#India -Why Narendra Modi should not be the PRIME MINISTER


T.K.ARUN.MODI1 TNN, T K ARUN
Narendra Modi should not become the prime minister, because that would destroy the idea of India as a nation that celebrates unity in diversity, where multiple identities prosper in harmony and dignity. Equally, democracy and the rule of law would be casualties under Modi. For the BJP, Modi’s ascent to the top would mean a hasty end to any hope of evolving into a centre-right party minus a Hindu majoritarian agenda.

The tutored rants of a pseudo-secular hack who cannot see the glory of growth, prosperity and social harmony achieved in Gujarat under Modi’s leadership? That, of course, would be the typical reaction of Modi’s fan following, whose ardour only grows with every objection to their leader’s elevation to the pinnacle of power. But passion and protest are no substitute for the analysis of hard facts.

Gujarat has indeed prospered under Modi. Modi is an able administrator, gives scope for innovative ideas from bright sparks in the bureaucracy to be deployed on the ground. He has been able to curb petty corruption at the retail level. The state has a viable power sector and everyone pays his bill. All this is true.

Much of it is true for other states as well, except for the success story in power. Bihar has grown faster than Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra more or less match its growth rates. And Gujarat lags in reducing poverty, showing that the growth it achieves is rather lopsided. Women have a raw deal, with high levels of anaemia and low levels of college education, compared to several other states.

Gujaratis are an enterprising people, have been the most enthusiastic in taking advantage of liberalisation and globalisation and have propelled economic growth in their state. The chief minister certainly can take credit for not standing in the way but even more certainly cannot take credit for the Gujarati business acumen accumulated over history.

But Modi’s vaunted achievement is not just to have led growth. There is no denying his charisma as a leader, the conviction and force with which he speaks and his ability to move his audience with oratory.

Leadership power, unfortunately, is not an automatic argument in his favour. What he leads his followers to becomes all the more important, the more inspirational he is as a leader. And this is where the rub is. What he believes in, what he has practised, is extremely divisive, inimical to liberal democracy.

Modi is not on the best terms with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. This is not because the Sangh suspects him of any ideological deviation. Rather, Modi personifies the Sangh’s belief system. The problem is that Modi is too authoritarian to accept the discipline even of the Sangh. This authoritarian streak has manifested itself as quashing of dissent and fostering of leaders like Amit Shah, prime accused in encounter killings, extortion rackets.

It is not factually true that there have been no attacks on Muslims in Gujarat after the pogroms of 2002, but there has been relative peace. Under his government, the Sangh Parivar has taught the Muslims of Gujarat to live as second class citizens, their safety and security guaranteed not so much by the commitment of the state to protect the rights of citizens as by patronage conditional on good behaviour. This, indeed, was the ideal laid down by the Sangh’s Guru Golwalkar, who strongly believed that India should be the land of Hindus and followers of other religions should live here not as equal citizens under a secular constitution but as second class citizens enjoying truncated rights. The Sangh no longer says this openly but nor has it repudiated its most influential leader’s teachings. The Sangh and all the organisations it has formed and/patronised, including the BJP, propagate the myth that Hindus are an oppressed, exploited group in India while the minorities are coddled with undue benefits. This myth is used to fan hatred towards non-Hindus and to unify Hindus on the basis of such hatred.

This attempt is inimical to democracy and peaceful coexistence of people of different faiths. It is also inimical to the traditional Hindu ethos. At the level of theology, Hinduism recognises no deviance in the pursuit of spiritual equilibrium, tantric sex and austere, ascetic, intellectual pursuit of the ultimate and everything in-between being all equally acceptable. With a pantheon that has more gods than there were Hindus at the time of Independence, Hinduism has no problem accepting a few more gods, whatever their names.

Inclusiveness with regard to multiple paths of spirituality is not the same thing as tolerance. Hindus have little tolerance when it comes to caste trespasses. That honour killings continue even today stands testimony to this form of intolerance. Yet, the philosophical core of Hinduism, advaita, lends itself to radical interpretations that negate caste and see universal humanity across nations, races and other divisions. One such interpretation was espoused by Vivekananda, whose views have little in common with the sectarian vision of the Sangh and its acolytes like Modi. For Vivekananda, all religions lead to spiritual realisation, just as all rivers lead to the ocean. For the Sangh and Modi, Muslims and Islam are anathema. This has nothing to do with Vivekananda or his thought.

