#India – Gandhian activist denied permission to fast over tribal issues


By Newzfirst Correspondent 6/3/13

 

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New Delhi – In a startling development, the Delhi Police on Monday refused permission to Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar to hold indefinite fast over tribal issues.

In a letter sent by the office of Deputy Commissioner of the Police to Himanshu Kumar, it is said that the permission to stage continuous fast for 10 days cannot be granted in view of security/law & order reasons.

Reacting to the denial of permission, Himanshu Kumar told Newzfirst that the Government doesn’t want people of the Country being educated about the tribal issues and problems.

The Government wants to project Naxalism as the only problem being faced by the country and does not want people to learn about the injustice meted out to tribals in the name of development, he said.

“This was my humble effort that we use this opportunity to ponder on this issue – how should the tribal people of this country be treated.” he said.

However, I will continue to fast, he added. “This is not just a question of the tribals but a question for all those who want to build a better society, where everyone gets justice because it is impossible to even think of peace without justice.”

Annoyed by the Government’s decision to deploy a large number of army troops in the tribal areas post Bastar incident, Himanshu Kumar has begun an indefinite fast- Aatmchintan- on 1 June calling upon the Government and the general mass of the country to do soul-searching over the treatment being meted out to the Tribal people.

24 people including senior Congress leaders were killed in an attack carried out by the Maoists in Bastar, Chhattisgarh on 25 May.

 

Odisha Govt tries every trick in the book with SC Niyamgiri verdict #mustshare


This is the latest information on the state’s manipulation of the Supreme Court’s verdict giving the decision on Vedanta‘s mine to the Dongria and Kutia Kond inhabitants of Niyamgiri.

After six weeks delay the process has finally been initiated by the Odisha state govt and we, and all the activists and supporters here are doing our best to keep ahead of their trickeries and document everything as it happens.

When the Supreme Court announced its verdict to hand the decision on Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine back to the Dongria Kond and other affected people via a complex process of legal claim filing, gram sabhas and a final MoEF nod, both Vedanta and their opposition celebrated. The court judges knew what they had done. Rather than giving a yes or no verdict they had taken the path of least resistance and delivered such a loosely worded judgement that it was wide open to interpretation and abuse – pitting the Odisha government and Vedanta, and the affected people and their supporters against each other once again.

 

Now, as the Odisha state finally launches the gram sabha (village council) process after six weeks of deliberation, the weak nature of the Supreme Court’s vaguely worded judgement has become even more evident. This article documents some of the ways in which the judgement, which has been hailed as a precedent bottom-up democratic process, is being manipulated in an attempt to prevent the strong anti-Vedanta opinion on Niyamgiri from being properly heard.

 

 

What part of the mountain is sacred?

 

Reflecting the drawn out Supreme Court hearings on Niyamgiri this year, the court’s final verdict has tactfully focused not on the enormous environmental impact of the proposed mine, nor the company’s despicable track record of illegalities, nor the rights of the Dongria to clean air, water and to collect forest produce, but only on one point: whether the proposed mine would violate the Dongria’s right to worship the God of their sacred mountain – Niyam Raja. The 2006 Forest Rights Act enshrines forest dwellers’ right to cultural and religious practices in law, but what does that mean in reality? The Niyamgiri case has become a test for the interpretation of this law, and the precedent set here will have an impact on industrial developments in tribal areas all over India. So much hangs in the balance. For this reason the Supreme Court hearings dedicated their focus to the question of where the God of Niyamgiri actually resides and whether this God would be affected by the proposed mining. Though it was suggested that it was largely on the peak of the range – Hundujali, 10km away from the proposed mega-mine, the court came to the conclusion that only the Dongria themselves could confirm this. The gram sabha process – initiated by notification to file claims on Saturday 1st June – is essentially to decide this one point. If the tribals agree that their God resides in a particular area, that spot can be preserved, or compensation given, while the mine can still go ahead.

 

At the 5000 strong Padayatra held by the Dongria and Kutia Kond from May 17th – 22nd Dongria leaders like Lodo Sikaka made their views on the Supreme Court’s discussions and final judgement known. Lodo stated:

 

They are saying they would mine 10km away from the peak. We will not allow mining even 100km away from it! For the forestland, for fruits, trees, air and water – for everything adivasis worship the soil. It is our given right.

 

They are saying adivasis have rights up to two feet down the soil, not up to 10 – 20 feet. Government is saying adivasis worship for the forest and not for the soil. What do we worship for? Forest or soil? We of course worship for the soil. Our gods and goddesses are everywhere: here, there, in the trees – everywhere!

 

Such statements have been made by the Dongria repeatedly over the years, but were never fully heard in the court-room, despite attempts to allow the Dongria to testify, and to hand over proof such as Mihir Jena et al’s book Dongaria Kondhs2. The court, sadly, was unable to differentiate between the modern concept of religion being practised in temples or directed at an idol, and the earth-based spirituality of indigenous cultures in which even a whole mountain or forest can be considered sacred.

