World Health Statistics 2013 show narrowing healthgap


 


World Health Organization – May 2013

Available online at: http://bit.ly/12uJNUs

“….15 May 2013 – The world has made dramatic progress in improving health in the poorest countries and narrowing the gaps between countries with the best and worst health status in the past two decades, according to the World Health Statistics 2013. “Intensive efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals have clearly improved health for people all over the world,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO.


World Health Statistics 2013 contains WHO’s annual compilation of health-related data for its 194 Member States, and includes a summary of the progress made towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and associated targets.

This year, it also includes highlight summaries on current trends in official development assistance (ODA) for health.

Progress on the health – Available in 3 languages English French Spanish

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT IN ENGLISH, BY SECTION

 

Table of contents and introduction

Part I. Health-related Millennium Development Goals

Part II. Highlighted topics

Part III. Global health indicators

Annex 1: Regional and income groupings


THE INDICATOR COMPENDIUM

World Health Statistics 2013 – Indicator compendium

 

 

#India – Tribals set to decide Vedanta project’s fate #forestrights


, TNN | May 14, 2013

Tribals set to decide Vedanta project’s fate
The Supreme Court order has left it to the villagers to decide the fate of the Vedanta project, and the call revolves on whether the venture would affect their religious and other rights.
NEW DELHI: The villages of Dongriya Kondh tribals around Odisha‘s Niyamgiri hills are likely to simmer again as the Centre and the state government along with civil society groups are planning to converge on the site for the proposed Vedanta bauxite mine.The Supreme Court order has left it to the villagers to decide the fate of the Vedanta project, and the call revolves on whether the venture would affect their religious and other rights.

The tribal affairs ministry has moved with alacrity to order the Odisha government to ensure the tribals can vote freely. It has asked the Naveen Patnaikgovernment to ensure all villages, which express their rights in the contentious zone, are identified and given the opportunity to decide the project’s fate.

Civil society groups too have begun to mobilize their own resources – both experts and manpower – to make sure there are third party observers at the site, which has been turned into a fortified zone by the state government ever since the row erupted.

Battle-lines have been drawn among the Centre, Odisha government and corporate interests over the high-profile project. The interpretation of the rules and the court order is underway in various wings of both central and state government. One section has begun pushing for an interpretation of the apex court order that would reduce the number of tribal village councils that would get to decide the venture’s fate.

Another set within the government has tried to interpret the law and the SC order to suggest that the tribal gram sabha can only put forth claims about their rights – religious or otherwise – but they would have to be settled by higher echelons of power, or the state bureaucracy.

Any curb on gram sabha powers through interpretation of the law or restricting the number of gram sabhas, who would get to vote, is perceived as a major challenge in the backdrop of heavy state ‘bandobast’ and the judicial monitoring that the apex court has ordered.

The unusual promptness and enthusiasm shown by the tribal affairs ministry in this case has as much to do with the apex court’s verdict as the ministry’s need to be seen aligned with the drift of the Congress leadership on the case. After it had come out standing by the PMO in favour of dilution of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) — that the environment ministry had used to step back in favour of partial dilution of tribal rights over forests — the tribal affairs ministry is bound to pounce on this one single case to underscore its credentials.

Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had scored brownie points with the Congress leadership by deftly handling the case, using the innovative ploy of religious rights to defend the UPA’s decision to block Vedanta’s mining rather than the norms that empower tribal gram sabhas to reject projects that impinge on their forests. Using the latter defense would have spelt trouble for the government, which has allowed several other projects on forestland without seeking similar gram sabha clearances.

The occasion of Dongriya Kondh tribals voting has presented tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo the opportunity to reassert his primacy over the FRA — a pro-tribal promise by the UPA — that he had earlier led from front in the party to get through Parliament.

 

Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant – From Supreme Court to People’s Court?


M.G.Devasahayam

M G DevasahayamShri M. G. Devasahayam is a former IAS and Managing Trustee, Citizens Alliance for Sustainable Living, Chennai

He is the Convener of the PMANE Expert Group on Koodankulam.

Shri Devasahayam can be reached atdeva1940@gmail.com

Supreme Court Judgment–The Essence

On 6th May 2013, Supreme Court delivered the much awaited judgment on the Koodunkulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) arising out of SLP (C) 27335/2012 that had been reserved since first week of December 2012. The penultimate para (229) of the judgment reads thus: “Before proceeding to issue certain directions, it is required to be stated that the appellant, by this Public Interest Litigation, has, in a way, invoked and aroused the conscience/concern of the court to such an issue. True it is, the prayer is for the total closure of the plant and the Court has not acceded to the said prayer but his noble effort is appreciated to put forth the grievance of the local people and the necessity of adequate safety measures as is perceived. When such cause comes up before this Court, it is the bounden duty to remind the authorities “Be alert, remain always alert and duty calls you to nurture constant and sustained vigilance and nation warns you not to be complacent and get into a mild slumber”. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) as the regulatory authority and the MoEF are obliged to perform their duty that safety measures are adequately taken before the plant commences its operation. That is the trust of the people in the authorities which they can ill afford to betray, and it shall not be an exaggeration to state that safety in a case of this nature in any one’s hand has to be placed on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust”.

After placing public safety on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust”, Supreme Court has issued 15 directions for compliance by nuclear establishment and other regulators for strict compliance before commissioning of the plant. From the language, tone and tenor these conditions appear to be non-negotiable.

Response from Nuclear Establishment

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) response to the judgment was typical of the nuclear establishment’s vulgar hurry to impose the unsafe KKNPP on the struggling people: “With the Supreme Court giving the green signal, the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project is likely to go critical anytime between May 13 and 20. Top sources in the NPCIL told ‘The Hindu’ that a team of Automic Energy Regulatory Board experts are going through the results of the test conducted a few days ago and holding discussions on the results with the NPCIL technocrats. The AERB’s governing body, expected to meet before this weekend is likely to take a final decision on giving the nod for criticality immediately”

As for RK Sinha, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) it was a great relief and he said so: ‘I humbly welcome the judgment of the court, it should lay to rest all perceived doubts about the Kudankulam atomic reactor. The reactor is at an advanced stage of commissioning and criticality or the start of the nuclear chain reaction in the plant should happen soon.’

Legal Notice

It looks as if nuclear establishment had not read the judgment carefully. If they had done so their response would have been different. And they had to be reminded of it the hard way-through a legal Notice which reads as under:

“As you are aware, the Supreme Court has given several directions to be complied with before the commissioning of KKNPP including the following two directions:

1. The plant should not be made operational unless AERB, NPCIL, DAE accord final clearance for commissioning of the plant ensuring the quality of various components and systems because their reliability is of vital importance…….

15. The AERB, NPCIL, Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) would oversee each and every aspect of the matter, including the safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant before commissioning of the plant. A report to that effect be filed before this Court before commissioning of the plant.

The above directions of the Supreme Court are categorical. These directions need no interpretation whatsoever. As per these directions, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project cannot be commissioned as it stands now. When clearance was granted by you (AERB) for initial fuel loading (IFL) and first approach to criticality (FAC) of Unit.I of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project on August 10, 2012 the same was challenged before the Madras High Court by my client. The said clearance was ultimately tested by the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 4440 of 2013 and batch matters. Having considered all aspects of the matter, the Supreme Court has now given a direction to you (AERB & NPCIL) and the Department of Atomic Energy not to make the KKNPP operational until a fresh review of the quality of various components and systems of the KKNPP is undertaken. The Supreme Court has further given a direction to you (AERB & NPCIL) and Ministry of Environment & Forest of the Government of India and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to oversee each and every aspect of the matter, including the safety of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various components and systems in the plant and after fulfilling this task file a report in the Supreme Court before commissioning of the plant. These directions have not yet been complied with by you (AERB & NPCIL) or by the Government of India or by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

It appears that after the judgment of the Supreme Court you have not even commenced a fresh review of the ‘quality of various components and systems in the plants’. Without even attempting to comply with the directions of the Supreme Court, NPCIL is making a statement to the press that the KKNPP is likely to go critical any time between May 13 and 20.

Kindly take notice that any such assertion on the part of NPCIL or AERB as reported in The Hindu dated 7 May 2013 would amount to contempt of the Supreme Court, since no report as directed by the Supreme Court in direction No.15 has so far been submitted to the Supreme Court.”

 

The Flaws

While this could bring some succour to the struggling farmer-fisher folk, Supreme Court judgment nevertheless suffer from several flaws:

  1. While the Special Leave Petition starts with characterising nuclear power as “the most dangerous means of producing energy with a serious potential for catastrophic accidents causing severe damage to life and property, with cost of reparation running into lakhs of crores of rupees”, the court nonchalantly and without appropriate due diligence declares that “nuclear energy…is a clean, safe, reliable and competitive energy source”. This assertion is debatable, disputable and defeats the very purpose for which the petitioners appealed to the highest court of law.
  2. On the issue DGR (Deep Geologic Repository) for radioactive nuclear waste, which is a critical issue concerning public safety, the court has been very casual: “NPCIL does not seem to have a long term plan, other than, stating and hoping that in the near future, it would establish a DGR (Deep Geologic Repository)”. Its directive that “DGR has to be set up at the earliest” does not specify a date nor make it a necessary condition before NPCIL embarks on new nuclear reactor construction. This is clear pandering of the nuclear establishment.
  3. Safety concerns that remain paramount in the minds of the citizens living in the vicinity of Koodankulam have not been adequately acknowledged by the Court, which did not even see fit to mention the problems with valves that the AERB disclosed, or the news reports of corruption in supplier companies in Russia. The Court’s call to “educate the people” smacks of condescension, which is anachronistic for a democracy and inexplicable when seen in the context of this well-informed and widely-participated movement against the Koodankulam reactors.
  4. SC’s uncritical reliance on the opinions of the nuclear establishment and its complete disregard of the absence of public trust in the regulatory agency is a serious problem with the judgment. It quotes extensively from AERB documents, especially safety codes, yet overlooks the fact that AERB and NPCIL do not often follow their own safety rules. The most pertinent example is that of Koodankulam itself, when AERB allowed the loading of fuel into the reactors even though NPCIL had not complied with its safety recommendations following the Fukushima nuclear accidents.
  5. The Court did not even acknowledge, let alone examine, the questions surrounding the independence and effectiveness of the AERB, and instead claimed that the AERB has been “regulating the nuclear and radiation facilities in the country very effectively”. Last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out that AERB “continued to be…an authority subordinate to the central government”, putting a big question mark over its independence as a regulator. Its actions in the case of Koodankulam, unfortunately, do not enhance the credibility of the AERB. The Court claims that the AERB “has, over the years, issued a large number of codes, standards and guides”, while the CAG pointed out that the AERB had failed to prepare “a radiation safety policy even after three decades of its existence”.
  6. The court does not seem to have properly considered the prayers contained in the SLP. While the petitioner had asked for commissioning the plant after ensuring all safety & environmental requirements court has said that the petitioner wanted “total closure of the plant and we have not conceded to the said prayer”.

