Pakistani lesbian couple marry in U.K. defying threats


HASAN SUROOR
 LONDON, May 27, 2013, The Hindu

On a day that a French lesbian love story won the top award at Cannes, two young lesbians from Pakistan became the first Muslim women in Britain to marry in a civil ceremony in what the gay community hailed as a “landmark” event.

Rehana Kausar (34) and Sobia Kamar (29) said they decided to go ahead despite receiving death threats because they believed it was “no one’s business what we do with our personal lives”.

Immediately after tying the knot, they sought asylum in Britain claiming that their lives would be in danger if they returned to Pakistan where homosexuality is illegal and gay people live in fear.

The couple, who met three years ago while studying business and health care management in Birmingham, were reported as saying they had been living together in South Yorkshire for about a year but were able to gather enough courage to come out openly only last month.

According to their relatives, the two had been threatened both in Pakistan and in Britain, and could not find an imam to perform a “nikah”.

Ms. Kausar, originally from Lahore, and Ms. Kamar, from the Mirpur region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, took vows at Leeds Registry Office under Britain’s Civil Partnership Act 2004 which gives gay couples the same rights and responsibilities that heterosexual couples enjoy in a civil marriage.

Personal act

“This country allows us rights and it’s a very personal decision that we have taken. It’s no one’s business as to what we do with our personal lives. The problem with Pakistan is that everyone believes he is in charge of other people lives and can best decide about the morals of others but that’s not the right approach and we are in this state because of our clergy, who have hijacked our society which was once a tolerant society and respected individuals freedoms,” Ms. Kausar told Birmingham’s Sunday Mercury newspaper.

Ms. Kamar described her partner as a “soul mate” and said she loved her.

Praising them for their courage, a relative said: “They have been very brave throughout as our religion does not condone homosexuality. The couple have had their lives threatened both here and in Pakistan and there is no way they could ever return there.”

 

Indian Gov’t on Collision Course With Civil Society


Police accost women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.Police accost women protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS.

NEW DELHI, May 23 2013 (IPS) – For years India’s pro-liberalisation, Congress party-led coalition government chafed at civil society groups getting in the way of grand plans to boost growth through the setting up of mega nuclear power parks, opening up the vast mineral-rich tribal lands to foreign investment and selling off public assets.

Now, at the end of its tether, the Interior Ministry has cracked the whip on hundreds of non-governmental organisations engaged in activities that “prejudicially affect the public interest.”

 

“…The government is trying to promote globalisation while cracking down on the globalisation of dissent.” — Achin Vanaik

On Apr. 30 several NGOs were informed that the bank accounts through which they receive foreign funding had been frozen. 

“It is shocking what the government has done – but not surprising given the increasingly authoritarian, undemocratic and repressive measures being directed…against anyone who is seen to challenge or disagree with their positions and decisions,” Lalita Ramdas, anti-nuclear campaigner and board chair of Greenpeace International, told IPS.

Ramdas said NGOs concerned with nuclear power, human rights, environment and ecology – areas where corporate and industrial interests were likely to be questioned – appeared to be particular targets of the government order.

Among the worst affected is the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of more than 700 NGOs that is currently challenging, in the Supreme Court, the government’s restrictions on foreign funding reaching groups that engage in activities that can be described as “political” in nature.

In its court petition INSAF described itself as an organisation that believes that “the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India need to be safeguarded against blatant and rampant violations by the State and private corporations.”

INSAF said it has “actively campaigned against land grabs by corporations, ecological disaster by mining companies, water privatisation, genetically modified foods, hazardous nuclear power (and) anti-people policies of international financial institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”

INSAF declared in court that it “firmly believes in a secular and peaceful social order and opposes communalism and the targeted attacks on the lives and rights of people including religious minorities, and regularly organises campaigns, workshops, conventions, fact-findings, people’s tribunals, solidarity actions for people’s movements and educational publications.”

“With that kind of a profile we were expecting this crackdown,” Anil Chaudhary, coordinator of INSAF, told IPS. “Still, the government could have waited for the Supreme Court verdict.”

“At this rate,” he said, “organisations working against discrimination of women and (advocating) for their empowerment through participation in local bodies could be termed “political”, as (well as) organisations working for farmers’ rights.

“The same arbitrariness can be applied to green NGOs trying to protect the environment against mindless industrialisation.”

Chaudhary thinks it unfair that NGOs critical of government policies are being singled out. “Instead of selectively freezing the funding of groups under INSAF, the government should order a blanket ban on all foreign funding.”

Among INSAF’s many campaigns is an intiative to bring international financial institutions like the World Bank under legislative scrutiny for their activities in India.

