Archive for September 28, 2015

Is the inquiry into DSP Vishnupriya’s suicide being mishandled?

vishnu-priya-dalit-suicide

Dalit Police officer Vishnupriya’s suicide and the inquiry into it has opened a new pandora’s box that had carefully guarded the gender bias, casteism, hypocrisy, red tape and corruption that is widely prevalent in the Government set up

By Special Correspondent (Tamil Nadu)

The alleged suicide of Vishnupriya, deputy superintendent of police, Thiruchengode, who was investigating a sensational murder case in Tamilnadu, has caused jitters and jolts in the minds of officers and public alike.

She had gone to her hometown for two days and returned just that morning when the ill-fated incident happened. Vishnupriya was to leave for a meeting that evening and the driver raised an alarm after his calls went unanswered. Through a window that he could force open, he saw her hanging and immediately alerted his higher ups. As the news of the alleged suicide spread, hundreds flocked at the Salem government hospital where her body was kept. When her parents and friends demanded a CBI probe, some political parties joined in too.

However, the chief minister of Tamilnadu,.J Jayalalithaa, while condoling the death of the young officer on the floors of the assembly, refused to budge to the oppositions’ demand for a CBI enquiry and stated that the State crime branch CID would handle the case in an impartial manner.

The death sent shock waves cutting across party lines and an enraged civil society staged several demonstrations and protests demanding justice for the young officer.

The Tamilnadu government employees association, on its part, urged the govt to protect the employees, and take stringent action against the abettors.

CBCID who started their investigations into the alleged suicide took into custody a temple priest of the Thirukoshtiyur temple, Sivaganga district, alleging that there were several calls exchanged between the two. However, an enquiry with Vishnupriya’s friends and relatives revealed that this boy was just another friend and Vishnupriya had told her friends that he often reminded her of a cousin brother.

Maheshwari, DSP Keelakarai, and a dear friend of Vishnupriya, very boldly went on record to the media saying that there was no personal angle to the incident as portrayed by the police and said that the deceased officer was mentally harassed, unduly pressurised, verbally abused and literally driven to taking such a drastic decision of ending her life. She recalls that Vishnupriya called her at 2.48 pm on that day and told her that she was being pressurised to implicate innocent people in the murder case.

Vishnupriya was mentally harassed, unduly pressurised, verbally abused and literally driven to taking such a drastic decision of ending her life

Vishnupriya’s parents also confirmed that there was no other personal reason that could be attributed to their daughter’s death. According to Maheshwari and some friends of Vishnupriya, she was forced to remand persons who were not connected with the Gokulraj murder case, and, on that fateful day, she was asked to pit goondas against those innocent persons. Vishnupriya had told them several times earlier that she felt very guilty and sad that she was not given a free hand in the enquiry.

Maheshwari had also gone on record saying that an audio record, a conversation between Vishnupriya and Yuvaraj, the main accused in the Gokulraj murder case, stood proof that the trial was not completely under the control of the DSP Thiruchengode. Yuvaraj supposedly told Vishnupriya that he was willing to surrender in her presence and expressed apprehensions about the way the enquiry progressed till then.

There are several issues that remain unattended in this case.

Initial reports said that the suicide note contained more than 15 pages, but the police have released only 7 pages to the aggrieved parents and the media. Ravi, Vishnupriya’s father, in fact claimed that only two pages contained his daughter’s handwriting and the rest have been written by someone else.

Some of Vishnupriya’s friends have said that alongside the Gokulraj case, she was also handling another important case and there was a lot of political pressure regarding the same.

Vishnupriya supposedly had recorded all calls made to her. Maheshwari claimed that while the IO who was appointed to enquire into the suicide, was standing right next to her in the Salem Government hospital, she got the receipt report of the messages she had sent to Vishnupriya on whatsapp and sms which meant that the messages were checked many hours after her death. She immediately asked the IO if he had the phone with him but he replied that he didn’t have it. Why should the phone be misused by someone else and why was it not handed over to the investigating officer she asks, and believes that crucial evidence related to the suicide and the cases investigated could have been tampered with.

Recently M.Francis Besky who was working as ADSP Namakkal, was shifted causing many eyebrows to raise. He was supposed to have been working very closely with Vishnupriya and the deceased officer is said to have confided a lot.

In a recent development, Yuvaraj, the prime accused in the Gokulraj case who is absconding from the police, released a 51 minute whatsapp recorded audio, including a 20 minute conversation between himself and Vishnupriya. In it, the veracity of which cannot be attested to, DSP Vishnupriya says that she is under immense pressure from officials over the case, and hints that several others who have helped Yuvaraj have been arrested ‘unnecessarily’ as he is absconding.

Vishnupriya’s death has opened a new pandora’s box that had carefully guarded the gender bias, casteism, hypocrisy, red tape and corruption that is widely prevalent in the Government set up. We sincerely hope that all that remains in the box is justice to the departed musical soul that was ever so fond of sending songs through voice notes and recordings to her near and dear!

