Dayamani Barla – The Voice of Jharkhand #indigenous #tribalrights

EPW, Vol – XLVIII No. 23, June 08, 2013 | Moushumi Basu

Activist-journalist Dayamani Barla has won many awards, the latest being the Ellen L Lutz Indigenous Rights Award from Cultural Survival. The first journalist from the Munda tribe in Jharkhand Dayamani wields her pen and leads the struggles of fellow tribals equally powerfully against the machinations of the state and big business.

Moushumi Basu ( a freelance journalist based in Kolkata

The email status message of Dayamani Barla, the tribal activist from Jharkhand always reads, “Ladenge.. Jeetenge…” (We will fight… we will win). Fighting against the establishment’s unjust policies and protecting her fellow tribals from displacement has become second nature for Dayamani. Along with the struggles however, there have also been awards and accolades.

The awards she has won include the Counter Media Award for Rural Journalism, the National Foundation for India Fellowship, and the Chingari Award. The latest is the 2013 Ellen L Lutz Indigenous Rights Award from Cultural Survival, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in recognition of her pioneering  grass root leadership for tribal rights. Cultural Survival works with indigenous peoples across the world to defend their lands, language and culture.  Barla was chosen from amongst 60 nominees from across the world.

Described as the “Iron Lady of Jharkhand” for her fearless opposition against the infringement of adivasi rights, she was presented the award, which includes a US $10,000 cash prize, at a ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York on 23 May. The event also coincides with the twelfth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The award has been instituted in the memory of late Ellen L Lutz (1955-2010), a well-known human rights lawyer and former executive director of Cultural Survival.

“Cultural Survival is honored to present Dayamani Barla, an Indigenous human rights activist and journalist from the Munda tribe in the Indian state of Jharkhand, with the award,” said its Executive Director Suzanne Benally. Barla has been at the forefront of people’s movements against corporate and government-led land grabs and other injustices that threaten the survival, dignity, and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples. “This award is presented in recognition of outstanding human rights work, dedicated leadership for Indigenous Peoples rights, and a deep life commitment to protecting, sustaining, and revitalising indigenous cultures, lands, and languages,” Benally added.

Protecting Every Inch of Land

Her crusade to protect the rights of fellow tribals began from the days of agitation against the Koel Karo  hydel power project in the 1990s, near Ranchi, in then undivided Bihar. The proposed dam threatened to submerge nearly 55,000 acres of agricultural land displacing about 2,50,000 indigenous people.  Further, 27,000 acres of forests would have met a watery grave alongwith the sarna sasan diri (religious sites) of the tribal communities. The agitation gave birth to a new slogan “We will not part with an inch of our land….” which continues to reverberate in the tribal areas of Jharkhand even today. The proposal of the dam had to be finally shelved by the state government, after nearly eight tribals lost their lives in police firing on 2 February, 2001.

Barla points out:

Koel and Karo are not just rivers for us – they represent our cultural identity forming the basis of our livelihoods. When eight adivasis were martyred on 2 February, we realised that the state whose foundation stone was laid on 15 November 2000 is not actually for us tribals, but simply for the exploitation and plunder of  the natural resources of our native state and jeopardisation of our existence….

She took the challenge headlong on behalf of her tribal community, leading several agitations in the state against land grabs. She dared to rise against the world steel giant Arcelor Mittal who had proposed  a 12 MT steel plant by taking away about 12,000 acres of land spread across nearly 40 villages in Khunti and Gumla districts of the state.  In 2006 she began mobilising the public against such attempts at forcible land acquisition under the banner of the Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch (Forum for the Protection of Indigenous People).

“ Loha nahi anaj chahiye!” (“We want grains, not iron!”) was the rallying cry of indigenous communities protesting against this project.  “The government says that those getting displaced will be compensated and rehabilitated. But the question is – what will the government and the companies compensate for?” asks Barla. “Can they rehabilitate our pure air, forests, rivers, waterfalls, our language culture, Sarna-Sasan Diri, our identity and our history? No, that is absolutely impossible…for us adivasis land is just not land but the heritage of our ancestors who cleared the forests and made the land worth living and cultivating,” she adds. Finally, the steel baron had to give up his dreams of setting up a steel plant in the tribal state.

Tribal Model of Development

Barla however clarifies that the tribals are not against development but it should be sustainable and not at the cost of uprooting them. “We should also be a part of this development process by getting access to health, education, jobs etc. We want development of our identity and our history— social values, language and culture. We want the polluted rivers to be pollution free. We want wastelands to be turned green…. This is our model of development”, she says.

Recently, the state government was locked in a major anti-displacement struggle against adivasi farmers at Nagri. Barla who was at the forefront of the agitation was jailed from 16 October to 24 December, for taking part in demonstrations with the farmers of Jharkhand. The battle was over 227 acres of fertile land that has sustained the tribals in the region for generations. However, the  government had allotted it to the Indian Institute of Management, the Indian Institute of Information Technology and the National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL). Caught in this crossfire were about 128 affected families, who claim to be the lawful owners of the land. They contend that neither they nor their forefathers had agreed to sell their lands and had not accepted the amounts for the deal at that time.

Is This Freedom?

Coming from a family of bonded labourers who had lost their lands in the name of national development, Barla could well identify with their sufferings. Barla argued that the instituions be allotted alternative area for their campuses instead of their fertile paddy land. “If we demand a National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) card, they issue a property warrant. If we demand our land, water, forests, the Jharkhand government says we are a danger to the state. They book us in false cases, by calling us Maoists…. Is this the freedom that leaders like Birsa Munda fought for?” she asks.

Considered as the “Voice of Jharkhand” for her struggles and powerful pen, she is also the first journalist from the Munda tribe. “Barla has charted new waters as an Indigenous woman to ensure the voices and perspectives of Adivasi people are heard by the larger mainstream society,” says her nominator Terry Odendahl, executive director and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. She funded her education by working as a domestic help. Even today, her source of livelihood is a road side tea and snacks stall “Jharkhand Hotel”, run by her husband Nelson.

For Barla, activism and journalism go hand in hand.  “When I visit different villages as a journalist I listen to their issues first. Then they ask for possible solutions to their concerns and in the process, I find myself getting involved in their struggles”, she confesses.

But to be involved with the struggles and stand with the people does not mean that she has to quit writing. “I am an activist as well as a journalist.” However, it has not been easy for her to make forays into mainstream journalism “It has always looked down upon us adivasis as uncivilised, naïve and foolish. It is a stereotype to say that adivasi are stupid. Now we are trying to prove that we are not… ” she says, smiling.


Odisha – Niyamgiri tribe’s question on Gram Sabha issue #Video

KBKNews, May 27
Under a scorching sun, after walking miles and miles in the hilly terrain, these bare feet have come here to tell the most astounding tale, if we care to hear them out: stories of human grit, resolution, revolution; stories of a resolute struggle to protect one’s dignity, self-reliance, and the ultimate provider — Mother Earth. For the more than five thousands adivasis assembled at Muniguda on the foothills of Niyamgiri on 22 May 2013, it was yet another occasion to declare to the world, on top of their voice, that THEY ARE NOT GOING TO ALLOW MINING ON THEIR SACRED MOUNTAIN, COME WHAT MAY.But, the Indian State refuses to hear that roar. It has hatched yet another plan to micromanage the interests of a company, in the form of Gram Sabha that will be orchestrated and controlled by the State itself. However, the adivasis have already announced their verdict, and have vowed not to budge a bit.

If the stupendous gathering of people suggests their unity and resolve to fight the mighty State, the unprecedented absence of police force (hardly 15 to 20 in number) during this rally could be another sly strategy of the State to suggest that ‘the State is not interfering or intimidating’.

In the previous post of KBK Samachar, we had KumtiMajhi blasting the Indian State and the company (Vedanta) for threatening and stooping people from attending meetings and public hearings. So, did the government take notice of that? Will the forces and company goons not show up if Gram Sabhas are held as well? …It will be interesting to watch that.
Here we present an excerpt of the protest rally of 22 May 2013.


