Even Padman Cannot Save These Women From The Practice of Chhaupadi

Hats-off to the Padman team for bringing up the sensitive issue of menstruation in India. I always thought periods was a word more dangerous than “Lord Voldemort” and those who dare to speak about it, open pandora’s box. But now things are changing and not only are we speaking about menstruation but are embracing it too. Sadly this is not the case with everyone. The taboo of menstruation and the draconian practice of Chhaupadi are claiming lives of many females.

As per the old Hindu Custom of Chhaupadi, a menstruating female is considered impure and is therefore banished from her house during her periods. She is made to stay in a goth (temporary mud huts with limited resources), stables or caves during this period. A menstruating female is considered untouchable and it is believed that her impure touch would render everything worthless. She is forbidden to enter her household, touch men, animals or plants and consume certain food articles. Similarly no one can touch her during her periods. Thus even if a female becomes ill, she is not properly taken care off as everyone banishes her.

The practice is still widely followed in few parts of Nepal and has claimed many innocent lives. A nineteen year died of snake bite during her stay in the goth. Another girl died of the suffocation caused by the fire she had lit to keep herself warm during a chilling winter night. Other females have died due to hypothermia, malnutrition, animal attacks, severe bleeding, robbery and rapes.

Reasons for Practing Chahupadi – 1. Fear of God – The people believe that the god would punish those who don’t follow the Chhaupadi Pratha.

2. Banishment from the Society – There is an obvious fear that the society would banish those families who don’t follow the custom.

Impact on Females – The females suffer from physiological, mental and emotional stress. The conditions in the goth are deplorable. The mental, physical and reproductive well being of the females are compromised as they suffer due to poor hygiene, poor nutrition, heavy workload and lack of security. Their basic human rights are being denied to them.

Law Against Chhaupadi In the year 2005, the Supreme Court of Nepal declared the practice of Chhaupadi illegal. A legislation passed by the Parliament effective from August 2018 states that “A woman during her menstruation or post-natal state should not be kept in chhaupadi or treated with any kind of similar discrimination or untouchable and inhuman behaviour”. Anyone who forces a women to follow Chhaupadi may face a three-month jail sentence or a 3,000 Nepalese rupee fine or both. The law will be effective from August 2018.

Conclusion The social workers, government and youth of Nepal are spreading awareness about this evil practice of exile. The execution of the law would be extremely challenging. The main problem is that the females are conditioned and made to believe that they become impure during their periods. Changing this mindset is the government’s greatest challenge. The law is still ambiguous as it does not specify the discrimination meted out to the menstruating females and therefore its implementation is surely challenging. It is ironical that god made all of us but yet when we menstruate, we are forbidden by some to enter temples. It is hoped that like the law eventually ended the evil practices of sati and jauhar in India, the law will be successful in ending the practice of Chhaupadi in Nepal.

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Is Right to Information a threat to Right to Life?

I was born in a free country, a country where I was guaranteed the freedom of speech and expression, where I could question any political agenda and where I could rely on a free and objective media. Unfortunately, there are certain individuals who are aiming to take these rights way from me. No, the constitution is not being amended. But the close nexus between mafia, politicians and corrupt officials is ensuring that anyone who seeks to gather information against them is killed.

When the government passed a significant legislation Right to Information Act in year 2005, it assured that the Act would promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. But no one ever imagined that it could become a constant threat to life for those who choose to voicing out their concerns. The objective of the Act was to ensure to “furnish certain information to the citizens who desire to have it.” However it provided no provisions for protection of those who desired to seek this disclosure. A number of public-spirited individuals filed applications under the Act.

The information could have proved vital in exposing a number of political scams in the country. Resultantly, these activists were socially boycotted, harrassed, threatened, tortured, implicated in false cases or killed.

Ones who lost their lives

1. RTI activist Shehla Masood shot dead near her residence on 16 August 2011 in Bhopal.

2. Uttar Pradesh Police Homeguard Mr. Babbu Singh was allegedly killed while he was seeking information regarding government funds in his village.

3. Amit Jethwa who attempted to expose the illegal mining activities in Gir forest was shot dead by two assiliants on motorbike in July 2010.

4. Another RTI activist Shashidhar Mishra was killed for exposing several scams in welfare schemes in Bihar.

According to the Asian Centre of Human rights, there were around eight other RTI activists who have been murdered since 2010.

Police Protection

The RTI Act doesn’t include any provisions for protection. However police protection can be obtained under the provisions of Police Act, IPC and Crpc. Presently, the person who wants to seek protection must submit an application for the same to the police. In case the police fail to provide the same, the aggrieved party may approach the High Court under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Article 226 of the Constitution. The court can issue a writ of mandamus directing the police authorities to give protection to the person if it is satisfied that:

1. there is a threat to this person and

2. the authorities have failed to perform their duties

The Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Persons Making the Disclosures Bill, 2010

Commonly known as the Whistleblower’s Bill seeks to protect persons who file complaints relating to disclosure on any allegation of corruption, willful misuse of power or discretion against any public servant. Clauses Related to Protection of Complainants • Any public servant or any other person including a non-governmental organization may make such a disclosure to the Central or State Vigilance Commission.

