#India – Mental Health Care Bill cleared by Cabinet


Music and Mental Health

The Union Cabinet  cleared the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 that makes access to mental health care a right of all persons

Submitted on Fri, 06/14/2013 – 16:55

The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013 that makes access to mental health care a right of all persons. Such services should be affordable, of good quality and available without discrimination, it said. The proposed law decriminalises suicide.

The Bill, in consonance with international laws, has the provision of Advance Directives — described as a progressive and far-sighted step. No person who has recorded an Advance Directive to State that he or she should not be admitted to a facility without consent can be so admitted.

A rights-based Bill also has a provision wherein a person with mental illness can appoint a nominated representative to take decisions for him or her. Under the provisions of the Bill, government has an obligation to provide half way homes, community caring centres and other shelters for mentally ill people. This has been planned under the District Mental Health Programme in the 12th Plan.

In 2005, the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health reported that 10-12 million or one to two per cent of the population suffered from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and nearly 50 million or five per cent from common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, yielding an overall estimate of 6.5 per cent of the population. The prevalence of mental disorders was higher among women, those who were homeless, poor and living in urban areas, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told The Hindu.

The new Bill, once approved by Parliament, will repeal the Mental Health Act, 1987, which had vested extraordinary power in the hands of the treating psychiatrists. There was enough evidence of misuse and unscrupulous families collaborating with psychiatrists in addition to badly functional or non-functional Central and Mental Health Authorities primarily because of lack of funds.

Under the proposed new law, there is provision for voluntary admission with supported admission limited to specific circumstances; appeals can be made to the Mental Health Review Commission, which will also review all admission beyond 30 days and free care for all homeless, destitute and poor people suffering from mental disorder. The Bill provides right to confidentiality and protection from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, in addition to right to live in a community and legal aid. It bans the electric-convulsive therapy without anesthesia and restricts psychosurgery, Mr. Azad said.

He said the Bill tries to address the needs of the families and caregivers, and the needs of the homeless mentally ill. It provides for setting up Central and State Mental Health Authorities, which would act as administrative bodies, while the Mental Health Review Commission would be a quasi-judicial body to oversee the functioning of mental health facilities and protect the rights of persons with mental illness in mental health facilities.

Credit and Source: The Hindu

 

#India- Why the Food Security Bill is neither populist nor unaffordable


 
Cultivatring Food Justice

Cultivatring Food Justice

 
The official poverty threshold is low. Many people above the threshold are also poor and look just like the people below the threshold. As a result, there is no reliable way in which subsidies can be targeted only to the people below the official threshold.
 
 
By Ashok Kotwal, HT
 
 
 
Criticism of the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) has led to the government dropping the idea of issuing an Ordinance and, instead, saying it would try to get the Bill passed in a special session of Parliament.
 
But doubts persist over the very concept of the Bill. Is it not extravagant to subsidise food for such a large part of the population when the poor constitute only 30 per cent of the population? Can a poor country afford such spending? Isn’t the Food Bill just corruption by another name? Wouldn’t the Bill lead to a virtual takeover of the grain trade by the central government? As a rising tide lifts all boats, should we not invest in growth rather than spend on consumption? These are all valid questions and we will attempt to answer them.
 
In a nutshell, we think the Bill is neither populist nor unaffordable. Some of the anxiety over the cost, corruption and the government’s ever-increasing role in the grain market stems from the assumption that PDS will remain forever the main vehicle of delivering the food subsidy. But if the government develops the necessary infrastructure — e.g., UID-linked bank accounts — states will be encouraged to switch to cash transfers. The extra costs of government storage and distribution will then be saved and the problems caused by the distortion of the grain trade will be mitigated. Many worries that arise from the identification of the food Bill with the PDS will disappear.
 
The Right to Food campaign is right to stress the need for a food subsidy with near-universal coverage but is wrong in its visceral opposition to cash transfers. The result is a food Bill written wholly in terms of an expansion of the PDS. Suggestions for reforms such as cash transfers and the use of biometric ID have been shunted to an obscure chapter despite the fact that the Delhi government has already opted for delivering the food subsidy through cash transfers.
 
Anyone who has had a cursory look at the food Bill tends to assume it is just expanding the present PDS and, thus, worsening existing problems of leakage, corruption and high costs of storage and distribution. This makes people antagonistic toward the idea of the food Bill. The opposition of the Right to Food campaign to even experiment with cash transfers has harmed the poor by making people sympathetic to the critics of the food Bill.
 
Cash transfers are often opposed on the grounds of paternalism. “If we give cash to the poor, they might blow it on frivolous things. If we give them food, they will be better nourished.” This can work as an argument for midday meals but not as a justification for PDS, which is nothing but an income transfer: the effect of the subsidy is that households save the money that would have otherwise been used to buy food at market prices.
 
Why do we need such an income transfer? Because about 90 per cent of India’s labour force makes a living in the informal sector. For inclusive growth, we need to invest in education and skills and remove constraints to the absorption of labour by the formal sector. But we also need to improve productivity in the informal sector, which depends on human capital and access to credit. Financial aid that gives the poor some flexibility in managing their affairs helps improve the productivity of their time. What looks like consumption also works as investment.
 
But if “the poor” are only the bottom third or so, why offer food subsidy to the bottom two-thirds of India? We often talk about the poor as if it is a well-defined group, but that is hardly the case. The official poverty threshold is low. Many people above the threshold are also poor and look just like the people below the threshold. As a result, there is no reliable way in which subsidies can be targeted only to the people below the official threshold.
 
Finally, there is the issue of costs. Official projections are that it would cost close to 1.5 per cent of GDP. But even in the most pessimistic scenario, our GDP is expected to grow at 5 per cent per annum in the near future. If we think of the fact that the Bill will cost less than one-third of the growth in the national income next year, it does not seem that unaffordable, especially given its value to the millions who will receive it.
 
