Hunger Stalks Temple Town Of Varanasi


While district administration of Varanasi says that the children died of tuberculosis, human rights’ activists allege that the deaths were due to hunger and malnutrition
Virendra Nath Bhatt

VIRENDRA NATH BHATT

May 15, 2013

Illustration: Anand Naorem

Two children from a poor family of weavers have allegedly died of starvation in Varanasi. Four-year old Mohammed Murtaza died on 9 May, while his sister Shamim Parveen (14) died the next day in the Bajardiha locality of Varanasi. Their father, Abdul Khaliq died 10 months ago of malnutrition. He was unable to pay bills for his medical treatment.

While the district administration of Varanasi says that the children died of tuberculosis, human rights’ activists allege that the deaths were due to hunger and malnutrition.

“Both children died due to extreme poverty,” says Mukhtar Ahmed, owner of the loom where Abdul Khaliq worked. “Naazra, mother of the four children, worked at my loom weaving sarees. She earned Rs 25 to Rs 50 everyday and was dependent on her neighbours financially. The children searched for food in garbage dumps.”

But the district administration of Varanasi has denied that the deaths took place due to starvation. “Two doctors examined the bodies of the children and certified that both were suffering from tuberculosis. After all, we have to accept what is being diagnosed by the doctors,” said Additional DM of Varanasi, Mangal Prasad Singh.

Endorsing the official stand, Varanasi City President OP Singh said, “The family was very poor, but the cause of death was not starvation, it was lack of proper medical treatment. Opposition parties are politicising the issue for obvious political gains.”

However, soon after the death of the two children, Naazra was rewarded with a Weaver Card, a BPL Card, foodgrains, kerosene oil and a flat built under the ‘Kanshiram Sahree Garib Avas Yojna’ scheme of the Mayawati regime.

Shruti, head of a human rights organisation, working among weavers in Varanasi says that Naazra had an Above Poverty Line (APL) card. However, soon after the death of her two children, the district administration lost no time to issue her a BPL card. The Weaver Card will enable her to avail the benefits of welfare schemes.

Questioning the ‘benevolence’ of the district administration, Shruti said, “If the family was not under extreme poverty and malnutrition, why have they been given a BPL card, Weaver Card and food grains? How can the district administration claim that the two children died of the disease when the post mortem of the bodies was not conducted?”

She maintained that the Naazra family suffered from extreme poverty and malnutrition. Whatever little Naazra earned as a saree weaver, went in purchasing foodgrains. The family was dependent on doles from neighbours, but the financial condition of neighbours was also not good.

“This is not the first time such an incident has happened in Varanasi. Several such incidents have occurred in the past where poor weavers died of starvation, but no government in UP ever admitted to the deaths,” says Shyamdeo Rai Chowdhary, BJP MLA from Varanasi. He added, “One time assistance of foodgrains and kerosene oil is no solution – the government should run a state-wide programme identifying the vulnerable poor in rural and urban areas.”

– See more at: http://tehelka.com/hunger-stalks-temple-town-of-varanasi/#sthash.c3Tt5PcX.dpuf

 

#India – Uttar Pradesh engineer is first to be booked under new stalking law #Vaw #Justice


20-year-old would harass Bhayandar woman, who used to be his neighbour, with lewd late-night calls

 

Ram Parmar, Mumbai Mirror March 16,2013

 

 

A 20-year-old engineering student from Uttar Pradesh has been arrested by the Navghar (Bhayander East) police for stalking a married woman who used to live next door to him in Varanasi. Vishal Verma is the first suspect to be charged under the new Section 354-D (stalking) of the Indian Penal Code, which is now a non-bailable offence.

Verma, a first-year engineering student at IIMT Engineering College, Meerut, and a resident of Varanasi, first met the woman when she was unmarried. He became infatuated with her and his obsession continued even after she got married and moved from Varanasi to Bhayandar. Inspector Dinkar Pingle of Navghar police station said Verma would telephone her late at night and harass her, asking her for “kisses” over the phone.