• The identity of the complainant must be contained in the complaint. It specifically bars inclusion of anonymous complaints.

• The identity of the complainant shall not be disclosed by the Vigilance Commission except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary. Any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant either negligently or due to mala fide reasons can be imposed a penality of 3 years and fine upto Rs. 50,000.

• Unlike other countries such as US, UK, and Canada the bill does not define victimisation. There is no penalty against the public servant who victimizes the complainant. Moreover the bill has no provision stating the burden of proof lies on which party on issues relating to victimization.

• The Vigilance Commission may give directions to a concerned public servant or authority to protect a complainant or witness either on an application by the complainant or suo moto.

• If the Commission is satisfied that the complainant needs protection it shall issue directions to the concerned government authorities for the same.

Conclusion

The police have been hesitant in providing protection to these activists. Unfortunately our police is influenced and controlled by money and political power. Shockingly, there have been instances where police officers have deliberately harassed or framed false charges against RTI activists. As stated above, if the police fail to take any action the recourse is through the court but even the protection provided under CRPC has a very limited scope.

Moreover, the RTI application form requires the applicant to provide their permanent address, photo identification and father/spouse names .The availability of these details makes the applicant susceptible to attacks. An amendment should be made in the RTI act itself to provide protection to applicants. The Whistleblower Bill doesn’t entirely protect the interests of the activists either. The bill bars all complaints against police and armed forces. To seek ‘disclosure’ the complainant is required to demonstrate loss to the government or gain to the public servant as a result of the act in question. The bill should specifically deal with private whistleblowers i.e. the RTI activists.

The civil society should take up the matter on a large scale. The parliament has been reluctant to address the issue. The public authorities should be asked to make pro-active disclosures. Cases relating to the death of RTI activists should be heard in fast track courts.

The murders of RTI activists shake my faith in the notion of democracy. If the situation continues we would soon be governed by those who possess gun power.

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The Victims who are labelled as Criminals: the plight of Denotified Tribes in India

Imagine without any fault of yours; you and your family were asked to register their names with the police. Now let’s say this penalty is extended to your whole community in perpetuity. Offended? You are right, in normal circumstances this can never happen to anyone of us but if it does we can always approach the courts. But there are some people who can’t as their fundamental rights have been encroached by a draconian British Law for centuries.

Denotified Tribes In India

Numerous tribes find their home in India. The plight of about 150 Indian tribes started way back in 1871 when the British decided to pass an Act against them. Under the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 registration of all members of notified ‘tribes’ and eunuchs (irrespective of their criminal precedents) was made compulsory. Moreover, their movements were restricted. Penalties were further increased in the subsequent amendments to the Act. The act gave wide discretionary powers to the local government to decide which tribes should be notified as ‘criminal’.

Intentions of the British These tribes were labeled as criminal because they acted against the will of the British Government. The British who were unaware of the nomadic culture in India considered the tribal practices as barbaric and uncivilized. The tribes did not acquiesce to the unjust forest laws framed by the English. They continued to derive their livelihood from the woods and were thus named as “robbers and thief’s” by the state. The English believed that criminal characteristics could be inherited from one generation to other. Hence, the penalty was imposed in perpetuity. The commission of crime was no longer a criterion for punishment; birth in a particular tribe was sufficient to constitute an offence.

Situation after Independence

In 1952, the Act was finally repealed by the government and about 2,300,000 tribals were decriminalized. However, the Act was replaced by the Habitual Offenders Act, 1959 and Prevention of Anti Social Activity Act (PASA). The Act deals with the habitual (felony) criminals as those who pose a threat to the country.

Certainly, the Habitual Criminals Act is an oppressive piece of legislation often used by police and policy makers against the tribal. The Act empowers the police to question the members of the denotified tribes. The members of the denotified tribes are often socially ostracized and excluded from participating in census and other democractic procedures. The present act gives the legislators an opportunity to enact punitive laws against the tribes. Most new laws including forest conservation, wildlife protection, anti-beggary and cruelty to animal have been enacted to oppress them in one form or the other.

For centuries these tribes have been mentioned as “branded criminals” by everyone. The general acceptance among the people that these tribes have “criminal tendencies” has worsened the situation. The police often misuses it powers by harassing their woman. At times, the tribal men are arrested for various offences without any proof. Moreover, they are continuously targeted and labeled as criminals by the upper hindu castes of the society.

Lack of awareness and education has kept them away from political arena. Tribes like Kurava, Bawaries, Paridhis and Sansis are still treated as criminals by the society. These tribes not only find it difficult to make a decent living but are also constantly targeted by the police as prime suspects of crime.