Hypocrisy, intolerance and authoritarianism will become instituted in the central government, if Modi were to become prime minister. For any other BJP leader, such institutionalisation would be a risk, countered by the system’s inertia. With Modi, that would be a certainty.

India’s prosperity depends on voluntary unity of its constituent diversity. Attempts to subordinate some sections will inevitably lead to schism. The deep alienation induced by the bloody campaign to demolish the Babri mosque is still playing out as occasional terror strikes. The point is to create integration and inclusion, not further alienation that descends into civil war.

 

India: Comprehensive Food Security Law Can Eradicate Hunger


Tuesday, 7 May 2013, 
Article: Asian Human Rights Commission

India: Only a Comprehensive Food Security Law Can Eradicate Hunger In India, Not This Piecemeal Bill

(Hong Kong, May 06, 2013) The Asian Human Rights Commission endorses the following Press Note issued by the Right to Food Campaign. The AHRC urges the government of India to amend the food security bill and accommodate the changes if it is serious about tackling large-scale hunger and malnutrition plaguing the country. Following is the text of the press note

Press Statement Issued by the Right to Food Campaign on the National Food Security Bill on 6th May, 2013 at the Press Club of India, N Delhi

The Right to Food Campaign is deeply concerned at the paradox of hunger and malnutrition preying on millions of people in this country even as FCI godowns continue to overflow with grain. In this light, the campaign is chagrined that the Government’s flagship initiative in the form of the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) is yet to be passed. This betrays the inhuman apathy of our rulers and the system to the plight of the hungry and the malnourished dying a slow death. The ruling Congress party had promised a food security bill in its manifesto prior to the 2009 General Elections and this was also announced as one of the priorities of the UPA government in the President’s speech on 2nd June 2009. As we come close to the end of the term of the 15th Lok Sabha, the Bill is yet to be discussed in Parliament.

This delay of almost four years in bringing the final version of the Bill into the Parliament only last week, shows the lack of political will on the part of the UPA Government towards ensuring food security for all and in particular pledging a commitment towards actually eliminating hunger and malnutrition. With the Bill repeatedly delayed and the Parliament not allowed to function, both the Government and the Opposition are denying the people of this country the passage of a comprehensive Food Security Law.

Despite all its promises, the revised version of Bill placed on the floor of the Parliament on 2nd May 2013 makes a mockery of food security. It even undermines some of the entitlements ensured by the Supreme Court of India in the right to food case. We earnestly hope that the Parliament conducts business and that all Parties participate actively in debating, discussing and passing a comprehensive Food Security Bill forthwith. However, we would like to point out that current Bill provides extremely limited food entitlements and is nowhere close to providing food security to the people of India that several important parties, including the CPI, CPI (M), BJD, TMC with the exception of the BJP have moved amendments.

According to the campaign the final version of the Bill that has been introduced in Parliament by the Food Minister Mr. KV Thomas needs serious amendments before passage as:

1. It does not specify any time frame for the rolling out of the entitlements in the Bill. 2. It continues with a Targeted PDS, excluding 33 % of the population from accessing the PDS as a right, giving scope to large exclusion errors of the poor in the country as a whole. The improved framework of single pricing in the present bill over the dual pricing under the existing APL-BPL system is undermined by the exclusion of a third of the country. 3. While the ICMR norms recommend that an adult requires 14kgs of food grains per month and children 7kgs; the Bill provides for reduced entitlements to 5kgs per person per month, thus ensuring only 166 gms of cereal per person per day. 4. The Bill provides only for cereals with no entitlements to basic food necessities such as pulses and edible oil required to combat malnutrition. 5. The Bill continues to allow for the entry of private contractors and commercial interests in the supply of food in the ICDS, especially by insisting on specific norms related to Food Safety Acts and micronutrient norms (Note in Schedule 2). 6. This bill is still ambiguous regarding maternal entitlements to all women, by continuing with the conditionality in the scheme of two child norm, which will penalise children of higher order as well as deny the mother of her basic rights. 7. The Bill does not have a strong grievance redress mechanism. For the Bill to be effective there needs to be in place a strong, decentralized and independent grievance redress mechanism that includes district level grievance redress officers with powers to impose penalties on erring officials. 8. The Bill does not provide any agriculture and production-related entitlements for farmers in spite of the fact that more than 60% of the people in this country are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. A revived and vibrant agriculture sector forms the backbone of food security.