It cannot have escaped the government’s attention that INSAF’s campaigns have run parallel to powerful movements for transparency and clean governance led by social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, founder of the Aam Admi Party (Common Man’s Party) that plans to contest general elections due in 2014.

 

Kejriwal, whose social activity led to the passage of the 2005 Right to Information Act, has also been closely associated with transparency campaigns led by Anna Hazare, who mounted a Gandhian-style fast against corruption in April 2011 that rallied over 100,000 ordinary people.

Street protests demanding good governance have since been a thorn in the side of the government.  When they peaked in December 2012, following the gang rape of a young woman in a bus in the national capital, police took to beating protestors.

The government, starting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has also been frustrated by NGOs’ efforts to stall work on a string of mega nuclear parks along peninsular India’s long coastline, especially at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, Mithi Virdi in Gujarat and Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.

In February, the government froze the accounts of two leading Tamil Nadu-based NGOs allegedly associated with the protests at the site of the Kudankulam plant, signalling a new and tough stance against civil society groups fighting the displacement of farmers and fishermen by mega development projects.

The two NGOs, the Tuticorin Diocesan Association and the Tamil Nadu Social Service Society, received four million and eight million dollars respectively over a five-year period that ended in 2011, according to declarations they made to the government.

With strong backing from the Church, the groups continue to operate despite the freeze on their assets.

During the same five-year period a total of about 22,000 NGOs across India received roughly two billion dollars in foreign contributions, going by government records.

Unexpected protests have surfaced from among the Congress party’s partners in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Devi Prasad Tripathi, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party and member of parliament, reminded Interior Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde that the UPA is “committed to protecting and promoting secular, democratic and progressive forces in the country.”

“Effectively, the government is trying to promote globalisation while cracking down on the globalisation of dissent,” commented Achin Vanaik, professor of political science at the Delhi University.

The government’s move stands in stark contrast to promises made not two years ago at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid and Development Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, where 159 governments and member organisations honoured the vital role played by the non-profit sector by pledging to foster an “empowering” climate for civil society.

In his most recent report to the United Nations General Assembly, Maina Kiai, special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, noted with grave concern that India has repressed “peaceful protestors advocating economic, social and cultural rights, such as…local residents denouncing the health impact of nuclear power plants.

 

Rs 212 crore for Omkareshwar dam oustees


 

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Author(s): Aparna Pallavi
Date: May 30, 2013

Activists allege farmers being shortchanged; demand strict implementation of rehabilitation policy and Supreme Court guidelines
Last year, people affected by the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams protested the raising of dam storage levels by staying in neck-deep water for over a fortnight (photo courtesy Narmada Bachao Andolan)
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has declared a rehabilitation package worth Rs 212 crore for people displaced by the Omkareshwar dam on the river Narmada. The announcement was made late on Tuesday night. The project has affected five villages and a total of 2,500 families.

The project affected people had been agitating for rehabilitation since July last year when they staged a jal satyagraha after the government ordered the dam reservoir to be filled without providing alternative land or compensation. Following the agitation, the government constituted a complaint redressal cell for the oustees . However, the cell failed to function as desired. A press note of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a people’s front fighting for the rights of those displaced, stated the government even showed displaced villagers land that had already been given to those displaced because of other development projects, which nearly sparked off a conflict between the two groups.

No land in lieu of land taken

The current rehabilitation package promises Rs 2.5 lakh as compensation to landless oustees, while farmers have been promised Rs 2 lakh compensation per acre (one acre equals 0.4 hectare). Though the NBA has welcomed the provision for the landless, it has criticised the package provision for farmers.

Talking to Down To Earth from Khandva district, NBA activist Chittaroopa Palit said that the Supreme Court in its May 2011 order has said that the rehabilitation policy should be strictly followed. The policy says that all farmers ousted should be given minimum five acres of land. The present compensation package, however, does not envisage such a clause and offers to pay farmers only for the land they actually have, which will impact farmers with less than five acres badly. Also, the actual cost of land is much higher – this year Indira Sagar dam oustees have been paid Rs 5.80 lakh per acre. The NBA press note demanded that government either give every displaced farmer five acres of irrigated land, or pay for the purchases made by him.

Another unreasonable clause in the rehabilitation package is that only those villagers who vacate the submersion area by July 15 will be paid compensation. “This clause is illegal, and goes against the spirit of the rehabilitation policy,” says Palit. “Supreme Court has also said clearly in its order that oustees will be given six months to vacate the area after payment of compensation,” she adds.

‘Compensate those displaced by other dams as well’

NBA has demanded that compensation should not be limited to only Omkareshwar oustees, but should also be paid to those displaced because of all dams in the Narmada valley – namely Indira Sagar, Maheshwar, Upper Beda and Mann.