 

The notification posted in Oriya newspapers on Saturday confuses this point even more. The notification issued for Kalahandi District reads:

 

Letter no 572/2013 of collectors office of Kalahandi.

Under the Supreme Court Judgement writ petition no 180, year 2011, date 18/04/2013; regarding the Palli Sabha – hereby inhabitant villagers of the following panchayats are being notified and invited that, as per the orders of the Supreme Court, tribals and other forest dwellers, regarding their new individuals rights, community rights and cultural and religious rights under Forest Rights Act (FRA) rulings 2006 – after getting this notice they should apply within 6 weeks, and within 3 months Palli Sabha will be called and legal rights of the villagers will be decided. If they have any other demands, they will also be discussed in Palli Sabhas and after justified discussions, observing Forest Rights Act 2006 and its associated rulings their rights will be decided.

Village names

Panchayat

District

Tadijhola

Trilochanpur

Kalahandi

Palberi

Trilochanpur

Kalahandi

Phuldemer

Trilochanpur

Kalahandi

Ijurupa

Trilochanpur

Kalahandi

Kanakadu

Trilochanpur

Kalahandi

2 a) The Palli Sabha will decide about the rights of tribals and other traditional forests dwellers (TFD) like Dongria Kond, Kutia Kond’s religious rights such as the worshipping of Niyamgiri which is situated at Niyamgiri Hundijari and at the top of the mountain known as Niyam Raja.

b) The Palli Sabha will decide the Niyamgiri mining areas’ – Niyam Dongo which is situated at 10km away from the summit, and whether it would impact the Niyam Raja deity can also be investigated.

Signed: Collector Kalahandi.

 

Notification of Palli Sabhas in Kalahandi district

Firstly, it is important to note that the notification does not clearly state that this Palli Sabha (the Odia equivalent of Gram Sabha) and claim filing process will determine whether Vedanta are given permission to mine the mountain but only refers to ‘writ petition 180′ which very few adivasis will understand. Secondly, the whole text is incredibly confusing, and most importantly the last two paragraphs state outrightly that Niyam Raja resides only at Hundijali.

 

Adivasis won’t understand Oriya

 

Following public criticism of it’s past attempts to manipulate public hearing processes, the Odisha government is currently at pains to present itself as making the Palli Sabhas as inclusive as possible. Newspapers are stating how they are pasting notifications of the Palli Sabhas in the affected villages, as well as announcing them with a megaphone around the mountain, while filming it all themselves as evidence of their efforts. So far we know that ads have been placed in Lanjigarh and some of the easier to reach villages, whether they will reach the upper slopes we will see.

 

But there is one fatal flaw to their attempts at inclusivity; all the notifications and megaphone announcements are in Oriya, while Konds only speak Kui, their tribal language. Kui is only an oral language and cannot be written so how will the local government communicate the legal proceedings crucial to the Kond’s survival through posters and newspaper notifications? This is why the role of activists, who are communicating the proceedings to the mountain villages, is so important and must be permitted. Without them there would be no chance of democracy in this important case.

 

 

Odisha government delays til the monsoon

 

The Supreme Court’s judgement gave a strict (if rather ambitious) timescale for the gram sabha process and following MoEF decision to be taken. It states:

 

59. The Gram Sabha is also free to consider all the community, individual as well as cultural and religious claims, over and above the claims which have already been received from Rayagada and Kalahandi Districts. Any such fresh claims be filed before the Gram Sabha within six weeks from the date of this Judgement. State Government as well as the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, would assist the Gram Sabha for settling of individual as well as community claims.

 

60. We are, therefore, inclined to give a direction to the State of Orissa to place these issues before the Gram Sabha with notice to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, and the Gram Sabha would take a decision on them within three months and communicate the same to the MoEF, through the State Government. On the conclusion of the proceeding before the Gram Sabha determining the claims submitted before it, the MoEF shall take a final decision on the grant of Stage II clearance for the Bauxite Mining Project in the light of the decisions of the Gram Sabha within two months thereafter.

 

It is now six weeks since the judgement, and notification to file individual and community claims has only just been given. This six week delay is pivotal as it pushes the Palli Sabha hearings back into late July – the peak of the monsoon, when travelling to meetings becomes difficult and attendance is likely to be much lower. Local social activist Lingaraj Pradhan stated this fact in his speech at Muniguda on 22nd May.

 

 

Hundreds of villages excluded

Map of Niyamgiri showing villages all over the mountain (red dots)

 

The most glaring manipulation in the Odisha government’s interpretation of the judgement is its selection of just twelve villages in which to hold the Palli Sabhas. These are all on the lower slopes of the mountain, far from the alleged home of Niyam Raja, and the proposed mine, and hardest to reach for those living at the top of the mountain where the impact of the mine, and hence also the resistance, is strongest. There are, in fact, 79 Dongria and Kutia Kond villages within 10km of the mining area, and more than 100 adivasi villages directly affected by the mine – most of which were visited by the Padayatra several weeks ago.