On February 21, Verma again called the woman to profess his love for her and said he would come down to Bhayander to meet her. He asked her for a kiss, at which the woman slammed the phone down. Verma continued to telephone her, but she ignored his calls. “Finally, the woman registered a complaint with us on March 3 and we started to investigate the matter,” said Inspector Pingle. “We sent a team to Benares, which arrested Verma and charged him under the new Section 354 (D) of the IPC,” added Pingle. Since it is a now a non-bailable offence, Verma has been remanded in police custody till Monday, when he will be produced before the Thane Sessions Court.

 

 

#RIP- Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra, Sankat Mochan Mandir Kashi-Benaras


 

A deeply spiritual man, who has ensured Benaras-Kashi remained peaceful and calm after the ghastly attack on the Sankat Mochan Mandir(7.3.2006), Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra passed away yesterday
Deeply Committed to India s syncretic ethos, opposing the politics of division and the demolition of the Babri Masjid Mahantji s dream of a clean Ganga Mata remains a distant dream

We deeply mourn his loss

He had been part of CJP-MSD s meeting in Mumbai on 27.7.2006 after the ghastly train bombings in Mumbai appealing for peace and cal, emphasising that no Faith sanctions Terror and Violence

 

 

 

Professor Veer Bhadra Mishra was an engineer and Hindu priest who has dedicated his life to clean up his beloved River Ganges. “I am a part of Ganga and Ganga is a part of me,” he used to say. “I want not a single drop of sewage going into the river.” Besides an activist campaign that has educated millions about problems facing rivers around the world. Mishra, a former professor of hydraulics, has launched practical projects. One of these now provides clean drinking water through new wells to six neighboring villages whose residents were getting sick on Ganges water. He was also working hard with University of California scientists on plans for an alternative technology system. It is powered by gravity rather than electrical power, uses bacteria and algae to eliminate pollutants, and not only purifies river water but can be used to irrigate farmland and grow fish. In 1999 Dr. Mishra was nominated by Time Magazine as “hero of the planet” for bringing the plight of the Ganga to the world’s attention, inspiring other “riverkeepers” around the world.

CJP

 

#India- 11 convicted in Guwahati molestation case #Vaw


13 policemen will face trial for charges of gang rape in the case of Vakapalli tribal women  #Rape #Vaw

.

Mnaipur Mail

GUWAHATI, Dec 7 NNN: Five months after the incident had occurred, a local court in Guwahati today convicted 11 of the 16 accused.

On Friday, Kamrup chief judicial magistrate S.P Moitra after the hearing of 24 witnesses, convicted 11 including prime accused Amarjyoti Kalita who was arrested from Varanasi almost a month after the incident. However, the terms of sentence is yet to be pronounced. This is so, because, not happy with the judgement, those convicted persons have sought a re-examination of their case within 30 days.

In the month of July, the police had arrested  the youths for molesting and trying to strip a 16-year-old on the busy GS Road in Guwahati at late night. The girl, a class 11 student, was pounced upon soon after she emerged from a party organized in a bar.

Some 20-25 men attacked the teenage girl as she was about to board a vehicle on her way home. They pawed her for almost 30 minutes and tore off a part of her dress before the police team came to her rescue.

On the basis of video footage, the police got cracking.
One of the molesters turned out to be an employee of the state government-run IT agency Amtron. He was identified as Amarjyoti Kalita.

Days after the incident, a team of National Commission for Women had met the girl and recorded her version. The girl is said to be daughter of a deceased police officer.

In July, RTI activist and peasant leader Akhil Gogoi had alleged that the journalist – Gaurab Jyoti Neog, reporter of NewsLive TV channel – had instigated a mob to molest the girl and filmed it on his mobile phone. Gogoi’s allegation was based on a video footage screened at the Guwahati Press Club.

The news channel had denied the charge as baseless.

It is worth noting that as part of its measure to prevent such incidents, Assam government in November had raised the all-women commando company christened as Virangana, meaning ‘women warrior’.

One hundred women commando personnel attired in black uniforms were groomed to face any situation. They were given concerted training in martial arts, using of guns, handling bikes of all types and vehicles. These ‘women in black’  would also be required to act as decoys in areas prone to eve-teasing and molestation. Such areas include the vicinities of bars and hotels.