Omkareshwar dam is a multi-purpose project built at a cost of Rs 2,224.73 crore. Its installed capacity is 520 MW; the power is produced by eight power stations. The project is supposed to generate 1,167 million units energy every year, while also meeting the irrigation needs of at least three districts.

 

Koodankulam’s Environmental Impacts: An open letter to Jayanti Natarajan


 

Dr. A Gopalakrishnan wrote this letter to the Minister of Forest and Environment Ms. Jayanti Natarajan. After getting no reply from the ministry, he has put this letter in the public, which has been published in today’s New Indian Express. The letter raises some urgent and crucial issues regarding adherence to MoEF norms as directed by the Supreme Court in its recent judgement.

Dear Ms. Natarajan:

My name is Dr A Gopalakrishnan. I have been the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of the Government of India from 1993-1996, and have been actively following the nuclear projects and programmes in India, over the last several decades.

I have attached a bio-data of mine, which summarises my academic and professional background, which you may find informative. Many of us are deeply troubled at the unwritten and unexplained nuclear power policy which the UPA Government is following since 2004, with no opportunity given for a discussion with the knowledgeable sections of the public so that they may present their views and debate this policy with the government. I was appalled to hear your cryptic statement of support for the Indian nuclear power programme, by terming it as ‘essential’ for the country and a ‘sustainable’ form of electricity generation, in one of your recent TV interactions in the Headlines Today TV channel.

May I remind you that neither the Prime Minister nor his Department of Atomic Energy has ever presented such a case for nuclear power before Parliament or the public, on the basis of credible substantiating techno-economic and social impact studies. Therefore, I wish you would kindly take time out to study this issue in all its varied facets, rather than form superficial and self-serving opinions based on literature and views that the DAE, NPCIL, AERB and the PMO provide you to further their interests.

Considering the specific portfolio of Minister in charge of Environment & Forests that you hold in the Cabinet, we in the public are all the more concerned about your rather casual and ill-informed understanding and attitude towards the nuclear power sector. Incidentally, just two months before he demitted his office, your predecessor (Mr.Jairam Ramesh) had promised me at one of our meetings that he will organise a seminar at MoEF to discuss issues of nuclear power and the impartial regulation of its safety. But, as a loyalist of the current government, he also did injustice to the local people in Jaitapur, Maharashtra, by hurriedly issuing an environment clearance for the Areva nuclear power project envisaged there, because of pressures from the PMO, in view of the impending visit of the French President to India.

Soon Mr. Ramesh got transferred out of the MoEF and the possibility of any seminar on nuclear power and its potential environmental impact became a lost dream! Since Jairam should also be reminded of this, I am copying this mail to him as well. The immediate reason for this mail from me is the recent Supreme Court judgment, on the commissioning of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu .

This judgment was delivered on May 6, 2013, and, for your ready reference, I have attached here a copy of the judgment.

Of crucial importance to you, the MoEF and the general public, is the fact that the “Directions” given by the SC Bench on pages 242-247 of their judgment call for certain very important actions to be independently undertaken in all seriousness by the MoEF experts. Lack of expertise in engineering systems, etc. cannot be claimed as excuses to shirk off the responsibility which the MoEF has been entrusted with by the SC.

Essentially, what is asked of your Department/ Ministry is to play the role of an impartial observer on behalf of the people of India, in a matter of life and death in which the SC decision does not reflect, in my view, a full trust in the DAE, NPCIL, AERB and the PMO. For the first time, in such a safety evaluation, the SC has brought in the MoEF and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), side by side with the NPCIL & the AERB, to form a collective four-organisation team, members of which are to get involved in examining ALL potential safety and environment-related areas, irrespective of what each organisation’s normal field of operation and responsibility would have been.

Many of us are keenly watching to see how the MoEF takes on this global responsibility and completes it in flying colours, to the full satisfaction of the Supreme Court and the general public.

Lastly, I wish to bring to your attention two articles I had recently published in The New Indian Express (dated April 19 and May 15, 2013), one before the SC judgment was delivered and another afterwards.

I have attached both of them to this mail for your kind information.

I hope I can expect to receive an acknowledgement of this letter and suitable and impartial follow-up action from the MoEF in this matter.

With Regards,
Sincerely Yours,
(Dr.) A. Gopalakrishnan,
Former Chairman,
Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Govt. of India.

 

Vina Mazumdar’s Rolling Story


vina
Pamela Philipose

Many known and unknown women have helped build up that seeming inchoate, open-ended, work-in-progress that is the Indian women’s movement. Among this remarkable sorority is Vina Mazumdar, known widely as ‘Vina-di’, who being endowed with tremendous energy, intelligence and an interest in ideas, has contributed immensely to the intellectual growth of this movement.