 

Records show that there are actually only 186 voters registered in the twelve villages combined according to the old voter lists (five in Kalahandi district and seven in Rayagada), while more than 8000 Dongria Konds live on and worship the mountain, plus many more Kutia Konds living around Niyamgiri. Ijrupa – one of the villages listed, only has one voter according to the old voter lists which are likely to be used. Several of these villages are primarily occupied by Yadav immigrants and not the adivasis whom the judgement is aimed at. This is a blatant attempt to restrict participation in the Palli Sabha process, and make it easier to manipulate and manage by the Odisha State which has worked alongside Vedanta from the start.

 

Anticipating this skullduggery, the Minister of Tribal Affairs wrote to the Governor of Odisha, SC Jamir, on May 15th May stating categorically that the Gram Sabha should be open to all affected villages. He also stated that the MoU with Vedanta for Niyamgiri was ‘illegal’ and unconstitutional since they are a private company and cannot be trusted to safeguard the tribal’s welfare.

 

On 7th June a delegation of Dongria Kond men and women will meet with the Odisha Governor SC Jamir, demanding that all affected villages are consulted in the upcoming gram sabhas and ensuring that voter lists are up to date and all affected people wishing to attend will be allowed to enter.

 

It could also be argued that the Odisha State government should never have been trusted to facilitate another Gram Sabha since their 2009 Gram Sabha on whether Niyamgiri should be mined was exposed as a total sham by video evidence. At the meeting many locals were kept outside and not allowed in, and though almost all present voiced loud opposition to the mine in speeches, thumbprints taken as registration were used to claim that they had agreed to the project. (please see video in footnote)

 

 

MoEF are not the people

At the end of the long process of filing hundreds of community claims, and ensuring that fair Palli Sabhas are held, the final nod on the mine goes back once again to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. This fact alone makes the Supreme Court’s judgement far from the radical democratic precedent it has been hailed as, and gives more scope for Vedanta to influence the Ministry over the many coming months before the decision may be eventually given.

However, the MoEF should remember their clear statement in the 11th January Supreme Court hearing when asked by the bench “Are you completely opposed to mining or under certain conditions you will allow mining?” Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran – acting for the MoEF told the court: “We are completely against the mining operations.”

 

Confusion is in Vedanta’s interests

The confusion over the meaning of the Supreme Court’s verdict and the proceedings now taking place is evident in the vastly varying newspaper reports coming in daily. The Orissa Post for example stated on Saturday 1st June that:

The department had issued a direction to the District Collectors of Rayagada and Kalahandi to invite fresh claims within six weeks from the people of 12 villages where the Gram Sabhas would be held. After collecting the claims from the people, the Government will hold Palli Sabhas within three months and then it will hold Gram Sabhas in these villages. However, the date of holding Gram Sabhas is not yet decided.

 

Palli sabhas are in fact the same as gram sabhas, and these have to be held within three months from Saturday’s announcement. The weak and confusing wording of the verdict has already delayed the process by six weeks while the Odisha Government claimed it was clarifying it’s interpretation, and there is much potential for further delays as either side may file ‘contempt of court’ or other resolution which would send the issue back into the court room.

Meanwhile, with share prices already low, factories and mines shut at Lanjigarh, Tuticorin and Goa, and Niyamgiri looking less and less likely, Vedanta are following their usual method of high debt, high risk buyouts to keep the share prices afloat. They are currently pushing the Central Government to sell them the remaining shares in BALCO and Hindustan Zinc ltd, and delaying tactics on the Niyamgiri case will give them more time to potentially save their skin in case Niyamgiri doesn’t come through.

Dragging out the process is exhausting and resource draining for the Dongria and Kutia Konds and local activists and is often used as a tactic to wear down resistance until people eventually capitulate from sheer exhaustion. However, in Niyamgiri’s case this looks very unlikely. The high turnout and defiant energy of the recent Padayatra shows the great strength of Niyamgiri’s people, who have recently been supporting other movements such as the struggle against the Lower Suktel Dam. Lingaraj Azad’s speech at the Padayatra’s final rally in Muniguda also clearly stated that the fight goes beyond Niyamgiri and beyond Vedanta. They are aware that as long as there is bauxite in their mountain they will always have to remain vigilant and ready to respond to threats.

source- http://www.foilvedanta.org/articles/odisha-government-tries-every-trick-in-the-book-with-supreme-court-niyamgiri-verdict/

 

#India- Home Minister’s visit to Raipur hospital costs woman her life #Vaw #WTFnews


By Sahar Khan in Raipur, mailtoday.in

A woman, who was rushed to Ram Krishna Care hospital in Raipur following a massive heart attack, was detained at the hospital gate by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s securitymen.

Her relatives said they struggled to get medical attention for her failing which she died at the gate.

Shinde was in the hospital to visit the people injured in the Maoist attack in the Bastar district on May 25.

The family further alleged that they desperately made phone calls to whosoever possible to explain the medical emergency but they were turned a deaf ear.

Raipur superintendent of police O. P. Pal, however, said no complaint has been lodged yet in this regard. “ There is a clear instruction that no ambulance should be stopped during any VIP visit.

