#India – Operation Blue Star — the untold story


CHANDER SUTA DOGRA, The Hindu, Chandigrah, June 10, 2013 

A fortification used in Operation Blue Star on the sides of the parikrama abutting the Dukh-Bhanjani
Beri (tree) that covers the entrance to Shri Harmandir Sahib. File photo
The HinduA fortification used in Operation Blue Star on the sides of the parikrama abutting the Dukh-Bhanjani Beri (tree) that covers the entrance to Shri Harmandir Sahib. File photo

New documentary carries testimony that executions of Sikh youth did take place and SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra refused to declare Khalistan

Almost three decades after Operation Blue Star — the army operation that cleared the Golden temple complex in Amritsar of Sikh militants in 1984 — a journalist has spoken to some of the surviving dramatis personae of the event to recreate almost hour by hour what happened during those fateful six days. The documentary Operation Blue Star — the untold story currently being aired by Chandigarh-based television station Day and Night News run by veteran Punjab journalist Kanwar Sandhu has uncovered startling new evidence about the operation and the conduct of the militants and the security agencies since then.

Perhaps the most significant disclosures are by Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, a former Union Minister for Social Welfare, then with the Shiromani Akali Dal, who was present in the Guru Ram Das Sarai along with then Akali Dal president Harchand Singh Longowal and SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

He relates how at around 6 p.m. on 5th June, Mr. Longowal and Mr. Tohra were coerced almost at gunpoint to declare the formation of Khalistan and how they wriggled out of it.

“Five Sikh youth with self-loading rifles (SLRs) and a metallic box that was possibly a transmitter came to us and placed their SLRs with their barrels pointing towards all of us. They told us that the ‘box’ is connected with Gen Zia-Ul-Haq in Pakistan. They told Jathedar Tohra and Sant Longowal to declare the formation of Khalistan, so that the Pakistani Army can launch an attack. Both Tohra and Longowal are not alive today, so I am saying this under a solemn oath of allegiance to the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, because I want to speak the truth. Sant Longowal kept completely quiet. Then Jathedar Tohra said, ‘Dekho naujawano, eh jedi jang hai eh Hind-Punjab di jang hai. This is a battle between Sant Bhinderanwale and Mrs. Indira Gandhi and that since the former is leading the battle, it will be fair to ask him to issue the statement about the creation of Khalistan.’ He did not say that he will make the announcement for Khalistan. I don’t know how history will judge the Akali leadership but this is the truth. The youth then left the place and never came back.”

‘OUTRAGE BY ARMY’

Mr. Ramoowalia also sheds light on an alleged execution of some 30 Sikh youth by the army — the certainty of which has always been speculated. Talking about events in the wee hours of 6th June, when the army was combing through the complex, the narrative states that a Major of the 9 Kumaon regiment lined up some 20 Sikh youth and mowed them down with a machine gun. Recalling the incident, Mr. Ramoowalia says, “The captured Sikhs appeared to be from Kashmir and didn’t look like Punjabi Sikhs. An officer waved a handkerchief and they were shot dead by the Army men with bullets which were sprayed on them from left to right and then right to left. I have never seen people being killed like that, with bullets. I have been a farmer and I have cut the crop and made its bundles. The crests of these Sikh youth collapsed similarly. No one moaned or uttered anything. I know my statement will be called into questioning, but 28 years after it happened, I am going on record on this.”

“The Army men were very angry, very abusive, mad with rage. Maybe they had lost their fellow Army men in the battle elsewhere in the Complex. This happened between 3 a.m. and 3.30 a.m., after the grenade blast nearby and after that it was my turn next as a part of the next group of Sikhs which was being queued up for killing. I was also told to sit down cross-legged and said my prayers. By chance, I remembered that I had in my pocket my identity card as an ex-Member of Parliament, of Lok Sabha. I flashed it and raised my hand and said, I am Ramoowalia, a former Member, Lok Sabha. I and all these persons, who are under your custody, belong to Sant Harchand Singh Longowal. We are non-violent people, [have] nothing to do with the armed struggle, we are here, just as a part of Akali Dal’s peaceful morcha.’ He asked me, ‘what is your name?’ I said, ‘my name is Ramoowalia.’ He asked me once again. I told him, ‘I am not misguiding. Not misleading. This is my identity card. Please check it up.’ God knows, the Army man was so angry, he could have just shot and killed me. But he said, ‘stop’. The other Army men lowered their guns. And two to three of them came up to me… and pushed me to a side. Then the officer again asked me, ‘Are you really Ramoowalia?’ I said, ‘I am really Ramoowalia.’ He said, ‘how are you here? You are not supposed to be here.’ I said, ‘why’? He said, ‘you are supposed to be with Sant Longowal.’ I said, ‘Sant Longowal is sitting in the adjoining room. I have come out’.”

Brigadier (retd.) Onkar Singh Goraya, who was then Col Admn in HQ 15 Corps corroborates the incident saying that Bhan Singh the then SGPC secretary also told him something similar. “He said the Army men in Darbar Sahib have done something awful. He said that some Sikh youth were lined up against a wall in the Golden Temple Complex and killed with a machine gun. He also showed me the wall in the Complex which had the bullet marks, when I went back for the second time in the afternoon,” he is quoted as saying in the documentary.

Mr. Sandhu has pieced together the account with the help of interviews with some 100 eyewitnesses and officials, records from army archives, interrogation reports of captured militants and also the actual Op Instructions issued by Maj Gen Brar on the eve of the operation. Says he, “This is an honest attempt to put the events in perspective and tell the story as it happened. If in the process it upsets any one, it cannot be helped.” Already the television station is getting hate mail from the Sikh diaspora in particular which is angry with its portrayal of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as a militant who fortified the golden temple complex with arms and ammunition.

MILITANTS STOCKPILED WEAPONS

In 2010 the BBC had done a one-hour documentary “1984- A Sikh story”, which was never shown in India. Speaking to The Hindu, Mandeep Bajwa a consultant for the BBC documentary said, “This is the most authentic and credible account yet and I can see that the passage of time has emboldened many eyewitnesses to speak the truth. It exposes many fallacies like the one about arms and ammunition being planted in the temple complex by the Army. Mr. Sandhu has not only provided a rough inventory of the military hardware stockpiled inside but also detailed some instances of how they were smuggled in.”

Another revelation is that Maj Gen Shahbeg Singh (retd.), the disgraced army man who joined Bhindranwale’s group and organized the defences died on the evening of 5th June, before the actual battle began. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet and quoting Balwinder Singh Khojkipur a close associate of Bhindranwale who survived the operation, the documentary states that he was taken to the basement of Akal Takht where he died with his head on Bhindranwale’s lap. His covered body lay in a room there for a whole day until the armymen entered and cleared it the next day.