In her eighties now, Mazumdar has recently written a memoir, entitled ‘Memories of a Rolling Stone’, brought out by Zubaan. To have a woman who was a notable educationist, who anchored the 1974 Report of the Committee on the Status of Women, who is widely seen as the “grandmother of women’s studies in South Asia”, and who remains a feminist/activist/”trouble maker” to this day, set down her recollections of a lifetime spanning eight decades is in itself cause for celebration. So many of her contemporaries have, sadly, passed on leaving their footprints behind, but not their words. In her acknowledgements, Vina-di indicates one of the factors that motivated the work: “I view this book as part of my tribute to the Indian women’s movement to assert the rights they had earned through participating in India’s freedom struggle.”

The freedom struggle certainly helped to shape this young life. When Mazumdar joined the Delhi University, she could sense the political turmoil in the air. The Constituent Assembly was in session, and she would occasionally make her way to the visitors’ gallery to listen to a galaxy of leaders hold forth on their idea of India. One abiding memory was that of witnessing the Union Jack coming down and the Tricolour going up at Delhi’s India Gate, the other was of a caption-less David Low cartoon she saw in a British newspaper as a student at Hugh’s College, Oxford, which appeared soon after Gandhi’s assassination, depicting Socrates with the bowl of hemlock, Christ on the cross, and Gandhi with his ‘dandi’ (stick).

Here then was a women shaped by pre-Independent India, who would go on to try and shape, in her own way, post-Independent India. The challenges Mazumdar faced were many, and they included domestic upheavals caused by professional choices. There was also the backlash from entrenched hierarchies – notably during her courageous attempt to breathe fresh life into the stagnant academic scenario of the University of Berhampur in Orissa.

Relatedmore news tagged with “Feminist movement” ]

Meanwhile, the world began to focus more on women. The United Nations marked 1975 as the Year of Women, and went on to declare 1975-1985 as the decade of women. This meant that UN member-states had to submit Country Reports on the status of women in their respective countries. That was how fate and a visionary bureaucrat called J.B. Naik, conspired to introduce Mazumdar to the subject of gender. She was taken on as Member-Secretary of the committee that was drafting India’s report on the status of its women. The whole experience was to prove a life-changer. As Mazumdar puts it in her memoirs, “My earlier struggles represented an individual woman’s efforts to balance the demands of professional and familial responsibilities. The new struggle was increasingly a collective, ideological one – to rediscover the Indian nation, the world, the past, the present and the future – from the perspective of India’s hidden and unacknowledged majority: poor working women in rural and urban areas.”

The exercise meant, first of all, evolving a framework with which to regard the position of women in the country cutting across castes, classes, economic strata and religion and reorganising existing demographic data to yield its evidence of the large scale “marginalisation, poverty and invisibility” of Indian women caught in a “dual economy” (traditional and modern) – a concept borrowed from Gunnar Myrdal‘s ‘Asian Drama’. It was what Mazumdar describes as a “fantastic experience of the evolution and growth of collective thinking”. Despite occasional personal differences within the Committee, the process was driven by a “collective conscience”, as Mazumdar puts it.

There were major silences in the Report and Mazumdar recognises that the Committee did not pay sufficient attention to the issues of rape and dowry. Yet, it is no exaggeration to say the Committee on the Status of Women in India Report, which came out in 1974, changed the way the country regarded its women. It countered assumptions of the millennia, undermined government mindsets, helped unleash innumerable mutinies, and changed policies and laws. In fact, it was revolutionary in its impact, all the more remarkable for having emerged just before one of the darkest periods of recent Indian history – the Emergency. If the Committee, and its Member-Secretary, did not have friends and supporters in the establishment, it may have never seen the light of day. Today, decades later, Mazumdar, recalls with what one would imagine an impish smile, “Before the rest of the government could realise what the Report contained it was placed before Parliament, a report very critical of the Government of India.”

The realisation of the centrality of gender in society led to another significant process in which Mazumdar again played an important role, and that was the emergence of women’s studies as an academic discipline. Mazumdar sees the women’s movement and the women’s studies movement as “twin movements”, each influencing and furthering the other. The logical outcome of this process was the setting up of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) in May 1980, with Mazumdar as its founder-director. It was at this point that her concerned elder sister, observing Mazumdar’s penchant for embracing ever new challenges despite the fact that her daughters still needed her attention, termed her a “rolling stone” – the title of the book.