Protest Against Uttar Pradesh Power Plant Enters 1000th Day

Several people’s movements have emerged in recent times against industrial projects. The reasons behind the protests vary from opposition on environmental grounds to lack of proper compensation for land acquisition. But without doubt, it has always got something to do with protecting livelihood, which the Indian state machinery is hell bent on snatching away from the people.

A protest against a nuclear plant has been brimming for 1000 days now in villages in Uttar Pradesh. Farmers, mostly from SC and OBC communities, in Kachari village had gathered for the 1000th day of the protest against the 1980 MW Karchhana power plant. It was under the Bahujan Samaj Party back in 2007 that the project was first conceived. As much as 2,500 bighas of land was acquired from 2,286 farmers in eight villages, namely Devari, Kachari, Katka-Medhra, Dehli, Dohlipur, Bagesar, Kachara and Bhitar. But once the project was handed over to Jaypee group in 2009, violent protests from the farmers erupted and it got stalled.

Protest Against Karchanna power plant

Photo Courtesy: Brijesh Jaiswal / The Hindu

While some of the farmers had accepted compensation, more than a hundred reportedly had refused it at the onset. Now, almost all the farmers are refusing to part with their land. Instead, they want compensation for the loss incurred due to damage to land. The impasse is compounded as the farmers are in no position (and mood) to return the money for compensation.

The police and local petty politicians have first tried to bribe them, but when it did not work, they started using goons and threatened the farmers with dire consequences. The farmers have maintained that the lands are fertile and they don’t want anything but the project scrapped. But living under constant threat has taken a toll on them, as they are often afraid of cultivating the fields fearing attacks.

Despite Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s promises that all the charges against the farmers will be withdrawn, no such action has been taken.

As a footnote, it must be pointed out that the patriarchal mindset of the people have come out, ironically through these protests. Check out this photo and you will know what is being meant:

Women in Karchanna Protest

Women in Karchanna Protest
Photo Courtesy: Brijesh Jaiswal / The Hindu

Not only that, one of the reasons the farmers did not want to give away land included their worries over not being able to give land as dowry!

This is indeed the dilemma in India, where the capitalist structure is in a comfortable co-existence with feudal values.


Red Ant Dream – #FilmReview #Sundayreading






It is war for earth, to maintain the earth as heaven, if not to create a new heaven on earth. In an age of pervasive cynicism, it is no small act to dream such a dream and to work to achieve it, given the power of global capitalist forces against which the Adivasis are ranged. An essay based on Sanjay Kak’s latest documentary, Red Ant Dream


The state of war exists.

A calm but firm voice, distilling reason to its fundamentals, declares: “Maoism teaches us that self-preservation is possible only through war.” A caption mentions ‘Azad, spokesperson, CPI (Maoist).’ We never see him. We learn about his death later, death in custody. Azad’s words about self-preservation, which reach us now after his death, acquire a decisive clarity. The devastating collusion between the State and big capital has left no other possible way to preserve a life of dignity than to fight for it. This is the resounding call from the bloodied forest in the vast hinterland of central India that has announced a ‘People’s War’ on the Indian state. It is a revolutionary war that hopes to stop the indignity of the ruling elite’s war on the people.


Red Ant Dream, Sanjay Kak’s new feature-length documentary, is a tour de force. The film engages you compellingly with the power of its ideas, while it catches you at the visceral level with the intensity of its images. Appearing amid the din of corporate media’s demonization of India’s insurgent Maoists and Adivasis as the enemies of the ‘nation’ on whom the country needs to be tough, Red Ant Dream shakes you to see that the state of war already exists; it is just that the news has not been allowed to reach your ears. Or you have, like the proverbial three monkeys, refused to see, hear, or speak the ‘evil’ of the bitter truth—the bitter truth of everyday deprivation of the poor upon which the Indian middle class’s self-congratulatory comfort zone has been erected.


It is plausible to suggest that people’s movements are influenced by ideologies. The State experts, and even the mainstream Indian Left parties, see the political thought of Mao Tse-Tung, 20th-century Chinese communist leader, as mainly responsible for the insurgency in the forests of central Indian states. For the Adivasis, the numerous forest dwelling ethnic and tribal groups in India, and perhaps even for the Maoist insurgents, however, clarity of thought comes from experience and from the critical encounters with the State. They see the State as representing only the interests of the rich and the powerful; and given the spectacular inequalities of wealth the last twenty-two years of neoliberal economic policies have produced in India, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the State’s organizing logic articulates the forcibly accumulative logic of capitalism. As Ladda, an Adivasi activist from Lakhpadar, Odisha, says in the film: “the company giant has swallowed the Indian government giant. They have now become one giant.” For Adivasis, the war of dispossession has been going on incessantly for more than a century now. And so has been the resistance. On the Maoist influence, Ladda, facing the camera, declares, almost tongue-in-cheek: “Lingaraj (Lingaraj Azad, an Adivasi activist and intellectual) is my guru, and if he is a Maoist, then I am too.” The association is more incidental than direct. The real influence comes from a deep sense of justice, which may find echo in stories of Mao’s understanding of the oppression of the countryside by the urban-industrial-capitalist powers. One of the largest bidroh—revolt—in Adivasi living memory took place against pillaging British colonizers in 1910. Mao formed his first armed peasant militias in the 1920s and wrote his texts on revolutionary warfare in the 1930s.


The film is a tour de force. It engages you compellingly with the power of its ideas, while it catches you at the visceral level with the intensity of its images. Appearing amid the din of corporate media’s demonization of India’s insurgent Maoists and Adivasis as the enemies of the ‘nation’ on whom the country needs to be tough, Red Ant Dream shakes you to see that the state of war already exists; it is just that the news has not been allowed to reach your ears. Or you have, like the proverbial three monkeys, refused to see, hear, or speak the ‘evil’ of the bitter truth—the bitter truth of everyday deprivation of the poor upon which the Indian middle class’s self-congratulatory comfort zone has been erected.


The first remarkable, and immediately noticeable, achievement of Red Ant Dream is that it takes the genealogy of revolutionary war in South Asia out of the ossified narratives of the internal, and often fractious, ideological debates within the Indian Communist parties, and places it firmly within the history of people’s struggles for justice in South Asia. As such, the people’s war in Bastar is closer to the struggles for self-determination in Kashmir or Nagaland, rather than to how it is often represented: as a fringe within the broad spectrum of Left politics in India. No doubt an entire constellation of revolutionary thinkers, from Marx to Lenin and Mao to Charu Mazumdar, form the iconic backdrop of this war, but instead of their thoughts unfolding as reality or practice, it is the present conditions of life that breathe vitality into their mode of thinking. It is the people’s war that clarifies their thought and makes them relevant for contemporary understanding. That is why, while the ‘mainstream’ Left may see the people’s war as the ‘fringe,’ and wait for the ideal proletarian subject to emerge, or for capitalism to destroy itself, in the forests the actual grueling task of the war against capitalism has already begun, and taken off without so much as a vanguard.


At the same time, the film takes the war out of its enemies’ scope of vision. While the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared the ‘Maoist insurgency’ as the “single biggest internalsecurity challenge” to India’s security—the enclosing metaphor being a constant refrain among the State’s political and military leaders to domesticate challenges to its sovereign image—the film shows how the revolutionary war continuously deterritorializes the State’s metaphoric and real reach. The Indian state is not fighting a war with its citizens, but with subjects who, having been denied full citizenship rights, may lie within its nominal boundaries but remain outside its apparatus of capture: both the police apparatus as well as the constitutional parliamentary one. The State may think of adivasis as bubbles on the surface of water that modernization will cruelly break, or even affect commiseration about this ‘necessary’ loss for the sake of the nation’s superpower ambitions, but Adivasis (and others who are being dispossessed) understand capitalism at its most raw and bare level, and have taken the most logical route possible under the circumstances. The real power, the film asserts, lies ultimately with the population. As the fundamental contradictions of caste, class, and nationality widen in India, contra the optimistic assessments of elite votaries of India’s neoliberal ‘democracy,’ it may make it painfully visible that the population of dispossessed subjects actually constitutes the majority of the people—and they may well take the revolutionary route.