As for Bhindranwale himself —the Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal that he headed refused to accept his death for many years — he died at 8.45 am on 6th June after being shot at from an armoured vehicle as he was moving towards the ‘Darshni Deodi’ to offer his prayers to Guru Ram Das. His body, contrary to reports of that time, was not identified by his brother Harcharan Singh Rode then serving as the subedar major in 61 Engineers Regiment in Jalandhar, but by the police and army doctors. Says Rode, “This is totally wrong. I did not issue any contradiction because I had got to see him and paid my last respects.”

Much has been written and said about the pilgrims trapped inside the complex many of who died in the crossfire. This series documents that they were actually discouraged from responding to the announcements being made by the district administration outside asking the pilgrims to come out. Apparently when five or six of them tried to come out with their hands in the air, they were shot down by militants from inside the temple complex. Their bodies lay near the ghanta ghar —where pilgrims wash their feet — on the morning of 5th June.

 

#India -Village falls within Jaitapur nuclear reactor’s 2-km danger zone #WTFnews


Nitin Ghanekar reports in  Hindustan times, June 10, 2013

Since we are so close to the plant, we fear that we might be displaced.
SACHIN WAGH DHARE, a Dhanivare resident

JAITAPUR/MUMBAI: Residents of Dhanivare village are a worried lot. Given the proximity of their hamlet to the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant site (JNPP), the village falls in a range of 0 to 2 km distance from the plant, which makes it a part of the plant’s exclusion zone.

A nuclear plant is supposed to have an exclusion zone of 1.6 km around the nuclear reactors, making this area uninhabitable. That the JNPP site can be accessed from Dhanivare village on foot within five minutes makes the hamlet’s proximity to the site clear. But the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) seems to have forgotten this tiny hamlet when claiming that that no house would be displaced while creating the exclusion zone.

When HT contacted additional chief engineer of JNPP SG Galgali, and asked him about the fate of Dhanivare, he said, “The nuclear reactors at JNPP would be located along the shore in a northsouth direction near the Rajapur bay lighthouse. They would be located in such a way that no village falls in the 1.6kms exclusion zone.”

However, a report from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) states otherwise. Recently, under the Right to Information Act, Mumbai residents Premanand Tivarkar and Dr Bhikaji Waghdhare obtained a site selection committee report dated September 2002. The report detailing the population in villages around the Jaitapur site says, “Dhanivade, a hamlet of Madban, falls within the 1.6 km exclusion zone and has an estimated population of 135.”

Galgali said, “The report might have stated that the hamlet is in the exclusion zone, but the positioning of the plant will not displace its residents.”

Residents of Dhanivare said that the NPCIL’s attempts to encroach on their mango orchards might be their way of pressurising them to relocate. “We never received any notices from NPCIL regarding land acquisition or any exclusion zone. As we are so close to the plant, we fear we might be displaced,” said Sachin Waghdhare, a resident of Dhanivare.

N-plant encroaching on our orchards’

Boundary wall built by NPCIL for Jaitapur power plant passes through mango groves that are a source of livelihood for an entire village

JAITAPUR/MUMBAI: Even as French nuclear giant Areva, officials from Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) met to work out a financial package that would fund two 1,650 megawatt reactors at Jaitapur, residents of Dhanivare village near the plant site have alleged that there is a quiet attempt by NPCIL to encroach on village land not marked for acquisition.

Dhanivare is a hamlet of less than 200 people located within a 2-kilometre distance from the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant (JNPP). The residents of the village, many of who own mango orchards, have alleged that NPCIL and their sub-contractors have been trespassing on their land — marked as ‘survey no. 119’ — and are trying to encroach on it to build an unfinished boundary wall outside the plant site. This has allegedly been going on for over two years.

Survey no. 119 was not a part of the land acquired by the Ratnagiri district administration for JNPP. It did not feature in the list of notified lands to be acquired for JNPP, published by the Konkan administrative division in the Ratnagiri edition of Tarun Bharat newspaper on January 10, 2007. Current district collector Rajeev Jadhav also attested to this. The land in question is home to around 500 mango trees that serve as a source of livelihood for Dhanivare residents.

Recent developments in the area are contrary to NPCIL’s claims that villagers’ livelihood would not be snatched away due to the project.

Though the issue dates back over two years, a fortnight ago, residents said that NPCIL officials arrived at the land in question with a bulldozer and civil supplies in an effort to continue work on the incomplete wall. “There was a wedding in the hamlet so many of us were away. When we returned to our orchards, we saw that a few people had entered our property and were trying to carry out civil work. We protested and drove them away,” said Sachin Waghdhare, a resident of Dhanivare who owns close to 150 mango trees and earns between Rs50,000 and Rs1,00,000 from it annually. Even before this, villagers found paint markings running across orchards, starting from the unfinished wall, right up to the pathway to orchards. “The paint markings indicated that they (NPCIL) want to encroach into our villages. If this happens, all of us would lose our livelihoods,” he added.

Bhikaji Waghdhare, the sarpanch of Madban gram panchayat, of which Dhanivare is a part, sent a letter on May 31 informing the district collector about the markings and tree felling. When HT contacted Ratnagiri collector Rajeev Jadhav, he said, “I have not yet seen such a letter, but if NPCIL is encroaching on land not meant to be acquired for JNPP, we will follow the rule of law to take action.”

Villagers claim the issue dates back to December 2010, when the NPCIL started construction of a wall that was to pass through the mango orchards. Back then, villagers had protested against NPCIL’s activities and had even sent a complaint to the then collector of Ratnagiri and to the Sakhari Nate police station, alerting them about this issue. Through sustained protests they managed to stop the construction. Later, in 2011, Mumbai resident Dr Bhikaji Waghdhare, 74, a native of Madban, filed a writ petition in the Bombay high court. The court had found the petition to be substantive but asked Dr Waghdhare to pursue the case at the local district court in Ratnagiri. Owing to ill-health, Dr Waghdhare did not pursue the case. He owns 0.60 hectares of land that bears 160 mango trees, 40 toddy palm trees and one well. “I sought survey maps under right to information (RTI) act and they indicate that the area where NPCIL is trying to carry out work is survey no. 119,” said Dr Waghdhare. HT is in possession of those maps. Besides, in a reply to an RTI application filed by Mumbai resident Premanand Tiwarkar, NPCIL admitted, that survey no. 119 was not acquired for JNPP.

