#India-After 100 years , Odisha villagers get rights to harvest bamboo rights #agriculture

JAMGUDA, March 4, 2013

Prafulla Das, The Hindu

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is handing over the patta at Jamguda in Kalahandi district on Sunday. Photo: Lingaraj
Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is handing over the patta at Jamguda in Kalahandi district on Sunday. Photo: Lingaraj

Tribal development must for curbing Naxal growth: Jairam

For the residents of this tiny non-descript village in Odisha’s Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region, it was a rare celebratory occasion on Sunday when they got back the rights that had been snatched away by the British rulers nearly a century ago.

The official transit passbook for cultivation and harvest of bamboo was handed over to the Jamguda Gram Sabha by Orissa forest officials. Union Rural Development and Tribal Affairs Ministers Jairam Ramesh and Kishore Chandra Deo and Odisha Revenue minister Surjya Narayan Patra attended a Tribal Rights festival organised by the Gram Sabha to mark the event.

Jamguda became the first village in Odisha to be provided community rights to harvest and sell bamboo under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Mendha Lekha in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra was the first village in the country to have been given bamboo transit passbooks in April 2011. A few more villages near Mendha Lekha obtained the rights subsequently.

Mr. Ramesh had earlier written to Orissa’s Naveen Patnaik and the Chief Ministers of five other Maoist-affected States to hand over full control of transit passbooks to the Gram Sabhas where community forest rights were recognised.

Addressing Jamguda villagers, Mr. Ramesh and Mr. Deo said the Centre would extend full cooperation in providing tribals and other traditional forest dwellers the right over minor forest produce such as bamboo, kendu leaf and mahula flower.

Mr. Ramesh underlined the need for ensuring development of the tribal people in order to check the growth of Maoists in the tribal regions. “We have to understand why the tribal people were feeling alienated and were unhappy that benefits of development had not reached them so far and their land was being taken away by non-tribal people for different projects.”

Hostile treatment

Tribal people had been treated as enemies by Forest Department officials since the British enforced the Forest Act in 1927 and all land in tribal areas was declared forest land, said Mr. Deo. Under the present laws, granting tribals land rights should be the main priority, he said.


NAC members raise concerns over direct benefit transfer scheme #Aadhaar #UID

Concerns raised over the efficiency of banking networks and on-the-ground preparations for the schemeAnuja & Liz Mathew   Liz Mathew , livemint.com
First Published: Tue, Feb 26 2013. 09 52 PM IST
NAC members argue that public services should not be denied to those who do not have an Aadhaar number. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
NAC members argue that public services should not be denied to those who do not have an Aadhaar number.
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint


Updated: Tue, Feb 26 2013. 09 59 PM IST
New DelhiA section of the Sonia Gandhi -led National Advisory Council (NAC) is not happy with the government “rushing into” the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme, expected to be the flagship programme of the ruling Congress party in the national election scheduled for next year.
At a meeting of the NAC on Tuesday, where Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairmanNandan Nilekani made a presentation on Aadhaar and DBT, some members flagged concerns on the efficiency of banking networks and on-the-ground preparations for the scheme. They argued that no public services should be denied to those who do not have an Aadhaar number.
According to five members in the 11-member committee, the members warned the scheme cannot be implemented in a hurried manner without proper mechanism and preparations.
State governments, ministries and departments should not rush into direct cash transfers without assessing whether or not they are appropriate and whether the preconditions are in place,” said A.K. Shivakumar, NAC member, adding that a legal framework within which the identity numbers are being issued needs to be in place.
The United Progressive Alliance government, which has been in election mode for some time now, recently launched the DBT, which aims to directly transfer cash subsidies using Aadhaar to beneficiaries of several government welfare schemes. A pilot was rolled out in 20 districts for 26 schemes on 1 January. Finance minister P. Chidambaram and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh announced that programme from a party platform, which indicated the Congress’ intention to use it as an election plank. Party leaders also coined a slogan for the scheme, “Aapka paisa aapke haath” (your money in your hands), an indirect reference to Congress’ election symbol.
Nilekani told the members that 280 million Aadhaar numbers have been issued so far and by 2014, the authority expects to enrol 600 million people. DBT is expected to plug leakages, reduce wastage and bring down discrepancies in the beneficiary list. However, the members also raised questions about making Aadhaar compulsory. “The council appreciated UID as a concept but some issues were raised. The main concern was that while UID was voluntary, the interpretation made at the state level was that it was mandatory for access to certain social service schemes. While it is not intentional, it is playing out differently on the ground,” said Mirai Chatterjee, member of the council.
Another NAC member N.C. Saxena said that while in general there was a view that Aadhaar was a “good scheme”, there were transition problems and the ministries should not be in a hurry to make it compulsory.
Another member who did not want to be identified said that concerns over the banking network and linkages to it were also raised.
NAC member Aruna Roy was critical of the scheme, saying in the meeting that the idea of DBT was an “experiment on the poor” and a “failed experiment being pushed through”. “The new architecture of using the UID to access existing cash benefits through the bank has only added an extra layer of complicated and complex procedures and has burdened both the programme as well as the beneficiary with little apparent advantage,” a release from Roy’s office quoted her as saying.
In response to concerns that UIDAI had not been given legal sanction by Parliament, Nilekani’s presentation highlighted that the authority has been functioning under executive notification issued by the Planning Commission in 2009, which is valid under law, the same member said. The Bill pending before Parliament is just to strengthen the authority by giving it statutory status in order to impose obligations and penalties, Nilekani said in his presentation.
A senior government official aware of the development, who did not want to be identified, said most of the NAC members were supportive. However, concerns raised by some on operational issues related to cash transfer were legitimate. “They are being addressed,” the official said.
The Congress is pushing the DBT scheme as one of its key achievements. In the presidential address last week listing the government’s agenda for the coming year, Pranab Mukherjee said it will be a “trendsetter” and will “cut leakages, bring millions of people into the financial system and lead to better targeting of beneficiaries”.
Surabhi Agarwal contributed to this story.
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First Published: Tue, Feb 26 2013. 09 52 PM IST