The film takes the genealogy of revolutionary war in South Asia out of the ossified narratives of the internal, and often fractious, ideological debates within the Indian Communist parties, and places it firmly within the history of people’s struggles for justice in South Asia. As such, the people’s war in Bastar is closer to the struggles for self-determination in Kashmir or Nagaland, rather than to how it is often represented: as a fringe within the broad spectrum of Left politics in India


Kak’s own voice, measured, strategic, and unobtrusive, suggests: “They fight to protect a life that the modern world has pronounced obsolete, unfeasible…it is a war of defense.” He points out that the Adivasis see the present bidroh as a continuation of the old ones—the rapacious Indian ruling elite somewhere having replaced the pillaging British colonizers. The film connects the dots between ecological destruction wrought on the forests, for instance in Niyamgiri hills by giant bauxite mining companies like Vedanta, its justification under the broad mainstream neoliberal nationalist consensus, and the assistance provided by the State’s armed forces to suppress any dissent against this national-capitalist common-sense. Early 20th-century socialist revolutionary Bhagat Singh’s statement that ‘the state of war does exist’—which is the point of departure for the film—aptly expresses how the revolutionary war is not a war of choice, but a war to stop the already existent war that imperialist and capitalist powers have launched on the people. Kak states that between the insatiable resource exploitation of market forces and the ideological and moral debates about violence on the Left, it is the existence of fragile Adivasi communities, which is most critically at stake now.


With immaculate clarity, however, the film also points toward what remains intrinsic to war itself—that, while scenes of war may appear in isolated theatres, from eviscerated hills of Niyamgiri to the submerged fields in the Narmada valley, the logic of war is totalizing and engulfs all. Drawing adroitly from early 19th-century German-Prussian military thinker Carl von Clausewitz, whose ideas on war and military formation remain popular with the State politico-military elite, the film reveals how Indian counterinsurgency logic is directed at denying a stable popular base to armed insurgents. So, while the erstwhile Maoist leader Azad, using the well-known metaphor from Mao’s On Guerrilla War argues that “we rely on the support of the sea of people in which we swim like fish,” the counterinsurgency military commander in the region declares that the anti-Maoist campaign is “a politico-military-socio-economic-psychological” one, which in Kak’s analysis replicates Clausewitzian understanding that the State must launch all the forces against the enemies’ ‘center of gravity’—the population. At the psychological level, says the counterinsurgency commander, the war must “make the other side feel that their end is near.” True to this logic, wholesale burning of Adivasi villages, spectacular brutalization, punitive containment, and production of proxy counterinsurgents, like Salwa Judum, mark the anti-Maoist/anti-Adivasi counterinsurgency.


While it maintains a persuasive focus on the fundamental battle line between the State and its subjects, with lateral shifts from one tense point of symbolic confrontation or appropriation to another along this line, Red Ant Dream subtly draws attention to how Indian military thinking might be unable to comprehend the primary raison d’être behind the people’s war in these forests. The State experts may create a Jungle Warfare School to fight wars in forests or a High-Altitude Warfare School to fight in Kashmir, but their principle mode of thinking remains tied to stereotypes about their opponents. The counterinsurgency commander, taken in too much by military manuals (and no less by the British era sartorial and equestrian style), keeps repeating to his soldiers that Maoists believe “power flows from the barrel of gun.” This could be a perverse attempt to project one’s own deepest desire and beliefs onto one’s enemies. It is also likely that he is only lying to his soldiers, who, after all, come from the dregs of Indian poverty much like the insurgents, and very much unlike the commander.


It is plausible to suggest that people’s movements are influenced by ideologies. The State experts, and even the mainstream Indian Left parties, see the political thought of Mao Tse-Tung as mainly responsible for the insurgency in the forests of central Indian states. For the Adivasis, the numerous forest dwelling ethnic and tribal groups in India, and perhaps even for the Maoist insurgents, however, clarity of thought comes from experience and from the critical encounters with the State


Mahendra Karma, the venal pro-State Chattisgarh politician of Adivasi background, who set up Salwa Judum, perhaps understands unconventional aspects of the people’s war better, which makes him too dangerous for the Adivasis, if not the Maoists. Salwa Judum, which means “Purification Hunt” in Gondi, has been the violent proxy in the State’s war on Adivasis in the forests of Chhattisgarh. Part of the counterinsurgency war-machine, it acts as a blunt cover on the barely hidden bayonet of the State. If the State is ever called to reveal its account books of the war, Salwa Judum will serve the function of plausible deniability for the State. Salwa Judum also purports to change Adivasi consciousness. In the film grainy footage from a ‘found video’ tellingly reveals how Adivasis are forced to join the Salwa Judum, beaten into submission, and to say Ram Ram (a Hindu greeting) instead of Lal Salaam (Red Salute!), while in attacks on their homes their cultural objects, alongside their instruments of livelihood, are violently razed. Their resemblance with Ikhwanis in Kashmir is uncanny (and, why not, both are products of the same thinking). In mid-1990s Ikhwanis, with full backing of the Indian state, unleashed a reign of terror on Kashmiris in the countryside, even though their elaborate assault on Kashmiri consciousness may have only had limited consequences.


The hope of success

Beyond the tactics of war that might not succeed—for instance, the Maoist tactic that the revolutionary forces should only fight at moments of their choosing fails as Maoists are regularly drawn into battle to avenge wanton destruction caused by counterinsurgents—the hope for the success of people’s war may lie elsewhere. While the State sees people as fickle consumers whose politics can be cheaply bought with cash or silenced with violence, among the Adivasis there is a much deeper sense of attachment to the earth. (The film’s Hindi title, Mati ke Laal—Beloved of the Soil, expresses this connection well). This attachment, undergirded by a web of Adivasi memory and traditions, remains largely invisible to the State and the capital, which treats earth as a commodity.


At the same time, the guerrillas and the State connect with people differently. The film follows a group of Maoist guerrillas through the forest paths, which they negotiate gently and leave but just a light touch behind—a military tactic as well as an ecological ethic. Their movements in the forest resemble that of ants, close to the ground and collaborative, despite the heavy burdens on their shoulders. They recognize each other, and pass on the revolutionary conviviality to the villagers they meet on their way, through handshakes. The State is incapable of replicating these forms of relationship with people whose substantial rights it does not acknowledge.


In the film red ants are a wartime delicacy for the Adivasi guerrillas, but they can also be seen as a metaphor of a certain kind, a metaphor that might find resonance in certain Kashmiri idioms. Red ants are tiny but pack a powerful bite. They swarm the earth, and truly never go away. When red ants bite, it is hard to find a locus. In Kashmiri, rei names both the red ant and the eruption of unlocalizable itch their bites cause. Counterinsurgency draws its own blood as it furiously scratches the skin. The success of the people’s war is not in its bites, but in the eruption of itch all over the surface.


Thus, the non-commoditized attachments, the spread of revolutionary cordiality, and the proliferation of revolutionary praxis across different regions, may lead to success. But new bhumkaals (Bhumkalmemorializes the legendary bidroh of 1910, ‘when the earth shook’) will have to contend with new ground, for the mining companies are disemboweling the earth of its substance at a gigantic scale.


The People’s War is a war for existence. It is war for earth, to maintain the earth as heaven, if not to create a new heaven on earth. In an age of pervasive cynicism, it is no small act to dream such a dream and to work to achieve it, given the power of global capitalist forces against which the Adivasis are ranged.


With a conceptual depth that eloquently unfolds and weaves together some of the fundamental forces shaping India today, Red Ant Dream is surely going to become an important milestone in South Asian political documentaries. Noted for picking up the most vexed and potent knots of defiance against the forced enclosure euphemistically called the Indian ‘Union’, the film adds yet another superb accomplishment to Kak’s oeuvre.


Its strength lies in its intensification of engagement between the aesthetic and the political. But instead of simply evoking an abstract meta-theoretical relationship between the two, the film’s visual scheme is thoroughly inhabited by the political. Each image is an assemblage of power and affect. A frail sari-clad girl in chappals, with an AK 47 slung across her shoulders, flits past in one frame. Her diminutive dimensions make the rifle look too large for her, yet more crucially it shows the magnitude of determination her tiny body carries. The most impressive and metaphor-laden scene from the film is the concluding one. While Indian paramilitary forces practice their guns on sanitized hills and on effigies of the Maoists, raising clouds of dust, the guerrillas—perhaps to save ammunition, perhaps to not hurt the living forest with their shooting practice—train with imagined weapons. As their fingers pull imaginary triggers, their eyeballs move swiftly from one direction to the next in a deadly dance. The practice of revolutionary war is embodied. This is something even a Mahendra Karma won’t be able to find an answer for.


