Women Health Activist Madhuri Ben released, joins anti-dam stir


Gwalior, June 1, 2013

Pheroze L. Vincent, The Hindu

Human rights activist Madhuri Krishnaswamy, better known as Madhuri Ben, was released from Khargone Women’s Sub Jail on Thursday after she agreed to get bail in a 2008 case of rioting and assaulting a public servant.

In 2008, Madhuri Ben — who heads the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sanghatan (JADS) — alerted the health and police officials in Barwani district after a tribal woman gave birth to a child on the road after being evicted from a primary health centre. Pharmacist of the PHC Vijay Chouhan filed the case against her. The case was closed by the police, only to be reopened by the court, which sent her to a fortnight of judicial custody on May 16 after she refused to seek bail.

The JADS is involved in an agitation of Barela tribals in Khargone district against the Kharak Reservoir Project. On May 25, police arrested 27 tribal people for rioting, trespassing and obstructing the government officials from performing their duty.

Ms. Ben filed a review petition with the Barwani district judge on grounds that a long time had lapsed after the complaint. She said she had refused bail as a form of satyagraha.

“After I saw innocent Adivasis being sent to jail, I realised it is important for me to be available to participate in their struggle. Choukhand village [centre of the agitation] is one of the few tribal villages that are better off economically. This project threatens to take away their prosperity in one stroke,” she told The Hindu .

After her release she headed straight to Choukhand to join the dharna. She said she would continue to “shame the State government” by protests in Khargone and Bhopal.

 

Indian Tribal Women Rush to a Champion’s Defense #Womenrights


By Swapna Majumdar

WeNews correspondent

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tribal women in India are mobilizing behind a leading maternal-health advocate. Supporters say the case against Madhuri Krishnaswamy was concocted to stop her from flagging rights violations that led to 25 maternal deaths in nine months in one impoverished district.

Tribal women protesting Madhuri Krishnaswamy's arrest.
Tribal women protesting Madhuri Krishnaswamy’s arrest.

Credit: Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS).

NEW DELHI, India (WOMENSENEWS)–The May 30 release of Madhuri Krishnaswamy, a relentless campaigner for better maternal health for marginalized tribal women in Barwani, one of the most impoverished districts in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, has brought temporary peace in the district.

Angry protestors who had been gathering in Barwani included about 2,000 tribal women from different parts of India, estimates Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, the local advocacy group that Krishnaswamy heads.

Protesters converged on Barwani, ready to face arrest unless police charges against Krishnaswamy, based on the complaint by a Barwani health official, are withdrawn.

The May 16 jailing and arrest of Krishnaswamy on charges of — among things — obstructing a public official, have drawn outcry from rights groups and activists across the country. Demonstrators have been concentrated in Barwani, but some civil society groups have also met with senior health officials at the federal health ministry in Delhi to drum up support for Krishnaswamy.

More demonstrations, public rallies and litigation strategies to hold Madhya Pradesh government officials accountable for violations of women’s rights to life, health and non-discrimination are being pursued to pressure the administration to drop the charges.

The state government turned a blind eye to the health violations that Krishnaswamy was flagging and made up a false case to muzzle her, said Jashodhara Dasgupta of the National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights, a coalition of 17 health advocacies, which has supported Krishnaswamy’s work.

Dasgupta, a member of the alliance, which is headquartered in New Delhi, told Women’s eNews that the arrest was meant to conceal the administration’s failure to implement various government programs for marginalized women.

No Comment from Local Government

The Barwani administration has not commented on the issue. The police filed a closure report in the case for lack of evidence in April. But after testimony by a Barwani health official the court summoned Krishnaswamy and sent her to prison after she refused to seek bail.

The false nature of the case was clear when some of the charges that led to her arrest included “rioting armed with deadly weapons,” said Ajay Lal, a program officer for Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives, a community health advocacy based in Pune, Maharashtra, that has been working with Krishnaswamy in Barwani.

“Krishnaswamy’s arrest is a blatant act of state reprisal against an activist who has repeatedly drawn attention to the health violations,” Lal said in a phone interview. Lal said poor maternal care in government hospitals was leading to deaths of poor tribal women.

Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, the nongovernmental organization headed by Krishnaswamy, has staged persistent protests against the poor health services in the largely tribal area of Barwani for the past 14 years.

Barwani has the second-lowest Human Development Index among the 50 districts in the state, according to the Madhya Pradesh Human Development Report 2007. Using a 2003 government sampling, this report put the maternal mortality rate for the district at 905 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to the state’s already-high figure of 379 per 100,000 live births.

Under Millennium Development Goal No. 5 India has pledged to reduce its maternal mortality ratio by three quarters before 2015 to 109 deaths for every 100,000 live births, far lower than the current figure of 212. By comparison, the United States, a laggard among industrialized countries, has a national average maternal mortality rate of 21 per 100,000 live births.

