The poor quality of education, reflected in low learning levels, in India and other South Asian countries traps many young people in poverty and prevents faster economic growth and shared prosperity, the World Bank (WB) said on Monday. In the first comprehensive study to analyze the performance of South Asian educational systems in terms of student learning, the World Bank said governments in the region had recognized that they must do more to improve the quality of education in schools—after having achieved significant progress in access to schooling over the past decade. “Just spending time in school is not enough. There has to be a significant gain in skills that requires an improvement in the quality of education,” said Philippe Le Houérou, World Bank vice-president for South Asia. “This will help countries in the region to reap the full expected returns on their investments and generate gains in productivity and economic growth,” Le Houérou added. The report—Student Learning in South Asia: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Priorities—said many governments in South Asia had invested heavily in education to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education for all children by 2015. This investment resulted in an increase in the net enrolment rate in South Asia’s primary schools from 75% to 89% from 2000 to 2010, bringing the region closer to enrolment rates in Latin America and the Caribbean (94%) and East Asia and the Pacific (95%). Sri Lanka is a clear outlier, having achieved near-universal primary education decades ago. Afghanistan and Pakistan still lag significantly behind other South Asian countries, the world Bank said. However, a human resource development ministry official said India will achieve universal access to elementary education by 2015. According to official data, nearly 98% of children in India are now registered in schools. The report was concerned about the disappointing outcomes, as measured by student learning, of South Asia’s education systems, which it said in part reflected attempts to cope with a large influx of children who were first-generation school-goers. Much of what South Asian students are taught is “procedural” or rote-based. Students are poorly prepared in practical competencies such as measurement, problem-solving, and writing of meaningful and grammatically-correct sentences. One-quarter to one-third of those who graduate from primary school lack basic numeracy and literacy skills that would enable them to further their education, it added. Several other studies have also highlighted this poor learning outcome in India. The Annual Status of Education (ASER) 2013 report by education non-profit agency Pratham found that the proportion of all children in Class 5 who can read a Class 2 level text has declined by almost 15 percentage points since 2005. Similarly, the portion of students in Class 8 who can do divisions has declined by almost 23 percentage points during the same period. While three out of every five students in standard 5 were able to read the text books prescribed for pupils who were three years junior in 2005, only one out of two is up to the task now. “The poor quality of education in South Asia is a major obstacle to the region’s future economic prospects,” said Halil Dundar, lead education specialist at the World Bank and one of the report’s authors. “Raising education quality in South Asia is an urgent priority that could transform the region’s economic landscape.” The report recommends a multi-pronged strategy that includes initiatives outside the education sector to address the challenge. Some of these include ensuring young children get enough nutrition or investing in early life nutrition, and raising the quality of teachers, which is also a key concern in India. It also suggests bringing more private investment to the sector and improved measurement of education outcome.
By Prashant K. Nanda
Posted on: July 3, 2014
In a small city in India’s north, a community of illiterate women have broken free from the profession they were born into: cleaning rich people’s toilets. Now, they’re learning to read and write, speak English, and provide for their children’s education.
In the community of Chumars in Rajasthan state of India, these women traditionally had only this single profession. Because they did such filthy work, they and their families had to live in separate colonies.
“Since the age of seven, I started to accompany my mother who cleaned toilets everyday. Just as mothers teach their daughters to do various chores, my mother taught me how to clean other people’s toilets. She said, ‘After you get married this will help you earn a living,’” said Usha Chumar. Usha was married at age ten. She is now 35.
For centuries, people in India like Usha had little choice about their careers. Their birth determined their caste and their caste determined their profession. Thus, the son of a priest became a priest, the son of a warrior became a warrior, and the daughter of a manual scavenger became a manual scavenger. About one in seven Indians belongs to the lowest caste, the “Dalit”—or Untouchables. Among them are people like Usha who clean toilets.
While the affluent were able to break through this vicious cycle decades ago because of better access to education, the lower classes largely have not. People in Usha’s community continued to clean people’s dry lavatories even after India’s Dry Latrine Prohibition Act of 1993 banned the lowly profession.
“We couldn’t even take a holiday. Even when I was sick, I couldn’t take a rest, as they would come to my home looking for me,” said Usha. “I would tell them I’m sick, but they would say, ‘The filth is accumulating. It will only take a few minutes. Clean and go.”
Usha and the other manual scavenging woman had no means to break free from their derogatory profession. That is, until an NGO, Sulabh International, started mobilizing them. They gave them a formal education, job skills training, and more importantly a monthly stipend to work at their livelihood center called Naye Disha. It means “New Direction” in Hindi.
So far, the Naye Disha center has given a new direction to 112 women from the Chumar community of Alwar.
“[Naye Disha] is like a breath of life. When I told my mother-in-law about it, she said there’s no one who can help us break free from our profession. But now even she believes in it,” said Usha.
Usha was chosen as the President of Sulabh International by the organization’s founder, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak. Now she has become the global face of the NGO and its work on sanitation and hygiene. Pathak is a well-known social reformer and an expert in low-cost sanitation.
Sulabh International established the Nayi Disha center in a rich residential area so that the women can psychologically break free from the sense of being Untouchables and feel dignity in mainstream society—something they have been denied for generations.
Apart from reading and writing skills, Naye Disha provides livelihood skills like tailoring, embroidery, food processing, and beauty care. The food products they produce at the center are sold in the local market and nearby cities like Delhi and Jaipur. They provide tailoring, embroidery and beauty care services to the rich residents nearby.
A woman named Vimla Sarvan works at the center. She lives in a mud hut beyond the concrete houses of the more affluent villagers. Vimla gave birth to a son 15 days earlier.
“I’m on a three-month maternity leave. My life changed after coming to Naye Disha. Earlier I just earned about 1500 rupees cleaning people’s homes every month, now I earn 3300,” Vimla said. Her husband earns 100-150 rupees everyday selling recyclable trash. “We are thinking of saving for our children’s education.”
Working at Naye Disha ensures Vimla a stipend during maternity leave, something that would have been impossible otherwise.
Inside Vimla’s house, on the mud wall, hangs a poster of a city harbor with tall skyscrapers. In the blue sky above is written, “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.”
By: Venus Upadhayaya
Posted on: June 25, 2014
Twenty two years ago, in Bhateri village in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, Bhanwari Devi was gang-raped by five men. The reason was neither lust nor just patriarchy. Devi’s fault was that as a lower-caste woman, she had dared to transgress the age old strictures of caste – by protesting against the practice of child marriage, which was a staple among the upper-castes. Hence, he was meted out a “deserving punishment”.
When the matter finally reached the court, the judge acquitted all the five rapists, holding, among a host of other reasons, that since the upper castes practised strict untouchability, it was inconceivable that any of the five would touch a lower caste woman. Till today, Devi remains deprived of justice.
Now that there is a tidal wave of opprobrium and condemnation against the gang-rapes and murder at Badaun in northern Uttar Pradesh state and the gang-rapes in Bhagana, Haryana, the next question one is confronted with is – will justice be done? And if so, how?
While investigations are still on, and arrests have been made, it is only the first step. The final outcome in the courts is all that matters, and it is here that there is cause for much alarm and disappointment. For, India’s courts have consistently failed the Dalits (untouchables) by steadfastly refusing to acknowledge that sexual violence is perpetrated because of a woman’s caste.
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, commonly known as PoA Act, recognises rape and other forms of sexual violence as an “atrocity”- an aggravated offence, as opposed to the general crime of rape. The reason is that an atrocity, as philosopher Claudia Card defines it, is a “gross evil – the widespread toleration of wrongfully perpetrated intolerable harm to individuals”.
Because Dalit women’s bodies are stigmatised – they are considered expendable and justifiably available for recreational (pleasure-seeking) or punitive purposes of upper-caste men, the law seeks to bring in substantive equality by recognising the lived reality of the victims.
Therefore, it is imperative for courts to recognise that the sine qua non for the deeming rape as an atrocity under the law is that the violence was perpetrated on the ground that the victim hailed from a lower caste.
Tragically, it is here that the judicial record is one of abject failure. Not only have the judges refused to acknowledge the reality of caste, but have also attributed reasons such as “unrequited passion”, “exploration of sexuality” and let off the accused. Even if there is a conviction for rape, an acquittal from the charges of atrocity renders justice not only incomplete, but also as a travesty.
Khairlanji village in western Maharashtra state stands out as the most infamous example in recent times. On September 26, 2006, four members of Suresh Bhotmange’s (a Dalit) family were killed in the most gruesome manner. His wife and daughter were stripped, thrashed, and paraded naked through the village, before being subjected to a fiendish gang-rape.
Nothing was left….knives, iron rods, spikes of bullock cart wheels- everything was thrust in their private parts. Bhotmange’s “crime” was the police complaint that he had lodged against the upper-caste Hindus grabbing the plot of land that was rightfully his.
The autopsy was done in the shoddiest manner – no efforts were made to test for rape, even though the naked bodies of the two women lay in the village for a considerable period of time. All the accused who were arrested were convicted by the trial court of murder and other offences, but not for rape.
Worse was in store in the Bombay High Court. In its 2010 judgement, the court put down the atrocities to reasons of personal rivalry and individual revenge. Shockingly, the court went to considerable lengths to hold that because there was no evidence, no rape had been committed – completely ignoring the harsh reality – that there would be no witnesses, and that the trial court had committed a glaring omission by ignoring evident facts. If the naked and badly mangled bodies of Dalit women did not stir the court to acknowledge sexual atrocity, perhaps nothing else could have. The appeal against the high court’s judgement remains undecided till this date.
The case of Hanamath was an appeal to the Karnataka High Court against the conviction of four men for gang-raping a 15-year-old Dalit girl. The court upheld the conviction of rape because it could have done little else – all the proof – eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence were stacked against the accused. But when it came to holding the culprits guilty under the PoA Act, the court not only demonstrated its blindness to caste, but took the “boys will be boys” line of reasoning, holding that the gang-rape was “a lustful act of misguided youth”.
Leave aside convictions. How does one prove to the court that a rape was committed because the perpetrators wanted to exercise their upper caste power and pelf? There cannot be any rule of evidence, except that of social reality – that the caste system, in all its vicious manifestations, exists.
Hence, the Supreme Court’s judgement in Ramdas (2006) rankles, and rankles hard. In the dead of night, three men dragged out a young woman of the low-ranking Pardhi caste and raped her. This was after she had refused to obey their summons, belonging to a landowning upper-caste, who wanted her to satisfy their carnal desires.
Of course, they wouldn’t have had the temerity to exercise the same obnoxious power on a woman of their own, or a higher caste, but then, Dalit women are fair game!
But the court was not inclined to accept this, and held – “The mere fact that the victim happened to be a girl belonging to a scheduled (lower) caste does not attract the provisions of the (PoA) Act.”
When a judgement of the Supreme Court deals a body blow to the very foundations of the law which aims to protect, impunity will certainly continue, unabated.
By: Saurav Datta
Posted on: June 11, 2014
The gruesome rape and hanging of two teenage girls in the populous Uttar Pradesh state again proves how women have become the biggest victims of India’s sanitation crisis.
The two girls were going to the fields to defecate when they went missing on Tuesday night.
Nearly half-a-billion Indians – or 48% of the population – lack access to basic sanitation and defecate in the open.
The situation is worse in villages where, according to the WHO and Unicef, some 65% defecate in the open. And women appear to bear the brunt as they are mostly attacked and assaulted when they step out early in the morning or late in the evening.
Several studies have shown that women without toilets at home are vulnerable to sexual violence when travelling to and from public facilities or open fields.
The evidence is glaring.
A senior police official in Bihar said some 400 women would have “escaped” rape last year if they had toilets in their homes.
Women living in urban slums of Delhi reported specific incidents of girls under 10 “being raped while on their way to use a public toilet” to researchers of a 2011 study funded by WaterAid and DFID-funded Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity.
Women in one slum said when they went out in the open to defecate, local boys stared at them, made threats, threw bricks and stabbed them. Others said they faced “lewd remarks, physical gestures and rape when they relieved themselves in the bushes”.
“We have had one-on-one fights with thugs in order to save our daughters from getting raped. It then becomes a fight that either you [the thug] kill me to get to my daughter or you back off,” a helpless mother told the researchers, pointing out to the chilling frequency of such assaults.
By one estimate, some 300 million women and girls in India defecate in the open. Most of them belong to underprivileged sections of the society and are too poor to afford toilets. The two girls from Badaun, who reportedly belonged to the lower-rung of a group of castes called Other Backward Classes (OBCs), were among them and paid with their lives.
“This vicious, horrifying attack illustrates too vividly the risks that girls and women take when they don’t have a safe, private place to relieve themselves,” says said Barbara Frost, chief executive of WaterAid. “Ending open defecation is an urgent priority that needs to be addressed, for the benefit of women and girls who live in poverty and without access to privacy and a decent toilet.”
Experts believe that India needs to scale up its war on sanitation with a special emphases on women.
It needs to build more private toilets with sewerage connections when space is available and shared toilets when space is scarce. Community toilets have worked in many places and flopped in others like the city of Bhopal, where, a study revealed, only half as many women as men used the toilets because of their distance from home.
This is not a problem in India alone: violence against women on the way to or from public toilets have been reported from countries like Kenya and Uganda. But for a country which aspires for superpower status, lack of toilets is an enduring shame.
On his stump, the new prime minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist BJP had promised, “Toilets first, Temples later”. He needs to do that sooner to save lives of more women.
By: Soutik Biswas
Posted on: May 30, 2014
Thousands of India’s lowest “untouchable” caste celebrated the election of a ratcatcher as Bihar’s chief minister on Tuesday amid hopes that their days as the country’s most backward and marginalised minority might finally be coming to an end.
Jitan Ram Manjhi, 68, who was born into the blighted Musahar community and grew up catching and eating rats, was sworn in as chief minister in a ceremony that marked the most extraordinary rise of any politician in the history of India.
While Narendra Modi’s rise to prime minister was aided by his origins as a tea boy and several Dalits have broken through the caste barriers to become powerful political figures – B. R Ambedkar, the revered author of the Indian constitution, and Mayawati, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh – none of them can match the rise of Mr Manjhi.
His ratcatcher Musahar caste is the very lowest of India’s 900 Dalit sub-castes who do the dirtiest jobs considered the most repellent to higher castes.
India’s Dalits or ‘untouchables’ live below the four Hindu castes of Brahmin priests and teachers, Kshatriya warriors and rulers, Vaishya traders and Shudra servants, and have suffered routine violence and discrimination for centuries as a ‘polluting’ presence.
They are excluded from Hindu temples, banned from drinking water from wells used by higher castes and their children are forced to eat separately at school. Those who demand equal rights are often made outcasts and evicted from their homes.
But while all Dalits suffer inhuman and brutal treatment, none of them are quite as marginalised as the Musahar.
They account for almost half of Bihar’s 80 million population, but hardly any of them have a government job, while literacy rates are among the very lowest in the whole country – six per cent of Musahar men can read and write and only two per cent of women.
Many of them now work as bonded farm labourers.
Campaigners for Musahar rights said on Tuesday they believe the election of Mr Manjhi as chief minister will finally roll back the prejudice they suffer and allow them to take their place in mainstream society.
“It’s an empowering development for the millions of Musahars of Bihar. We have been oppressed for centuries by the upper classes and his appointment as the chief minister of Bihar is a historic step”, said Umesh Kumar Manjhi of the Rashtriya Musahar-Bhuyian Vikash Parishad group.
“Musahar are landless agricultural workers and are treated as outcasts even by Dalits. Traditionally we are a community of rat catchers and we continue to do so now because of poverty. Jitan Ram Manjhi is a first generation literate and the only one to reach the top.
“He has struggled like any other Musahar. His parents worked on farms and hunted rats to feed themselves. Jitan, in his early childhood, worked with his parents and hunted rats”, he explained.