Mohamad Junaid is a doctoral student in Anthropology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He has translated parts of Sanjay Kak’s previous documentary film ‘Jashn e Azadi: How We Celebrate Freedom.’



The Reality behind Gujarat Model and Narendra Modi #mustshare

By Pravada Meethal, Facebook

Did you know ?

• Wages
The wage rates of casual and regular workers of both men and women workers in rural and urban areas are very low compared to other States. As per the latest National Sample Survey Office statistics, the daily wage rates of casual men and women workers in rural areas are lower than the corresponding rates in India, with the State ranking 14th (Rs.69) and ninth (Rs.56) in men’s and women’s wage rates respectively among the major 20 States. In the case of urban casual workers’ daily wages, the State ranked seventh (Rs.109) and 14th (Rs.56) for male and female wage rates. In the case of regular rural workers also the State ranked 17th (Rs.152) and ninth (Rs.108) in the male and female wage rates respectively. The corresponding ranks for urban areas are 18th (Rs.205) and 13th (Rs.182) respectively among the major 20 States in India. According to NSSO 2011 figures about 98 per cent of the women workers and about 89 per cent of the male workers in the State are engaged in informal work .

• Nutrition
The NFHS-3 tells us that 47 per cent of children below the age of three in the State were underweight. That figure was 45 per cent in NFHS-2. That’s about twice the average for sub-Saharan Africa. It is also marginally higher than the nationwide average of 46 per cent. The percentage of Gujarat’s children who are ‘wasted’ also went up from 16 to 17 per cent between the two NFHS surveys
According to statistics from a report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, “Children in India, 2012—A Statistical Appraisal”, between 40 and 50 per cent of children in Gujarat are underweight, which bursts one more myth in Gujarat’s story of growth. Other States in this low weight category are Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. Human Development Report 2011 said around half of Gujarat’s children were malnourished.

• Gujarat is the 7th worst state in adult men having a body mass index of less than 18.5.

Infant mortality :
Infant mortality is high in Gujarat, which ranks 11th countrywide in the rate of decline of infant mortality. According to “Children in India, 2012”, the infant mortality rate in Gujarat was still high, with 44 fatalities of infants per 1,000 live births.
In its 2012 State-wise report, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said, “Almost every second child in Gujarat under the age of five years is undernourished and three out of four are anaemic. Infant and maternal mortality rates have reduced very slowly in the last decade…. One mother in three in Gujarat struggles with acute under-nutrition….”

• child marriage :
Gujarat ranks fourth in reported cases of child marriage.

• School dropout rate : United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) statistics show that Gujarat ranks 18th when it comes to success in keeping children in schools. 59% school drop out

• The school life expectancy of children in Kerala (which ranks first) is 11.33 years, while that of children in Gujarat is 8.79 years.

• percentage of reduction of poverty :
Statistics of the NSSO show that the percentage of reduction of poverty between 2004 and 2010 was the lowest in Gujarat, at 8.6 per cent.

• Water:
According to Census 2011, 43 per cent of the rural households in Gujarat get water supply on their premises and 16.7 per cent get treated water from a common tap

• Toilets:
The data show that 67 per cent of rural households in the State have no access to toilets and members of more than 65 per cent of the households defecate in the open, very often polluting common water sources. Waste collection and disposal are matters practically unheard of. The State ranks 10th in the use of latrines

• Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI):
Anything over 70 on this index is considered to have crossed critical levels, that is, the pollution exceeds the capacity of the environment to handle it and it becomes a dangerous health hazard. According to statistics from the Central Pollution Control Board, Ankleshwar and Vapi in Gujarat top the list of 88 severely polluted industrial areas in India. Ankleshwar has a CEPI rating of 88.50 while Vapi’s is 88.09. Of the 88 areas, eight are in Gujarat

• Employment growth:
NSSO data show that in Gujarat , growth in employment has dropped to almost zero in the past 12 years

Human Development Index :
Gujarat (0.519) stands 11th in Human Development Index among the states in India. Where Kerala(0.790) stands first.

• Sex ratio :
Gujarat (918) stands 24th . where kerala(1084) stands first.

• Vaccination coverage :
In Gujarat percentage of children between 12-23 months of age who received all recommended vaccines is 45 % . that is in 19th among the states in India.

• Gujarat stands 12th in literacy among the states in india

• In Gujarat 28.2% man and 32.3 % women are underweight .

• In Gujarat percentage of children delivered in hospital is only 55%

“Socio-Economic Review, Gujarat State, 2011-12”
National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)
• Census 2011
• Planning commission
• Children in india 2012 – a statistical appraisal – ministry of statistics and program implementation
• 2012 State-wise report, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
• United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) statistics
• statistics from the Central Pollution Control Board
• National Family Health Survey , , , , , , ,


Preliminary Report on the Fact Finding , on terrors of the Armed Forces , #Chhattisgarh #Operationgreenhunt

(Released in a Press Conference at Women’s Press Corps on 15 March 2013)


In the three weeks from mid-January till the first week of February, several villages in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh experienced the terror of the armed forces of the Indian state. The CRPF, Chhattisgarh state police, erstwhile SPO’s of the Salwa Judum along with various coercive arms of the state orchestrated a systematic targeting of villages, burnt down hundreds of homes, ostensibly in random, further, burnt down the schools built by the people, picked up villagers, young and old, and physically tortured them while their homes burned to the ground. The affected villages are Pidia, Tomnaka, Singham, Lingham, Komati, Tomudum, and Kondapadu, and in each of these between eight and thirty homes were burnt down by the armed forces. In the village of Dodi-Tumnar, a school with hostel facility for about a hundred children, both girls and boys, run by the Janatana Sarkar was looted and then burnt down by the invading forces in the last week of January. Two battalions of about 1000 CRPF personnel each, besides Koya commandos and SPO’s arrived at the village school at 9 am on that day. They systematically proceeded to destroy the school after firing into the air twice. Even as the students and the schoolmaster fled into the forest, the armed forces caught an old man on his way to the field and chopped off his hand with his own sickle. Following this, the forces looted the storeroom and the kitchen of the school, poisoned the water well, and destroyed the roof, walls, and furniture of the school before finally burning it to the ground. They then marched to the nearby village of Pidia. This village, that houses approximately 265 homes, witnessed first hand the ruthlessness with which the armed force burn down the homes and livelihood of those who stand up for their right to life and liberty. Close to thirty homes were burnt down in one part of this village alone. The charred remains of the homes, cattle sheds, storerooms, utensils can be seen littered with empty bottles of beer and other brands of alcohol.


By burning schools and homes, looting sources of livelihood, and physically torturing hundreds of adivasis, the state attempted to legitimize this violence in the name of ‘development’. This methodical burning of homes and schools reveals the carnival of violence practiced by the forces to intimidate, brutalize and squash the spirit of those living in these parts without any concern for consequences. The villagers were forced to remain in the forest for three days as the force camped in the hills surrounding the village. A few young men were picked up by the armed force and brutally beaten. Most of the men were released while one still remains in jail. They looted the means of livelihood and sustenance and camped in the village for three days. Before leaving, they burnt the leftover rations and supplies of the villagers that they had looted. Here, it is the Janatana Sarkar to whom the villagers turn to in times like these. The Janatana Sarkar provided medicines and food to the affected villagers. It is now also helping them rebuild the burnt homes. Even as the bare frames of the homes are being rebuilt pillar by pillar and brick by brick, the spirit of resistance is visible for all to see.


