Archive for Debates

I will not call for death

Gaza -war

I will not call for death is a poem written by Naila Farouky. Farouky is an Egyptian film maker and Producer. She is also the CEO of the Arab Foundations Forum, a platform for philanthropic organisations that work for the Arab region. Farouky has, in various forums, highlighted human rights concerns and upheavals in the Arab World, and commented on the crisis in Afghanistan, Palestine and Egypt

I will not call for death.

I will not dare to speak the words that call for the death of the “other”

I will not seek to avenge through death, the sister, the mother, the father or brother

I will not cry “If you kill us, then we are right to kill!” and then question, in anguish, “where has our humanity gone?”

I will not call for death.

You ask me to justify how I can stand for my enemy; I will reply only to say “I know no enemy”

I know war and pain
Fear and injustice
I know blood and tears
Corruption and failed armistice

I see bodies, bloodied and strewn about
I see them; I know and I hear you – out loud
I see mothers wailing for the loss of their children
I see children grasping the air in search of the comforting arms of their slain mothers
I see fathers burying their babes in white cloths
I see wandering children with the look of despair in their eyes at sights they will never forget

I hear of sirens unheeded
For to heed them means you have some place to hide
I hear tales of the warnings that come in the night
The warnings that parents must decide to ignore
For to obey them must mean you have somewhere to go

I will not call for death.

“But they want you to die; they demand it, can’t you see?”
“You’re a traitor, a coward, how can this be?”
I see it, I know, do you think me so blind?
I hear it, I fear it, but where do I hide?

As the world sits in wait, to watch and to plead
Those I cherish and love have no choice but to bleed
Our humanity challenged, I offer you this:
You will find it within you, this is where it exists
It is not to be found in the barrel of a gun
Or a bomb, or a funeral, a surah or a psalm
It is in your heart and your head and your womb
In your words and your dreams and the threads that you loom
In your hopes for your children and that they shall not hate
For those hopes and those dreams are their future and fate

So abandon the sirens, the bombs and your might
Hold your hands to the heavens and scream in the night
Beg for mercy, for respite, for heart and for will
But do not fall so low as to go for the kill

And repeat to yourself, for as long as it takes
I will not call for death, no matter how much it aches

I will not.

What is in store for women in the Union Budget 2014-15?

India- budget - women

Union budget 2014-15 offers up old and new schemes but fails to address macro-economic and social causes of exploitation and subordination of women

By Vibhuti Patel

The Union Budget 2014-15 will largely benefit the middle class, and offer comfort to middle and upper class women as consumers. Poor women will be crushed by the macro-economic policies that will fuel inflation, land alienation and higher fees for education and health facilities. This time even women’s groups have not raised their voice against gender non-inclusive aspects of the Union Budget.

After the terms Gender Budgeting and Gender Mainstreaming were officially introduced in 2004 by the UPA government, many State Governments like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Kerala, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have adopted Gender Budgeting. Gender Budget Cells were designed to serve as focal points for coordinating gender budgeting initiatives within their Ministries and across departments.

Fifty six Ministries/Department have confirmed setting up of a cell/nominating a nodal person. This could materialize because the previous government’s Ministry of Women and Child Development, in collaboration with UN Women, had developed a Manual and Handbook for Gender Budget Cells for Central Ministries and Departments. The current Union Budget of 2014-15 has seen the Gender Budget Cells play a major role in budgetary allocations.

What is gender budgeting?
Gender Budgeting does not relate to a separate budget for women but involves comparative analysis and construction of general budgets from a gender perspective. It helps governments to decide how policies need to be made, adjusted and reprioritized. It is a tool for effective policy implementation where one can check if gender commitments are translated into financial commitments.

The Gender Budget Initiative is a policy framework, methodology and set of tools to assist governments to integrate a gender perspective into the budget as the main national plan of public expenditure. It also aims to facilitate attention to gender analysis in review of macroeconomic performance, ministerial budget preparations, parliamentary debate and mainstream media coverage. The Budget impacts women’s lives in several ways. It directly promotes women’s development through allocation of budgetary funds for women’s programmes or reduces opportunities for empowerment of women through budgetary cuts.

The Union Budget 2014-15 has retained all schemes for empowerment of women and girls of the last decade under the Women & Child Development with Rs 18691 crores allocated for Integrated Child Development Services, Rs. 715 crores for National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) and Rs. 400 crores for Integrated Child Protection Scheme. A new scheme was also launched– ‘Beti bachao Beti padhao’ with Rs 100 crore.

The schemes can be classified into 4 categories:

1: Protective Services:
These include allocations on women’s homes and care institutions, rehabilitation schemes for victims of atrocities, pensions for widows and destitute women, which are aimed at mitigating the consequences of women’s social and economic subordination, rather than addressing the root causes of this subordination.
For example Sabla, Swadhar-scheme for women in Difficult Circumstances, Ujjawala Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of Trafficking and, Rescue, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Scheme of Short Stay Homes for Women and Girls, Scheme for welfare of Working Children in need of Care and Protection.

2: Social Services:
These include schemes for education and health of women, support services like crèche and hostels and also water supply, sanitation, and schemes on fuel and fodder, which contribute significantly to women’s empowerment, either directly by building their capacities and ensuring their material well-being, or indirectly through reducing domestic drudgery.

For example, the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), General Grant-in-aid (GIA) Scheme for Assistance to Voluntary Organisations in the field of Women and Child Development, General Grant-in-Aid Scheme in the field of Women and Child Development, Family Counseling Centre Scheme, Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme For the Children of Working Mothers, Nutrition Education and Training though Community Food & Nutrition Extension Units(CFNEUS), Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY), Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls (NPAG)

A sum of Rs.100 crores is provided for “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana”, a focused scheme to generate awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services for women. This is the first year of the scheme, if funds of Rs. 100 crore are utilized by the state, we can pressure the government to allocate more funds.

New small savings scheme: A special small savings instrument to cater to the requirements of education and marriage of the girl child is to be introduced. This would be in line with schemes like Kisan Vikas Patra or National Savings Certificate.

The budget promises drinking water and sanitation. Government would strive to provide toilets and drinking water in all the girls’ schools in the first phase.

The budget also promises that school curriculum will include gender mainstreaming. Gender Mainstreaming is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.

3: Economic services:
These include schemes for training and skill development, and provision for credit, infrastructure, marketing etc. which are critical to women’s economic independence and autonomy. For example, the STEP Support for Training and Empowerment of Girls, General Grant-in-Aid Scheme for innovative projects, working women’s hostels.

The Union Budget 2014-15 has promised easy loan terms where the government will offer concessional loans to women in rural India at 4% in some districts and 7% in others for women self help groups under a scheme called Ajeevika.

4: Regulatory services:
These include institutional mechanisms for women’s empowerment, such as State Commissions for Women, Women’s Cells in Police Stations, awareness generation programmes, which provide institutional spaces and opportunities for women’s empowerment.

For example International Women’s Day – Stree Shakti Puraskar, Childline Services, Grant-in-Aid for Research, Publication and Monitoring.

An outlay of Rs. 50 crores has been allocated in the current budget for pilot testing a scheme on “Safety for Women on Public Road Transport”. The Union Budget 2014-15 also allocates a sum of Rs. 150 crores on a scheme to increase the safety of women in large cities. Budgetary provision is also made from Nirbhaya Fund for “Crisis Management Centres” in all the districts of NCT of Delhi in government and private hospitals.

After the nationwide outcry following on the brutal gang rape of a young physiotherapist in Delhi in December, 2012, safety of women gained prime importance in public discourse. As a result, the previous government was forced to announce a Nirbhaya (the name by which the rape victim was referred to) Fund of Rs. 1000 crores in The Union Budget 2013-14.

However the past record of this outlay is abysmally poor. Official admission of 500% rise in reporting of rape cases has not galvanized governance structures to ensure speedy justice to the victims of sexual violence. The Nirbhaya fund is not used for preventive measures such as construction of night shelters for women, Information desks for women at railway/bus stations and help-lines connected nation-wide, one-stop crisis centers in the public hospitals and half way homes for elderly women along with pension (Rs. 1000 from central and Rs. 1000 from state government per single woman) safe public toilets for women, safe public transport, safety on roads, bus stations, railway platforms and trains.

Nor does it address public education campaigns about new laws such as Amendments in the Indian Evidence Act, Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013, and Protection of Children from Sexual Offense Act, 2012.

Women in Science and Technology
Budgetary allocation of Rs.53 crores under ‘Disha Programme for Women in Science’ to increase the representation of women and girls in science and technology fields through conferences, training programmes, networking platforms and to enhance its activities with regard to education, training and empowerment of women.

Women entrepreneurs however had expected an offer of soft loans and subsidies with financial institutions providing more working capital assistance. They felt that the budget should look at policies that will make micro credit systems and enterprise credit systems available to women entrepreneurs at all levels and help organise training programmes to develop professional competencies in technical, managerial, leadership, marketing, financial, production process and other skills.

Tax Relief
The Union budget 2014-15 does not offer any relief to women tax payers. On the contrary, the Finance Minister’s budget announcement had nothing specific for women.

The middle class will be happy with the increase in personal income tax limit from 2 lakhs to 2.5 lakhs. Senior citizens’ Income tax exemption limit has now been raised from 2.5 lakhs to Rs 3 lakh. The Investment limit under Section 80C has also been hiked to Rs 1.5 lakh from the current Rs 1 lakh, while the FM increased housing loan interest rate deduction limit to Rs 2 Lakh and the PPF (Public Provident Fund) deposit ceiling is raised to Rs 1.5 lakh per annum from the existing Rs 1 lakh.

Right to Pee:

A great improvement in women’s lives can be made by the provision of easily accessible, safe and clean toilet facilities. Massive allocation from budget on sanitation must be earmarked for toilets in public places for women and girls in Indian cities as they travel long distance for work and education. Working women need functioning toilets at railway stations and bus stations. Women homemakers have to attend social functions, visit market places, take children to gardens and hospitals. Women from both, slums and non-slum background need public toilets. Similarly in rural areas women need toilet facilities, so they don’t have to use the fields in the cover of darkness.

In general, the union budget needs a clearer commitment to the female workers as only financial clarity and commitment will bring responsive outcomes.

I came falling down…

Modi-muscle-man

Vadodara based human rights activist, Rohit Prajapati takes a satirical look at the ‘changes’ wrought in the country with Narendra Modi at the helm

 

 

 

 

By Rohit Prajapati

In Gujarat the Government had ‘changed’ long ago, now in Delhi too the Government has now ‘changed’.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, the aroma of “Acche Din Good Days” wafted in every corner of the country.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, IB was tasked to report people’s issues; and IB submitted its first report too.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, within x days more than 80% of Illegal Money from foreign shores was deposited in Government Treasury.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, within y days more than 100% of Illegal Money from Local Shores was deposited in Government Treasury.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, within xy days with Illegal Money deposited in Government Treasury, inflation was wiped out completely.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, bribes and payoffs completely vanished from official corridors.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, prices of cooking gas came down by 50%.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, unlimited supply of cooking gas bottles began.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, foremost milk prices came down.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, within few days petrol and diesel prices too came under control.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, power prices came down by 50%.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, instead of watchmen police sub inspectors now stand guard in residential neighborhoods.