Not addressing corruption and sub-standard machinery issues

Another disturbing aspect of the judgment is the question as to why did SC ignore the IA filed on 23 April (two weeks before the judgment) clearly bringing to the notice of the Supreme Court the supply of sub-standard equipment and materials by ZiO Podolsk, a Russian public sector machine works company, to the Koodankulam plant, and how Unit 2 of the Leningrad nuclear power plant using similar materials supplied by the same company collapsed on 17 July 2011, leading to the arrest and prosecution of Sergei Shutov, procurement director of ZiO Podolsk, by a Federal court in Russia. All other scams/scandals like 2G Spectrum, Commonwealth Games, Coalgate etc came out and are under serious investigation because of exposures by CAG followed by activism and advocacy by civil society with legal luminaries in the forefront. Courts had not been forewarned in these scams, but when these came before the SC it took very serious notice and is pursuing these with vigour by upbraiding the government and constituting SIT etc. What happened in the Coalgate case is an apt example. But in the KKNPP case it is just the opposite. SC was forewarned about the scam, sub-standard material and corruption and criminal action in Russia against supplier company weeks before the judgment was issued and was ‘mentioned’ in open court. The least SC could have done was to ask for independent investigation in to these ‘life-threatening’ allegations and satisfied itself before issuing final orders.

On this aspect of SC judgment Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former Chairman, AERB has a slightly different take. This is what he has to say: “As per Directions No: 15 given in the SC Judgment, NPCIL, AERB, MoEF and TNPCB are to be jointly involved in all  aspects  of  certifying  this  reactor as safe. Of  these three  organizations (AERB, TNPCB, MoEF) are Regulatory Agencies, and NPCIL is the promoter  and  it will  have  to  serve  as  the main supplier of  inspection data and other compliance information to the other three for  review . Without  solely  resting their confidence & trust  in the  two  DAE  institutions (AERB & NPCIL) , the Supreme Court  has intentionally broadened the jury to include two additional government  regulators  who are not connected with the DAE. This I see as the impact of our last affidavit (IA on 23 April) on Zio-Podolsk corruption and supply of substandard components & equipment from  Russia. We have to make best use of this opportunity”.

This matter however has been taken care of in a complaint filed with the CBI and a writ filed in the Madras High Court for directing the CBI to conduct expeditious investigation into corruption and supply of sub-standard equipment.

Future Imperatives

Dr. EAS Sarma, former Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Power has created a matrix for making the ‘best use’ of the 15 directions and other observations made in the SC judgment. It is presented below with some of my inputs:

 

Para Direction & Action points Compliance imperative before commissioning
230.1 The plant should not be made operational unless AERB, NPCIL, DAE accord final clearance for commissioning of the plant ensuring the quality of various components and systems because their reliability is of vital importance. Final clearance and the process adopted should be placed in the public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.2 MoEF should oversee and monitor whether the NPCIL iscomplying with the conditions laid down, while granting

clearance vide its communication dated 23.9.2008 under the provisions of EIA Notification of 2006, so also the conditions laid down in the environmental clearance granted by the MoEF vide its communication dated 31.12.2009. AERB and MoEF will see that all the conditions stipulated by them are duly complied with before the plant is made operational.

MOEF should place the monitoringreports in the public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.3 Maintaining safety is an ongoing process not only at thedesign level, but also during the operation for the nuclear

plant. Safeguarding NPP, radioactive materials, ensuring

physical security of the NSF are of paramount importance.

NPCIL, AERB, the regulatory authority, should maintain

constant vigil and make periodical inspection of the plant

at least once in three months and if any defect is noticed,

the same has to be rectified forthwith.

NPCIL, AERB should place the periodic reports in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.4 NPCIL shall send periodical reports to AERB and the AERB shall take prompt action on those reports, if any fallacy is noticed in the reports. The reports should be available for the public as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.5 SNF generated needs to be managed in a safe manner toensure protection of human health and environment from

the undue effect of ionizing radiation now and future, for

which sufficient surveillance and monitoring programme

have to be evolved and implemented.

 

Copy of the surveillance and monitoringreports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.6 AERB should periodically review the design-safety aspectsof AFR feasibly at KKNPP so that there will be no adverse

impact on the environment due to such storage which

may also allay the fears and apprehensions expressed by

the people.

The reports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.7 DGR has to be set up at the earliest so that SNF could betransported from the nuclear plant to DGR. NPCIL says

the same would be done within a period of five years.

Effective steps should be taken by the Union of India,

NPCIL, AERB, AEC, DAE etc. to have a permanent DGR at the earliest so that apprehension voiced by the people of

keeping the NSF at the site of Kudankulam NPP could be

dispelled.

The periodic progress reports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.8 NPCIL should ensure that the radioactive discharges to theenvironmental aquatic atmosphere and terrestrial route

shall not cross the limits prescribed by the Regulatory

Body.

The monitored data should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.9 The Union of India, AERB and NPCIL should take steps atthe earliest to comply with rest of the seventeen

recommendations, within the time stipulated in the

affidavit filed by the NPCIL on 3.12.2012.

The Apex Court, in para 189, has cautioned AERB, NPCIL as follows.“Adequate measures have, therefore, to be taken for storage of NSF at site, and also for the physical safety of stored NSF. Of the seventeen suggested safety measures, by AERB, LWR, twelve have already been implemented and the rest, in a phased manner have to be implemented which the experts say, are meant for extra security”

The apex court, in para 228, has also emphasised as follows

 

Therefore, I am obliged to think that the delicate balance in other spheres may have some allowance but in the case of establishment of a

nuclear plant, the safety measures would not tolerate any lapse. The grammar has to be totally different. I may hasten to clarify that I have not discussed anything about the ecology and environment which has been propounded before us, but I may particularly put that the

proportionality of risk may not be “zero” regard being had to the nature’s unpredictability. All efforts are to be made to avoid any man-made disaster. Though the concept of delicate balance and the doctrine of proportionality of risk

factor gets attracted, yet the same commands the highest degree of constant alertness, for it is disaster affecting the living. The life of some cannot be sacrificed for the

purpose of the eventual larger good.”

Therefore, NPCIL is expected to lay down strict time schedules to ensure safety and the progress reports should be available in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.

230.10 SNF is not being re-processed at the site, which hasto be transported to a Re-Processing facility. Therefore,

the management and transportation of SNF be carried out

strictly by the Code of Practices laid down by the AERB,

following the norms and regulations laid down by IAEA.

The details should be placed in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.
230.11 NPCIL, AERB and State of Tamil Nadu should takeadequate steps to implement the National Disaster

Management Guidelines, 2009 and also carry out the

periodical emergency exercises on and off site, with the

support of the concerned Ministries of the Government of

India, Officials of the State Government and local

authorities.

Hon’ble Madras High Court in W.P.No.24770 of 2011 August 2012 (Para 89) observed as follows“Even though it is stated that the said exercise was done in only one village, namely Nakkaneri village, which is stated to be nearer to the KKNPP, as we are informed that nearly 30 to 40 villages are within 30 Kms radius of KKNPP, such event must take place in all villages and more importantly, apart from the officials, as stated above, the people in the area must be made to participate and an awareness programme must be made to infuse confidence in the minds of the local people that the project is for the benefit of the country and there is no need to alarm”

Since this observation has not been modified by the apex court, it should be treated as a pre-condition to commissioning of the plant. In addition, implementation of NDMA’s guidelines should also precede commissioning.

The Apex Court’s observation in para 221 (extracted below) of the judgment has importance

“The concept of disaster management cannot be allowed to remain on paper. Its procrastination itself rings the bell of peril. The

administration has to be alive to the said situation and the awakening to manage the disaster in case of an

unfortunate incident has to be founded on scientific and

sophisticated methods. Taking care of the situation of the present alone is not the solution. All concerned with the same are required to look to the future because that elevates the real concern. The danger of the future should be seriously taken note of and should not be veiled in the guise of thought for the present”.

230.12 NPCIL, in association with the District Collector,Tiruneveli should take steps to discharge NPCIL Corporate

Social Responsibilities in accordance with DPE Guidelines

and there must be effective and proper monitoring and

supervision of the various projects undertaken under CSR

to the fullest benefit of the people who are residing in and

around KKNPP.

Progress reports with the names of beneficiaries should be placed in public domain as required under section 4 of RTI Act. A special audit should be ordered to ensure proper utilisation of the funds
230.13 NPCIL and the State of Tamil Nadu, based on thecomprehensive emergency preparedness plan should

conduct training courses on site and off site administer

personnel, including the State Government officials and

other stake holders, including police, fire service, medicos,

emergency services etc.

Progress reports with the names of trainees should be placed in public domain as required under section 4 of RTI Act. A special audit should be ordered to ensure proper utilisation of the funds
230.14 Endeavour should be made to withdraw all thecriminal cases filed against the agitators so that peace

and normalcy be restored at Kudankulam and nearby

places and steps should be taken to educate the people of

the necessity of the plant which is in the largest interest of

the nation particularly the State of Tamil Nadu.