73% of women have experienced online violence, UN report

cyber-violence-UN-report

UN report warns cyber violence against women is emerging as a global problem with serious implications for societies and economies around the world

Presenting excerpts from the report by the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development Working Group on Broadband and Gender:

Millions of women and girls around the world are subjected to deliberate violence because of their gender. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) knows no boundaries, cutting across borders, race, culture and income groups, profoundly harming victims, people around them, and society as a whole.

Cyber-VAWG is emerging as a global problem with serious implications for societies and economies around the world. As the reach of internet grows across the globe, the rapid spread of mobile information and communications technologies are being used as tools to inflict harm on women and girls.

Writing this report has, in some sense, been a race to keep up with breaking news, as girl after girl and woman after woman, has come forward to expose physical and verbal attacks on them: teenage girls driven to suicide by online trolling; an airline passenger using her cell phone to record and report physical and sexual harassment from a male co-passenger; an actress publicly responding to targeted online hate speech against her; a former Major League Baseball pitcher using doxing3 to identify people responsible for “Twitter troll” posts with obscene, sexually explicit comments about his teenage daughter.

High profile incidences attract public attention and tort law responses: a Twitter troll was jailed in September 2014 and a porn site operator sentenced to 18 years in in prison in February 2015. One person was suspended from his community college, and another lost a part-time job with the New York Yankees when the doxing case involving a former Major League Baseball pitcher was made public.

Responses, however, have yet to fully address the many degrees and impact of violence, trauma and loss that women, girls and children are routinely exposed to and that go unreported. It is a problem of pandemic proportion when research asserts that one in three women will have experienced a form of violence in her lifetime. Cyber VAWG could significantly increase this staggering number, as reports suggest that 73% of women have already been exposed to or have experienced some form of online violence in what must still be considered a relatively new and growing technology.

The sheer volume of cyber VAWG has severe social and economic implications for women and girls. Threats of rape, death, and stalking put a premium on the emotional bandwidth and put a stress on financial resources (in terms of legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages, among others). The direct and indirect costs to societies and economies are also significant, as needs for health care, judicial and social services rise and productivity goes down with the sense of peace and security required for business to thrive.

In 1995 less than 1 per cent of the world population was connected to the Internet. That number has grown to 40 per cent, with over three billion unique Internet users. While women are about 25 per cent less likely to have access today, Intel’s 2013 report, Women and the Web, estimates 450 million new female Internet users could come online within the next three years. Another report on women’s access to and use of mobile technology shows a growing gender “use” gap which is partly attributable to women’s concerns over privacy and security.

Given the ubiquity of the Internet and its wide-ranging impact, particularly on the younger generation, it becomes imperative to ensure it as a safe place for both current and future generations.

The respect for and security of girls and women must at all times be front and center of those in charge of producing and providing the content, technical backbone and enabling environment of our digital society. Failure to do so will clip the potential of the Internet as an engine for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Here is the full report

Going with the flow: A handbook on menstrual management & hygiene for women with disabilities

Going-With-The- Flow- book

Updated 28 September 2015 Activist, counsellor and innovator and writer Abha Khetarpal’s recent book ‘Going With The Flow’, is a book on menstrual management and hygiene for women with disabilities which includes information and tips for parents, caregivers and doctors with pictorial presentations. Following is a write up by the author on the book

By Abha Khetarpal
Across the world’s largest democracy, millions of women still are held back by shame around their most basic sanitary needs. According to World Health Organization, India accounts for 27 percent of the world’s cervical cancer deaths. The incidence rate here is almost twice the global average, and doctors say that the basic reason behind this is poor menstrual hygiene.

The number of women with disabilities in reproductive age in India is approximately around 35 to 40 million. Gynecologic health care of women with disabilities has to be a comprehensive one. They are as likely sexually active as other teenagers or women without disabilities but are at greater risk for forced sexual encounters. They are more likely to live in poverty, due to lack of education and employment. They need appropriate education on hygiene, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and abuse prevention measures.

All this made me write ‘Going With The Flow’, a handbook on Menstrual Management & Hygiene for Women with Disabilities as written or educational material catering to such needs is all together missing in our country. The management part of the book includes the how menstruation can increase difficulties for women with different kinds of disabilities. It contains information about various absorbent materials that can be used and how to use them, when to change them, how to keep clean, what kind of food to eat and what kind of exercises that can be done by girls with disabilities during the time of periods. It also contains tips for mothers, caregivers and even doctors. The book, in its various chapters uses pictorial presentations so that girls who are visual learners may understand the matter easily. The E-book version of the book is accessible for girls with visual impairment. I have written it in Hindi also as I want more and more girls and women to benefit from reading this book. Soon its audio book will also be available with us.

What I believe is that with the ongoing ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’ and ‘Beti Bachao Campaign’, the need to focus on the health and needs of girls and teens with disabilities becomes all the more imperative

Menstruation in India has always been accompanied by myths and taboos and adolescent girls find it difficult to even discuss the issue with parents or elders in the family. For a woman with disability it becomes all the more difficult. Being a counsellor for persons with disabilities and I being a woman with disability myself, I could very well understand and relate to plight of other women and girls who go through this phenomena every month.