The Indian state orchestrates these operations in states like Chhattisgarh in the name of ‘developing’ the area. These are also done as measures to counter the rise of revolutionary forces that have organized the people to stand united against such forms of oppression and practice policies that give primacy to the development of the people living here. Here, development does not mean filling the coffers of the state. In these policies for development, the people are the primary concern. When these forces attack the people, their homes, their schools, and their livelihood, they are attacking their right to life. This right to life that should be most fundamental and universal for all within this apparently democratic country is being denied to those who have remained historically deprived and marginalized in the fringe of the concern of the state. Today, these people are paying the price for resisting the injustice inflicted on them by being forced to live without any assurance of the most basic rights this country accords to its citizens, losing all means of livelihood, and most crucially, in blood.


In the name of developing the country the Indian state officially launched a massive operation of plunder of natural resources in 2009 by displacing thousands of communities living in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Bihar, West Bengal and Karnataka. This ‘operation’, ironically called Operation Green Hunt by the corporate run media, undertaken by the current Central Government, expropriates the wealth of the country that rightfully belongs to the people for the benefit of imperialist forces. This wealth, in the form of resources of land, water and forests, is sold to exploitative multinational companies and comprador bourgeoisie. In turn, the resistance of the people has been termed an ‘internal security threat’ by the current Prime Minister who expresses his loyalty to the model of ‘development’ that feeds these corporate sharks. The revolutionary forces along with the people in these parts strive to fight this war waged by the Indian state against its own people. In keeping with the spirit of resistance against injustice, the people have consistently stood up against the machinations of the Indian state even as it signs hundreds of MOU’s that sell-out land, mineral and forest resources of the country. The price paid for these corporate deals is the blood of those who stand up for their right to life, livelihood and liberty against the oppressive Indian state. This resistance by the people represents an alternative model for people’s development, which aims at collectivization of resources in opposition to the Indian state’s model of corporate development. It is this revolutionary change that the Indian state aims to crush by calling it ‘terrorism’ and ‘internal security threat’.


The state sponsored ‘cleansing’ programme like the armed vigilante gangs of the Salwa Judum began their operations in 2005. The state officially declared its programme a ‘hunt’ in 2009. This hunt, since its inception, resulted in large-scale violence on people. There is a need to recognize the overlap between the official ‘hunt’ and the ‘cleansing’ done by these state funded vigilante groups that are nurtured and endorsed by the state to split the people from within as they stand up against the anti-people policies of the state by asserting their right to land, livelihood and resources. Even as the media projects this ‘operation’ as part of the effort to wipe out the ‘Naxal infestation’, the very form that this resistance takes militates against this projection. The resistance has roots among the people who have faced the worst atrocities at the hands of this state. These are not mere victims of displacement, deprivation and destruction. These forms of resistance have historically taken root among people who recognize the violence inflicted on them by forces that expropriate land and resources to feed the bottomless pit of corporate greed.


The armed forces use the government school buildings in the area as camps in the name of fighting Maoists. These schools become the centres from which the armed forces operate in the area. It creates conditions where access to education is rendered near impossible for those living in these parts. This has affected the basic right of education for the entire adivasi community and specifically the children in the region. Further, in regions where these governmental institutions do not exist and are built by the people themselves, the armed forces attack such schools, shelters, irrigation tanks, wells, and basic amenities of those living in these densely forested areas. These are wanton actions of destruction. This is not merely a question of ‘law and order’ or state control. By attacking homes, means of livelihood, and schools, the armed forces of the state inflict not merely physical violence that has become the norm in the region, but this is part of systemic violence of deprivation, displacement and destruction. This exposes the ‘development’ rhetoric of the state as an open farce.


The armed forces continue to commit such atrocities with impunity to displace the people living in the area to fulfill the State’s agenda of ‘development’ as seen in the hundreds of MOU’s signed with corporate houses, agencies, and MNCs. This clears the path to exploit the resource-rich land, water, minerals and forests of Chhattisgarh. This onslaught of violence and exploitation of the people and their resources by the state machinery in the name of development and fighting revolutionary forces exposes the nexus between the state, coercive forces and the corporations that aim to exploit the land and its resources. The casualty of this ‘development model’ has been the adivasi community as they are denied the most basic rights of education, livelihood and liberty. This form of state repression on the people has been visible over the course of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ and visible in the anti-people policies adopted by the state. We must recognize the atrocities committed by the state, expose this nexus of imperialist exploitation and stand by the people who have organized themselves against the state as it attempts to displace them.


These people have resolved to fight back by developing schools, shelters, tanks, wells, and such amenities. These are everyday forms of resistance that the state aims to break, by burning down homes and schools and torturing some physically while inflicting collective violence on the lives of people. The collective development of people adopted by those fighting back the ‘model of development’ of the state provides the revolutionary alternative to the imperialist and feudal designs of corporations and the landed bourgeoisie. As the state commits such atrocities against the people everyday and normalizes its forms of violence, the people have militantly resisted such as it speaks the imperialist language of ‘freedom’ and ‘development’ on one hand and participates in wanton destruction of life, livelihood and liberty on another depends on our silence and implied consent. We need to break this silence and stand up against the injustice inflicted on the hundreds. We need to stand together with the struggling masses; the thousands of displaced and deprived people who have resolved to fight back. Today and everyday hence, we must condemn the atrocities committed by the armed forces of the state on the adivasis of Chhattisgarh and elsewhere; expose the nexus between the state, feudal landed interests and corporate houses in these resource rich areas; recognize that this war on people is being fought by those who recognize their right to jaljangaljameen and against the Indian state in its effort to displace people to expropriate their land, livelihood and resources for its imperialist designs.


DSU members  if the Fact Finding Team: Ayantika Das, J. K. Vidhya, Sourabh Kumar, Sushil Kumar.


Democratic Students’ Union (DSU)

#India- Budgeting Out Adivasis #Tribals #Indigenous

The finance minister’s package falls far too short of the basic needs of tribals

Brinda Karat

It is budget time once again. Far away from the talk of lakhs and crores of rupees echoing from Parliament to television studios, a thin adivasi teenage girl stands in a queue at her hostel, her plate in her hand, waiting for her share of the gruel that she is given for lunch every day. Her family depends on the money from the minor forest produce her mother gathers from the forest. Her father has lost the money invested to till the two acres of land they own. The family is now in debt. When the child looks around she sees girls who tell the same stories.
What does the budget have for her? She is a beneficiary of a scheme called the pre-matric scholarship scheme. Run by the central government and followed by most state governments the scheme is to fund an adivasi child living in a hostel, her food and other expenses. The money goes directly into the hostel fund. Pre-budget, the amount paid per child was Rs 525. This works out to around Rs 17 a day or, if the child is fed three times a day, less than Rs 6 a meal. That is, assuming that the entire amount is honestly used for the child’s food.
With food inflation relentlessly increasing, the child makes do with a gruel in the morning, a mixture of very watery dal and rice for lunch and dinner, sometimes with vegetables or an occasional egg – which has stopped in many hostels for the last several months. Sadly for this child, P Chidambaram’s budget does not envisage any stipend increase. The increase in the midday meal scheme will not help her as it is mainly for day schools. Since substantial numbers of adivasi children have to live in hostels as there are few secondary schools near their villages, they do not benefit.
The child’s father was at the moneylender’s when the finance minister enhanced the target for agricultural credit to Rs 7 lakh crore. Her father had heard of farmers’ loan waiver schemes. But every time he had been
turned away from the bank. For generations his family has lived on the land, and there was never a question of ownership. But following colonial British policies, the newly independent Indian state had declared itself owner of all forest land, turning adivasis overnight into encroachers. Without the ownership papers he was not eligible for the loan waiver. So he was forced to go to the moneylender for loans with a high interest rate. The loan waiver scheme means little to him or millions of adivasi farmers unless moneylender loans are included.
Near the child’s village, about 20 km away from the hostel, her mother stops in the forest, just as the finance minister is announcing how his heart beats for her community. In this season she and all those able to work are out in the forest, the men climbing the trees to shake and cut while the women wait below to collect the tamarind. She will spend the next day processing it. It takes four people a day to collect about 50 kg of tamarind. The trader will give her Rs 15 for her two days’ labour of collection and processing, and sell it in the market for Rs 80 a kg. She knows the tendu season is going to start soon. For every 50 leaves she collects, she can hope to receive between 50p and 65p (this varies from state to state and can be as low as 40p) though the trader who buys it from her will get not less than between Rs 1.20 and Rs 2 depending on the quality. Does the budget help her?
The Haque committee set up by the panchayati raj ministry, estimated in its May 2011 report that 275 million adivasi women and men depend on minor forest produce (MFP). The report detailed the rampant exploitation in MFP trade and strongly recommended that the government set up a commission to ensure a minimum support price (MSP) for MFP on the lines of MSP for foodgrains. The estimated cost of procurement according to the committee was between Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 crore a year.
The Planning Commission in its 12th five-year plan brought down the cost to Rs 2,000 crore for the entire Plan period, or just Rs 400 crore a year. But in this budget, the second year of the Plan, not a single paisa is allocated for MSP for minor forest produce. Nor is there even a mention of setting up a commission.
The finance minister’s claims sound hollow, judged against the needs of adivasi communities – a decent scholarship programme for adivasi children, special credit for adivasi farmers and minimum support price for minor forest produce.
Statistics of increased expenditure bandied about need to factor in not just the almost 8% inflation rate, but also compare the expenditure as a proportion of the GDP. The expenditure on the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) is 0.22% of GDP this year, which is exactly the proportion it was last year.
Even taking the ST population as 8.2%, which is on the lower side, the allocations for the TSP are short by Rs 20,938 crore. Even today only one-third of the 21 central ministries and departments charged to allocate funds for the TSP are doing so. But the trimurti of the prime minister, the finance minister and the Planning Commission chairman, keen to cut expenditures in order to manage the deficit created because of their own flawed policies, think it better to ignore this violation.
The writer is a member of the CPM politburo.