 

This should precede commissioningction taken should be placed in public domain as required under Section 4 of RTI Act
230.15 The AERB, NPCIL, MoEF and TNPCB would overseeeach and every aspect of the matter, including the safety

of the plant, impact on environment, quality of various

components and systems in the plant before

commissioning of the plant.A report to that effect be filed before this Court before commissioning of the plant.

The Report thus filed should be notified to the Petitioner for filing counter and if found ‘fake’ SC should order investigation of quality of various components and systems in the plant by an Independent Expert Group before issuing final orders.

Compliance requirement suggested for Direction #15 assumes all the more importance due to post-judgment revelations through a research study that the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) supplied to KKNPP, considered to be the heart of the reactor, could be obsolete and different from the originally promised one. This has humongous repercussions and if unchecked, has all the potential for a catastrophe in peninsular India and the island of Sri Lanka. Serious charges of corruption and suspicion of substandard material and obsolete RPV have arisen, but not addressed even by the highest court of law. God forbid, if some incident/accident happens during commissioning or after, besides human catastrophe it would devastate SC as an institution and extinguish whatever little faith people have in this bulwark of justice. Supreme Court monitored pre-commissioning is therefore a must because the Court has placed public safety on the pedestal of “Constitutional Trust” and hopefully would never countenance its betrayal by the nuclear establishment.

The Groundview

But the ‘soldiers on the ground’ have a different perception altogether. They are of the view that in order to free up Russia from supplier liability, charges of theft and abject project failure, the Indian nuclear establishment has begun to claim that the KKNPP is not a Russian turnkey project.

Following the Supreme Court’s verdict, nuclear establishment is announcing various dates to fake-commission the project and trying to protect their own self interests and save the Russians from all the embarrassing and serious charges. Instead of answering the component-related concerns, financial improprieties and liability commitments in an earnest manner, they are spreading irresponsible rumors and conjectures as they have been doing since 2005 about commissioning the KKNPP.

In fact, the KKNPP authorities do not even allow journalists anywhere near the reactors for fear of their smelling any of the fishy things that have been happening there. In an interview RS Sundar, the site director has claimed that they are facing difficulties with the media.

This is what the struggle leaders have to say: “The Indian government, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), and the AERB do not even want to walk the extra mile of assessing the quality and safety of the components with a team of independent scientists, engineers and journalists. No one in India knows anything about the omissions and the commissions of the KKNPP, NPCIL, AERB, DAE, AEC and their Russian counterparts and suppliers. Even the Indian courts seem to accept the establishmentarian views in spite of the fact that they have laid down fifteen directions in their recent judgment. All nuclear establishment want is commissioning of the plant even if it is a fake one! So all the thefts, untested technology, unsafe components and the overall failure could be buried in radioactive contamination and inter-governmental cover up.”

So the struggling community, all ordinary citizens of India, have decided to turn to their fellow citizens and Mother Nature to protect the interests of our country and people. They have decided to come out in the open, travel to neighboring villages and organize people all over again. They have decided to fight it out to the finish and are confident that they shall overcome.

To this determination Admiral L.Ramdas has responded to the struggle coordinator Udayakumar: “We are happy to see that the spirit of “Never say Die” prevails. I am sure our prayers and hard work and commitment will not go waste. Regards and Greater strength to your elbow”. So, it is from Supreme Court to the Court of the People.

We are a Democracy and VOX POPULI is VOX DEI–‘Voice of the People is Voice of God’. But is mere voice enough? To seek assurance, ground forces should draw on the famous clarion of Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “It is infinitely difficult to begin when mere words must remove a great block of matter. But there is no other way if none of the material strength is on your side. And a shout in the mountains has been known to cause an avalanche

Just replace ‘mountain’ with ocean and ‘avalanche’ with tsunami. BRAVO.

 

Change.org — Cat is out of the Bag


Change.org  Cat is out of the Bag, so let’s stop playing Ping Pong

May 12, Mumbai- Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Kractivism

  Its official now

After months of testing, Change.org is ready to launch a new revenue model that is geared to consumers, not organizations. By targeting consumers, the change.org team expects to pull in steady revenues in smaller dollar amounts. Contributions are capped at $1,000 per user per petition, but beta tests found that 98 percent of contributions were under $100. During the test period, a total of 5800 people contributed to promoted petitions. Read more here Now anyone can sponsor a petition on change.org

This is how petitions can be promoted and sponsored

Promoted Petitions allow anyone to promote their favorite petitions to Change.org users who may not otherwise come across them. Similar to promoted posts on Facebook or promoted tweets on Twitter, Promoted Petitions allows users to pay to feature any petition to other users on the site.

Sponsored Campaigns are similar to Promoted Petitions, but structured slightly differently to help organizations establish long-term relationships with Change.org users who are passionate about their work and sign their campaigns. Each Sponsored Campaign has an opt-in box allowing users to agree to find out more information about the sponsoring organization after signing. Organizations ready to connect with their next generation of supporters can head to Change.org for Organizations to learn more.

My open letter to Ben Rattray, last October, was precisely about this , #India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, #Change.org – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism when they announced change in advertising policies that ,there is no confusion that change.org is  not a business for a social cause but  like any for profit , they are making money on our database.

Now after my expose.#India – Change.org : Campaign Victory’s exposed #Vaw #Socialmedia, wherein I bought to notice two conflicting petitions on the same platform. I did get a reply on a tumblr.com  site ???  Wondering why  change .org  could not the responses  reply on an  official change.org site?  Also the tumblr.com   site with no  option to comment ,   My question,to   India director,  change.org Avijit Michael, that by replying to me, on another change/org staffs personal blog , with no option to comment,   this how change.org proposes to have a public engagement ?

The fact that  it was only after  I  pointed out that  two conflicting petitions, change.org looked into the matter and found that the  petition of voyeuristic  journalists managed  thousands  signatures by fraud  . They  have informed Information and Broadcasting  Ministry . Interesting but what if they would not be informed, will they know will  then and will they take action ?

For once let me make it clear I do not have a personal vendetta against change.org and neither people are confused by allegations they are concerned.

Here is a  Hoot investigative story on  change.org and how it operates  notes , Deconstructing Change.org

Change.org believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.

Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.

I will let the responses to my  expose on change.org speak for itself. I got many emails, facebook messages , some of them are below

आपने जो उदाहरण दिया है उससे स्‍पष्‍ट है कि कोई भी चेंज डॉट ओआरजी का दुरुपयोग कर सकता है। वैसे भी ये या तो व्‍यवसाय कर सकते हैं या सामाजिक बदलाव में कोई भूमिका निभा सकते हैं। और किसी को भ्रम नहीं होना चाहिए कि ये प्‍लेटफॉर्म सामाजिक बदलाव के लिए है। it’s really selling you and me on change dot org. –sandeepsamvad, new delhi, emaiil

it is hard to believe that change.org is not selling signatures as you have not completely denied when you said “Kamayani’s claim that we sell email addresses to sponsors is also incorrect. Our business model has been clearly outlined on the site. We allow our users to voluntarily opt-in to receive mailing from organisations via sponsored petitions.”there is a strong reason for not believing your words as in first instance you said in your reply “partly because one of them was the subject to anattempt at fraud and manipulation over the last week — almost 5000 signatures were added by two IP addresses” AND in very next line you say ” We have multiple levels of systemic checks to prevent this kind of abuse and ensurethat the integrity of our platform is maintained. The fraudulent signatureshave already been removed to reflect the count of genuine signatures.” WHAT HAPPEND TO THE MULTIPLE LEVELS OF SYSTEMIC CHECKS when peoples were signing petitions from one IP , in this case you have deleted signatures but how do we believe that other “victories” petitions are signed by individuals ;with this whole incident I think there are strong flaws on change.org , you have believed , trusted and took actions on almost all points Kamayani higlighted and on other hand you said “We completely respect Kamayani’s right to a different view, although we regret that she is spreading misinformation about Change.org”

I would have trusted on your words , if you would have removed this fraudulent signature petition and all other such petitions;I myself have written a petition and I know it is very difficult for us to raise a issue and bring in people to spend a time and sign it ; with this whole incidence of Change.org my belief on online petitions is shattered .lastly I perceive it in this way and that is , I think you also believe less  on change.org , as you chose Tumbler to highlight such a big news about your own website .I am hoping for a fair dialogue about this whole issues with a thread of previous emails and replies on change.org homepage so that truth must come out …

( Rahul Deveshwar on Facebook )

Change.org platform is no longer on the side of justice, but neutral in the fight against oppression, and hence, has actually taken the side of the oppressor…( Aashish Gupta  via email)

The idea that the  change.org makes no judgment on the type of petition seems a bit strange. Do they not have some sort of system of checks and balances? How many people sign things just on trust? I know I have done. To personalise the mistake (if it was a mistake) that they may have made to an individual who points out the inconsistency of their position on a specific petition seems to me a policy of “shoot the messenger” No petition is a trivial issue to those who take the trouble of starting one, or signing one. Motives would seem a significant factor. therefore this personalisation also would appear to have a motive. Is the organisation afraid of criticism? In which case the attack on an individual would seem logical. Why could not have change.org  provided a coherent answer to the inconsistency highlighted and not personalise the matter to an individual. It is those who work on the ground with people who matter, the idea of holding “people power and democracy in high regard” seems to me bullshit, and appears to appeal to interest groups who have a neo liberal agenda of control.
Kamayani I think all such organisations to me are suspect and anyone who points a finger that may expose their inconsistencies would be demonised in some way. specially such democracy movements of recent past seem to have had bloody results when western interests are threatened, Middle East, Pakistan orange revolution etc etc come to mind. There is sometimes more at stake than rights of people and that is the jobs of those who run these corporate “rights” organisations almost across the world and they would always go with their sponser, who would be western based or financed.  Kamayani, May be you have touched a brick that could shake the edifice ? I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.   I have closed by change.org account  (Satish Barot on FB)