Dr Shaibal Gupta, director of the Asian Development Research Institute, said the Musahar are untouchable to other “untouchables” and their exclusion is so widespread that many of them have joined a Maoist insurgency.
He said Mr Manjhi’s appointment as chief minister was part of Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal (United)’s strategy to win over the majority ‘Mahadalit’ community – the lowest Dalit castes – and prevent Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party winning power in the state.
“They have never had representation in the system. One cannot even find a Musahar peon (messenger) in government. It is a historic moment for breaking India’s caste barriers”, he said.
Mr Manjhi’s fortunes changed in the early 1980s when he became a Congress member of the state assembly.
He later became tribal welfare minister in the Janata Dal (United) government and urged people to eat rat meat when rodents were blamed for eating 50 per cent of the state’s grain stocks.
Posted on: May 20, 2014
Water conservation minister and Dalit leader Nitin Raut on Monday took his own government to task over the spurt in cases of Dalit atrocities. He said that such cases have been increasing in Maharashtra. He has asked chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to call a special Cabinet meeting to discuss the issue in detail.
Mr Raut visited villages of Osmanabad, Buldhana and Ahmednagar where cases of Dalit atrocities have been reported recently. Referring to them, Mr Raut said, “Such cases have been on the rise. In Ahmednagar alone, this is the second case of Dalit atrocity within a year and the state government had to take it seriously.” He was referring to the murder of 17-year-old Nitin Aage at Kharda village of Ahmednagar.
The minister has written a letter to the CM for a special meeting of the Cabinet to discuss the issue and said he would raise the issue in the meeting on Wednesday.
On whether the state has failed to curb such incidents or is it a failure of the home department, he said, “You can interpret it as you like, but all I can say is that the cases of atrocities against Dalits have increased in Maharashtra and this needs to be stopped.”
He also expressed shock over anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare’s silence. “I am shocked as to why a senior social worker like Mr Hazare is mum even when Ahmednagar is his home district. In less than a year, this is the second case where a Dalit youth was brutally murdered and he has not uttered a single word on it,” Mr Raut said.
“I believe all political parties and social activists should come together to solve this problem as the mentality of the people needs to be changed. We have laws and the accused will be convicted, but such incidents will be curbed only when the mindset changes,” he said.
Posted on: May 6, 2014
Children from Dalit, tribal and Muslim communities are being blatantly discriminated against in schools in rural areas in several states of the country, says a shocking report released by an international rights group on Tuesday.
The discrimination, the Human Rights Watch report titled ‘They Say We’re Dirty’ says, includes “teachers asking Dalit children to sit separately, making insulting remarks about Muslims and tribal students and village authorities not responding when girls are kept from the classroom”.
The report also says “teachers and other students often address these children using derogatory terms for their caste, community, tribe, or religion”.
“In some schools, children from vulnerable communities are not ever considered for leadership roles such as class monitor because of their caste or community. Many are expected to perform unpleasant jobs such as cleaning toilets. Schools in marginalised neighborhoods often have the poorest infrastructure and least well-trained teachers; many have fewer teachers than required,” the report said.
The report was prepared with interviews with more than 160 people, including 85 children, to examine obstacles to implementation of the Right to Education Act, said Human Rights Watch.
Here are some of the instances of bias the children face on the basis of caste and religion, as cited in the report:
1. This is what a student from the Ghasiya tribal community studying at a school in Sonbhadra district in UP was quoted as saying: “The teacher tells us to sit on the other side. If we sit with others, she scolds us and asks us to sit separately … The teacher doesn’t sit with us because she says we ‘are dirty.’ The other children also call us dirty everyday so sometimes we get angry and hit them.”
2. The principal of the same school in Sonbhadra said this about the tribal children: “These Ghasiya children come to school late, come when they want to come, no matter how much we tell them to come on time. Their main aim is to come and eat, not to study. Just see how dirty they are.”
3. A 14-year-old boy, working at a brick kiln, recounted: “The teacher always made us sit in a corner of the room, and would throw keys at us [when she was angry]. We only got food if anything was left after other children were served… [G]radually [we] stopped going to school.”
4. A dalit girl from Bihar said this: “Other children don’t let us sit with them. Some of the girls say, ‘Yuck, you people are Dom [street sweepers] – a dirty caste….’ The teachers never say anything even when we complain.”
5. A 12-year-old boy, from the Muslim community in Delhi, said this: “The teachers don’t let us participate in any sports. Class monitors are always chosen from among Hindu boys and they always complain about us Muslim boys.”
6. Sharda, a Dalit girl, said she was withdrawn from school by her parents because they were worried about her safety. She was married at age 14 against her will. Before her wedding, when she went to school despite her parents’ refusal, she found that her name was no longer in the school register. While some villagers cautioned her father against marrying her at such a young age, no local authorities or members of the gram panchayat intervened.
Posted on: April 22, 2014
It’s been argued that 2014 will be the biggest year in the history of democracy, with more people than ever before going to the polls to decide their own fate.
Nowhere is that tag more obvious than in India, which is seeing a truly enormous number of people voting between April 7 and May 12. After the votes are counted May 16, we’ll know who Indians have elected to their parliament. Whatever party has a majority, or is able to form a majority coalition, will form a government from which a prime minister will lead the country.
Even for those who know nothing about India, this really looks to be one of the most fascinating political events this year, and not just because of its scale. The election is taking place in an increasingly important tech-savvy country, with vital issues of economic problems and nationalism at stake, and a choice between a world famous name and a controversial outsider. It’s a fascinating moment in democracy, and one that shouldn’t be ignored.
Here’s what you should know.
The staggering numbers
As we mentioned before, India’s election is ridiculously huge. For example, on Thursday, the biggest day so far, the BBC reported that more than 110 million voters were eligible to cast votes. That’s almost double the number of people in the United Kingdom, and 30 million less than the entire population of Russia.
Crazier still, Thursday’s figure is just a small part of the broader whole. In total, 815 million people are eligible to vote, as shown in the graphic below, produced by the Indian Embassy in Washington.
As you can probably imagine, organizing 815 million people to vote is a difficult procedure: More than 930,000 polling stations are being set up around the country, with 11 million personnel. In the state of Uttar Pradesh alone, the election will cost 3.7 billion rupees, or $61.5 million, the New York Times reported. That also helps to explain why the election has been staggered on nine days over about a month.
It’s an election of firsts
As the graphic above explains, for more than 100 million people, it’s their first chance to vote. That is a big factor, and the candidates are aware of it: This map, produced by the 545, shows where election rallies are being held vs. the number of new voters in each state:
In another new twist, the election will be the first to allow non-resident Indians to vote (though they will still have to travel to India to vote), and voters will be allowed to answer “none of the above.”
One of the most interesting shifts, however, is the sudden role of technology in the election. Five years have passed since the last election, and in that time circumstances have clearly changed: An SMS alert system called COMET will be used, for example, and Facebook is believed to have been a key factor in getting young, urban voters more engaged that in previous votes (read more about that over at Buzzfeed).
The price of an onion may play a key role
Indian laborers carry onions toward waiting vehicles at a wholesale market yard in Hyderabad in August 2013. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)
Readers of the financial press may have noticed a lot of headlines coming out about the price of an onion in India over the past few months. “Rains may defeat govt’s efforts to calm onion prices quickly” ran one Reuters headline in October. “India to Import Onions for First Time Since 2011 as Prices Surge” Bloomberg wrote a couple of months before.
It sounds strange, but we should remember these questions now, as onions might be a good way to think of one of the key issues in the Indian elections: The economy.
While India was one of the famous BRICS (along with Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa), it’s lagged behind the expectations of others, especially China (the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the label later said that India was the biggest disappointment of the lot).
In 2013, a record 35 percent of Indians polled felt that the national economy was getting worse, according to Gallup, and Pew reports that 89 percent of people felt that rising prices were a “very big problem.”
As Soutik Biswas wrote for the BBC this month, the wildly varying price of an onion in India (it’s reported to have inflated 270 percent over 2013) is one very clear example of the weakness of the Indian economy: in particular, highlighting how India’s farming economy is reliant on favorable weather and how prices are inflated by a complex supply chain.
It’s become a political issue, with the 2010 “onion crisis” still held against the ruling Congress Party, but onions have a history in India. When Indira Gandhi was swept back to power in the 1980 election, her rallying issue was the price of the onion, and when she won, people called it “the Onion election.” Within two years of her election, rising onion prices caused her own political crisis.
The familiar name: Rahul Gandhi
Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi waves to his supporters during a public rally meeting for the upcoming Lok Sabha election in Bangalore, India, 07 April 2014. The world’s largest elections began in India 07 April with millions of voters casting ballots in the first phase of the five-week long polls, officials said. Over 76 per cent of the 7.7 million eligible voters exercised their right to vote in six constituencies of the north-eastern states of Assam and Tripura, deputy election commissioner Alok Shukla told reporters in New Delhi. About 815 million Indians are eligible to vote in the elections to choose lawmakers to the 543-member Lok Sabha or lower house of parliament. The elections staggered over nine phases are due to end May 12. Votes are to be counted on May 16, and results expected to be known the same day.
Rahul Gandhi waves to his supporters during a public rally for the upcoming Lok Sabha election in Bangalore, India, on April 7. (Jagadeesh NV/EPA)
You probably recognize the name here. Rahul Gandhi is often referred to as the “heir apparent” or a “scion” of India’s most prominent political dynasty. His grandmother and father were both prime ministers of India. Now, as head of the Congress Party, Gandhi is facing his biggest test, as he is expected to carry the party into the elections during a time it has been marred by economic incompetence and damaging corruption scandals.
Gandhi, who has been a member of India’s parliament since 2004, was elevated to the head of his party last year. Since then, he has tried to distance himself as a different candidate, indicating a generational shift of sorts in India’s politics, in which a majority of politicians are 60 years and older and have been in politics for decades. Although many in his party wanted him to have a prominent role sooner, he was seen as someone who was shy, often being referred to as the “reluctant prince.” Gandhi’s campaigning in some of the most important states during the state elections last year was seen as a failure, as the Congress party performed poorly, raising doubts about his leadership abilities.
Earlier in January, Gandhi appeared for his first formal interview almost a decade after entering politics. During his interview, he expressed his vision for India, focusing primarily on empowering women and mobilizing the youths, but he failed to address why his party was unable to tackle corruption.
Gandhi has campaigned aggressively this year, trying to woo younger voters. During his speech in Rajasthan last month, he promised that his party would give opportunities to new and young faces to represent their people. With polls showing rival Narendra Modi in the lead, Gandhi has lately launched a series of blistering attacks on his opponent. “He will divide the nation into pieces, and make people fight against each other,” he said of Modi during an election rally in Chhattisgarh.
With a faltering economy, his party’s reputation is already in jeopardy. If Gandhi loses to Modi, which many say is bound to happen, that would likely mean the long-held family grip on one of India’s most powerful political parties will also slowly start to slip away.
The favorite: Narendra Modi
Chief Minister of the western Gujarat state and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi© is surrounded by commandos during an election campaign rally in support of the BJP candidate for Darjeeling constituency, on the outskirts of Siliguri on April 10, 2014. Indians have begun voting in the world’s biggest election which is set to sweep the Hindu nationalist opposition to power at a time of low growth, anger about corruption and warnings about religious unrest. India’s 814-million-strong electorate are forecast to inflict a heavy defeat on the ruling Congress party, in power for 10 years and led by India’s famous Gandhi dynasty.
Narendra Modi is surrounded by commandos during an election campaign rally in support of the BJP candidate for the Darjeeling constituency on the outskirts of Siliguri, India, on April 10. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Gety Images)
The man who will most likely become the leader of world’s largest democracy sleeps only about 3.5 hours a night, admits to being a workaholic and says he has no time to read books and no pastimes or any other activities except for early-morning yoga.
For some in India, Narendra Modi is a role model, a muscular administrator who has the competence to turn around the nation. As a chief minister of the state of Gujarat, Modi was credited for rooting out corruption and promoting rapid economic growth, making it an investment hub for international companies.
But for others, Modi is an extremely controversial figure (as our former colleague Max Fisher puts it, much of the world seems afraid of him) with a worrying Hindu nationalist history. During the riots in Gujarat in 2002, Modi was accused of not only failing to prevent them, but going as far as encouraging Hindu mobs to massacre nearly 2,000 Muslims. Modi’s visa to the United States was revoked in 2005 and has been denied one since then for largely that reason. However, if Modi wins the election, it would put the United States in a difficult position because he would automatically qualify for a diplomatic visa (A-1 status) as head of state.
India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has in some measure gambled by giving Modi the candidacy for prime minister, with a belief that the wounds of the 2002 killings have healed and people have moved on. So far, it has proven to be a good gamble for the Hindu nationalist party, as India has seen massive support for Modi. But at the same time, there are fears that in taking a risk with Modi, BJP is alienating the Muslim population, who make up 15 percent of India’s voters.
But if his campaigning across the country is any sign, Modi seems to have done his homework. According to the 545, Modi is the only candidate who has visited several key states that are home to a total of about 23 million first-time voters. Drawing that demographic to support him will be key, as his competitors Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal are also seeking to attract young voters.
That’s it for now. India’s voting will continue until May 12. The votes will be counted May 16.
By Adam Taylor and Anup Kaphle
Posted on: April 11, 2014
The SC directive asking the Centre and states to end manual scavenging and offer compensation to the workers might finally restore dignity to three lakh Dalits
In spite of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, passed in September last year, the Supreme Court had to step in to put an end to the degrading vocation of manual scavenging. Its directives to the Centre and states to strictly implement the Act are scathing reminders of how little the rest of India cares about those who carry out the dirtiest of jobs at grave personal risk. Without them, our ‘civilised’ world would have crumbled long back.
According to government estimates, there are about three lakh Dalits, mostly women, engaged in the medieval practice of clearing excreta from dry latrines — declared illegal since 1993 — and cleaning drains.
The impact of the 1993 law can be gauged from the 2011 Census report which mentions the existence of 7,94,390 such toilets in the country.
Like most meaningful legislations, the 2013 Act too remains only on paper. The Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS), which offers vocational training, cash subsidy and loan, is slow to deliver and prone to corruption, with middle men being the prime beneficiaries of the cash component of the scheme. The SC’s March 27 order for rehabilitation, which also includes providing education and residential plots or houses will make a significant difference in the lives of valmikis.
The other critical issue is the hazardous nature of the vocation. Asphyxiation is common even as the anti-manual scavenging act makes protective gear mandatory for a person entering the underground tunnels.
The death of 30 workers in Tamil Nadu since February 2012 points to grave laxity in safety measures. In such a milieu, the apex court’s decision to award Rs10 lakh compensation for each sewer death occurring due to lack of safety gear is only human. It will now make negligent waste management companies, employing people on a temporary basis, value human lives. The court order doesn’t spare the Railways, the biggest employer for such jobs, either, as the latter is now being forced to look for suitable alternatives for its workforce.
The failure to end manual scavenging points to an even bigger failure in tackling India’s toilet problems. For a country aspiring to be a world leader and an economic giant, its 640 million people defecate in the open, producing 73,000 tonnes of waste every day. The utter disregard for sanitation results in 768,000 deaths every year and a loss of US $54 billion due to various factors such as medical bills and missed work. After all these years, India’s toilet revolution is still a pipe dream.
However, at the root of it all is society’s criminal indifference to its own people. That a fellow human being, a Dalit, has to bear the waste of a privileged person for livelihood is a violation of the human spirit. It negates the cardinal principles of equality and the dignity of labour. Right from the days of Gandhi’s Harijan movement, scavenging has been publicly denounced — even Manmohan Singh has called it “one of the darkest blots on India’s development process”. Yet it has continued, right under our nose, and much to our relief, because it has spared us the ignominy of getting our own hands dirty. We have conveniently dumped the responsibility on the underprivileged who for generations have been subjected to such humiliation.
Posted on: March 31, 2014
Even as major parties are fine-tuning their political manifestoes for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Kerala will get a dalit manifesto, drafted by four young dalits, following a successful Facebook campaign.
