharmaceutical patents review released recently also raised doubts about Australia necessarily getting more R&D investments from giving patent extensions.

While Novartis and the Big Pharma have threatened that they would not make R&D investment in India because of inadequate patent protection, the Australian review panel says: “It is difficult to see why a pharmaceutical firm would choose to conduct R&D in Australia, merely because the government decided to offer an extension of (patent) term here.” The panel report noted that it was fundamental issues such as relative costs of R&D and skill availability which influenced the location of R&D spending.

The report recommended that the current model of using the patents system to subsidise pharmaceutical R&D indirectly through patent extensions should be replaced with a direct subsidy. It observed that direct subsidy also had an additional benefit because it could be directed towards investment in pharmaceuticals which were not well addressed by the patent scheme, such as too little research for newer antibiotics, pharmaceuticals to address rare diseases, paediatric illnesses and endemic health issues in low income countries.

The patent review panel pointed out how the life of patent protection in Australia has been extended beyond even the 20 years mandated by the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property RightsTRIPS) because of a separate free trade agreement (FTA) that Australia signed with the US.

According to the review report, this FTA was signed “without careful regard to whether this was in our own economic interest” .

 

 

Novartis and Health – An analysis


 

Rajeev Dhavan on April 11, 2013 – 1

 

The Novartis judgment has started a huge war of words. The patent drug producers are livid. They declare: “Woe is us. This is the end of invention.”  The generic drug makers say: “Well done Supreme Court.  Now we can supply life saving drugs to India and the world at cheaper prices.”

First let us understand the judgment for what it is. The drug in question is Gleevec which is used by cancer patients. The foundation for it is Imatinib Mesylate (IM) free base which was an important discovery and undoubtedly a new invention attributed to Dr. Zimmerman. IM was converted into a salt in the crystalline form known as IM Alfa which was then improved into the IM Beta crystalline form. This Beta form was claimed to be an invention because it had better flow properties, thermo stability and lower hygroscopicity – in other words it was more stable and digestible.

Was the Beta form an invention? This was not just a technical question for the chemist. It had mighty implications in terms of ground realities in two significant ways. The life of the original Zimmerman patent would be extended by 20 years. If another “improvement” was accepted as a patentable invention, it would be extended for another 20 years. In patent law and practice, this phenomenon is known as “evergreening.” The second ground reality was that a patent is a “monopoly.” There are two kinds of patent monopolies: a process patent which protects how the patent is made; and a product patent which protects the product itself. A process patent is a low level protection. If a drug has a process patent, this means that anyone can make that drug by some other process. This was India’s solution in the original Patent Act, 1970. But a product patent is a master monopoly which, with “evergreening”, means that only that corporates or their licensees can make that product to the exclusion of all others.  This also means that the owner of the product can impose any price it wants. Ofcourse, countries can impose a compulsory license if there is scarcity, but that option comes with too many restrictions. This was the Euro-American solution devised by the TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) treaty in the new WTO (World Trade Organization).

The Supreme Court took the view that Gleevec did not have novelty – in that IM was in the public domain of knowledge in a Cancer Research article and other publications. Nor could it be said that there was an inventive step because a person skilled in the task with what was known would be able to discover the IM in the crystalline form with the properties claimed for Gleevec. The narrow decision in the case concerns whether the product Gleevec could be given a product patent for the improvements. The answer was unequivocal. Novartis could not get a product patent but was entitled to a process patent to protect how it was made. Effectively, the ‘evergreening’ of Gleevec was stopped.