We will look into the issue if any complaint reaches us,” he said.

A local media report quoting the family of the deceased woman said there was no blockage of roads after the minister’s cavalcade reached the hospital but the security personnel denied the entry through the gate.

The hospital management, on the other hand said, since several VIPs are visiting the hospital after the Maoist attack special arrangements have been made to ensure that patients do not suffer.

Director of the hospital, Dr Sandeep Dave said the woman was already dead when brought to the hospital and no complaint was lodged.

In November 2009, kidney patient, S. P. Verma, died during PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to PGIMER hospital in Chandigarh to attend a convocation ceremony.

Verma’s family claimed he was denied timely treatment after securitymen allegedly kept diverting his vehicle.

In July 2011, injured policeman Dharmendra Kumar died at the emergency gate of Hallett Hospital in Kanpur, after being denied entry by the Special Protection Group deployed for Rahul Gandhi, who was to arrive to meet victims of the Kalka Mail derailment.

 

Australia – Health inequities persist among Aboriginals #indigenous


Aboriginal heroes betrayed by buck-passing

Date
June 3, 2013 

Chronic renal disease has taken another Aboriginal hero.

Yolgnu warrior Yunupingu was an activist to the end. Why his family, our country and the world should lose him 25 years younger than our national average life expectancy to kidney failure is a tragic reminder of the deep health inequities which persist in Aboriginal Australia.

Northern and central Australia is one of the world’s hardest places to deliver first-world healthcare. Sparse and dispersed populations struggle with a traditional life riven with the worst the First World has to offer. It has led to an avalanche of kidney failure, where senior men and women are trucked away to distant dialysis, too many elders never return home.

Yunupingu led the way for a solution. Early last month he convened a two-day summit to devise a regional solution to a disease that so cruelly rips elders from their families. Despite his own struggles with the disease, he stayed for the entire event.

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Tragically, since healthcare workers raised the alarm a decade ago, state and federal governments have been in pitched battle, not to deliver dialysis chairs remotely, but rather to avoid taking responsibility.

In 2011, the federal government was “so passionate about expanding medical services out of the big cities” according to then Health Minister Nicola Roxon, they were “helping to provide better care, closer to home” with 22 dialysis chairs across remote Western Australia. Treasurer Wayne Swan committed to “greatly improve access to quality healthcare.”

How soon the party ended. Less than a year later, the Commonwealth was suddenly “not responsible for renal service delivery.”

The origins of this story can be traced to Chief Medical Officer John Horvath, who noted that Alice Springs dialysis patients had jumped from 74 to 200 in the decade since 2000, threatening “to overwhelm the capacity of staff and facilities.”

At the time, Northern Territory refused to continue dialysing non-resident Aboriginal Australians, demanding those who crossed the border to Alice Springs for care, to fly back to their own capital cities.

The federal government then commissioned Alan Cass’s Central Australian Renal Study in 2010. Stunned by the findings, they returned his first version for re-writing. Next they sat on the revised version for six months, before pressure from this newspaper compelled minister Warren Snowdon to release it.

Only with the magnitude of the problem laid bare in Cass’s report did the federal government suddenly develop cold feet. The official federal line changed from Roxon’s “better care closer to home” to building flats for patients and their families. There is nothing wrong with flats, but it won’t treat chronic renal failure.

With a population of 233,000 administered by a city barely the size of Geelong, the Northern Territory simply lacks the size and tax base to fund its share of expanded health services. It struggles with twice as many admissions per head, who stay far longer due to complex disease and lack of discharge options. On top of that, surgery costs are around 25 per cent higher and death rates are double. The relative size of the task in the Northern Territory demands more flexible approaches from the Commonwealth than those it applies to the larger states around it.

NT figures indicate the Commonwealth currently funds less than a quarter of the their hospital bill, compared to 36 per cent of other states’ hospitals. For health overall, Canberra funds 43 per cent of the Territory’s costs, compared to an average 62 per cent elsewhere.

These inequities are most apparent when acute and intensive health care like renal dialysis must be expanded. Governments of all persuasions have been slow to respond. Commonwealth money has been waved in front of the Northern Territory on the condition it isn’t spent on recurrent health costs. That sticking point has cost senior Aboriginal men and women time they don’t have. Being uprooted from land and kin to squat in major towns for second-daily dialysis imposes massive social costs. Apart from a new mobile service in the Western Desert, their hope for outreach dialysis remains unfulfilled, two years after Cass laid out the solutions.

Last week was national Kidney Week, which passed without good news. Then came devastating private communication late Friday, when Snowdon’s office informed central Australian stakeholders that the $10 million for central Australian renal care was no longer on the table; presumably returned to consolidated revenue.

Yes governing can be tough. But governments are appointed to grind out the deals and “get to yes.” The vanishing chronic renal dollars which never found a home caring for kidney disease represents one of the emerging health tragedies of 2013. Governments need to return to the table this week and restart the Northern Territory talks with Darwin. Only a solution-first approach to chronic renal disease in the Northern Territory will ensure that Yunupingu’s final vision for kidney care is realised.