” I am a little shocked that we bothered Mr. Tumbler. When I think, you own change.org. It would be more official when you post it there. Innit ?” (Harish Iyer, Facebook)

I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.    ( Kavita Krishnan, New Delhi email )

I completely agree that the case of the NALSAR students whose privacy was invaded and who were morally policed by these mediapeople shows exactly why change.orgshould not accept petitions from all sources. Many of us followed Kamayani’s use of change.org because we believed the organization had an explicit pro-justice bias in the campaigns it took on. Having change.org be a neutral platform to be used by anybody, or accepting paid sponsorships means that the platform indeed becomes something like Facebook – a profit seeking platform which we can use but which is not by itself an ally. I urge change.org to discard labels like neutrality, openness and democracy- all of which are used in our current socioeconomic system to mean that those with money will have the loudest voice – and to take an explicit stand on promoting justice through their petitions…( Kaveri, Bangalore )

It is sad that every space has been taken over by the BUSINESS and MONEY MAKERS…. we think we are playing in a free ground but that ground is also owned by the same corrupt minds… Amir Rizvi, Mumbai

It is indeed time that the issue about online petitions was addressed in more detail. Having read your blog and the response by change.org leaves me to conclude that change.org is definitely on the back foot as it has not bothered to explain the selling of email ID’s names etc for proit to other NGO’s. This is the business model of all the online petition sites and that is how they manage to have fancy pay packages for their employees and maintain their infrastructure. Sure, change.org may well be a technology oriented, democratic organization, but that does not absolve it from carrying out unethical practices.

The argument that change.org allows opt-in is not a favor done by the organization towards its users. It is legally mandated that such services should opt-in rather than opt-out services (throw back to Google, Facebook and other litigation’s and their results)

What happens to these online petitions (apart from creating a few seconds of “awareness”) is also debatable. I wonder if change.org has devised any metric to track what effect their online petitions have made. Being a “technology driven” organization, they should have the the means to track the effects of their petitions and should release such audits from time to time to their users.

In summary, the business model of change.org appears to be simply that of any other aggregator/mass e-mailer. To cloak this behind a veil of social consciousness and activism is doing dis-service to others who actually get their hands dirty doing real work and not sit behind computer terminals in air-conditioned offices selling their databases to the highest bidder. (Anuj Wankhede, Delhi)

I am completely with you and also understand the concern you raised in your narration. Media being one of the institutions operated and controlled by capitalist and patriarchal values certainly is not going to take pro-women, pro-equality stand. The argument of change.org that they provide space for ‘activism’ seem to be not true unless they take a critical position on issues being raised in and through their space. What if tomorrow anti-women, anti-dalits, anti-muslims, anti-abortion, anti-poor, anti-rights, anti-tribal, anti-minority people start putting up their petitions through change.org? What would be the position of owners/facilitators of this space?

Request to change.org from my side is to upload their position on many of the issues they feel are the result of inequalities, historic and systemic nature of discrimination, coercive hierarchies and culture of violence. Anand Pawar, Pune

Change.org has crossed the line between change-making and profit-making  .

So people are not confused by my expose ,but more concerned !

83-year-old nun convicted of sabotage for breach of US atomic complex #WTFnews


Published time: May 09, 2013 01:07, RT

Three activists, including an 83-year-old nun, who broke into a US nuclear weapons facility in Tennessee were convicted on Wednesday of interfering with national security.

In what The New York Times labeled the biggest security breach in the history of the atomic complex, the trio broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28, 2012 and defaced a uranium processing plant.

The Y-12 facility has been in operation since 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, and today is responsible for both the production and maintenance of all uranium parts for the entire US nuclear weapons arsenal. Over the years, the facility has also been the target of nonviolent anti-nuclear protests.

Now, a jury in Tennessee has charged the three protesters with sabotaging the plant, with a second charge of damaging federal property.

Defense attorneys for the three activists – Sister Megan Rice, 57-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, 64 – maintained that the prosecution had overreached.

“The shortcomings in security at one of the most dangerous places on the planet have embarrassed a lot of people,” defense lawyer Francis Lloyd said.

“You’re looking at three scapegoats behind me,” he added

From left to right: Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed

From left to right: Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed

 

 

Defense attorneys also noted that, once the three refused to plead guilty to trespassing, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, the prosecution introduced the charge of sabotage, which carries a maximum prison term of twenty years. They believed the higher charge should have been dismissed.

According to the Associated Press, which provided details of the court proceedings, the three activists have no remorse for their actions, and were pleased to have reached one of the most secure areas of the facility.

Prosecutor Jeff Theodore noted that the trio’s fate could have been far worse, as that area of the facility allowed guards to use deadly force.

“They’re lucky, and thank goodness they’re alive, because they went into the lethal zone,” said Theodore.

The three defendants spent two hours inside Y-12, during which time they hung banners, cut through security fences, strung crime-scene tape and sprayed “baby bottles full of human blood” on the exterior portion of the facility.

Boertje-Obed, who is a house painter from Duluth, Minnesota, explained why they sprayed the blood.

The reason for the baby bottles was to represent that the blood of children is spilled by these weapons,” he said.

While inside the most secure portion of the facility, the three activists managed to hammer off what is described as a “small chunk” of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.

During cross examination, Sister Rice stated that she wished she had not waited so long to stage a protest within the plant.

“My regret was I waited 70 years,” she said.”It is manufacturing which can only cause death.”

Prosecutors argued that the breach of security was serious, and caused the plant to shut down for two weeks as security staff were re-trained and defense contractors replaced.

Meanwhile, federal officials maintain that there was never any danger of the three activists reaching materials that could be detonated or used to construct an improvised bomb.

#India – Change.org : Campaign Victory’s exposed #Vaw #Socialmedia


Kamayani Bali Mahabal, April 23 2013 , Kracktivism

l 23, 2013, Kractivism

  “Every day, Change.org members win people-powered campaigns for social change”.

Just to give a background to those, who are reading about change.org for first time. It’s a popular and fast-growing website for petitions. In the last  two years, Change.org has grown from 1 million to more than 25  million users, according to the site . It began as a liberal blogging site and then pivoted  to become a hub for petitions, mostly with a liberal or populist bent.

Staring as dot.org domain name to its declaration that “our business is social good” to its certification as a B Corporation, Change.org positioned itself as a progressive force. It promised to run campaigns for “organizations fighting for the public good and the common values we hold dear—fairness, equality, and justice.” That’s no longer its mission.  Something changed last year, The policy changed, ‘ partners’ became ‘advertisers ‘in the name openness, democracy and empowerment . So which means now  they will accept paid promotions from conservative organizations, Corporations , that no bar. I had written   Open letter to CEO Ben Rattray last year  in which I said I will not participate but monitor  change.org.

So here is an expose of monitoring  campaigns of change.org in India

 In India   we have two petitions being  hosted on change.org, one by victims and one by perpetrators ?

You think I am joking please read below

The Incident behind both the  petitions :-

Late evening on 11 April 2013, a group of students from Nalsar Law  University went to the Rain Club located in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, for what was meant to be a farewell party for the graduating seniors.

When they stepped out of the club around 10.30pm to wait for their cab, one of the women students spotted someone taking their pictures with a mobile  phone. She objected and demanded to see the mobile. The mobile turned out to be a dummy, without a card in it. When she further objected and demanded that the phone with which photos were taken be handed over, other media cameramen who were present began to film the altercation.

The students were outraged at this invasion of their privacy and the callous response of media cameramen who continued the harassment by following them to the car and persisting in filming them even as they were vehemently protesting this invasion.

The next morning several Telugu channels began showing the footage. Some websites also put up the footage. TV9, ABN Andhra Jyoti, Sakshi TV, Studio N, NTV, IdlyTV, News 24 .

The incident represents blatant sexual harassment of women in a public place, criminal intimidation of the women with threat of public defamation through media. The anchors of the channels repeatedly referred to the women as  punch drunk, half naked, and nude, when the women students were dressed in strapless evening wear. One of the female anchors referred to their attire  as “creepily offensive short clothes.” They also claimed that they were dancing in the club although the entire story was played out on the street and not inside the club. The media persons were not present inside the club. To make matters worse, CVR News put together several clips of provocative dancing from various sources, implying that the present incident was somehow connected to those. Significantly, while only a couple of channels were present outside the  club and were involved in the incident, the story was generously shared with many other channels and web sites. All the channels replayed the footage  provided by the offending channels without providing any opportunity for the  victims of this coverage to respond or give their side of the story.

The channels also were assuming the tone of moral police, claiming that the students were “leaving Indian traditions in tatters by their dressing and  behaviour”. The anchors of the channels took on the role of moral police  by commenting on the young girls’ clothing, even as the channels’ staple fare  for advertising revenue on their news bulletins comprises song and dance sequences from films and film events featuring skimpily clad women doing vulgar dances to vulgar lyrics. The reporters and anchors held forth on excessive freedom for women and its “devastating” effects on society.

The channels also falsely claimed that the students’ behaviour was condemned by women’s organizations even though they only showed the statements of two little-known local politicians, thereby misleading public opinion.