(The writer is professor of economics, University of British Columbia. Co-authored with Milind Murugkar, a food policy analyst based in Nasik, and Bharat Ramaswami, professor of economics at the Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi)

 

#India – #Aadhaar private ownership of UID data – Part II


200 px

 

USHA RAMANATHAN | 30/04/2013 , Moneylife.com

 

Those enrolling on the UID database have not been informed that their data is to yield profit for the UIDAI, Rs288.15 crore a year and its only investor, the government, does not even own the data. How many in the government are even aware of this investing of ownership in an entity that continues to remain deliberately undefined and opaque

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was set up by an executivenotification dated 28 January 2009. As per the notification, the Planning Commission was to be the nodal agency “for providing logistics, planning and budgetary support” and to “provide initial office and IT infrastructure”. As part of its “role and responsibilities”, the UIDAI was to “issue necessary instructions to agencies that undertake creation ofdatabases, to ensure standardisation of data elements that are collected and digitised and enable collation and correlation with UID and its partner databases”. It was to “take necessary steps to ensure collation of the National Population Register (NPR) with the UID”. And, the UIDAI “shall own and operate” the UID database.

 

In July 2009, Nandan Nilekani was appointed as the chairman of the UIDAI, representing a lateral entry of a person from the private sector into the government, with the rank of a Cabinet minister.

 

The UID project proceeded without a law, despite the seriousness of privacy and security concerns till, caving in to public pressure, a draft Bill was prepared by the UIDAI in June 2010; and it was not till December 2010, after the project had begun to collect resident data, that this Bill was introduced in Parliament. The Bill stayed close to the framework for corporate control over databases that was later enunciated in the report of Technology Advisory Group on Unique Projects (TAG-UP) of which Mr Nilekani was the chair, and which gave its report in January 2011.

 

The Bill to give statutory status to the UIDAI was roundly rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance in December 2011. The Parliamentary Committee recommended that both the Bill and the UID project be sent back to the drawing board. There has been no effort since to reintroduce the Bill. Every time the UIDAI is confronted with questions about the legality of its enterprise, its officers assert that the executive order of 28 January 2009 is the legal instrument from which they derive their authority; and that order makes them the ‘owner’ of the database.

 

In the context of the UID project:

• Residents from whom the data is being collected have not been informed that the government is not the owner of the data, or of the database; nor what the legal status of the ownership by the UIDAI will mean for the citizen/resident;

• the UIDAI set up a Biometrics Standards Committee in September 2009, which gave its report in December 2009. Its report reveals that the UIDAI intended to “create a platformto first collect identity details of residents, and subsequently perform identity authentication services that can be used by government and commercial service providers”;

• the “UIDAI Strategy Overview”, in April 2010, estimated that it would generate Rs288.15 crore annual revenue through address and biometric authentication once it reaches steady state, where authentication services for new mobile connections, PAN cards, gas connections, passports, LIC policies, credit cards, bank accounts, airline check-in, would net this profit. Those enrolling on the UID database have not been informed that their data is to be yield profit for the UIDAI; they were perhaps expected to read up from the UIDAI website.

• as set out in the TAG-UP report, the data we think we are giving to the government is to end up on the database of what will be in the nature of a private company once it reaches steady state. When it is still a start-up, and till it reaches steady state at least, it will be funded by the government. After that, the government, like other commercial service providers, will become the customer of the UIDAI;

• with the UIDAI owning the database, the column in the UIDAI enrolment form for “information sharing consent” acquires a new significance. The UIDAI has all along been claiming that it will only be providing authentication by saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and nothing more. But, when the consent to share information is recorded on the database as having been given, the UIDAI may give all data on their database to any “service provider”, a term of wide and undefined import. That is, it is not only authentication services that the UIDAI will provide; through this consent, it is also assuming the authority to make money on thedata that it holds, both demographic and biometric. This will provide it one more avenue to find customers, and one more product to market. Mr Nilekani often refers to the UIDdatabase as “open architecture”, and avows that a wide array of applications can be built on it;

• the claim that enrolment is voluntary has rung hollow for some time now. For one thing, the UIDAI plainly has no authority to compel anyone to enrol or to use their service. However, the UIDAI has been hard at work urging governments, banks, oil companies and other institutions to adopt the UID, to re-engineer their databases to fit the UID and to seed all their systems with the UID. The push is for ubiquity. The UIDAI has been complicit in the coercion and bullying that is now part of the UID enrolment process, and its silent acquiescence while people are threatened with exclusion from services and benefits if they have not enrolled, for a UID is one dimension of complicity. It is easy to understand why this is happening, for, as critics have observed, the services, and the people, have little to gain from the UID, while the UIDAI finds compulsion an easy way to expand their database;

• the non-existence of a law that says where the liability will lie in the event of identity fraud, or failure of the system of authentication resulting in denial of services, for instance, places the burden on the individual with no responsibility on the UIDAI for the consequences of the failures of fraud;

• while ubiquity of the UID would be a recipe for tracking, profiling, tagging, converging ofdatabases and result in violations of privacy in which ways that could threaten personal security, this would become a mere incidence of the business, leaving the resident/citizen unprotected;

• the 2009 notification that set up the UIDAI says that the UIDAI is to “take necessary steps to ensure collation of the NPR (National Population Register) with the UID”. Registering in the NPR is compulsory under the Citizenship Act and the Citizenship Rules of 2003. Although biometrics is not within the mandate of the NPR, they have also been collected in the process of building up the NPR database. Therefore, the data mandated to be given to the NPR is being handed over to the UIDAI to be ‘owned’ by the UIDAI!

 

I wonder how many in government are even aware of this investing of ownership in an entity that continues to remain deliberately undefined and opaque.

 

References

  • • Notification No. A-43011/02/2009-Admn.I dated 28 January, 2009 published in Part I, section 2 of the Gazette of India
  • • UIDAI Strategy Overview: Creating a Unique Identity Number for Every Resident in India, UIDAI, Planning Commission, GoI, April 2010
  • • Standing Committee on Finance (2011-12), National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010, Forty-second Report, Lok Sabha Secretariat, December 2011
  • • Report of the Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects, Ministry of Finance, January 31, 2011
  • • Biometrics Design Standards for UID Applications, prepared by the UIDAI Committee on Biometrics, December 2009.