Depending on the level of disability, some girls are able to cope with menstruation and some are not. Although adolescence is a healthy period of life, adolescents who have disability are often less informed, less experienced, and less comfortable accessing reproductive health information and services and the challenges accentuate for them. Pubertal development and the subsequent onset of menses are the beginning of a significant change for many adolescents. This may even be more for a teen with developmental disability (DD), for whom life it-self is challenging, and mental and physical health is often in a delicate balance.

Unfortunately we have a culture of silence that surrounds the topic of menstruation and related issue. As a result, young girls with disabilities lack appropriate and sufficient information regarding menstrual hygiene. This may result in incorrect and unhealthy behaviour during their menstrual period. Also, many mothers lack correct information and skills to communicate about menstrual hygiene which they pass on to their children, leading to false attitudes, beliefs and practices in this regard.

Menstrual Hygiene has remained a taboo subject – stigmatized just like disability

Learning about hygiene during menstruation is a vital aspect of health education otherwise they have a risk of acquiring infections and ailments that may persist into adult life. It is paradoxical that various conventions and linked action plans, elaborate on women’s sexual and reproductive rights but menstruation remains as one of the most stigmatized, silent and socially constructed. I found that there is a complete neglect of menstruation management and hygiene and its implications for the dignity, health and safety of women with disabilities.

About the Author

Abha Khetarpal has been providing free online counselling to persons with disabilities regarding career and vocational decision making, personality development and confidence building through her community based website www.crossthehurdles.org . She being a polio survivor and a wheelchair user has constantly been fighting for the rights of persons with disabilities. She always tries to focus on the empowerment of women with disabilities and was one of four protagonists in the 61st National Films Award winning documentary, ‘Accsex’.The bookShe developed Cross the Hurdles Mobile Application which is the first ever mobile application to provide information to persons with disabilities for which she has won NCPEDP Mphasis Universal Design Award 2015.
Abha-Khetarpal
She has authored handbooks, namely, ‘Tax Concessions and Exemptions for the People with Disabilities in India’, ‘Keeping You Abreast’ for Women with Disabilities for their breast cancer self examination and awareness and ‘Going With The Flow’ on Menstrual Management and Hygiene for Women with Disabilities in accessible formats like audio books, Braille books, print version and screen reader versions both in English and Hindi. She runs an accessible e-magazine by the name of Cross the Hurdles E-Magazine where people with disabilities can contribute their write ups. She provides free individual domain names to artists, sportspersons and writers with disabilities to showcase their talents and expertise under Cross the Hurdles Web Network.

Her numerous papers and articles have been published in various national and international journals.

Excerpts from both English and Hindi books
Menstrual management refers to range of strategies that women with disabilities can use during menstruation so that she is comfortable with her menstrual flow and is able to manage her periods with dignity, privacy and hygienically. Management of menstruation can be one of the more difficult self care tasks for disabled women….
….Women with disabilities, for whom menstruation is a challenge, must be taught adjustment to position and modification in panty, tampon or pads. They can be provided with aids, such as use of mirrors or knee spreaders so that changing pads or tampons becomes less troublesome for them. If they are able to manage menstruation themselves and take care of their hygiene in privacy or with little help life would completely become different for them.
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मासिक धर्म प्रबंधन में वो युक्तियाँ या उपाय हैं जिनकी सहायता से नि:शक्त महिलाओं के लिए मासिक धर्म को सहज बनाया जा सकता है. इनकी मदद से वह मासिक धर्म प्रवाह को सहजता और स्वच्छता पूर्वक, गरिमा और गोपनीयता के साथ इस दिनों को बिताने में सक्षम हो सकती हैं. नहीं तो नि:शक्त युवतियों और महिलाओं के लिए मासिक धर्म के दौरान अपनी खुद की देखभाल करना अत्यंत कष्टदायी साबित हो सकता है.
निःशक्त महिलाओं के लिए मासिक धर्म एक चुनौती है. इन महिलाओं को पैंटी, तंपन या पैड की स्थिति में संशोधन या लगाने-निकालने करने के लिए आसान तरीका सिखाया जाना चाहिए. अगर वह मासिक धर्म के दौरान खुद को संभालने में सक्षम हो पातीं हैं और गोपनीयता रख पातीं हैं तब ज़रूरत है स्वछता पर ध्यान देने की

The book is available in English as well as in Hindi in the form of print version and as well as an accessible e-book.

For women with disabilities, the book is free of cost.

This book can be bought here

Also available on Google Play.

Confession of a non-residential Prime Minister

Modi obsession


Selfie with CEOs – Identify me? Vadodara based activists Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah’s hard hitting poem satirises Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s obsessive image building missions and foreign tours and his love for the company of CEO’s

I am always looking in the camera.
I am always looking in the mirror.
I am always checking out my “image”.
And my ‘image’ said to me:
I am the ‘Wisest Person’ in my country.
I cajole, persuade, threaten, beg, sweet-talk and seek investments.
I believe that only an investor can decide the laws and policies of the country.