The final version will be available online (https://www.facebook.com/dalitmanifesto) on Wednesday after a nine-day Facebook campaign that began on March 10.
In its approach (relying exclusively on social media) and focus this would be a rare step in Indian electoral arena.
The dalit manifesto sets a six-point agenda for political parties in Kerala. It broadly focuses on land, education, housing, health and entrepreneurship. The key demands of the dalit community are:
1. Land for agriculture in villages and commerce and industry in urban areas.
2. Educational stipends and grants should be increased not merely nominally, but corresponding to price index and inflation.
3. Wherever government, semi-government and private organizations set up industrial and commercial shopping complexes on land given free by the government, dalits should be given a stake in real estate
4. In IT parks and corridors, there should be an exclusive incubation park for dalit entrepreneurs.
5. Extend reservation rights to dalits among Christian and Muslim communities.
6. Make Ambedkarism part of the curriculum, deviating from the current practice of treating Ambedkar as the architect of the Constitution.
The campaign is the brainchild of V B Ajay Kumar, a rights activist; Jeevachaithanyan, a software engineer; P S Pradeep, a multi-media student; and Prashant Koliyoor, an activist.
“A manifesto is an important document in governance even though the common man as well as political parties tend to disregard them. When we began this, we wanted to collate the aspirations of the dalit community. This has been an encouraging exercise. It’s the first campaign among Kerala’s online dalit community and we have received overwhelming response, close to 5,000 daily,” said Ajay Kumar.
Kerala has two reserved Lok Sabha constituencies for dalits – Alathur and Mavelikkara.
Both LDF and UDF, the two leading political alliances in the state, have fielded dalit candidates in these mandatory constituencies but have ignored dalit community in the remaining 18 parliament seats.
Ajay Kumar, director of RIGHTS, an NGO based in Thiruvananthapuram, said the project has not been carried out with the backing of dalit organizations. “We will not hold a press meet (since it costs a minimum of Rs 3,000), but will release the document online. It will be interesting to watch the response of frontline parties such as Congress, CPM and BJP,” he said.
Posted on: March 19, 2014
Low cost private schools may provide education to all children, educationist James Tooley said Thursday, adding that attention is not being given to such schools.
Recounting his experience in Hyderabad, Tooley, a professor of education policy at the Newcastle University in Britain, who has served as a consultant for the World Bank, said he was struck by the ubiquity of private schools in a slum area.
“The parents in the slum did not want to send their children to government schools, but they sent them to a low cost private schools,” he said.
“This is not just the case in India, it is so in the entire developing world,” Tooley said participating in a conference on school education organised by industrial body CII.
Toby Linden, lead education specialist at the World Bank, stressed that Indian government has not been trying to find new ways to use finance education.
“The same pattern has been repeated over years, they are not thinking of creative ways to use finance for the education sector,” he said.
A recent report by NGO Pratham released earlier this year showed the enrolment level in schools has made significant strides with 97 percent of children now in schools, compared with 93 percent in 2005.
However, the quality of learning as measured by reading, writing, and arithmetic, has not shown much improvement as per the report.
The study also noted that there has been a steady increase in private school enrolment from 18.7 percent in 2006 to 29 percent in 2013.
Posted on: March 14, 2014
India’s Dalits were once known as untouchables in the days when the caste system had no laws against it.
Although the federal government has tried to give Dalits a lift-up with affirmative action legislation, some Dalits says they are more untouchable than Dalitis from the Hindu majority.
These are Christian and Muslim Dalits.
Human Rights Watch in 2007 entitled the situation for Dalits: “India: ‘Hidden Apartheid’ of Discrimination Against Dalits.”
National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) member churches expressed deep concern over discrimination faced by Christian and Muslim Dalit communities in their country after a meeting they organized on Wednesday.
The churches, which belong to the World Council of Churches, were, demanding protection of the right to freedom of religion in a meeting with Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
“Both Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslim are not considered Dalits by our government, and hence, they are denied affirmative action programmes that empower marginalized communities,” said Samuel Jayakumar, the NCCI’s executive secretary for the Commission on Policy, Governance and Public Witness, who chaired the meeting.
“We see this as religion based discrimination against Christian and Muslim Dalits in India,” he said.
Their meeting took place while pollsters were predicting a sweeping national election win in two months time for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which some of its opponents say has a “Hindu nationalist” agenda.
CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE
Father Z. Devasagayaraj of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India said that Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims are denied affirmative action programmes to which they are entitled in education and employment.
He too cited examples of the difficulties these communities face as they do not come under the legal prevention of atrocities act; they do not have access to special programs of the government for Dalits; nor can they contest in certain elections.
Due to all this the development of the community has been seriously affected.
The meeting was attended by church leaders, human rights activists, lawyers, academics, leaders of the Muslim community and representatives of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, and was organized by the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI).
Bielefeldt was visiting India until February 27 invited by civil society organizations including the Indian Social Institute and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
The NCCI said that Ramesh Nathan from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights spoke about numerous forms of “untouchability” resulting from the caste system practiced in India.
Nathan noted that Dalit Christians are most vulnerable to caste-based violence but are not protected by the Prevention of Atrocities Act in the Indian constitution, which is meant to prevent atrocities against the scheduled castes, one of the classifications of Dalits.
The Indian constitution includes Dalits in the list of scheduled castes as the most marginalized communities who need protection.
However when converted to Christianity or Islam, these individuals and communities are excluded from the protective and affirmative measures offered by the Indian government.
Leila Passah, general secretary of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of India also raised with the Special Rapporteur the “inhumane treatment meted out to the Dalit community by the Indian police, when they organized a peaceful protest in Delhi.”
Passah said, “The police beat up protestors with sticks as Christian and Muslim leaders marched towards the Parliament House to hand over to the prime minster of India a memorandum of demands.”
Media reports said some 30 people were injured in this incident and several protestors including church leaders were detained in a police station on December 11.
Bielefeldt said he recognized issues of discrimination against Dalits in India, calling religious conversion a test case for freedom of religion. He noted that the right to equality has been denied to the Dalit community in India and they cannot be forced to follow a particular religion.
By: Peter Kenny
Posted on: March 4, 2014
It’s an open secret that has come to haunt the Karnataka government again. Taking note of the Devadasi system in the state, the Apex Court recently directed the Karnataka Chief Secretary to take necessary steps to prevent women from being forced into it. In spite of a ban on the age-old system, which human rights activists term akin to slavery, Devadasi dedication is still prevalent in the country.
Traditionally, a Devadasi is a woman dedicated to the worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life, but the system is believed to have allegedly become illegal prostitution. “It’s a shameful and sad reality. The Devadasi system is still prevalent in various pockets of Karntaka. After reading an article in a newspaper about the plight of former Devadasis, I decided to make the Kannada film Thippaji Circle, which is based on the real-life story of a Devadasi named Thippaji. She had revolted against the social evil and opened a small shop to provide education to her daughters. In Chitradurga, a circle is named after her, as a mark of honour to the brave lady,” says director Aditya Chikkanna.
The film, starring Pooja Gandhi in the lead role, faced legal trouble after the family of Thippaji took objection to the subject of the film. The shoot for the film was stopped after the team received a stay order against its making. However, the case was withdrawn in January, and the director says that the film is set to release in a month’s time.
Incidentally, the system has been banned by the state government for over three decades, when the Karnataka Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, 1982 was implemented. But members of the Mahila Abhivruddhi Matthu Samrakshana Samsthe (MASS), a society for and run by former Devadasis in Belgaum district, say that without the support of the government and society at large, the system cannot be eradicated.
Founded in 1997 by Shobha Gasti with about 2,500 members (that has now grown to about 3,600), the society aims to sustain the momentum of a project initiated by the Karnataka State Women’s Development Corporation and Bangalore-based non-governmental organization MYRADA to bring social justice and equality to Devadasis in Belgaum district.
Seethavva Jodahatti, a former Devadasi and member of MASS says that the organization has managed to stop the practice in Belgaum, and is looking to achieve the same in 10 other districts of the state.
In fact, members of MASS recently demanded that the project to rehabilitate former Devadasis be returned to them. According to reports, the project was handled by Shobha’s team at MASS between 2002 and 2010, but was later handed over to a retired Child Development Project Officer (CDPO), leading to problems in its implementation.
Shobha has been quoted as saying, “We are people who have ourselves suffered as Devadasis and best suited to ensure that the system is completely rooted out. We don’t want just economic independence. We also want our children to be treated well.”
A THRIVING SYSTEM
Besides Karnataka, the Devadasi system flourishes in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. To ascertain the exact number of Devadasis in Karnataka, the women and child development department conducted a survey during 1993-94 and found that there were 22,873 Devadasis spread across 10 districts.
By: Maitreyee Boruah
Times of India
Posted on: February 19, 2014
Child trafficking is the recruitment, transport, transfer or receipt of a child for exploitation.
The International Labour Organization estimates that globally, 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.
The US State Department ranks countries by how they adhere to anti-human trafficking laws. They are categorised as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 watchlist, Tier 3 and Special Case, with Tier 1 as the best ranking. India falls in Tier 2, which means it does not completely adhere to the minimum standards but is making significant efforts to change the situation.
The main reason for child trafficking is poverty. With industrialisation, the loss of traditional means of livelihood in rural areas forced people to migrate to cities for work. This leads to exploitation of children for commercial sex and cheap labour.
The belts of exploitation
India is a source, route of transit and destination for trafficked women and girls. Interstate trafficking accounts for 89 per cent of trafficking in India.
Bihar, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh procure the largest number of minor girls. The biggest buyers of minors are West Bengal and Maharashtra. Punjab and Haryana are popular for ‘arranged’ marriages.
Pre-pubertal girls from scheduled castes are dedicated to different deities for religious prostitution. After living a few years with priests, they are sold to traffickers. Their market value falls after puberty. This is mostly practised in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
Sex tourism is the exploitation of young boys and girls, especially street children, by international and Indian tourists. It is prevalent in the Agra-Delhi-Jaipur belt, as well as south and south-west India—Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Orissa. Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan are emerging as destinations. Sex tourism is facilitated by travel agencies, tour operators and hotels. Reports indicate that young boys are brought from Gulf countries to south India for prostitution.
Posted on: February 4, 2014
On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, in commemoration of the 85th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth, an historic event will occur in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill. Beginning at 3 p.m., descendants of some of America’s most prominent African American Legacy Families will join U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressional members and staff, and representatives of Dalit Freedom Network in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center’s Congressional Auditorium to sign “The Declaration of Empathy” which addresses the modern-day oppression and enslavement of the Dalit people of India. This event is a collaborative effort between Gye Nyame, Inc. (a nonprofit that focuses on cultural and educational advancement), Dalit Freedom Network-USA (a nonprofit dedicated to ending the subjugation of the Dalits in India), and Quander Historical Society (which represents the descendants of George Washington’s slaves). The general public is invited to attend.
The Dalits, India’s so-called “Untouchables,” are history’s longest standing oppressed people. Today, there are an estimated 250 million Dalits in India still being subjected to harsh and inhumane treatment that rivals the worst aspects of historical slavery. In 2007, the U.S. Congress passed House Concurrent Resolution 139, “expressing the sense of the Congress that the United States should address the ongoing problem of untouchability in India.”
Now, several prominent African American Legacy Families, descendants of those who directly experienced unspeakable degradation and brutality during the dark days of American slavery, wish to voice their own concern and empathy for those families suffering the misery of being trapped in modern-day slavery. The Quander Family (descendants of the slaves of George Washington) is joining together with descendants of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Banneker and Mary McCleod Bethune, among others, in a spirit of unity and solidarity to assert that African Americans and fellow Americans should oppose the modern-day enslavement of the Dalits and declare empathy with their plight. Also attending will be descendants of Solomon Northrup, whose autobiographical memoir was the subject of director Steve McQueen’s widely-acclaimed 2013 film “12 Years A Slave.” This event will become a milestone in the history of the contemporary abolition movement.
Rohulamin Quander, President of the Quander Historical Society, states, “The Quander Family, like other African American families, still feels the pain and sting that institutional discrimination visited upon us. With this Declaration of Empathy, we stand in solidarity with the oppressed Dalit people of India. Until they are free, none of us is, indeed, free.” According to Dr. Ana Steele, President of Dalit Freedom Network, “The Declaration of Empathy is the culmination of a tremendous commitment on all our parts to bring the Dalits’ plight into the public square, and what we hope will be the beginning of an international groundswell of support for their freedom.”
As a lead-in to this event, Howard University’s African American Studies Department will host a Round Table/Panel Discussion in the Browsing Room of Founders Library on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 14th, beginning at 1 p.m. Topics to be explored include the past efforts of Dalit individuals and organizations to reach out to black Americans, having long identified their struggle with African Americans’ struggle for civil rights, and how to now forge meaningful and mutually beneficial contacts and associations based on the continuing struggle for civil and human rights. Panelists include Dr. Bachuchu Lal, President of the Ambedkar Association USA, and Dr. Howard Dodson, Director of the Moorland Spingarn Research Center, H.U. African American Studies Department.
By hosting “The Declaration of Empathy” event on the birth date of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the conveners intend to magnify and draw upon the courage and conviction of the historic human rights champion. During a sermon given at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 4, 1965, Dr. King reflected upon his journey to India, and acknowledged the parallel between African Americans and Dalits, stating, in part, “Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.” Through declaring empathy with the oppressed and downtrodden of India, participants of “The Declaration of Empathy” signing event hope to further the possibility that slavery, in all of its aspects, will someday be dredged from the human reality, for once and for all.
Posted on: January 15, 2014
Just outside of the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, by country roads in a flat green landscape, smoke rises off huge furnaces.
The heat hardens mud clay into the bricks that are making modern India.
Close by the air is acrid with coal soot, catching in the throat.
Like a scene from a long-gone age, men and women walk in single file up and down steps as if climbing a pyramid. They strain under a load, balanced in yoke-like hods, to deliver freshly-moulded bricks to the furnace.
Down below, knee deep in water, their clothes ragged, workers hack at clay in a wet pit to make mix into mud.
“The work is hard standing in the water, lifting the bricks,” says Gurdha Maji, 35, as he packs mud into a brick mould and levels it off.
“We make 1,500 bricks a day. Only after six months will we get released.”
‘Against the law’
Nearby, there is a mound of coal. Woman and children squat at the edge. Most are barefoot. With ungloved fingers a woman holds down a piece of coal and smashes it with a hammer. Two children, barely four years old, their faces smeared black, break coal by hitting pieces against each other.
“All of this is against the law,” says Aeshalla Krishna, a labour activist with the human rights group Prayas.
“This is against the minimum wage act of 1948, the bonded labour act of 1976, the interstate migrant workers act of 1979. Child labour. Sexual harassment. Physical abuse. It’s all happening. Every day.”
The bricks are used to build offices, factories and call centres, the cityscapes of a booming economic miracle, and more and more, these buildings are used by multi-national companies with a global reach.
Yet, Mr Krishna says he doesn’t know of any bricks made under working conditions that would be acceptable under international standards.
The six-month season is now beginning when tens of thousands of families travel, mostly from the state of Orissa to work in the brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh.
India brick kiln workers Many women and children work at the kilns for ‘12-18 hours a day’, say activists
Among many reports of abuses, labour contractors last week were accused of cutting off the hands of two workers who tried to leave their jobs.
The brick kilns we visited comprised the most poverty-wracked communities of India.
Children were everywhere. There was no safety equipment. Stories of illness, withheld wages and other issues were common place.
“They work 12 to 18 hours a day, pregnant women, children, adolescent girls,” says Mr Krishna. “Their diet is poor. There is no good water. They live like slaves.”
The situation has been like this for decades, if not centuries. Until recently, it was widely accepted as something that would improve slowly time. Campaigners say there’s been little sense of urgency.
But in 2011, the United Nations and the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) combined forces to introduce new guidelines for multinational companies operating in countries like India.