 

 

 

#India – The Land Bill is tainted by a colonial hangover


Instead of focussing on the industry, the Centre should uphold the citizens’ rights
Madhuresh Kumar

Madhuresh Kumar

4-05-2013, Issue 18

Left in the lurch The revised Bill is still vague on rehabilitation and resettlementLeft in the lurch The revised Bill is still vague on rehabilitation and resettlement, Photo: AP

Hectic parleys with political parties have been ongoing in the past few months to reach a consensus on the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, so that it gets passed in the current Parliament session. In principle, it is the Manmohan Singh government’s effort at addressing the problems in the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which is not only outdated, but has promoted forcible land acquisition.

Land acquisition continues to take place without any resettlement and rehabilitation, drastically affecting people who lose their land and/or livelihood. However, given the direction of negotiations and changes in the Bill, it is clear that although it is framed by the ministry responsible for rural development, it is more concerned about the industry sentiment and urbanisation needs.

The National Alliance of People’s Movements feels that while the new Bill is an improvement over the 1894 Act, several key issues remain. Many of these were addressed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, but remain neglected by the Centre. One important recommendation made by the Standing Committee was that the government should not be acquiring land for private players. But the Centre has refused this recommendation, saying that it is ideologically committed to private firms playing a larger role in the nation’s development. Under the 1894 Act, the government was not legally mandated to acquire land for private firms and public- private partnership (PPP) projects. This new Bill will legitimise that. This is our fundamental problem: why should the government act like a middleman for private companies?

Second, the 1894 Act works on the principle of eminent domain, which is the power of the State to seize private property without the owners’ consent. That framework has still not been changed in the new Bill. And when you look at the current framework of development, the government is handing over sectors like power, roadways, railways, etc, to private players. As the State tries to acquire more land for private companies, there will be more and more conflict. Farmers have nothing else to depend on, and even if they are resettled and rehabilitated in some way, that may not suffice for their future generations.

It is being said that to make any acquisition for private and PPP projects, consent of 80 percent and 70 percent of the land losers, respectively, will be sought. But why is there no provision of consent for the public purpose projects? Until 1984, the Land Acquisition Act was used primarily to forcibly acquire land for government projects, leaving people to fend for themselves in the absence of any resettlement and rehabilitation provisions. That legacy of forcible acquisition will continue even after this law comes into force. This will also mean an unequal frame of land acquisition for power plants to be set up by the public sector National Thermal Power Corporation and Reliance in the same area.

Third, there remains serious concern about food security. Land is a critically limited resource. If we don’t put a cap on the diversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, this will create severe food and water shortages. The Standing Committee has said that the government should not acquire any agricultural land, whether irrigated or not. The government is saying that only multi-crop land will not be acquired, but we are saying that it is single-crop land that is most often held by marginalised farmers, who are most in need of protection for economic and food security reasons. There must be strict norms for preventing diversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes, like the regulation of any diversion of forests for development projects. On the same lines, there must also be a provision for compensatory development of agricultural land whenever there is a diversion of agricultural land.

Fourth, the Standing Committee report said that more than 90 percent of land is acquired through Central and state laws other than the Land Acquisition Act, which have been listed in a separate schedule in the Bill. However, the provisions of the new Bill don’t apply to those. Why they have been left out is not clear and only three non-significant Acts have been brought under its ambit (By a notification, the Union government will bring all such relevant Central Acts under its ambit within a year). But, more importantly, there is an urgent need to uniformly streamline the process of land acquisition, and so, the process of acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation must be the same in all cases.

Fifth, as per the Planning Commission numbers, India’s urban population is expected to go up from 377 million in 2011 to about 600 million by 2031. This implies an increase of more than 200 million in just 20 years. It also says that the duration of water supply in the cities is only between one to six hours; about 13 percent of the urban population defecate in the open; about 37 percent of households are connected by open drains and 18 percent are not connected at all. The number of urban poor has increased by about 34.4 percent between 1993-2004, residing mostly in slums and bastis. In Mumbai, 60 percent of the population lives in slums or slum-like conditions, but together they occupy only 10-12 percent of the total land area — often described as ‘encroached land’.

Even where the land deeds are disputed, or in some cases where the land is officially recognised by the government, their land rights are not accepted, their homes are demolished and they are evicted from their place of residence without any resettlement and rehabilitation. The new Bill is not going to provide any relief to them as it is enacted in a rural framework and so a separate legislation to address the urban displacement is necessary.

Lastly, while the government says that the new Bill has better rehabilitation and resettlement clauses, it does not provide those who lose land with sustainable livelihood options or land for land. The whole framework revolves around increased monetary compensation, though most of the marginalised communities need secure means of livelihood more than money. Adivasis and Dalits, who are the most vulnerable and are often cheated because of their ignorance and illiteracy, will be further impoverished and end up in penury within years of losing their livelihood and migrating to cities, putting the whole economy and urban infrastructure under severe strain.

The number of people who face loss of livelihood because of land acquisition is so huge that they cannot be accommodated within the industrial and services sectors. So, while we are forcibly pushing people out of agriculture, we are not creating adequate educational or technical alternatives for them. The State is acquiring land in the name of public purpose and industrial growth, but we need to rethink how we define ‘development’.

We have to acknowledge that India is a country of 1.2 billion people. The kind of development the government is promoting caters only to the top 20 percent of the population. The government is revising the 1894 Act after 120 years to further growth and development, which gives it a historic opportunity to change how acquisition takes place. We should not lose this chance to create a policy that helps make India’s citizens participants in the development planning of the nation.

The key issue of citizens taking part in planning development remains unaddressed. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments, which empowered local self-governance institutions in rural and urban areas, have not yet been fully implemented. Their power is being taken away by the creation of other authorities and governance structures that interfere in the exercise of local institutions’ authority, thereby violating the Constitutional rights of the people.

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh takes pride in the fact that the new Bill is an attempt at balancing the needs of the country. Since the likes of Medha Patkar and the industry associations are both unhappy, it means he is doing something right.