Falling through the cracks


One billion rising for Soni Sori and all women prisoners till they are Free #Vaw #1billionrising


March 1, 2013

Kamayani Bali Mahabal

I am  rising for an incarcerated tribal teacher Soni Sori , a  woman who juggled several roles – a tribal journalist, activist, teacher, mother of three young kids. A woman who dared to speak against the interests of the Chhattisgarh State and mining companies. A woman who did not succumb to the emotional, physical, sexual harassment targeted at breaking her spirits in the jail. She, instead, knocked at the conscience of the world outside.

She  began her fight against injustice in October 2011, when she was arrested on the charges of being a maoist supporter and brutally, physically and sexually tortured in custody by the Chhattisgarh police.

The announcement of the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry on 63rdRepublic day of India in 2012 for Ankit Garg, the SP of Dantewada is a reflection of the sad state of the Indian Republic .. It was shocking to see that a police officer who was accused of brutalising and torturing the young Adivasi teacher, Soni Sori, was lauded by the State even after reports of perversity of the worst kind in the way he reportedly ordered the torture of Sori in police custody.


1)–Please sign a petition  to president of India to  take back his medal here

2—Endorse a letter to Sonia Gandhi for Soni Sori

Click here to endorse the letter

3)—Send soni sori a post card

Click here to see the details

4)- Light a candle for soni sori and all women prisoners

This is an online action created by Barduari Studios, an anonymous group, who thought it appropriate to develop something that anyone can use to reffirm their support to the Soni Sori Campaign.

Please light a candle for Soni Sori here:

And do change your facebook coverpage for atleast one day to the ‘light a candle before the Supreme Court‘ given in the banner album. You can also directly take it from our facebook page at

If you have blog webiste please embed below widget, its on sonis ori blog as well

Light a candle for soni sori you can embed a widget on your blog, copy and paste below, share widely

She fought back! She went on hunger strike in jail and protested against the human rights violations and the treatment by the Chhattisgarh Police; she wrote letters tot he court about the situation in prison and continues to speak out whenever she can.

Even after more than  a year, Soni has not received justice. Her struggle continues…

Soni Sori has become a symbol of mistreatment of all women prisoners .

Her fight for justice is not just for herself but also for others.

Her letters from Prison which spread like for fire for an International support on March 8th 2012

WE  Rise for Soni Sori because:

  1. Far from being an oppressed and downtrodden woman, as an outspoken critic of the state policies, the mining companies, and the Maoists, Soni Sori is being punished for exerting her democratic right to speak out indefence of her adivasi/ Indigenous  community and their traditional lands rather than for a crime she has not even been tried for.
  2. She is being punished by those who would not have the authority to mete out punishment even if she were guilty of a crime and the form of her punishments are not to be found in any penal code anywhere in the world.
  3. If the Indian government is not willing to protect women from the illegal actions of its own agents when in their custody, then what message is it sending out to Indian men – that women are fair game just for going out or speaking out?
  4. The Indian state not only seems to be failing to protect women from sexual and other types of violence, but is in fact sanctioning, indeed rewarding such crimes when they are committed by its employees and representatives to silence women who speak out in defence of human rights.

We Rise Because We Refuse To Support State Violence On Women.

We Rise Because Rape And Violence Against Women Under Any Circumstances is Unacceptable.

We Rise On This International Women’s Day To Demand Freedom for Soni Sori & Punishment For Her Perpetrators.

When: One Billion Rising on March 8th 2013.

Who: People of all gender with head, heart and a strong spine

Where: Here. There. Anywhere. Wherever we have such people.

What:  Organise your own ‘One Billion Rising’ action in your city, school, university, work place. Organise it any form you like. Or check the list of events on this page and join the one you can. Don’t worry If you are unable to make it to the streets, there are several online actions: petitions, letters to Indian government. But whatever you decide to do leave a message here so that others can join.



Make this post Viral : !!

#India- The Doctor Only Knows Economics #Sundayreading

Lucknow In a daze, a poor couple bring their sick child to a government hospital, holding up a drip bottle. For many like them, private hospitals are out of reach. Care at government hospitals is poor.
This could be the UPA’s worst cut to its beloved aam admi. Healthcare has virtually been handed over to privateers.

Not For Those Who Need It Most
Govt seems to have abandoned healthcare to the private sector

Diagnosing An Ailing Republic

  • 70 per cent of India still lives in the villages, where only two per cent of qualified allopathic doctors are available
  • Due to lack of access to medical care, rural India relies on homoeopathy, Ayurveda, nature cure, and village doctors
  • While the world trend is to move towards public health systems, India is moving in the opposite direction: 80 per cent of healthcare is now in private sector
  • India faces a shortage of 65 lakh allied health workers. This is apart from the nurse-doctor shortage.
  • According to World Health Statistics,  2011, the density of doctors in India is 6 for a population of 10,000, while that of nurses and midwives is 13 per 10,000
  • India has a doctor: population ratio of 0.5: 1000 in comparison to 0.3 in Thailand, 0.4 in Sri Lanka, 1.6 in China, 5.4 in the UK, and 5.5 in the United States of America
  • Fifty-six per cent of all newborn deaths occur in five states: UP, Rajasthan, Orissa, MP and Andhra Pradesh
  • Forty-nine per cent of pregnant women still do not have three ante-natal visits to a doctor during pregnancy
  • An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 child deaths occur annually due to measles, a treatable disease
  • Uttar Pradesh, the most populated state in the country, does not have a single speciality hospital for cancer
  • The top three causes of death in India are malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea, all treatable
  • The WHO ranked India’s public healthcare system 112th on a roster of 190 countries
  • Post-independence India’s most noteworthy achievement in the public health arena has been the eradication of polio and smallpox

Affair of the states


India is taking firm steps to a certain health disaster. All of 80 per cent of healthcare is now privatised and caters to a minuscule, privileged section. The metros are better off: they have at least a few excellent public health facilities,  crowded though they might be. Tier II and III towns mostly have no public healthcare to speak of. As the government sector retreats, the private booms. In villages, if you are poor and sick, no one really cares, even if the government pretends to. You go to the untrained village “doctor”; you pray, you get better perhaps; all too often, you die of something curable. “India is the only country in the world that’s trying to have a health transition on the basis of a private healthcare that does not exist,” Amartya Sen said recently in Calcutta. “It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. We have an out-of-the-pocket system, occasionally supplemented by government hospitals, but the whole trend in the world is towards public health systems. Even the US has come partly under the so-called Obamacare.”