But the stone, despite such apprehensions, rolled on nevertheless and invariably into fresh fields. This included a project that came to define Mazumdar’s contribution as a social analyst-activist. To put it in Mazumdar’s own words, “Our (CWDS’s) real journey of discovery began at the ‘Reorientation Camp for Seasonally Migrant Women Labourers’, organised by the Department of Land Reforms, Government of West Bengal, in Jhilmili village in Banjura district.” That encounter with tribal peasant women proved to be an “unusual alliance of a social science research institution and groups of the poorest, migrant rural women”, and to Mazumdar it showed the possibility of arriving at development with a human face.

The CWDS had its plate full. There were a plethora of concerns that needed scholarly scrutiny, ranging from the resurgence of the practice of ‘sati’ in some pockets to one of the most serious demographic challenges facing India today: the skewed sex ratio.

When ‘Memories of a Rolling Stone’ was released in Delhi, Brinda Karat, senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s  Association, spoke for many when she observed how Mazumdar helped bring women together. Said Karat, “This was because she was convinced that if things have to be changed on the ground, it has to be a joint effort… Vina-di put things in a wider perspective, which could draw the Indian women’s movement forward. This helped it to retain a dynamism that has petered out in many movements in the West.”

By arrangement with WFS   

 

 

#India – Maternal Health Whistle Blower Arrested #Vaw #Womenrights


madhuri1

Published: Thursday, May 30,2013, , http://www.ibtl.in/
ByDr. Rita Pal

Madhuri Ramakrishnasway, a maternal health activist was arrested on the 16th May 2013 outside the court in Barwani, Madhya Pradesh [MP], India. The police had received a complaint from those in charge of a hospital currently under scrutiny for the alleged mismanagement and neglect of maternal health. The background of this complaint is as follows:- On the night of 11th November 2008, a very poor tribal woman from the village of Sukhpuri came to the Menimata Public Health Centre [PHC] during labour. She was admitted by those in charge who allegedly left her unmonitored all night. The hospital then demanded Rs 100, an amount she could not afford. She was asked to leave and the staff refused to arrange transport. Finally, the patient delivered her baby on the street with the help of the local “Dai” (Traditional Birth Attendant), only covered by a cloth held by her father in law. Having witnessed the event, Madhuri took the patient to another hospital to receive treatment. A protest was launched against the unacceptable incident that appears to have been one of many. This case was also part of the writ petition filed in the High Court of MP, Indore Bench in which the substandard state of maternal health services was raised – e.g. the 26 maternal deaths recorded in Barwani District Hospital in 2010 over 8 months were mentioned. The compounder of the hospital was suspended after repeated demands for action but was soon reinstated. It is notable that no one was subsequently held accountable for the dozens of avoidable maternal deaths that have taken place in Barwani. The picture is similar across the rest of the state. The finer points of the case are discussed in more detailed by an excellent Indian blogger and can be read here . “An investigation of maternal deaths following public protests in a tribal district of Madhya Pradesh” [Reproductive Health Matters] states

“We found an absence of antenatal care despite high levels of anaemia, absence of skilled birth attendants, failure to carry out emergency obstetric care in obvious cases of need, and referrals that never resulted in treatment. We present two case histories as examples. We took our findings to district and state health officials and called for proven means of preventing maternal deaths to be implemented. We question the policy of giving cash to pregnant women to deliver in poor quality facilities without first ensuring quality of care and strengthening the facilities to cope with the increased patient loads. We documented lack of accountability, discrimination against and negligence of poor women, particularly tribal women, and a close link between poverty and maternal death”

This whistleblower’s concerns were not without merit. She was subsequently witch hunted as the hospital in question filed a complaint against her, the patient and the patient’s husband. They received a court notice to appear at Barwani Court regarding this case on the 16th May 2013. Apparently, the police filed a closure report but sadly the court remained unsatisfied with this and the report was refused. Madhuri was arrested from the court and imprisoned in Khargone Women’s Jail. The petition completed by her supporters states

“Although the police had filed a Closure Report, it was refused since “clear reasons for closure had not been stated” and Madhuri did not opt for bail since the charges were clearly false[i]; one Section 148 actually refers to “rioting armed with deadly weapons”! She was sent to judicial custody until May 30th 2013”

It goes onto say

“We find unacceptable that the government targets those who work to protect the rights of the poorest Dalits and Adivasis who are suffering due to poor quality of health services; and we demand accountability from the erring officials who are indirectly responsible for thousands of women dying due to preventable pregnancy related causes”

Madhuri Ramakrishnasway is popularly known amongst the tribals of Barwani as “ Madhuri Ben” .She is a leader of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), a tribal and Dalit Rights Collective. Various advocacy groups under them often hold peaceful protests with a view to raising awareness of the substandard healthcare during pregnancy and labour. She has been involved in developing a grassroots movement demanding good care for rural maternal and child health in some of the remotest parts of the district. In support of Madhuri Ben’s concerns, it is notable that last year :

“The study, conducted on 819 deaths of a total of 1,065 probably maternal deaths reported in Madhya Pradesh between April 2011 and January 2012, suggests 132 women died on their way home or to a health facility” [Source – The Hindu ].