Andrew Laming is the federal Coalition’s spokesman on indigenous health.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/aboriginal-heroes-betrayed-by-buckpassing-20130603-2nlfw.html#ixzz2V8xrGNod

 

India – Grain bank movement is saving farmers from starvation in Odisha


An Insurance Against Hunger

The grain bank movement is saving farmers from starvation and the cycle of debt and desperation
Baba Umar

BABA UMAR, Tehelka

May 31, 2013

Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

NOT MANY summers ago, only tamarind seeds, wild berries and mango kernels stood between the tribals of Ranjagoda village and death by starvation. However, activist Achyut Das found that there were no starvation deaths in the neighbouring villages in ’s Rayagada district, which had set up . “The concept, though, had never reached Ranjagoda,” says Das.

Until recently, Ranjagoda’s tribals had to part with most of their produce to pay back moneylenders. “Debt bondage was the root cause of starvation,” says Das. “With interest rates as high as 200 percent, most villagers lost their mortgaged land and productive assets. Many were forced to work as bonded labour for the moneylender, sometimes over generations.”

To help the villagers break out of the cycle of debt and starvation, Das mobilised them to form self-help groups. A local grain bank was set up with all 50 families of Ranjagoda contributing 9 kg of ragi, the local staple.

“Unlike rice, ragi can be stored for almost three years,” says Das. “So the villagers, who couldn’t afford to buy food in the lean summer months, could now borrow, say, 5 kg of ragi from the grain bank, and put back 25 percent more within five months.” It has been a decade since the initiative took off, and today Ranjagoda is able to loan grain and seeds to other villages.

The grain bank experience has been a boon for India — a food-surplus nation that has, paradoxically, always performed poorly in terms of the  (GHI). It has been placed below Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal in 2012 by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

As a way to battle hunger, the Centre announced plans to set up grain banks for the first time in 1996. So far, 21,751 village grain banks have been sanctioned across 20 states. “These can be set up in drought-prone areas, deserts, tribal areas and inaccessible hilly areas that remain cut off because of natural calamities. Foodgrain will be loaned to BPL families at one quintal per family under the scheme,” said Union Food Minister KV Thomas in October 2012.

In some cases, like at Pyallayaram village in Andhra Pradesh’s Medak district, the grain banks also offer seeds and chemical inputs like fertilisers and pesticides to impoverished farmers. “The grain bank has helped the villagers get rid of both moneylenders and seed-sharks,” says Girdhar Babu of Deccan Development Society, one of the NGOs behind the grain bank initiatives in the state.

Poverty and food insecurity caused by prolonged drought and loss of traditional varieties of seeds had broken the back of Pyallayaram’s local economy, forcing many villagers to migrate. Those who stayed back were utterly destitute and malnourished. “That was 20 years ago. Relying solely on government relief schemes had encouraged a culture of dependency,” says Babu. “That changed when 34 women of the village took things into their own hands and started growing their own food.”

Subsequently, the villagers established a grain bank for poor farmers to ensure a steady supply of quality seeds by preserving the traditional varieties and restoring cultivation on marginal lands. “We have repeated the same experiment with self-help groups in 85 other villages,” adds Babu.

 

Woman Indian scientist at MIT raises hope of creating artificial human liver


mg_63950_sangeeta_bhatia_creditneeded_280x210.jpg

, TNN | Jun 3, 2013,

LONDON: In a big leap towards creating an artificial human liver, a scientist of Indian origin from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has for the first time managed to keep live liver cells functional outside the body.

Dr Sangeeta Bhatia, who is presently professor of health sciences and technology has identified a dozen chemical compounds that can help liver cells not only maintain their normal function while grown in a lab dish but also multiply to produce new tissue.

The liver is the only major organ in the human body that can regenerate itself if part of it is removed.

However, researchers trying to exploit that ability in hopes of producing artificial liver tissue for transplantation have repeatedly been stymied.

Mature liver cells, known as hepatocytes, quickly lose their normal function when removed from the body.

“It’s a paradox because we know liver cells are capable of growing, but somehow we can’t get them to grow outside the body,” says Bhatia, from MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

Speaking to TOI, Dr Bhatia, who originally belongs to a Sindhi family in Mumbai said “The main finding is that we identified chemicals that make liver cells grow outside the body. Cells grown this way can help can incorporated into engineered livers that we are building to treat patients with liver disease. The human liver cells (hepatocytes) can also be used for drug testing to improve drug safety”.

“We have showed that human liver cells could be used to build engineered liver tissue and that this liver tissue could function once implanted in the body. So far, we are able to do this in mice. We need to make them bigger in order to help patients with liver disease.”

She added “Tissue engineering has already created artificial skin and cartilage and bone that has helped many millions. Artificial trachea and bladder and blood vessels are also in humans. We will follow the same path that others have laid out for us for the liver”.