HT mailed a detailed questionnaire to NPCIL, sent text messages to officials and also tried to contact senior officials to seek their response, but there was no reply.

#India- Report demands full compensation for victims of Kandhamal riots


Special Correspondent, The Hindu

 The report was released by Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
A report titled 'Unjust Compensation' prepared by Housing and Land Rights Network highlighting property losses of private individuals during the Kandhamal riots, in Bhubaneswar on Friday.—Photos: Lingaraj Panda
A report titled ‘Unjust Compensation’ prepared by Housing and Land Rights Network highlighting property losses of private individuals during the Kandhamal riots, in Bhubaneswar on Friday.—Photos: Lingaraj Panda

Centre for Sustainable Use of Social and Natural Resources (CSNR), Bhubaneswar, and Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), Delhi, on Friday released a report on the compensation paid to the families that had suffered damage and loss of property during the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in 2007 and 2008.

The report noted that though the State government provided immediate relief, compensation for ‘damaged houses’ and death, it did not enumerate and provide compensation for the loss of property (other than housing) such as household articles, vital documents (like educational certificates, land records), agricultural equipment, utensils, clothes, agricultural and forest produce, livestock, poultry, and livelihood-related losses.

The government was not having a policy to assess and compensate such losses.

The report was released here by Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.

The panel also consisted of Dhirendra Panda, Secretary, CSNR, Shivani Chaudhry, Associate Director, HLRN, and Prafulla Samantara and Nicholas Barla, human rights activists.

The findings of the impact assessment study revealed that the real costs and losses suffered by individuals and families who experienced destruction of their homes and property were immense. While extensive damage to property, both movable and immovable, had been reported, the State has only compensated families for loss of homes.

On the basis of the findings of this study, the report recommended to the State government to take immediate measures to adequately rehabilitate and resettle the victim-survivors of the Kandhamal violence.

The report further urged the government to ensure full reparation to those persons whose livelihoods were affected due to violence and strife.

The government should provide adequate financial assistance to those children whose education was affected because of destruction of books and educational material, unavailability of study material, loss of academic certificates, and inability to attend school during and after the violence, the report suggested.

It further said that the government should provide financial assistance to victim-survivors whose documents of land and property were destroyed and facilitate the process to obtain alternative documents.

The government should develop a new policy for victim-survivors of violence due to conflict, such as in the case of Kandhamal, and implement it immediately, the report said, while urging the government to prepare a long-term strategy to protect and promote secularism and non-casteism in Odisha.

Sarabjit’s death probe: Judicial commission visits jail, interviews prisoners


PTI Jun 9, 2013,

LAHORE: A judicial commission of the Lahore high court visited Sarabjit Singh’s cell in Kot Lakhpat Jail and interviewed prisoners as part of its probe into the brutal murder of the Indian death row convict.

Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, the head of the commission, collected the complete record of Sarabjit from prison officials.

Registrar Bushra Zaman of the high court told reporters that the commission had interviewed some prisoners about the incident and gathered complete records of the case.

The commission had already issued notices to Sarabjit’s family through the foreign ministry to record their statements and produce any evidence they had regarding the incident, Zaman said.

Local witnesses have been summoned on June 10 to record their statements.

The commission will unearth the facts at the earliest in view of the importance of the matter, she said.

The commission will also interview the two prisoners arrested for attacking Sarabjit, jail officials and witnesses before finalising its report.

Five to six prisoners had brutally assaulted Sarabjit in a well-coordinated attack on April 26.

After being comatose for nearly a week, Singh died at Jinnah Hospital in Lahore on May 2.

Police registered a murder case against two death row prisoners Amer Aftab and Mudassar for allegedly assaulting Sarabjit.

Both men told police that they wanted to kill Sarabjit as he was involved in killing Pakistanis in bomb blasts.

 

#India- Opening a ” Coalgate ” #Wtfnews


From ‘No-Go’ to ‘Go-Go’

Though there is a lot more coal outside eco-sensitive zones, the government now plans to allot coal blocks inside areas earlier considered out of bounds. Baba Umar reports
Baba Umar

Baba Umar

15-06-2013, Issue 24 Volume 10

Disastrous Coal blocks were allotted in many cases without the MoEF’s prior approval Disastrous Coal blocks were allotted in many cases without the MoEF’s prior approval. Photo: Vijay Pandey

THIS IS like opening a ‘coalgate’ of another kind. This time around, the coal ministry is planning to auction 14 coal blocks, with a majority of them falling inside dense forestland where mining was not allowed under the earlier ‘no-go’ regime imposed by the . Even the revised list of ‘no-go’ or ‘inviolate’ areas put forward by the ministry have been set aside to push for the fresh allotments.

The sanctioned list, for example, includes a block in Kente Extension in  — an eco-sensitive area that until now was banned for  because of its rich biodiversity. Of the entire 1,902 hectares, 1,722 hectares comprise dense forests with no villages (according to the coal ministry) and is home to elephants, endangered tigers and leopards, according to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the National Tiger Conservation Authority ().

“The process of deciding what constitutes an ‘inviolate’ area and what does not is at a standstill,” says an MOEF official on the condition of anonymity. “So, technically, there is a status quo. The proposed blocks in the forest areas are being allotted without clearance from the MOEF. This may lead to clashes at a later stage.”

In February, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who heads the Group of Ministers (GOM), restrained the MOEF from executing its revised system of inviolate areas, saying some parameters in the draft report on these areas “appeared to be too restrictive and may lead to further curtailment of mining activities”.

According to the minutes of this GOM meeting, the MOEF had agreed to consult all the stakeholders on the six parameters for defining the inviolate areas. The GOM had stated that “the existing frame-work will continue” until the new norms are finalised.

“The process by which the coal ministry continues to auction and allocate coal blocks is flawed,” says Nandikesh Sivalingam of Greenpeace India, “because allocations or auctions are being made before an informed decision is taken on whether it is acceptable on forest, environmental and livelihood grounds for a mine to come up in the area concerned.”

Interestingly, the MOEF’s ‘inviolate’ policy was, in fact, framed at the request of Coal India Ltd, a public sector company, to ensure that the coal blocks are allotted only after consultation with the MOEF. But blocks were allotted in many cases without prior approval of the MOEF, leading the environment ministry to invoke the green hurdle at a later stage. Although the government had asked the ministry to revisit the policy first in July 2012, which it is still working on, the allocations have already begun.

Greenpeace, which commissioned Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, a Bengaluru-based research institute, to map and analyse the ecological implications of the newly cleared blocks, found that 11 of the 14 blocks are in heavily forested areas.