While recent news reports ran headlines about the sudden miraculous “improvement” in mortality rate in the state [ Times of India ], these reports conflicts with a presentation in the previous year on maternal death reviews in MP. Apurva Chaturvedi, State Consultant, National Rural Health Mission, and Archana Mishra, Deputy Director (NRHM), explained that 32 per cent of the reviewed deaths had occurred in district hospitals, 25 per cent in maternity centres, 13 per cent in sub-centres and 6 per cent in private facilities.

“Only 17.7 per cent of the expected maternal deaths are being reported and analysed while the remaining go unreported. Worse, in 37 per cent of the cases the cause of maternal deaths is registered as ‘other’,” they said.

The questionable statistics and the reasons for this was argued well by Sachin Jain. The government’s position isn’t convincing given the reports on the ground. It is therefore time for a legitimate investigation into the serious risk posed to vulnerable mothers in this state. The first task for the government is to cease harassing its whistleblowers who point out their spectacular failings. Then they should apply their minds more constructively to improving healthcare for patients at risk of neglect and death. They may also wish to improve their ability to collect statistics to avoid being embarrassed further. Click here to Sign the Petition

Author : Dr Rita Pal, Follow her twitter.com/dr_rita39

 

Mumbai- A Forum to Hear complaint against Cops #Goodnews


Authority to be set up at state, district level; recommendations to be binding on force

Sayli Udas Mankikar

MUMBAI: Citizens who have complaints about the high-handedness of policemen, unnecessary detention, physical abuse in custody, rape or sexual harassment or corruption will now have a forum where they can direct their grievances and get their complaints addressed.

To keep a check on severe abuse of authority by the police and secure the rights of citizens under the rule of law, the state has initiated the process of forming a police complaints authority.

“The formation of this authority will lead to a tectonic change in the functioning of the state’s police system. What is important is that the complaints authority can take suo-moto cognisance of the case and even forward a case directly to the DGP for action,” a senior government official said. MUMBAI: Citizens who have complaints about the high-handedness of policemen, unnecessary detention, physical abuse in custody, rape or sexual harassment or corruption will now have a forum where they can direct their grievances and get their complaints addressed.

In a bid to keep a check on severe abuse of authority by the police and secure the rights of citizens under the rule of law, the state government has initiated the process of forming a police complaints authority. This authority will also help release pressure off courts that are burdened by numerous litigations related to police issues.

Formed six years after the Supreme Court’s directive on police reforms in September 2006, the authority will deal with complaints against officers of all ranks. Further, it comes with teeth, as its recommendations against police officials will be binding on the agencies.

The complaints handled by the authority will be of specific in nature and include deaths in police custody, grievous hurt or injuries, rape or attempt to rape, arrest or detention without law and allegations of corruption.

The court has directed the state to form the authority by June 20, 2013.

“The formation of this authority will lead to a tectonic change in the functioning of the state’s police system. What is important is that the complaints authority can take suo-moto cognisance of the case and even forward a case directly to the DGP for action,” a senior government official said.

The state will be setting up a police complaints authority at the state level and the district level. While the state-level authority will look into complaints against officers of the rank of superintendent of police (SP) and above, the district authority will look into those against police officers up to the rank of deputy superintendent of police (DYSP).

A retired judge of the high court or Supreme Court will head the state-level authority and a district judge will chair the district panel. Both judges will be assisted by about three to five full-time members who will be retired civil servants, retired police officers or from the civil society.

 

Press Release- Stop the cycle of violence in Central India. Halt all violence on Adivasis


DATE: 30 May 2013

 Radical Socialist

 

Radical Socialist calls for a halt to the spiral of violence and counter-violence between the Indian state, political forces of the ruling class, and the CPI (Maoist).

 

This violence is caused by two forces, not one. Following the murder of Mahendra Karma and others in Chhattisgarh, the bourgeois propaganda has gone into a hyper-drive, claiming that this is a great blow to democracy. This attitude shows clearly that for the bourgeoisie, as well as for the reformist and parliamentarist left parties like the CPI (M), democracy does not place equal value for all lives.  In June 2012, 17 adivasis were murdered in cold blood by the CRPF. Two fact finding teams, one consisting of members of several civil liberties organizations and the other including responsible academicians like Nandini Sundar, indicted the CRPF. The national print and electronic media did not turn the incident or even the reports into huge front page information. The Telegraph, which has editorially claimed the recent incident as a great attack on democracy, did not feel the same way on the previous occasion.