So here on change org , we have a petition by supporters of NALSAR students  asking for  Stringent actions against media houses participating in voyeuristic reporting ,  addressed to Justice Katju, Chairperson, Press Council of India , Justice N V Ramana, Acting Chief Justice, High Court of Andhra Pradesh , Ms Aruna D K, Minister for Information & Public Relations, Cinematography, AP Film, TV & Theatre Dvlpt Corp, AP  Justice Verma, Chairperson, News and Broadcasting Standards Authority Mr Manish Tiwari, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Union of India

The petition says

The media in our country has engaged in relentless sensationalism, resorting to cheap and lowly tactics to raise TRPs and viewership. This includes airing concocted stories; violating people’s privacy by taking video footage, morphing the images and airing it against completely fabricated and sensationalistic stories; secretly taking videos of people in private parties and clubs and extorting them; and engaging in harassing and abusive conduct. One such incident of unethical, irresponsible, and victimizing behaviour is an incident that occurred on the 121h of April, 2013 to college girls from NALSAR University of Law.The petition has reached 5000 plus signatures

nalsar

And on the other hand, we also have change.org giving platform to the  voyeuristic reporters .with a petition floated by Electronic Media Journalists’ Association of AP , asking to Condemn the action of a group of students who assaulted media persons   addressed to, Manish Tiwari, I&B Minister, Govt of India , Prof. (Dr) Faizan Mustafa ,, Vice-Chancellor, Nalsar , Mrs D K Aruna, Minister of State in AP , Justice Mr M Katju, Chairperson, Press Council of India Justice Katju ,Justice Verma, Chairperson, News and Broadcasting Standards Authority ,Justice N V Ramana, Acting Chief Justice, High Court of Andhra Pradesh ,Hari Prasad, President of Electronic Media Journalists’ Association of AP Please note the targets of both petitions are same .

The petition says

Andhra Pradesh has the maximum number of television news channels not only in India but also in the entire world. The ratings and the importance of these channels show how reliable and responsible the media is in Andhra Pradesh. They never restore to cheap and lowly tactics. There is self-monitoring desk as well as the important organization NBA that keeps monitor on all the channels content.

This petition also has 5000 plus signatures

andhra

Now I want to ask change.org, which petition’s victory will be their victory ?

Wait a minute,

whoever wins or loses,

 it’s a Win- Win situation for change.org.

As a big fans of freedom of speech, they claim their democractic platform. and well whoever wins. Change will be their submitting the petition claiming their VICTORY !! . But I wonder what will they do when they have to take a STAND ? So which petition will they push ? or will; they push both ? and then see pros and cons in context of the political situation and in a closed door meeting then thrash out two teams to work on these two petitions . Call both parties  and weigh the  probabilities and then take a call, keeping both parties in dark on probabilities ?.

So, guys wake up, all those who petition on change.org .This online platform is a for profit  company ,  who through these petitions is  trying legitimize their image as that of  ACTIVISM .They also get  commercial benefits through donations and sponsorships just by providing platform to all you ,under the garb of various human rights issues . VICTORY is for change.org

Change.org’s mission  statement says ‘ to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see, and we believe the best way to achieve that mission is by combining the values of a non-profit with the flexibility and innovation of a tech startup. ” They call themselves “social enterprise,” using the power of business for social good. “Social Enterprise,” is a term that’s gotten a lot of hold among people who start companies and want to make a difference in the world. But social enterprise as opposed to what? Anti-social enterprise?

Here is where Change.org’s business model comes into play. Change.org sells what are called “sponsored petitions” to its advertisers. Most are nonprofits–right now they include Amnesty International USA, Greenpeace and the Human Rights Campaign — but there’s nothing to prevent companies from sponsoring petitions. Tapping into its audience, Change.org collects names on those petitions and then sells those who opt in to the sponsor, for about $2 per name. Some advertisers get discounts, and other pay more, for example, for people in specific states. Here is a request to Change .org , please, on behalf of companies everywhere Spare us the pieties about how “our business is social good.”

Change.org is a digital media business. Like MTV or Facebook, It creates or aggregates content, the  petitions,  to attract an audience whose attention, in the form of email addresses, it sells to sponsors.

It’s not selling social change. It’s selling you and me.  .

So here is my Appeal to all friends, activists,  celebrating their victories,  and  petitions on change.org,

It’s  time ….

If you’re a member at Change.org take action by unsubscribing from their list. At the very least they can’t profit further off your email.. If you see petitions passed around by friends on Change.org don’t sign them and inform them what’s going on.  It’s important to Explore alternatives

Hopefully the activists in India will very soon have their own activist, accountable, and transparent platform.

Watch out this blog for more 🙂

Chhattisgarh PUCL’s Memorandum to the NHRC


To

The Hon’ble Chairman,

National Human Rights Commission

Camp Raipur.

Sub:   Regarding the Human Rights situation in Chhattisgarh – a Note by the         Chhattisgarh PUCL

Sir,

First of all we welcome the fact that the National Human Rights Commission has, in its present sitting at Raipur, not only taken up several extremely serious cases of human rights violations to which the State Government had miserably failed to respond to so far, but has also invited various non-governmental organizations to share their experiences and suggestions.

On behalf of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, being the Chhattisgarh State Branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, we would like to place on record, along with a copy of “Chhattisgarh me Manav Adhikar ki Haqeekat” – a compilation of our Reports over the past two years (henceforth referred to as our Report), the following note delineating some of the serious aspects of the human rights situation in the state, which we believe require deserve the urgent attention of the National Human Rights Commission:-

Aspects of the Human Rights Situation in Chhattisgarh

1.       Widespread displacement of peasants and adivasis from livelihood resources:-

On account of a large number of MOUs (121 as on 30.03.2011 as per the Chhattisgarh government website) to set up power plants, steel plants and cement plants, as well as the grant of a large number of Prospecting and Mining Leases (already more than 2 lakh acres have been covered under 354 MLs as on 30.03.2011),  a large scale transfer of agricultural lands, commons and other livelihood resources – particularly forest lands and water (both surface and ground water) – is occurring from the peasants and adivasis (who enjoyed these earlier both privately and collectively) to private corporate entities. While this phenomenon is visible all across this mineral rich state, it is particularly acute in the districts of Raigarh, Sarguja, Janjgir-Champa and Korba. This is causing a crisis of livelihood among a vast rural population, intensifying earlier trends of migration to brick kilns, human trafficking and other forms of bondedness.

In carrying out acquisitions of land the State Government is misusing its powers of eminent domain in the name of “Public Purpose” whereas the reports of the CAG of the state clearly indicate that in granting such largesse corruption is occurring on a large scale, and private companies are gaining at considerable loss to the state exchequer. The case of allotment of coal blocks is an example in point where the spirit of the Directive Principles of State Policy is being violated.

The legal provisions designed to protect agriculturists and tribals are being systematically violated, bypassed or turned into an empty formality. This is particularly true of the provisions for mandatory consultation with the Gram Sabha under the “Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act” (PESA Act) in the Scheduled Areas. Similarly the provisions for making objections under Section 5A of the Land Acquisition Act are circumvented by misuse of the provisions for urgent acquisition under Section 17 of the Act.  Despite the law being clear that the consent of both owner and occupier are mandatory for entry into private land for mining by a company (other than a government company under the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition Act), the State acts on behalf of the private company to present the farmers with a fait accompli of having to accept compensation as if in the case of acquisition.

Almost in all affected villages there have been protests, some sporadic and short lived, others more prolonged and determined, but almost all have faced state repression. The leaders of the protests and often large numbers of villagers have been victims of malicious prosecution by powerful corporates in which the local police and administration have been hand-in-glove. The Chhattisgarh PUCL has documented a few such cases of malicious prosecution of farmers’ leaders, trade unionists and environmental activists at Pages 60-65 of its Report. An extreme example of this is the case of the murderous attempt on the life of environmental activist Ramesh Agrawal at Raigarh by persons associated with the Jindal Steel and Power Limited.

2.       Increasing attacks on dalit communities:-

In the aforesaid scenario, as the pressure on land mounts, we find repeated instances of targeted and brutal eviction of dalit families. PUCL has documented at Page 58-60 of our Report one such stark representative case of 34 dalit families of Village Chichour Umariya, district Raigarh brutally evicted from generations-old occupation of forest land (for which forest rights applications were pending) by the dominant caste community. Even more serious in this case was the absolute failure of constitutional mechanisms to bring relief either through a Writ Petition in the High Court or by a complaint to the State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Private as well as state violence against dalits has been on the increase. PUCL and other human rights groups had also taken up the case of custodial torture of young dalit workers belonging to Village Lailunga, district Raigarh culminating in the death of one, which is reported at Pages 27-31 of our Report. Despite detailed statements by the victims and their families, neither the enquiry of the DSP under the SC-ST (Prevention of) Atrocities Act nor the Magisterial Enquiry has resulted in any action taken against the culprit private persons or policemen.

3.       Conditions of Industrial workers and Contract teachers (Shikshakarmis):-

Chhattisgarh accounts for the highest number of industrial accidents per lakh of workers in the entire country. In the large and ever increasing number of industrial establishments in the state, the labour laws are violated with impunity, 12 hour work day is the norm and even minimum wages – which are grossly inadequate – are not paid. Even permanent, perennial and core production activity is carried out by contract workers who are not even given statutory proof of employment. Precariousness of employment results in extremely poor unionization. Compliance with the ESI and Provident Fund Acts is poor. Recently in the Ambuja Cement Factory at Village Rawaan, district Baloda Bazar (now a unit of Swiss multinational Holcim), the collapse of fly ash hoppers due to gross negligence in design and maintenance of buildings resulted in the death of five workers literally buried in hot cement ash in a confined space. (A fact finding Report by the Building Wood Workers International, New Trade Union Initiative Federation and local unions is available.)

Nearly 2 lakh Shikshakarmis (contract teachers ostensibly employed by the Panchayati Raj institutions) were on strike recently for their legitimate demands of absorption as regular teachers in the Education Department as in fact mandated by the Right to Education Act and the principle of “equal pay for equal work”. 17 teachers and their family members committed suicide/ died unnatural deaths during the agitation in the course of which tens of thousands of teachers were suspended, dismissed, cane charged and arrested.

4.       Jail deaths:-

Chhattisgarh again tops the states in the proportion of overcrowding in its jails, which house prisoners to the extent of between two and three times their capacity.