These companies now have a direct responsibility to check on human rights abuses anywhere in their supply chains.
“It’s a real game changer,” says Tyler Gillard, the OECD’s legal adviser.
“Any alleged abuses of human rights associated with the production of materials such as bricks and directly linked to a company’s operations, products or services is a serious issue.”
Britain has set up a National Contact Point for alleged abuses and this year made changes to its Companies Act to require companies to include human rights issues in their annual reports, from 1 October.
“We would expect any member to take very seriously the evidence of human rights abuses that are related to their business whether directly or indirectly,” says Peter McAllister, director of Ethical Trading Initiative whose members include multinationals.
Children of India brick kiln workers Many children fall ill after working in the kilns
And an international alliance of trade unions, Union Solidarity International, is launching a campaign – Blood Bricks – with the aim of forcing companies to carry out checks.
“The scale of forced and child labour in the brick kilns of India is of epidemic proportions,” says UK Andrew Brady. “Simply put cheap bricks means cheap office buildings on the back of blood bricks and slave labour.”
The Indian government insists it is on top the issue, providing housing, clean water and schools in the kilns around Hyderabad.
“The labour market is very conducive for multinationals,” says Dr A Ashok, labour commissioner for Andhra Pradesh.
“We have taken action against brick kiln owners who have tried to exploit workers. There is no bonded labour and the minimum wage is paid. If there are some pockets here and there, they need to be rectified.”
In squalid mud hut that’s used for accommodation, we find Madhiri Mallik. She’s five years old. The only clothing she wears is a pair of shorts.
Mr Krishna discovers that she came from the state of Orissa with her parents, Gurubhol and Amar, and her two year old brother, Vishnu.
Mr Krishna crouches down to check her eyes. “She is suffering from an eye problem because of the smoke. See how the eye is white. The haemoglobin is very low. She has a headache from the smoking bricks and her stomach is bad because of the water.”
Regardless of what governments or human rights activists say, under the new trade guidelines it is up to each company to establish facts on the ground.
If they find cases in their supply chains like little Madhiri, they must take steps to try to help her.
By: Humphrey Hawksley
Posted on: January 2, 2014
On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, in commemoration of the 85th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an historic event will occur in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill. Beginning at 3pm, descendants of some of America’s most prominent African American Legacy Families will join U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressional members and staff, and representatives of Dalit Freedom Network in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center’s Congressional Auditorium to sign “The Declaration of Empathy” which addresses the modern-day oppression and enslavement of the Dalit people of India.
The Dalits, India’s so-called “Untouchables,” are history’s longest standing oppressed people. Today, there are an estimated 250 million Dalits in India still being subjected to harsh and inhumane treatment that rivals the worst aspects of historical slavery. In 2007, the U.S. Congress passed House Concurrent Resolution 139, “expressing the sense of the Congress that the United States should address the ongoing problem of untouchability in India.”
Now, several prominent African American Legacy Families, descendants of those who directly experienced unspeakable degradation and brutality during the dark days of American slavery, wish to voice their own concern and empathy for those families suffering the misery of being trapped in modern-day slavery. The Quander Family (descendants of the slaves of George Washington) is joining together with descendants of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Banneker, among others, in a spirit of unity and solidarity to assert that African Americans and fellow Americans should oppose the modern-day enslavement of the Dalits and declare empathy with their plight. Also, expected to attend will be descendants of Solomon Northrup, whose autobiographical memoir was the subject of director Steve McQueen’s widely-acclaimed 2013 film “12 Years A Slave.” This event will become a milestone in the history of the contemporary abolition movement.
“The Declaration of Empathy” event is a collaborative effort between Gye Nyame, Inc. (a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on cultural and educational advancement), Dalit Freedom Network-USA (a nonprofit dedicated to ending the subjugation of the Dalits in India), and Quander Historical Society (which represents the descendants of George Washington’s slaves). Rohulamin Quander, President of the Quander Historical Society, states, “The Quander Family, like other African American families, still feels the pain and sting that institutional discrimination visited upon us. With this Declaration of Empathy, we stand in solidarity with the oppressed Dalit people of India. Until they are free, none of us is, indeed, free.”
As a lead-in to this event, Howard University’s African American Studies Department will host a Round Table/Panel Discussion in the Browsing Room of Founders Library on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 14th, beginning at 1pm. Topics to be explored include the past efforts of Dalit individuals and organizations to reach out to black Americans, having long identified their struggle with African Americans’ struggle for civil rights, and how to now forge meaningful and mutually beneficial contacts and associations based on the continuing struggle for civil and human rights.
By hosting “The Declaration of Empathy” event on the birth date of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the conveners intend to magnify and draw upon the courage and conviction of the historic human rights champion. During a sermon given at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 4, 1965, Dr. King reflected upon his journey to India, and acknowledged the parallel between African Americans and Dalits, stating, in part, “Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.” Through declaring empathy with the oppressed and downtrodden of India, participants of “The Declaration of Empathy” signing event hope to further the possibility that slavery, in all of its aspects, will someday be dredged from the human reality, for once and for all.
Posted on: December 31, 2013
There has been a substantial increase in the literacy rate among the Scheduled Caste people with the literacy rate going up to 77.9 per cent in 2011 from 69.1 per cent in 2001. The rural literacy has seen a jump from 64.3 per cent to 73.9 per cent while the urban literacy has increased from 75 per cent to 83 per cent, according to a presentation given by deputy director of census operations, Puducherry, J Jayapragasam, at a workshop here on Wednesday.
The male literacy rate has gone up from 78.4 per cent to 85.2 percent, while the female literacy rate has increased from 60.1 per cent to 71.1 per cent
The work participating rate of SC has gone down from 40.2 per cent in 2001 to 38 per cent in 2011. More significantly, in rural areas, the rate has decreased from 44.4 per cent to 39.7 per cent. But in urban areas, it has gone up from 34.9 per cent to 35.9 per cent. While 66 per cent are male workers, 44 per cent are female workers.
A total of 18.98 per cent of the SC population in Puducherry town lives in slums, while 56 per cent of the population lives in slums in Yanam, 9.71 per cent in Mahe and 30.88 per cent in Karaikal.
While cultivators in the general population has declined from 3.18 per cent to 2.71 per cent in the last decade, among the SC population, it has marginally increased from 1.18 per cent to 1.62 per cent.
The literacy rate in slums is 82.37 per cent in Puducherry, 97.18 per cent in Mahe and 83.78 per cent in Karaikal. The agricultural labourers have declined from 55.36 per cent to 39.11 per cent. The percentage of SC population employed in household industry as compared to other industries has increased from 0.83 per cent to 1.03 per cent. In other industries also it increased from 42.63 per cent to 58.24 per cent.
Posted on: December 23, 2013
On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, in commemoration of the 85th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an historic event will occur in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill. Beginning at 3pm, descendants of some of America’s most prominent African American Legacy Families will join U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressional members and staff, and Dalit Freedom Network in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center’s Congressional Auditorium to sign “The Declaration of Empathy,” which addresses the modern-day oppression and enslavement of the Dalit people of India.
The Dalits, India’s so-called “Untouchables,” are history’s longest standing oppressed people. Today, there are an estimated 250 million Dalits in India still being subjected to harsh and inhumane treatment that rivals the worst aspects of historical slavery. In 2007, the U.S. Congress passed House Concurrent Resolution 139, “expressing the sense of the Congress that the United States should address the ongoing problem of untouchability in India.”
Now, several prominent African American Legacy Families, descendants of those who directly experienced unspeakable degradation and brutality during the dark days of American slavery, wish to voice their own concern and empathy for those families suffering the misery of being trapped in modern-day slavery. The Quander Family (descendants of the slaves of George Washington) is joining together with descendants of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Banneker in a spirit of unity and solidarity to assert that African-Americans and fellow Americans should oppose the modern-day enslavement of the Dalits and declare empathy with their plight. This event will become a milestone in the history of the contemporary abolition movement.
Rohulamin Quander, President of the Quander Historical Society and event producer, states, “The Quander Family, like other African American families, still feels the pain and sting that institutional discrimination visited upon us. With this Declaration of Empathy, we stand in solidarity with the oppressed Dalit people of India. Until they are free, none of us is, indeed, free.” According to Dr. Ana Steele, President of Dalit Freedom Network and event co-producer, “The Declaration of Empathy is the culmination of a tremendous commitment on all our parts to bring the Dalits’ plight into the public square, and what we hope will be the beginning of an international groundswell of support for their freedom.”
By hosting this event on the birth date of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the conveners intend to magnify and draw upon the courage and conviction of the historic human rights champion. During a sermon given at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 4, 1965, Dr. King reflected upon his journey to India, and acknowledged the parallel between African Americans and Dalits, stating, in part, “Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.” Through declaring empathy with the oppressed and downtrodden of India, participants of “The Declaration of Empathy” signing event hope to further the possibility that slavery, in all of its aspects, will someday be dredged from the human reality, for once and for all.
Media is invited and encouraged to attend and report on this timely and critical story.
Posted on: December 13, 2013
President Pranab Mukherjee led the nation in paying homage to Bharat Ratna Baba Saheb Dr. B R Ambedkar on his 58th death anniversary here today.
Mukherjee offered floral tributes at the statue of Baba Saheb at Sansad Bhavan Lawns in the Parliament House complex this morning.
Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Congress President Sonia Gandhi also offered tributes to the Father of the Indian Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar.
A number of functions are being organised to mark the occasion also known as Mahaparinirvan Diwas.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar popularly also known as Babasaheb, was an Indian jurist, political leader, philosopher, thinker, anthropologist, historian, orator, prolific writer, economist, scholar, editor, a revolutionary and one of the founding fathers of independent India. He was also the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of Indian Constitution.
Dr. Ambedkar was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1990.
Posted on: December 6, 2013
Home to over 500 bullocks a decade and half back, this village is left with just six bullocks. It means India’s serfdom has ended in this village. Dalits are no more under the command system of the village Thakurs. A no-fly zone to vultures, Dalits have come out of one of the most humiliating practices enforced on them for centuries — they no longer lift or skin dead animals. Animals are now buried causing extinction of vultures.
It is all over, laments Gulab Singh, a Thakur and once a landlord. The very system has collapsed, he rues.
This village is located on the Azamgarh-Gorakhpur road, some 10 km towards Gorakhpur. Food-source equality has taken place in this village. Coarse cereals like barnyard millet, finger millet, sorghum, kodo, foxtail millet, and pearl millet are extinct here.
“Let cattle relish coarse cereals,” says Chunni Lal, a Dalit in his late 50s. “Ham log bahut bhugte in mote anaj ko (we had enough of these coarse cereals),” he adds.
Among 129 Dalit houses in the village, there are 109 girls aged ten and above. Only four of them work on Thakurs’ farms. Three of them are destitute sisters whose father had passed away suddenly a few years back.
According to Shakti Singh, a worldly-wise young Thakur, 10-15% farmland has not been taken for paddy plantation this season. Majdoor milte hi nahi — it’s hard to find labour, he adds.
Of the 43 Thakur families, none employs regular labourers. Not long ago, an average landlord family employed a halwaha who tilled the land and his entire family took care of the crops from seeding to weeding out. The charwaha took buffaloes/cows for grazing and milked them. The duwariha waited at the door.
An elderly Thakur is upset that they are nobody today. One could see in his eyes nostalgia for a bygone era when they were virtual kings. This is a social class that ruled this part of the countryside till a couple of decades back.
Take the case of farm work, for example. Till recently, it was women-centric. Barring ploughing and digging, most farm work would be done by Dalit women. In this village at least, the Dalit women seem to have completely withdrawn from farm work.
As almost all girls and young women go to school, there is no way they could be farm labour. In fact, they don’t even work in their own lands, adds Chunni Lal.
“They have started to become our partners,” says Shakti Singh. The young Thakur refers to the phenomenon of Dalits becoming sharecroppers with Thakurs. From the 129 Dalit families, 22 are in a sharecropping arrangement with the upper castes.
“Now, they are refusing to be even partners,” he adds.
Shakti Singh is right. A research team from the Centre for the Advanced Study of India (CASI), University of Pennsylvania, had studied this village as well in 2007. The study, led by Devesh Kapur, focussed on mapping changes in food habits, lifestyle and occupational patterns post-1990 amongst Dalits in two blocks of the state. The CASI researchers had found 49 Dalit families in this village in sharecropping arrangement with Thakurs. That number has now come down to 22!
The triumph of Dalits with regard to their walkout from the farm in this village has had echoes in other walks of life as well. Of the 109 Dalit kids who are enrolled in primary education, 59 go to private schools and 50 to government schools.
” Hamare bachchon ko vidyalaya chahiye, bhojanalaya nahi ” (our kids need schools, not eateries), says Chunni Lal. He turns rhetorical and says, “Shunt government schools out of the village and bring in private schools.”
This village story is a stereotype buster. But certain trends seem to be universal through the Hindi-speaking belt. Dalit kids in government schools are entitled to get a Rs 300 scholarship annually, in addition to free books/stationery, free uniform and free mid-day meal, etc. And yet, a majority of them here have opted for private schools where they have to pay for everything.
What’s the trigger that led Dalits of this village to proclaim their own emancipation?
Chunni Lal says that the postman has brought about the revolution we are now witnessing. “Yahi sach hai,” nods another Dalit in his 70s. Shakti Singh also confirms that the postman straightaway goes into the Dalit basti.
From the 129 Dalit households in this village, 126 youth have migrated to towns. The CASI study shows that the number of Dalit migrants was 62 in 2007. In other words, 64 more Dalit youth fled their villages. In five years the number has doubled.
When observed in the context of the changes in the economy since 1991, it is evident that economic expansion (thanks to reforms) triggered Dalits’ migration to cities, resulting in their emancipation.
To take an example, during the last five years not even one birth has taken place at home among Dalit households. All deliveries have taken place in hospitals. Chunni Lal says, “You have to be a Dalit to understand this.”
He also says, “We have not become equal to them (Thakurs) but we have become free of them.”
One must say ‘Amen’ to that!
Chandra Bhan Prasad and Milind Kamble are respectively mentor and chairman of Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI).
Posted on: December 5, 2013
Memoirs of noted social reformer Hemalatha Lavanam will soon find place in the National Biography Series of the National Book Trust of India.
The objective of the National Biography series is to throw light on the lives of Indian women and men who have made outstanding contribution towards the development of Indian society, culture, science, economy, polity as also of modern Indian sensibility. After Durgabai Deshmukh, Ms. Lavanam is the second woman selected for the honour from Andhra Pradesh.
“The news came as a pleasant surprise. I feel very happy because Hemalatha’s life story gives a sense of self-respect to all women. This kind of recognition was long overdue,” said atheist leader and Hemalatha’s husband Lavanam.
Born in 1937 at Vinukonda in Guntur district, Ms. Lavanam was the last child of Padmabhushan, Kalaprapurna Gurram Joshua and Mariyamba. Post her travel in Chambal valley in Vinoba Bhave’s padayatra for Bhudan yagna, her perspective on life changed and she returned home to take up extensive work in the field of criminal reform, abolition of Jogini system, social equality and dispelling superstition.
The two authors selected for writing the biography –Lalita Vakulabharanam and Sundar Kompalli—are editing their work to meet the December 13 deadline for submission of the biography. “We are mainly focussing on her all-encompassing personality, her unique approach to problems in society, exclusive strategies she embraced to bring about a reform and most importantly the methods she adopted to sustain the reforms in such difficult times. As a Dalit woman, she faced stiff resistance but ironically, almost 65 % of her work force comprised those belonging to upper castes. She managed to gain acceptance in a vitiated society,” says one of the two authors Mr. Kompalli.
Even while waging pitched battle against social evils like Jogini system in backward remote villages of Nizamabad district relying heavily on the enormous experience she had gained in the criminal reforms she undertook in the coastal Andhra region with her spouse Lavanam, she never allowed the mainstream Dalit politics to influence her.