#India- Environment ministry denies forest clearance to Vedanta #goodnews

18 FEB, 2013, 04.47AM IST, ET BUREAU

Forest clearance to mine the hills for bauxite for the plant was to follow, but was denied during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure.

Forest clearance to mine the hills for bauxite for the plant was to follow, but was denied during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure.
NEW DELHI: The environment ministry has defended in the Supreme Court its decision to deny forest clearance under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) to Orissa Mining Corporation’s plan to mine the Niyamgiri Hills to source bauxite for Vedanta‘s alumina plant, while simultaneously leaving the door open for possible dilution of the Forest Rights Act in other project areas. The alumina plant was granted environmental clearance in 2007. Forest clearance to mine the hills for bauxite for the plant was to follow, but was denied during former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s tenure.Both OMC and Vedanta’s Indian arm Sterlite have challenged in court the MoEF‘s refusal to give forest clearance to mining. The MoEF has defended its refusal to give permission to divert forest land for mining in the hills on several counts — that it violates the fundamental rights of the Dongria Kondhs, a vulnerable tribal group living in this scheduled area, and also their right to inhabit and use the forests as traditional forest dwellers under the FRA. The plan to mine a 7 sq-km area atop the hills held sacred by this tribe violates their right to religion, the MoEF affidavit, filed on Friday, said.

OMC, Sterlite and the Odisha government had accused the MoEF of indulging in doublespeak on the FRA to deny clearance only to OMC’s mining plans and asked the court to direct it to explain whether no forest land can ever be diverted for development under FRA or they were only making an exception for Vedanta.

In a reply affidavit, the MoEF defended its refusal to deny forest clearance to 26% joint venture partner OMC’s plans to mine the hills, but left scope for the Act to be diluted in other cases, possibly to take care of development considerations raised by the PMO, experts suggested. The ministry was asked to state whether the FRA did not envisage any diversion of forest land for development activities or whether it could be permitted under some terms. In its affidavit, the ministry said eligible forest dwellers cannot be evicted “till the process of recognition and vesting of individual and community forest rights under the Act is complete.” Even in areas where rights have been recognized or are “likely to be recognised” diversion of forest land should be “avoided” and that it should be “the last resort after examination of alternatives.”

Forest land cannot be diverted for #Vedanta project, says India #goodnews

New Delhi, February 16, 2013


English: Dongri Kondh Dance from Kalahandi

English: Dongri Kondh Dance from Kalahandi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

J. Venkatesan, The Hindu

Justifying the cancellation of the environmental clearance granted to Vedanta for the Lanjigarh Bauxite mining project in Odisha, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on Friday said that forest land cannot be diverted under the provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the MoEF said: “The diversion of forest land on the proposed mining site of the Lanjigarh bauxite mining lease is violative of the fundamental rights of the Dongria Kondh tribals as well as the spirit of Forest Rights Act especially for the vulnerable tribal groups such as the Dongria Kondh and thus cannot be allowed for this reason alone.”