Conclusion

We generally quote “Hate the Crime and not the Criminal” but the same is difficult to implement as complete segregation of the offender from the offence is impossible. However in this case; a person (male, women, child or eunuch) is targeted because he or she belongs to a certain clan. Isn’t the system promoting racial discrimination? Ironically, young police candidates are taught about these tribes in their police training. The judges in their areas see them as offenders too. Their genuine complaints are not registered. They live under a constant fear that they might be booked under a crime never committed by them.

Aren’t we depriving them the right to live with dignity (Article 21)? Aren’t we forcing them to be criminals? The answers of all above questions are in affirmative.

If we claim to be a civilized society we need to act as one too. The Habitual Offenders Act must be repealed. Moreover, these tribes must be offered alternative employments by utilizing their knowledge in the tourism, agricultural and ayurvedic industries. Spreading of education and awareness regarding their constitutional rights must be done. Most importantly, the police should be made more sympathetic towards these tribes.

Even being citizens of India they do not own any Voter ID cards, Birth or Death Certificates and other necessary documents. Entitlement to all these documents would pressurize the government to take necessary steps for their empowerment.

Above all the people should raise their voices against the injustice done to these people. Their voices remain unheard on every stage of judicial proceeding. These people are presumed guilty by almost everyone. If nothing is done soon we would have insurgents in the country; who would have taken up arms because of our ignorance.

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Children as soldiers!!! Are you kidding me?

Introduction

Child abuse and Child labour are not the sole problems faced by the world today. There is an emerging global concern about the increasing participation of children in armed forces. According to Amnesty International, “Approximately 250,000 children under the age of 18 are thought to be fighting in conflicts around the world.”

• Over 50 countries currently recruit children under age 18 into their armed forces. • The Human Rights Watch Report (2008) states that a few under 18 soldiers in the UK were sent to Iran. • 30% of the child soldiers are girls. They are often sexually exploited by the commanders and military leaders. • Myanmar with over 70,000 recruits is said to have largest number of child soldiers serving its national military.

Who is a child soldier?

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) defines child soldiers as 1. “any child—boy or girl— 2. under eighteen years of age, 3. who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity.”

This age limit was established in 2002 by the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Prior to this fifteen years was globally recognized as the minimum age for participation in armed conflict.

History: Child Soldiers

1. About ten thousand children participated in the Children’s Crusade of 1212.

2. Nazi’s had employed child soldiers to carry out their underground operations.

3. In Ancient Greece young boys about seven years old were recruited in the military forces.

4. After the Second World War the British established various “Small Boy Units” in various colonies.

Reality

Thousands of children are recruited by both state and non-state actor military forces. The children are mostly “programmed” to act as mechanical soldiers by the military leaders. In countries like Uganda the child soldiers are often made habitual to tranquilizers including cocaine and other drugs. The LTTE leaders used young boys for their Karate practices. According to CNN correspondent Arwa Daman; the children in poor countries are shown bright colored images of female virgins and rivers of milk which depict a picture entirely different from their harsh realities.

Usually the young girls are treated as “sex-slaves” by the military leaders. In some countries, the villages are required to fulfill certain recruitment quota. At times these children are kidnapped from streets, homes, play grounds and parks on gun point. In order to increase their courage they are often asked to participate in brutal crimes like rape, murder and abduction; occasionally against their own family members.

Reasons :-

1. Poverty and lack of education

2. Vulnerability of Children particularly from displaced families and Third World Nations.

3. Some of the terrorist organizations recruit kidnapped children in their forces (L.T.T.E was one such kind).

4. The sophisticated modern day weapons can be easily operated by a child.

5. Children constitute cheap military force that can be comfortably manipulated by the commanders.

Child Soldiers: India

Child Soldiers are recruited in several parts of the country including J&K, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andra Pradesh and Karnataka. The children are mostly used in tribal communities and insurgents. Most of them (both boys and girls) are below the age of 14 years. They live in poor conditions and are usually given “food” as a reward for work. They are treated as “safe carriers” of arms, ammunitions and information..

Recommendations:

1. Governments should ratify, implement and enforce the standards of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

2. Governments should ensure the protection of displaced and orphan children.

3. The former child soldiers must be properly rehabilitated.

4. The governments must ensure universal birth registration which would help in age verification.

5. Proper training and education must be provided to army personnel to prevent such recruitments.

6. Psychiatric and Medical help along with education and vocational training must be given to former child soldiers.

7. The recruitment of children in non-state armed forces need be checked by the respective state parties.

8. Constitution of separate independent agencies to deal with the situation of child soldiers in various countries.

9. The countries must alter their respective domestic laws to make under-age recruitments punishable criminal offence.

10. Generally when a minor is caught by the state agencies; his age is exaggerated in the official records to facilitate harsh punishments. Such practices must be discouraged.

Conclusion

The lack of political will on part of people and government have helped the perpetrators to change innocent youth into blood sucking monsters. It would not be wrong to say that “child soldiers” are not only a threat to the society but also a threat to themselves.