The Right to Food Campaign has been consistently demanding a comprehensive food security law that incentivises agriculture production, provisions for local procurement and local storage along with a decentralised and deprivatised universal PDS; along with special entitlements for children, mothers, aged, disabled, widows, migrants and destitute including universalised ICDS; monthly pensions, community kitchens and destitute feeding programmes; effective measures for grievance redress, transparency and accountability and safeguards against commercial interference including GMs in any of the food/nutrition related schemes and against the introduction of cash transfers in place of PDS.

We appeal to the Parliament to discuss the NFSB; bring in suitable amendments to strengthen the Bill (as given above) and pass a comprehensive food security Bill that includes the above provisions. Three major Opposition Parties (CPM, CPI and BJD) have already put in amendments asking for removal of targeting in the PDS. This must not be delayed any further.

The National Food Security Bill is a crucial opportunity to end hunger and malnutrition in India and we hope that this will not be missed. The Right to Food Campaign will continue to protest against a Bill that is so piecemeal in its approach and mobilise for a comprehensive food security bill.

We are, Kavita Srivastava on behalf of the Steering Committee of the Right to Food Campaign

Annie Raja (National Federation for Indian Women), Anuradha Talwar and Gautam Modi (New Trade Union Initiative), Arun Gupta and Radha Holla (Breast Feeding Promotion Network of India), Arundhati Dhuru and Ulka Mahajan (National Alliance of People’s Movements), Asha Mishra and Vinod Raina (Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti), Aruna Roy, Anjali Bharadwaj and Nikhil Dey (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information), Ashok Bharti (National Conference of Dalit Organizations), Colin Gonsalves (Human Rights Law Network), G V Ramanjaneyulu (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture), Kavita Srivastava and Binayak Sen (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Lali Dhakar, Sarawasti Singh, Shilpa Dey and Radha Raghwal (National Forum for Single Women’s Rights), Mira Shiva (Jan Swasthya Abhiyan), Paul Divakar and Asha Kowtal (National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights), Prahlad Ray and Anand Malakar (Rashtriya Viklang Manch), Subhash Bhatnagar (National Campaign Committee for Unorganized Sector workers)

Veena Shatrugna, M Kodandram and Rama Melkote (Andhra Pradesh), Saito Basumaatary and Sunil Kaul (Assam), Rupesh (Bihar), Gangabhai and Sameer Garg (Chhattisgarh), Pushpa, Dharmender, Ramendra, Yogesh, Vimla and Sarita (Delhi), Sejal Dand and Sumitra Thakkar (Gujarat), Abhay Kumar and Clifton (Karnataka), Balram, Gurjeet Singh and James Herenj (Jharkhand), Sachin Jain (Madhya Pradesh), Mukta Srivastava and Suresh Sawant (Maharashtra), Tarun Bharatiya (Meghalaya), Chingmak Chang (Nagaland) Bidyut Mohanty and Raj Kishore Mishra, Vidhya Das, Manas Ranjan (Orissa), Ashok Khandelwal, Bhanwar Singh and Vijay Lakshmi (Rajasthan), V Suresh (Tamil Nadu), Bindu Singh (Uttar Pradesh), Fr. Jothi SJ and Mr. Saradindu Biswas (West Bengal)

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

#India – A sound whistleblowers’ protection law is long awaited


The responsibility to protect

Anjali Bhardwaj , Shekhar Singh : Mon May 06 2013,
A sound whistleblowers’ protection law is long awaited. It languishes in Parliament at the system’s perilNandi Singh, a resident of a remote village in Assam, was brutally attacked with axes in September 2012 as a result of a complaint filed by him regarding irregularities in the functioning of fair price shops supplying rations under the public distribution system. He succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital and his wife was seriously injured in the attack. Nandi Singh had also been attacked a month prior to his murder and had filed a case and sought protection. His wife and two children await justice.Ram Thakur from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district was shot dead last month by relatives of the mukhiya of his village. He had exposed embezzlement of funds in the MGNREGA in Ratnauli panchayat using muster rolls and other information he had accessed under the RTI Act. He had also alleged that the mukhiya of the village had siphoned off the funds. Prior to the fatal attack, there had been several incidents of attacks on him and he had repeatedly sought protection from the police.