However, lest he forget, the laws framed by governments are neither for Patkar nor for the industry bodies, but for the citizens and the values enshrined in the Constitution, which recognises the supremacy of the citizens, and professes ideals of growth with justice and equity and a respect for the fundamental rights of the citizens that the new Bill violates.

letters@tehelka.com

 

 

Chhattisgarh: Tribal girls reveal tales of violence, sexual abuse #Vaw #WTFnews


Chhattisgarh, Updated Mar 28, 2013

New Delhi: Last week, the government passed the much awaited Anti-rape Bill. The Bill promises to tackle sexual crime. But will it really make a difference, especially in the remote corners of this country. An IBN7 investigation exposed how young tribal girls are being sexually abused in government-run homes and schools in Chhattisgarh.

Minor girls studying in the State-run Ashrams meant to provide education and boarding facilities for poor tribals in Chhattisgarh are being sexually assaulted, pushed into prostitution by their own teachers.

Girls face violence and sexual abuse and admit on camera that they were raped and abused by hostel officials. In January 2013, medical tests confirmed 11 girls were sexually abused at Jhaliamari Kanya Ashram.

The ashram came under scanner after death of a 12-year-old in 2012. The Official cause of the 12-year-old girl’s death was given as jaundice. However, on a hidden camera the government hospital doctor admitted the girl underwent a pregnancy test.

Meanwhile, a 17-year-old girl alleged that she was being forced into sex racket by her own hostel warden Anita Thakur. After public outrage the police filed an FIR and arrested Anita.

In 2006, Chief Minister Raman Singh announced the Aadarsh Ashram and Chatravas Yojna – opening 2600 hostels to house and educate children from Tribal and other backward classes. The central government poured several crores into the project. But in January 2013, medical tests confirmed that 11 girls at the Jhaliamari Kanya Ashram had been sexually abused.

Singh sadi, “I have ordered that a fast track court in the district decides on this case.”

The Jhaliamari Ashram came under the scanner after the death of a 12-year-old in August 2012. Eight people were arrested – including a teacher, security guard and hostel warden at the ashram. Swastha Adhikari, Narharpur DOC, Dr Prashant Singh had said, “Water had accumulated in her stomach and she died of jaundice and severe anemia.”

On hidden camera, the same doctor admitted the girl was given a pregnancy test but did not test positive.

Her family admits receiving threats to stay silent. The mother of the 12-year-old who survived the abuse said, “He used to drink and come, he sexually assaulted my daughter, what he did to my child was wrong.”

The parents now want their children back but the administration has sent them to other government hostels. “They have told us that the girls will stay on in the hostels, we have been asked not to worry. If this has happened to other girls, it could happen to our children. We are scared,” said one of the parent.

Equally shocking is how the sexual abuse went unnoticed for four years, even though Ashram guidelines say the girls must have weekly health check-ups. The district collector, too, refused to meet us.

In violation of an order by state government, since 2009 there have been no monitoring or inspection at the local level. As a result poor, Adivasi girls had to pay the price for sheer callousness and negligence of the district administration.

After living in a state of terror for nearly seven years, two girls from the North Bastar region of Chhattisgarh gathered the courage to speak up. They recall the horror of how they were pushed into prostitution by their hostel warden Anita Thakur. The girls also said that many more were abused but are scared to speak up.

“I was told I had to work with other girls, when I went into the room, madam closed the door behind me,” said one of the victims.

In 2006, a 17-year-old girl forced into a sex racket allegedly by her own hostel warden. The girl was in class seven then, the trauma forcing her to leave school, sending her into depression for three years. Today she has regained the strength to speak out.

“There were a lot of girls like me, they had given statements earlier. But now they are afraid to speak up,” said the victim.

Her father who has three other daughters says he blames himself. “I have four daughters, I just wanted them to have an education, I should never have put them in the ashram, I could not imagine this would happen,” he said.

Shockingly, the Chhattisgarh government actually gave Anita the best hostel warden award in January 2013. The Balod collector could not explain how the alleged sex racket run by Anita at the Amatola Ashram, went undetected for seven years. Balod Collector Amit Kumar Khalko said, “We had not recommended Anita Thakur’s name for any award. This incident is from 2006, I am sure there was a probe into it at that time too.”

Even the Chief Minister gave no answers. “I cannot give you any answers in this regard,” said Singh.

But the girl was not the only student exploited at the Ashram. The investigation has accessed seven affidavits, given by students of the Amatola Ashram, clearly stating how the warden forced them into a sex racket. Another victim recalls when she was just 13, she was brutalised repeatedly in 2006. “I was called into a room, the warden closed the curtains. I was raped but I could not understand what was happening, I was very young at that time. They have ruined the lives of so many girls like me. How long will this go on for,” she asks.

Activists working on the issue in Chhattisgarh are demanding justice. Activist Ranjeet Markam said, “We demand a CBI probe into the sexual assault of our children we demand justice.”

The sexual abuse and violence faced by these girls, going undetected for years, raises serious questions about Chhattisgarh’s tribal hostel program.

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Eclipsing Women’s Rights: Sexual Harassment at Sun TV # Vaw


PRESS STATEMENT: 28 March 2013

NWMI demands immediate reinstatement of Woman Journalist

The Network of Women in Media, India, an independent forum of media
professionals across the country condemns the continued victimisation of a
complainant of sexual harassment, and demands her immediate reinstatement.
We also demand an independent inquiry into the case and the setting up -as
required by law- of formal mechanisms to redress sexual harassment at the
Chennai-based Sun TV.

The Background
S. Akila joined Sun TV Chennai in December 2011 as a news anchor/news
producer. Ever since she joined, V. Raja, the Chief Editor and Vetrivendhan,
the Reporters’ Co-ordinator indicated that the confirmation of her job and
subsequent pay rise depended on the ‘compromises’ she was willing to make.
This was apparently not the first time they had made such demands, but due
to the hostile and intimidating atmosphere at the office, few women had been
able to resist. As a result of her refusal to concede to their demands of
sexual favours in return for job security and pay hikes, her confirmation
remained pending even after completing the six-month probationary period.