Tribal Women Denied Care

Supporters say Krishnaswamy’s arrest is linked to the 2008 case of Baniya Bai, a tribal woman living in Barwani district.

When the nine-month pregnant Baniya Bai reached the nearest government health center after travelling about nine miles by bullock cart from her village, a local health officer demanded a $2 bribe before allowing her to be attended. When family members couldn’t pay, she was dismissed from the center and wound up giving birth outside the facility, on the street, according to Krishnaswamy’s advocacy group.

Baniya Bai and her child survived.

Vypari Bai, a resident of another village in the same district, did not. Before dying she went through a terrifying 27 hours of labor pain as she was shunted by health officials from one government health facility to another in search of medical attention.

Krishnaswamy documented both cases in a court petition she filed in 2011 that flagged health-rights violations that led to 25 maternal deaths in Barwani government health facilities during a nine-month period of 2010.

“Tribal women are still dying from pregnancy-related causes because of official neglect and apathy,” saidHarsing Jamre, chief program coordinator of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, in a phone interview. “Are the lives of tribal women less valuable? No action has been taken against such health officials. But our organization head (Krishnaswamy) raises her voice against this injustice, action is taken against her.”

According to the Human Rights Law Network, a Delhi-based collective of lawyers and social activists that investigated the Barwani maternal deaths, 21 of the 25 deaths from April to November 2010 in the district were women from the marginalized caste tribal group known as Scheduled Tribes, which are eligible for special benefits including free healthcare.

Sixty seven percent of people in Barwani belong to Scheduled Tribes.

Fatal Factors for Tribal Women

Krishnaswamy’s supporters say her cause and her own mistreatment show how government corruption, coupled with caste and gender discrimination are fatal for tribal women.

Disturbing correlations between social inequities and access to healthcare were identified in 2011 by health advocacies investigating maternal deaths and denial of health care in Barwani.

The report–by Sama, CommonHealth and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan — found that marginalized groups, in general, had trouble finding justice and tribal women were doubly disadvantaged by gender power hierarchy and caste.

Earlier this year, on Jan. 27, the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court directed the state government to improve its healthcare manpower and infrastructure. The order stemmed from a public-interest suit filed by Krishnaswamy’s group and the Human Rights Law Network that documented maternal deaths of tribal women caused by negligence and denial of health care.

Activists working in Barwani say that better infrastructure and more clinicians must also be accompanied by a more humane attitude. Doctors rarely treat marginalized tribal women with empathy, they say, and long wait for service can be fatal for both the pregnant mother and child.

Swapna Majumdar is based in New Delhi and writes on gender, development and politics.

 

Tribals arrested, lathi-charged for demanding rehabilitation


Published on Down To Earth | Latest news, opinion, analysis on environment and science issues | India, South Asia (http://www.downtoearth.org.in)

 


Author(s):
Aparna Pallavi
Issue Date:
2013-5-28

Madhya Pradesh government starts dam construction without clearances

Twenty men and seven women from the tribal village of Chaukhand in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone district were arrested while many others with them were brutally beaten up by police for protesting illegal construction of a dam on the Kharak river.

As per a press-note issued by the Narmada Bachao Andolan on May 26, the residents of the village, mostly Bhil and Bhilala tribals, were demanding compensation and rehabilitation, and had put a stop to the work at the dam site two months ago.

On May 26, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Jitendra Singh Chouhan, along with 150 police personnel, arrived at village Choukhand with an earth-work machine and tried to start work on the dam forcibly, says the press note. When villagers tried to speak to the SDM, he ordered a lathi-charge.

Residents claim people were pulled out of their houses and beaten up. Those injured include Banchabai of village Choukhand who was breastfeeding her baby when she was pulled out, and two minor girls Kalibai and Phulbai who were trying to protect their father from beatings.

Cheated of compensation

Chitroopa Palit, activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, said the proposed dam is yet to receive statutory forest clearance under the Forest Conservation Act and environment clearance under provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act. Despite this, the state government started land acquisition for the dam in 2011; the structure will submerge seven villages in the Badwani and Khargone districts. Since July 2012, some people in villages Juna Bilwa, Kaniapani and Choukhand in Khargone district were forced to accept paltry compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre (0.4 hectare) against collector’s guidelines which put the compensation amount at Rs 1.60 lakh for non-irrigated land and Rs 3.20 lakh for irrigated land. The people were told they would be paid compensation in three instalments and if they protested they would be jailed till the completion of the project.