Sadly, even the few initiatives the Indian state takes are badly implemented. Hear the story of Suresh, 45, who lost his younger sister to cancer, eight months ago. He’s a guard at the guesthouse of a pharmaceutical company in Mumbai and could not afford her treatment, so he sold some ancestral farmland in Gujarat. That money covered but a few months of bills from a private hospital. He then turned to a government hospital, but it didn’t have cancer care. It didn’t help in any way for Suresh that he worked for a pharmaceutical company: his job didn’t come with medical benefits. “We brought her back home, hoping that if we saved on the hospital bills, we would be able to buy her medication. Finally, the money I had was too little to provide her basic help. Maybe if I had been able to buy her medicines, she would have been alive today.”

But the state could have ensured that Suresh’s sister lived had he been able to utilise the ambitious health insurance scheme announced in Maharashtra in 1997. The Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana (RGJAY) is on paper supposed to provide for 972 surgeries, therapies or procedures, along with 121 follow-up packages in 30 specialised categories. It provides each family coverage of up to Rs 1.5 lakh in hospitalisation charges at empanelled hospitals. It even allows for treatment at private hospitals. But poor implementation has ensured Suresh and hundreds of families like his do not know of such a scheme. This is true of other schemes across the country too.

Photograph by Vivek Pateria
Bhopal At the Sultaniya Hospital, as at many hospitals in the Hindi belt, there just isn’t enough space for the patients who turn up. Those who attend on patients routinely brave the open.

Meanwhile, health statistics are terrifying. More than 40,000 people die every year of mosquito-borne diseases, which are easily preventable; a maternity death takes place every 10 minutes; every year, 1.8 million children (below 5 years of age) die of preventable diseases. “We are the only country in the world with such a huge percentage of privatised healthcare. Recent estimates suggest that approximately 39 million people are being pushed into poverty because of high out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare. In 1993-94, the figure was 26 million people,” says Dr Shakhtivel Selvaraj, a health economist.

So the state’s pretence of reaching out to the poor is really quite a farce. Consider what’s been happening between the Planning Commission and health ministry. In November, the battle between then health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and the Planning Commission came to light: Azad had pressed for increased spending on the public sector while the commission was intent on increasing private participation. This was a telling comment on the priorities of the UPA government. But with the 2014 elections in view, the government would like to present “health reforms” as a political tool. A framework for “universal health for all” is expected by April this year.


While talking always of the aam admi’s needs, the UPA has been handing healthcare over to the private sector.

According to the draft of the 12th Plan, the government will increase spending on health from 1.2 per cent of the GDP to 1.9 per cent, with greater emphasis on public-private partnership. While the expert group asked for scaling up public funding from the current 1.2 per cent of GDP to roughly 2.5 per cent by the 12th Plan-end (2017-18) and to roughly 3 per cent by the 13th Plan-end (2023-24), the government only relented a bit—enough to give it room to announce more populous aam admi schemes. D. Raja of the CPI believes that “through PPP (public-private-partnership), floated in the 12th Plan, the government is working as facilitator for private sector”, something that goes against the constitutional mandate of a welfare state. Former health secretary Sujata Rao says the state “cannot co-opt the private sector to provide healthcare for which government is paying money without framing stringent rules and norms.” More than 70 per cent of expenditure on health in the past five years has come from households. In its nine years in power, the UPA has overseen the shrinking of the public sector and the boom in the private. All the while, it has paid lip service to aam admi causes—even as it pushes people from the margins into the wilderness. In those five years, the well-to-do have obtained better healthcare than ever before. Both the Congress and the BJP have said in their party manifestos that they want to make India a “health tourism” destination. That has already happened. Would the UPA, champion of the aam admi’s interests, pat itself on the back for that? Meanwhile, most private facilities ignore a Supreme Court directive to reserve a certain percentage of their beds and treatment for the poor because they were given land at concessional rates. 

Barely 100 km from the national capital, the Kosi Kalan district of Uttar Pradesh, near Mathura, presents a pathetic picture of community health care. Four months ago, the primary health centre, which caters to more than 50,000 patients with two trained nurses and two doctors, was upgraded into a community health centre with a new building. However, doctors haven’t been posted at the new centre. Says Rajkumar, a doctor at the primary health centre, “We got the new building about four months ago. We are waiting for administrative sanctions”

Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
Gurgaon Subedar Gupta (right) has spent about Rs 30,000 at private hospitals for his wife’s treatment in one month. He feels the hospitals have made her undergo unnecessary tests.

It’s a familiar tale of rural India. But what is also significant is that in the post-liberalisation era, the government health sector has virtually vanished from Tier II and III urban centres. Subedar Gupta, 32-year-old commercial vehicle driver from Gurgaon, has discovered that the government sector is an empty shell. It’s the private sector that has fleeced him. His wife Chanda Devi has been complaining of severe bodyache, itching and weakness for the last five years and no one knows why. Gupta spent about Rs 30,000 last month at private hospitals. He is now broke. “They ask us for same tests—blood test, X-rays and ecg. She is continuously on medicines. They are sucking all the money out of us.”


In Tier II and Tier III towns, the public healthcare system is non-existent. Even the private hospitals here are inadequate.

Millions of Indians living in small towns go through the same agony–not knowing where to turn to in the absence of a good health system. Because of that, thousands travel to Delhi’s overburdened AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital, which are staffed with excellent doctors. The rest just pay for a private system designed to extract the maximum from each patient. “Public health is a big question in small cities. They have government hospitals, which are not well-equipped—in terms of infrastructure or adequate numbers of doctors and other staff.  There is also a shortage of woman doctors,” says Dr Rajesh Shukla, a consultant who has evaluated icds programmes in rural areas and studied medical care in small towns. 

A large number of swanky hospitals and clinics have come up in urban India. But that does not ensure good care. There is also the issue of all this being loaded in favour of a profit-seeking system. Take the Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojna, a government-supported health insurance scheme that rides on the private sector to provide medical care and surgical procedures at predetermined rates. Experts point to the dangers of induced demand and the prescription of unnecessary procedures to claim insurance benefits. Besides, the technology at private centres is often used to fleece patients rather than help them.

Dr Subhash Salunke, former director-general of health services, Goa, and currently director of the Public Health Federation of India, says the private sector is very scattered and unregulated, leading to lot of malpractices. This could have been checked to some extent had rules of the Clinical Establishment Act, 2010, been framed and implemented. Two years after the legislation was passed by Parliament, it hasn’t been implemented. The problem lies with the “stiff resistance from the private sector to the laying down of guidelines”.

Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee
Calcutta Nomita Pramanik, a domestic help, has asthma. She earns Rs 2,800. A hospital visit costs Rs 250-300. She calls free treatment at government hospitals a “curse even enemies shouldn’t suffer”.

The health sector is also crippled by a shortage of doctors and nurses (see graphic). So when the government says it is serious about training more doctors and nurses, by setting up six new AIIMSes, it makes for sound planning. But politics quickly shows up: one of the AIIMSes is planned in Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, Rae Bareli. Many doctors trained in excellent government medical colleges swiftly move to the private sector; they are even reluctant to take up rural jobs or postings. “Of the 1,400 doctors appointed after a proper selection process, only 900 joined the service,” disclosed a spokesman of the Uttar Pradesh health directorate. Because of the shortage of doctors in government hospitals, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) had started to recruit those trained in the Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha and homoeopathic streams, but the process was stalled by a Rs 5,000 crore scam.

So the poor continue to suffer. In a general ward of Krishnanagar Hospital in Nandia District, West Bengal, members of a patient’s family say that not a single doctor checked their ward for 24 hours after he was admitted with a cerebral condition. The doctor assigned to the hospital, who was in his chambers some 10 km away, had this to say when tracked down by Outlook, “I’m the only doctor for close to 500 patients. Is it possible for me to visit each and every patient? You have to understand my constraints. There is very little monetary incentive for doctors working in the rural areas. These are punishment postings. No one wants to come here. They want to work with rich patients and earn big money.”