And that is why
I hold a bearer cheque for investors & CEOs to fill up the blanks in the industrial, environmental, labour and economy policies.
I consider the CEO forum as the real Parliament.
I meet CEOs more frequently than I meet the elected Parliamentarians.
I prefer multitude of Selfies with CEOs to others.

I do have my ‘Cabinet’ but all the ministers are locked in my ‘Cabinet’ and the key is with me.
I always move alone as my all the cabinet ministers are locked in my ‘Cabinet’.

I begin my day with investment and end with investment.
I begin my day with CEOs and end with CEOs.

I have double ‘speak’ one is for ‘public speech’ and the other is for ‘actual implementation’.
I order, advise, task my cabinet, the Parliament, the Party and the People.
On what to do, how to do, where to do, why to do, when to do.
And I quietly take orders, advise and tasks from the CEOs.
On what to do, how to do, where to do, why to do, when to do.

I have “Fantastic” policies and I want the investors, my cabinet, Parliament and the people to live in ‘Fantasy’.
I lecture about Peace, Climate Change, Justice and Sustainable Development abroad.
But back home,
I allow none to utter a word on these subjects
I allow none to speak, think for Peace, Climate Change, Justice and Sustainable Development.

I consider contamination of ground water & food, occupational health problems and pollution are the collateral, integral and essential elements of ‘My Development Model’ (MDM).

I want people to live in my ‘Fantasy-World’.
I am NRPM (Non-Residential Prime Minister).

Saudi Diplomat accused of raping domestic workers; activists demand Indian Govt. address human and labour rights violation

Saudi-diplomat-rape-case

By Team FI
A group of activists and organizations including Domestic Workers Forum have written to the Indian authorities, including the Prime Minister and the President asking the government to address human and labour rights violations of two Nepali domestic workers by a Saudi Diplomat. The case hit headlines after the Gurgaon police rescued the two maids from the Diplomat’s residence. The Saudi Embassy in Delhi has denied the allegation of rape and torture. Meanwhile, the Saudi diplomat who was accused of custodial torture and rape has left the country under diplomatic immunity.

Activists have further demanded an immediate recognition and protection of domestic workers through the establishment of a statutory framework.

Here is the full text of the letter;

15th September, 2015

Subject- Ensure action is taken to address human and labour rights violations against Nepali domestic workers by Saudi Diplomat

On 10th September, 2015 two women domestic workers, from Nepal were rescued from the residence of a Saudi diplomat in Gurgaon, Haryana by a police team. The rescue was conducted on a complaint received by a Nepal based NGO. The two rescued Nepali citizens informed the police that employed as domestic workers through a placement agency; they suffered brutal physical violence and repeated sexual abuse at the hands of the diplomat. They were kept in confinement and starved by the diplomat and his family. Paid very little money, they were virtual prisoners. They also reported that on multiple occasions, they were sexually violated by male visitors to the diplomat’s house. This case is another reminder of the extreme vulnerability of domestic workers across the globe.

Undoubtedly, the police intervention and successful rescue deserves commendation. However, the rescue also sparked the Saudi embassy rushing to declare the allegations false and chiding the police for trespassing a diplomat’s house, in contravention of the established norms. Aside from the fact that the embassy completely ignored the heinous crimes that were committed by the diplomat and his family, it is regrettable that diplomatic immunity has been used to deflect from the core issue: gruesome, repeated human rights violation of two vulnerable domestic workers.

Further, application of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 and other international legal standards extends in varying degrees to individuals of different ranks and should be applied strictly in light of the spirit and purpose of the Convention. The Convention was designed with the aim that, “the purpose of such privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of the functions of diplomatic missions as representing States.” The human rights abuses perpetrated within the confines of the diplomat’s home do not pertain to the exercise of his functions as a member of the mission.

While the Indian government contemplates the appropriate course of action, it must not lose sight of the fact that the case involves severe human rights violation, including repeated brutal physical and sexual abuse, including sodomy and bodily invasion with various objects. There is also more than sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of serious crimes,including medical examination and statements from the survivors and witnesses.

Shamefully, the accused diplomat and his family continue to be harboured by the Saudi Embassy although under the Vienna Convention, the home state, Saudi Arabia, has the power to waive the immunity of the diplomat. India should strongly pursue the matter with Saudi Arabia and ensure that diplomatic immunity does not excuse the violation of human rights. Moreover, legal precedents that have recognized that although diplomatic immunity is far reaching, it is not absolute provide an important benchmark in ensuring that diplomats do not abuse their position of immunity (See, e.g. United States v. Guinanc, 688 F. Supp. 744 (D.C.1988) allowing for the trial of a Peruvian diplomat in the United States after his diplomatic term had ended since the underyling crime was unrelated to his diplomatic functions).