The elite women commando company was conceived in July this year following the molestation of a woman outside a bar in Guwahati.
Kanakeswar Borgohain, the spokesperson of Assam police had said last month that the recruits for the force underwent rigorous training at the Dergaon Police Training College in central Assam. The police spokesperson had also said that sixteen of the best trainees were sent to Tamil Nadu for advanced commando training.

“We have no reports of any other state in India having floated an all-women commando force specifically to check crimes against women,” Borgohain had added.

Damned lives and statistics


COVER STORY
Damned lives and 
statistics
By Gunjan Sharma, The Week
Story Dated: Monday, May 21, 2012 15:51 hrs IST

The horrid state of mental health care in India 
can drive one insane. Does anyone care?


Anybody out there? A patient at Mental Hospital, Varanasi. Photo by Gunjan Sharma

It is a hot, humid afternoon at Lumbini Park Mental Hospital in Kolkata. About 30 male patients in tattered clothes huddle in a dormitory. The stench from the lavatory  next to it is nauseating. On the next floor, two female patients lie sprawled on the narrow corridor outside a female dormitory.
Things are no different at another state-run hospital in the city, Pavlov Mental Hospital, where about 400 patients share 250 beds. Patients at a severe stage of mental illness are locked up in 4x5ft cells, with an Indian-style closet—they eat sitting next to it. And to kill body lice, says a hospital employee, patients are stripped and sprayed with insecticides meant to kill cockroaches.
The pathetic and horrible condition is compounded by inhumanity: “The funds that come to the hospital for food, clothing and mattresses are siphoned off by the officials. They even take home the bedspreads and curtains,” alleges an employee.
The hospital looks nice from the outside, but it has no rehabilitation facilities to engage patients in vocational training. As a result, even patients who become stable lose their cognitive abilities and succumb to negative symptoms such as withdrawal, lack of concentration, reduced productivity and, eventually, lack of will to live.
“A lot of cosmetic measures have been taken in the past two years to improve the overall look of the compound,” says an official, “but the patients still live in inhuman conditions.”
Mental Hospital, Varanasi, was conceived as a jail in 1809 for criminals with mental illness. Today, only 54 of 290 patients are prisoners, yet the same old colonial rules are followed.
Patients live in stinking barracks. The cells have no fans, even as the temperature soars over 40 degrees Celsius. Patients are forced to sleep on the dirty floor, as there are no beds in most wards. And thanks to the strict adherence to the old ‘jail manual’, patients spend over 17 hours a day in the lockup, without any recreational facilities.
The ‘jail’ authorities thrash the patients if they demand basic facilities, says a patient in the male ward. “We don’t even get sufficient food,” he says.
The hospital has about 300 in-patients and handles as many out-patients a day, but has just two psychiatrists. No nurse, no clinical psychologist, no occupational therapist, no social worker.
“For the 24 years that I have been here, nothing has been done to improve the living conditions of the patients,” says a senior doctor at the hospital.
Be it West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh or Maharashtra, most state-run mental hospitals are in a deplorable state. According to the National Human Rights Commission, there are only 43 government mental hospitals in India, of which hardly half a dozen are in a “livable” condition.
“The NHRC was asked to report on the condition of mental hospitals in the 90s. We brought out our first report in 1999; the condition of most mental hospitals was shocking. Even after a decade, it remains the same,” says P.C. Sharma, member, NHRC. “It shows the government’s attitude towards the mental health care in the country.”
In fact, the NHRC’s reports in 1999 and 2011 look almost identical. Most hospitals lacked, and still lack, even clean water and ventilation. Many hospital buildings are in a dilapidated state, as they were colonial structures, mostly jails.
Take the case of Bangur Institute of Psychiatry, Kolkata. Patients here still live in the same dark, damp, dirty jail cells. Forget rehab activities for the patients. “If a bulb blows, it takes five days to get it replaced,” says a voluntary psychologist at the hospital.
Posing as the daughter of a patient, I ask this social worker whether I should admit him in the hospital. “It is nothing more than a jail,” he says. “It will only deteriorate your father’s condition; it is not for people like you.”
In its 2011 report on the Institute of Psychiatry, Kolkata, NHRC’s then special rapporteur Dr Lakshimidhar Mishra writes: “Around 12 noon I inspected the dining hall of the Institute of Psychiatry. About 10 in-patients were taking lunch which comprised about 100g of rice, 50g of dal (mostly watery), a potato and mixed vegetable curry and a small piece of fish. There was no salad and no other fried vegetable, spinach or fruit.”  The nutritive value of the aforesaid meal is 1,500 cal; a normal human being needs at least 2,500 cal.
Mental Hospital, Indore, hardly looks like a hospital from the outside. The male ward, with a dozen patients, is dusty. The window panes are broken. Lavatories, as expected, are stinking, and many of them in the female wards do not have doors.
In the book Mental Health Care and Human Rights released in 2008, the NHRC notes, “Mental Hospital, Indore, is in a highly deplorable state in almost all aspects of human care. Evidence of chaining patients, clinical abuse and active neglect are seen.” Things are almost the same even today. Quite understandably, hospital superintendent Dr Ramgulam Razdan bars me from talking to patients and staff.
“The new building is under construction and we will shift all the patients in three to four months,” he says. “This building had a thatched roof when I took take charge in 1998. Lack of political will delays reforms.”