It also talks about her early life and people like her father Gurram Joshua, social reformer and her father-in-law Gora, Vinoba Bhave and her husband Lavanam, who influenced it.
“It feels good to know that Hemalatha will go pan-India once the biography is published,” says an elated Lavanam.
Posted on: December 3, 2013
The National Human Rights Commission chairman Justice KG Balakrishnan said, “The increasing number of complaints on human rights violation indicates that the provisions prescribed in law are not being followed properly.”
Justice Balakrishnan made these remarks on Tuesday while addressing the inaugural session of the two-day open hearing session organized by the NHRC at the auditorium and monitoring hall of divisional commissioner office here.
A total of 123 complaints made by the people from scheduled caste of Varanasi division have been taken up for hearing in this session. On the inaugural day, 90 complaints were listed for hearing but by late afternoon the hearing was completed only in 20 cases while fresh complaints like delay in viscera report arrival in a case of alleged murder case, lingering for more than two years, were also accepted on the occasion.
In his address, the NHRC chairperson said if the provisions prescribed in law are implemented effectively the cases of human rights turning up before the commission would reduce itself. The increasing social injustice and disparity in the society is a serious cause of concern, he said further adding that the time has come when everyone should try to ensure the availability of affordable judicial system for all.
Justice Balakrishnan said the NHRC is trying its best to ensure that everyone gets justice. He said that in view of increasing number of complaints from people belonging to SC/ST category the commission had formed KB Saxena Committee to study the problem and suggest solution. Among its recommendations, the Saxena Committee had suggested to go in the state for the hearing and disposal of the complaints of the people of these categories. As per the same recommendation the NHRC started the series of open hearing sessions in the states, he said adding, it was the sixth hearing session in the same series.
Justice Balakrishnan said that out of total complaints made with NHRC more than 5% were from UP which indicates that the awareness regarding human rights is greater here in comparison to other parts of the country, he said terming it as a positive sign. But he looked concerned with high number of complainants from SC/ST classes. He said that the commission would continue its initiative to conduct state-wise open hearing sessions for the disposal of pending complaints.
After the inaugural session the benches of Justice Balakrishnan and Justice D Murugesan started the open hearing sessions separately. Apart from NHRC team members and complainants the senior officials including ADG/IG Zone GL Meena, divisional commissioner CK Tiwari, DIG range A Satish Ganesh, district magistrate Pranjal Yadav and SSP Rajesh Modak were also present at the inaugural session.
Posted on: November 27, 2013
Jobs for life: the father desperate to see his son walk a different path
At the end of a row of bamboo huts in the Yarpur slum, each fronted with strings of brightly coloured clothes, Suraj Ram appears bare-chested from a manhole. The 22-year-old is one of the city’s sanitation workers who enter the depths of the sewage network to manually clear blockages – a job often reserved for Dalits.
“The machines used to clean the drains are not that effective and often break down,” he explains. “Ultimately we are the people on which the system relies.”
It is risky work: the buildup of waste emits a lethal cocktail of carbon monoxide and methane. “There are many times I feel afraid,” Suraj admits. “A lot of the time you find snakes, scorpions and insects, and many times people have died because of the poisonous gases. It is very scary work.”
Until recently there was no legislation in place to protect sanitation workers, but the recent updates to the manual scavenging bill have now made it illegal to clean sewers without protective equipment. If properly enforced, Ram’s working conditions should soon improve. Ram began sanitation work when he was eight years old, starting as a sweeper before cleaning his first drain when he was 12. But he has other hopes for his three-year-old son.
“I don’t think there will be a day when I don’t have to do this work,” he says. “But I do not want my son to be like me and when he is older I have plans to send him to school.”
Community efforts: the drive to change minds
Usha Shrivastava Usha Shrivastava, 36, community mobilisation leader at Nidan. Photograph: Poulomi Basu
“The government is not doing enough for these people, it’s an injustice,” says Usha Shrivastava. “Their office is very near to these slum areas – they see things every day – but they never support this community.” Shrivastava, 36, has been a community worker for Nidan for 12 years.
She works to ensure Dalits across Bihar gain better access to basic services like water, sanitation and education, and helps them access government assistance programmes. But she says that it is not always easy convincing the communities that help is available.
“Dalits also need to change their mentality and attitude,” she explains. “Often there is reluctance to accept our help and sometimes I have to fight with them. These communities have had a lot of bitter experiences in their lives and have been cheated many times. Many have lost their confidence.”
She says that since she started there are fewer Dalits in Bihar who are sanitation workers, and many Dalit children are now in school. “There are changes, but there is still a long way to go,” she says, a smile spreading across her face. “I am well prepared for it.”
Cottage industries: the Patna family that broke free
Vinod Ram Vinod Ram broke free from manual scavenging thanks to a government loan. Photograph: Poulomi Basu
In the shade of a brick wall in Takiyapar slum, Vinod Ram and his wife, Buchni Devi, sit nimbly twisting lengths of bamboo into wicker baskets that he will sell at local markets. As he talks about watching Bollywood hero Raj Kumar on his new TV, a shy smile creeps across his face. It is clearly a proud moment for the 25-year-old: a few years ago he was earning 1,500 rupees (£15) a month as a manual scavenger.
“There is no waste worse than human excrement,” Ram says in his quiet, rasping voice. “Sometimes the waste would spill on me and the smell was so bad I used to have to drink liquor before work to cope. I was untouchable to all the other castes, even to other Dalits.”
With the help of WaterAid’s partner organisation, Nidan, Ram accessed a government loan of 30,000 rupees (£303), which he used to set up his basket-making business and a pig-rearing venture. He now earns around 6,000 rupees (£62) each month.
“It wasn’t easy starting my own business,” he says. “But I was determined not to start scavenging again. Now I can sit with other people and there isn’t the same level of discrimination. I am sending my son to school and I hope that he will be able to do much better than me.”
Sustained resistance: the campaigner who has battled for three decades
Bezwada wilson Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) works to liberate thousands of manual scavengers
Bezwada Wilson has been battling against manual scavenging since the 1980s, and he shows no signs of slowing down. When he found out his parents were sanitation workers, Wilson began a tireless campaign for the eradication of the practice and the full rehabilitation of the community.
He is a founding partner of activist organisation Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), which has worked to liberate thousands of manual scavengers, helping them find the courage to burn their baskets and refuse to work.
“There have been many changes since I started,” he says. “In the beginning the community didn’t want to talk about the problem, but now they have come out and started shouting. They are not so voiceless now.”
Wilson says the eradication of manual scavenging will right the injustices Dalits have faced for centuries, finally breaking the link between occupation and caste. “Once the stigma is broken there is a possibility for these communities to participate in the economic growth of the country,” he explains. “India will grow faster and will become a more democratic place.”
But Wilson says there is a long journey ahead. “There are still many who are waiting,” he says. “But when I see manual scavengers find freedom and self-respect, when they throw away their baskets, it gives me the strength to keep fighting.”
Posted on: November 26, 2013
If you thought slavery was a thing of the past, you would be horrified to know that it still exists and millions are still affected by it in developing nations like India and Pakistan.
According to the Global Slavery Index 2013, there are 29.8 million slaves across the world. The report, released by an Australian rights group named Walk Free, sees India top the list with an incredible 14 million slaves. Pakistan follows in a close third.
CEO of the Walk Free Foundation, Nick Grono says:
“It would be comforting to think that slavery is a relic of history, but it remains a scar on humanity on every continent. This is the first slavery index but it can already shape national and global efforts to root out modern slavery across the world.”
The report defines slavery as forced labour, human trafficking, exploitation or sale of children, forced marriage and debt bondage.
Sex slavery is common in IndiaIn India, ruthless mistreatment of deprived people continues in the form of forced marriage, commercial sex exploitation, child labour and inter-generational bonded labour.
Many of the enslaved in India are unable to move out of their villages.
An earlier report titled, Trafficking in Persons (TIP), compiled by the US State Department revealed that an estimated 20 to 65 million women, men and children in India are bonded labourers to local landlords, who force them to work in industries like embroidery factories, agriculture, rice mills and brick kilns.
Many girls and women from Odisha and the northeastern states are coerced or sold into forced marriages in states like Punjab and Haryana which have low gender ratios of women to men. They are then forced into the commercial sex trade.
Last year, the National Human Rights Commission had highlighted the exploitation of bonded manual labourers in Meghalaya who had been employed to work in private coal mines in the state’s Jaintia Hills area.
Indian Child Slave Slavery in India is made possible by the fact that millions of rural poor people still have difficulty in accessing government entitlements and protections like food ration cards, health care, pensions and other safety nets.
Many of the enslaved do not have identification documents, so they do not exist officially in government records. These hapless labourers are easily exploited by high caste groups who continue to dominate assets and indulge in land grabbing.
An organization named the Dalit Freedom Network highlights the fact that Dalits and Adivasi Tribals are enslaved in a number of ways including bride trafficking, ritual sex slavery, domestic servitude, child labour, sex trafficking and bonded labour.
The British abolished slavery in India in 1843, but it seems that the effects of colonial rule are still prevalent today, with slavery being a predominant issue.
Today modern slavery is not only restricted to rural India. In the cities, domestic workers are enslaved and trafficked by shady employment agencies that are mostly unregulated:
“The placement agencies get all the money, and the poor girl gets nothing,” says Rishi Kant, a social activist. “The girls are abused mentally, sexually, physically. Officials don’t care, and sometimes even want maids for their own houses, [which is] partly why they’re silent on this.”
It is pertinent to note that India still has not ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention.
The root causes of modern day slavery in India seem to be caste issues, corruption, poverty and weak law enforcement. The government’s failure to empower police, enforce laws and provide social services to the poorest only exacerbates the situation.
If you thought modern day slavery exists only in developing nations like India, you would be totally mistaken. Many instances of trafficking and exploitation in the West have also been highlighted by the media.
Ilyas Ashar and his wife kept the slave in the cellarIn the UK, an 84-year-old man named Ilyas Ashar was recently sentenced to 13 years in jail for repeatedly raping a deaf and mute girl who had been kept locked up in the cellar of his home in Eccles, Salford. His wife Tallat Ashar was also sentenced to five years imprisonment.
The girl had been trafficked from Pakistan and the couple had forced her to work as an enslaved domestic servant. Ilyas Ashar was also convicted for using the girl’s details to fraudulently obtain benefits totalling more than £30,000.
In another recent case in the UK, a senior government official named Shibhani Rahulan was taken to court by her maid Pratima Das in an instance of modern day slavery.
Das’ counsel, Ian Wheaton, said: “[She was] a victim of human trafficking… she has been treated as a slave.” Das has applied for asylum in Britain which is under consideration by British authorities.
Varsha Sabhnani and Murlidhar Sabhnani arrested for enslavingIn yet another instance of forced labour exploitation in the West, a wealthy US couple Murlidhar and Varsha Sabhnani have been convicted of treating two Indonesian women as virtual slaves in their New York home.
The Indonesians, Nona and Samirah, had been severely abused by the Sabhnanis who had confiscated their passports. The couple were convicted on 12 charges including forced labour, harbouring aliens and involuntary servitude.
Black slavery is a thing of the past in the US. But African-Americans continue to suffer as today there are more black men in the prison system than slaves back in 1850.
The Caribbean nations of Haiti, Suriname and Guyana also feature on the global slavery index. In Haiti, the phenomenon is blamed on the ‘restavec’ system of child exploitation which encourages poor families to send their children to richer families. These children end up being abused or exploited ruthlessly.
In summary, it is disheartening to see that some people of South Asian origin continue to practise regressive ways and exploit their fellow humans even after migrating to the West. Such instances tarnish the image of people of Indian origin and South Asians in general who are regarded as a model community in many western nations.
Is there a solution in sight? Or will man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man continue despite advances in science, technology, and tangible improvements in living standard across many parts of the developing world, including India?
Posted on: November 22, 2013
Om Prakash Valmiki lost his battle for life to liver cancer on Sunday, aged 63, leaving behind a literary legacy that is iconic not just for his words, but also because of what it tells us about our times.
Born at the lowest rung of the scheduled castes as an untouchable chuhda in Muzaffarnagar district of western Uttar Pradesh, he rose to occupy the highest place in the world of Dalit literature because of his powerful writings.
While Dalit literature had gained wide acceptability in other Indian languages like Marathi, Hindi came to recognise it much later. This meant that when Mr. Valmiki started writing, there were not many takers in Brahmin and Thakur-dominated Hindi literary scene for this kind of literature.
It goes to the credit of Rajendra Yadav, who too passed away last month, that he turned his monthly magazine Hans into a platform for Dalit writing and its concomitant literary discourse.
When Mr. Valmiki penned his autobiography, Yadav suggested “Joothan” (Leftovers) as its title, and the rest is history. Joothan is one of the most celebrated autobiographies in Hindi today and has been translated into several Indian as well as foreign languages.
Joothan tells the heart-wrenching story of an untouchable boy who grows up in a Tyagi-dominated village in the period that immediately follows the advent of Independence.
Mr. Valmiki was born in 1950 and he experienced the cruel inhumanity of the caste system every minute of his life. In following the age-old oppressive customs, Muslim Tyagis were no better than their Hindu counterparts. Untouchables were treated no better than cattle.
The Constitution of free, democratic India had done away with untouchability, but only legally. The social goal of eradicating it is yet to be achieved — but in the 1950s, the process had not even begun in right earnest.
Mr. Valmiki’s autobiography tells us in touching detail about his horrific experiences, his valiant struggles to overcome his social situation, and his eventual triumph.
However, if one reads him carefully, one becomes painfully aware that even after achieving literary fame and success, Mr. Valmiki continued to feel that so long as the well-trenched social biases enjoying support from religion and tradition remained, Dalits can never shed their Dalitness and become part of the society as a whole.
If one book acquires great fame, his other works tend to be ignored as they are overshadowed by or compared with it. This happened to Shrilal Shukla, whose Raga Darbari overshadowed his other great works like Bisrampur ka Sant. Mr. Valmiki published three collections of poetry — Sadiyon ke Santaap (Centuries-old Sorrows), Bas! Bahut ho Chuka (Enough is Enough) and Ab aur Nahin (Not Any More) — and two collections of short stories, besides penning a treatise on the aesthetics of Dalit literature. However, his name was inextricably linked with Joothan and the other books did not get adequate attention.
He was in the thick of many literary controversies, one of which concerned the great writer Premchand too. In contrast with his peers, he was marked out for his much more balanced view of things — literary and non-literary.
He will always be remembered by those who knew him not just as a literary trailblazer, but as a fine human being
He succeeded in providing the Dalit writing in Hindi with a solid foundation.
Posted on: November 20, 2013
Nobody liked the smell of truth, more so since it concerned the tetchy aspect of toilets in India.
India’s Federal Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh was accused last year of hurting Hindu religious sentiments by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party for saying the country needed “more toilets than temples”.
Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but India – with 1.2 billion people – is far from achieving it. As World Toilet Day is marked on November 19, India’s sanitation and toilet statistics continue to raise a stink.
Less than one-in-three households in Indian villages have toilets. Urban areas have more toilets but nevertheless suffer from poor sanitation and disposal mechanisms.
The lack of public toilets for the urban poor and in rural areas leads to alarming rates of water-borne disease and affects women and children most, campaigners say.
India also carries the shame of having manual labourers, mostly marginalised people who belong to a community formerly called “untouchables” or Dalits, to clean human excreta from open lavatories, even today in the 21st century.
While a 1961 census by the government said there were more than 3.5 million “faeces scavengers”, recent reports have said the number is down to 64,000. This is contested by NGOs saying these workers still suffer the ignominy of cleaning human excreta, suffer illnesses and social ostracisation.
A few years ago, “Shit of the Other” – a show by Delhi-based artist Inder Salim – displayed human faeces in a bottle. Some contended it was not scatological but a telling artistic statement of the state of the poor and disadvantaged, who are compelled to defecate in public in Indian cities.