This case, moreover, reveals severe international and domestic crises:

Trafficking and unsafe migration: The Nepali women survivors passed through at least three different jurisdictions: they were brought from Nepal, likely to India; taken to Jeddah by their employers; and brought back to India where the victimization was reported. The incident highlights the danger women face due to human trafficking, and other migration related crimes, including deception by placement agencies and middlemen, inhuman working conditions and inadequate remuneration. With a burgeoning demand for domestic workers, there are mushrooming ‘placement agencies’ bereft of any legal backing, government permission, license, or any other form of scrutiny. These agencies continue to bring vulnerable women from across the country as well as neighbouring nations with impunity.

Rampant rights abuses against domestic workers: Domestic workers, confined to the homes of their employers, facing complete control and domination by employers without job security are particularly vulnerable to heinous crimes. A survey by the International Labour Organization found that of 70 countries, 40% did not ensure weekly rest and 50% had no limitations imposed on working hours for domestic workers. Only 22 countries have ratified the Domestic Workers Convention of the ILO (C189). India’s absence from the list reveals a clear lack of political will to address the problems of domestic workers.

Hence, the undersigned specifically demand that the government take concrete steps to end the misuse of diplomatic immunity that abets human rights violation and serious crimes and call for the following action:

1. Fair and thorough investigation, in keeping with principles of natural justice and rule of law; including prosecution of any charges substantiated, including against the diplomat; his family; any guests who participated in or any way aided the severe and ongoing abuse of the Nepali women survivors; and any recruiting agents or agencies that contributed to their extreme vulnerability through human trafficking, cheating or any other criminal offences.

2. Immediate recognition and protection of domestic workers through establishment of a statutory framework and ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention of the ILO C189.
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Signatories

Gharelu Kamgaar Sanghatan, Gurgaon, Haryana Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)-Delhi Subhash Bhatnagar, Nirmala Niketan
Domestic Workers Forum, Chetnalaya, Delhi
Ashim Kumar Roy, Vice President, New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) Hero Honda Theka Mazdoor Sangathan, Haryana
Dr Mira Shiva, Initiative for Health & Equity in Society, Diverse Women for Diversity
Madhu, Jagori
Jahnvi Andharia, ANANDI
Pamela Philipose, Senior Journalist
Lalita Ramdas
Admiral L. Ramdas
Anweshaa Ghosh, Institute of Social Studies Trust
Sarojini N. B., Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
Kavita Srivastava, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties
Saheli Women’s Resource Centre
Madhu Mehra, Partners for Law in Development
Human Rights Law Network
Virginia Saldanha, Secretary, Indian Christian Women’s Movement Paschim Banga Cha Bagan Shramik Karmachari Unon, West Bengal Working People Trade Union Council, Tamil Nadu
All India Union of Forest Working People
Kalyani Menon Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships
Lakhan Sahu, Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh, Chattisgarh
Siemens Workers Union
Paschim Banga Khet Mazoori Samiti, West Bengal Madhuri Krishnaswamy, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan Nazariya, Delhi
D. Gabriele, Pennurimai Iyakkam, Tamil Nadu
Haldia Dock Complex Contractor Shramik Union
Indian Oil Petronas Contractor Shramik Union
Hosiery Workers Unity Centre
Paschim Banga Rajya Sericulture Farm Workers Union Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics Workers Union Bidhannagar Pourasabha Safai Karmachari Union
JN Roy Sishu Seva Bhawan Shramik Union Paschim Banga Biri Shilpa Shramik Union Paschim Banga Nirman Shilpa Shramik Union West Bengal Civic Police Association Progressive Plantation Workers Union Monisha Behal, North East Network
Saswati Ghosh, Assoc. Prof. & Head of Department, Economics, Calcutta University
Vandana Prasad, Feminist Activist
Neeraj Malik, Feminist Activist Juhi Jain, Feminist Activist Shipra Deo, Feminist Activist
Sudeshna Sengupta, Feminist Activist
Soma KP, Researcher/Advisor, Gender, Development and Livelihoods
Rohini Hensman, writer and researcher, Mumbai
Uma Chakravarti, Feminist Activist
Pritam Singh, Professor of Economics, Oxford University (individual capacity) Navsharan Singh, Feminist Activist
Chirashree Das Gupta, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Mina Swaminathan, Feminist Activist
Ritu Dewan, President, Indian Association of Women’s Studies (individual capacity) Sabita Parida
Nandita Rao
Ramlath Kavil
Supriya Madangarli
Geetanjali Gangoli
Amrita Shodhan
Sumi Krishna, Independent scholar, Bengaluru
Kaveri R Indira, University of Hyderabad

Development or jaws of death? ask Sardar Sarovar oustees

Narmada-Protest

2 day Jan Adalat concludes, 4 Retired Justices call upon Supreme Court and Government of India to review the status of displacement, submergence and rehabilitation of Sardar Sarovar oustees

By Team FI
Pronouncing their interim verdict in the presence of about 10,000 oustees of Sardar Sarovar Dam, based on their observations and assessment of the legal and field situation, a Panel of 4 retired Judges of various High Courts concluded gross violations of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award and Judgements of the Supreme Court.