“The main challenges are to get the liver cells to function like liver cells so they can support the patient, getting enough liver cells for a patient (billions are needed), and ways to implant them so they have enough nutrients through blood vessels (this is called vascularization). We think we have made good progress on the functional side begins to address the cell sourcing and vascularization issues,” she added.

Bhatia has developed a way to temporarily maintain normal liver-cell function after those cells are removed from the body, by precisely intermingling them with mouse fibroblast cells.

They studied how 12,500 different chemicals affect liver-cell growth and function.

The liver has about 500 functions, divided into four general categories: drug detoxification, energy metabolism, protein synthesis and bile production.

David Thomas from the Broad Institute, measured expression levels of 83 liver enzymes representing some of the most finicky functions to maintain.

After screening thousands of liver cells from eight different tissue donors, the researchers identified 12 compounds that helped the cells maintain those functions, promoted liver cell division, or both.

Two of those compounds seemed to work especially well in cells from younger donors.

Publishing their breakthrough in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, the team says cells grown this way could help researchers develop engineered tissue to treat many of the 500 million people suffering from chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis C

In future studies, the MIT team plans to embed the treated liver cells on polymer tissue scaffolds and implant them in mice, to test whether they could be used as replacement liver tissues.

They are also pursuing the possibility of developing the compounds as drugs to help regenerate patients’ own liver tissues.

 

A letter to Angelina Jolie by an Indian Transman #mustshare



Dear Angelina Jolie,

Thank you for coming out. I mean about your mastectomy. You have no
idea what this can mean for a transman like me who went through the
exact same procedure as yours; well almost!

You didn’t have to come out, but you did. Especially since during your
mastectomies you kept it private and carried on with your work. I know
how difficult it gets with film producer types. I am a filmmaker in
Mumbai and you won’t believe it, but once during an edit session, Mr.
Moneybags, finding me alone in the cutting room, asked if we could
compare our d*** sizes! He giggled and said he hadn’t ever seen one of
someone who has had a sex change operation.

Your piece in the New York Times ‘My Medical Choice’, undoubtedly must
have been that — a medical choice. You spent three months, since this
February, on a procedure called ‘Preventive Bilateral Mastectomy‘ ;
‘Preventive’ since you are the carrier of the BRCA1 gene that puts you
at 87% risk of breast cancer and 50% risk of ovarian cancer. I spent
several years trying to convince doctors that I needed a mastectomy
for preventive reasons too. Years of forced living in a gender
identity that wasn’t my own, began to immobilize me. In a society that
understands only two genders and in a medical system that sees
abnormality in everything outside of it, going on is eventually
impossible. But your risk of celebrity cancer turned out to be higher
than my risk of a commoner suicide. Still, I am happy for you. The
mere idea that someone can remove their breasts, at 87% risk or no
risk, is just good enough for me for now.

And of course you wrote this piece for women! And I am hoping that you
meant transwomen too, some of who I know would kill to have your new
breast implants. How atrocious is the idea being peddled that you
wrote it to benefit the Pink Lotus Breast Centre, where your procedure
was performed, or for the biotech company, Myriad Genetics, which owns
a patent on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes giving them exclusive right to
develop diagnostic tests for, at a current cost of more than $3000 in
the USA. The fact that m o s t breast cancer seems to be sporadic and
has nothing to do with a BRCA1 mutation, pales beautifully in front of
your sheer courage to talk about your own mastectomy in the media.

It is interesting though that all the media attention has been on your
courage in losing your breasts, and not equally on your desire to have
them reconstructed. Your doctors could have expected you to simply get
back to the business of life without them. After all they were lost to
a very high possibility of a most dreaded disease. But they didn’t. If
you were non accepting of your loss, they could have put you through
that monster of an American psychiatric-diagnostic-manual called
DSM-4 ‘ to prove your mental illness and therefore the need to cure
you through breast reconstruction. But they didn’t. On the contrary,
they became your facilitators. They saw you, as you saw yourself, a
women, one with those very definitive markers of femininity : breasts.
Why is it that cosmetic surgeries for women skip the pathologisation
that is mandatory for trans people all over the world? Why is it that
medicine cannot facilitate trans people in the same way and grant them
the same dignity of self identity?

Just like many of my trans brothers, sisters and lovers, I become
complicit. I agreed to patholozise my gender identity. I agreed to let
the psychiatrist issue me a certificate for Gender Identity Dysphoria
[GID]. If I was to lose my breasts, I needed those gatekeepers to let
me in. You had the BRCA1 to open the big wide doors of reconstructive
surgery for you. And I had my GID certificate. I let them say, I am
mentally ill. I let them say it on paper. I signed on an affidavit
stating this was my consent and that I was totally responsible for
whatever the surgeries would result in.