According to the report, the allocated coal blocks will destroy 5,200 hectares of forest, including 2,700 hectares of dense forest, and have adverse impact on elephants, tigers and leopards in nine blocks, besides affecting 20 villages.

“Five blocks are on the banks of major or medium rivers even as 260 hectares of water bodies lie inside all these blocks. This will make environment and forest clearance processes lengthy and contentious, with the possibility of outright rejection, legal challenges and community opposition, threatening any investments made,” the report says.

Prior to mining, clearance will be required under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) and Forest Rights Act (FRA). In some cases, it would need nods from the gram sabhas in the affected areas, besides the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), NTCA and Project Elephant.

“There are risks to lenders, shareholders and taxpayers,” says Sivalingam. “MOEF clearances could be delayed, if not denied due to the presence of good quality forest and mega fauna, denial of consent from affected communities. The projects could face legal challenges if clearances are given without following the due process of FRA, FCA and other mandatory requirements.”

Examples of this could be Kente Extension and Hasdeo-Arand coalfield in Chhattisgarh. Approximately 80 percent of this area is ‘above moderate density’ forest. The Tara, Parsa East and Kante Basan blocks in the same area were given stage- I forest clearance in 2011 by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh on the condition that the state government will not seek any further clearances in Hasdeo- Arand.

Later, the stage-II clearance was given for Parsa East and Kante Basan, which are currently being challenged before the National Green Tribunal. Such a fate is likely to await Kente Extension too, should it be cleared by the MOEF.

In another coalfield in Gowa, Jharkhand, part of the to-be-allotted coal block is located within 10 km of the Palamau Tiger Reserve and any mining would require clearance from the NBWL. Tigers and elephants are known to inhabit nearby forests. Located on the banks of the Auranga river, this block also poses a threat in terms of siltation and discharge of mining effluents into the river.

“The bigger risks involve these blocks possibly falling under inviolate areas, which the MOEF is working on,” says Sivalingam.

ACCORDING TO the coal ministry, on 23 May, the members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) headed by the Coal Secretary, along with senior officials of the Ministry of Power, Planning Commission, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Steel, Law & Justice, Coal Controller, Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) and Coal India Ltd, gave the nod to 126 applications from 25 public sector companies after verifying the required parameters. The 14 coal blocks are from six states — five from Chhattisgarh, four from Odisha, two from Jharkhand and one each from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

The next meeting of IMC is proposed to be held shortly for finalisation of the coal block allocation.

In April, voicing his ministry’s concerns on the possible fallout of the proposed system of inviolate areas, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal had said, “The coal projects reeling under the impact of the ‘no-go’ system imposed by Jairam Ramesh would have major implications for coal security.” This system had allegedly rendered about 660 million tonne of coal reserves out of bounds for mining.

But a report submitted on 23 April by a Parliamentary Standing Committee revealed that it was not the MOEF’s nonclearances that were impeding coal production leading to reduction in power production, but in fact, the faulty and ‘illegal’ allotments.

The report revealed that out of 195 coal blocks allocated between 1993 and 2008, production had begun in only 30 blocks. It said that while a majority of these blocks (160) were allotted by the  government between 2004 and 2008, so far production has begun in only two.

Take the case of Castron Mining Ltd, a private company that was allotted a coal block in Jharkhand to use for its steel plant. The company had no steel plant and almost 13 years after the allocation, it was yet to set up or buy a steel factory.

“This clearly shows that the so-called coal shortage leading to power crisis has been created by faulty allocations and not by lack of forest clearances as the government claims,” says Sivalingam.

Moreover, while the total amount of coal in the ‘no-go’ eco-sensitive areas, according to the MOEF, is only 18,448.36 million tonnes, there is a lot more that can be mined outside these areas: 55,218.83 million tonnes. “Yet we see that this mindless rush for allocation is more in the case of areas with thick forests rather than in other areas that are free of dense forests and wildife,” says Sivalingam. “This could spell environmental disaster.”

babaumar@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 24, Dated 15 June 2013)

 

Die a thousand deaths—the endless wait of UP’s death row inmates #Deathpenalty


NIRALA TRIPATHI
Karan Singh, Babloo, Rakesh Kumar, Barabanki Jail
In jail for 9 years now for murder of a cousin’s wife. Hoping HC will overturn death verdict.
No Noose Ends Here
Die a thousand deaths—the endless wait of UP’s death row inmates for the HC to decide their fate
SHARAT PRADHAN, The Outlook

Devendra Nath Rai was a young army soldier, barely 34, when he was charged and court-martialled for the murder of a superior, convicted and given a death sentence. He’s now 56. He has spent the past 22 years in the historic Naini Central Jail in Allahabad, once the British Raj’s favourite dumping ground for freedom fighters, waiting for his own hanging. Deven­dra’s sentence is, literally, hanging—because the mandatory confirmation by the Allah­abad High Court is still awaited. And no one knows how many more years he will have to spend in this purgat­ory-like state. The provisions of Section 366 of the CrPC clearly spell out that “when the court of session passes a death sentence, the proceedings shall be submitted to the high court, and the sentence shall not be executed unless it is confirmed  by the high court”. The suspense is killing, because even in this mandatory function, the HC is empowered to not just confirm or commute the sentence but even to acquit the convict.

Expectedly enough, Devendra’s is not the only case of its type. As many as 99 death sentence convicts are languishing in different jails of Uttar Pradesh—and they have been inside for varying periods, from one year to 22 years. They are all awaiting their turn before the Allahabad HC, simply to know whether they will meet their end in the gallows or be allowed to live, even if it is within the four walls of a prison. What makes matters worse is these inmates are not entitled to bail or par­ole “during the pendency of confirmation of sentence” by the court.

Brooding over these uncertainties for over two decades, it seems, has taken a toll on the mind of the former lance naik of the Signals Corps. Jail authorities admit to having referred him to a psychiatrist for some time. But despite his incoherent talk, he remains consistent on one issue: “I did not kill anyone; I was implicated by my bosses, one of whom actually gunned down the Company havildar major and another soldier for which I am in jail,” Devendra toldOutlook outside his barracks at Naini jail.


Photograph by Nirala Tripathi

Devendra Nath, Naini Jail
22 years in jail, got death for murder of a superior in the army

Back home in Amethi village under Gambhirpur police circle of Azamgarh district, about 175 km away, Devendra’s wife Mithilesh is equally disillusioned. For what good it’s done, she’s had a routine for the past many years. Every morning she rises, goes out and bows her head to pray before the Lord Shiva statue carefully installed under an ancient peepal tree trunk just at the threshold of her ramshackle home.