As soon as the new government came in power in Delhi, police force actually became friends of people.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, police arrives on spot and registered complaint in response to calls on toll free police phone number 0420.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, all the lumpen elements and mafia went into hiding.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, schools and colleges stopped taking donations.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, private tuition classes closed down shutters.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, children started enjoying burden free education.

As soon as the new government came in power in Delhi, government schools and hospitals started working efficiently.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, any public work is completed barely within 1-3-13-17-31 days.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, unemployment became a past relic.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, everybody got both work and living wages.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, the wage increase outstripped the price rise.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, the contaminated ground water is rendered pure and clean.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, the contaminated rivers are rendered pure and clean.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, all the workers’ issues are resolved.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, sex ratio in the country started improving.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, rapists are quickly punished and rape incidents reduced.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, untouchability was completely eradicated.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, tribals became vanvasi.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, in fair price shops good quality grains and essentials are available.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, all government schemes are executed efficiently.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, people no longer needed to visit government offices to get their work done.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, farmers started getting power for 25 hours.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi, it was happiness and gaiety all over.

As soon as the New Government came in power in Delhi….

Dhadamm….`Ouch, it hurts…’

‘What happened?’

I fell down as I turned in sleep.

16 June 2014

Modi-fied intellectuals of the great Indian soil

Hindu- right- India

By Laltu

I am feeling disturbed by an article titled ‘How Modi defeated liberals like me’ by Prof Shiv Visvanathan, published in ‘The Hindu’. I have jotted down a few thoughts in response to his article. I will often refer to the author as Shiv with apologies to those who mind it.

Shiv is a prominent personality of our times. I am aware that I do not have the scholarship in social sciences that he possesses. I am trying to articulate some serious problems I find in his article.

The article begins with a reference to the pooja performed by Narendra Modi at the Kashi Viswanath temple followed by an aarti performed along the Ganga river. Shiv observes, ‘As the event was relayed on TV, people messaged requesting that the event be shown in full, without commentary. Others claimed that this was the first time such a ritual was shown openly.’ It is quite true that it was the first time Modi’s performance at the Ganga was shown openly. But does anyone seriously think that such rituals are not shown openly on public media in this country?

Leaders performing religious rituals in public is not even a matter of debate. From Rajendra Prasad’s pujas to Sonia Gandhi’s visits to religious places, it is a common knowledge that religion, whether for private or public use, is an overwhelming presence in the lives of political personalities in India

Why is it that Prof Visvanathan makes such an issue of it then? One gets a glimpse of the possible reasons in the next sentence claiming that with Mr. Modi around, the message claimed “We don’t need to be ashamed of our religion. This could not have happened earlier.”

Who is ashamed of which religion? Was Modi merely practising a religious ritual? If so, a good question to ask is how many times before that day did he come to the Dashashwamedh ghat to do this act; after all, he is 63+ years old, a person with a lot of power and easy mobility, certainly it would have occurred to him some time earlier too that there is a necessary act to be performed according to his religion.

No, it was not a religious act. One could argue that every religious act is a political act. In this case it was a purely political act devoid of any religiosity. The message was not what Prof Visvanathan reads, the message is, “Behold, the Hindu dictator cometh.” The word ‘Hindu’ here is not a religious term (to begin with there is no religion called the Hindu religion).

Ironically, in another article published in The Hindu a little more than a month ago, Shiv had written, ‘Varanasi breaks the Bharat-India, Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce.’ Read that again, ‘ the Bharat-India, Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce’. After Modi winning, he is saying ‘We don’t need to be ashamed of our religion’. Interesting.

In the second para, the article hits the Bull’s eye in quoting a friend, “You English speaking secularists have been utterly coercive, making the majority feel ashamed of what was natural.” That there is something pathological in the Englishwallahs in this country is felt by many of us. I pointed out a few aspects of this in a recent article titled ‘फासीवादी उभार का भाषाई पहलू‘ published in Jansatta. In a poem titled ‘टोनी मॉरिसन इंग्लिशवालों के खिलाफ लिखती है’, published in the literary journal ‘बनास जन’, I expressed the irony differently. While the scholarship in my opinions does not even come close to that of the author I am reacting to, nonetheless I, another desi bugger around, have my take on it. The ‘natural’ as understood by Prof Visvanathan is very different from how I understand it.

Then Shiv moves on to describe the paranoia of leftists about ‘ positing a period of McCarthyism in India’. He may be quite right if we remind ourselves that only 31% of the voters have given BJP ‘the majority’. This is not like an entire Nation has succumbed to authoritarianism. Not even a third of it.

Given that not everyone comes to vote, perhaps not even a fifth of it. Indeed there is no need to be paranoid. But are we not aware of what happened when the last time BJP was in power with even less support than today? Is it unfair that some of us are getting paranoid remembering how the books were rewritten? Today we are ‘some Leftists’, what were we before Modi won, when we shared with Shiv the fear from ‘the Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce’? An interesting chapter in the NCERT History text book is written by my friend Prof Anil Sethi, on multiple narratives about partition of India in 1947. It is a widely lauded work – is it wrong to fear that this chapter is likely to be removed because it attempts to show the South Asians across the borders as equal vicitims of the hatred that flared?

As he says, indeed ‘both Right and Left have appealed to the state to determine what was correct history’. Is he suggesting that the books being downloaded are written as the Left’s version of the correct history? Interesting.

His statement ‘With the advent of the Right, there is now a feeling that history will become another revolving door regime where the official and statist masquerade as the truth’, is again right on the Bull’s eye. But then he attempts to give his own explanation of ‘why Left liberals failed to understand this election’ by suggesting that there are anxieties that the middle class suffers from and that is what Mr. Modi understood ‘more acutely than the intellectuals’. Consider this juxtaposed to his 50 days before the victory dictum ‘… Muslim-Hindu divide that Mr. Modi seeks to enforce’. No issues with the words, except that we need to explore the nature of ‘anxieties’.

Shiv seemed to share the understanding of these anxieties with the ‘Left’ earlier. Not now. Today, the Left is a ‘club, snobbish about secularism, treating religion not as a way of life but as a superstition’. This is like going back to debates from 50 years ago – ‘Marx called it the opium of the masses’ versus ‘no, he said it was the agony of the oppressed’. The least I can say is that for the first time I am thoroughly disappointed at such simplistic verbosity from a master that I have held in high esteem for long.

And after this, OMG, he blasts the Left for being the demon ‘that tried to inject the idea of the scientific temper into the constitutions as if it would create immunity against religious fears and superstitions.

Very interestingly, near the end of the article, Shiv calls Dalai Lama his ‘favourite scientist’. Obviously, there is a contradiction. Or perhaps, ‘the scientist’ is one free of the evil called ‘the scientific temper’ which in his words, overemphasises secularism, creates ‘an empty domain, a coercive milieu where ordinary people practising religion were seen as lesser orders of being’. It will be childish to claim that the idea of science does not come with a package of value judgments and power relations, but the suggestion that science creates that domain and the coercion referred to by Shiv, more than other social institutions like the stratifications based on caste, gender, etc., which are intricately related to and are reinforced by the institution of religion, is again very disappointing.

Then Shiv continues his tirade against secularism, a word lost in the quagmire of the intellectual khichdi of the great Indian soil. It is an ‘invidious weapon’. Shiv tells us ‘The regime used to placate minorities electorally, violating the majoritarian sense of fairness’. Pray, what are the placations? Oh yes, there is the old Shah Bano case, then we have the personal law, article 370 for Kashmiris, but presumably those are not the issues that Shiv is pointing out (though, these are the ones that Sangh parivar wants its supporters to be angry about), he is talking about the electoral placations.

Now, even Shiv would agree that much of the Hindutva thought has to do with Brahmanical hegemony, to quote a ‘Left’ idiom, and if so what about the caste based reservations violating the sense of fairness of – no, not a majority, but a dominant minority!

Electoral politics compels candidates to seek support by hook or by crook. There is a large scale corruption in the whole process. Money, liquor, drugs, violence, everything goes. Then there is casteism and communalism. The question is what are the bottomlines that must not be crossed. The Sangh ideology has successfully penetrated large sections of OBCs and Dalits, specially in North India, with what – by giving them a false majoritarian identity and then instilling in them the anger against the violation of their sense of fairness about relations between the so-called religious communities, the Hindus and the Muslims. Pray, is it wrong to care for the minorities?

What are the principles in this regard in our great tradition, some features of which Shiv elaborates in his article? If it is not wrong to worry about minorities, and keeping in mind facts on the miserable condition of minorities as detailed for instance, by the Sachhar committee, then why is a great scholar so perturbed that some parties claim to be caring for the minorities? Interesting. In any case, is it not irresponsible to add to the rant of electoral placations without mentioning the details?

Instead of contributing to false notions like minorities are given undue privileges, we should be concerned that the minorities in this country are insecure and it is what makes them vulnerable to exploitation, electorally or otherwise. We should be concerned that the minorities still live with a low quality of life and poor educational standards and the progressive voices from within them have no power.

Shiv’s interpretation that ‘The majority felt coerced by secular correctness which they saw either as empty or meaningless’ is one way of looking at it. The other is that the existential angst that continued suffering from poverty and exploitation causes in any human being, makes most of us vulnerable to the idea of a modern Nation-state linked with a majoritarian way of life that necessarily looks for an enemy within, Jews in Germany, Hindus in Bangaldesh or Pakistan and Muslims in India.

It is this insecurity that Modi and the Sangh were able to consolidate. It has nothing to do with ‘the cosmic way religion impregnated the everydayness of their lives’.

No, the majority has no such fear of coercion by the ‘secular correctness’, they are hardly even touched by it. On the contrary, the basic human urge of love and altruism is constantly challenged by the bigotry all around cultivated by the Sangh Parivar and their cohorts

Then Shiv gets back to what his scholarship is known for – the rediscovery of our religions and our sciences. But is it sufficient to say that ‘ Indian religions were perpetually dialogic’ forgetting that in practice, they also reinforced with brutality the institutions that dehumanised large sections of society? While there are many good things about the dialogue of medical systems in our tradition, can we forget why the ‘Guptasharmas’ had to be ‘gupta’ (secret)? Indeed we are not like some of the European countries, where religion is just a small part of one’s life, but that does not mean that the religion that we live with is all spiritual and uplifting.

Any one waking up in the morning anywhere in India can see this, and hear this, from the loud blast, by the poor quality audio loudspeakers installed on varieties of places of worship, that destroys the morning serenity.

It can be safely asserted that religion has mostly an oppressive presence in our lives, specially in the lives of the marginalised. That the ‘Left’ in this country has hardly been a champion of the separation of church and state is well-known; any one can dig up the numerous news items on CPIM ministers inaugurating Puja mandaps in West Bengal. What are we talking about? The bogey of ‘Left’ that exists only in the rhetoric of academic campuses? My God, from Shiv’s article, one would think that we just got rid of the Stalin era from India!

Shiv’s emphasis on ‘ Christianity that was continuously at odds with science’ is presumably meant to remind us that secularism is a western idea. True, but is the idea of a modern Nation-state identified with Hindutva an Indian idea? Was Hitler, the source of inspiration for the Sanghis, an Indian?

It is true that some of us find it difficult to accept that practising scientists often mix their religious beliefs with there professional life activities. But to suggest that this has any impact on the larger societal dynamics is absurd. To start with, there are hardly any atheists among Indian scientists and by and large all scientific bodies are extremely conservative. Go to any National conference and see how much time the scientists spend talking about Modi and the Gujarat development.