In a world with greater understanding, removing my breasts should have
been seen as my ‘aesthetic choice’ ; a choice exercised in the
severely limited societal understanding of gender, as being either
only male or only female. But you’d agree that medicine being
organized on the central idea of disease or, as you now have made so
public, the possibility of it, is ill equipped at the moment, for such
fine abstractions as mine. I knew success when I saw my psychiatrist
scribble on his over qualified letterhead: “Diagnosis: G.I.D.’ Just
like you, I too finally, made a ‘medical choice’. That I was as smart
in 1997, as you are in 2013, makes me feel rather pleased with myself!
Perhaps, this is a sign? Perhaps I will be a celebrity soon! Perhaps I
will meet you at the next Cannes film festival and we can rule the
world together?! Two Celebrity Bilateral Mastectomy Survivors, with
reconstructed breasts on one, is better than none?! No?!

Satya is the founder & facilitator of the Indian Trans Group, Sampoorna

 

India – Government needs to make amendments to law public


Make amendments to law public, says Aruna Roy

Rahi Gaikwad

Aruna Roy

Aruna Roy

Terming the right to information a fundamental function in democracy, Aruna Roy, RTI pioneer and social activist, who recently quit the National Advisory Council, said here on Sunday that on the last day of her term, NAC had sent a suggestion to the Prime Minister for making public changes in laws.

“If any amendment is made to the new laws and regulations, it should be put in the public domain for scrutiny, before it goes for drafting. The draft law should be put up on the website,” Ms. Roy said. She was delivering the Pradhan Jwala Prasad memorial lecture on “The Challenge of Transparency and Accountability in Indian Democracy.”

Critical of middle class cynicism, Ms. Roy warned against such a “defeatist” attitude. She said the landmark right to information law was born from the distress of the poor. She stressed engaging with the government. In her first term at NAC, important legislation related to forest rights, domestic violence and employment guarantee were brought into force.

Ms. Roy said her departure from NAC had been “sensationalised” in the media.

“I was not against anybody. I only said that there were two thought processes in the country — one that believed that market growth would solve all problems and the other that advocated socialistic measures.”

The Indian government was highly averse to participatory decision-making, she said.

Raising concerns over the harassment faced by information-seekers, Ms. Roy said asking questions had become difficult.

“What is the price of asking a question in this country? IAS and IPS officers can’t ask questions. Students can’t ask questions and these days even journalists can’t. We have been suppressed for long … Those who are asking questions on sensitive issues, like the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, are called extremists and Maoists. They are harassed and killed,” she said.

About 30 lakh people in India were asking questions under the RTI, but it had cost the lives of 30 people, from all sections of society, including engineers, intellectuals, and farmers. They paid with their lives because “they had the audacity to ask questions.” Earlier in the day, Ms. Roy attended a meeting of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, where she met RTI activists in Bihar and learnt about the threat and intimidation they faced.

Ms. Roy questioned the Unique Identification project for being ambiguous on the issue of privacy.

 

#India – Farms robbed of water, farmers livelihood


Thursday, May 30, 2013, 7:49 IST | Agency: DNA
Yogesh Pawar
High-powered committee on water reallocates 1983.43 million cubic metres of water from 51 irrigation projects to coal-fired power plants, finds a study conducted by non-profit organisation Prayas.
A high-powered committee on water seems more interested in diverting water from irrigation to highly water-intensive coal fired power plants. This, despite the stress that this reallocation places on drought-prone regions in the state.
This revelation has been made by an analytical report put out by non-profit organisation, Prayas, on the basis of the minutes of meetings that high-powered committees have held over a decade. Such committees consists of ministers and bureaucrats.
Drying up fields
Terming the committee’s decisions as ‘opaque and undemocratic’, the report states that it had reallocated 1983.43million cubic metres of water from 51 irrigation projects for non-irrigation purposes, thus reducing irrigation potential by 3.23lakh hectares.
Analysis of minutes of meetings shows that of the total water reallocated by the panel, 54% was allotted for domestic purpose while 46% was for industrial purpose. Besides demand for drinking water, industrial water demands are equally responsible for reduction of water for irrigation. This debunks the general belief that industry requires less water and water allocated to it shouldn’t cause much of an adverse impact.
Of the total water allocated for domestic use, 96.94% was routed to municipal corporations in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur. Of the rest, 1.75% went to municipal councils with 0.88% to rural pockets and 0.42% diverted to other schemes like water supply to educational institutions. It is apparent that private companies, including power plants and special economic zones, used the committee’s regime most effectively in availing water reservations.
Of the total water reserved by the committee for industries, a maximum share of 64% is allocated to thermal power plants. Of the 15 power plants which demanded and got water reservation from the panel, 13 are privately owned.
Besides power plants, the panel allowed water to be reserved for Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (19%) and special economic zones (14%).
Dodging the law
The report states that the committee did not consider farmers’ interests and even sidetracked the state watchdog – Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority.
“…this would require adherence to law and the decisions would have to be open, transparent, systematic, and rational with consideration of implications of these decisions on local beneficiaries”, the report mentions.
The report states that involvement of the regulator would make public hearings mandatory, spurring exchanging of ideas on looking at alternative sources of water for industries.
The report notes that thermal power plants, which require cooling, were provided with water-based coolers instead of air-based coolers which would have help scrimp on water.
Here’s how the report explanains this anomaly. “It would not have allowed the functionaries in the committee to make arbitrary decision favouring certain interested parties…
Activists filed two petitions in the high court and the regulatory body, challenging the committee’s decisions to divert water from a couple of irrigation projects for non-irrigation purposes. However, the state government did not await the verdict.
“The illegal decisions were legalised… using a weapon of ordinance… As a result, farmers lost their right to challenge the illegal decisions forever…” says the report. “The water reallocation from irrigation projects to non-irrigation is grabbing of water resources for industries and big cities at the cost of livelihoods of farmers.”
Advantage politics
The report points out how the allocation policy has been captured by dominant political forces emerging from rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. “These forces are capturing the policy space and thereby the vital natural resources like water at the cost of life and livelihoods of the rural farming community. There is an urgent need to close the gaps in the policy framework and evolve strong regulatory mechanisms to create a counter-political force capable of protecting the interests of the disadvantaged sections of the society,” it recommends.