They are exploited sexually, emotionally and psychology by the same forces which they pledged to serve. Their trauma holds them back to lead a perfectly normal life in future. There is an urgent need to address the issue on both national and international front.

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Corrupt India

We received a comment from Mr Osuri Devendra Phanikar, a social activist from Andra Pradesh. To ensure maximum visibility and effective discussion on the critical issue, we are publishing his comment as a post.

Our democracy is standing on three legs of the constitution of India, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The corruption has eaten away most of the two legs the Legislature, the Executive. And we are limping on only leg that is judiciary. The demon of corruption is trying to expand its fangs in to Judiciary too. If that happens, our democracy will be crippled and become a corpse.

Now a day, Government jobs have become very lucrative and very profitable business for those who got in to them. If there are no givers, there will be no takers. Those who encourage corruption and getting their things done by bribing officials are more dangerous than the actual corrupt officials. If people who are in responsible positions become onlookers and remain mum over corrupt practices of the concerned, it is as though they are abetting the corruption.

The virus of corruption has been eating into vital organs of our democracy, the executive and the legislature and it is ready to spread in to judiciary as well. The demon of corruption has become so powerful that it gobbles up any person who moves even an inch forward to resist it.

The rampant and unchecked corruption in our society is giving birth to extremism and unrest in the country. Bureaucrats and people’s representatives, by abusing their official positions, are using the corruption as a tool in their hands to do the businesses of minting easy money very much to the knowledge of the public.

The public are not coming forward to giving information about corruption to investigating agencies concerned as they failed to give protection to them from the corrupt. It is very unfortunate to state that the evil of corruption with its obscurity is turning very honest officials in to very corrupt ones.

The most affected lot are the middle class and the poor among the society as welfare schemes meant for them are being eaten away the corrupt officials and politicians.

The corruption has been hissing in such a way that it has started challenging very fabric of our democracy. If this menace is not bridled and checked, the people of Republic of India will loose faith in one of the best democracies in the world and will turn to other means. Now, citizens of our country are more interested in corruption free administration than they are in democracy.

There are tales of woe from the people affected by the rampant corruption which have not been heeded by the concerned let alone redressing them. The intellect and the public spirited citizens have almost started to give up their efforts to check the corruption as they feel that it has gone out of proportions and almost impossible task to have a go at it. Such frustration is not encouraging and good for democracy as a whole. Some non governmental organizations should have to instill a ray of hope in to them, so that their crusade against the corruption will not be eroded and diluted.

The best way to arm the investigating agencies like ACB, CBI, CVC and Lokayukatas in our country is to grant autonomy to them. Right now, they have become mere recommendatory authorities working under clout of the legislature and the executive. These agencies should have complete judicial powers as that of a court of law.

The intellect in our country shall have to see that representatives of people in the country are convinced and talked into introducing necessary and comprehensive bills in their Assemblies or Parliament to empower the already existing investigating agencies with powers necessary to weed out corruption from the public life.

Modus operandi of the corrupt who tasted ill-gotten wealth is that they go all out to protect their ill-gotten assets. In the process, they stoop down to any level including spending part of their ill-gotten money for harassing the persons who try to unearth their graft and threatening them with dire sequences. Every citizen in this country wants to live peacefully and no one likes to take any initiative in the eradication of corruption which in their view involves a lot of risks.

The corrupt are more intelligent than any one in this world as they make things upside down with their maneuvering capacity and by camouflaging and misinterpreting the facts and they can talk the investigating authorities in to doing favours to them with ease. No one should be surprised if the corruption becomes fourth defacto wing of our constitution apart from the legislature, executive and the judiciary in the near future. The voices of great persons who raised voices against corruption had been choked. For example, in the state of Andhra Pradesh former vigilance commissioner Sree Ramachnadra Samal in his 56 pages report under caption ’ MY YEARS AS VIGILANCE COMMISSIONER OF ANDHRA PRADESH’ submitted a report on some of the corrupt offices of all India services. But he was dubbed as fanatic and mad. The corrupt launched vilification campaign against him. Till now, the report has not seen the light of the day.

The corrupt have succeeded in anchoring family clubs which consist of persons who encourage corruption and get things done by bribing the bureaucrats and politicians. Now, they would like to extend their activities in to their family trees.

Corruption has become a profession for some of the bureaucrats and politicians in the state of Andhra Pradesh and become a great threat to democracy. As control machinery in is in deep slumber, the state of Andhra Pradesh is hitting records in Corruption. The accumulation of wealth by dishonest bureaucrats particularly from All India Services has been scot-free and increasing as days go by. The control authority in Andhra Pradesh is badly undervaluing the assets of disproportionate assets of the corrupt officials in such way that that they are taking documentary value of assets only at the time of purchase although they have the option of valuating the assets by appropriate authority. Conducting artificial enquiries in to corrupt practices of the dishonest will not serve any purpose and on the other hand a lot of unnecessary expenditure will be incurred to the exchequer of Government of Andhra Pradesh.