I thought I write poetry, but I do not understand what Shiv means by ‘There is a sense of snobbery and poetry’! And the illiteracy he mentions that ‘religion, especially Christianity shaped the cosmologies of science’ is not quite fitting. More than anyone else, he knows that the prevalence of flow of knowledge, that eventually became science, across cultures, was quite common and much wider in the last two millennia than the extent scholars believed it to be in the last century.

Besides, if he is insisting on minding the distinction between Christianity and our religions, which anyway were not much different form pagan religions elsewhere in the world, then why should we worry about Indian scientists’ being unaware of how Christianity shaped the cosmologies of science!

Shiv’s attempt to portray secularism as the demon that the poor middle-classes were waiting to be overthrown, is utter nonsense. What kind of lie is this that ‘ The activism of Hindutva groups was treated as sinister but the fundamentalism of other religions was often treated as benign and as a minoritarian privilege.’? The words speak of a sinister design.

The fact is that there is a Narendra Modi in each of us. There is a communal orientation of our minds, that is vulnerable to exploitation

Modi and the Sanghis were able to consolidate this with most of the 31% of voters – the rest of the work was done by the ten thousand crores of capital poured in to buy the media. With as overwhelming a majority in population, that the political entity called ‘Hindu’ has in India, it is only natural that Hindutva will be more noticed here, just like the fundamentalism in Islam is more noticed by liberals in Pakistan and Bangldesh or Iran.

It is very interesting that Shiv refers to the incidents of Ganesha statues drinking milk. I was at that time the convener of a science forum in Chandigarh. Responding to a lot of pressure from friends, I sent a letter to the press (it was published as a letter to the editor in ‘The Tribune’). It had three itemised statements. I pointed out that the idea of a religious idol drinking milk is in not a subject of scientific investigation. For whatever we do following a scientific method will not be acceptable in the domain of faith. We requested those indulging in feeding milk to Lord Ganesha that they should try not to waste milk and remember that their faith will be noticed even if they use a spoon of milk with some water. We asked people to be concerned about children and patients in hospitals who need milk. Notice how different it was from the cynic reaction that Shiv points out in his article. Here I am, a believer in science and secularism. Interesting.

It is sad that today intellectuals like Shiv are equating opposing Modi with science and modernity. In a way, they are doing a great service to science. After all, much of what Modi used to say before 2002 will not be erased. His reference to Muslims inevitably used to be in derogatory and often threatening terms – ‘Ham paanch hamaare pachees’ was a rant we do not forget. After he became the chief minister, he was careful, but not without a loose end every once in a while. There is enough evidence available, that surely Shiv cannot be oblivious of. If science gives us the courage to resist such bigotry, good for us and good for science.

Laltu (Harjinder Singh) is Professor, Center for Computational Natural Science and Bioinformatics, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad. He blogs regularly as laltu.blogspot.com

Excuse me, where are your daughters, Gentlemen? – Kamla Bhasin

Kamla- Bhasin-Indian-Feminist

By Team FI

India’s veteran feminist activist Kamla Bhasin delivered the keynote speech at a conference organised by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Berlin on May 22. The conference was part of BMZ’s initiative to launch a new gender equality policy

Excerpts from the keynote address;
Dear Friends,

In the name of Justice, Equality, Human Rights and Peace!

I wish to begin by remembering millions, NO, billions of women and girls who have been discriminated, insulted and violated by Patriarchy over the years, all over the world.

I also wish to remember and salute all our feminist foremothers and forefathers who fought for women’s rights all over the world and on whose shoulders we stand tall today.

It is an honour for me to be standing here and sharing my thoughts and experiences with you. Thank you Dr Mueller and Team, for this honour.

As a feminist activist I agree with everything Dr Mueller, you have just said. Thanks for sharing the highlights of the new Gender Policy of BMZ. I congratulate you and your team for adopting this progressive Policy and for showing your commitment to Justice, Women’s Rights and Sustainable Development by organizing this Conference. I totally agree with you Dr Mueller that without gender equality and women’s rights, no country, no community can progress.

I come from South Asia, which is one of the most patriarchal regions in the world. The women to men ratio has been going down, women’s employment rate in the formal sector has gone down; privatization of essential services has increased the burden of women; there are only 11% women in the new Parliament just elected. I can go on in this vain.

However, unfortunately patriarchy, violence against women and gender discrimination do not exist only in the poor countries. I wish progress and education automatically made us gender equal, but they do not.

There is NO country in the world where patriarchy does not exist. Patriarchy is a global system. It exists everywhere, although in different forms and degrees.

I came to Germany as a 21 year old in 1967 ,that means 47 years ago. I did not expect to see patriarchy in a developed country but I saw it all around. For example I came from Mutterland India but found Vaterland Deutchland here. I came from the land of Mutter Ganga and found Vater Rheine here. I came from the land of many Goddesses but found mainly Der Herr Gott here.

I was quite shocked to see naked women as objects of sex on so many Magazines in every kiosk. Women’s bodies were on sale all around, in a democratic country where on paper men and women were equal.

I found the German language also to be quite patriarchal. An unmarried woman was a Fraulein, or a small woman, even if she was 80 years old. A man was a Herr, married, widower, and unmarried or divorced!!

Women Professors were a rare site at the University. Die Herren haben ueberall geherrscht.

Even after over 200 years of democracy the US has not yet had a woman President. The family lineage continues to go from father to son – Bush senior, Bush Junior. Kennedy Senior Kennedy junior. Excuse me, where are your daughters, Gentlemen?

Look at the family names in Scandinavia. So many of them end with Son. Ericson, Johanson. Noch mal- Wo sind die toechtern, bitte schoen?

The Women’s Movement everywhere has been challenging all this and many things have improved. We had to fight for every little improvement and we had to pay a price for every change.

Friends, the biggest and most brutal war ever is Patriarchy’s violence against women and girls.

According to the UN, one in every three women experiences violence in her life time. This means one billion women are being violated. What is worse is that this war takes place within the home and at the hands of people closest to us. This is domestic terrorism which is global.

The two great Civilizations India and China have killed close to 100 million women and girls because of patriarchal reasons

This has been done using the latest technology and done mainly by educated and well off people!! Millions of women were killed in Europe as witches between the 16th and 18th centuries. The story goes on- millions trafficked, millions forced to undergo genital mutilation, millions sick with anorexia in order to look like Barbie doll, millions raped. As a result of all this, for the first time in human history there are less women than men on this Planet.

A new EU study of March 2014 conducted by Joanna Goodey of the European Fundamental Rights Agency states that one third of the women in the EU i.e. 62 million women, have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Germany is even above average, with 35%. 55% women have experienced sexual harassment, among them 75% women in leadership positions. This clearly reveals that sexualised violence is not a result of economic ‘backwardness”.

I have just been informed that in highly developed Germany women get 22% less wages than men and there are only 3% women in top positions. According to several German feminists, the German rape law needs to be revised urgently and made more effective an in line with the European law.

A German feminist scholar has correctly said that women are the last colony. Their bodies, sexuality, reproductive capacity, labour capacity are still colonised. UNDP Human Development report of 1995 reported that the unpaid household work done by women all over the world is worth 11 Trillion Dollars annually.

The 20 year old ILO statistics have been reconfirmed in 2012 by the World Development Report, which states that women do 66% of all the work done in the world, produce 50% of the food, but receive 10% of the income distributed and own 1% property.

One of the questions raised for this Conference by BMZ team is what the challenges we face for achieving gender equality are. In response I mention three challenges. These challenges can also be called root causes. Friends we cannot correct consequences. We have to remove the causes.

Gender discrimination and violence against women and girls is a consequence of various systems and structures, Patriarchy, Class, Race, and Caste. We need to challenge all of them.

All our present day religions are patriarchal. All of them are started, defined, interpreted and controlled by men. They create, justify and promote patriarchy

If I start chronologically, then I would say Religion is the first challenge. By definition none of them accepts a woman to be a Pope, a Shankracharya, a Dalai Lama etc. In their practice and I think also in their theory they create a hierarchy between men and women. If God is man, then man is God. Because they create this unholy hierarchy between men and women, these religions violate our national Constitutions; they violate UN Human Rights declaration. Yet, many of our political parties, even in Europe, are connected to these religions. Many European governments support Religions directly or indirectly.
The US and the Vatican is amongst the few countries that have NOT ratified CEDAW.

Friends, many of us feminists believe that without challenging patriarchal religions, we cannot achieve our dream of gender equality. So, our left hand has to know what the right hand is doing.

I am encouraged to know that organizations like the World Council of Churches and Bread for the World are challenging these patriarchal biases in the Church.

The second challenge according to me is Capitalist Patriarchy. Today pornography and child pornography are a billion dollar industry. Trafficking of girls and women is a billion dollar industry. Cosmetics are a billion dollar industry. Barbie dolls and guns and supermen and violent computer games are a huge industry. Hollywood, Indian Bollywood and Corporate media are all huge industries. All of them objectify women, make them sexual objects, subservient, and turn men in to macho, aggressive, dominating beings. Therefore, in my opinion, all of them violate our Constitutions and Human Rights Declarations.

The third big challenge is the present economic paradigm being practiced and pushed by the developed world. This paradigm is masculinist and violent in nature. It is based on PURE GREED. It is based on and promotes cut throat competition, dog eat dog attitude. Therefore, It has spread inequalities, destroyed the environment and ecology, marginalized women, indigenous people and economically poor people; it has created large scale unemployment. All this has been said by the UNDP and every other responsible body.

This paradigm cannot, will not allow us to achieve gender equality, women’s rights, justice and sustainable development, about which we are talking this evening. A recent study of the Paritaetischer Wohlfahrtsverband in Germany concludes that despite economic growth and increasing private wealth in Germany the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing and the poverty rate has reached a peak with 15.2%. The Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US said similar things.

If this paradigm and economic system cannot provide jobs and dignity, gender equality, in your countries, how can it do so in our countries?

We have to look in to other issues also like wars and fundamentalism in all religions, not just in Islam, which lead to violence against women and restricted spaces and participation for them despite SC Resolution 1325 etc. The US and EU continue to be actively involved with wars. The main members of the UN Security Council are the biggest producers and sellers of weapons.

Friends, many of us, and also the BMZ, are proposing Mainstreaming Gender. But, as I have shown, there are problems with the Mainstream. This mainstream is MANstream. The mainstream itself is at the root of many problems the BMZ wishes and claims to fight. So, instead of getting absorbed in the mainstream, becoming part of it, we have to challenge many, many parts of it. Are we ready for this?

Mahatma Gandhi knew the problems with the present economic mainstream 80-90 years ago. Once a journalist asked him, Mr. Gandhi, would you like India to have the same standard of living as that of Great Britain? Gandhiji replied, “That tiny country Great Britain had to exploit half the globe to have its standard of living. How many globes will India have to exploit?”

The poor of the world and the progressive Civil Society Organisations also know this. This is why in response to the World Economic Forum; we started the World Social Forum, to demand a pro people, pro women, pro Mother Nature economic and political paradigm. The main slogan of the World Social forum is, Other Worlds are Possible.

This, friends, was the analysis. Now I come to the Solutions and the work we have been doing in India and in South Asia. In ten minutes I will tell you about my 44 years work.