But, the court went further beyond the confines of the Euro-American patent law model which India accepted when it capitulated to accept TRIPS in the WTO negotiations. How TRIPS ordained patent monopolies as free trade is baffling. But, there was a loophole. TRIPS left it to the each country to “determine the appropriate method of implementing the provisions of this agreement within their own legal system and practice”. (Article 1). TRIPS also envisaged each country to innovate in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare and to balance of rights and obligations (Article 7) and “adopt measures to protect public health and promote social economic development”. (Article 8). A worried Indian Parliament decided that patents would have to meet one further test of patentability. In the area of medicine and chemicals, it was indicated that any change must be significantly efficacious. (Section 3(d) Indian Patent Act). The significance of the Novartis judgment lies in its interpretation of this section. It posed a more stringent test beyond novelty and inventiveness by requiring significant improvement in efficacy. It was not enough that the drug was more stable and easier to administer and absorb. A significant step requires a therapeutic efficacy which is curative. If this interpretation had not been forthcoming, every little change would have fortified an “evergreening”.

The argument that research will suffer is simply wrong. Scientists rely on the past research of others. There are actually few ‘eureka’ moments in technical research. But patent holding companies want to increase these ‘’eureka’ moments, exacting a heavy price for their products. Research shows that the wide spectrum research cost is recovered in less than five years. There is an invisible government subsidy because research costs are tax deductible. Innovation will continue. In fact, the competition for innovation will become more intense as “patent” companies do not seek evregreening monopolies for small changes but only significant curative ones. Meanwhile competitive sales between companies will make medicine more affordable.

India’s parliament has shown the way by adding the criteria of significant change of curative dimensions. The Supreme Court has interpreted this addition valiantly and creatively. The world was waiting for decision like this. With evergreening de-monopolized, Cipla and others can now provide life saving drugs to Indians and others all over the world at much lower prices.

 

Rajeev Dhavan is a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court.

 

 

#India- Shut all mines in tribal areas


DNA Special

Tuesday, Apr 9, 2013, 3:00 IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

Tribal minister shoots letter to 9 guvs seeking cancellation of leases.

Union tribal affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has asked governors of nine states to invoke their special powers to revoke lease agreements and MoUs signed between state governments and corporates to extract mineral wealth in tribal areas.

Pointing out that power lobbies were disregarding land regulations, he castigated the Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh government. The union minister, who is also from Andhra Pradesh, said the higher echelons of power in the state were themselves trying to brazenly distort not only the law but also  constitutional safeguards against the interests of tribal and other forest-dwellers.

In an identical letter written on April 4 to the governors of Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, the minister even linked indiscriminate mining activities to national security by propelling the Left Wing extremism.

He even went to the extent castigating his own government saying the insensitivity to the plight and problems of this entire population is the greatest challenge the nation is facing at present.

“The main threat today is the mining in Schedule V areas which has shaken the confidence and faith of the people in the region in our democratic system.”

He has reminded governors that Article 244 of the Constitution vests not only independent legislative authority on them but also allows them to restrict any law of parliament or state legislature from its implementation to a scheduled area in their states to protect rights of tribes and marginalised sections.

“The governor may repeal or amend any Act of parliament or of the legislature or any existing law which is for the time being applicable to the area in question, when good governance or peace is distributed due to issues related either with land or money lending,” writes the minister.

He further told governors that they are not bound by the aid and advice by the council of ministers under these circumstances.

The minister further urged the governors to use their executive powers and revoke lease agreements which are proving a threat to peace and good governance in these areas.

“I would like to emphasise the fact that the leases and MoUs are mere arrangement s/agreements between two parties and are not exactmetns of either assembly of parliament,” he said.

ATTN DELHI -Protest Demonstration against Killing of Gangaram Koal, Tea Community Workers’ Leader in Assam by Congress Goons


JOIN PROTEST AGAINST

HEINOUS MURDER OF CPI(ML)’S TEA WORKERS’ LEADER GANGARAM KOAL

BY CONGRESS-BACKED GOONS AND TEA-GARDEN MAFIA

12 APRIL (FRIDAY)

11 AM, JANTAR MANTAR

AICCTU 

 

On 25 March, Comrade Gangaram Koal was hacked to death.