It said: “More than 7 sq. km. of the sacred undisturbed forests on top of the mountain, where the proposed mining lease area of the Lanjigarh bauxite mining lease is located has been protected for centuries by the Dongria Kondh, a primitive tribal group [now termed as particularly vulnerable tribe] as sacred to their deity. Diversion of these sacred areas for mining will undermine the customary rights of the Dongria Kondhs to protect their sacred places of worship and thereby amount to a violation of their fundamental right to manage their own affairs in the matter of religion and fundamental right to conserve the culture of their own. It was also in direct violation further of the specific provisions of the Forest Rights Act.”

According to the Orissa Mining Corporation, which filed the writ petition, the then Minister of State for MoEF, Jairam Ramesh, passed an order, withdrawing the environmental clearance just a day before the Council of Ministers was reshuffled. It said that no mandatory notice was given before such withdrawal. The then Minister withdrew the clearance despite knowing that the matter was sub judice and that the Supreme Court issued notice three months ago on a writ petition. It sought quashing of the order. The Centre filed its response on this petition.

The Centre said: “The Lanjigarh bauxite mining lease is located in Scheduled Areas as referred to in Clause (1) of Article 244 of the Constitution. Circumscribing or extinguishing of forest rights in such areas shall be in conformity with the provisions of the clause-5 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution.

“Section 5 of the 2006 Act inter alia provides that the holders of the forest right, Gram Sabha and village level institutions in areas, where there are holders of any forest rights under this Act, are empowered to ensure that habitat of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers is preserved from any form of destructive practices affecting their cultural and natural heritage.”



Aadhaar-linked DBT hits roadblock in East Godavari #UID

Mohammad Ali, The Hindu
The Direct Benefits Transfer pilot project in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh with a claimed 95 per cent penetration pilot project, with a claimed 95 per cent penetration, has been full of problems, highlighting the pitfalls of extending the programme nationwide. File photo
Only 75% of MGNREGS workers have been enrolled; many without Aadhaar number denied access to benefits
The popular tagline for the Aadhaar-linked Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) is Aam aadmi ka paisa, aam aadmi ke haath (People’s money in their own hands).
The DBT pilot project was launched in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh earlier this month, with Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh hailing the scheme as a panacea. “It is the largest experiment to reform a broken-down delivery system. If we are successful in this, we will… reform the welfare delivery system.”
And yet the pilot project, with a claimed 95 per cent penetration of DBT, has itself been full of problems. This highlights the pitfalls of extending the programme nationwide without adequate preparation.
Indeed, a cross-section of activists, bureaucrats and experts, this correspondent spoke to at the launch, felt the Union government was rushing things.
The near consensus is that there is too much pressure on the State governments to go ahead with the scheme. “At this rushed pace, the process will leave out the vulnerable and marginalised sections of society.”
East Godavari district has won the ‘National Aadhaar Governance Award’ for achieving a near total coverage of DBT. Yet, only 75 per cent of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) workers had been enrolled as on January 6, when the project was launched in the Gollaprolu block.
Over 3,96,040 out of the total 15,84,161 registered workers in the district were yet to be enrolled, according to Andhra Pradesh Principal Secretary (Rural Development) R. Subrahmanyam. The situation was the same in the enrolment of pensioners.
Not just this. Locals complained that those without the Aadhaar number were denied MGNREGS wages and access to PDS grain, which is not included in the schemes covered under DBT.
Mr. Subrahmanyam denied any irregularity. “Those who are yet to be enrolled in the Aadhaar system will be allowed to use the existing smart card for a period of two months,” he said.
The situation on the ground though is different. Take the case of Kurakula Ammaji of Narsingapuram village. Ammaji, who is in her eighties, travelled a few kilometres to the Gollaprolu block to complain about denial of PDS grain because she didn’t have the Aadhaar number.
“The authorities ask for the Aadhaar number for every social scheme… They are depriving us of food and pension because we do not have the number. Now you tell me, how are we supposed to feed ourselves?”
Kurakula Bhadrachalam alleged that he was not able to get MGNREGS payment from his bank. Earlier the payment used to be deposited in the bank account of a worker. But DBT links the bank account to the beneficiary’s Aadhaar number, making access to cash difficult without it.
Others like Perantala Goda, who have got the Aadhaar number, were worried about the transition from the smart card or the old system of the State biometrics to DBT.
“Even a slight disruption in the delivery system adversely affects our lives.”
The exclusion of a number of people from Aadhaar enrolment has led experts and activists like Reetika Khera to question the efficiency and credentials of the Central government, which has been “displaying unprecedented hurry… in pushing the UID at any cost.”
Ms. Khera, a faculty member of IIT Delhi, involved in the implementation of the MGNREGS and the PDS, argued that if the purpose of Aadhaar was “financial inclusion” of the poor, the cash transfer should not have been launched without covering all intended beneficiaries, especially the vulnerable sections. “Can you imagine the situation elsewhere when this is the state of affairs in East Godavari?”
Ms. Khera supports cash transfers for old-age and widow pensions, maternity entitlements and scholarships but opposes the government’s plan for “accelerated mass conversion of welfare schemes into UID-driven cash transfers.”
She also argued that Aadhaar was not equipped to address the bigger leakages through cuts and bribes, or inclusion of ineligible persons in the rolls.
Aadhaar registration has been low in most districts of Andhra Pradesh, so much so that the State government has had to defer its plans to roll out DBT in Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Chittoor, Anantapur and East Godavari districts.
An official told The Hindu that though beneficiaries of schemes such as the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, Dhanalakshmi and the Janani Suraksha Yojana were very few, DBT could not be rolled out because even this small number was not enrolled for Aadhaar by the January 6 deadline.
Social audit
Andhra Pradesh has managed to evolve an institutional mechanism for social audit of schemes like the MGNREGS. Sowmya Kidambi, Director of the Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency, argued that what was needed was social audit of welfare schemes. “Rather than pursuing the path of social audits, which is the way to plug the bigger leakages in the schemes, the government is showing unnecessary haste in pushing DBT through.”
Keywords: Direct cash transfer scheme, Aadhaar-linked cash transfer, benefits transfer, East Godavari district, National Aadhaar Governance Award