 

The entire ruling class, and all its minions, are thus complicit in the recurrent violence on adivasis across a vast part of India. Those adivasis are sitting on high quality real estate that the rulers want to exploit. And those same adivasis are expected to provide the supere-xploited proletariat who will produce surplus value at a high level. 

 

It is for this reason that a notorious figure like Mahendra Karma, who set up the Salwa Judum, was not merely a Congress backed gangster, but actually a principal leader of the Congress. The Salwa Judum set up private, but state backed, terror on adivasis. It set up villages akin to the notorious “strategic hamlets” of Vietnam created by US imperialism, herding villagers there like cattle. Though eventually, in 2011, after a petition by Nandini Sundar, Ramchandra Guha and E.A.S. Sharma, the Supreme Court ordered its disbandment, karma continued to be a principal figure of the Congress.

 

The killing of Karma, as reported, was brutal, and deserves no support. But it cannot be isolated and condemned, while the massive violence on adivasis and the loot of their property continues to be justified by Chidambaram, by the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, and others.

 

At the same time, we oppose the political and military strategy of the CPI (Maoist).

1. Even if this is seen as a war, then if people surrender they should be seen as prisoners and should not be killed.

2. The strategy of guerilla war using sophisticated weapons, and exposing adivasis to further and extreme state violence, betrays a political mindset that is all about getting or seeking power and not about mass mobilization and power for the exploited.

The CPI (Maoist) outlook is evidently one that if the state kills more adivasis the middle ground will be eliminated and hopefully more people will turn to their line. 

 

At the time of the Dantewada violence Radical Socialist had already expressed its views in clear terms. (http://www.radicalsocialist.in/articles/statement-radical-socialist/183-oppose-green-hunt-condemn-maoist-politics-of-glorifying-violence) We reiterate our stand, and declare that we deny equating the violent Maoists practices, entirely by a self-proclaimed vanguard, carried on for decades, with revolutionary violence by the people in moments of mass upsurge. Maoist violence is not based on any mass politics. Even in the few cases where so-called mass involvement is claimed, especially by urban intellectual supporters of the Maoists, the reality is that gun wielding Maoist cadres dictated the violence. We strongly feel that this sordid violence would fail to bring any radical change even in remote future.

 

We are very clear that big corporates want free access to the forests and mineral rich areas to exploit resources for capitalist expansion. This ruthless capitalist abuse is the root cause for the present crisis that India and its people are facing. We strongly believe that the only force that can lead the struggle against capitalism in India and globally is the organized working class. However, with their current strategy, the Maoists are failing to make any impact on the class.

 

No matter what they say about “encirclement of the cities from the countryside” the bulk of rural India has remained totally out of their reach; forget about the cities where the bulk of the principal revolutionary force – the working class – is concentrated. Hence, the question of encircling the cities with liberated villages shall not apply with the current strategy of the Maoists.

 

Meanwhile, gruesome violence cannot enhance their politics. We call upon their leaders, who claim to be Marxists, to understand the meaning of working class self emancipation, and end their current strategy in the interests of far wider working class revolutionary struggles that have to be built up.

 

Soma Marik                 Sushovan Dhar                    Kunal Chattopadhyay                                     

Trupti Shah                 Amrish Brahmbhatt             Rohit Prajapati

 

India loses up to $46 billion to malnourishment #WTFnews


Malnourished child

Malnourished child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

__

Author(s):
Jitendra
Issue Date:
2013-5-29

Report by children’s non-profit links childhood malnourishment to educational performance, adult income and GDP

 

Malnutrition decrease the gross domestic product (GDP) in low- and middle-income countries, says a report by international non-profit Save the Children. Malnutrition affects educational development, physical productivity and health, and also perpetuates inequalities, such as those created by caste in India, says the report.

The report, Food for thought: Tackling child malnutrition to unlock potential to boost prosperity, is based on a study conducted in four countries—India, Vietnam, Peru and Ethiopia. It argues that investment in preventing malnutrition in women and children would be the down payment for future prosperity.

The study estimates that the economic cost of micro-nutrient malnutrition costs India between 0.8 per cent and 2.5 per cent of its GDP, which is equivalent to $15–46 billion. China, too, loses between 0.2 and 0.4 per cent of GDP, equivalent to $15– 29 billion because of malnutrition.

The study looks at various pathways of malnutrition, and elaborates on the cognitive and physical impacts on children, as well as additional medical costs due to ill health. These cumulative effects can reduce GDP by 2 per cent to 11 per cent.