These inmates are not allowed parole or bail “during the pendency of confirmation of sentence by the HC”.

It hasn’t helped Devendra’s cause much though. “I am barely able to meet him once a year because it costs a lot of money, nearly a thousand rupees which is more than what I can save over a year,” says an anguished Mithilesh. In the intervening years, she has managed to get two daughters married off though, thanks “to our relatives and people in the neighbourhood”. A third daughter lives with her grandparents in Mumbai where she is pursuing her graduation after which “she hopes to get a job so she is able to fight her father’s court battle”. Sadly, the father could not attend the two weddings because, again, he is not entit­led to parole until the HC comes to a decision. (Devendra coul­dn’t even recall when he had last seen his daughters.)

An assertive high court recently orde­red action against lax bureaucrats and cops sleeping over judicial directives; this  has lent Mithilesh some hope. “I have heard the court has taken serious note of the delays, so I am hoping my husband’s case too would get expedi­ted…I have waited a full lifetime just to know whether I am going to become a widow or not,” Mithilesh says, her eyes welling with tears. “I still haven’t given up hope that the court will commute his sentence to life imprisonment.”

However, even if Mithilesh’s wishful thinking were to come true, it’s not as if Devendra will be set free. The law is usually clear about offsetting the time spent as undertrial against the sentence. But there’s a catch-22 here too. As leading criminal lawyer I.B. Singh points out, “That rule won’t apply as Dev­endra’s punishment hasn’t been con­firmed by the high court. The poor chap’s  life-term (if at all) will come into effect only from the date of confirmation by the HC. Which means all these years he spent behind bars become meaningless.”


Photograph by Nirala Tripathi

Sukh Lal, Naini Jail
In jail since ’01, killed  the three sons of his father’s murderer 12 years after the event

I.B. Singh, who had earlier fought to get reprieve for 42 women convicts and und­­ertrials languishing in Lucknow jail for over two decades, is appalled with the rights violation involved. “It’s time the judiciary as a whole rises to save people from such avoidable physical harassment and mental agony; after all letting matters relating to their life and death hang fire for years is making the poor convicts die a thousand deaths before they meet their actual end,” he feels.

Cases like Devendra’s are spread across 27 jails of the state. One such comes from another historic penal institution, the 153-year-old Barabanki jail, where three mothers are anxiously waiting for their respective sons, convicted of the murder of a cousin’s wife. Police records say they are guilty of “pre-meditated, cold-bloo­ded murder”, believed to be over an old family property dispute, but the mothers insist they are innocent. The accused, Karan Singh, Babloo and Rakesh Kumar claim they were “working in Lucknow when the murder took place but because of the old land dispute between our families we were falsely implicated”.

The murder took place in Ladai ka Purwa village under Loni Katra police circle of Barabanki district on January 12, ’04. The conviction came seven years later. And while the ratification of their death sentence was awaited, they moved an appeal before the HC, which reserved its verdict sometime in February last. The mothers are hoping for a possible reprieve in the appeal. “The witnesses have disclosed in the HC how they were compelled to give tutored statements against our sons,” they told Outlook.

Incidentally, all three mothers are widows who have mortgaged parts of their small one bigha of land to pay the lawyer’s fees. “The lawyer is confident about the merit in our case,” says Sarju Devi, one of the mothers.

Now, unlike Devendra and the others who claim innocence, there are also peo­ple like Sukh Lal, 43, on death row, who has no qualms about admitting his crime. “Yes, I killed three of his sons with my licensed gun…they had to pay for my father’s murder. Their father had killed him in front of my eyes; I was a kid at the time, all I could do was watch and wait patiently for 12 years,” he says.

While he has no regrets about the act, what bothers him is the fate of his daughter, now 15. “After 13 years in jail and still waiting for a confirmation of my sente­nce, I do feel I could have pardoned them; my daughter is growing up and I am stuck in here,” he says resignedly.


By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow

 

#India – Violence against the state is tragic but it contains the seeds of rejection


Repression is no solution

Gopal Subramanium

Violence against the state is tragic but it contains the seeds of rejection. Only an inclusive approach that respects human rights can eliminate extremism

Perhaps no other chain of events in the recent past has had a more direct and substantial impact on the life of human beings across the world than acts of terror. Terrorism has not only affected our lives directly, but has also allowed the state to intrude in our lives like never before.

 

Fundamental obligation

 

Since the security of the individual is a basic human right (and a fundamental condition of the social contract underpinning society), the protection of individuals is a fundamental obligation of the state. In recent years, however, the measures adopted by states to counter terrorism have themselves sometimes been found wanting in terms of compliance with human rights norms. The means and methods adopted by the state have posed serious challenges to human rights and the rule of law, and often this is on account of the zeal of the law-enforcement agencies to give a commensurate response to the terrorist.

 

The state cannot legitimately respond by resorting to mechanisms that overstep the limits of the law. Thus, a reason why it is important for the state to ensure that none of its measures transgresses the limits of the law is any transgression may have the effect of eroding both its legitimacy and the rule of law, thereby fomenting further unrest and erosion of faith in the Constitution.

 

In the name of combating extremism, repressive measures are also used to stifle the voice of human rights activists, advocates, minorities, indigenous groups, journalists and civil society. There is another dimension: by being able to build up a perception of threat, the state may be able to get away with channelling the funds normally allocated to social programmes towards strengthening the police force and the army. The talked-up threat perception of terrorism (and a few ‘encounters’) may well be used to justify the acquisition of more weapons. As Professor Simon Bronitt of Australian National University has summed up “…there is almost a new genus of law: post 9/11 law. Although 9/11 has become a significant force in justifying these laws, the truth is that there is an element of opportunism [by some law-enforcement and state agencies] behind these claims of necessity for new powers and offences.”

 

While militarisation and the strengthening of police forces are important in their own right, it is equally necessary to understand the genuineness of the ‘security reasons’ presented by the state as a ground for abridgment of human rights, many of which are fundamental. Frisking, for example, which used to be considered a grave intrusion upon one’s privacy at one point of time, is today normalised and we are all fine with being frisked everywhere.

 

Existential realities

 

Little or no attention is paid to the true causes of resort to violent methods. It is as if the deafening sound of explosions and landmines is used to attract the attention of the state to existential realities. There are grim realities of existence as tribals in this country, and the unfortunate aspect is that their unheard voices fail to make a din in the power corridors. From their perspective, extremism, violence and terrorism become a means to attract the attention of the state.