Meanwhile, in November 2012, Ms Akila’s Diwali bonus was withheld. When she
raised the issue with Mr Raja, he asked her to get in touch with him over
the phone after reaching home. Upon phoning him, he told her that she had
been confirmed and that she should “take care of him” for the favour. Ms
Akila terminated the call, but managed to record the conversation.

When Mr Raja realised that she was not coming around, he kept harassing her
in different ways, including verbally abusing her in front of her
colleagues. On January 21st, he summoned her to his cabin and threatened her
with dire consequences if she went public with a complaint of harassment.
Soon thereafter, in contravention of the norm of assigning shifts, he put
her on morning shifts for several weeks, which required her to leave her
residence at 3.30 am in order to be at office at 5 am, since the office did
not arrange for morning pick-up. Questioning the unusual assigning of a
continuous morning shift, she confronted Mr Raja on February 26th. He
informed her that she was continuously on the gruelling morning shift
because she was not “adjusting” to him. After serving the morning shift for
another few weeks while struggling with domestic responsibilities, things
became unbearable. Ms Akila then approached the police on March 19th and
filed a complaint of sexual harassment. On the same day, Mr Raja was
arrested under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of
Women Act. Two days later, Mr Vetrivendhan was also arrested on the same
charges.

Continued Harassment
However, the arrest of the harassers was only a continuation of the
nightmare. Soon after Mr. Raja’s arrest, Ms Akila received an anonymous
phone call by someone threatening to kill her. In a move to isolate her at
the workplace, her friend Mr Kannan who was aware of the harassment and was
supportive of her, was suspended on grounds of a complaint filed by
colleagues who refused to work with him or Ms Akila. When Ms Akila reported
to the office on March 25th, she was not assigned any work. As per schedule,
she was to anchor the 12.00 noon news bulletin, but she was not allowed to
go on air. In a complete travesty of justice, on March 26th, Mr Raja who was
by then out on bail, joined work, and the next day, Ms Akila was handed a
suspension order. Thus, a woman who resisted sexual harassment and stood up
to demands for sexual favours has been further victimised.

It must be noted that there is no redressal mechanism at Sun TV for
complaints of sexual harassment. This is in contempt of the Guidelines
issued in 1997 by the Honourable Supreme Court in the Vishakha case, which
places an obligation on every establishment in the country to ensure the
rights of women workers by creating a conducive workplace free from sexual
harassment. These principles of gender equity and labour rights are also
enshrined in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention,
Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012 which was passed by both houses of
Parliament and is only awaiting the President’s assent.

Our demands:
1) Immediate reinstatement of S. Akila
2) Payment of damages for mental trauma
3) Immediate suspension of V. Raja pending an independent inquiry as
well as the police investigation into the case
4) Independent inquiry into the case, by a team that includes
independent, third-party lawyers, journalists and women’s rights activists
5) As a longer-term measure, setting up of an Internal Complaints
Committee as per the Vishaka Guidelines.
6) Establishment of Complaints Committees in all media houses as per
the Vishakha Guidelines and the new law once it comes into force.
Signed:
The Network of Women in Media, Working Council

1. Ammu Joseph, Bangalore
2. Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai
3. Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore
4. Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata
5. Sandhya Taksale, Pune
6. Sameera Khan, Mumbai
7. Ranjita Biswas, Kolkata
8. Malti Mehta, Ahmedabad
9. K.A. Beena, Thiruvananthapuram
10. Sonal Kellogg, Delhi
11. Parul Sharma, Delhi
12. Padmalatha Ravi, Bangalore
13. Melanie Priya Kumar, Bangalore
14. Chitra Ahanthem, Imphal
15. Manjira Mojumdar, Kolkata
16. Sharmila Joshi, Mumbai

17. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

 

 

#India – summary of the National Food Security Bill, 2013


March 24, 2013
 Jean Dreze

1. Preliminaries

The Bill seeks “to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therwith and incidental thereto”.

It extends to the whole of India and “shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette appoint, and different dates may be appointed for different States and different provisions of this Act”.

2. Entitlements

Public Distribution System (TPDS)

Priority households are entitled to 5 kgs of foodgrains per person per month, and Antyodaya households to 35 kgs per household per month. The combined coverage of Priority and Antyodaya households (called “eligible households”) shall extend “up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population”.

The PDS issue prices are given in Schedule I: Rs 3/2/1 for rice/wheat/millets (actually called “coarse grains” in the Bill). These may be revised after three years.

Children’s Entitlements

For children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years, the Bill guarantees an age-appropriate meal, free of charge, through the local anganwadi. For children aged 6-14 years, one free mid-day meal shall be provided every day (except on school holidays) in all schools run by local bodies, government and government aided schools, up to Class VIII. For children below six months, “exclusive breastfeeding shall be promoted”.

Children who suffer from malnutrition will be identified through the local anganwadi and meals will be provided to them free of charge “through the local anganwadi”.

Entitlements of Pregnant and Lactating Women

Every pregnant and lactating mother is entitled to a free meal at the local anganwadi (during pregnancy and six months after child birth) as well as maternity benefits of Rs 6,000, in instalments.

[Notes: (1) “Meal” is defined in the Bill as “hot cooked meal or ready to eat meal or take home ration, as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. All “meals” have to meet nutritional norms specified in Schedule II. (2) The entitlements of women and children are to be delivered by state governments through schemes “in accordance with the guidelines, including cost sharing” to be prescribed by the Central Government. (3) Every school and anganwadi is to have “facilities for cooking meals, drinking water and sanitation”. (4) For purposes of issuing ration cards, the eldest woman in the household (not less than 18 years of age) shall be considered head of the household.]

3. Identification of Eligible Households

The Bill does not specify criteria for the identification of households (Priority or Antyodaya) eligible for PDS entitlements. The Central Government is to determine the state-wise coverage of the PDS, in terms of proportion of the rural/urban population. Then numbers of eligible persons will be calculated from Census population figures. The identification of eligible households is left to state governments, subject to the scheme’s guidelines for Antyodaya, and subject to guidelines to be “specified” by the state government for Priority households. The lists of eligible households are to be placed in the public domain and “displayed prominently” by state governments.