The PUCL recently filed RTI applications with regard to deaths in jails and discovered shocking facts. At Page 78-81 of our Report, for instance are the details revealed by Central Jail Bilaspur. We see that:-

a)       All 11 deaths were of undertrials, and three of them were held in preventive detention (151 or 107/116 of the Criminal Procedure Code) when they died in jail.

b)       The caste composition of the 11 dead prisoners was – 7 SC, 1 ST, 2 OBC, 1 Muslim.

c)       6 of them died within a short time of being admitted into jail ( 5 days, 16 days, 3 days, 2           days, 2 days, 8 days) which is indicative of either being admitted with serious injuries or           having being subjected to ill treatment in jail.

d)       One died owing to the barrack roof having collapsed and he having sustained head injuries.

e)       In all cases the nature of illness/ cause of death as per the Medical Officer was “serious”.

The documents obtained from Central Jail Jagdalpur show that deaths due to severe anaemia (3.5 grams or 5.0 grams of Haemoglobin) was the commonest cause. Usually blood transfusion could not be arranged in a timely manner and there is nothing on record to show that any efforts were made to contact the family to find a blood donor.

5.       Violence against women:-

Trafficking of young women for work as domestic servants in the metropolises and also in prostitution has been widely reported from the districts of Jashpur and Sarguja and Advocate Sevati Panna, who is also an active member of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, has conducted meticulous research in exposing the so-called “placement agencies”.

The recent cases that came to light regarding sexual abuse of young adivasi girls in State run Ashrams/ hostels has now also been verified by the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights.

Violence against women takes on an even more serious dimension in conflict areas, where it has been observed internationally and also elsewhere in our country that sexual violence is used as a means to subjugate a population. Even today the affidavits of 99 women alleging rape by SPOs, Salwa Judumm and the security forces, which are filed before the Supreme Court in the Nandini Sundar and Kartam Joga cases (challenging the constitutionality of Salwa Judum) remain to be acted upon.

6.       Large number of adivasi undertrials languishing in Bastar jails:-

There are a large number of poor adivasis languishing in the jails of the Bastar region. A recent estimate of the number of undertrials in three of these jails is as follows

Name of Jail Capacity No. of convicts No. of undertrials
Dantewada 250 4 577
Kanker 65 8 217
Jagdalpur 648 573 1120
Total 963 585 1914
963 Convicts + Undertrials  = 2,499

While we can understand and appreciate the complex conditions under which the courts and jails would be functioning in this region, we are concerned at repeated complaints that a large number of these adivasis are being implicated in serious cases without the concerned magistrate exercising his/her judicial discretion in an independent manner. This has resulted in thousands of ordinary villagers, routinely picked up in searching operations, being incarcerated under serious charges. Once, being implicated in a serious offence, and particularly a “Naxal Offence”, the undertrials are not produced in the courts for long periods of time, on account of there not being “sufficient police guard”. Owing to this the trial does not proceed for years together. Out of economic difficulty and for fear of harassment, family members of the undertrials are unable to visit them in jail. Particularly in situations of physical and mental ailments this makes the undertrials even more vulnerable.

Since “Naxal undertrials” are only kept in Central Jails, owing to overcrowding, many of them of them are transferred to Durg or Raipur Central Jails, where they are even more inaccessible, and too far away to be taken to court regularly. PUCL had been sent a list of 79 undertrials facing trials in Kondagaon who were sent to Durg Jail (more than 300 km away) and who had petitioned the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court in 2011 regarding their long incarceration without trial. One undertrial from amongst them Sukdas (32 years) died in jail on 1st February 2010.

Most of the adivasi undertrials are dependent on legal aid lawyers. However more often than not, the legal aid lawyers never go to meet the client or seek instructions regarding the case. Often they are careless in their conduct of cases and are amenable to pressures from the police or prosecution. The vast majority of adivasi undertrials speak only adivasi languages i.e. – Gondi, Halbi etc., however it is shocking that even now Courts in the Bastar region do not have official interpreters/ translators and the adivasis are unable to communicate with the Officers of the Court or otherwise effectively intervene in the judicial process.

On 12th January 2011, 379 adivasi undertrials in Dantewada Jail, alleged to be “Naxalites”, went on hunger strike saying that they had been held falsely, their trials were not being conducted and that they be released on bail.

It is unfortunate that the Nirmala Buch Committee, created in the wake of the abduction of Collector Alex Paul Menon, has neither been able to carry out a judicial review of adivasi cases nor conduct a fact finding mission to find out the actual circumstances of arrest of the large number of undertrials.

Another disturbing aspect of the functioning of the criminal justice system in Bastar is that political opponents or other “inconvenient” persons can easily be implicated in “Naxal offences” thus ensuring that they would be put away behind bars for several years. Page 77 of our Report has a list of all the activists of the Communist Party of India, a registered national political party contesting elections, incarcerated including Kartam Joga who was a Petitioner in the Petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the modus operandi and the atrocities committed by the Salwa Judum, and was acquitted after being in jail for the past 3 years.

7.       Fake encounters and police excesses in the name of the anti- Naxal operations and failure of the constitutional response:-

Page 7-27 of our Report carries extracts of our Fact Finding Report titled “Just a Little Collateral Damage” which concerned four cases of alleged encounters in areas outside the Bastar region, namely Village Ledgidipa, district Mahasamund; Village Kade, district Rajnandgaon; Jamul, district Durg and Village Sawargaon in the bordering district of Maharashtra and which we found clearly to be cases of fake encounters. The Magisterial Enquiries announced in all the cases appear to have been routinely carried out only to support the police versions of events, and despite our finding that in all the cases local persons were vociferous in their allegations, their versions have never been recorded.

Page 31-36 contains the Fact finding Report of the Chhattigarh Bachao Andolan into the murder of a minor girl Meena Khalkho in Sarguja by the police and security forces in July 2011, again claiming her to be a Naxalite. The Judicial Enquiry announced has not even begun, though again, the family members have been brave enough to submit their affidavits. Similarly an investigation into an alleged encounter at Village Harri, district Jashpur, revealed that the police and security forces had manhandled and beaten ordinary villagers and had been rewarded for their “bravery in Naxal encounter”. The unaccounted funds allotted to Naxal affected police stations and to Naxal- affected districts seem to be an incentive to claim Naxal activity even where there is none.

Page 46-52 contains the Fact Finding Report of the Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organisation into the fake encounter which occurred on 27-28 June 2012 in the clearing between Villages Sarkeguda, Rajpenta and Kottaguda in district Beejapur. The Magistrate conducting the Enquiry turned down the villagers who had come to depose before him. The Notification for Judicial Enquiry signed in November 2012 was notified in December 2012, and this Notification was not even communicated to the concerned villages. It was only when lawyers associated with PUCL contacted the villagers that they came to know of the Judicial Enquiry. The Terms of Reference made to the Judicial Enquiry Commission have, perhaps deliberately, mixed up this obvious case of fake encounter with two other cases of possibly actual encounters in Village Chimlipenta and Village Silger, both of district Sukma on the same day, to which the villagers have objected. Although the villagers have filed affidavits, the Enquiry does not appear to have started in earnest. In the meantime two villagers arrested from the spot of the encounter continue to languish in jail as “Naxals” and the victims of the encounter have had a string of cases put upon them showing them to also have antecedents of “Naxal cases”, and this includes the 12 year old bright student Kaka Rahul.

A case filed in the High Court in regard to the Singavaram fake encounter and demanding a CBI Enquiry remains pending even after about 6 years, while another filed in the Supreme Court in regard to the killings in Village Gompad also remains pending for the past 3 years. Thus, the people of Bastar have continuously been denied constitutional remedies, which has accentuated their alienation.

The PUCL received by post in the year 2011 a letter from a journalist in Bastar enclosing a list of 135 villagers alleged to be killed during Operation Green Hunt between January 2009 and April 2010. Many of the incidents narrated could be correlated with newspaper reports and some news of protests by villagers. However, we have not been able, through our own investigation, to verify these serious allegations, mainly because there has been a denial of physical access to the entire Bastar division to concerned citizens from other parts of Chhattisgarh or India over the past 3-4 years. This denial has been systematic – whether to an All India Women‘s Team who were trying to meet women who had filed complaints of rape against SPOs (November 2009); or to Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey and other members of the NAPM who were going to join activist Himanshu Kumar in a public hearing in Dantewada to which the Union Home Minister had been invited; or to a team of Gandhians who were on a Peace March (May 2010) including Shri Banwarilal Sharma and Swami Agnivesh who subsequently made efforts for talks with the Maoists. The modus operandi of such denial has been through the mobilization of SPOs and Salwa Judum camp inmates who have organized demonstrations and brickbatted the teams. Individual researchers, lawyers, film makers and journalists have been detained, intimidated or otherwise ―persuaded to leave Dantewada. Even the CBI has not been spared. The acts of burning of the huts of adivasis in Morpalli, Tadmetla and Timmapuram, in regard to which the Supreme Court had, in the course of the Salwa Judum case directed CBI Enquiry, could not be carried out by the CBI, as per their application in the Court, owing to an attack by Chhattisgarh Auxiliary Force (into which the SPOs have been absorbed)!

8.       The civil war in Bastar is creating a grave humanitarian crisis:-

The districts of the erstwhile Bastar division in Southern Chhattisgarh are now undisputedly the arena of a civil war and also the region where Operation Green Hunt, as it is still referred to by the police and security forces in Chhattisgarh despite denials by the Union Home Minster, is been carried out with the greatest ferocity. The already heavy deployment of security forces is being continuously reinforced, now the Army has a training camp here and even helicopters of the AIF are being pressed into service. Almost every day there are reports of ambushes and land mine blasts by Naxalites killing security forces; and reports of searching and area domination exercises by security forces with considerable number of Naxalites being killed in encounters and also a very large number of arrests. SPOs and police

informers who are being recruited in hundreds are being targeted by Naxalites.