 

Governments have been non-responsive to peaceful protests and have, in fact, come down heavily on peaceful protesters as they did at India Gate when they relentlessly beat up women protesting in the aftermath of last December’s gang rape in Delhi. The state turns a blind eye to the violence committed by state actors, and private actors in connivance with state actors, which results in irreversible psychological damage.

 

It is evident that the state has misplaced priorities. Since there is little that the state seems to have done, one can safely say that it does not seem to be aware of the abysmal conditions in which the tribals of Chhattisgarh live.

 

The state does not seem to be aware that tribals in Madhya Pradesh eat the poisonous kesari dal which is reported to have a paralytic impact. The state also does not seem to be aware that tribal women and other villagers in Maharashtra have to walk miles before they can get drinking water. This feeling of being ‘parentless’ makes people vulnerable to anti-state ideologies. Having said this, I am not legitimising violence against innocents by invocation of oppression; I am only suggesting that oppression is one of the reasons of unrest which manifests in the resort to violence against the state and insignias of the state.

 

In the Mahanadi Coal Fields Case (2010), the Supreme Court took strong exception to the manner in which the Central government and the Mahanadi Coal Fields Limited had acquired the lands of tribals in the Sundargarh district of Odisha and not compensated them even 23 years later. In fact, 20 years after dispossessing them, the government noted that the land was actually not required!

 

The Supreme Court observed: “the whole issue of development appears to be so simple, logical and commonsensical. And yet, to millions of Indians, development is a dreadful and hateful word that is aimed at denying them even the source of their sustenance. It is cynically said that on the path of ‘maldevelopment’ almost every step that we take seems to give rise to insurgency and political extremism [which along with terrorism are supposed to be the three gravest threats to India‘s integrity and sovereignty] … The resistance with which the state’s well meaning efforts at development and economic growth are met makes one think about the reasons for such opposition to the state’s endeavours for development. Why is the state’s perception and vision of development at such great odds with the people it purports to develop? And why are their rights so dispensable?”

 

Listen to people

 

The Supreme Court’s identification of the issue is not off the mark, and I believe it is quite perceptive of the reality. Studies establish that absolute deprivation by the state has a psychological impact on its people. Therefore, any attempt to combat violence by the state must have within its fold the measures to eliminate the conditions conducive to the spread of extremism, which must include (a) strengthening the rule of law; (b) fostering respect for human rights and provision for reparation for violations; (c) reversing ethnic, national and religious discrimination, political exclusion, and socio-economic marginalisation; (d) listening to the people and (e) becoming more responsive to society.

 

The recent events of violence are tragic without a doubt but they contain the seeds of rejection of political structures. Political structures need to build confidence by dialogue, working on the ground for the uplift of the poor, and must work with an attitude of inclusiveness.

 

While mourning the loss of human life, we must devise innovative systems of engagement, based not on power or hierarchical administration but equality. One wishes ardently that new mechanisms of review — with deep and meaningful engagement with the local communities suggested in the Verma Committee on crimes against women — be quickly operationalised and deployed.

 

(The author is a senior advocate, a former Solicitor General of India, and a former Chairman, Bar Council of India)

 

#India – Does law do justice to the poor & hapless?


draconianlaw

June 9, 2013, The Hindu

MATTHEW ADUKANIL

The powerful are presumed innocent until proved guilty but the indigent citizen under arrest is considered guilty until he is proved innocent

Learned judges toast the majesty of the law. Politicians swear by its sanctity asserting that it will take its due course. But seasoned criminals are thoroughly familiar with its loopholes. They know how to flout the law and yet how to survive by it. But those who have felt the slings and arrows of misapplied law unhesitatingly subscribe to the Dickensian dictum ‘The Law is an ass’. Probably, the highest tribute ever paid to the ass! Law commands respect only from the law-abiding.

One is reminded of two amusing constables in a Shakespearean play. Enforcing the king’s midnight curfew on tramps, they ordered two ruffians, ‘ In the name of His Majesty go home’. Upon their insolent reply that they did not recognise His Majesty, the policemen duly apologised and went their way. Successful execution of the time-tested strategy of questioning law enforcers’ jurisdiction, and going scot-free riding piggyback on technicalities.

Love is not Time’s fool, as Shakespeare said but Law is. The dictum ‘Art is long but life is short’ has its parallel also in law and it would be equally correct to say ‘Law is long but life is short.’ A shrewd and high profile offender of the law can have a long-drawn battle with it and keep it at bay practically all his life. Law is definitely on the side of the powerful criminal since he is presumed innocent until proved guilty but the indigent citizen under arrest is considered guilty until he is proved innocent.

A criminal can keep out of reach of the long arm of the law until he is finally convicted and a series of legal procedures is exhausted. A lawsuit starts in the lowest sessions court, winds its way through the maze of higher level courts and finally reaches the Supreme Court creeping at snail’s pace through numerous speed humps of adjournments, court vacations, appeals, revision hearings, single-judge hearings, Full Bench hearings, presidential pardons, etc.

Meanwhile, criminals who are MPs can contest elections, serve multiple five-year terms and amass colossal fortunes through corrupt practices. The money thus illegally made will more than cover the lawyer’s fees, bribes to those who can help, huge election expenses and still leave behind a tidy fortune. Meanwhile, as the plea for justice is on its pilgrim’s progress to the courts, crucial files disappear from offices, inconvenient witnesses meet with mysterious ends and unsympathetic law enforcers or judges just vanish.

But what happens to the poor villager or tribal who is picked up on trumped up charges at the instance of the well-heeled? It takes months and sometimes years for him to be taken to the magistrate to be enlightened on his crimes, verification of identity, etc.

When some political or business bigwigs are arrested for serious crimes and put behind bars, at once a host of ailments like high BP and kidney and heart problems visit them calling for immediate hospitalisation and quality treatment. The wonder is that with all these ailments they were able to go about their daily business. These health problems seem to be ‘bar-coded’ since they crop up only behind bars. It is a brave new world, indeed!

Crimes taking place in full public glare, caught on cameras and repeatedly beamed by the media for days and weeks need elaborate and long court procedures to establish their veracity and the identity of the perpetrators. We may recall the prolonged trials of Kasab or recently the members of the gang rape of Nirbhaya in a Delhi bus. Or take the case of the seven-year jail term serving Bitty Mohanty who jumped parole, studied for MBA degree and got employed in a bank in a new avatar. A criminal who does not know to exploit to the full the niceties of court procedures had better hang up his boots.

A huge number of police personnel are engaged in VIP security, for Ministers and MPs and, in some cases, even extended family members of MPs. Allegedly about one-third of the MPs in Parliament have criminal backgrounds and several have murder, rape and other serious cases pending against them. Upon seeing this posse of security personnel around them amid crowds, one may be excused if he/she gets a nagging doubt: who is the potential target and who is the perceived threat?