Because patriarchy, neo liberal economic paradigm, conflicts and wars are all global, our struggles for justice, human rights and sustainable development also have to be global

We need global solidarity and partnerships. I am in Berlin with all of you in search of this global solidarity. I am the global co chair of Peace Women across the Globe, an organization which came out of our global campaign called 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize, 2005. I am the South Asian Coordinator of the global campaign called One Billion Rising. We give a lot of importance to global work and solidarity. Next month I will be with Terre des Femmes Switzerland for a five day lecture tour.

We want to link with the Women’s Movement in Germany, but it seems the Movement is not so strong and vibrant anymore. Many women today feel that Feminism is no more needed. I think they are wrong. Patriarchy is still all around us and we have to keep hammering at it.

Today men and boys have to join the movement for gender equality and justice. Men have to understand all the ways in which patriarchy harms them also. Patriarchy does give men privileges and power but it also dehumanizes them, it brutalizes them, it robs them of their gentleness, of their humanity. 40% Indian husbands beat their wives. This means 40% men in India are criminals in the eyes of the law. All men are not rapists, but all rapists are men. About 99% terrorists are men. It is boys and young men in the US, never a young woman, who pick up a gun every few months and go around shooting and killing in schools.

Friends, these boys and men are not born violent. They are born innocent. The society or all of us, give them a gun to play with when they are 2-3. We tell them because they are boys they can do what they like. We tell them boys do not cry, men do not have emotions. We make little boys sit in front of the TV and watch violence for 5-8 hours a day. Systematically we make them aggressive, violent, and dominating. No wonder they find it difficult to have equal relationships with women, to look after children and sick people, to manage their emotions.

In order to do well in the present mainstream, many strong and powerful women are also becoming masculine. This is a dangerous trend. We need to help men become gentle and caring rather than we women becoming power hungry and dominating.

For the last over 15 years I have been doing gender sensitization workshops with men in positions of power and policy making, in NGOs, international NGOs. UN, governments, even Members of Parliament. I have written a book on men and masculinity which has been translated by women’s organizations in 10-12 countries.

A global research also found out that the single most important factor which makes organizations gender sensitive and effective, is the presence of strong and committed feminists.

My main work for the last 44 years has therefore been to develop the capacities of people, to sharpen their analytical skills, to enhance their social skills and emotional intelligence. I have been a trainer/ facilitator all my life.

Friends, my first formal job was with the Deutsche Stiftung fuer Entwicklungszusammanarbeit, in Uhlhof, Bad Honnef, as a Dozent. This was in 1970. DSE is today part of GIZ. I lectured there for 11 months, then resigned and went back to India to work with an NGO in Rajasthan. I worked there for four years with the marginalized people. That is where my real education took place. In 1975 I was invited by FAO of the UN to coordinate a training program for people working for development, justice and rights with NGOS in Asia. Through this work I got to know innovative NGOs all over Asia. Through the trainings I organized we created a network of these NGOs. We documented the work of these NGOs, they learnt from each other; we did advocacy work; we influenced the policies of our governments, UN etc. I worked with the UN for 27 years. In 2002, I resigned from the UN because of differences. Since then I do the same work through an NGO network called Sangat- A South Asian Feminist Network.

Friends, from personal experience I can tell you that it is people’s movements and NGOs who push for changes in official policies. It takes about 20-25 years for us to convince the people in power. Concepts like gender equality, justice and human rights, participatory development, transparency, good governance, all that what is today part of the BMZ policy, are the creations of people’s movements.

I have been organizing one month long feminist capacity building courses for women activists from South Asia for the last 30 years. These courses are for women from the 8 countries of South Asia but now women also come from Iran, Turkey, Sudan, Myanmar, Vietnam etc. This is South- South cooperation. We are dreaming of creating a People’s Union of South Asia.

These courses are in English and we can take no more than 40 women in a course. NGOs demanded that we also do courses in local languages. For the last 7-8 years we organize two week long courses in Hindi for people from India, Nepal and Pakistan; in Bangla for people from Bangladesh and West Bengal in India and in Tamil for people from Tamil Nadu in India and Tamils from Sri Lanka.

These courses provide the basis for networking and cooperation across borders for building solidarity.
Production and distribution of educational materials for NGOs is another important part of our work. I have written many books in question and answer form and in a simple language for activists on issues like patriarchy, gender, men and masculinity, human rights, peace etc. These books have been now translated by NGOS in over 25 languages.

I have also written detailed reports on our innovative training programs so that others can learn from our strengths and mistakes.

For our campaigns and public education we have created audio visual materials. A large number of the economically marginalized people of South Asia are not able to read and write. For them we have been making posters and banners to give the messages visually.

I have been writing songs for the women’s movements and also for other people’s movements. We have made ten music cassettes which have now been turned in to CDs. These songs are sung all over the Hindi /Urdu speaking South Asia. Nothing works like songs. In addition to giving messages they energize and empower, they build bonds of solidarity, they unite us.

Humour has also been very important for me in my work. Because our struggles are going to be very long, we need humour. I have made feminist humour books in Hindi and English. Ohne spass und lachen geht es garnicht.

In addition to doing this South Asian work I am a founder of two national organizations in India and I work quite closely with them. These organizations are Jagori Resource and Training Centre in Delhi and Jagori Rural in Himachal, North India. These organizations work with local communities and also do capacity building and networking within India and produce educational materials in Hindi and English.

Jagori Delhi has pioneered a safe City Campaign in Delhi and we are now taking it to other cities of South Asia. Jagori Delhi was given a prestigious award last year by Roland Berger Foundation, Berlin. My two colleagues were here to receive the award.

Through these organizations we have built the capacities of hundreds of organizations in South Asia.
Friends, because patriarchy is in every institution and it is at every level, we have to work everywhere, work through networking and cooperation. We need feminist writers, poets, film makers; feminist theologians, historians; feminist politicians and bureaucrats. And both women and men can be feminist.

Friends, my work are based on LOVE and FRIENDSHIP. Professionalism should not mean being without emotions and love. To have passion for and in our work we need emotions and we need love. This world needs more love to heal. My main slogan in the One Billion Rising campaign is -Not love of power but Power of Love.

In conclusion, I wish to say that the present wounded world needs a new global ethic. We need to work with both our mind and heart. More than the World economic Forum we need a world ETHIC Forum

In addition to social and ecological reforms humankind urgently needs SPRITUAL RENEWAL.

We need a commitment to a culture of inter-dependence, non violence and respect for life, dignity, freedom and justice for each and every individual and for Mother Nature.

More than dollar and Euro Values we need Human Values.

Investment beats environment in BJP Manifesto

Gujarat pollution

In Modi’s manifesto, ecology and environment seem to be solely understood in terms of creating a suitable climate for industries disregarding the loss of livelihood, forced land acquisition, irreversible damage to the environment and permanent loss of natural resources

By Rohit Prajapati

The word ‘Environment’ is formally and casually mentioned at 7 places in BJP “MONEY-FESTO – MODI-FESTO” and same is the case with Congress “All is Well Manifesto”.

BJP’s crucial understanding and concerned about environment is mentioned at page 29 “Decision-making on environment clearances will be made transparent as well as time-bound.” The word environment clearance is highlighted in bold, which clearly reflects that Modi’s Money-Festo’s main concern is speedy clearance for the industries and not the environment.

The other word ‘time-bound’ is also clearly reflects that Modi’s Money-Festo’s main concerns is speedy clearance for the industries and not the environment. To make it very clear on the same page the Money-Festo further states “Frame the environment laws in a manner that provides no scope for confusion and will lead to speedy clearance of the proposals without delay.” This well spell-out assurance of Mr. Modi is to the industrialist that they should not worry about environment laws because Modi will remove all their hurdles so that just by filing some papers and giving some vague assurance they will get the clearance. This is the “Gujarat Model of Development” which led Gujarat State to become number one in pollution.

To make it further crystal clear Money-Festo states that “Take all steps: like removing red-tapism involved in approvals, to make it easy to do business, invest in logistics infrastructure, ensure power supply and undertake labor reforms, besides other steps to create a conducive environment for investors.” The Modi-Festo says in very clear words to mortgage the environment and labor laws.

At page 11 Money-Festo states “performance review, social and environment audit would be mandated for all Government Schemes and programmes.” Why should not social and environment audit will also be compulsory for the industries? That means Modi is stating in clear words that when he talks about social and environment audit it is not for industries.

At page 33 Money-Festo states “Sewage treatment plants to prevent the pollution of rivers.” Modi-Festo is completely silent on the issues of river pollution by industrial effluent. At page 36 Money-Festo states “Cleaner fuels will be promoted so as to bring down the pollution levels particularly in the cities.” Modi is completely silent on the issue of air pollution by the industrial cluster in rural and urban areas. It further states “Ecological Audit of projects and pollution indexing of cities and townships will be done on scientific basis.” Modi-Festo does not want to talk about “Ecological Audit – Pollution Indexing” for industrial cluster of India which is called Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI). In fact, Gujarat is the most polluted state in India.

In 2009, the Ankleshwar’s industrial area, with 88.50 CEPI, topped the list of ‘critically polluted areas’ of India. In 2011 and 2013, Vapi industrial area, with CEPI of 85.31, topped this list.

On the issue of river pollution there is only mention of river Ganga at page 41 by completely sidelining the issue of number of severely polluted rivers of India and specifically the issue of severely polluted rivers passing through the industrial cluster of Gujarat.

In Gujarat rivers are “used” for industrial and domestic effluent dumping

Constituency of Modi – Vadodara’s rural area’s ground water is highly contaminated and it is red. If you travel just 10-20 kms you can witness reddish ground water.

The word Climate Change at page 35 of Modi-Festo states “encouraging research and application to meet the challenges of climate change and for forecasting prevention and mitigation of natural hazards, particularly floods, cyclones, earthquakes, drought and landslides.” This clearly indicates Modi-Festo’s narrow understanding of climate change which completely ignores the impact of industrial pollutants on climate change. It further states at page 36 “We will take Climate Change mitigation imitative with all seriousness and work with global community and institutions in this regard.” The word Climate Change mentioned very casually and no real program to mitigate the climate change is discussed in the Money-Festo of BJP.

Same understanding is also reflected in Narendra Modi’s book on climate change. In his book- CONVENIENT ACTION – Gujarat’s Response To Challenges of Climate Change- Modi selectively presents information and data, which are convenient to defend the ‘development model’ being pursued by the state. The book completely ignores the information from the ‘Gujarat Ecology Commission’ of the Government of Gujarat, and the press coverage on pollution in Gujarat by almost all newspapers over the last 15 years. Even a Google search on ‘pollution in Gujarat’ would have provided plenty of information.

The author could also have accessed basic information from the Central Pollution Control Board and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to find out the status of the environment of Gujarat State. Even the Gujarat Ecology Commission report and recent CAG report acknowledges the abysmal status of the environment in Gujarat. Why did Modi base his book on cherry-picked evidence that ignores the level of irreversible environmental degradation in the state of Gujarat?

Modi has included in his book on page 132-133 a photo of the ‘Common Effluent Treatment Plant’ of Vapi, a facility which has not been able to fulfill the environmental norms prescribed by Gujarat Pollution Control Board since many years. While the photo is very large, there is no discussion about the functioning of CETP of Vapi. The book completely ignores the failure of all major ‘industrial effluent treatment facilities’ of Gujarat. Why?