Nandi Singh, Ram Thakur and thousands like them across the country have been threatened, assaulted, even killed for raising their voices against corruption and wrongdoing. Following the passage of the RTI Act in 2005, it isn’t just officials within the system who have access to government information — ordinary citizens across the country are holding local officials to account in ways that were unfathomable even a decade ago. Unfortunately, for these whistleblowers who dared to show truth to power, there has been no justice. Neither have their attacks and murders been properly investigated, nor have the cases of corruption and wrongdoing they exposed been dealt with.

The well-known case of Satyendra Dubey, a graduate from IIT-Kanpur who was murdered in 2003, after he exposed financial and contractual irregularities in the Golden Quadrilateral Corridor Project of the National Highways Authority of India, had sparked the demand for an effective bill to protect whistleblowers. However, over nine years and innumerable attacks on whistleblowers later, the bill remains stuck in legislative morass.

The Whistleblowers Protection Bill, introduced in Parliament in August 2010, was passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011 and has been awaiting discussion and passage in the Rajya Sabha. The bill provides for a mechanism to conceal the identity of a whistleblower, where (s)he feels that revelation of identity would lead to victimisation or harassment by vested interests. The bill makes it an offence to reveal the identity of the complainant and prescribes imprisonment and fine for anyone who reveals the identity. In addition, there are provisions to protect the whistleblower from victimisation resulting from the disclosures made.

There are, however, several lacunae in the bill that need to be discussed and addressed in Parliament. One of the most significant is the lack of a clear and adequately broad definition of what constitutes victimisation. It is critical to ensure that under the law, in case of a complaint of victimisation, the charge should stand established if the action or inaction that led to the complaint violates any law, rule, policy, order or is not in conformity with the general practice, procedures and norms in the matter, or is not based on sound reasons.

The bill is also silent on penalties and compensation vis-à-vis victimisation. If the legislation is expected to effectively deter victimisation, it must provide for strict punishment and penalties to be imposed on anyone who victimises whistleblowers. It must also ensure that wherever a whistleblower is killed or suffers grievous injury as a result of making a complaint, action is taken on a priority basis on the original complaint of corruption or criminal offence filed by the whistleblower. Cases of people like Nandi Singh, Ram Thakur and scores of whistleblowers who are poor and marginalised, bear testimony to the fact that whistleblowers and their families need to be compensated for any loss or other detriment suffered by them as a result of victimisation.

The law must cover complaints against the prime minister, chief ministers and all other public authorities, like the armed forces. Also, it is important that complainants against the private sector get protection under this act. It is widely recognised that corruption in private institutions has a significant impact on the public. Given the vast scale of the private sector in India and the corruption therein, it is important that this bill be extended to complaints about the private sector when they either abet corruption (under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act), or commit a criminal offence. This would also be in keeping with the stated position of the government, as indicated in the prime minister’s speech at a CBI conference in October 2011, to bring the private sector within the ambit of anti-corruption laws.

The law must take care to not empower anyone to dismiss or close a complaint on the grounds that it is “frivolous” or “vexatious”. These terms are impossible to define objectively and are likely to be misused. It may lead to a situation where most complaints would be routinely rejected as being frivolous or vexatious.

It is the moral obligation of the government to protect whistleblowers like Satyendra Dubey, Ram Thakur and Nandi Singh, who represent the conscience of the nation. A robust mechanism for the protection of whistleblowers in a time-bound manner is necessary to promote an environment to encourage people to blow the whistle about wrongdoings. A sound whistleblowers’ protection law might not be sufficient to protect whistleblowers, but is certainly a long-awaited and necessary first step. The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) has been demanding that the Whistleblowers Protection Bill be immediately discussed and passed by Parliament in the current session. This legislation is a key measure for fighting corruption, and in conjunction with other anti-corruption and grievance redress legislations like the Lokpal bill and the grievance redress bill, will ensure better governance.

The writers are members of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information

– See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-responsibility-to-protect/1111862/0#sthash.EipBoELw.dpuf

 

An open letter: Adivasis need speedy and impartial justice


 

May 6, 2013, TNN

To the Government of India, Members of the Judiciary, and All Citizens,

One of the most disastrous consequences of the strife in the tribal areas of central India is that thousands of adivasi men and women remain imprisoned as under-trials, often many years after being arrested, accused of ‘Naxalite/ Maoist’ offences.

The facts speak for themselves.