What about protection for women riding alone in buses to their homes at night after work, and farmers exposed daily to the attacks of marauding elephants in forest areas?

(The writer is an assistant college professor. Email: adukanildb@gmail.com)

 

A regulatory black hole- The liquid Gold


 Gargi Parsai, The Hindu

Companies that use the natural resource for profit pay no charge or royalty for the raw water they use — only a nominal ‘cess’ varying from State to State (a few paise per kilolitre).

There are no credible data available in the country on the quantum of the groundwater, surface or spring water that is being extracted and used by the bottled water and beverages industry, even in the authorised sector.

Companies that use the natural resource for profit pay no charge or royalty for the raw water they use — only a nominal ‘cess’ varying from State to State (a few paise per kilolitre).

Officials admit to proliferation of unauthorised manufacturers who are selling “just about any water — be it rainwater, river or nallah water” as ‘treated’ bottled water under different brand names.

The Water Resources Ministry puts the onus of ensuring quality (including display of composition of the packaged natural mineral or drinking water) and quantity on the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which comes the Department of Consumer Affairs. Sources in the Ministry also point out that although “municipal water is cheapest and assured in quality” water pipelines cannot be laid in all nooks and corners of the country. Places devoid of municipal water supply are increasingly getting dependent on water tankers or bottled water for drinking purposes. The situation worsens during drought months.

Of the 5,842 blocks assessed in the country in 2009, 802 were over-exploited for groundwater; 169 blocks were critical; 523 were semi-critical; and 4,277 were safe.

Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) Chairman Sushil Gupta says the Board does not give permission for groundwater extraction in over-exploited zones. In critical areas, permission is given for extracting 50 per cent of the water the company can recharge; in semi-critical, excavation can be done equivalent to 100 per cent rechargeable water; and in safe zones 200 per cent of rechargeable water can be extracted.

The BIS has to ensure that any company or individual seeking quality certification for using groundwater as raw material has a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the CGWB. It also has to ensure compliance with physical, chemical and microbiological standards. But there is no systematic monitoring to ensure that excess quantities are not extracted and standards are being maintained as is obvious from the numerous brand names flooding the markets. The BIS could not be reached for comment.

The 14 States that have adopted the Central Model Ground Water Regulation Bill are free to give permission to beverages and bottled water companies for extraction of groundwater and more often than not, with little monitoring. For the States that do not have the Act in place, permission is taken from the Centre. Again, no permission is required or taken for drawing river, canal or natural spring water for bottling or use in soft drinks.

Union Secretary for Water Resources S.K. Sarkar feels the problem should have a long-term solution like mapping of aquifers to set limits on how much water can be extracted, at what place, with what recharge, at what distance between wells and at what depth.

The 12th Five-Year Plan will see three-dimensional aquifer mapping and participatory management to decide how much water can be allocated to various users, including industry.

 

Driving Force: Labour Struggles and Violation of Rights inMaruti Suzuki India Limited