The so-called success story of the two-digit growth and tall claims of capital investment in Gujarat State has masked the several digit realities of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources, which are treated as free goods in this development model. The investment figure, without the figures for displacement, destruction and depletion of natural resources and the employment figure without loss of livelihood does not make sense. No wise person would talk about the income without talking the cost of acquiring that income or wealth.

This capitalist development has never tried to arrive at even a realistic estimate of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources figures but the magnitude of the loss can be guessed from some of the facts emerging from various important research works on status of environment in Gujarat.

“Money-Festo – Modi-Festo” of BJP clearly reflects the understanding of environment of Gujarat Development Model of Mr. Modi.

Rohit Prajapati is a social activist based in Vadodara

If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em

woman- journalist-sexual -assault

The media trial that sought to vilify the complainant in the Tejpal case would reverse the currently increased receptivity to women’s complaints of sexual abuse and restore the public culture of silence against sexual violence

By Ayesha Kidwai

Over the last one year, since the rape and murder of a young woman on a Delhi bus, the Indian public sphere has been repeatedly rocked by reports of egregious sexual harassment and sexual violence against young women, usually committed upon them in the course of their work. What has been unusual is not the occurrence of these incidents, but the fact that so many of these incidents have become complaints, materialising from the crisp backlit text of email, blogs, and the social media on our computer screens into brutally-thumbed and casually bandied-about complaints and depositions.

Public institution after institution — the judiciary, the media, and academia — has felt the impact of this unanticipated shift. But ever since the problem has gotten off the bus and knocked insistently at the door of whichever institution, one considered to be one’s home, the initial enthusiasm for the bracing winds of social change has abated. Three recent journalistic pieces — one by Manu Joseph in the Outlook and two by Seema Mustafa in The Citizen and the Statesman — show that the strategy to contain the contagion of complaints have evolved in disturbing ways.

Quite obviously, the complainants lie at the heart of every problem, but dealing with them is not an easy task. For one, they do not cower behind the anonymity that is their right under law, but never ever get; for another, even when they have been subjected to the most public violations of privacy, confidentiality, and due process, they do not back away from their complaints. And since the law holds that a survivor is her own true witness in the allegations she makes, the best way to discredit her is to cast her asunder from her words. In Manu Joseph’s view, this separation is effected by what the Grand Hyatt Hotel’s elevator landing saw (i.e. CCTV cameras in the landing areas outside the elevator); from Seema Mustafa’s version of what the Elevator Landing speaks to, a woman’s right to voice even a perceived grievance is denied to her.

While Joseph’s and Mustafa’s pieces have been extensively critiqued in the electronic and social media (most admirably by the Network of Women in Media [NWMI]) for the many breaches of ethical professional journalistic conduct they embody, what allies them most is the lengths that both go to elide the word ‘complainant’, or the more popular word ‘victim’, from the lexicon of their (this-is-not) rape narrative. As Pratiksha Baxi points out, in her Kafila piece, Joseph’s use of Young Woman for the complainant is a reference that does “not evoke the popular image of the innocent rape survivor”.

It is clear that for Joseph, there is only one set of victims here — Tejpal and his family. It is he who has been “destroyed” and it is his family who has been “evicted” from their home, as his wife suffers the “indignity” of defending her husband’s “consensual” relationship. The complainant of course has not suffered in the same way: though she has had to move as well, it is only to a “new home on the outskirts of Delhi”. There is no mention of her mother at all, and her father cannot be told that Tejpal raped her because of his ill-health; in short, no grieving kin or friends. And while she is “in a delicate mental state”, this fragility is not because of the assault she has been subjected to, but because she is “consumed by the intense fear” that her character will soon be put on trial. And lest we begin to empathise with her, we should know that “details of her past are already in the air” i.e. she has a past that needs some worrying about! Comparing this to Tejpal’s ordeal of sitting in a small cell in a Goa jail, we know which one of the two could qualify as the veritable zindaa laash, were it not for Tejpal’s love for his journalistic craft, embodied in his ceaseless striving (through Court petitions) for stationery supplies in jail.

Mustafa’s characterisation of the complainant is even more partial than Joseph’s. Since, unlike Joseph, Mustafa does not appear to have even bothered to meet the complainant (whatever happened to the journalistic code of checking and balancing sources, we wonder), it’s only the woman on the CCTV footage who she describes as the “alleged victim”. This purposely cruel phrase — more so because Mustafa refers to Tejpal (only once) with the contradictory ‘”alleged accused” (note, not “alleged perpetrator”) — discredits every part of the complainant’s deposition, even those incidents that the Elevator Landing couldn’t see, most importantly the act of the rape itself.

The choice of this phrase as the descriptor (although the usage of the term ‘alleged victim’ to mean complainant does exist in US legal parlance, it is novel for Indian journalism) then allows Mustafa the latitude to interpret what the CCTV evidence should mean for the case: since the woman did not show “visible (to Mustafa) signs of agitation”, and because she chose not to take the stairs in the second incident complained about, Mustafa concludes that “the jury is clearly out on this one.”

Both Joseph and Mustafa have stoutly defended their positions by invoking the criterion of objectivity, but one is puzzled as to how that criterion is served by their unwillingness to question information fed to them and which is clearly directed towards a “media trial” of the complainant. Surely, intrepid journalists like these two should have entertained enough skepticism about such information fed to them and carry it over to the copy they generated. Nevertheless, even if we were to assume that every alleged contradiction pointed out in these articles are “facts”, as Mustafa asserts, surely there has to be an understanding that any “fact” is always interpreted as one within a particular context. The context here is one of sexual violence, for which there is ample evidence that the trauma causes confusion, numbness, memory lapses, etc in the victim. In the universe of this discourse, it is no longer a ‘fact’ that recollection and narration of a sequence of events must be instantaneously seamless and fluent for it to be credible.

The burning question is why Mustafa and Joseph have done this? Are they misogynistic ‘supporters’ of Tejpal or fearless worshippers of fact and intrepid journalism? While the latter question may be good for an author’s self-image, and the former one can be dismissed as presupposing too tidy a critique, the real issue is a general failure amongst the professionals to come up with an adequate response to what the changed mood in the middle class demands. Mustafa and Joseph’s failures are just repeats of ones that we have witnessed over and over again, and each profession has plunged into a crisis when a colleague has been accused: How does a ‘senior’ professional approach the fact that some young woman has gone and complained about something that wasn’t even a grievance just a few years ago? After all, it is ”her’ word against ‘his’ and we know him; and while he may have his faults, he has done so many good things, and he is above all, secular. In any case, why are these outsiders, this “bunch of feminists” getting so involved in these matters (which are always so stippled with grey when seen from our side)?

For an outsider feminist like me, the answer is obvious: no one but this bunch knows what to do when a complaint is made from within one’s own kind. When the complaints have been made from within academia or within the judiciary, it is this bunch that has fought for them to be addressed, protested and thwarted the misuse of hierarchical power and its machinery of slander and intimidation, and reminded their professions that the ideal of equality must first be expressed in the creation of conditions conducive to its access. In doing so, they have imbued the phrase “let the law take its own course” with substantive meaning.

It is time for some of our journalist friends who have long written about women’s empowerment to emulate a fraction of what Indira Jaising and Vrinda Grover did in the complaints against the judiciary. Disputing their and other activists’ rights to dispute one’s own article may serve to create a comfortable ‘Us vs. Them’ binary that facilitates self-justification, taking feminists names along with the website-hacking Hindu Right may exaggerate the sense of injury (and dare I say it, “alleged victimhood”), but using the suicide of Khurshid Anwar as a stick to beat all feminists and complainants with does not serve the memory of a man whose commitment to the cause of women’s emancipation and equality has been cited as proof of his innocence.

It may be thought that the fact that the court has already taken a position on the Insightful Elevator Landing renders the current debate irrelevant, but this would be a terrible mistake. Across the spectrum of professions, what is at stake here is the fundamental right of a woman to make a complaint, and the vilification of the complainant that we are witnessing currently targets the all important court of public opinion. The increased receptivity to women’s complaints that we have witnessed in recent times must be reversed, and what better way to do it, but to turn the woman against her word. If complainants are no longer as readily believed, if feminism’s misdeeds begin from supporting such untrustworthy women and end with draconian punishments like the death penalty (which they were in truth the first to oppose), the re-creation of a public culture of silence about sexual violence can perhaps be hoped for. It needs no guessing as to whose interests this aspired to future will serve, but must we be doomed to dream the nightmares of the communal misogynistic right?

Ayesha Kidwai is a professor of linguistics at Jawaharlal Nehru University

If you don’t vote for Modi, you are a terrorist

Narendra-Modi

A concerted attempt by investigative agencies and sections of media seeks to foster suspicion and hatred against the minority community and create an image of the BJP’s controversial PM candidate Narendra Modi as being the target of terrorists

By Kavita Krishnan
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections 2014, several instances of politically-motivated violence have been witnessed. The communal violence at Muzaffarnagar, intended to sharpen communal polarisation
and consolidate the dominant and majority community in UP and neighbouring states in favour of the BJP, is a good example. In Bihar, the murder of a young Muslim schoolteacher Akbar Khan followed by the murder of CPI(ML) Liberation leader Budhram Paswan, have also been used to serve a political purpose.

Following Comrade Budhram’s murder, feudal forces fired celebratory shots in the air, aiming to terrorise the poor supporters of CPI(ML). Following Akbar’s murder, there was a malicious attempt to spread a rumour that he was killed because he cheered for Pakistan in a cricket match. Fortunately the communal canard failed, because the young Akbar, who used to teach poor children for free and organise actions to keep the streets free of sexual harassment for schoolgirls, enjoyed the affection and respect of local people of all communities. As the elections unfold, it is disturbing to note a trend of communalisation and politicisation of terror investigations.

In the month of March, there has been a concerted attempt by investigative agencies and by sections of the media, to create an image of the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi, as a leader who is the target of terrorists and to foster suspicion and hatred against the minority community as well. Following the arrest of four youths in Rajasthan recently, the media carried many stories claiming – supposedly based on ‘IB alerts’ that these four men were part of a terror plot against Modi. The Delhi Police Special Cell that made the arrests chose to hold a press conference about the arrests. What was the need for a press conference in an ongoing investigation, when no substantial facts are available? Such an exercise, in an election season, smacks of a political motive.

Communal profiling in terror Investigations: Report from Abgila, Arwal, Bihar

A team comprising CPI(ML) leaders Dhirendra Jha, Kavita Krishnan, Mohd Salim, Rajaram and Mahanand, as well as senior advocates and activists of Rihai Manch, Mohd Shoaib and Asad Hyatt, visited Abgila village in Arwal district on March 31, 2014. Below, we summarise what the team was told by people of the village:

National Investigation Agency (NIA) asks ‘Why won’t you vote for Modi?’ Maqsood Alam, father of 19-year old Aslam Parvez told the team that his son has been held in NIA custody since March 5th. Alam had taken his son to Karauna OP of Jehanabad after being informed by the police to present himself there. In his presence, his son was beaten by the NIA team and asked to confess to involvement in the blasts.

Subsequently, he was held in NIA custody in Delhi and papers reported on April 1 that he was produced in a Ranchi court on March 31st and that he has ‘confessed’ to involvement in the blasts.’ Maqsood Alam and other family members were told by the NIA to present themselves in Delhi on the day of Holi. Alam saw his son in NIA custody in Delhi, and according to him, ‘Aslam Parvez appeared crazed by torture, talking incoherent rubbish. It was heartrending to see my young son in this condition.’