I therefore pray that every public spirited citizen of my country be pleased to make efforts to weed out corruption from the public life without fear or favour.

OSURI DEVENDRA PHANIKAR Social worker S.V NILAYAM, OSURI MANSION NARSAPUR-534275 W, G,DT AP Cell-09346610749 Land-08814-274842

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You might Not be the Owner of the Land Registered in your Name – The Land Acquisition Act says so

Do you know a 100 year old Act may deprive you of your property in a couple of days?

The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 gives considerable power to the government to to acquire any land for “public purposes”. The Act is being misused by both State and Central governments to acquire multitude of lands specially in the rural areas in the illusion of development and urbanization.

Purpose of the Act

Acquisition of land was a primary requirement of the British in order to carry out some of their most ambitious projects such as railways, rural planning and development, construction of public offices, building establishments required by corporations and providing residence to the poor. Thus they enacted a draconian piece of legislation known as the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

Features of the Act

1. After the amendment of 1984, the act applies to whole of the country except the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Prior to this amendment; Rajasthan, Nagaland, Kerala and J&K had similar but separate land acquisition Acts.

2. The government may also acquire land under other certain acts such as Coal Bearing Act, Forests Act, Slum Areas Act, Delhi Development Act and Maharashtra Industrial Development Act.

Procedure under the Act

1. The government through publication notifies that the land in a particular locality is needed or may be needed for a public purpose or for a company. S. 4(1).

2. Authorized officers ascertain whether the said land is suitable for the purpose in view S. 4 (2).

3. Persons interested in the property may file their objections which would be enquired by Collector. S. 5-A.

4. Declaration and publication of intended acquisition by Government. S 6

5. The land is to be marked, measured and planned under the supervision of the Collector. Sections 7 & 8.

6. Issuance of public and individual notices to interested persons who may file their claims for compensation. S. 9.

7. Claims are to be enquired by the Collector. S. 11

8. Collector to award adequate compensation which would be awarded after the possession of land by the collector. Present Scenario The Act was heavily amended in 1984 by the Central Government. On one hand, amendment made provisions for efficient and adequate compensation but on the other it widened the scope of Sec.17 of the Act which deals with acquisition of land by companies. It is easier for government companies to acquire land vis-a-vis private enterprises.

The governments have always construed “public purposes” in liberal sense. They have succeeded in classifying any acquisition of land as being in public interest. With the emergence of SEZs and public-private partnerships eminent domain is being abused on a vast scale.

Unfortunately, the people who loose their lands have never been reasonably compensated. They are generally poor and uneducated and have no means to fight their cause. Ironically, the cost of development is borne by people who can hardly afford it.

Instances

1. Tata Nano Project:- After the protests Tata shifted its Nano Plant to Gujarat. But it still holds the lease of the disputed land for another 99 years.

2. Sanand The fertile land in Gujarat is being acquired to make space for the small wonder Nano. The government has already taken 5000 acres of land under its control.

3. Posco The iron-mining project has been delayed for 5 years as the farmers in Orissa are reluctant to surrender their fertile lands. Most of them have been killed or injured during the protests.

4. Reliance SEZ The Supreme Court rejected its special leave petition of Reliance to seek a stay order for land acquisition in Raigad, Maharashtra. However, it was able to acquire 1,150 Hectares of land near Navi Mumbai to accomplish its industrial and residential plans.

5. Arcelor Mittal Thousands of villagers of Jharkhand have contended that the government is selling land of tribals to non-tribals which violates the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act.

Deficient Bills

The government intends to amend the Act. The pending bills propose a number of changes such as re-defining ‘public purpose’; reduction in acquisition of land by private parties; formulation for Social Impact Assessment and establishment of National Rehabilitation Commission.

Although all references to companies have been deleted in the Amendment Bill, 2007; the new definition of “public purpose” includes acquisition for “a person” (Company is regarded as a person in law). The Rehabilitation Bill also has a number of flaws. The language of the bill gives discretionary powers to the government. The bill doesn’t impose only sanction on non-compliance of its laws. Conclusion

In India land is equity. People spend their entire life-savings to purchase a small piece land or any land for sale. Land resources are required by nations to progress. But at what cost? U.S.A and other countries follow a relatively more transparent procedure than India.

The powers of the government need to be restrained. The farmers should be given economic rights in their lands. If they are deprived of their lands, they must be recognized as stakeholders in the projects. Alternatively acquisition of land for commercial purposes must be discouraged. The Act must be abrogated and replaced by a new transparent legislation which sympathetic towards the land owners.

“The act empowers the government to transform an owner into a landless laborer overnight.”

I dedicate the post to my father Mr. A.K. Agarwal, who not only suggested the topic but also helped in research.

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10 MEASURES TO TACKLE THE ISSUE OF FARMER SUICIDES IN INDIA

I still remember my road trips from Jaipur to Delhi on weekends. My mother had to pack food everytime as there was no restaurant on the entire route. Now things have changed. NH8 has a number of malls and food chains including MC Donalds and CCD. These restaurants leisurely replaced the farm lands on the highway.