“Toilets are not just confined to sanitation in India,” Salim says. “They contain layers of oppressed people, Dalits, our inability to deal with this basic human need.”
Mahatma Gandhi, India’s “Father of the Nation”, had in the early part of the 20th century branded the practice of engaging manual scavangers to clean latrines as a social evil. Gandhi preferred to clean his own toilet to set an example – something that shocked many.
Gandhi’s call to make sanitation a hygienic issue 65-years ago seems to have gone down the drain.
Consider these facts:
Only 46.9 percent of India’s 24.66 million households have toilets, 49.8 percent defecate in the open, and 3.2 percent use public toilets, according to 2011 census figures.
The economic impact of inadequate sanitation is about 2.4 trillion rupees ($38.4 million), or 6.4 percent of India’s gross domestic product, according to the Water and Sanitation Programme.
The states of Jharkhand and Odisha rated lowest with 78 percent of households lacking toilet facilities.
More people in India have mobile phones than toilets.
Right to dignity
“We need to view services – such as the availability of functional toilets – as a part of the right to live a life of dignity and equality,” says Subhadra Menon, director of Health Communication at the Public Health Foundation of India.
But she adds: “Having said that, the provision of toilets to 1.2 billion people is far more complex than making mobile phones available, so in a sense, it isn’t right to compare apples and oranges.
“But yes, the kind of social and other marketing that can be utilised to influence choices and behaviours is not being done optimally in the case of the use of toilets.”
Sulabh International is an NGO promoting sanitation across the country. Its founder, Bindeshwar Pathak, bemoans that “India lacks a culture of sanitation.”
The royal rajas – erstwhile rulers – might have had slaves to evacuate their “thunder boxes”, but much of India has had a late start to “toilet training”, Pathak says.
“Even the rural rich in the 1950s did not have toilet facilities in their mansions. Women went to the open for their ablutions as did the men.”
While he says India has made progress from a no-toilet scenario to providing nearly half of its population with latrines, “implementation of rural sanitation must be made priority and speeded up”, says Pathak.
Sulabh is seeking ways to accelerate the installation of toilet facilities. These programmes include training youth in both rural and urban areas on health and sanitation; pressing the government for fund allocation, and encouraging alternative livelihoods for caste groups that manually scavenge toilets.
‘No toilets, no marriage’
It’s easier for modern Indian women in the metros to walk into a shopping mall and find a loo. But it is not so for their underprivileged sisters who are poor or live in villages with no toilet facilities.
Women and girls often defecate in public, harming their health and also inviting molestation and unwanted attention from men in both rural and urban areas.
Police in the state of Bihar have admitted violence against women could be contained if more public toilets were provided.
As Salim points out, “You can find public urinals for men, but women suffer most as Indian cities and villages do not make space for women’s basic needs. Gender gets the worse off in this shitty business.”
Ramesh, who has campaigned zealously for the need for toilets, last year invoked a “no toilet, no bride” campaign. He exhorted women to not marry men whose family homes did not come equipped with toilets.
Some instances have occurred where brides have left the home of the groom after finding the household did not have a proper toilet. It has forced some men to pose in photos beside toilets in their home before seeking a bride in their villages.
A “right to pee” campaign was also launched in April 2012 by a group of non-profit organisations in Mumbai. They fought for the use of free toilets for women who were until then charged a fee to use toilets, while men could use them for free.
India’s Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that every government school must provide toilets, especially for girls. Inability to do so would mean closing the schools down.
“Once political support – across party lines – builds up for an issue, chances are it gets addressed satisfactorily,” says Menon. “Therefore, it is more about how all our politicians and elected representatives can take up the issue of toilets being provided.
“The critical issue is this – each and every day, young, adolescent girls and young adult women [and men actually] need to expose themselves to multiple vulnerabilities,” Menon says. “This makes even more serious the ignominy that these girls and women face – including not having a clean and functional toilet that they can use with a guarantee of privacy.”
Posted on: November 19, 2013
With more than 626 million people daily defecating in the open, India is on the verge of becoming the “global capital of open defecation”, an NGO said here Monday.
More than 55 percent women from the Dalit community daily face harassment at the hands of rowdy males when they go out in the open to defecate, said Rajesh Upadhya, executive director of the National Confederation for the Dalit.
“The situation won’t improve till the Indian government stops making false promises and immediately implements the policies meant for providing proper sanitation facilities to the Dalit community,” he told media persons.
Upadhya was speaking on the right to sanitation and hygiene for Dalits.
He said that even decades after independence, sanitation-related problems with Dalits have increased all over the country.
“The condition is so bad that there are only 30-40 toilets for 29,000-30,000 people in every Dalit colony in the capital,” he said.
“Only 17-18 percent of the people from the Dalit community are able to avail proper sanitation facilities,” Upadhya said.
“The budget allocated for sanitation is not being fully utilised and if the community asks for toilets, the bureaucrats do nothing about it,” Upadhya told IANS.
“There is no transparency in the usage of funds allotted by the government,” he said.
Posted on: November 18, 2013
A day after the BJP launched a padayatra to Bangalore ahead of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally, Mysore MP Adagooru H Vishwanath on Wednesday accused former minister S A Ramdas of playing to the gallery by projecting himself as an honest leader.
Puncturing the BJP leader’s vision about the country’s progress, Vishwanath alleged that it is all a gimmick of the “land-grabber” to recast his image after his defeat in the assembly polls in May.
Referring to Ramdas’ two-day stay at a village in Hunsur taluk last week, the senior Congress leader said, “He tried to project himself as pro-Dalit by staying at a Dalit’s place at Kattemalalawadi. But where did he eat? He had dinner at a Brahmin’s place and then went to the Dalit’s place to spend the night.”
Vishwanath’s taunts came as Ramdas-led padayatra reached Mandya district.
The Congress leader even took swipe at Modi, saying he doesn’t know basic history, referring to the BJP leader’s recent gaffes at his campaign rallies. On Sunday, Modi got the names of freedom fighter Shyamaji Krishna Varma and Jan Sangh (which later became the BJP) founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee mixed up at a rally in Kheda, Gujarat.
Arguing that Modi didn’t know about the founder of his party, Vishwanath said, “A person who doesn’t know the history of the nation cannot write history.”
Alleging that the Gujarat chief minister had paid a US-based firm Rs 150 crore to run his election campaign machinery, he added that Modi is trying to project himself as the nation’s savior. “But he should remember that this is no presidential polls like in the US,” said Vishwanath, criticizing the BJP for collecting money for Modi’s Bangalore rally on November 17.
Turning his ire towards the BJP thereafter, he said the party has been misleading the public. “At the peak of Ram Mandir movement, the BJP collected one brick from one family [to build the Ram temple]. Where are they (the bricks) now? This exposes their hollow promises.”
Taking a dig at the popular acronym of NaMo for Modi, Vishwanath said, “NaMo stands for Nanage Mosa (I’ve been cheat)”. His reasoning: That Modi “cheated” BJP stalwarts L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley by shattering their dreams of becoming the party’s prime ministerial candidates.
Posted on: November 15, 2013
The Union Cabinet will debate the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act of 1989 tomorrow to introduce stricter penalties for harassing people belonging to the two groups.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has moved a Cabinet note to plug the loopholes in the existing Act and make crimes against the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes more specific.
As per the proposal, punishment for crimes – under the Act – that presently attract a 10-year jail term will be doubled.
Certain other provisions too will be made stricter. For example, removal of clothes of a person belonging to the two groups is an offence. Now, parading of partially-clothed people, removal of moustache and tonsuring and garlanding by footwear would also qualify as crimes against them.
Earlier, depriving a person of his or her land and denying water was a seen as a crime. Now, denying someone of forest produce and destroying their crops will attract strict punishment.
Similarly, forced manual labour was mentioned as an offence earlier. Now, the ‘forced manual labour’ has been defined. Manual scavenging, asked to forcibly remove carcasses, drum beating among others are seen as violating the law.
“We are trying to make punishments stronger and want to put the fear of law. In many rural areas, atrocities go unpunished despite being reported to authorities,” says an official associated with the making of the proposed changes in the law.
Posted on: November 12, 2013
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah may be keen on bringing in a law to ban all kinds of superstitious rituals in the state, but the government is still looking on helplessly as the banned Devadasi system continues to thrive in secret in remote villages. An age-old practice, it inducts girls into the oldest profession in the world in the guise of dedicating them to the service of a deity or temple.
An NGO from Athani which has been instrumental in saving dozens of girls from being drawn into the Devadasi net, say Devadasis are still found in remote areas of Saundatti. “Several innocent girls are made to perform the rituals to become Devadasis in their homes to avoid being caught by the police these days.
The girls’ guardians are given the black bead chains they are supposed to wear in the Kokatnur temple or Saudatti temple and they present them to the priests for sanctifying. Later, the girls are made to wear the chains to become Devadasis,” said one activist.
The secret practice came to light after a 13-year-old girl was found being forced into the profession in Saundatti in March last year. A family from Dharwad district was caught carrying out the rituals involved. Acting on a tip-off, officials of the Devdasi Rehabilitation Project and Department of Women and Child Welfare traced the family in the nick of time . The teen was rescued and shifted to a remand home in Belgaum for rehabilitation.
Investigation revealed she had been brought from Jogyellappur, Dharwad district to Saundatti along with several other women for the ritual.
Posted on: November 11, 2013
Americans turn on lights, plug in coffeemakers, and charge cellphones without a thought to the electricity required. But in parts of India, many households still lack electrical power, despite the nation’s intention more than six decades ago to bring electricity to all its citizens.
“Electrification was central to how early nationalists and planners conceptualized Indian development, and huge sums were spent on the project from independence until now,” says Sunila S. Kale, assistant professor of international studies. “Yet despite all this, nearly 400 million Indians have no access to electricity. Although India has less than a fifth of the world’s population, it has close to 40 percent of the world’s population without access to electricity.”
Kale explores some of the reasons for India’s lag in providing electrical power in her book Electrifying India: Regional Political Economies of Development, to be published by Stanford University Press in Spring 2014. The book has already garnered a top award from the American Institute for Indian Studies.
Kale had intended to focus on India’s move to privatize its energy industry in the 1990s, intrigued by Indian states’ varied responses to privatization. But as she researched the topic, she found that those responses had a historical basis, which led her to broaden the scope of her project. “I had to go back and look at what happened from the 1940s through the 1980s—how state governments had expanded electricity,” says Kale. “Choices made in that early period had a huge influence on privatization later on.”
Electrifying India first explores New Delhi’s changing views about electricity over time and then offers case studies of three Indian states where responses to privatization in the 1990s diverged wildly, ranging from approval to swift rejection. Kale delves into political and socioeconomic factors that had shaped each state’s energy policy.
The story begins in the 1940s, at the time of India’s independence. Electricity was available in cities and towns but not most rural areas. There was much debate about whether the electricity sector should be controlled centrally or by individual states, with supporters of central control arguing that state control would lead to uneven development. Despite this concern, pressure from state leaders led to the establishment of state utilities in 1948.
Those early concerns about uneven development proved to be prescient. Today, some state governments provide electricity to most rural households, enabling farmers to pump up groundwater resources. Some even offer electrical subsidies to farmers to encourage the use of electricity for irrigation. Yet in other states, rural communities are still off the grid.
To identify the reasons for this uneven development, Kale spent considerable time trying to reconstruct, from often scanty records in the State Electricity Boards, the history of electrification, investments, and policies in three states: Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra, . “In some states, there was a complete and comprehensive collection of annual reports,” says Kale. “In others, not a single report could be found. Even that gave me insight into the differential capacity of the states.”
Kale’s research suggests that the most significant factor in rural electrification has been representation of rural communities in state government. In Odisha, where few powerful political leaders come from rural communities, only 40% of households can rely on electricity for lighting, with the percentage dropping even lower in rural areas. The state of Andhra Pradesh has fared better, with a slow and steady electrification program that speeded up with farmer protests in the 1970s. “There was a lot of social foment in India in the 70s, and this was part of that,” says Kale. Maharashtra, where rural leaders have played a sizable role in the state government, has had the most success at rural electrification, though some districts and farmer groups have fared better than others.
The same factors that led Maharashtra to have a more robust electrical program in rural areas, and to subsidize electricity use by agriculture and agro-industries, also led that state to reject privatization in the 1990s. “The perception was that privatization of its electricity distribution utility would threaten the regime of subsidies,” explains Kale. Privatization was also rejected In Andhra Pradesh due to strong opposition from farmers and their political allies. At the other end of the spectrum, Odisha, lacking rural representation, had little opposition when it voted to privatize.
Does Kale believe that the millions of Indians still waiting for electrical power will see change anytime soon? “In the near future, no,” says Kale. “In the long term, yes.” She explains that some central agencies are now stepping in to assist state governments in carrying out rural electrification. There are also experiments in micro-grids, or distributed generation, taking place in rural villages, using alternative energy sources ranging from solar to sugar pulp.
“The government is very motivated to knit the national system together in one central grid,” says Kale. “Over time, I think it will happen”
Posted on: November 4, 2013
Latest census data on scheduled castes and tribes shows that the trend of STs having the best sex ratios, and SCs too doing better than the non-SC/ST population continues to hold good. The trend suggests that ‘backwardness’ may actually work in favour of gender justice, presumably by denying access to sex determination techniques.
Detailed data on SCs and STs from the 2011 census, released on Monday, showed that the child sex ratio (CSR) among tribals in India was 957, well ahead of the ratio of 933 among Dalits and 910 in the population excluding these two categories.
The pattern held good for most of the major states, though there were a few exceptions and the degree of variation between the different groups also varied across states.
The CSR, which measures the number of girls aged 0-6 years for every 1,000 boys of the same age, is a better indicator than the overall sex ratio for several reasons. Primary among these is the fact that the overall sex ratio is distorted by the predominantly male inter-state migration which boosts the sex ratio in states from which there is a net out migration and reduces it in states which receive a lot of migrants. Also, since women typically live longer than men, this too can make the overall sex ratio present an unduly rosy picture.
Of the five states with the worst CSR – Haryana, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi and Gujarat – Haryana, Punjab and Delhi have no ST population. In these states, therefore, we could only compare the SC and non-SC populations and the pattern is clear. In each of them, the CSR among Dalits was significantly better than among the non-SC/ST population.
In Jammu & Kashmir and Gujarat, the pattern of STs doing best on this parameter followed by SCs and then the non-SC/ST population held up. In Gujarat, the CSR for the ST population was nearly 80 points higher than for the ‘general’ population, and in J&K the gap was close to 60.
The exceptions to the trend are the three southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and Assam in the northeast. In each of these states, the CSR for STs was lower than that for SCs or for the non-SC/ST population. However, in all of them, all the ratios were among the best in the country.
What leads us to suggest that this pattern might have something to do with ‘backwardness’ denying access to sex determination? That’s because other CSR measures too point in the same direction. Thus, the urban CSR is worse than the rural one in most states. Similarly, states generally regarded as backward, such as Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, do better than ‘developed’ ones such as Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat.
There is, to be fair, also a regional pattern with the south and the east clearly outperforming the north and the west. So it appears that cultural factors also have an important role to play.
Posted on: November 1, 2013
A nine-year-old Dalit boy who allegedly suffered two years of physical abuse was rescued from the bondage at a village near Karaikudi on Sunday.
Acting on information given by Evidence, a Madurai-based NGO, revenue department officials saved the boy, who was from Indira Nagar in Karaikudi, after they raided a cattle shed at Silukkupatti where he was allegedly made to work for 20 hours a day. The boy was handed over to his parents.
The officials gave the boy’s parents Rs.1,000 as the first instalment of Rs.20,000 compensation guaranteed under the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act.
It has been alleged that Kaaleswaran, a caste Hindu from the same village, had got the thumb impression of the boy’s father, Anand, who repairs old utensils, on a blank paper when he was drunk. Kaaleswaran allegedly used the paper as a promissory note stating that Anand had borrowed Rs.60,000 from him. When Anand denied having taken a loan, the accused threatened to lodge a police complaint, and took his son into his custody.