Jairam is wrong: It isn’t mining that causes poverty


by  Jan 14, 2013

Crude generalisations may make for great polemics, particularly when they are backed by ideological rigidity, but they don’t always make for informed political or economic discourse.

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh is guilty of both crude generalisations and ideological rigidity when he says, with breezy disregard for nuance and even a callous disdain for facts, that “mining only leads to poverty.” Addressing tribal populations in Lanjigarh in Odisha, Ramesh claimed that mining would not do away with the widespread poverty that the tribal-inhabited areas in the State were susceptible to. “The Central government believes that poverty can be reduced only through agriculture and rural development,” Ramesh added. (More here)

Ramesh’s choice of turf to articulate his ruminations on mining, poverty and rural development isn’t entirely without significance. This was after all the ‘hallowed’ ground where Rahul Gandhi had in 2010 given rare voice to his perspective (such as it is on) on developmental economics – with yet more of the same crude and ill-informed generalisations.

Friend of the tribals or just misguided? PTI

Rahul Gandhi had said then that he would serve as a “soldier in Delhi” waging battle on behalf of the tribal people of Kalahandi and against the interests of mining corporates that were looking to harness minerals from this resource-rich region. Ramesh had, as Environment Minister, refused clearance for mining activity in the region, as part of an elaborate mapping of go/no-go areas that clearly went overboard in its reach.

As columnist Dhiraj Nayyar noted last year, that decision by Ramesh cost the country substantially more than the Rs 1.86 lakh crore that was cited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General as the notional loss to the exchequer from the coal scandal.

The Indian economy paid a high price in terms of the 10-15 per cent shortage in power supply year after year, added Nayyar. And that shortage came about not because power generating capacity had not been added, but because of a crippling shortage of coal to fire the power plants. And over the next five years, that shortage will likely more than double.

In other words, what keeps the tribal people of Odisha’s mineral-rich area in poverty is not mining activity but the singular lack of imagination of successive governments, right down to the UPA 2 government of Manmohan Singh, to bring even the rudiments of development to these region. It bears mention that Odisha’s Kalahandi district was in the news during Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership in 1986 for the starvation deaths there that prompted a tribal mother to sell her daughter for food. Until then, the Congress had been in power at the Centre for all but three years – and yet, the tribal communities had not benefited from even the faintest whiff of development and continued to wallow in poverty.

Even today, the UPA government’s anti-poverty measures only find expression in throwing good money after bad on welfare programmes that leak like a sieve, rather than in permitting responsible mining activity that would have propelled the economy and uplifted local populations from poverty while simultaneously limiting environmental degradation.