This depicts the plight of farmers more than anything else. The farmers near Delhi have an opportunity to sell their lands instead of killing themselves. But all Indian farmers are not that fortunate.

Aamir Khan’s Peepli Live is an apt satire on the current situation of Indian Farmers. The movie addresses a number of issues which need to be seen in the light of reality.

Indian Agricultural Setup

Indian Agriculture predominately dependent on nature. Any failure of nature adversely affects the farmers. Additionally our agricultural system is largely unorganized. The farmers work in an unsystematic manner. They lack technical support and institutionalized finance. Agriculture is treated as a seasonal occupation in the country. Farmers remain unemployed in some parts of the year.

There is barely any increase in the purchase price of the crops. However, the prices of inputs have hiked tremendously. This further contributes to the misery of an Indian farmer, who has no substantial income to meet his expenses.

Reasons for Farmer Suicides

Indebtedness is the major reason behind the farmer suicides. The loans taken by farmers can be divided into two categories:- personal and agricultural. The personal loans are taken generally to fulfill social obligations related to marriage and death. The agricultural loans are incurred for buying land, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and setting up a bio-gas plant.

In absence of institutionalized finance the farmers take loan from money lenders at high interest rates. Their agricultural profit is insufficient to recover debts. Thus, they are continuously harassed by the money lenders for the recovery of debts.

Government Schemes

The movie rightly points out that if an issue arises the legislators frame a “scheme”. But what about its implementation?

Presently the government offers a number of relief and insurance programs to the farmers. Under the said schemes the farmers are provided with loans on “low rate of interest” but ironically the benefits never reach them.

If a farmer defaults in payment of debts, the local police detains him for some time. The social embarrassment forces him to either sell his property or commit suicide. In Bundelkhand, farmers have even sold their wives and daughters to pay their debts.

It is largely contended that the schemes are implemented only on paper and not in reality. The benefits are availed solely by the rich farmers. The poor people are not even aware of the existence of such schemes. Issuance of a mere card or loan requires a number of formalities and documents. An uneducated farmer or a daily wage earner may not be able to successfully complete all these procedures.

Major Concerns

1. Farmer Suicides 2. Sale of farm lands for commercial purposes. 3. Change of occupation by the farmers 4. Over-emphasis on cash crops over food crops 5. Issue of Indebtedness 6. Effective Implementation of Governmental Policies Possible Solutions

1. Dependency of agriculture on nature should be reduced. This can be done by effective implementation of water management techniques by the government.

2. The institutionalized funds should be made available to the maximum farmers. The farmers must be monitored and advised with regard to the utilization of such funds.

3. The farmers should be provided with technical support to enhance the agricultural productivity.

4. The World Trade Organization forced the India to decrease its subsidies whereas the developed nations have been privileged to provide agricultural subsidies to their farmers. India definitely needs to take some diplomatic actions at the world forum to protects its farmers.

5. Organic farming must be encouraged. The government must subsidize organic fertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers.

6. In 1998, World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced the government to replace farm saved seeds with corporate seeds. The Indian farmers are forced to buy the high-priced seeds manufactured by the multinationals.

7. Farmers with small land holdings must be encouraged to pursue community farming.

8. The farmers should be provided with direct instead of indirect subsidies.

9. The excessive powers of the money lenders must be checked.

10. There is a need for social and cultural awakening with in the village communities. This may be done by providing elementary education and vocational training to the farmers and their families.

Conclusion

Indian farmers have remained an ignored entity since 1991. Their hard work is seldom appreciated by their compatriots. Ironically the people who provide us with food and cloth, are deprived of it. Usually, a farmer is the only earning member in his family; his death leaves his family in destitution.

If the issue remains unaddressed it is a large possibility that India would soon emerge as a food deficient country. Probably we would have Mc. Donalds on national highways but would need to import wheat from aboard for our daily consumption.

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When will they celebrate their Independence? Common plight of Indian and Pakistani Fishermen

India and Pakistan share many things together. One such thing is their consecutive independence day. Today I thought of addressing an issue which is vital to both the countries. No, its not Kashmir. It is something more fundamental that concerns me today.The detention of Indian and Pakistani Fishermen cross border can no longer be ignored by us.

Official Statistics

According to the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum 159 Pakistani fishermen are detained in India on the other hand 547 Indian Fishermen have been detained in Pakistan. Moreover India has 200 Pakistani and Pakistan has about 350 Indian boats in their custody. It is a large possibility that the actual figures are much higher.

Why are the fishermen arrested?

Due to the Sir Creek border dispute between the nations, their sea borders are not clearly defined. Thus it is difficult for the fishermen to distinguish marine territories. Moreover, they have low understanding of maritime borders and protocols.