In Chhattisgarh, over two thousand adivasis are currently in jail, charged with ‘Naxalite/Maoist’ offences. Many have been imprisoned for over two years without trial. In Jharkhand, an even larger number of adivasis, possibly in excess of five thousand, remain imprisoned as under-trials. The situation is similar in many other states of central and eastern India currently affected by armed conflict between the government and adivasi-linked militant movements, namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal. The adivasi undertrial population may run into thousands in each of the states. Assessing the true scale of the problem is inherently difficult, given that none of the police or jail administrations are making comprehensive figures public, even after RTI requests have been filed by concerned citizens. This opacity adds to the injustice.

In each of these states, the adivasi under-trials, and particularly those arrested under special security statutes, face grave common handicaps that obstruct their Constitutional right to a fair, speedy trial, to justice.

One, language barriers. The vast majority of adivasi under-trials speak only adivasi languages, such as Gondi and Halbi. However, few if any courts have official interpreters/translators. This leaves the adivasis unable to communicate directly with the Officers of the Court or otherwise effectively make their case.

Two, the failure, in case after case, for evidentiary material, such as captured arms or explosives, to be promptly submitted in court by the security forces when they first produce the detainees before the Magistrate, as the Magistrate can statutorily direct the security forces to do when they level such serious charges. In the absence of prima facie proof, the grave risk of injustice being done to innocent adivasis is self-evident.

Three, procedural barriers relating to ‘Naxalite/Maoist’ and other security offences. Being charged with such offences, the under-trials are not produced in the courts for lengthy periods. Owing to this, the trial does not proceed for years together.

Four, other procedural barriers. Since under-trials charged with ‘Naxalite/Maoist’ offences are only held in Central Jails, many of them of them are transferred to jails at a great distance from their homes and families. In Chhattisgarh, for instance, nearly one hundred adivasi under-trials from Bastar have been transferred to Durg or Raipur Central Jails, a distance of over 300 kilometers. The great distance, coupled with the poverty of most adivasis, means that families are unable to regularly visit them or provide them with vital emotional support.

Five, the lack of proper legal defence. Lawyers who visit ‘Naxal/Maoist’ under-trials in Chhattisgarh are photographed by the authorities and their information listed in a separate register, making lawyers reluctant to visit their clients. In any event, many of the adivasi under-trials are dependent on legal-aid lawyers who rarely go to meet the client or seek instructions regarding the case. Often lawyers are careless in their conduct of cases and are amenable to pressures from the police or prosecution.

In addition to the humanitarian imperative, the prolonged failure to provide speedy and impartial justice to these thousands of adivasi under-trials is damaging the prospects for peace in India’s heartland – by leading adivasis to feel that the Indian government does not treat them as full citizens and by intensifying their generalised sense of alienation. It is telling that in the widely publicised “Collector abduction” incidents of Chhattisgarh and Odisha, one of the major demands raised by the insurgents was speedy and fair trial for these thousands of jailed adivasis, accused of being Naxalites/Maoists. Yet, virtually none of the efforts belatedly agreed to by the state governments – such as the ‘High-powered Committee for review of the cases of Adivasiundertrials in Chhattisgarh’, set up in mid-2012 under the aegis of Nirmala Buch, the former top IAS officer – have come to fruition or been acted on to any degree by the concerned governments.

More than anything else, the failure to ensure justice for the adivasis is a grave blot on India’s human rights record. Not only are we as a nation committed to democracy and human rights, but our Constitution provides extensive safeguards and rights to the adivasis that are being violated by not ensuring fair and speedy trials for these thousands of adivasi under-trials.

On every count – whether humanitarian or strategic – it is imperative that this prolonged failure to assure our country’s adivasis of speedy, impartial justice be set right immediately.

Justice is in everyone’s interest.

Hence, we the undersigned, a large group of concerned Indians – including adivasi leaders, jurists and lawyers, and public intellectuals – urge the Union Government, the concerned State Governments, and the Supreme Court to undertake to appoint a special Commission of eminent jurists to oversee dedicated fast-track courts that hear these cases speedily and impartially.

Sincerely,

VR Krishna IyerMahasweta DeviSwami AgniveshNandita Das, Nitin Desai, GN Devy, Jean Dreze, Gladson Dungdung, Anand Grover, Ramachandra GuhaGirish Karnad, Manish Kunjam, Harsh Mander, Vinod Mehta, Arvind Netam, Rajinder Sachar, BD Sharma, Nandini Sundar, Father Stan Swamy, Tarun Tejpal, Mukti Prakash Tirkey.

 

 

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