Successful models overseas offer an illustration of the economic multiplier effect, including in lifting indigenous populations from poverty, from responsible mining overseen by proactive governments. In Australia, for instance, the mining boom during the past decade effectively meant that the contribution of mining and mining services industries to Australia’s economy more than doubled from less than 10 per cent of GDP in 2002-03 to 20 per cent of GDP in 2011-12. (More here)

The Australian government also oversaw a partnership between the minerals industry and the indigenous communities, including Aboriginal communities, under which the industry expanded accesss to employment and business development opportunities to indigenous people and communities in mining regions.

In other words, the federal government worked alongside the minerals industry, yet held it accountable for responsible mining practices, and simultaneously leveraged the industry to catalyse the economy in rural and remote parts of Australia both directly through employment and enterprise development, and indirectly by supporting broader economic opportunities.

Similar successful models of responsible mining that uplifted economies exist in other resource-rich countries, including Mongolia. Entire communities benefited from the mining boom, with no significant damage to the environment.

In India, on the other hand, polemicists like Jairam Ramesh and Rahul Gandhi have made a virtue of economic stagnation for decades, in the name of protecting tribal communities from mining corporates. And having contributed thus to a crippling loss of coal for power generation, inflicting a heavy economic burden on the economy, the Manmohan Singhgovernment gave away mining licences recklessly precipitating what is arguably the biggest resources scam in India’s independent history. Today, the selfsame Jairam Ramesh suggests with no trace of irony that it is mining that keeps tribal communities in poverty.

No, Mr Ramesh, what keeps tribal communities in poverty is your ecological evangelism (which acknowledges no middle ground) – and your government’s laissez faire grant of licence that feeds monumental corruption – rather than promote responsible mining that can lift up economies and benefit everyone, including tribal populations, without environmental degradation. It is the singular lack of imagination on the part of the government of which you are a part that has inhibited the Indian economy from realizing its potential and allowed the plunder of national resources, while keeping tribal communities in poverty.


‘Don’t take Niyamgiri o videshi’ #Vedanta

By , TNN | Jan 14, 2013,

LANJIGARH: The congregation of about 500 Dongria and Kutia tribals to greet Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh with their traditional song and dance at Lanjigarh had no clue who the minister was or what was the purpose of his visit.

“We don’t know who Jairam Ramesh is,” said Dadhi Pushika, a local tribal, who couldn’t spell out the name of the minister properly. He said they were asked by some local Congressmen to gather at the venue of the public meeting on Sunday and to perform their traditional music and dance.

The tribals, who were singing and dancing merrily before the minister arrived at the venue, however, stopped doing so as soon as hisentourage arrived. The shy tribals didn’t budge even as the minister urged them to continue singing.

“We were also asked to come with our traditional weapons to brandish during his (minister’s) visit. So I asked some of my friends in the village to come, who asked me if the guest was coming in a helicopter,” smiled another tribal Drenju Wikaka shyly. He said they were asked to sing a pro-Niyamgiri song. But when asked what the words of their songs were, Wikaka said they were singing, “‘Don’t take Niyamgiri o videshi'”.

“Every time a guest comes to our village on Niyamgiri issue, we are invited although after his return things remain the same. He makes some promises, which the local educated people make us understand. But our villagers are being tortured and treated like dogs by the local police on suspicion of being involved in Maoist activities and the leaders are not doing anything,” said Kalia Sikoka. He stressed Niyamgiri is everything for them and they won’t give an inch of it, questioning innocently why is there so much fuss about it.

Abducted Malkangiri collector Vineel Krishna, who is the private secretary to Ramesh at present, was also part of the visit. He said the security system has to improve in Maoist-infested districts to successfully complete developmental projects meant for tribals. “Maoists are instigating the innocent people and taking advantage of underdevelopment. In order to ensure development we need people’s support,” said Krishna. About his release from Maoist abductors in 2011, he said his release was possible only because of the support of local people.


#Inda- Burying democracy in human waste

January 8, 2013

Prabha Sridevan, The Hindu

Every day that the practice of manual scavenging continues is another day that negates the right to a life of dignity for those still forced to engage in this demeaning work

The Supreme Court had recently admonished a District Magistrate for filing a “wrong” affidavit stating that there was no manual scavenging in his district. Just a day earlier, Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh had publicly apologised for the continuance of the practice of manual scavenging. And I thought of a documentary on manual scavenging that has haunted me ever since I saw it.