Seldom they cross the marine boundaries and have to pay huge price for it. Most of Indian fishermen who have been detained by Pakistan belong to Gujrat, Daman and Diu. The Gujrat CM Mr. Narendra Modi recently said that the Union Government is ignoring these arrests deliberately.

India shares cordial relations with Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan authorities and fishermen arrested in these countries are easily acquitted. But since India and Pakistan do not share cordial diplomatic ties, it is difficult for both the countries to protect their arrested fishermen.

Fishermen’s Plight

Most of the fishermen have been in jails for years.Their bona fide mistake costs them more than any crime they could have done. Their families are unaware of their presence. Generally a boat consists of all the fishermen from the same family. Any mistake may result in arrest of all the “earning male members” from a single family. In such situations their family suffers both emotionally and economically. The hope for return never dies but everyone is aware that the chances are negligible.

Laws and Punishment

In India illegal entrants in the country may be punished with imprisonment of 3.5 months to 5 years.

According to the Article 73 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, arrested vessels and crew are to be promptly released “upon the posting of reasonable bond or other security” and should not result in imprisonment or corporal punishment. The nations must invoke this article to ensure the early acquittal of the marine prisoners.

What is and What can be done?

The suspicion of terrorist activities forces the marine officers to do their duty diligently. Their work needs to be admired but once it is established that the arrested are not guilty of criminal tresspass, they must be released. This can be done only with the development of diplomatic understanding between the two nations.

In past both the nations have issued declaration of fishermen releases but things have never materialized. Most of them who have completed their sentences are not released either. Both the nations believe “we would release our prisoners only when they release theirs.” This diplomatic release game treats these prisoners as pawns. They are left of the mercy of their leaders to get what they lawfully deserve.

The ones who are released are in no good shape either. Generally, they are disillusioned, ill, infirm and depressed. A young lad returns as a feeble old man with grayed hair. He fails to be with his wife and family. His children become alien to him. His parents are no longer alive to meet him. His wife lived like a married widow all throughout her life.

Moreover, even if the countries release a prisoner they never release his vessel. A boat costs Rs 5 to 6 lakhs is usually bought on installments. A fishermen has virtually no resources to afford another vessel. Most of them are poor and uneducated can neither opt another career.

Conclusion

Action is required to be taken immediately. Indian and Pakistani Supreme Courts have realized the importance of the crucial issue.

In a dispute the Union government pleaded to detain the Pakistani fishermen in jail until Pakistan releases an equal number of Indian fishermen. However SC of India rightly held otherwise and ordered release of 16 Pakistani fishermen who had served their sentence.

In Pakistan no person can be kept in jail after 3 months of completion of his/her sentence. But the government sought permission to keep Indian fishermen in jail even when they had completed their sentence. The Pakistan SC has also taking cognizance of the matter has also ordered the release of Indian fishermen.

The courts in both the countries are performing the duties of the executive. But the implementation of these orders depend totally on the will of the governments. They have ignored the plight of the fishermen for 63 years which is no longer justified. Arrest of 800 fishermen affects 800 families in India and Pakistan.

Sadly, these fishermen can never cherish independence in the same sense as we do until some diplomatic actions are taken.

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Prostitution Runs In The Family

Ever imagined that a family could encourage its daughters to become prostitutes?

Rajasthan’s Nat community has a tradition of prostitution. This nomadic tribe which previously engaged itself in street performances later adopted “commercial sex” as its traditional occupation. Other communities like Rajnat, Kanjar and Bedia tribes also follow similar tradition in the state.

Family Irony

The Nat community is patriarchal and male dominated. The women in the community may be divided into two groups prostitutes and non-prostitutes. The sex workers in spite of their earning status are shunned by both society and their families. They are given less respect in comparison to the married women.

The sex workers are not allowed to attend auspicious rituals or marry within the community. Conversely, the married women are expected to be chaste. They are expected to wear veils and maintain distance from elders. Pre-marital sex and extra-marital affairs are condemned in the Nat society.

Nat males are forbidden to be clients of the sex-workers. The sex-workers are expected to have professional relations with their clients. They have to share their profits with the pimps and sometimes retired female sex workers. It is observed that a retired sex-worker totally depends on the income of these young prostitutes for her survival.

A sex-worker is the most important earning member in the family who is also bestowed with the responsibility of getting her brother married. However she is not allowed to marry with in the community.

How do they enter the profession?

Segregation of girls start at a very early age. The “prospective” sex workers are given training by pimps and retired prostitutes where as the other girls are taught the fundamentals of family life.

Lack of education, awareness, empowerment and institutionalization are major reasons for the girls to enter the profession.

Ceremony of Nath Uttarai

The clients pay highly for a virgin girl. The first intercourse is mark of celebration with in the tribe. The girl who is dressed like a newly-wed, wears a nose ring which has to be removed by her first client. The client is considered the husband of the girl and he is given preference over other clients in future. The high price for virgin girls motivates the families to sell their daughters soon after attaining puberty.