Hindrance to inclusive growth

This study is the first of its kind to link child malnutrition to educational outcomes. Children who are malnourished from an early age are severely disadvantaged in their ability to learn.

The lack of proper nutrition for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children, especially before their second birthday can impair the child’s brain development, cognitive abilities and physical development, leading to stunting or reduced growth. Brain drain

In comparison to children who are provided with proper nutrition, children malnourished at age five would be expected to demonstrate the following impacts of malnutrition three years later:
They score 7 per cent lower in maths tests
Such children are19 per cent less likely to be able to read a simple sentence at the age of eight
They are 12.5 per cent less likely to be able to write a simple sentence
They are 13 per cent less likely to be in the appropriate grade for their age at school

The report clearly links child malnutrition to educational outcomes, and demonstrates that children who are malnourished from an early age are severely disadvantaged in their ability to learn. These children later in life go on to earn 20 per cent less that other adults who are well-nourished in their childhood.

In effect, malnourishment perpetuates the cycle of poverty, as poverty-stricken and malnourished mothers have stunted children. The report states that children born to the poorest of families in developing countries are 2.8 times more likely to be malnourished than those in the richest, and are likely to go on to earn less than their better-off and better-nourished peers.

Thus the unequal social prevalence of malnourishment acts as a barrier to inclusive growth and the reduction of inequalities.

In India, the problem of malnourishment is helping to perpetuate the caste system, says the report. It goes on to say that if nutritional inequalities were tackled in such a way that low-caste children gained the same average nutritional status as their upper caste counterpart, this would close existing caste cognitive differentials by 25 per cent.

Hard facts

According to the report, State of the World’s Children, 2012, by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 47 per cent children under five in South Asia and 39 per cent under-fives in sub-Saharan Africa are stunted and their potential severely damaged. In Nigeria, 10.9 million children under five are stunted while in India, the figure is 61.4 million.

As many as 19,000 children continue to die worldwide each day from diseases which could have been easily prevented. Malnutrition is responsible for 2.3 million children’s deaths annually, and 130 million malnourished children who managed to reach school failed to learn even basics and are left without core skills and abilities they need to make their lives more productive.

The report suggests that direct nutrition interventions, such as promoting breastfeeding, and indirect nutrition interventions, such as social protection, investments in agriculture, and ensuring access to safe water and sanitation, can address malnutrition’s underlying causes.

Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/india-loses-46-billion-malnourishment

 

Social Media Campaign Finally Forces Facebook to be Less Pro-Rape #Vaw #Womenrights


It took some convincing, but they did it. A feud which started on Facebook ended with the early-morning slaying of a young Tennessee couple, found shot in the head with their sobbing baby still clutched in her dead mother’s arms, police said.

May 29, 2013 |

On Tuesday, after more than 60,000 tweets ( #FBRape) and 15 lost advertisers became a rallying call for change, Facebook announced it would no longer allow its hate speech policy to gloss over violent, misogynistic pages like “Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs” and “Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich.” A Facebook spokesperson had previously told ThinkProgress that this kind of content is just “poor taste” or “crude attempts at humor,” not hate speech or anything that serious. Beating women is totally fine, LOL, says Facebook.

But put a breast on an educational ad explaining that abortions don’t cause breast cancer, and Facebook will shut it down it for violating its ban on ” adult products.” Maybe if the boob were bleeding, Facebook would have just laughed it off. The long-awaited change in hate speech guidelines was prompted by WAM! (Women, Action, and the Media) and Everyday Sexism, which kicked off the campaign to end #FBRape promotion with an open letter and savvy social media strategy last Tuesday. On Twitter and via E-mail, they pointed advertisers (particularly those that cater to women, like Dove) to pro-rape/violence-against-women pages on which their ads were displayed, successfully encouraging many of them to denounce Facebook’s poor content control and demand change.

Dozens of high-profile activists and groups signed their letter asking Facebook to “Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech,” and a coalition of supporters grew to more than one-hundred.

The pressure was enough to make Facebook fold, and reluctantly release a statement outlining new guidelines regarding hate speech. Perhaps now they will patrol misogynistic content just as steadfastly as they do women’s health ads! “We work hard to remove hate speech quickly, however there are instances of offensive content, including distasteful humor, that are not hate speech according to our definition,” the statement said, apparently referring to some of the disgusting pages like those mentioned above. Nonetheless, they are accepting some responsibility for the epic lapse in judgement.

“In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want.

In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria,” the statement said, “We need to do better – and we will.” Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of WAM!, said in a press release that the change is a great victory for female activism. “We are reaching an international tipping point in attitudes towards rape and violence against women. We hope that this effort stands as a testament to the power of collaborative action

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