“I was living in a shed, where nearly 200 goats were accommodated. They served me leftover food thrice a day and never paid any wages,” the boy said. “Kaaleswaran used to abuse me every day,” he added.
It is said that several attempts made by the boy’s parents to rescue him in the last two years proved futile as they too were physically and verbally abused every time they visited him. “We were scared that Kaaleswaran might kill our son, if we approached the police,” said the boy’s mother, Meenambal.
A Dalit activist from Silukkupatti informed the NGO on Saturday of the plight of the boy. A team rushed to the village and alerted the authorities. Kathir, executive director of Evidence, urged the State to provide relief to the boy and his family.
Police have registered an FIR against Kaaleswaran and are on the lookout for him.
Posted on: October 29, 2013
India is among the top 10 nations that have made the greatest strides in reducing child mortality since 1990, according to a study published on Wednesday.
While one of the world’s poorest countries, Niger, leads the pack, other nations like Liberia, Rwanda, Indonesia, Madagascar, India, China, Egypt, Tanzania and Mozambique have done a good job in the last two decades, a new report by ‘Save the Children’ has found.
A recent study published in the international journal Lancet said that India has made steady progress in reducing deaths in children younger than 5 years, with total deaths declining from 2·5 million in 2001 to 1·5 million in 2012.
However, just 81 districts accounted for more than one-third of child mortality in 2012 and half of these deaths were of girls.
Diarrhea, pneumonia, and high rates of under-nutrition and micro nutrient deficiencies are common causes of these deaths.
Save the Children’s report evaluating countries’ progress in tackling preventable child death found countries that made the least progress were Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Equatorial Guinea.
The NGO’s report analysed how 75 countries, which account for nearly all maternal and child deaths, are progressing towards the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal on child mortality.
“We are making historic gains in the fight against child deaths but this headline success also often masks that poor children are being left behind and, in extreme cases, are doing worse,” said Save the Children’s global campaign director, Patrick Watt.
Four million children could have been saved in this time frame if the fight against child mortality were spread out in an economically balanced way, the NGO said.
Save the Children has urged governments to implement “national healthcare plans that reach every child, including newborns, with the objective of reaching full coverage by 2030” and “reduce malnutrition so that every child has the nutrition they need to survive and thrive.”
“Despite having scarce resources and recurring droughts, Niger has cut the number of under-fives dying unnecessarily by nearly two thirds since 1990 and is on track to achieve the UN’s global goal on child mortality,” the report said.
“The country’s progress is striking because – unlike others – it has managed to do better across all income groups, and in the countryside as well as urban areas.”
But income inequality in sub-Saharan Africa – where most child deaths occur – actually worsened from 1998-2008, the study found.
Posted on: October 23, 2013
The recent acquittal of all accused in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre case is not an isolated example of justice denied to dalits. In terms of conviction rate in cases of crimes against Scheduled Castes, the national average is quite disappointing, with Bihar among the bottom rankers.
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, while the national conviction rate for overall IPC crimes stood at 38.5%, it was only 23.9% in case of crimes against SCs, suggesting Bihar is not an exception in denying justice to dalits.
However, the eastern state is certainly among the worst. Conviction rate for crimes against SCs in Bihar stood at 12.4% even though conviction rate for overall IPC crimes in the state was 15.9%. Bihar is among the states with maximum number of crimes against dalits (4,821); next only to UP and Rajasthan.
Interestingly, UP, which had maximum number of cases of crimes against SCs (6,202) in 2012 had the best conviction rate among big states. Its conviction rate in such cases was 51.4%, next only to Sikkim (66.7%) and Uttarakhand (54.5%). However, both states have low populations, very few such cases and hardly any caste conflicts in their society.
Rajasthan, which had the second-highest number of crimes against SCs (5,559), had a conviction rate of 41%, more than three times that of Bihar. Even MP with 2,875 such cases had a conviction rate of 35.3%. Only Andhra Pradesh (9.1%), Odisha (6.3%) and Karnataka (4.8%) among states with more than 2,000 cases of crimes against SCs had a worse conviction rate than Bihar. In the category of crimes under Prevention of Atrocities against SCs and STs Act, the performance of the justice system was even worse. The national conviction rate in these cases was merely 18.8%, worse than the national average for overall crimes against SCs (23.9%). However, analysts said while the issue of justice denied to dalits was a serious one and the data on overall crimes against SCs in terms of conviction rate only proved the point, the corresponding numbers for Atrocities Act must be taken with a pinch of salt. “In this category, it has often been seen that a lot of false cases are registered which ultimately fall flat in court. Several times, dalits become pawns in the fight between two upper caste landlords in a village and file false cases,” said a senior IPS officer.
Posted on: October 22, 2013
Dissidence in Haryana Congress came to the fore again on Thursday after Union minister Kumari Selja slammed the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government over the death of a dalit youth in police custody.
“Is it a sin to be a dalit in Haryana? If dalits are not safe and the government does nothing to protect them, it is clear that it’s a sin to be a dalit in the state,” Selja said after visiting the family members of a youth who was mysteriously run over by a train while in police custody.
“In recent years several incidents of atrocities on dalits were reported in Haryana. But the Hooda government made no serious efforts to protect them,” said the four-time MP and seniormost leader from the state in the Central government.
The minister visited the house of a dalit youth – Ram Kumar – in Majri in Ambala city. The youth was found dead on the railway tracks on October 15, a day after he was picked up by police along with another youth. Ram Kumar’s friend, Vikram, was also allegedly tortured by police but managed to escape from custody. The handcuffed youth hid in the fields and later claimed he saw cops pushing his friend in front of a train. He is yet to record his statement before a magistrate.
Selja said police included provisions under the SC/ST Act in the FIR on the youth’s death only after her intervention. Two assistant sub-inspectors and a head constable were arrested on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in the custodial death of the youth.
Only a few days ago, Selja had accused a section of the state party leadership of trying to intimidate her. Her comments came after an unidentified youth flung a rock through the window of a train she had flagged off from her constituency, Ambala.
Ambala City MLA, Vinod Sharma, attended the youth’s funeral on Thursday and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the victim’s family.
Posted on: October 18, 2013
Three years ago, Churu, a town of 1.2 lakh people in the Thar desert, was ranked India’s dirtiest city by the Planning Commission. Two years ago, the overall district had over 40% households with no toilet of their own. Today, the district is close to its goal of becoming open defecation-free, a distinction few districts in north India have achieved.
As the evidence mounts that open defecation in particular and poor sanitation in general has had a direct impact on India’s unexpectedly high rates of malnutrition, the pressure is on for India, responsible for 60% of the world’s open defecation, to provide toilets to its population. The 2011 census confirmed that sanitation was the gaping hole in India’s progress is basic service provision – over half of Indian open households have no toilets. India’s rural sanitation campaign, the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA, originally launched as the Total Sanitation Campaign in 1999) aims to eliminate open defecation by 2022 (revised from the earlier aim of 2017), NBA’s joint director Sandhya Singh told The HinduMost states, particularly in north India, are years away from this target. Churu’s district collector, Rohit Gupta, a 2006 batch IAS officer of the Rajasthan cadre, decided to make his district open defecation-free when he took over in November last year. “There is no justification we can give to our people and the world for why India has such high rates of open defecation, and of infant and child mortality. What we decided to do was have a comprehensive focus on malnutrition and health, and a major part of this was eliminating open defecation,” Mr. Gupta told The Hindu.
One part of Churu’s success is procedural. How it works is that households that are below the poverty line, or from backward communities, or headed by single women, are identified, must build a toilet and provide photographic proof of it to the district authorities, and are then to be reimbursed for Rs 9,100 of which Rs 4,600 comes from the NBA and Rs 4,500 from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Mr. Gupta has considerably streamlined the paperwork from the two ministries, district officials said.
The second part is the enthusiastic community response. In Anandsinghpura village in Taranagar block, Ghashiram, a scheduled caste small farmer and labourer, is at work on his new house, built under the Indira Awas Yojana. The family has already built their first ever toilet, partitioned with a cloth curtain. “When we earn some more money, we will finish the roof of our house and put a door on the toilet. But we have already started using it,” he says. In Pithisar village in Churu block, Rameti Devi takes even her toddler to the new toilet the family has now built. In Lunas village in Taranagar block,
Yet, there are gaps. The biggest one is that of delayed payments. In village after village, dozens of residents said that while they had built their toilets and the fact had been verified by district authorities, they hadn’t yet got the Rs 9,100 that they were entitled to, months after completion. Pithisar village’s Rameti Devi was happy to pose for a photo near a sign outside her new toilet that states the subsidy amount, a toilet she says her family of three uses. But she has not seen the subsidy amount herself.
In Churu, which is in the relatively prosperous Shekhawati region of Rajasthan where complete landlessness is rare, most families that have been convinced of the value of the toilet are willing to spend Rs 12-15,000 on the toilet, yet aggrieved at not having got their promised subsidy amount. Others like Mani Ram, a scheduled caste father of three who runs a barbershop in Pithisar village, haven’t yet built toilets until they are at least sanctioned the subsidy. In Lunas village, Jaichand Sharma, the well-to-do husband of the sarpanch, has paid out of his pocket for dozens of toilets to be built so that his village can be declared open defecation-free. “I want my village to be a model village, one that people come to see for its cleanliness. I had the money, so I paid for the toilets. If the subsidy does come some day and the beneficiaries decide to give it to me, then that’s fine, otherwise I don’t really mind,” Mr. Sharma told The Hindu.
Just as delayed payments undermined the MGNREGA, it is a concern that they could discourage poorer families from building toilets. Mr. Gupta admits to the delay which he says can arise either out of a shortage of funds (as the district faced over the last two months) or from the time it takes to complete union government paperwork, both issues that he cannot fix at his level. On the latter issue, Mr. Gupta says that while the stringent documentation that the government requires before releasing funds has reduced the siphoning off of funds, it has led to big delays in payments. Moreover, the NBA part of the funds can be released only after the MGNREGA component, notoriously delayed across the country, is released.
The other shortcoming in Churu is that relatively little has happened by way of urban sanitation, a criticism that has been made of the Indian sanitation mission as a whole. On both sides of the railway track near Agrasen Nagar in Churu is a slum made up of shacks made with tarpaulin and discarded banners that appears as if it came up yesterday. In fact, the slums have been there over 20 years. “We all have to go in the open, because there is no toilet around,” says Chand Khan, who works as an auto mechanic. “We women have to get up even earlier, when it’s still dark. When it rains or we’re sick, it’s very difficult,” says his wife, Raziya.
Under the Chief Minister’s BPL Awas Yojana, poor urban households get an extra Rs 5,000 for a toilet in addition to the Rs 70,000 they get to construct a house. Over 200 proposals were passed earlier, but no new proposals have been cleared since, municipal council chairman Govind Mehensariya said.
Posted on: October 17, 2013
Chennai Metro Water has started training its field workers in utilizing machines to remove silt and clear manholes in the wake of ban on manual scavenging.
Chennai Metro Water said that under the first phase, training is being imparted to 25 field workers at Royapuram Sewage Pumping Station.
Several desilting and jet rodding machines were procured recently by the Metro Water.
A Metro Water spokesman said that under the instructions of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, 50 desilting machines worth 2.54 crore, 20 jet rodding machines worth Rs 7.16 crore and six jetting-cum-suction machines worth Rs 2.25 crore have been purchased during the last two years to remove sewer obstruction.
The training centre and area offices of Metro water has started its training camps to train a total of 1,600 field workers to maintain the sewer system by using latest equipment. The action by Metro Water comes in the wake of Parliament passing a bill on September 7 banning manual scavenging.
Posted on: October 10, 2013
Chinnayi Ayyappan (55) was among the group of dalits who stridently fought non-dalits of her Koolayanur village near Bodi in Theni district after the latter refused the former to be buried in the village graveyard.
But barely 20 days after the dalits demanded burial rights in January 2011, a group of non-dalits hurled petrol bombs on her house. Four days later, she succumbed to injuries at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. Not all dalit women are as unfortunate as Chinnayi to die, but they endure equally harrowing experiences if one goes by a study on crimes perpetrated against dalit women conducted by an NGO.
Incidentally, more number of atrocities against dalits, are reported from southern districts, particularly Madurai. The study conducted by Evidence, a Madurai-based human rights organisation found that 124 cases of atrocities against dalit women in 25 districts of Tamil Nadu from January 2009 to September 2013. Madurai tops the list of districts with 23 cases, followed by Tirunelveli with 13, Sivaganga 12, Virudhunagar and Theni 11 each and Dindigul 10. “These numbers pertain only to those atrocities that were registered in police stations and pursued legally and not all incidents of atrocities,” said A Kathir, executive director, Evidence.
“Thirty-six of the women were raped, eight survived attempts to rape and 18 suffered sexual harassment,” the report said. A case in point was the plight of Thulasiammal (35), a widow who was raped by a gang of non-dalits at her house in Veerapagoundanur near Pollachi in 2010. In the same year, at Jittandahalli in Dharmapuri, a 16-year-old girl was molested by the school headmaster.
Shockingly, seven of the 124 women have committed suicide while 16 of them have been murdered. The study also said that the perpetrators have not targeted the victims just once, but several times in some cases.
After the Dharmapuri violence in 2012, there was marked increase in atrocities perpetrated against dalit women, says the study listing out 27 such incidents that occurred across Tamil Nadu.
A senior police official said that it was wrong to paint a picture portraying that dalit women are targeted in large numbers. “If you look at the number of atrocities against women in general, dalit women would only be a small part of it,” he said. “We don’t discriminate atrocities based on the caste of victims. We approach the cases depending on the magnitude of the offence and not based on the victim or perpetrator,” said the officer.
Kathir, however, said that seldom do the police register cases under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. “Committees comprising human rights activities, feminists, advocates and journalists should be formed in each district to monitor atrocities against dalits,” he urged.
BRAZEN ATTACKS (January 2009 – September 2013)
124 cases in 25 districts of Tamil Nadu
Madurai tops the list with 23 cases
Tirunelveli comes second with 13
Sivaganga follows with 12
Virudhunagar and Theni 11 each
Dindigul recorded 10 cases
7 of the 124 have committed suicide
16 of them have been murdered
36 women were raped
8 survived attempts to rape
18 suffered sexual harassment
Posted on: October 9, 2013
In spite of manual scavenging being made illegal in the country, 13 lakh Dalits continue to engage in it to earn their daily bread and butter. And Delhi, the national capital, has 10,000 dry latrines even today.
‘’Even though the chief minister of Delhi denies it, you will find them in various places in the capital,” Prof Vimal Thorat of the Indira Gandhi National Open University said while delivering the third SR Sankaran memorial lecture organised by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and Centre for Dalit Studies (CDS) at the Osmania University here on Monday.
Praising Sankaran, the late IAS officer who was viewed as a champion of the manual scavengers and people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Thorat said that more than 10,000 Dalit women quit the activity thanks to his efforts.
“The pain while doing such work is something which we can’t understand as it can only be felt by the person who has to do it. Due to the religious beliefs in the country, people from the Dalit community felt that they were paying for their sins committed in their past lives,” she said.
“Owing to manual scavenging, many Dalit girls, aged as young as 10 years, drop out of school, which is why states such as Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have a very high school dropout rate. It is as high as 95 percent among some age groups in Bihar and over 60 percent in other states.”
For the job they do, Thorat said, their incomes are pittances as those engaged by the municipal corporations in Delhi are paid anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000 a month while those hired through contractors are paid just Rs 2,600. On women’s literacy in the country she said the rate was was just 11 percent. “Most of them can’t even count their money. In many instances, many allegations have been made against women sarpanches after making them sign cheques and the amount written therein was altered,” she said, adding that while the government was sanctioning budgets for women and people from the SC/ST community, the money, did not reach them. Dr YB Satyanarayana, secretary of CDS, praised SR Sankaran’s contribution to the uplift of Dalits, and said that it was only on account of his efforts that suppressed communities had been able to live better.