kama3F

PICTURE COURTESY- FACEBOOK GROUP- I MISLEAD INDIA

https://www.facebook.com/IMisleadIndia

On18 July 2012 a violent incident occurred at the Manesar unit of Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL), in which an HR manager died and some other managers as well as workers were injured. Following reports of severe harassment of Maruti workers and their families in late July 2012, Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) began a fact-finding investigation into the incident, its context and implications. We are releasing our findings today in the form of a report ‘Driving Force: Labour Struggles and Violation of Rights in Maruti Suzuki India Limited’ (PUDR, May, 2013). This report follows PUDR’s two previous reports Hard Drive (2001) and Freewheelin’ Capital (2007) which recorded crucial moments of the labour struggle at Maruti. In the course of our fact finding, we have met or spoken to the workers (contract, permanent and terminated), the union leaders, their lawyer as well as officials from the labour department, Gurgaon, and different police officials. All attempts to meet the management turned out to be futile because it did not give us appointment for a meeting despite our persistent efforts.
PUDR’s findings, recorded in the report are as follows:
(1) The events of 18 July 2012 at Maruti’s Manesar unit are still heavily shrouded in ambiguity and the real culprits can be identified only if a thorough investigation is done by an independent agency which is not influenced by the management. The Haryana policehave been consistently acting in a partisan manner favouring the management since the incident, and therefore cannot be entrusted with this task. The lack of an independent investigation into the incident has been amounting to a grave miscarriage of justice.
(2) In an absolute disregard for the rule of law, the entire blame for the incident was put on the workers not just by the management, but also the police and administration, long before the investigation was over. The nexus between the police and the management got exposed most starkly after the 18 July incident. The close correspondence between the FIR lodged by the police containing between 500 and 600 ‘unnamed accused’ and the termination of 546 workers by the company allegedly for being responsible for the violence on 18 July, cannot be a coincidence. It shows exactly how closely the police are protecting the company’s interests.
(3) This presumption of guilt governed the manner in which the police acted after the incident. The police arbitrarily arrested a large number of workers not through an investigation, but on the basis of lists provided by the management targeting the workers who were vocal, articulate and active in the union, subjected the arrested workers to brutal torture, violated the constitutional safeguards regarding detention and arrests and harassed the family members of the workers. Not only this it has been continuing to intimidate, target and attack the on going struggle of the terminated and other workers in order to silence and criminalise their legitimate protest (See Chapter Four). The scale ofpolice action against workers seems to be aimed to act as a deterrent for any agitation in future – not only by these workers but also other workers in the Manesar and Gurgaon industrial
2
area. Most recently on 18 May 2013, the Haryana police imposed Section 144 CrPC in Kaithal and arrested around 150 workers peacefully protesting there since 24 March demanding release of arrested workers and reinstatement of terminated workers.
(4) Another example of the police colluding with the management is that it has in the course of investigating the incident completely ignored the discrepancies in the management’s account, the fact that the workers were also injured, the presence of bouncers in the premises, or the fact that Awanish Dev, was always considered by the workers to be sympathetic to them. In fact it is the workers’ who have been demanding an independent investigation into the incident, a demand which has been ignored by the state and the central government.
(5) We wish to assert that an investigation and trial based on preconceived notions and not on the basis of scientifically gathered evidence could mean that those responsible for Awanish Dev’s death will go scot free and innocents will be penalised. A close look at the charge sheet filed by the police and denial of bail to the arrested workers shows that the case is moving in this very direction. This would amount to a travesty of law and denial of justice not only to the workers, but also to Awanish Dev.
(6) The incident should be seen in the context of the long chain of events that preceded it. It can be understood in the light of the continuous tension and conflict in the unit between the management and the workers as well as their persistent struggle of workers of the Manesar unit to register a union and draw attention to their inhuman working conditions.
(7) In September 2011, the Maruti management at the Manesar unit imposed a condition that the workers could enter the plant for work only after signing a ‘good conduct’ undertaking. The ‘good conduct’ undertaking effectively takes away the right of the workers to go on a legal strike, a right guaranteed by the Industrial Disputes Act (25T, 25U read with the Fifth Schedule); this also amounts to unfair labour practice as per Section 8, Fifth Schedule, IDA. (See Chapter Three)
(8) Like all other corporates, the main driving factor in Maruti is reducing production costs, maximising profits and competing against other companies. Maruti’s expenditure on workers is among the lowest in automobile companies. Moreover the company adopts various measures to extract maximum work from itsworkers. At Maruti therefore, the production capability and targets are set considerably higher than the installed capacity, i.e., production capability of the company is 1.55 million units per annum even though installed capacity is 1.26 units per annum (Annual Report, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, 2011- 12). Workers are made to work non stop like robots for eight and a half hours, with a break of only 30 minutes for lunch and two tea breaks of 7 minutes each. For years, workers have been made to both report for duty 15 minutes before shift-time and also work for 15 minutes extra every day without any overtime payment. Further the policy on leave is very stringent and the leave record is directly linked to the wages which are deducted on account of any leave taken. This contributes to the regime of ceaseless production and drastic increase in work pressure on the Maruti shopfloors.
(9) The wage deductions on account of leave are made from the incentive-linked part of the wages of Maruti workers, under the Production-Performance-Reward Scheme. A single leave taken by a permanent worker, with permission from the supervisor, could also cost him a loss of Rs. 1200 to Rs. 1500. Both before and after the 18 July 2012 incident, a part of the wages is fixed, and a major component paid as incentive wages linked to production, profit and leave records, which makes the wages fluctuating. Norms of incentive linked
3
wages have been arbitrarily fixed and changed by the management at Maruti’s Manesar plant. (See Chapter Two and Three)
(10) Maruti management especially at Manesar have been resorting to use of temporary and contract labour as a norm, for regular work. In July 2012, according to figures tabulated by the Labour Department, less than 25% of the workers at Manesar were permanent. These workers are paid only for the days they work (i.e., 26 days a month) and considerably less than the permanent workers, for doing the same work. Not only is this a major cost cutting measure but it secures for the company a more vulnerable, disempowered and pliant work-force, less likely to be vocal and demand their rights. The company’s announced after the 18 July incident, that it will regularise its workers. This is yet to materialise. (See Chapter Two)
(11) The Maruti management has also consistently violated the workers’ rights by creating hurdles and actively preventing them from organising themselves. The policy of the Maruti management not to let the workers unionise, is a violation of the Indian Trade Union Act (1926). Since mid-2011, as the workers’ struggle intensified, the management has responded by targeting active workers through suspensions, terminations and registration of false cases against them. Once the union got registered, its members and coordinators have faced similar or worse harassment. All the union leaders and many active members were implicated in the 18 July incident leading to complete breakdown of the union and making the workers vulnerable as they have lost all avenues of negotiation with the management. A large number of active workers were subsequently terminated by the company, as mentioned, because the company arbitrarily held them responsible for the 18 July incident. After forcibly removing the union from the unit, the company is now making a farcical gesture towards dealing with workers’ issues, by setting up a joint worker-management ‘grievance committee’ and compelling the workers to be a part of it. The legally registered union (MSWU) whose members are continuing to take up workers’ issues are not being allowed to function inside the unit.
(12) The Haryana Labour Department has connived with the management in depriving the workers their right to unionise. In August 2011, it rejected the pending application of the workers for registration, citing technical grounds. Effectively, an application for registration filed on 3 June 2011, resulted in actual registration of the union on 1 March 2012, after months of fraught struggle. Moreover the Labour Department does not appear to have ever intervened in support of workers’ rights in the labour disputes at Maruti. When the management deducted Maruti Manesar workers’ wages on account of the lockout of 2011, by describing it as a strike, or when the management failed to act upon the Charter of Demands of workers in 2012, the Labour Department did not intervene. It has failed to question the management on its use of dubious and unfair labour practices, the ‘good conduct undertaking’ or the use of contract labour for regular work. (See Chapter Three)
(13) One of the notable features of the recent labour struggles at Maruti’s Manesar unit has been an unprecedented unity between permanent and contract workers. The labour union has consistently taken up issues pertaining to the contract workers. One of the main demands from the beginning of the struggle has been the regularisation of contract workers. The terminated workers who have regrouped under the MSWU include both permanent and contract workers. Contract workers are also among those who have been held guilty of the violence on 18 July and are now in jail.
What makes the Maruti story extraordinary is certainly not the company and its cars but the extraordinary struggle of its workers that has continued inspite of ruthless repression by the
4
management and the police and failure of the labour department and the judiciary at all levels to provide any justice to them. Above all, the workers have tenaciously fought for their political right to form their own union. The struggle has also concentrated on creating democratic structures within the union, and through these, finding ways of articulating their grievances regarding the highly exploitative labour regime.
PUDR demands that:
1. An independent and unbiased judicial enquiry should be initiated into the events that led to the death of Awanish Dev. The judge nominated should be someone both parties are agreeable to.
2. The police investigation into the 18 July incident carried out by police officers of Haryana should be nullified and a fresh investigation be initiated, by an SIT comprising police drawn from other states.
3. The role of hired bouncers that led to the precipitation of the events at the spot be investigated.
4. The Haryana police officials, responsible for violation of legal guidelines regarding arrest and for custodial torture of arrestees, and harassment of their family members be identified and criminally prosecuted.
5. Re-instatement of all workers should be ensured in the absence of definite evidence of their involvement.
6. Role of the labour department should be investigated and action should be taken against the officials for not fulfilling their obligations related to labour laws.
7. All the workers arrested for the 18 July incident should be immediately granted bail. The trial into the incident should be speedily done and those not guilty should be acquitted.
8. Workers’ right to have their independent union be restored at Maruti. The MSWU which is the legally recognised union of the Maruti Manesar unit should be allowed to function inside the plant with immediate effect.
9. All the contract workers both at Manesar and Gurgaon unit be immediately regularised and practice of hiring contract workers for regular work should be stopped.
10. The rights of workers guaranteed in law be enforced at Maruti with immediate effect.

Download full report here

 

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