It is really what is described as an “in your face” documentary. A scene is of a small girl in a blue frock, and with liquid eyes — what in Tamil we would call “Neerottam.” She answers the questions about her experience in school (what I give below is not a verbatim reproduction of the script, but an imperfect one).

“Did you like school?”

“Yes.” (A shy smile)

“What happened?”

“I stopped.”


“I used to sit in the front row. Then my classmates did not want me to sit next to them. So the teacher asked me to move to the last row. I went for some days. Then I stopped.”

This did not happen decades ago, but in this day and age. It must have been a government school. Where else will a poor Bhangi’s child go? Article 17 of the Constitution states: “Untouchability is abolished.” If a government schoolteacher can ask a child to go to the back row because her classmates do not want any contact with her, when was it abolished?

Let us all feel on our skin the sandpaper-rub of exclusion. We are not done with that little girl yet. The camera stays on her face, while she looks back at us. Slowly those deep eyes, which have known a pain that no eight-year-old should, well up with tears and she whispers:

“I wanted to become a nurse or a teacher.”

Fraternity, we promised ourselves; fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. What does fraternity mean? Dr. Ambedkar said, when the Constitution was in the making, that: “Fraternity means a sense of common brotherhood of all Indians — of Indians being one people. It is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life. It is a difficult thing to achieve. Castes are anti-national, in the first place, because, they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste. But we must overcome all these difficulties if we wish to become a nation in reality. For fraternity can be a fact only when there is a nation. Without fraternity, equality and liberty will be no deeper than coats of paint.” The truth must be told, we have not overcome. Why else did the teacher ask that child to sit away from her classmates?

How do we apologise to her for the insult to her dignity, the vandalism of her dreams, and the destruction of her desire? How do we make amends? Can we, in one lifetime, do it? This was a denial of fraternity, a violation of the basic principle of democracy. We, the units of humanity, are interconnected and respect for each other is a sine qua non of all human interactions. There can be no dilution or compromise on this. It is not dependent on who the one is or who the other. This interconnectedness is fraternity — the spirit that assures and affirms human dignity. That is why it is imperative that fraternity informs all State actions and all social transactions. The dynamics between equality and fraternity work like this: in the absence of substantive equality, there will always be groups whose dignity is not acknowledged resulting in a negation of fraternity. Of the five senses, touch is the least understood. But it is the only sense that establishes fraternity that also establishes kinship. A bridge is built when you touch another in kinship in a way that it is not when you look at, talk to or listen to the other. And “a continent of persons” within India has been denied that “touch,” that kinship. It is because we have not understood the principle of fraternity, that there is no “they” and “us,” there is only “us.”

2010 deadline

That young girl of the broken dreams was born to parents who are manual scavengers. This is a group to which the right to fraternity is consistently and brazenly denied, and the most marginalised of marginalised groups. It is acknowledged in public meetings that manual scavenging is a human rights issue and not about sanitation. We read in the newspapers that this practice would soon be banned and that we would become Nirmal Bharat. But it continues. Even if the winds of change are blowing, for the condemned ones even yesterday is not soon enough, any of the yesterdays. There have been many deadlines for eradicating this practice, one such final deadline was March 31, 2010. Deadlines have come and gone. But manual scavengers continue their work, anaesthetising themselves with drinks and drugs from these assaults on their dignity. Their lives are a daily negation of the right to a life with dignity though they have court orders affirming that right.

When a teacher asks a child — like the one whom we met earlier — what her father does for a living, what would she say? “My father carries all your filth on his head?” She probably remains silent. If she speaks those words, her classmates would not see it just as another job. No, it is a job that has to be done by the “other,” so “our” houses “within” will remain clean, and “the other” after cleaning the house will go outside the margin and remain “unclean.” She would be asked to sit away from the rest. So, she is silent.

‘What do you know?’

I once heard at the National Judicial Academy, an excruciatingly painful experience shared by Bezwada Wilson, who campaigns against manual scavenging. He had seen some persons who were manual scavengers, digging in a pile of excreta.

He asked, “What are you doing?”

“The pail has got buried in the filth; we are trying to retrieve it.”

“So you will dig there with your hands?”

“If we do not get it back, we cannot do our job tomorrow, and we will not get paid. What do you know?”

He said, “I walked and walked for a long time out in the fields and I stood there and cried to the moon, I cried to the wind, I cried to the water, I cried and I asked why?”