4. Food Commissions

The Bill provides for the creation of State Food Commissions. Each Commission shall consist of a chairperson, five other members and a member-secretary (including at least two women and one member each from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes).

The main function of the State Commission is to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the act, give advice to the states governments and their agencies, and inquire into violations of entitlements (either suo motu or on receipt of a complaint, and with “all the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908”). State Commissions also have to hear appeals against orders of the District Grievance Redressal Officer and prepare annual reports to be laid before the state legislature.

The State Commission may forward “any case” to a Magistrate having jurisdiction, who shall proceed as if the case has been forwarded under Section 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

5. Transparency and Grievance Redressal

The Bill provides for a two-tier grievance redressal structure, involving the District Grievance Redressal Officer (DGRO) and State Food Commission. State governments must also put in place an internal grievance redressal mechanism which may include call centres, help lines, designation of nodal officers, “or such other mechanisms as may be prescribed”.

Transparency Provisions

Mandatory transparency provisions include: (1) placing all PDS-related records in the public domain and keeping them open for inspection to the public; (2) conducting periodic social audits of the PDS and other welfare schemes; (3) using information and communication technology (including end-to-end computerisation of the PDS) “to ensure transparent recording of transactions at all levels”; (4) setting up vigilance committees at state, district, block and fair price shop levels to supervise all schemes under the act.

District Grievance Redressal Officers

DGROS shall be appointed by state governments for each district to hear complaints and take necessary action according to norms to be prescribed by state governments. If a complainant (or the officer or authority against whom an order has been passed by the DGRO) is not satisfied, he or she may file an appeal before the State Food Commission.

Penalties and Compensation

The Food Commissions have powers to impose penalties. If an order of the DGRO is not complied with, the concerned authority or officer can be fined up to Rs. 5,000. The Commission can authorise “any of its members” to act as an adjudicating officer for this purpose.

In case of “non-supply of the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meals to entitled persons”, such persons will be entitled to a food security allowance from the state government, as prescribed by the central government.

6. Other Provisions

PDS Reforms

In Chapter VII, the Bill states that central and state governments “shall endeavour to progressively undertake” various PDS reforms, including: doorstep delivery of foodgrains; ICT applications and end-to-end computerisation; leveraging “aadhaar” (UID) for unique identification of entitled beneficiaries; full transparency of records; preference to public institutions or bodies in licensing of fair price shops; management of fair price shops by women or their collectives; diversification of commodities distributed under the PDS; full transparency of records; and “introducing schemes such as cash transfer, food coupons or other schemes to the targeted beneficiaries in lieu of their foodgrain entitlements” as prescribed by the central government.

Obligations of Government and Local Authorities

The main obligation of the Central Government is to provide foodgrains (or, failing that, funds) to state governments, at prices specified in Schedule I, to implement the main entitlements. It also has to “provide assistance” to state governments to meet local distribution costs, but on its own terms (“as may be prescribed”). The Central Government has wide-ranging powers to make Rules.

The main obligation of state governments is to implement the relevant schemes, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Central Government. State governments also have wide-ranging powers to make Rules. They are free to extend benefits and entitlements beyond what is prescribed in the Bill, from their own resources.

Local Authorities and Panchayati Raj Institutions are responsible for proper implementation of the act in their respective areas, and may be given additional responsibilities by notification.

7. Schedules

The Bill has three schedules (these can be amended “by notification”). Schedule 1 prescribes issue prices for the PDS. Schedule 2 prescribes “nutritional standards” for midday meals, take-home rations and related entitlements. For instance, take-home rations for children aged 6 months to 3 years should provide at least 500 calories and 12-15 grams of protein. Schedule 3 lists various “provisions for advancing food security”, under three broad headings: (1) revitalization of agriculture (e.g. agrarian reforms, research and development, remunerative prices), (2) procurement, storage and movement of foodgrains (e.g. decentralised procurement), and (3) other provisions (e.g. drinking water, sanitation, health care, and “adequate pensions” for “senior citizens, persons with disability and single women”).

 

#India- Facts and Myths – Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2013 #Vaw #Justice #mustshare


FACTS AND MYTHS

THE CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2013,

PROPOSED BY THE GOVERNMENT

March 16, 2013

 

FACTS AND MYTHS

THE CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2013,

PROPOSED BY THE GOVERNMENT

March 16, 2013

 

The Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report was a landmark statement, applauded by all citizens, welcomed by all Political Parties. JVC was significant because it showed a mirror to the Constitution of India, and reflected its wise and just guarantees of women’s equality. Today the women and youth of India are looking with hope and expectation towards Parliament, and towards all Political Parties. We urge all Members of Parliament to pass a law upholding the spirit and letter of the Justice Verma Committee; to pass a law that makes a step forward in our collective struggle to end sexual violence in India.

 

 

Myth 1: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 is against men.

 

Fact: The new anti-sexual violence Bill is NOT against men. For our fathers, brothers, husbands, partners, neighbours and colleagues are men too. Are these Men in our lives not committed to seeking an end to the constant threat of sexual violence lurking around every corner? Yes, men must, and men do support this Bill. For this bill is against criminals. It is against the scourge of sexual violence, and seeks to prevent and protect our society from heinous sexual crimes like rape, molestation, disrobing and parading women or stalking.

 

We know that men too can be vulnerable to sexual attacks by criminal men. And we welcome the Bill’s recognition that both men and women can be victims of acid attack and provides protection to all ‘persons’ for these offences. But we further ask you, our Parliamentarians, to recognize that men must also be protected against the crime of rape and custodial rape committed by other men, and to change the definition of victim in section 375 and section 376 (2) to ‘person’ and not restrict victimhood in these instances to women alone. Men and women are and must remain partners in this battle against sexual violence. And all ‘persons’ deserve protection of the law against rape.

 

 

Myth 2: If the age of consent for sexual act is lowered to 16 years, this will encourage child marriage, prostitution and trafficking.