Congress-backed goons and the local Congress MLA have been named in the FIR – but are yet to be arrested. On 12 April, protests will be held in Assam as well as nationally, demanding immediate arrest of the accused. Do join the protest in Delhi, after which a memorandum will be submitted via the Resident Commissioner at Assam Bhawan to the Assam Governor.

Contact nos: 9968125770, 7838497013, 9560756628

 

On the night of 25th March, Comrade Gangaram Koal, General Secretary of Asom Sangrami Chah Shramik Sangh and member of Assam State Committee of CPI(ML), was brutally assassinated near his home at the Gutibari tea garden in Tinsukia districtComrade Gangaram was a militant and popular leader of the tea community in the Dibrugarh-Tinsukia region, and he had been at the forefront of protests against large-scale corruption in gram panchayat schemes and in the public distribution system.Undoubtedly, he was killed at the behest of the corrupt nexus of panchayat representatives, government officials, and politicians, in particular the Congress MLA from Chabua Raju Sahu whose interests were threatened by his relentless activism.   

Comrade Gangaram Koal’s home adjoins a tea estate in Gutibari in Tinsukia district. He had been returning home at around 8 pm on is motorbike when he was attacked by assailants with an iron rod and hacked to death with machetes. His body was discovered by a tea garden worker soon after.

Comrade Gangaram Koal had led a successful struggle last year to get the licence of a corrupt ration agent cancelled. The raton agent, known to be close to the MLA Raju Sahu, ran a ‘fair price’ shop in which 60% of the consumers proved to be bogus, and the remaining 40% genuine consumers had not got even a fraction of their due rations. Only recently, leaders of the ACMS (the tea garden union affiliated with INTUC) were heard publicly declaring that Comrade Gangaram, who challenged their role as agents of the Congress and the tea industry, should be killed.

The ACMS acts to keep the tea garden workers as a captive vote-bank, and any emerging popular and independent leader from this community is ruthlessly eliminated or terrorized by the tea garden mafia. In 2000, Daniel Topno, a popular student leader from the tea community who contested as an independent MLA candidate and got substantial votes, was killed. In Sonitpur, Lakhikant Kurmi and Narayan Pondel, tea garden activists, survived a life-threatening assault. Not long ago, a close comrade of Gangaram Koal, CPI(ML) activist Shubhrajyoti Bardhan, was attacked twice – once at the Deputy Commissioner’s office where he had gone to raise question of irregularities in PDS, and once more in a village.     

Comrade Gangaram had been the CPI(ML)’s candidate in the Lok Sabha polls from Dibrugarh in 2009, and had twice been CPI(ML)’s MLA candidate from Chabua in 2006 and 2011. His heinous political assassination has sparked off a massive state-wide protest in Assam. It should be noted that CPI(ML) activists have been assaulted just a few months back by goons when they went to the food and civil supplies department to register a complaint against irregularities in the PDS.

The Tarun Gogoi Government of Assam initially ordered a CID enquiry and was adamant against ordering a CBI enquiry as demanded by the powerful mass movement that emerged to demand justice for Gangaram Koal. On March 29th, Assam observed a successful 12-hour Bandh at the call of the CPI(ML), demanding a CBI enquiry into the assassination. Subsequently, the Government has had to concede the demand for a CBI enquiry. However, it is important for the CBI enquiry to be time-bound. Justice delayed is often justice denied, and we can recall that the CBI enquiry into Daniel Topno’s murder is yet to submit its report even after 13 years.

Assassination has been a notorious stock-in-trade for the mafia of industrialists and politicians threatened by trade union movements. Trade Union leaders such as Shankar Guha Niyogi and Darasram Sahu in Chhattisgarh, Datta Samant in Mumbai, Gurudas Chatterjee and Jagdev Sharma in Jharkhand are some of the popular workers’ leaders who were martyred at the behest of the powerful vested interests. Comrade Gangaram’s courageous struggle will be continued by his comrades – because murder never can and never will silence workers’ struggles for their rights and their dreams of an egalitarian world.    

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