In his book “The Strange Alchemy of Law and Life,” Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa writes, “There are some things human beings cannot do to other human beings.” He said it in the context of torture; it is just the same in the context of this abomination. The Supreme Court in State of M.P. vs. Ram Krishna Balothia (1995 SCC (3) 221) rejected the attack on the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, saying that a special legislation to check and deter crimes against them committed by non-Scheduled Castes and non-Scheduled Tribes is necessary, in view of the continued violation of their rights. S.3(1)(ii) of this Act says: “Whoever, not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe —

i. ………

ii. acts with intent to cause injury, insult or annoyance to any member of a Scheduled Caste, or a Scheduled Tribe by dumping excreta … in his premises or neighbourhood,” is punishable.

But the work of manually lifting and the removal of human excreta is inextricably linked with caste and is another form of “dumping.”

Mr. Wilson writes in his Foreword to Gita Ramaswamy’s book “India Stinking …” (2005) that, “(A)n estimated 13,00,000 people from dalit communities continue to be employed as manual scavengers across the length and breadth of this country — in private homes, in community dry latrines managed by the municipality, in the public sector such as railways and by the army.” This is why the heart of a little girl who wanted to become a nurse was broken and she dropped out of school. There are some things one human being does not do to another human being.

(Prabha Sridevan, a former Judge of the Madras High Court, is Chairperson, Intellectual Property Appellate Board.)

Faking Happiness- Vedanta Khushi vs Vedanta ki Vedana #socialmedia #CSR


Corporate mining giant  Vedanta has been violating the human rights of tribals in Odisha for  many  years now. The Dongria Kondhs, a primitive tribe, has been forced to relinquish their rights over their homeland, and cultural and livelihood resources to accommodate the company’s refinery and mines complex. The company’s mines, no matter how benign, will rip through a hill that is the sacred deity of the tribe that has lived in these hills for centuries without leaving a trace on the sensitive ecosystem of the biodiverse watershed forests. The hills that are slotted for mining are home to the Golden Gecko, a species that figures in IUCN’s Red List of endangered species. The Niyamgiri Mountains are the primary source of drinking water for the entire area, apart from being the source of two important rivers of Orissa Nagabali and Vamsadhara which are the lifeline of at least 50000 people downstream.

Research by Amnesty International and other local and international groups documents the serious and continuing pollution caused by the refinery’s operations. Despite the string of decisions against Vedanta, the company has failed to remedy the pollution.

In March this year shortly after Vedanta launched its public relations campaign,  called ‘ creating happiness “. – a series of short films about Vedanta that aired on 37 TV channels – was an advertising campaign conceived by India’s ad guru Piyush Pandey of Ogilvy & Mather. It was launched with a technically slick film that focused on the apparent happiness of Binno, a small girl in Rajasthan, when she discovers that she can get an education from the anganwadis (child day care centres) set up by the company.

We launched our  FAKING HAPPINESS CAMPAIGN with series of open letters and call for short film competition, showing the true picture of Vedanta. Following  our onslaught,  Shyam Benegal and  Gul Panag withdrew from the jury saying they were unaware of Vedanta’s role in the competition. At the end of the day, Vedanta’s PR campaign backfired badly.

Now once again Vedanta ,as they claim have launched first social media campaign ‘ Vedanta ‘ Khushi”   , and we are back with a BANG.

Here is the launch of our, ‘ VEDANTA ki VEDANA” Campaign.  We launch our first Music Video- ‘Vedanta Saddan”

Lyrics are by- Rahul Yogi Deveshwar

Singer- Madan Shukla

Edited and Adapted by- Kamayani Bali Mahabal

A big THANKS to Music Inn  support for the recording

The Facebook page says-KHUSHI” is a mission started on fulfilling the objective and let know the world that we do “Care for the Under-Privileged Children” – their Nutrition – Education – Health and overall development. “KHUSHI” – a Vedanta Group initiative – is a mission to bring in together like minded people, particularly youth of today, to spread this awareness amongst colleagues, friends, relatives and people around, through word of mouth or through e-medium and the way one feels would be useful.