 

Fact: The age of consent for sexual relations in India has stood at 16 years for the last 30 years, since 1983. The age was increased without adequate public discussion in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, May 2012, 9 months ago, and later, in the hasty Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance of Feb 4th 2013. The JVC report recommends that it be retained at 16 years as it always has been in the IPC, to prevent criminalization of young persons for consensual sex. Women’s groups are merely asking for it to be retained at 16 years, rather than increase it unthinkingly to 18 years.

 

Retaining age of consent at 16 years does not mean social or moral endorsement or encouragement of teenage sexual activity. The law is not asking young people to do this or that. This is merely an acknowledgement that if two young people consensually decide to engage in sexual contact, we might want to teach them and educate them but we do not want to treat them instantly as criminals, or consign them to custody. For that is what ‘age of consent’ means – it means that a boy who has sexual contact with someone below the age of consent is committing statutory rape. If that age is now raised to 18, it means that boys of 16-18 years, or slightly older, will be held guilty of committing statutory rape if they have consensual sex with another person who is also between 16-18 years. In such cases, the judge will have no discretion under law and will be forced to place such boys in protection home (if under 18 years) or in jails (18 or above).

 

Indian society does not wish to treat as criminals and rapists young men and women who might engage in consensual sexual acts. For we must recognize that ‘criminalizing as RAPE’, the consensual acts of young adults, will make most vulnerable our young men, particularly those from marginalized communities. Third party complaints of statutory rape against young boys will force the Courts to condemn them to prison (if over 18) or protection homes for juveniles (if under 18) for committing no crime other than consensual sexual contact.

 

We must retain the age at 16 because raising the age to 18 years does not provide additional protection to young women against rape or sexual assault. It only serves to increase societal control over the lives and decisions of young persons, both young men and women. To protect their fundamental rights including the right to choice and sexual autonomy and agency, the law must keep 16 years as the age of consent for sexual acts.

 

Why should the age of marriage be 18 years and consent for sexual acts be retained at 16 years?

 

The age of marriage must be retained at 18 years. Marriage is a serious commitment and entails many long-term responsibilities of life, and it is appropriate to keep the age of marriage at 18 years. But there is no merit or useful purpose served by keeping one uniform legal age for every act of a human being. Studies, surveys and research conducted across India, including in rural India, all indicate that young people are engaging in consensual sexual activity between the ages of 16-18 years. The anxiety and legitimate concerns of parents on this count is real and valid. However, the answer to that lies outside the law – in education in schools and within families, and communication between the parents, teachers and young persons.

 

Retaining the age of consent at 16 years is only to ensure that when teenagers engage in consensual sexual activity, it does not lead to young boys being punished and imprisoned. Retaining age of consent for sexual contact at 16 years does not have any bearing or adverse impact on the efforts to prevent child marriage, to which we all stand committed.

 

In any case, marriage of persons under 18 years is legal and valid under the law. Consequently, sex between spouses, one or both of who may be between 16-18 years is not criminalized. Raising the age of consent to 18 years, treats consensual sex between married persons, one or both of whom may be between 16-18 years, differentially from sex between unmarried persons of the same age group. Tainting an unmarried boy of under or above 18 years with the stigma of criminality for consensual sex is unduly harsh and discriminatory, when compared with the legal status of a married boy of the same age.

 

Will the age of consent at 16 years lead to more trafficking and forced prostitution of women and children?

 

It must be emphasized that key to the definition of RAPE is the absence of consent of the woman. Each case where there is such absence of consent must be treated as a crime and punished.

 

In the case of trafficking and forced prostitution this issue of ‘consent’ whether at 16 or 18 is totally irrelevant. In cases of trafficking or forced prostitution, the consent of the girl or woman at any age is neither free nor voluntary; it is coerced and hence in the eyes of law does not amount to consent. The issue of age is irrelevant in all cases of trafficking and forced prostitution. As pointed out in the Justice Verma Committee Report, the police and other powerful forces are complicit in the crime of trafficking and forcing women and children into exploitative work. The 2013 Bill has special provisions to deal with Trafficking and we must ensure that these are rigorously enforced by the police.

 

Myth 3: The offences of Voyeurism and Stalking will trap innocent men.

 

Fact: The offence of Voyeurism as defined in Sec. 354C IPC, is very specific and pointed in scope and has no possibility of misuse or abuse. In villages, towns and cities, we know that the poor do not enjoy the luxury of a private bathroom in their homes. This makes the young girls and women particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse even as they perform routine activities of bathing, attending to the call of nature in fields and open public places. They are always fearful of men who may use this occasion to watch them or take pictures of them as they perform these private activities. The offence of Voyeurism will punish a man who watches or records a woman while she is in any private act where her private body parts may be exposed. This offence seeks to uphold the dignity of women and makes the violation of their fundamental right to privacy a crime.

 

Stalking: The crime of stalking takes a serious toll on the life of women. Gripped by fear and anxiety due to being repeatedly followed by a man, girls and women have been forced to drop out of education, quit jobs and even change homes to escape the stalker. The rape and murder of the young law student Priyadarshini Mattoo, is a grim reminder that if the stalker is not stopped, he can rape and kill. Stalkers are also known to throw acid on their victims, as a way to take revenge. By making stalking a crime, the law can actually prevent rape and other forms of aggravated sexual crimes and save innocent women from being brutally sexually assaulted or killed. The codification of this crime will fill an important lacuna in the present law.  Only in situations where a man repeatedly follows a woman, either physically or through the Internet and this causes her fear or distress, will the crime of stalking be recognised as such.

Related Articles

 

 

#India- Proposed criminal law makes acid attack, voyerism ,stalking criminal offences #Vaw


 

 

Cabinet clears Bill to tackle crimes against women

 

 

A man plays the guitar during a protest against the Dec 16 Delhi gangrape.A man plays the guitar during a protest against the Dec 16 Delhi gangrape.
A man plays the guitar during a protest against the Dec 16 Delhi gangrape.

 

 Agencies, march 14, 2013

 

 

A Bill providing for stringent punishment for crimes against women, including rape, and also defining acid attack, stalking and voyeurism as criminal offences, was today cleared by the Union Cabinet.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 also lowers the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years and makes ‘rape’ as a gender-specific offence under which men only can be charged for it.