As he spoke, there were close to 100 patients waiting in the visiting room to see him. They were all from the villages and small towns in Nandia district. Krishnanagar Hospital is the main district hospital and patients from all over Nadia are referred to this hospital. In Uttar Pradesh, modern private health services have yet to reach beyond a dozen key cities. The rest of the state has to depend on these 12 cities, a handful of which have facilities for tertiary care. Some facilities are available only in Lucknow, where the government has concentrated all the healthcare while the rest of the sprawling state—75 districts—goes without even secondary care. According to the NRHM’s fourth common review mission report, of the 515 community health centres in Uttar Pradesh, 308 were below norms laid down in the Indian Public Health Standards.


Andhra’s Rajiv Aarogyasri scheme, a brainchild of YSR, sounds perfect on paper. Only, the rich end up misusing it.

Even in states that are economically better off, such as Andhra Pradesh, it is an abject tale. Right from Seetampeta in north Srikakulam district to Utnoor in Adilabad, the public healthcare system is in a shambles. Adivasis simply have no access to potable drinking water and succumb easily to totally preventable diseases. If it’s gastroenteritis in Adilabad, it’s malaria in Paderu Agency of Visakhapatnam district. Anti-larval spraying operations are late and haphazard. Community health workers are badly trained. Human rights teams which visit these areas say the medicines provided are sometimes past the expiry date. “Deaths due to malaria are sought to be passed off as due to other diseases like cancer, heart stroke, old age or TB,” says V.S. Krishna of the Human Rights Foundation. Once touted as a model state for implementation of health insurance, Andhra Pradesh today faces a problem where the scheme is being misused by the rich. A qualified doctor himself, the late YSR, former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, launched the Rajiv Aarogyasri Scheme in 2006, providing medical cover of up to Rs 2 lakh for bpl families. Since corporate hospitals handle a bulk of the procedures, the scheme is misused. Says a cardiac surgeon at a leading Hyderabad hospital, “The rich come and seek heart procedures under Aarogyasri, casually whipping out white cards meant for bpl families. There are no checks.” 

The ailments of the poor often have nothing to do with the agendas of rich and powerful pharma companies. Are there lessons India can learn from the world? Experts say that the US has one of the worst public healthcare systems in the developed world. But in most countries, in Latin America or Europe, universal healthcare been achieved through governments. In Asia, Sri Lanka and Thailand can teach India some lessons on the health front. So India may be a powerful nation simply by dint of its size and market. But it is also a ‘sick’ nation, where there’s no help for the poor when they fall sick. It’s a country where a poor man can die on the pavement outside a gleaming state-of-the-art hospital with the best medical technology in the world.

By Amba Batra Bakshi & Lola Nayar with Sharat Pradhan, Madhavi Tata, Dola Mitra, Panini Anand, Chandrani Banerjee, Prarthna Gahilote and Prachi Pinglay-Plumber


#India- Alchemizing anger to hope #justiceverma #delhigangrape #Vaw #justice #Law #AFSPA

JANUARY 25, 2013
by ,

Arvind Narrain has an op ed in today’s Hindu about the Justice Verma Committee. This is a longer version of the article


The public discourse post the brutal rape of Nirbhaya has witnessed a persistent degrading of the public discourse.  Having been subjected to crudely offensive remarks by members of the political establishment, right from belittling a serious movement for equality as led by  ‘painted and dented ladies’ to ostensibly sympathetic responses which belittle women who have suffered a serious violation of their bodily integrity as nothing  more than ‘zinda laash’, we finally have a document authored by a Committee set up by the state which honours Nirbhaya.

The Verma Committee Report most fundamentally alters the public discourse on crimes against women by placing these crimes within the framework of the Indian Constitution and treating these offences as nothing less than an egregious violation of the right to live with dignity of all women. What is particularly moving and inspiring about the Report is that it does so by placing the autonomy and indeed the sexual autonomy of women at the very centre of its discourse.


It also offers us a rethinking of what is meant by the offence of rape. In the Committee’s thinking rape is a form of sexual assault like any other crime against the human body in the IPC. According to the Committee it is  ‘the duty of the state as well as civil society to deconstruct the paradigm of shame-honour in connection with a rape victim.’


According to the Committee, it is very important that Indian society and the state move away from thinking of rape as a crime against honour and instead look at it as a serious violation of bodily integrity. In language which is seen perhaps for the first time in an official report, the Committee quotes a rape survivor. ‘Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women………I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s  brains are in their genitals’.


The discussion on rape is located in an understanding of women as full and equal citizens  and it is intrinsic to the argument of the Report that it is only by guaranteeing women full and equal rights that sexual violence can even be tackled. It is in this context that the  Committee discusses the phenomenon of honour killing and concludes that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that ‘choices made by men and women in respect of marriage’ will not be interfered with by institutions such as khap panchayats.


Where the uncompromising respect for autonomy and personhood is perhaps best exemplified is in the Committee’s discussion on marital rape. Breaching the sacred inner precinct of patriarchy which is the marital relationship, the Committee for the first time in the history of Indian law, recognizes that the married woman is an autonomous individual with full power to refuse sexual intercourse with her ‘lawfully wedded husband’. There is nothing in the nature of the relationship, which entitles the husband to sexual access to his wife at his whim and fancy. The Committee, based on an understanding of equality in the Indian Constitution comprehensively rebuts  Sir Matthew Hale’s outdated  declaration in 1736 that the ‘husband cannot be guilty of rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife’.


While the Committee breaches the inner wall of patriarchy, it is also  equally successful in breaching the public patriarchy of the state as a raping machine. For far too long, the Indian Armed Forces have enjoyed complete impunity for crimes of sexual violence committed against women in situations of armed conflict. The women in Chattisgarh, Kashmir as well as the North East have borne mute witness with their bodies to unspeakable acts of sexual violence. For the first time in history, the Committee has recognized that sexual violence against women committed by members of the armed forces must come within the purview of ordinary criminal law. It recommends a ‘review of AFSPA and AFSPA like legal protocols as soon as possible’.  The requirement of sanction for prosecuting these offences committed by uniformed personal has been done away with.


The Committee also introduces the notion of ‘command responsibility’ whereby a public servant in command, control  or supervision of the armed forces or police would be held responsible for failure to exercise control over the actions of his subordinates resulting in rape or sexual assault. Here again the Committee breaches the code of impunity of the Indian state for sexual offences committed by its personnel.


The Committee has shown a sense of occasion by  recognizing  that a historic  moment such as this must be transformative for all. As such, it expressly suggests that the definition of those who could be affected by sexual assault should include both men as well as homosexual and transgender persons. It thus recommends that the law expressly protect  all  persons from  rape and sexual assault.


The jet of anger which emerged through the brutal rape of Nirbhaya has through the work of the Committee been transmuted into an ever widening circle of empathy which includes children in juvenile facilities, trafficked women and children,  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons, domestic workers, women in situations of armed conflict as well as women in violent marital relationships. The Committee through making recommendations for all these vulnerable groups has seized the moment and articulated the patriarchal  ills of the  Indian state and society.


The fact that the Report is based upon a historic articulation of hurt and harm suffered by Indian women emerges most poignantly through the articulation of the offence of rape which results in a persistent vegetative state for which the punishment is rigorous imprisonment of a minimum of twenty years going up to life. This recognition of an aggravated form of sexual assault is a tribute to Aruna Shanbaug who was brutally raped and choked with a dog chain and is living since the  last thirty six years in a persistent vegetative state.


The Committee has performed a fine balancing act of  being sensitive to public opinion without allowing mere public sentiment to emerge as  the arbiter of policy and law. In doing so, it resists the tendency of basing its recommendations on shifting notions of right and wrong and instead derives its recommendations from constitutional values.


It is keeping in mind constitutional morality,  that the Committee has refused to yield to the public clamor for the death penalty for those accused of the brutal rape. It has also firmly reiterated that both chemical and surgical castration are ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments which are not in conformity with the Indian Constitution and hence to be rejected.  The growing clamour for the lowering of the age of the juvenile from eighteen to sixteen has also been rejected by the Committee citing the fact that as far as the juvenile is concerned, it is the responsibility of the state to invest in processes which can aid the reformation of the juvenile.


The Committee has done an incredible job of transmuting pain and anger into an inspirational roadmap for the future. It is now up to civil society to ensure that the radical recommendations of the Committee are converted into  reality.



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