And we know what an apt time to start the campaign when Vedanta is fighting for its existence

The Supreme Court is due to make a final decision on the challenge posed to the Environment Ministry’s stop to the Niyamgiri mine on 11th January, 2013 . In its December 6th hearing the Supreme Court concluded that the case rested on whether the rights of the indigenous Dongia Kond’s – who live exclusively on that mountain – could be considered ‘inalienable or compensatory’. The previous ruling by Environment and Forests minister Jairam Ramesh in August 2010 prevented Vedanta from mining the mountain due to violations of environment and forestry acts. The challenge to this ruling has been mounted by the Orissa Mining Corporation, a state owned company with 24% shares in the joint venture to mine Niyamgiri with Vedanta, begging questions about why a state company is lobbying so hard for a British mining company in whom it has only minority shares in this small project. (see http://infochangeindia.org/environment/features/niyamgiri-a-temporary-reprieve.html)




IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Eleven tribal women political prisoners observe hunger strike #protest



On 13th December 2012, eleven tribal women political prisoners will be observing a one day hunger strike for the implementation of various demands including the central demand that the Gadchiroli district prison be opened despite over two years since its completed construction.

The series of atrocities by the Maharashtra government goes unabated, without any rectification despite numerous democratic protests and hunger stikes. Hence, during the winter session of the State legislative at Nagpur we are observing a one day long hunger strike for the deaf government to hear.

In the press note issued by the tribal women political prisoners they have made their position clear. It has been over two years since the construction of the Gadchiroli district prison and news of its opening within a few months has been published in the newspapers. The post of Guardian Minister of our Gadchiroli district is with Hon’ble Shri. R. R. Patil and affairs related to the prison are also handled by his (home) departed. Nevertheless there has been a failure to start functioning of the Gadchiroli prison despite over two years having lapsed. The newspapers have also carried news that materials worth almost Rs. 40 lacs have been stolen from the premises. If not the government, this question is of great value for us because by imprisoning us at Nagpur and other prisons our relations with our families and lawyers have been totally cut off. Besides, our constitutional right to be produced before the court during trial has been violated since the last 23 months causing us severe mental disturbance. We urge our guardian minister R. R. Patil to consider this grave situation and declare the Gadchiroli prison be opened within a fixed time.

On 1st April 2012, while replying to a question raised by Shobhatai Fadnavis of the Bharatiya Janata Party, State Home minister R. R. Patil informed the Legislative Council that the government has decided to investigate the cases of tribal youth imprisoned at the Nagpur prison. However it has been over a year and a half without any action in this regard. It would mean that the home minister made this empty promise only to silence the opposition. The arrests of innocents, like us has begun under his patronage ever since he has become the gadchiroli district guardian minister. On one hand, he has declared that he will not tolerate injustice on innocents to gather the sympathy of tribals and on the other; a cruel repression is being unleashed against the tribals. We call upon him to end this mockery and declare in this legislative session whether a commission for investigation has been appointed as promised.

Likewise since January 2011, the production of the Gadchiroli undertrials before the session’s court has come to a complete halt. There had been an attempt to conduct trials through video conferencing. However due to regular technical problems it never functioned smoothly. And now since March 2012, this mechanism too has come to an end. It is the total violation of the constitutional right of an undertrial not to be produced before the trial court. Our demands are not excessive. We merely demand that the government fulfill its minimum obligations of producing us before the court and that our endless trials be conducted speedily. The Union minister Jairam Ramesh has declared the central government has decided to conduct trials of tribals by setting up fast track courts. R. R. Patil too caught to and upheld this declaration. However rather than making new declarations the Maharashtra government ought to try to ensure the regular and speedy functioning of existing courts, so as to clear obstacles of us approaching them.

The practice of re-arresting persons acquitted after a prolonged legal battle has become the rule. The police do not show the intelligence to arrest the person in a new case when in prison or when in police custody. However after the person is acquitted and released, the police have the ‘wisdom’ to re-arrest the person at the gate. The police by dutifully doing this to inflate the number of arrests without any consideration of the violations of the prisoners human rights. This practice of re-arrest is shameful for a ‘democratic’ government. Hence we call upon the home minister to immediately put and end to this practice of re-arrest.

The home minister very well knows that all the charges leveled on us are false. Hence the government has employed a policy to conduct trials at snails pace, totally end the production of undertrials in court and the practice of re-arrest- all steps undertaken to make us rot in prison for maximum possible time. To keep illiterate and poor tribal youth away from justice and to see to it that they only get delayed justice is a violation of our constitutionally guaranteed human rights. Hence we take this opportunity to humbly appeal to all democratic and justice loving people and the peoples’ representatives to raise their voices in our support.

Yours faithfully,

Undertrial prisoners,

Saguna Pungati (Raji Reddy)- sd/-

Sunanda Bhovate- sd/-

Date: 8.12.12

Place: Nagpur Central Prison, Nagpur.


* This is a rough translation of the press note sent by the prisoners in marathi.


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