 

Urgent Action Alert: stop brutal demolition of houses in Mumbai


Stop Brutal Demolition of Houses of poor in Mumbai

The monsoon is on the doorstep ready to make the situation a little worrisome in Mumbai but the authorities, as it seems, has decided to bring the worst for Ganpat Patil Nagar through their reckless planned decision to demolish it today. While 25000 families in GP Nagar have a sword hanging on their heads over last 4 months and while six deaths had occurred during brutal demolition in January, once again Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai is ready with the police force, this morning under disguised reason of ‘Mangrove protection’.  Adarsh Nagar and Indira Nagar in Govandi, Mumbai are also given a notice to vacate altogether 600-700 houses by June 4th tomorrow, in the name of naala building, drainage.

The local leaders of GP Nagar and activists have taken all pains to find out the documents and from discussions with the authorities that

  • The forest department has given in writing that it has nothing to do with the demolition and there is no plan for Mangrove protection.
  • There are no more than 10 houses within 50 meters from Mangrove.
  • No judgment (in BEAG vs State of Maharashtra & others) has ever directed demolition of slums or any building but only directed protection of Mangrove since 2005.

GP Nagar slum was fully exiting in 2005as per Google maps. High pakka buildings are under construction since last few years, but no demolition of those is planned. The GP Nagar slum on one hand provided water supply and other basic amenities yet on the other hand, tried to be demolished.

The poor toiling their family belongings are unprotected workers, women, and children face atrocities whenever they lose their shelter. The NHRC has been appealed to intervene and so is the National Commission on Children. Yet they have neither indicated any identification nor has written to the state government.

The Govt. of Maharashtra promised in 2011 & even thereafter that slums will be declared as per section 4 of the Slums Act, 1971 and all amenities will be provided as per section 5 (A), yet without taking that process forward, poor people are being dishoused while whatever reserved for “Housing to the Dishoused” is being de-reserved and being diverted to non-justifiable purpose & to the elites, may it be for a judges cooperative or a shopping mall.

Including Ganpat Patil Nagar, all slums have applied for Rajiv Awas Yojana & are ready to take up self-development with 2009 as the cutoff date for RAY, as is being expected in Delhi. As regards to Adarsh Nagar and Indira Nagar, a very elaborate dialogue with the Assistant Commissioner, Mumbai, Eastward  Mr. Kishore Gandhi brought out that there was no map or plan prepared neither for required naala building nor of demolition. During the joint site visit by the Jr. Engineers and one representative on June 1st, it came out that not more than 4-8 houses were obstructing drainage and yet Jr. Engineer was adamant on demolition. All this indicates that the real purpose in each slum demolition seems to be not drainage or natural conservation but land grab.

Ghar Bachao- Ghar Banao Andolan, NAPM demands from both the State Govt. of Maharashtra and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai that:

1.      Stop eviction of poor communities, including Ganpat Patil Nagar.

2.      Enquire into the Mangroves protection & encroachment in the framework of the judgments.

3.      Implement RAY with the funds and facilitation beginning with the pilot project proposed for Mandala community, Mankhurd.

GBGB, NAPM appeals to all sensitive supporters to write to the Municipal Commissioner, Shri Sitaram Kunte & C.M. of Maharashtrato stop brutal demolition today and not to make the poor shelterless, which is impingement to their right to life and not to commit atrocities against dalits in GP nagar and other communities.

Act before it’s late….

Shri Prithviraj Chavan,Chief Minister,

Government of Maharashtra,

Mantrayala, Mumbai

Ph: 022-23634950

E-mail: chiefminister@maharashtra.gov.in ,

ashish.valsa@gmail.com

Sitaram Kunte, IASMunicipal Commissioner

Office Address:

Municipal Commissioner

Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai

Municipal Head Office

Mahapalika Marg

Mumbai-400 001. 

Tel:0091-22-22620525

e-mail:mc@mcgm.gov.in

===============================================

National Alliance of People’s Movements
National Office : 6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Phone : 011 26241167 / 24354737 Mobile : 09818905316
Web : www.napm-india.org

Twitter : @napmindia

 

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