Can we afford the delay?
At least 10 crore people suffer from mental illness in India. About one crore need hospitalisation. There are just 43 government mental hospitals, most of them in a pitiable condition. There are only 4,000 psychiatrists in the country; 70 per cent of them practise in private hospitals in urban areas.
There is a severe shortage of paramedics, too. In 2008, according to an NHRC report, a single psychiatrist was found manning the 331-bed hospital in Varanasi. There were no sanctioned posts of general medicine officer, clinical psychologist, psychiatry social worker, occupational therapist, dietician and nurses. Four years down the line, all that the hospital has got is an additional psychiatrist.
Furthermore, over 30 per cent posts of psychiatric nurses are lying vacant in most mental hospitals across the country. Besides, there is a severe shortage of grade D staff, who are responsible for the day-to-day care of the hospitals and patients. And at most of these hospitals, electroconvulsive therapy is still given without anaesthesia, as there are no anaesthetists available.
“The problem,” Mishra says, “is in the attitude of authorities managing these hospitals. Most of the hospitals in India are not managed by psychiatrists. So they don’t understand the complexities of mental health care.”
For instance, Mental Hospital, Varanasi, is managed by Dr K.K. Singh, an ENT surgeon. There are physicians and even gynaecologists who are in charge of mental hospitals. “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” says a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in UP.

Calculation gone wrong
In 2010-11, the Central budget allocation for the mental health programme was just Rs103 crore—less than 1 per cent of the total health expenditure. According to the World Health Organisation, about 10 per cent of any country’s population suffers from some form of psychiatric disorder at any given time. And one in every four persons suffers from some mental disorder at some point of time in life.
Even if we consider that a conservative 7 per cent of India’s population suffers from some mental disorder at a given time, it amounts to about 8 crore people. “That means we have a budget of Rs13 per mentally-ill patient per year, when at least Rs500 per patient per month is required to provide at least basic medicines, food and shelter,” says Tapas Ray, founder of Sevac, a Kolkata-based NGO.
A senior officer, who has worked in the Mental Health Cell of the Union ministry of health and family welfare, says mental health has never been a priority of the government. The District Mental Health Programme, introduced in 1982, remained on paper till 1996, when the government finally launched it in 27 districts across the country with a budget of Rs27 crore. Today, the programme has managed to cover just 123 districts, with 40 per cent posts lying vacant.
The problem is not shortage of funds, says a senior ministry official; there are times when the states return the money, as they couldn’t utilise it, he adds. “There should be a close monitoring of mental hospitals. But unfortunately, there is no manpower to do even that. We do have the Central Mental Health Authority, but its members have not met for the past three years. There is similar official apathy at the state level, too.”
The Comptroller and Auditor-General slammed the previous V.S. Achuthanandan government in Kerala for not utilising Rs4.07 crore of the alloted Rs9.98 crore. That, in a state where prevalence of mental disorders is almost three times the national average.