Maqsood Alam himself was interrogated by the NIA. During interrogation he was asked to which party he belonged, to which he replied ‘Maaley’ (CPIML Liberation is known in Bihar by this name). Asked ‘What’s Maaley’, he replied ‘It’s Dipankarji’s party (Dipankar Bhattacharya is the party General Secretary)’. To which an NIA interrogator asked him, ‘Why won’t you and your family support Modi, vote for Modi?’ Maksood Alam is a homoeopathic doctor; the NIA also tried to instigate his landlord to evict his clinic from the premises.

Aslam Parvez’s cousin Irfan Ansari had been picked up on March 1st, and tortured in NIA custody. In Jehanabad, he was stripped naked and beaten on his legs and soles of the foot. In NIA custody in Delhi,
soap was put in his mouth, and his head was held under water repeatedly. A chair was placed on his chest, and NIA personnel would sit on the arms of the chair to create unbearable pressure on his body. He put be placed in a room all night with no clothes on, with the fan on. Irfan Ansari said the NIA told him – ‘We’ll ensure that no Muslim from Arwal ever gets a government job.’ Irfan has been selected for the CRPF, and the NIA told him that they would ensure that he lost his place.

Irfan was asked to confess to having introduced Aslam Parvez to some ‘Hyder’ and to have been in Gaya on the day of the Bodh Gaya blasts (7 July 2013). He had in fact travelled by train to Asansol via Dhanbad; and the train passes through Gaya. However, he said he never alighted at Gaya. He was shown photographs of persons and asked, under torture, to identify them – but he was unable to do so. Irfan was released and told that he would be interrogated again at a later date.

During interrogation by the NIA in Delhi, Manzoor Alam was brought face to face with Aslam Parvez, and the latter said to Manzoor, “We met together at Gaya with Irfan and Hyder to plan the Bodh Gaya
blasts.” Manzoor Alam said that Aslam Parvez’s manner revealed that he was under duress and severe torture.

Irfan’s brothers Rustom and Sohrab, Murtaza Ansari, Parvez Alam, Sarfaraz, Sarfuddin and Naushad Alam are some of the other youth from the village who have been summoned and interrogated by the NIA. There is an atmosphere of palpable terror, with every youth living in the village fears that he will be tortured and branded a terrorist.

The NIA Act is a draconian law under which an accused can be held in police custody for 30 days, and further detained without charges for 180 days. For Aslam Parvez, this has meant that the NIA has the powers to extract false confessions under torture.

The whole episode displays a disturbing trend of politicisation and communalisation of terror investigations.

Gujarat development myth: 16 questions to Narendra Modi

Gujarat pollution

The growth story of Gujarat has masked the multiple realities of land acquisition, displacement, loss of livelihood, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources, writes Vadodara based human rights activist Rohit Prajapti in an open letter to right- wing politician and PM aspirant Narendra Modi

Here is the full text of the letter:

Mr. Modi,

Subject: Clarify your position on key environmental issues for the General Election 2014 to enable meaningful debate and not empty rhetoric.

I would like to raise certain issues for you to respond to during the ensuing General Election 2014 debate, as you project yourself as PM in waiting, making unsustainable claims about the so-called two digit growth of Gujarat.

I am sending you the points for discussion in advance to enable you to respond in writing during your election campaign in Vadodara and Varanasi constituencies. I am also sending a copy of the letter to the press so that you can respond to the press directly as well. These issues are not new; I have repeatedly raised them in number of letters sent to various departments of the Government of Gujarat, as well as directly to you. I have yet to receive a proper reply though to any of them.

The CMO has, instead of answering categorically, passed the buck by referring these letters to the so-called concerned department even when straight questions were addressed to you. I am ready for dialogue in an open meeting with you as well on these issues. I am also prepared to attend a press conference to discuss these issues. I assure you that I am eager to engage in dialogue with you and hence am sending you people’s concerns in advance so that the discussion may be thoughtful and productive.

I would like to clarify that some questions I raise have equal relevance for the Congress Party who have yet to address the questions that I am raising. However, since it is you who makes tall claims for Gujarat and since you have been in power in Gujarat State for many years, it is in the fitness of things that I address these questions to you now.

The so-called success story of the two-digit growth and tall claims of capital investment in Gujarat State has masked the several digit realities of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement, irreversible damage to environment and permanent loss of natural resources, which are treated as free goods in this development model. The investment figure, without the figures for displacement, destruction and depletion of natural resources and the employment figure without loss of livelihood does not make sense. No wise person would talk about the income without talking the cost of acquiring that income or wealth.

My questions relate to the ‘development model’ celebrated and propagated by you for the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign and the Destruction of Natural Resources and Livelihood that has resulted directly from this

(1) In 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in keeping with the demands of the people’s organisations working on environmental issues, decided to use a new method of indexing the pollution levels of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming such food – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.

As per the agreed upon measures, industrial areas with a CEPI of 70 and above are considered ‘critically polluted’ areas while those with a CEPI between 60 and70 are considered ‘severely polluted’ areas. In our opinion, those industrial areas with CEPI between 40 and 60 ought to be labelled as ‘polluted areas’.

In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial estates was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted areas’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted’ areas. Following this study, the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was also forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas. At that time, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) and other environment protection groups had asked for a moratorium on all the 75 (43+32) polluting areas, but it was not done, under pressure from the powerful industrial lobby and state governments. The murky politics and economics of ‘GDP growth’ prevailed over the cause of ‘life and livelihood’ of ordinary people and ‘environment and conservation.

As such the process of declaring moratorium was started from Ankleshwar in Gujarat in 2007. The industries located in Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia GIDC estates treat their effluent in their Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and then, after giving further treatment ‘at the Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) at Ankleshwar discharge the effluent into the sea. The FETP, from its inception, did not work as per the prescribed norms set by the GPCB. Even today it is not able to meet the prescribed norm. For this reason, on July 7, 2007, GPCB, on the directions of the CPCB, imposed a moratorium on the industrial areas of Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia. The moratorium is in force even today, since there has been no substantial improvement in the pollution levels even after the implementation of the so-called ‘action plans’ prepared by these estates. The same plant’s disposal pipeline project was inaugurated by you on January 25, 2007. By inaugurating this plant, you tried to send out the message to the investors not to worry too much about compliance with environment laws in the state. Despite this moratorium being in force officially, the active connivance of the industrial lobby with the collusion of politicians along with the official machinery in Gujarat has surreptitiously lifted the moratorium from some area at different times.

Why did you inaugurate the FETP pipeline project despite its non-compliance with the GPCB norms? Why do you endorse the public paying when industries pollute?

In reply to my RTI application to you dated 23 April 2010 about the inauguration of FETP by you, your office states that “In addition, would like to inform you that about point no. 1 & 2 of your RTI application dated 23 April 2010, information sought by you is about the period before date 25 January 2007 and government’s term was over in December 2007 and after new government came in as per our working method, old records were destroyed so demanded information can not be made available to you.”

It is difficult to believe that a responsible and publicly accountable office such as yours, especially with your emphasis on “transparent and effective public governance” would destroy official records of public importance, even while you continue to be the chief minister in the consecutive term. With your emphasis on ‘information technology’ in governance, the soft copies of the correspondence should be present in some official data bank, or one would assume that you or your office are deliberately withholding or denying information that should be in public realm and your public accountability as the chief minister stands questioned, following such a stand of destruction of official records on the mere pretext that it happened because of change in Government. Why do you want to hide this information? What is the stated policy on destruction of records? Under what rule or law have such critical documents been, as you say, destroyed?

Despite the “Polluter Pays” principle, common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) were highly supported by public money; 25% of the cost was state subsidy, 25% central subsidy, 30% loans from financial institutes, and only 20% was directly paid by industries. In essence, half of the supposed ‘solution’ to the pollution generated for private profit, was funded by the general public. As if this subsidy was not enough, the subsidy for the CETP has been increased from 25% to 50% by the Central Government.

The pipeline project of Final Effluent Treatment Plant of Ankleshwar was built with the sweat of tax payers. Out of a total project cost of Rs. 131.43 crores, the industries paid only Rs. 21.75 crores (about 17%); the rest of the tab (Rs. 109 crores) was borne by the Central Government, the Gujarat Government, and the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) – all of which ultimately draw from public money. It is a familiar story: the profits are distributed privately, but the institutional costs and environmental burden are borne by general public. Can we find a better example of the privatisation of profits and the socialisation of the costs, burdens and hazards?

With no improvement in the levels of pollution being shown by the CEPI of the CPCB, the MoEF again, through its order of September 17, 2013 re-imposed a moratorium for some industrial areas. However, surprisingly the same order also lifted the moratorium from some polluted areas in the name of ‘promises, presumption and assumption’ of improvement. However, in our opinion the moratorium ought not to be lifted until these units bring down their CEPI to below 60.

In Gujarat, the GPCB has served repeated closure notices to several industries, which have been openly flouting environmental norms. However, the CPCB report of May – November 2013 has revealed no significant change in these industrial areas

Strict action needs to be taken against such industries and their ‘treatment facilities’. The CPCB report of 2009 covered 88 industrial estates, but the reports of 2011 and 2013 covered only 43 ‘critically-polluted areas’. In our opinion, the CEPI of all 88 areas should be conducted by the MoEF, CPCB and SPCBs. Other areas should also be included if the residents so wish.

In 2009, the Ankleshwar’s industrial area, with 88.50 CEPI, topped the list of ‘critically polluted areas’ of India . In 2011 and 2013, Vapi industrial area, with CEPI of 85.31, topped this list . What do you want to say about this number one?

The Gujarat Government is neither uttering a single word on these issues nor are you ready for any kind of dialogue or debate on this issue.

I am not and cannot be concerned only with the quantum of investment, but also with what is being invested, what the goal of the investment is, and how it affects the people in general. The Gujarat Government has consistently opposed these moratoriums per se, without acknowledging the environmental concerns brought up by affected people and environmental groups despite the obvious need. Given that the industries are facing moratoriums from the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the unabated cycle of pollution, which continues to impact adversely all kinds of lives – human, agriculture and livestock, I am interested to know what you have to say regarding the industrial moratoriums in our state. What is your position on environmental concerns that have led to the moratoriums?

(2) Why does your government fail to have a land use policy?

Why is an abundance of chemical industries allowed on fertile land, including the ‘vegetable basket’ of Gujarat like Padra Taluka of Vadodara District?

(3) On 7 May 2004 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 657 of 1995, the Supreme Court ordered Gujarat State to provide clean drinking water to residents of villages near Vapi, Ankleshwar, and Effluent Channel Project of Vadodara, where the water supply was irrevocably damaged by industrial activities. Yet, there are ongoing actions contrary to what the Court has ordered. This order is still awaiting implementation. When will your government implement this order?

(4) The quality of groundwater in Gujarat has reached a critical stage and yet it is being contaminated continuously. Orders for clean drinking water are passed based on the visit of the Supreme Court committee, and the committee is not able to visit all the affected villages of the Golden Corridor. The groundwater of about 14 districts and about 74 talukas of Gujarat are critically affected by pollution, even if we consider the routine parameters like Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Total Hardness (TS), Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), and some heavy metal like Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Iron etc. Thus the condition of the groundwater of Gujarat requires immediate attention as the rural population is deprived of the very basic need of safe drinking water and clean water for their animals and crops.