However, residents of four affected villages in Badwani district—Kamat, Kaniapani, Julwania and Muvasia—have been denied any compensation. These villages are located in reserve forest area, and some of the tribal residents have been given land rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) while others’ FRA claims are pending, informs Palit. Also, 150 families in  three villages in Khargone district, who were cultivating land under a common patta (land titles) in the name of a cooperative society since 1969, have also been denied rehabilitation because the society was disbanded in the late 1990’s and people do not have individual documents, she said.

The people, united under the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), have been demanding rehabilitation since 2011, and after the administration failed to fulfil their demand, they stopped the dam work, said Palit. She said that administration has taken advantage of the arrest of JADS activist Madhuri Krishnaswami [1] to stage this attack on the people.

Khargone collector Navneet Mohan Kothari denied that people were beaten up. “The people who beat up the workers on the dam site were arrested,” he said. Kothari refused to comment on the fact that the dam work has been started illegally without proper clearances and said that all project-affected people have been paid just compensation.

 


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/tribals-arrested-lathi-charged-demanding-rehabilitation

 

#India – 5000 people on the road to Protest Arrest of Women Health Activist


Massive rally by JADS in Badwani, MP to protest against unjust arrest of Madhuri

madhuriprotest1
As is now widely known, the leading organizer of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhuri was arrested
on 16th May 2013 at Barwani district court. This arrest was made in connection with the protest done by
the Sangathan related to the case of an adivasi woman Baniya bai, who was forced to deliver on the
roadside near Menimata PHC, because she was denied care in the PHC.
In response to this unjust arrest, nearly 5000 people mobilized by JADS, including large numbers of
women, demonstrated on 21st May 2013 in front of the District collector’s office at Barwani. Key
demands of the protesters were release of Madhuriben along with dismissal of all false cases against
various activists, major improvement in public health services, and eliminating large scale corruption in
implementation of the NREGA programme in the district. Major slogans included “Amu akkha kon chhe
– Madhuri chhe, Madhuri chhe” (‘Who are all of us – all of us are Madhuri’), “Aspatal mein loot band
karo” (Stop exploiting patients in Hospitals) and Nyay nahi to jail do” (‘Either give us justice or give us
jail’). The demonstrators from various far-flung areas of the district had gathered from 1 pm to 9.30 pm
in front of Collector’s office, but the collector refused to address the demonstrators or to meet their
representatives.
In this situation of total non-responsiveness of the District administration, JADS activists finally pasted a
notice on the police barricade, addressed to the Chief Minister, giving the warning that if the government
does not release Madhuriben by 30th of May, the Sangathan would mobilise an even larger rally at the
Collector’s office.

madhuriprotest

protest2

 

Gandhian activist arrested in MP, adivasis up in arms


Bhopal, May 17, 2013

 

Staff Reporter

 
A file picture of Gandhian activist Madhuri Krishnaswami who was arrested for fighting against the injustice meted out to adviasis in Madhya Pradesh.

The Hindu A file picture of Gandhian activist Madhuri Krishnaswami who was arrested for fighting against the injustice meted out to adviasis in Madhya Pradesh.
 
 

Madhuri Krishnaswamy, a leader of the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) – which works for health and labour rights in the south-western Madhya Pradesh – was sent to judicial custody for a fortnight, on Thursday. Ms. Krishnaswamy, popularly called Madhuri Ben, and four others were summoned by Judicial Magistrate First Class D. P. Singh Sewach in Barwani on Thursday for a 2008 case of rioting and assaulting a public servant.

The police, in fact, had filed a closure report for lack of evidence, but the court took cognizance of the testimony of plaintiff Vijay Chouhan and summoned the respondents. Only Madhuri Ben appeared and was sent to Khargone Women’s Prison after she refused to seek bail. Two of the four others are already on bail. The others are expected to be arrested soon.

In 2008, Madhuri had alerted health and police officials after a tribal woman was forced to deliver her child on the road, after been evicted from a primary health centre by the compounder Mr. Chouhan. He also filed the case against the JADS, was suspended only to be reinstated later.

JADS activists picketed at six police stations in Barwani district on Friday. Union rural development minister was also in the district for the Congress’ Parivartan Yatra. “We told him that arresting the person who exposed the government is injustice. He said he spoke to the chief secretary. We also told him that we are only getting Rs. 22 to 26 as MNREGA wages (instead of the stipulated Rs. 100). He did not say anything,” Harsing Jamre of the JADS told The Hindu.

District superintendent of police R. C. Burra told this reporter, “We had to arrest her as the court ordered it… He (Mr. Jairam Ramesh) asked about her and we gave him all the details of the case.”

Ms. Krishnaswamy is scheduled to appear before the Chief Judicial Magistrate on May 30.

She was served a show-cause notice of externment from the district administration, last year, which accused her of preventing officials from doing their duties. This came after she protested against the death of a tribal woman after 27 hours of labour without medical help. Mr. Ramesh had then too written to chief secretary R. Parasuram to intervene.

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