Concerns

1. Lack of education and knowledge available to young women has adversely affected their ability to make decisions. 2. They are exploited by both pimps and retired female sex workers. 3. There are greater chances of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases especially AIDS as the sex workers practice unprotected commercial sex. There is considerable lack of awareness with in the community with regard to sexually transmitted diseases. 4. The young girls are now being trafficked by the pimps to other areas including Delhi and Mumbai. The clients in the metropolitan cities pay higher prizes than those in the villages. 5. The greed for higher price lures the parents to sell their daughter as soon as they attain puberty. 6. Although they are the earning members of the family, their status is low. 7. The children are financially and socially depended upon their maternal uncle. 8. Since the sex-workers are not allowed to marry in the community, their is an increase of marriages taking place between a Nat Male and A Non-Nat Female.

Conclusion The female sex workers amongst the Nats are being exploited at every stage both by their family and society. The income generated by selling their bodies barely reaches them. The intermediaries take a chunk of profit from their earning. Unprotected commercial sex with clients is prevalent. The rights of their children are hardly enforced. Not only the prostitutes but their children also suffer considerably.

Awareness must be spread amongst the women. Alternative employment should be arranged for those who wish to leave the profession. Education must be ensured for both males and females. The retired sex-workers must be rehabilitated. Presence of pimps and female trafficking must be checked. The involved of minor girls in the trade must be curtailed. Efforts should be made to bring the community with the mainstream. Gradual changes must be brought in the perception of the community as a whole.

Picture Credits:Picapp

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India’s Cruel Torture Bill

Statistics

1. Every year number of custodial deaths increase considerably.

2.  From 1994-2008; 16,886 custodial deaths were recorded.

3.  In 2007-08; 188 and 1789  people died in police and  judicial custody respectively.

Definition of Torture

Article 1 of United Nations Convention against torture, 1984 defines torture as:-

Any act by which public officials intentionally  inflict severe pain or suffering ( physical or mental) to a person for fullfiling certain purposes like seeking information or a confession, punishment, intimidation or discrimination of the victim.

Indian Position

India signed the UN Convention against torture in 1997 but did not ratify it. Ratification is a process through which countries implement an international convention through a domestic legislation. The government recently decided to table Prevention of Torture Bill 2010 to address the issue. However the bill stands flawed on various grounds.

Definition

The  Bill defines torture in a  limited sense. It states that if a public official  intentionally does an act to seek information or confession from a person by inflicting

(i) grievous hurt to any person; or

(ii) danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of any person it would amount to torture.

Hence if a harm is inflicted on a person intentionally by a public official to seek information only then it would constitute torture.

The definition not only ignores other purposes of torture like punishment and intimidation but also  makes infliction of grievous hurt or danger to life a necessary condition. Nevertheless, torture sometimes  include abuses like sleep and food deprivation, forceful positions and exposure to intense and continuous noise which are outside the ambit of physical harm or danger.

Further, Section 4 states that intentional infliction of grievous hurt must be coupled with animosity against a group in order to establish the crime of torture. Thus, if  a public official  inflicts grievous hurt on a person to extract information he would not be liable  unless it is proved that he had animosity against a group or community to which the person belonged.

Defects :-

Section 6 states that a prior government sanction is required in order to prosecute a government servant. The section leaves wide scope for partiality and manipulation. A government may be biased towards its own employee. Also, it would be difficult for the victims to obtain such sanctions.

Moreover the limitation clause in Section 5 states that a complaint must be registered within 6 months of alleged torture but fails to recognize that sometimes the victims are subjected to prolonged torture which may last more than the specified period.

There is no provision with regard to self- incrimination. The bill remains silent on the scheme of compensation and thus relies on courts to decide the amount of compensation is such cases. No appropriate review mechanisms to check interrogation practices are established under the bill. There is no provision to provide immediate legal help to those who have been arrested.

The convention states that no country must extradite a prisoner to another nation which has harsher laws than that prevalent in it. The bill fails to recognize this clause of the convention and remains silent on the issue.

Recommendations

1. The definition of torture must be revised to include other purposes of torture like intimidation, coercion, punishment or discrimination.

2. Compensation Schemes must be enumerated in the bill.

3. Proper review mechanisms for interrogation must be established.

4.Clauses like procurement of  prior governmental sanction and  limited time period to file complaints must be removed.

5 A prohibition on the expulsion, return or extradition of persons to States where there are substantial grounds to believe those persons will face torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment must be added.

6. Immediate legal aid must be provided to the arrested.

7. Other forms of torture which may not necessarily be physical in nature must be included in the definition.

Conclusion

It is unfortunate that after lapse of 13 years the government has come up with an inefficient piece of legislation which doesn’t even recognize the International Convention which was signed by India. The restrictive clauses in the bill would  help the perpetrators rather than assisting the victims. The bill must be reviewed carefully and necessary changes must be incorporated.

In the present form the bill is a license to torture rather than a prohibition to inflict harm.

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