The groundwater of about 14 districts and about 74 talukas of Gujarat are critically affected by pollution

Ahmedabad, Daskroi, Mehmedavad, Vadodara, Ankleshwar, Bardoli, Choryasi, Kamrej, Mangrol, Olpad, Palsana, Valod, Vyara, Navsari, Sanand, Dhoraji, Jetpur, Okha Mandal etc. talukas are critically polluted. Amreli, Jambusar, Junagad, Mandvi, Kalol, Morvi, Upleta, Mahuva, Chorila, Dhangadhar, Limdi, Bansda, Umbergaon etc talukas are found moderately polluted. If we talk about Vatva to Vapi – the Golden Corridor – it is clear that 70% of the groundwater is contaminated and it has reached the irreversible level. When are you going to act on this serious issue of contamination of ground water?

(5) The air pollution situation is also alarming in the Golden Corridor of Gujarat. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board admits in writing “5. PROBABLE POLLUTANTS: … (B) Air: HCl, SO2, NH3, H2S, NOx, PM2.5, PM10, VOCs, PAHs, PCBs, Vinyl Chloride. Note: Benzene, VOCs, PAHs, PCBs, vinyl chloride are not being monitored by GPCB, as no measuring facility is available with GPCB. This statement speaks for itself. In an “advanced state” like Gujarat, why do we not have facilities to take these basic measurements? Moreover, when will you take actions to clean up the air quality, which has become so poor?

(6) You are the Chairman of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority and the same authority has to implement ‘The Gujarat State Disaster Management Act, 2003. The Act clearly states ‘(2) (h) “disaster” means an actual or imminent event, whether natural or otherwise occurring in any part of the State which causes, or threatens to cause all or any of the following: (i) widespread loss or damage to property, both immovable and movable; or (ii) widespread loss of human life or injury or illness to human beings; or (iii) damage or degradation of environment.’ However, the web site of Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority states ‘The GSDMA has been constituted by the Government of Gujarat by the GAD’s Resolution dated 8th February 2001. The Authority has been created as a permanent arrangement to handle the natural calamities.’ What about environmental disasters? There is no ‘Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan’ with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority. The Director, Health and Safety Department has an ‘Off Site Emergency Plan;’ but when I demanded a copy of it, I was told that it is secret. Kindly clarify your position on the crucial issue of a disaster management plan and its transparency.

(7) A direct outcome of our persistent efforts since 1994 has been forcing GPCB / Government to act against Hema Chemicals of Vadodara, which was responsible for illegal dumping of hazardous chromium waste in Gorwa area of Vadodara. As per the direction of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, the company was ordered in 2004 to pay Rs. 17 Crores as first instalment towards remediation of the site. Why has your government failed to remove the hazardous waste dumped by Hema Chemicals, and recover the Rs 17 Crores fines from Hema Chemicals, as per the direction of the Supreme Court?

(8) Which law allows the effluent that does not meet Gujarat Pollution Control Board norms to be discharged from Tadgam Sarigam Pipeline, from FETP, Ankleshwar, ECP, Vadodara, CETPs of Ahmedabad? I would like you to clarify your position on the issue of such an open and blatant disregard of environment laws.

(9) Your book CONVENIENT ACTION – Gujarat’s Response To Challenges of Climate Change selectively presents information and data, which are convenient to defend the ‘development model’ being pursued by the state. The book completely ignores the information from the ‘Gujarat Ecology Commission’ of the Government of Gujarat, and the press coverage on pollution in Gujarat by almost all newspapers over the last 15 years. Even a Google search on ‘pollution in Gujarat’ would have provided plenty of information. The author could also have accessed basic information from the Central Pollution Control Board and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to find out the status of the environment of Gujarat State. Even the Gujarat Ecology Commission report and recent CAG report acknowledges the abysmal status of the environment in Gujarat. Why did you base your book on cherry-picked evidence that ignores the level of irreversible environmental degradation in the state of Gujarat?

(10) You have included in your book on page 132-133 a photo of the ‘Common Effluent Treatment Plant’ of Vapi, a facility which has not been able to fulfil the environmental norms prescribed by Gujarat Pollution Control Board since many years. While the photo is very large, there is no discussion about the functioning of CETP of Vapi. Your book completely ignores the failure of all major ‘industrial effluent treatment facilities’ of Gujarat. Why?

This post-facto regularisation of illegal residential complexes sends a clear message that the safety norms can be bent to accommodate economic interests. This is going to be a disastrous action on the part of the concerned authorities as far as the health and safety of the people is concerned. Instead of taking firm action and enforcing the regulations, these departments are succumbing to pressure from all sides from powerful rich people who want to legalise their illegal residential complexes. In spite of support by Gujarat Sate the builder had lost the case in High Court of Gujarat and ultimately people won the case.

Any post facto relaxation in the present environmental guidelines and norms is nothing but manipulation of present environmental norms to legalise illegal construction activities in order to favour powerful rich people who can pressurise the Government to act against the interests of ordinary people. I have opposed to the proposed dilution of norms, and have expressed this and written letters to you. I would like to know why your government finds it acceptable to relax safety norms of your own administration. Why accommodate violators instead of punishing them?

(11) Most of the cities and towns are openly and brazenly violating ‘The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000’ since long. For example, the Vadodara Mahanagar Seva Sadan is dumping its municipal solid wastes into the ravines, ditches, hillocks of Vishwamitri River by violating the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. The action of the corporation is directly violating laws, which provide that water bodies should not be permitted to be polluted.

Instead of protection and preservation, the government and its corporation are themselves destroying the Vishwamitri River with their unlawful and unethical dumping of Municipal Solid Waste. This has repeatedly also led to terrible floods from River Vishwamitri

On 25th of May 2005 the Chairperson of Gujarat Pollution Control Board had given clear directions to the Municipal Commissioner of Vadodara Municipal Corporation: (1) To stop dumping of Municipal Solid Waste on the banks of the river “Vishwamitri“ and re-collect all the waste from about 70,000 sq. meter area and dispose it on the landfill site. (2) To re-collect solid waste from the bank of the river and clean up natural waterway to avoid the flooding during monsoon season. (3) To re-collect solid waste from the site near Akota Garden and on the banks of the river near VUDA Circle and dispose of it at the landfill site. (4) To stop burning of Municipal solid waste all over the city immediately. (5) To direct the concerned personnel to be more vigilant and careful. (6) Directed them to comply with the direction issued in the authorisation granted.

Now VMSS does have the so-called legal site, yet the direction dated 25 May 2005 is not implemented by the VMSS and illegal dumping is still continued at the illegal site. This is nothing but butchering of the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. Why there is no legal action under the act as initiated against the VMSS by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board?

(12) I had also launched a complaint against residential and commercial complexes coming up in the vicinity of hazardous solid waste sites in Ahmedabad (Vatva & Naroda) in violation of GPCB notification on industrial hazardous solid waste and The Hazardous Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1989. These complexes were in violation of the Central Pollution Control Board & Gujarat Pollution Control Board guidelines and norms requiring a 500 metres safety distance from TSDFs to residential complexes.

Instead of punishing the violating builders/contractors, The Forest & Environment Department and Urban Development and Urban Housing Department of Government of Gujarat decided, in the meeting dated 5 September 2011, to relax the required 500 metres safety radius to only 100 metres for the purpose of legalising all illegal residential complexes, which came after the notification. For future, it was decided that the 500 metres distance would be enforced.

The original guideline was issued with the intention of preventing risk to the health and safety of the people. The revision obviously looks at the profit margin of unscrupulous contractors, not the innocent residents who will suffer in future.

About 70 adjacent tribal villages cannot even access Sardar Sarovar Dam water for irrigation. Worse, the view is gaining ground among them that water is only for urban and industrial use

(13) Another hot spot is near Sardar Sarovar Dam. The work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam, began without necessary environmental clearance from the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority’s (NCA). It is very clear if one looks closely at the letter dated March 24, 2013 written by a senior member Mr. Shekhar Singh of the ESG of NCA to its chairperson Mr. Dr V. Rajagopalan, the secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. He expressed surprise over the Gujarat Government’s decision to start work for the construction of the Garudeshwar weir without obtaining necessary environment clearances.

He states in his letter that “Garudeshwar weir, to be built 12 km downstream of the SSP dam with a live storage capacity of 32.9 Million Cubic Meters, is a component of the Sardar Sarovar Project, as was envisaged by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. However, as far as I recollect, the environmental and social impacts of construction and operation of Garudeshwar weir (GW) have never been brought before the ESG of NCA.”

He further states in his letter “In my estimation, the construction and operation of the GW will have significant social and environmental impacts, since it will entail a reservoir of about 12 km length and unknown width and submergence area. The weir will have the potential of affecting the fisheries in the immediately surrounding areas and also of affecting the downstream river and its biodiversity, and other related aspects. This is especially because the weir will control the flow of water and silt downstream.

However, I do not know whether there has been a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the GW and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area. And if there has been, I do not believe that this has been put up to the ESG for its approval.”

At the end of the letter, he clearly demands, “If this is correct, I find this problematic as ESG has not yet cleared the construction of this weir. Under the circumstance, I urge you to: (1) Ask the Government of Gujarat (GoG) to immediately stop construction of the GW. All other activities related to the GW should also be stopped. (2) Ask GOG/ SSNNL to submit the full feasibility report, environment and social impact assessment report including impacts during construction and operation of the GW to the ESG and seek clearance of the ESG for this work. (3) Ask GOG not to start any work in this regard till the ESG clears this.”

The six villages, which were the first to hand over the land way back in 1961-63 to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and Guest House to build the Sardar Sarovar Dam, have even decades later not been considered “equal” to other project affected persons (PAPs), thus remaining deprived of all the facilities which other PAPs of Sardar Sarovar Dam of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have been offered. In fact, there are about 70 adjacent tribal villages which cannot even access Sardar Sarovar Dam water for irrigation. Worse, the view is gaining ground among them that water is only for urban and industrial use.

The view is also gaining strongly among the villagers that all this is being done at a time when the Gujarat Government has decided to build the highest statue of the world in the memory of Shri Sardar Patel by spending Rs. 2,500 crores near Sardar Sarovar Dam, around which tourism will be developed.

Lakhan Musafir and Rohit Prajapati of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and Savitaben Ganpatbhai Tadvi & Mavajibhai Jesangbhai Tadvi, residents of affected villages filed a case [Application No. 10 of 2014 (WZ)] before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) – Pune to stop construction of ‘Garudeshwar Weir’. The first hearing took place at Pune on 21st January 2014 and National Green Tribunal-Pune bench (Western Zone Bench) issued a notice to respondents and further hearing of the case was fixed on 31st January 2014.

The case is filed against (1) The Chairman, of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited, (2) The Chief Secretary of Government of Gujarat, (3) The Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Delhi (4) The Chairman, Environment Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority, New Delhi, (5) The Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, New Delhi, (6) The Chairman, R & R Sub-Group of Narmada Control Authority, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, New Delhi, (7) The Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, New Delhi & (8) The Chairman, Narmada Control Authority, New Delhi.