Speaking at the proceedings of the “Jan Adalat” organized by eminent citizens of the country, noted Justices including Jst. P.C Jain (Rajasthan High Court), Jst. Nag Mohan Das (Karnataka High Court) and Jst. V.D. Gyani (Madhya Pradesh High Court) and Jst. N.K. Mody (Madhya Pradesh High Court) expressed grave concern at the displacement of about 2.5 lakh people due to the completion of the Dam and the mass violation of the constitutional right to life, destruction of livelihoods, as also wiping out of an entire culture and civilization.

They stated that the further dam work and installation of gates should not proceed in the present circumstances of clear evidence of multiple violations. Observing that the concerned authorities have miserably failed to comply with the provisions of the Award and the Apex court’ orders and have committed serious dereliction of legal obligations, they called for a serious review of the entire situation and a serious social-economic impact assessment. The Govt. and Apex Court must widen their horizons of ‘development’, in the light of the complex realities of the 30 years struggle of the Narmada valley, they said.

Reading out the operative part of their preliminary verdict, Justice Jain exclaimed that the official claims of no additional submergence due to the current dam work is clearly unlawful and also unbelievable, since when the dam is being completed with the same original height, there is no reason why the submergence area would not increase!. Listening to testimonies of about 35 oustees they found that the Judgement of the Supreme Court dated 18/10/200 and 15/3/2005 as well as several orders of the Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs). Justice Jain also said that the Government must await the Report of Justice Jha Commission of Inquiry into Corruption in R&R before any further work is undertaken.

The 4 Justices urged the Social Justice Bench of the Apex Court to review its decisions and hearings in the light of the overwhelming evidence of legal violations and well as the obviously flawed “full rehabilitation” reports of the project authorities. The Jan Adalat specially acknowledged the valiant role of thousands of women warriors in the valley who have been keeping the torch of struggle aglow over the past 30 years. These observations were made after hearing the depositions of about 35 oustees from the three states of M.P., Maharashtra and Gujarat, perusal of the NWDTA, various orders of the Apex Court, GRAs, interim reports of Jst. Jha Commission, official correspondence and intensive visit to various affected villages in the tehsils of Badwani, Kukshi, Manavar and Dharampuri yesterday.

The deponents before the Tribunal today included representatives of adivasis from the hilly and plain areas, other farmers who have been entangled in the fake registries scam, received meagre cash and denied land or given land from the land bank, landless oustees, including fish workers, potters, boatmen, small traders etc. Oustees from Maharashtra and Gujarat also expressed their grievances and pointed out to major violations. The hearing was conducted in a completely formal manner, with a People’s Court set-up on the Narmada river bank at Rajghat and each oustee / deponent stood in the ‘dock’, as s/he deposed.

Bhagirath Dhangar spoke of the plight of hundreds of farmers, workers, small traders, shopkeepers, hawkers etc. whose lands and livelihoods are to be lost by the dam increase, with no alternative R&R in sight. He questioned if the balance is indeed ‘0’, then how is it that the govt. fair price shops, panchayats, voting and even govt. licensed wine shops are functioning here?

Mahesh Patel exposed the fraud in the name of back water levels due to which 16,000 families has been declared “out of submergence”. He said that all these unscientific claims would be blown up by Narmada herself and her fury into which 99 tributaries and 999 large darins flow. Fish worker families represented by Savabai (Pichhodi) & Madubhai (Chikalda) demanded fishing rights in the reservoir and alternative livelihood. They said that fishing and riverine rights cannot be compensated in monetary terms.

Karan Yadav from Pipri read out the message from Ramesh Patel, the MLA of Badwani, admitting that governmental reports of R&R are patently false and that 99% oustees, still reside in the original villages awaiting R&R. Patel submitted a written demand to the Tribunal that the SSP gates should not be installed at this stage, without completion of R&R, as per law.

Meera spoke of the absolute failure and connivance of the elaborate machinery of monitoring and project authorities in complying with the Apex Court’s orders and demanded that all the clearances granted by the authorities are unlawful and need to be set aside by the Apex Court.

Adv. Umesh stated that thousands of SSP oustees are now owners of the acquired lands/houses as per 2013 LAQ Act and Govt. dare not dispossess them.

Medha Patkar decried the massive violation of the rights of the Gram Sabhas in the constitutionally protected scheduled adivasi areas. She spoke of the possibilities of and need for a review even at this stage to avert the inhuman pauperization of 2.5 lakh people, for the benefits of corporates. “While displacement and disaster is planned by the State, development and rehabilitation is not” she said and concluded that continuation with the dam would mean a mass atrocity on the dalits and adivasis.

Soumya Dutta, one of the members of the recent Fact-Finding Team to the Narmada valley, whose report has received wide attention and even alerted the Judges of a disaster in Narmada moderated the proceedings and shared with the Judicial panel, the findings of his Report co-authored by senior political leaders and experts including Hannan Mollah, Annie Raja, Dr. Sunilam, Raj Kchroo and Benoy Vishwam.