The Bill, brought against the backdrop of the December 16 Delhi gangrape, provides for minimum jail term of 20 years for rape which may be extended to ‘natural life’ of the convict in jail.

There is also provision for death sentence if the victim dies or is left in a ‘persistent vegetative state‘.

Stalking, voyeurism have been defined as criminal offences in the bill. Sustained stalking will be a non-bailable offence.

The Bill had divided the Cabinet at its special meeting on Tuesday and was referred to a Group of Ministers (GoM) to sort out differences on various aspects of the proposed law.

The GoM finalised the draft yesterday amidst the government’s keenness to expedite the bill that will replace an ordinance promulgated on February 3.

The bill uses the term ‘rape’ which will be gender- specific, in contrast to the gender-neutral ‘sexual assault’ as proposed in the ordinance.

The bill also lowers the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years. In the ordinance, it was 18 years.

The measure, on the lines of the ordinance, has not touched on the issue of making marital rape a separate offence.

Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, who has been opposed to lowering the age of consent to 16 years, is learnt to have raised the issue again in today’s Cabinet meeting, sources said.

The issue of age had led to lengthy inter-ministry consultations with some arguing that it should not be reduced.

Sexual intercourse below the age of consent is considered statutory rape.

The government decided to drop the term ‘sexual assault’ and replace it with ‘rape’ following demands by women’s rights groups who had maintained that laws should be more gender sensitive than gender neutral.

Defining acid attack as a separate IPC offence, the bill proposes a punishment of not less than 10 years to a maximum of life imprisonment, the sources said.

Repeat offences of voyeurism, inappropriate touch, gesture and remarks have been recommended as non-bailable offences, they said.

Provisions seeking strong action against those filing false complaints were dropped from the draft bill yesterday as there was consensus in the GoM that existing provisions under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were adequate to deal with such cases and it was only a matter of enforcing them, the sources said.

The other proposal in the measure is understood to be on replacing the provision in the ordinance which has prescribed life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for those in authority committing rape. Now, a person in authority convicted of rape will have to spend rest of his “natural life” in jail.

A person in authority has been described as a police officer, a personnel of the armed forces, a doctor or a staffer of a hospital, a jailer or a warden of a remand home.

A fresh proposal now makes it mandatory for all government and private hospitals in the country to provide free medical treatment to women victims of any form of sexual violence.

Hospitals and similar facilities will not have to wait for the police. They can straight away start treatment after informing the police.

The refusal to do so will now be a criminal offence and will attract a one-year jail term for senior functionaries and the staff on duty of hospitals found guilty of turning away victims of sexual violence needing immediate medical care.

The bill has to be approved by Parliament before its recess from March 22, failing which the ordinance it proposes to replace would lapse on April 4.

Against the backdrop of some parties such as the Samajwadi Party having serious reservations on certain provisions of the ordinance claiming they are prone to misuse, the government has convened an all-party meeting next week to discuss the bill cleared by the Cabinet today.

 

Read more at:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/cabinet-clears-bill-to-tackle-crimes-against-women/1/257909.html

 

 

 

#India- BILL VS ACT: Confusion over sex crime laws #Vaw #Womenrights


Manoj Mitta | TNN

Persisting differences within the Cabinet on the rape Bill will not just make it harder to replace the ordinance on rape laws before it lapses in less than a month (April 4)—the government may also have to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (PCSO) which was passed by Parliament just 10 months ago. This is because the differences over the rape Bill, however they are resolved within the Cabinet and in the two Houses, are unlikely to remove all the anomalies thrown up by the hurriedly drafted ordinance promulgated last month following the outrage over the Nirbhaya gang rape.
The inconsistencies between the sexual offences pertaining to adults and children underscore the failure of policymakers to think through the provisions. Consider the extent of the legislative mess that remains to be cleared on so crucial an issue as gender crimes.
AGE OF CONSENT|This is one of the sticking points because PCSO had, in a controversial move, raised the permissible age for consensual sex from 16 to 18 years. Then, in a bid to make the statute book consistent, the government introduced a legislative proposal on December 4, increasing the age of consent to 18 even in the general law, the IPC. But the J S Verma Committee, set up in the wake of the Nirbhaya incident, applied a corrective by recommending that the age of consent remain 16 as it has been for over seven decades. The government, however, disregarded this advice. While the parliamentary standing committee endorsed the government’s stand, feminist groups demanded that consensual sex among teens should not be criminalised unless the age gap was more than four years. The upshot is that if the government decides to retain the age of consent in IPC at 16, it will have to amend PSCO to bring it in alignment with the new policy.
GENDER-NEUTRALITY
|The government is also under pressure to depart from the radical approach adopted in the ordinance where the term “rape” was replaced with the broader, genderneutral offence of “sexual assault”. The ordinance is contrary to the Verma report as well as the demands made by feminist groups. The argument in favor of retaining the term “rape” as a crime committed by men is that the gender-neutral provision will make women, “the real victims”, even more vulnerable to sexual crimes. The possibility of counter-complaints against women would have a chilling effect on their ability to seek legal remedy after being subjected to sexual offences. If it does not abandon its gender-neutrality proposal, the government runs the risk of enacting a law that is opposed by the very section it is meant to protect.
MARITAL RAPEPCSO and the ordinance are at odds on this issue. PCSO, which applies to all children below 18, makes no exception for the rape of a girl by her husband. But marital rape is penalized by the ordinance only when the wife is below 16. The wives above 16 are statutorily barred from accusing their husbands of non-consensual sex. This one-sided restriction means that a husband can accused wife of rape while the wife can make such an allegation only if she is below 16.
LESSER PUNISHMENT FOR CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN
This is a reversal of the global pattern of prescribing greater punishment for crimes against children. Consider some of the anomalies that need to be fixed. While the minimum punishment in PCSO for a non-contact sexual assault is seven years, the minimum in the ordinance for the same offence is 10 years. If the offender touches the private parts of a girl under 18, the punishment under PCSO ranges from three to five years. But if the victim is a woman over 18, then the punishment under the ordinance ranges from 10 years to life imprisonment.

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