What is of great concern are the repeated reports and complaints of thousands of adivasis fleeing these areas in several waves since 2005. Indeed at page 39-46 of our Report is a joint write-up of different human rights groups including PUCL into the serious conditions of internally displaced adivasis in Andhra Pradesh. The recommendation of the NHRC in the Enquiry conducted on the directions of the Supreme Court in the Salwa Judum Case, that the displaced villagers be rehabilitated back in their villages, has not been acted upon at all by the State. On the contrary, those NGOs which were trying to assist such resettlement were severely victimized. The  Ashram of Himanshu Kumar, who is also one of the Vice Presidents of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, was demolished and two activists associated with him – Koparam Kunjam and Sukhnath Oyami – active in rehabilitating the adivasis of 10-15, were arrested under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act. Sukhnath was finally acquitted after several years in jail and Kopa Kunjam had to obtain bail from the Supreme Court. The Sarkeguda village was also one such rehabilitated village. Indeed it appears that apart from the counter insurgency strategy of clearing the villages to bring the adivasis to roadside camps, there is a ground clearing motive, possibly connected with mining since 7443 hectares of land in Kanker,  Narayanpur and Dantewada alone have been given out in prospecting leases to various private companies as per the Government website.

Another issue of grave concern is that with the withdrawal of educational and health services of the State as well as ration shops from the so-called “Naxal” stronghold areas, into which a large proportion of the population has fled, a situation has arisen in which several lakh adivasis have been automatically “outlawed”. This population is being deprived of basic needs. Anti Naxal operations in this area could result in a virtual genocide and killings of unarmed civilians and non-combatants on a large scale. Additionally the State programme of bringing children to study in roadside hostels and ashrams and separating them from their families is repeating the “historical mistakes” committed by the Australian government on its indigenous peoples for which the Australian Prime Minister recently rendered a public apology.

The democratic voices in Chhattisgarh have been repeatedly demanding that the way to de-escalate violence in the Bastar region would be to rehabilitate people in their villages, restore the civil administration and whole heartedly comply with the Forest Rights Act and PESA Act to give the adivasis of the area substantial rights. Decisions to carry out large scale mining and set up industries in that area can only be effective if carried out with a genuine consultation with the people and by winning their confidence.

(Sudha Bharadwaj)

General Secretary,

Chhattisgarh PUCL.

 

Expose- Loksatta Party Anti -Women, Anti- SC/ST shaking hands with Hindutva forces #Vaw


Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai, April 20th 2013, Kractivism

Lok Satta is a political party in India, founded by Jayaprakash Narayan. Since 1996, the Lok Satta Movement functioned as a non-governmental organization, but on 2 October 2006, the movement was reorganized into a formal political party. The party intends to further the causes of the Lok Satta Movement, including a reduction in the size of the cabinet, promotion of the Right to Information Act, and disclosure of criminal records and assets by political candidates. Beginning with the 2009 elections the party has adopted a whistle as their official symbol.

The aims and objectives of Lok Satta Party are:

  • To establish a new political culture which will place the citizen at the centre of governance;
  • To protect the unity and integrity of India at all times and create a secular and just republic in which the citizen will be the true sovereign;
  • To nurture, protect and promote the constitutional values of liberty, justice and equality for all;
  • To create a political, economic and social environment which will ensure equal opportunities for vertical mobility to all sections of society, irrespective of caste, ethnicity, religion, or gender.
  • To eliminate all forms of discrimination by birth and guarantee dignity and opportunity to every citizen irrespective of origin and status; and to promote social equality and justice and fully integrate all disadvantaged sections including dalits, adivasis and socially and economically backward classes; 
  • To ensure that every child, irrespective of her origins and socio-economic position, has reasonable access to quality education which will provide an opportunity to fulfill her true potential.
  • To build a viable and effective healthcare system which reaches every man, woman and child and guarantees good health to all, irrespective of economic status or birth;
  • To promote and implement policies aimed at rejuvenation of Indian agriculture, and substantial enhancement of rural incomes and improvement of quality of life;
  • To ensure that every young person acquires adequate knowledge and skills to make her a productive partner in wealth creation and thereby promote gainful employment and economic opportunities;
  • To ensure that every family,, rural or urban,, gets access to basic amenities of life including housing, sanitation and transport and opportunity for earning a decent livelihood;
  • To provide social security to the vast, underpaid, dispossessed and unorganized sector workers;
  • To empower women and provide opportunities for their economic, social and political advancement; 

  • To promote public awareness about democratic functioning of all institutions of governance and encourage reasoned debate and healthy public discourse.
  • To establish a people-centric democratic polity based on liberty, self-governance, empowerment of citizens, rule of law and self-correcting institutional mechanisms.
  • To work for fundamental political, electoral and governance reforms listed below:
    • Effective separation of legislature, executive and judiciary at all levels with appropriate checks and balances;
    • Political reforms which make elections truly democratic, representative and transparent; facilitate and promote the participation of men and women of integrity in the political process and curb electoral malpractices;
    • Effective empowerment of local governments at all levels in all respects as participative tiers of constitutional, democratic governance with their own legislature and executive, in a manner that authority and accountability fuse, and the link between vote and public good and taxes and services is fully established;
    • Speedy, accessible, effective and affordable justice at all levels to all citizens, irrespective of means and station at birth;
    • Insulate crime investigation from the vagaries of partisan politics and to make police effective, citizen friendly, accountable and just in all respects;
    • Combat corruption and mis-governance through an institutional framework which will enhance transparency and accountability at all levels of administration.
    • http://www.loksatta.org/

Loksatta Party of Karnataka candidates, Rupa Rani, a pharmacist from Rajajinagar, Sumitra Iyengar, Entrepreneur from Padmanabha Nagar, Shanthala Damle, software professional from Basavangudi, Sridhar Pabbisetty, COO, IIM-B from Hebbal and Dr Meenakshi Bharth, Fertility expert from Malleswaram addressing press conference announcing contesting the ensuing state assembly  elections at Press Club in Bengaluru on March 28, 2013

What is LOKSATTA PARTY’s STAND ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS and RESERVATION FOR SC/ST in education-employment?

Phanisai Bharadwaj, their CANDIDATE for Bangalore South Assembly Constituency is ANTI-WOMEN and against SC/ ST reservation.

He is part of women-hating, so-called men’s rights groups that seem to believe they’re the oppressed sex and constantly spread mis/disinformation about women and laws meant to protect women (E.g. DV Act) from abuse of various kinds. He seems to be a contact person for the Centre for Men’s Rights (http://menrights.org/).

And please do check out the MENRIGHTS CHARTER

Charter
Aims and Objectives

Our aims and objectives are to promote men’s welfare and their human rights and prevent abuse of men’s rights. We aim to reduce suicide rate of men and create more acceptability and choices for men in society. Therefore, we aim to work towards:

Promoting laws which do not marginalize men or undermine their role in families and society.
Creating genuine implementation of the Indian constitution’s goal for equality for both sexes by way of judicial and executive reforms
Forming support groups for men facing abuse of their rights simply because they happen to be of male gender.
Reject all attempts to dilute men’s fundamental rights in the name of women empowerment or any other social engineering goals.
Focus on children welfare being important and reduce attempts to remove fathers and reduce their role in lives of their children
Create awareness about adverse effects of father-child separation following divorce or separation under “sole custody” arrangements and the need for allowing meaningful parenting role to fathers.
In order to fulfil the objectives of this organization we will

Provide counselling to men facing any violation of their fundamental or human rights mainly because of their male gender
Strive for gender equality in laws related to marriage, divorce, child custody and domestic abuse.
Conduct public awareness events, workshops, seminars, and press conferences on issues of men’s rights and welfare
Make representations and disseminate information to lawmakers, judiciary, and various authorities of the Government and Semi-government organizations, Not-for-profit organizations and other national and international agencies and promote discussion on issues related to men’s rights and welfare
Conduct and promote research on issues related to men’s health and well-being in all areas of life, and promote the same to government and other agencies.
PHANI

loksaata3

Dr. Meenakshi Bharath, a long time social & civic activist, is now a Loksatta Candidate for MLA Malleswaram.

Dr Meenakshi Bharath is a Gynaecologist and Fertility specialist at Centre for Assisted Reproductive Techniques (CART), a green campaigner, an advocate for Clean Bangalore, a strident voice for garbage segregation and recycling and a relentless fighter to create visibility for the problems of voiceless people.

Dr Meenakshi believes that children and youth have the power to impact
India’s future positively and works a lot with them. After so many years in public service, working on different domains such as voter list correction, solid waste management and health awareness campaigns, Dr Meenakshi feels privileged to have gained so many friends and well wishers, who have now become an invaluable part of her life.

Below is her wish for India ?  The Indiashe wants to see … rose petals being showered on RSS guys ??  WAH she shared on Facebook

loksatta

Similarly for Rupa Rani , joins hand with all hindutva forces for holy cow. Rupa Rani is a pharmacy professional and passionate about governance and politics. As a member of Loksatta party, she believes that true change is possible when we change the political culture and the players.

Her website says as follows – http://www.shetrusts.org/

” Life without liberty is like a body without spirit ” !

Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution… revolution is but thought carried into action.  My hope is that 10 years from now, after I’ve been across the street at work for a while, they’ll all be glad they gave me that wonderful vote.

loksatta1

 She is running for
Office: MLA – Rajajinagar assembly constituency
County: KARNATAKA
District: rajaji nagar assembly constituency
Party: Loksatta

 

INDIA: A Republic of the rapists, by the rapists, for the rapists? #Vaw


rapepublic1

Avinash Pandey

The news had sprung up from nowhere. All that I had picked up the newspaper for, was to kill some time on that long flight and here it was, tucked away in a small box, staring at me. Reading it had sent a shiver down my spine. No, it was not about some unseen horrors. It was not about gruesome murders, kidnappings or even collapse of yet another state exposing its citizenry, or at least minority section of that, to grave human rights violations.

The news was just about another advisory issued by United Kingdom for a section of its citizens travelling in India. But it was not the advisory that has made me this uneasy.  As it is, western countries are quite used to issuing advisories to their citizenry travelling in the underdeveloped countries warning them about everything from food to fanaticism. Many of us, in fact, have often scoffed at these advisories located in the racist past of these countries that treated the natives as nothing more than barbarians unable to govern themselves.