The Panel of Judges was invited by a team of distinguished citizens including Retired Justice Rajinder Sacher, Syeda Hameed [Former Member, Planning Commission of India and National Commission for Women]; Sagar Sarhadi, Senior film maker, short story and play writer, writer, director and producer; Prof. Anil Sadgopal, Eminent Educationalist and Founder, All India Forum on Right to Education.; Ramdas Bhatkal, Founder, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai and Senior Litterateur and Anand Patwardhan, Internationally Acclaimed Film Maker on Developmental and Human Rights Issues to hear the oustees and State agencies and give its findings on the legality of the decisions of the Government to pursue the dam work in the light of large number of complaints of denial of R&R.

Notably, the highest officials of the Central and State Governments including the Chairpersons of the NCA, R&R Sub Group and GRA, as well as the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Commissioner of NVDA, Bhopal, Collector, Nandurbar (Maharashtra) and Commissioner, SSPA (Gujarat) were invited on behalf of the Organizers, but as none of them turned up, their chairs were kept vacant !

The hearing today was preceded by a day-full of intensive visits yesterday to various villages including Khalghat, Dharampuri Township as well as Vill. Semalda (Teh. Manavar) and Villages Chhota Barda, Pipri and Chikalda, Kadmal-Khaparkheda (Tehsil Kukshi); where elderly persons and women who poured out their grievances of denial of R&R, poor quality amenities at the resettlement sites, massive corruption, unlawful submergence in 2012-13 etc. The hearing began with a homage to Ramaswamy Iyer who passed away 2 days ago.

Madhuresh of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) remembered of him as a beacon, for decades, in the water-ecology sector, whose own life was enriched by his engagement with the SSP struggle, as a Govt. Member of the 5-Member Review Panel and later his valuable contributions to the water rights regime, acknowledged internationally.

Women ask Assamese TV channel to stop moral policing

Assam-TV-moral-policing

Women organisations write to television channel Protidin Time and Assam State Commission for Women raising the issue of the derogatory references to women made by the channel’s news report that targeted women in short skirts with tagline – fashion as expose

By Team FI
Women’s organisations such as the North East Network and Vimochana have raised the issue of the recent controversial news report on ‘Scantily clad girls: a summertime nuisance’ in an Assamese television Channel Protidin Time which showed women wearing short skirts and dresses with tagline ‘Fashion as Expose’.

North East Network, in a letter to the channel stated that they strong objected to the news item and stated that, “We reassert that culture and dress are not inter-related. They are different dimensions and everyone has a right to dress in whatever attire they want to. Values of culture are best upheld by values of equality and respect taught to children at home and which go on a long way to shape their attitudes to men and women in the society.” The North East Network has demanded they issue a proper rejoinder at prime time on the channel.

The North East Network letter pointed out that “Journalism does not have the authority to demean and disgrace women by commenting on their dress code, clothing choices, appearances, lifestyle, private choices and rights. The way this news item portrays women’s bodies amounts to voyeurism and stalking (354C and 354D) and is punishable under the Indian Penal Code.”

Meanwhile Vimochana has written a letter to the Assam State Commission For Women on the subject stating that as an agency vested with the responsibility for safety and interest of women of the State and also having official power to stop retrograde activities against women by any state or non-state agency, to take effective steps to stem airing of moralistic, derogatory and anti-women comments in the media.”

The video which went viral on social media shows clips of women in short skirts with the background music of a very suggestive Hindi film item number Kanta Laga. The report compared simians with women saying that even monkeys are wearing clothes these days “But the need for clothes has come down in the civil society. These are visuals from your favourite city. Now shorts have turned out to be the favourite dress for many young girls in Guwahati. That includes half pants too. As if gradually the dresses of a section of young girls have become increasingly shorter than required. For this breed, fashion is perhaps exposing. But they want to say that wearing clothes as per their choice is a matter of individual right. Wearing shorts give you comfort.”

Journalism does not have the authority to demean and disgrace women by commenting on their dress code, clothing choices, appearances, lifestyle, private choices and rights

The video caused outrage among women viewers. An online petition on Change.org was started against the vernacular media in Assam by Bipasa Saikia, a journalist. “Journalism is not about journalists giving their opinions about other people. Journalism is about journalists stating facts and making the people aware of things in the society. However, since the past eight to ten years we have been noticing a trend in the Assamese media where self-proclaimed journalists go out and sexually objectify women,” stated Saikia.

Responding to a comment on Facebook questioning the reporter Hemen Rajbhongshi on his intentions, he replied, “I don’t think my work disrespects my mother and sisters. Because, they never show their legs in public. You don’t know about the male psychology. Men are visually stimulated by nature. And culture! Perhaps you don’t know Assamese culture. “

The channel had released an official statement stating that: “Pratidin Time had broadcasted particular news around one and an half months back that has come to our notice as being taken up by some people through social media to create an unnecessary stir. The news was presented based on certain widely discussed topics in Assam’s social and cultural spheres. The news was neither meant to insult nor disrespect anybody. If it has in anyway, then the channel ‘Pratidin Time’, is apologetic towards those concerned.”