 

Caught between fate 
and faith


With the medical system in a mess and awareness about mental disorders lacking, faith healers and quacks are making hay. According to a study by Dr Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Mental Hospital, Jaipur, 68 per cent of mentally ill people are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.
“The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” says Gautam. Apparently, psychiatry is not a separate subject in the MBBS curriculum, and there are just 11-12 lectures on the stream.
“Moreover, there are hardly 250 postgraduation seats in psychiatry, and most of the pass-outs opt for jobs abroad,” says Dr Sunil Mittal, director, Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Delhi. “In fact, there are more Indian psychiatrists in the US than in India.”
Many patients initially consult a general physician during the onset of a mental disorder, and if that doctor fails to diagnose the problem correctly, generally the next option is faith healing, which, professionals say, is hogwash. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” says Gautam. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”
Take the case of Hema. Until a few months ago, the postgraduate in English used to call herself Mrs Sonu Nigam, assuming to be the Bollywood singer’s wife. A clear case of schizophrenia. But, her family took her to Datar Sharif dargah near Ahmedabad. They believed an evil spirit was at play. She spent a year there, chained, pained. And it was only when her condition deteriorated to an extent that incontinence set in, her family brought her to Gautam. “In 15 days, Hema started improving and, now a month later, she is normal,” he says.
Businessman Sanjay of New Delhi, however, is still awaiting emancipation. Four years ago, he was diagnosed with mild mania. He was put on medication and his condition improved. But as soon as Sanjay stopped medication, the symptoms returned. Then, his father took him to Narhar Sharif dargah in Jhunjhunu district, Rajasthan.
“For three months, I have been chained here. I want to go back home and meet my doctor, but my father is not allowing me,” he says. “My father has been convinced by people here that I can go only when I get orders from the dargah.” Taking me to be a patient’s relative, Sanjay offers heart-felt advice: “Never bring anyone, under whatever circumstance, to the dargah.”
In the case of disorders like hysteria, a patient has a tendency to do whatever is suggested. Faith healers take advantage of it. Their sidekicks keep performing certain actions in front of the patient, who is likely to imitate the actions. The faith healers call this paishi or arzi, a process in which God talks to patients and heals them.
Some others, especially schizophrenics, are treated cruelly. Some are whipped or caned, some are made to inhale smoke from burnt chilli, some have chilli paste smeared into their eyes and some get branded with red hot coins. “I recently got a patient whose burn was just 2mm away from his windpipe,” says Gautam.
Despite laws banning the practice, many dargahs and temples keep patients chained. Some, for a lifetime. In 2001, a fire at a dargah in a coastal village, Erawadi, in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu charred to death 26 mental patients, who could not escape the blaze as they were chained.
Soon after the incident, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to conduct an all-India survey to identify registered and unregistered asylums. The court also ordered that each state government should establish at least one mental health hospital. But even today, states like Haryana still do not have a government mental hospital.

The unwanted


Thanks to official sloth and societal apathy, families of mentally ill people are increasingly opting for the easy way out: ‘dumping’.
A recent shocker came from Thrissur district in Kerala, where an illegal ‘asylum’ was busted. Thirty-five men and six boys from across India were rescued from inhuman conditions. Apparently, it was the stench from their unwashed bodies and excreta that made neighbours alert the health department.
As officials raided the asylum, they found naked and chained inmates, who had been dumped there by their families after paying the asylum owner. Some were found crawling in their excreta, some even consuming it. Their bodies bore marks of torture, and some had surgical scars on their backs, prompting allegations that the asylum had links with kidney thieves. Of 78 patients entered in the register, only 41 were found during the raid.
An even more shocking trend is of patients getting dumped in jungles, especially in the forest reserves of south India. Families, mostly from the north, pay lorry drivers to ‘drop’ these hapless victims, including children and women, in the forest ranges. Social activists in reserves such as Wayanad and Bandipur say drivers rape the female victims before dumping them at the mercy of nature.
“Before we term the families as ‘cruel’, we must look at what forces them to take such extreme steps,” says social activist Murugan S., who has lost count of the number of mentally ill people he has rescued from streets, railway stations and bus-stands across Kerala. And, finally, he concludes with what has become clichéd in Indian society: “The system needs a holistic change.”
with S. Neeraj Krishna

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