Not this one, though. It was an advisory that the government of United Kingdom had issued for its women, yeah, not all UK citizens but just its women travelling in India. It has advised them to remain alert even when travelling in groups for saving themselves from getting violated, sexually and otherwise. I tried stealing a glance at my co- passenger , stuck in the economy class seat as cramped as mine and wished that she had not read this piece while aboard a flight to Delhi, the capital of the country at the receiving end of this advisory.  To the very same Delhi which has earned the dubious distinction of being the rape capital of the country as well.

The news had opened floodgates of unsavory memories of similar horror stories told to me by my female, non-Indian colleagues, strangers and acquaintances alike. I remembered the very friendly owner of the wine shop I frequent on Fridays almost without fail. He had had heard about the Delhi Gang rape and was shocked. Knowing people like me, he had added, did not make him think that my country is home to such sexual predators. No, he was not being sarcastic; he was very genuinely sad and angry. There I was, thinking of all those ‘proud to be an Indian’ campaigns I had grown up on.

The advisory reminded me of a beautiful evening of partying around in Hong Kong with colleagues, a rarity in our line of work that begins with extrajudicial killings and ends with starvation deaths, with all other horrors stuck in between. It was after ages that we had let ourselves loose on that non-touristy beach we had discovered on one of our regular hikes. It was an evening of getting nostalgia fits and missing our countries, our homelands, with all the pains and agonies that the expats stuck up in foreign cultures live with.

I missed mine and recounted all that was great about it. India is not merely about Maharajas, magicians, snake charmers and Sadhus, I had told my friends. Of course, it is not, quipped Sofie, a Danish friend, cutting me short. It is also about sexually frustrated men thinking all white women are always available and can be taken against their will, she added. We were stunned, all of us, more on the matter of fact way she had said that than the comment itself. She, like the wine shop owner, was not angry. She could not be as she had lived in India for long stretches and had many good friends here, including me. She loved India and still does. Yet, her idea of Indian males was definitive and her friends, like me, came as aberrations and not rule.

Available! The word was haunting me on my way back to home that night. It reminded me of all those questions whispered into ears of any ‘foreign-returned’ Indian.  Have we not been used to questions like ‘wahan to free sex hai na’? Did you do it? How many times?  There were other words ringing in my ears too. They were the hymns celebrating goddess, or the feminine, as source of all power that had been drilled into our psyche since childhood.

One would try to wish away this sexual frustration, our national sickness, as something reserved for the ‘other’, white women. Can one? Not really, for even a cursory glance at public spaces would bring the truth that this national sickness is all pervasive. If white women are ‘available’ for Indian males, okay, most of them, then Indian women are either achievable or violable. This is the continuum they locate all women into, from being available to violable.

The violability, in turn, is reserved for the women from weaker sections of the society despite them having to bear the brunt of most brutal forms of violability. But then, it does not save the rest of them, Indian women, from getting violated. The thing is that the Indian male psyche fed on axioms like ‘ladki hansi to fansi’ (if a girl smiles, she is all yours) and ‘na bole to haan hai’ (rejection is in fact acceptance) does not differentiate much between achievability and violability. Any retaliation to their sexual advances, thus, makes them tread the thin line between the two.

This is why, for every Khairlanji that fails to stir the society, urban feminists and media included, one can easily find a Hotel Taj in Bombay seeing two of its women patrons sexually assaulted by a mob on the New Year eve. For every Bhanwari Devi in the feudal fiefdoms of Rajasthan there would be a Naina Sahni being burnt in a Tandoor, or a Jessica Lal getting killed in a posh South Delhi private party. And if the horror is not enough for you, for every woman being paraded naked in Uttar Pradesh, there would be one molested by a mob on national television in Guwahati.

Talk of these cases as a comment on our ‘national character’, and self appointed moral brigades would pounce on you while blaming the victims. They have, in fact, quite an expertise on pouncing on the victims, literally, as well. These self-designated ‘keepers of the sacred feminine’ (a friend coined this term though she uses a much more hard-hitting and little unprintable word for the feminine) would sexually assault women in Bangalore for the crime of going to a pub and the police would arrest and imprison the journalist recording the attack instead of the perpetrators. They, in the form of a senior Congress leader, sermonize the women not to wear indecent clothes and venture out at night instead of ensuring their safety and security.  They, in the form of a senior BJP leader, would rubbish the outrage such attacks cause as a drama of lipstick wearing women. Quite understandable, as they would be watching porn clips on their mobile phones amidst an ongoing assembly session as well.

This is why the advisory should not have shocked me.  I know, and have known, my country way too well to get shocked. It was not for nothing that the advisory had come before the gruesome gang rape of a foreign national in front of her husband in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh. It was not for nothing that the advisory had come before another foreign national was forced to jump out of her hotel room to thwart a rape attempt by none other than the hotel owner.

And it was not for nothing that the advisory had come after Delhi Gangrape but before Bhandara killings and suspected gang rape of three minor sisters which did not find even as much as a mention in national outraged-at-everything media. The girls, hailing from dispossessed background, did not mean much to it. The girls, hailing from the hinterlands, did not mean much to the urbane and suave feminists as well. But then, there rests the root cause of the problem.

If Bhandara girls are violable, no women of the country, or outside, can be safe.  If the men out on prowl do not find such ‘easily violable’ preys, they are going to pounce at any other woman in sight irrespective of her status of being available, achievable or violable in their eyes.  Yes, I know how painful it is to refer to a section of our own women as ‘easily violable preys’ but then wishing the reality away does not help much, does it? The reality is that we are ‘proud’ citizens of a country that lets deeply entrenched casteist and communal forces commit gory crimes against the marginalized sections of its population with impunity. We can either stand up and fight or hide in our cocoons tucked inside the gated communities, looking away is not an option available to us.

It is also high time for rewriting the grammar of shame and social stigma attached to such crimes against women. The perpetrators do it with impunity for they know that the shame of getting violated would be written on the bodies of these women and not over their own persons. Till then, we can hang our heads in shame and hide after every such advisory issued by any country.

I am afraid, in fact, of the day they would issue an advisory telling women to get alert as soon as they see an Indian man anywhere in the world. And if you find this fear unfounded, or farfetched, remember the acts of the Indian youth leaders’ delegation that visited China earlier this year. If you don’t, know that many of them sexually harassed every women in sight, Chinese as well as female members of their own delegation. The only way authorities could devise for stopping them for bringing more shame to the country was restraining a large section of them from going out and forcing them to remain in their hotel rooms for the rest of the visit.

The youth leaders are back with their honours intact. They would grow into the future leaders of the country. Need one say more about the exigency of an advisory warning against the presence of any Indian male anywhere in the world?

About the Author: Mr. Pandey, alias Samar is Programme Coordinator, Right to Food Programme, He can be contacted atsamar@ahrc.asia

Panel for ban on mining in 37 % of Western Ghats #goodnews


PRISCILLA JEBARAJ, The Hindu

Identifying 37 per cent — or about 60,000 square km — of the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive, a high-level panel has recommended that “destructive” activities such as mining, thermal power, major construction, and some hydel power projects should not be allowed there.

However, the panel was silent about any restrictions in the remaining 96,000 square km area, thus creating the perception that it had diluted earlier recommendations that the entire Ghats should be declared as an eco-sensitive area.

The panel, headed by space scientist and Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan, which submitted its report to Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Wednesday, was initially set up to review the more stringent recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil.

The Gadgil report had wanted the entire area of the Ghats to be graded into three levels of eco-sensitive zones, each of which would have different restrictions. It had faced uproar from State governments and industries which were alarmed by the curbs on development in almost 70 per cent of the biodiverse range of mountains spanning six States.

The new high-level panel has taken a different approach. Taking advantage of Dr. Kasturirangan’s connections with ISRO, it has used satellite data to produce a far more detailed database, with a resolution of 24 square metres as opposed to the 9 square km used by the Gadgil report. It then used remote sensing technology to distinguish between “natural landscapes” and “cultural landscapes” which include human settlements, fields and plantations.

It recommends “a prohibitory regime on those activities with maximum interventionist and destructive impact on the environment” on about 90 per cent of the area of “natural landscapes”. The four major restrictions in this area would be a total ban on fresh mining and a five-year phase-out of current mining, a ban on thermal power, all “red” category industries, all townships and any construction above 20,000 square metres. Hydel power projects will be allowed subject to certain conditions, in stark contrast to the Gadgil recommendations, and a small window of hope has been provided for the future of the controversial Athirapally hydel power project in Kerala. Also, the land-use change restrictions recommended by the WGEEP have been discarded.

Explaining that restraints cannot be imposed on areas where people already live and work, the report argues: “It is not wilderness area, but the habitat of its people, who share the landscape with biological diversity. It is not possible to plan for Western Ghats, only as a fenced-in zone, with no human influence.” Instead, the report called for incentivising green growth in the “cultural landscape” areas.

After submitting the report, Dr. Kasturirangan said the next step must be to focus on the biodiversity that is still left. “It is imperative that we protect, manage and regenerate the lands now remaining in the Western Ghats as biologically rich, diverse, natural landscapes. We have reached a threshold from which we cannot slip further,” he said.

WGEEP panel member and TERI executive director Ligia Noronha feels this is not the right approach. “The Western Ghats are not just about what is left. We should be protecting the whole of the Ghats. That is why we wanted a gradation of zones, a more nuanced approach to eco-sensitive zones. [The Kasturirangan panel] seems to have gone back to the mindset of carving out certain protected areas, rather than keeping the whole ecosystem in mind,” she says.

However, Kasturirangan panel member Sunita Narain, who also heads the Centre for Science and Environment, said that their report was actually “implementable..Senior Environment Ministry officials quietly agreed, expressing the hope that the “more sensible” recommendations would attract less opposition from the States.

Ms. Narain also pointed out that the Kasturirangan panel had left the ball firmly in the Central government’s court.

“We want to ensure effective protection right now, not in ten years’ time,” she said.

 

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