On 31st January 2014 Advocate Mr. Nirzar Desai appeared as legal counsel of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited. He requested 4 weeks time to file the reply. Our lawyer, Mihir Desai argued before the court that the construction work of Garudeshwar Weir is on and is affecting the villagers, construction work is creating an irreversible situation in the area, and that is why we request the court to grant interim stay on the construction of the weir. After hearing both sides the court passed the following order.

“We have heard learned Counsel for the Applicants. Mr. Nirzar Desai, appears for the Respondent No. 1. The Counsel for the Applicant states that he will file affidavit of service during course of the day.
The Counsel for the Respondent No. 1 seeks time to file reply affidavit.

According to learned Counsel for the Applicants, ongoing work is likely to impair the rights of project affected people in the vicinity. He submits that there will be irreversible damage caused if major work will be carried out. He further states that only a part of the work so far, is done. Hence, he urges to take-up the matter expeditiously for grant of interim relief. The Counsel for the Respondent No. 1, seeks four (4) weeks’ time.

Gujarat Government has decided to build the highest statue of the world in the memory of Shri Sardar Patel by spending Rs. 2,500 crores near Sardar Sarovar Dam

We deem it proper to grant three (3) weeks time to Respondent No. 1 to file reply affidavit and make it clear that in the meanwhile if any work is done, it will be subject to final outcome of the present Application, without claiming any right of equity arising out of execution of construction work and without pleadings in advance of any ‘fait Accompli’. Stand over to 25th February, 2014.”

On 25th February 2014 the National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s powerful quasi-judicial environmental watchdog, has agreed to a Gujarat government plea for “more time” to reply. The NGT order states that “Heard learned Counsel Neha Pathak, holding for Mr. Mihir Desai Advocate, Learned Additional Advocate General Mr. Tushar Mehta, appears for Respondent No. 1 and 2. Ms. Shugta Busar learned Counsel, appears for Respondent No. 3, Learned Additional Advocate General, seeks time to file comprehensive reply affidavit, as regards the nature of project in question. He submits that filing of such affidavit requires co-ordination of various departments and agencies, which will take certain time. He therefore, seeks reasonable time to complete the exercise of preparing reply affidavit. He undertakes to maintain directions as regards keeping of equity, in the light of earlier order dated 31st January 2014. Stand over to 17th April 2014.”

This order makes it very clear that as of today the Government of Gujarat is not in a position to give any clear categorical answer on two counts: a) whether Garudeshwar Weir has environment clearance or not, b) under which law of the land or notification or permission the construction of Garudeshwar Weir is being carried out.

The lack of categorical reply in court reflects that there is no substance to the hyped perception of your efficient Government of Gujarat. To file a reply with crucial information about environment clearance and issues raised by us in our petition the Government of Gujarat needs two months time. That clearly indicates that even prima facie all is not well with Garudeshwar Weir and the legality of the ongoing construction of Garudeshwar Weir is in question. Kindly clarify your position on this crucial issue.

(14) Regarding the activity around “Statue of Unity Project” near Sardar Sarovar Dam in the river downstream from the dam, just 3.2 km from the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary, in an eco-sensitive zone and involving massive infrastructure – work has started without legally mandatory environment clearance, environment and social impact assessment or any public consultation process.

This is clearly illegal, in violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and EIA notification of September 2006 and a number of NGT and Court orders about such massive kind of construction on the riverbed. On 31st October 2013, the foundation stone was laid by you for the project amidst huge fanfare and media attention. Tenders have also been floated. Even the work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, began without any social or environmental impact assessment, public consultation and environmental clearance from the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority’s (NCA).

The website clearly states the purpose of tourism and involvement of the ‘Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust’ (SVPRET) to build ‘Statue of Unity’, 3.2 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam inside the Narmada River on an islet called Sadhu bet.

The website says: “A 13km. long water body (pond) will create an excellent tourist spot with available infrastructure on both the banks.

The Gujarat Government wants to forcibly take over agricultural land at low cost, it wants to ensure that workers are paid low wages, and it will do its best to ensure that industrialisation does not confront ‘stupid’ hurdles like workers rights and environment laws

The Statue of Unity is planned to be erected on the river bed downstream of the main dam in the Garudeshwar Weir pond. A permanent standing water pool in and around the Statue of Unity will be created by Garudeshwar Weir, which will enable boating activity around the statue.”

The estimated cost of the project is more than Rs. 2,500/- corers (Rs 2063 crores is the cost of “DESIGN, ENGINEERING, PROCUREMENT CONSTRUCTION, OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE STATUE OF UNITY D/S of Sardar Sarovar Dam, Village Kevadia Ta. Nandod, District of Narmada Gujarat State, India” as per tender notice, see: http://www.statueofunity.in/tendernotice.html). The Government of Gujarat website (http://www.statueofunity.in/) clearly states that “A monument, that will not just be a mute memorial like the rest, but a fully functional, purpose-serving tribute that will boost tourism and facilitate development in the surrounding tribal areas”.

The key issues that beg immediate scrutiny are (1) The project clearly needs environment clearance under the EIA notification of September 2006, but has not applied for or obtained the clearance at any stage. (2) The Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary boundary is touching the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir (as a part of the Environmental Protection measures of the Sardar Sarovar Project, the earlier Dhumkal Sloth Bear Sanctuary was extended to meet the reservoir boundaries and is called Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary.) Since the statute is only 3.2 kms from the Sardar Sarovar Dam, it is certainly near the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary. (3) The Project involves construction on the river bed and the proposed reservoir will be close to the sanctuary in an eco-sensitive zone, and hence will have serious impacts on the ecology and environment. Hence, EIA and EC are crucial. (4) The project will affect the downstream river, its biodiversity, people and livelihoods and other related aspects. (5) A comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the ‘Statue of Unity’ and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area has not been done. (6) The project also needs public consultation, but none has happened so far. (7) During the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam due to hard rock digging, the seismic area already carries the burden of artificial activity in the bed rock and added load in what is deemed geologically a fault line area. Public reports on geotechnical and geological studies on the proposed site have raised issues of structural stability as well as safety. This cannot be taken casually by authorities. The seismic hazard analysis claimed to have been done by the Gujarat Government’s in-house “Institute of Seismological Research” (http://www.statueofunity.in/execution.html#sthash.jEBrofSN.dpuf) or the Geological and Geotechnical investigation commissioned to another government institute WAPCOS cannot be considered credible unless peer reviewed and put in the public domain.

In view of the above facts on record, we demanded that (1) Direct the Government of Gujarat to submit application for environment clearance and till that is obtained, not to do any work related to the project. (2) Direct the Government of Gujarat to immediately stop planned project called ‘Statue of Unity’ and direct them to stop all other activities related to the ‘Statue of Unity’. (3) Declare the action – of the foundation stone installation on 31st October 2013 for the project called ‘Statue of Unity’ – of the Chief Minister of Gujarat State as illegal, in violation of the EIA notification of September 2006 and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Till date, we have received no response from the concerned authorities. A reminder was also sent to the concerned authorities. The silence on their part is a criminal act of tacit compliance to all safety and environmental violations perpetrated by the executors of the ‘Statue of Unity Project’, and we assume the concerned authorities acceptance of these violations; hence they too would stand to face the legal consequences. While they have not categorically responded to any of the issues raised, instead you directed the Principal Secretary of Departments of Forest and Environment as well as the Additional Principal Secretary of Narmada, Water Resources, Water Supply and Kalpsar Department of Government of Gujarat to reply to our queries. We have not received any response from these departments, either.

Having laid the foundation stone for this ambitious project which will cost the taxpayers more than 2,500 crores, it is expected from you that you remain abreast of all the details of this project and be responsible for putting them in public domain. You and your office have failed to clarify in response to our letter, or on any public forum, on this critical issue of environmental and safety concerns.

This leads us to assume either the CMO’s complicity and tacit assent to violations of public safety and environmental norms for the Statue of Unity Project, or your official refusal to share key aspects of project and put them in the public domain. Why are you and your office silent on this crucial issue?

(15) Centre and State Government is collectively undemocratically pushing proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant. This is the area where the Manmohan – Modi governments have planned in tandem, to set up a 6000 MW nuclear power plant spread over 777 hectares of prime agricultural land, against which the local villagers have led a consistent, vocal protest.

Orchards of mangoes, chikoos, coconut trees, lush greenery, sea and ships passing by, describe aptly the Mithi Virdi – Jaspara area in the Talaja block of Bhavnagar district. This lush green area is the irrigated region of Shetrunji dam. In a time when `Special Investment Region’ has become the most lobbied term in the state of Gujarat, this region too should be announced as SAR (Special Agriculture Region) for agricultural purposes. Situated on the Saurashtra sea coast, one might assume that the land is barren and uninhabited, but a visit here belies all these assumptions. It is perhaps from this mistaken presumption that the proposal for a 6000 MW nuclear power plant spread over 777 hectares on this green lush land must have taken place.

Presently on this 777 hectare of land spread in Jaspara, Mithi Virdi, Khadarpar, Mandva stand 50,000 fruit trees. Also, bajra, cotton, groundnut, onions and other crops are sown round the year because of the irrigation facilities. This area is therefore aptly called Bhavnagar’s Food Basket. This is the reason why local villagers who stand to lose not only their land and livelihood but will also be exposed to a potential environmental risk if the nuclear power plant were to come up as the government proposes, are protesting and are resolute in their desire to keep the neighbourhood nuclear power free.

On June 11th, 2013, while giving the so-called CRZ clearance/ recommendation for CRZ clearance to the NPP, the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) stated that “The Authority deliberated the proposal of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and after detailed discussion, the Authority decided to recommend to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India to grant CRZ clearance for construction of intake, outfall facilities, jetty and Desalination plant at Village: Mithi Virdi, Dist: Bhavnagar by M/S Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, only after submission of the following details to this Department : 1. Detailed note regarding the safety aspects and site selection criteria along with its advantage for this site and submit to this Department. 2. A site visit should be carried out by GCZMA Member.”

This clearly means that the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authorities is not serious about the CRZ clearance. Kindly explain such a dubious illegal action of Gujarat State.

NPCIL needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to the Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body’s stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO, instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the readymade resolution. The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of the TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to be handed over the NPCIL.

Is this the new way of getting the consent from the villagers by Mr. Modi’s Gujarat State?

(16) The Gujarat Government wants to forcibly take over agricultural land at low cost, it wants to ensure that workers are paid low wages, and it will do its best to ensure that industrialisation does not confront ‘stupid’ hurdles like workers rights and environment laws. It is evident from what the then Finance Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Vajubhai Vala, said while addressing a day-long pre-Vibrant Gujarat Summit seminar at Ahmedabad Management Association on ‘Industry Responsive Skill Development: The Emerging Trends in Gujarat’ on January 11, 2011: “A farmer engaged in agriculture on a five acre plot will earn enough only for his family. But if an industry is set up on that land, it will provide sustenance to families of 25-30 thousand workers.” He asked local industrialists not to spoil workers by giving them more than what is rightfully due to them. Thus, it is evident that for the Government of Gujarat, ordinary people do not matter at all. Kindly clarify your position on the viewpoint of your then Finance Minister of Gujarat.

There is little to debate regarding the factual basis underlying our concerns. I have also made our perspective clear: the environment and the well-being of people in general should be treated with more respect than industrial/profit-making interests. By writing this letter, I am soliciting your stance on these issues in writing. In the interest of democracy and transparency, I feel that you will clarify your position and you will not keep silent on these issues.