The North East Network warned the news channel against moral policing and stated that they expected the channel to “mould public opinion on lessons of gender equality and social justice and peace, and not further disintegrate the society by promoting moral policing in the name of culture.”

Syria’s voluntary rescue workers call for no-fly zone

Syria-war

The White Helmets, a voluntary group of rescue workers in war-torn Syria appeal to the international community to mobilize political support to enforce a no-fly zone in the country

By Team FI
Even as Aylan Kadri’s tragic death reverberates around the world drawing attention to the millions of refugees fleeing Syria, there are six children that die every day in that country as war rages on.
Calling for the UN Security Council to stop the bombs Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defence call for action in their website stating, “”Barrel bombs – sometimes filled with chlorine – are the biggest killer of civilians in Syria today. Our unarmed and neutral rescue workers have saved more than 22,693 people from the attacks in Syria, but there are many we cannot reach. There are children trapped in rubble we cannot hear. For them, the UN Security Council must follow through on its demand made last year to stop the barrel bombs, by introducing a ‘no-fly zone’ if necessary.”

The White Helmets consisting of ordinary Syrians are the largest civil society organisation who risk their lives on a daily basis helping the victims of the ongoing war in Syria. As per the White Helmet sources, “More than 50 bombs and mortars a day land on some neighbourhoods in Syria. Many are rusty barrels filled with nails and explosives, rolled out the back of government helicopters — bakeries and markets are the most commonly hit targets. When this happens The White Helmets rush in to search for life in the rubble – fully aware that more bombs may fall on them.” So far 92 volunteers have been killed.

As per the website, the White Helmets also “deliver public services to nearly 7 million people, including reconnecting electrical cables, providing safety information to children and securing buildings.” Last year, the organisation set up two women teams consisting of 56 women who are trained in medical care and light search and rescue work. “They respond to barrel bomb and missile strikes and dig for survivors using tools and their bare hands.”

The organisation has appealed to the people of the world to help their case.

Here is the full text of the appeal;
As the White Helmets work to rescue as many people as they can, it is our job to speak up and pressure leaders into action on stopping the bombs. It’s our own leaders who we need to shift – so we have a powerful role to play. Here are some things we can do together right now.

2. Meet your local representative – or the most powerful decision-maker you know.
If they don’t hear about this from you, who’s going to tell them? If you can’t meet them, send them a letter. Your objective is to introduce them to the White Helmets and convince them that they must do everything in their power to convince their colleagues and superiors to stop the bombs in Syria – with a no-fly zone if necessary. Here are some talking points you can use.

• More than 220,000 Syrians have been killed since 2011 and over 10 million have had to flee their homes.

• One of the the biggest killer of civilians in Syria today is the barrel bomb. Since 2012, it has killed more than 12,000 people – 96% of them civilians. In just four months at the beginning of 2014, one million people fled Aleppo because of the barrel bombs. These bombs are not only killing people, they’re causing huge refugee movements and make it almost impossible to have functioning local infrastructure. It’s into that vacuum that extremism spreads.

• The White Helmets are Syria’s first responders. They are unarmed and neutral search and rescue workers and firefighters. These volunteers have saved over 12,500 lives in Syria and counting – and 84 have been killed trying to do so.

• The White Helmets have documented dozens of chemical attacks since the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2209 in March this year promising action should there be any chemical attacks.

• Inspectors have recently found traces of sarin and XV nerve agent at a military research facility in Syria, despite the government’s claims that all of its chemical weapons were destroyed.

• The White Helmets are worried that these chemicals may be used to mount another large-scale attack like the sarin gas chemical attack in Ghouta in August 2013 that killed over 1,000 civilians. They are worried that inaction on these smaller chemical attacks might pave the way to just that.

• More than one year ago, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2139, banning the use of indiscriminate weapons in populated areas – and mentioning barrel bombs specifically. But hundreds of barrel bombs have fallen since. Around 2,000 children have died in barrel bomb attacks since the Council passed its resolution.

• The White Helmets are calling on the United Nations Security Council to enforce its own resolutions – with a no-fly zone if necessary.

• Raed Fares, head of the White Helmets, said: “Our unarmed and neutral rescue workers have saved more than 12,000 people from the attacks in Syria, but there are many we cannot reach. There are children trapped in rubble we cannot hear. For them, the UN Security Council must follow through on its demand made a year ago to stop the barrel bombs by introducing a ‘no-fly zone’ if necessary.”

The White Helmets have given hope back to their communities. Despite losing loved ones, they put on their uniforms to go out and save lives day after day in service of their country and of humanity. They do it even when they know another bomb could fall within moments. Thank you for standing with these heroes on the side of life. Let’s make sure our leaders hear them too.
Thank you,
The Syria Campaign