Posted on: October 8, 2013
India’s growing economy has a darker side. The disparity between the rich and poor is growing. The country of 1.2 billion has more than 78 million homeless people. 30 million of them live in capital New Delhi. The urban population is growing faster due to rapidly growing wave of migrations. According to an economic survey New Delhi still continues to be an attractive destination for those seeking better employment – 75,000 people come to Delhi every year.
India’s urban population has doubled in last 20 years. The average rent of an apartment in the country is around 177 dollars. Over 90 million have less than a dollar a day to spend. Poverty is accompanied by many other problems including illness, illiteracy, drug abuse and forced labour among the homeless.
The economic progress means little to them. Every year 7,200 children including infants are raped. Many run away from home. They are forced to scavenge garbage for a living.
Industrial growth is almost stagnant. The new jobs are created only in the service sector which require higher education. The university seats are limited. Only a small number of the youth mange to get useful education. Things might change in the future. National elections are just six months away and poverty has once again become a political issue.
Observers say government plans to supply the poor with low-cost housing have not yielded desired results. Now, with real estate prices soaring, having a permanent roof for many people remains a distant dream.
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Posted on: October 7, 2013
The government has decided to include children of manual scavenger under the disadvantage group for facilitating their education in private unaided schools.
“The management of private unaided schools will admit such children within 15 per cent of seats earmarked for children belonging to the disadvantaged group. They will also prepare plan for such children with regard to their coverage in special training,” said School and Mass Education Department in a notification.
According to interim status report on survey of manual scavengers, so far, 1,243 have reported as manual scavenger engaged in cleaning of sanitary latrines in 79 urban local bodies of the State.
About 24 ULBs out of total 103 ULBs are yet to report on presence of manual scavengers in their jurisdiction.
The persons engaged in cleaning operation at railway tracks, septic tanks, and open drains will be treated as manual scavengers.
The procedure of admission of children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups to the extent of 25 per cent of strength of Class I of private unaided schools in accordance with the provisions under Section 12 (1) (C ) of Right To Education Act has been communicated to management of private schools.
Posted on: October 4, 2013
CHENNAI: Dalits account for nearly 32% (18.55 lakh) of the 58 lakh slum dwellers in Tamil Nadu, according to the slum census for 2011, released by the Census Commissioner on Monday. About 13.5 lakh slum dwellers in the state are in Chennai. In comparison, in Punjab, about 39% of slum dwellers are dalits, the report said.
Despite all efforts taken by the state government to rehabilitate slum dwellers, especially those living in Chennai city, there has been a decadal growth in the number of dalits living in slums because slum resettlement efforts have not matched the pace of migration of workers from rural to urban centres in the state. Also, in most places, the government has not been able to protect its own land retrieved from slum dwellers in past resettlement drives. While as per the 2001 census, about 25% of slum dwellers in the state were dalits, it has gone up by 7% since then.
A few other states and Union Territories also have similar track record. For instance, in Himachal Pradesh only 15% of slum dwellers were dalits a decade ago. But it has gone up to 30% now. Also, 30.7% of slum dwellers in Chandigarh are dalits. In Haryana it is 29.9% and in Tripura 28.8% of slum dwellers are dalits. Since 2001, across the country, there has been a 37% increase in the dalit population in slums. While there were only 96.73 lakh dalits living in slums in 2001, their numbers went up to 1.33 crore in 2011. The overall population of slum dwellers has also gone up by 25%, from 5.23 crore to 6.54 crore, in the last one decade.
However, there has been a slight improvement in the male-female ratio among dalits in slums. While there were 957 dalit women for every 1000 dalit men in 2001, the number of women has gone up to 985 going by the latest census. Sex ratio for dalits in slums is far better than other urban communities, the report says.
In Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir, dalits comprise less than 15% of slum dwellers.
“Dalits are the worst affected lot among those who migrate from rural areas to urban centres,” said former MLA and dalit activist D Ravikumar. Dalits find housing in urban centres unaffordable. Many who have migrated from Perambalur and other central Tamil Nadu districts to Chennai to work as load men at Koyambedu market sleep in front of the shops they work in, said Ravikumar.
The census report says dalits living in slums are mostly unskilled or semi-skilled workers. Most of them work in the construction sector. They cannot hire a pucca house with the salaries they earn, said Ravikumar.
Maharashtra has the maximum number of slum households (24.99 lakh) as well as slum population (1.18 crore) in the country. Andhra Pradesh comes second with 24.31 lakh households and 1.01 crore population, followed by West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Tamil Nadu, has 14.63 lakh slum households.
Posted on: October 2, 2013
For a medical university that has been in news time and again for alleged discrimination against Dalit students, King George Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow, is all set to award its most prestigious awards to a student belonging to Schedule Caste — for the first time in over 100 years of its history.
Vandana, an MBBS student of SC category of 2008 batch, has topped the university and bagged a total of 17 medals, including the most prestigious Hewett Gold Medal and Chancellor’s Gold Medal, apart from two other gold medals for academic excellence.
The medals would be bestowed upon Vandana in the ninth convocation ceremony of the university Sunday.
The Hewett Gold medal is awarded by the varsity for obtaining highest marks in Final Professional MBBS Part II examination whereas Chancellor’s medal is given for obtaining highest aggregate marks in MBBS.
Confirming that Vandana is the first student from SC category to get the top two gold medals, KGMU Vice-Chancellor Prof DK Gupta said: “In the last 100 years, we saw no student from SC category get an award (in academics)...I am very happy that this student (Vandana) bagged both the gold medals this year.”
Vandana maintained that her achievement is more of an individual success, which she owes to her family rather than a story of community struggle and victory.
“I do not really relate to ‘Dalit struggle’ because I have had the good fortune of getting excellent education and my parents and siblings have been very supportive,” Vandana, youngest of the three children of Harish Chandra Ram, a PWD junior engineer, told The Sunday Express.
Even in the past, Vandana has proved herself as a meritorious student with an outstanding 91 per cent marks in 10th and 89.64 per cent in 12th.
After completing schooling from Lucknow Public School, Vandana got 37th rank in SC category in medical entrance examination which secured her a seat at KGMU.
Ruling out any discrimination by KGMU faculty members, Vandana said her struggles are similar to any other student and she has faced no biases against her in university.
The V-C also made Vandana’s achievement a case against the allegations that the university teachers discriminate against students of SC category. “Allegations have been made that teachers discriminate against Dalit students in the university but they are false. In our university, education is the only priority,” said Gupta.
The 24-year-old doctor, who hails from Ballia, said her success would be more meaningful if it becomes an inspiration for girls of her community.
Vandana believes discrimination against Dalits is prevalent in the society and it can be eradicated by providing good quality education to Dalit children.
“Many intelligent children from my community in my village do not get the opportunity to study in good schools or colleges. They have no money and have to work to fulfill their necessities,” she said.
After completing her MBBS, she wants to pursue a masters in medical science and excel as a medical professional.
Hard work and ‘interest’ in the subject remains her key to success. “The MBBS course is so vast that it is impossible to mug up the entire syllabus. If we study with interest, only then can we succeed in our field,” claimed Vandana, who puts in four to six hours of study every day, and hopes to become a paediatrician one day.
KGMU convocation today
LUCKNOW: King George Medical University will host its ninth convocation ceremony on Sunday. While Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav will be the chief guest at the convocation, a total of 305 students will be awarded their degrees.
Addressing a press conference in Lucknow Saturday, KGMU Vice-Chancellor Professor DK Gupta said the CM will also inaugurate three new buildings, including a dental building, an OPD building and Advance Centre for Research, ahead of the the ceremony.
Governor B L Joshi, who is also the Chancellor of the university, will preside over the ceremony.
Posted on: September 30, 2013
Rural poverty is declining in southern India while it is stubbornly entrenched in the north and the east, a study has found.
Among the worst performers on rural poverty are Jharkhand, Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, MP and UP.
“In 1993-94, nearly 50% of India’s rural poor lived in these states. This figure rose to 63% in 2009-10 and 65% in 2011-12,” the report says.
Prepared by the IDFC Foundation, the report adds the number of rural poor in these states are increasing. Crucially, the states with higher cases of rural poverty also have higher cases of severe poverty.
The new findings are important in the study of rural poverty that has gained centrestage in the policy discourse with higher devolution of funds for development and entitlement schemes.
Releasing the report, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said, “The decline in poverty has been far from uniform across the states. It is evident that rural poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated in Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, MP and UP.”
A key finding is that poverty remains significantly high among Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in rural areas.
“Poverty among SCs and STs declined faster than the average between 2004 and 2010, but they constitute 44% of the rural poor despite representing 30% of the rural population,” the report says.
Quantifying the poverty among the marginalisd castes, the report has found that over half of the STs in MP, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, and nearly 70% in Bihar and Chhattisgarh, are poor.
The rate of poverty among various minority communities varies vastly.
According to the report, Muslims and Buddhists have higher rates of poverty whereas Sikh and Christian communities have lower rates of poverty.
“This difference in religious and social groups is largely attributed to inequality and discrimination faced in accessing educational opportunities, capital endowments and restricted occupational mobility,” it says.
Posted on: September 27, 2013
“Patna floods” said the front-page newspaper headline – as if we didn’t already know. The rain had hardly stopped since we arrived in the populous capital of Bihar, one of India’s poorest states and home to some of the country’s most marginalized groups.
As we picked our way towards the urban slum we were visiting the other side of the city, the light drizzle turned into a definite pelt against the car roof. Men in longis, knee deep in water, emerged from waterlogged alleys, while motorcyclists held their legs in the air as their bikes splashed through the flooded streets.
It was a fitting start to a week focusing on the water and sanitation issues faced by Dalit communities or “scheduled castes” – those that fall outside of India’s historical rigid caste system. Many Dalit women share the same surname, Devi, meaning “goddess” in Hindi. It’s an ironic moniker given that they are often expected to undertake some of the most undignified jobs in the world. These are the communities of rag pickers who scour the rubbish heaps to find garbage to resell; the sanitation workers who manually clean septic tanks; and the manual scavengers – the men and women who clean the dry latrines across the state.
As largely landless communities, Dalits usually have little other option in urban areas than to cram into the already crowded slums, where their access to clean, safe water and sanitation is often severely limited. Many still get their water from dirty shallow wells, or illegally from leaks in the city’s piped water supply. The stories about the impact of this lack of basic human rights have undoubtedly been the most shocking I’ve ever heard.
But there are signs that Dalits are working to break this cycle of inheritance and fighting for changes for their communities. And it’s women, in particular, who are leading the charge. A women’s group in the Mainpura community in north-west Patna has been working with WaterAid to secure better access to water and sanitation. It has since managed to ensure each house has its own water supply and concreted area outside for the latrine.
The contrast with communities still without a safe water supply was huge, and not just in terms of better child health and education rates. “The thinking has changed,” said Lalmanti Devi, a member of the Mainpura women’s group. “Earlier there was no mannerism in the way we talk, the way we sit, the way we wear the clothes. Now I am able to sit in front of you and talk to you.”
Posted on: September 26, 2013
Nearly 20 children from Gujarati families settled in Nairobi are reported missing in the terrorist siege of Westgate Mall which was ended by Kenyan forces on Tuesday, the fourth day of the stand-off. President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that five al-Shabaab terrorists had been killed and 11 taken into custody.
As eyewitness accounts of bodies of children lying strewn around the mall added to the anxiety of the families, Acharya Purshottam Priyadasji of the Ahmedabad-based Swaminarayan Gaadi Sansthan, which controls a string of temples in East Africa, said the toll of Indian-origin people could be much higher than anticipated. “I have spoken to many Gujaratis who have expressed fear that the casualty of Gujarati children may be high. Nearly 30-odd children are reportedly stuck inside the mall.”
Pinal Brahmbhatt, a 29-year-old woman who works in a departmental store in Nairobi, told TOI over phone that there is no information about five children known to her. “There is unbearable tension in the whole Indian community over the missing kids,” she said.
Shashi Sanghani, who runs a construction business in Nairobi, said 500-odd Gujarati children and parents were participating in a cooking competition at the mall when the gunmen stormed in and started firing indiscriminately. “I have been inside the mall thrice as a volunteer with the rescue team and I have seen a number of bodies of children,” he said.
He said names of 51 missing people have been registered with the Kenya Red Cross, which includes 20 children from Gujarati families.
Arun Patel, a volunteer with the rescue and relief team, said bodies of children in the mall were the most heartbreaking sight he had ever encountered. “The operations are not yet completely over, so bodies and survivors are coming out only in a trickle. We just hope most parents are reunited with their children,” said Patel.
Posted on: September 25, 2013
In a suspected case of ‘honour killing’, a Dalit man was murdered allegedly by his in-laws at Mehrama village of Bihar’s Nawada district on Tuesday, police said. “The victim identified as Naveen Kumar (25), was hanged with a rope and his stomach was pierced,” SP Manavjeet Singh Dhillon said. Naveen had married a girl from another Dalit caste two years ago much to the disapproval of her family, the SP said. The victim’s mother in-law and wife have been arrested and raids were being carried out to nab other family members who were absconding he said
Posted on: September 24, 2013
The directorate of education (DoE) has set up a grievance redressal mechanism to deal with complaints if poor quality midday meals are supplied by self-help groups to schools, and the system includes a helpline where school heads, parents and students can call with their complaints in case of emergencies.
Three deputy education officers have been appointed to deal with midday meal complaints at the zonal level – north, south and central. Also, additional district education inspectors of each taluka will act as grievance redressal officers to pull up any of the 84 self-help groups supplying midday meals for substandard quality of meals served to schools.
Phone numbers of the officers will be displayed on the notice board of each of the schools, which will allow parents, students, teachers or school heads to contact the officials to register their complaints about the quality of the meal. In addition, the DoE has set up a helpline on the number 2416033, where emergency complaints can be registered about the meals supplied.
In all 1,45,213 students in primary and upper primary schools in Goa are availing midday meals of the enrollment 1,64,484 students. The coverage at the primary level is 93% and at the upper primary level 84%.
After three cases during the current academic year of students complaining of nausea and vomiting on consuming midday meals, a couple of schools and students in isolated cases have refused to consume midday meals.
For the third consecutive year, the state has not utilized the monitoring and evaluation funds of Rs 25 lakh allocated by the central government. As per the new central government midday meal guidelines, Goa has submitted a fresh proposal to the Centre for allocation of Rs 30 lakh for each of Goa’s two districts for monitoring and evaluation of the scheme in 2013-14.
The state has also submitted an assurance that the funds would be utilized by Goa during this academic year and were not utilized last year due to some complications involving the state finance department.
Posted on: September 19, 2013
In Indira Gandhi, India last had a woman prime minister three decades ago. India’s fragmented polity of today places one of two women, J. Jayalalithaa or Mayawati (who goes by a single name), in pole position to become premier after next year’s federal elections.
Much attention is currently on Narendra Modi, the just-annointed prime ministerial candidate of India’s principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Disillusionment with the ruling Congress is widespread. Its leadership too seems resigned to not regaining power. All it wants to do is thwart Modi from winning.
The Indian parliament’s electable chamber has 545 seats, and because of the country’s incredible diversity of language, religion, caste, and ethnicity, no single party has won an outright majority since just after Indira Gandhi’s death. Either the Congress or the BJP usually win roughly between 150 and 200 seats and then cobble together a coalition. In rare instances, one of the two main parties has propped up a smaller player to lead the government.
The euphoria of Modi’s supporters is unbound. They are already presuming that he has become prime minister. But the BJP will need to cross 200 seats to make a realistic bid for power, and there is no reason to believe that it will reach the number (183 seats are the most it has won as yet). Eighty seats alone come from a single state, Uttar Pradesh (UP), where the BJP was mauled in local elections just over a year ago. It has no local leadership worth the name there. Modi is popular among sections, but he is an outsider from the state of Gujarat, which is far removed from the Hindi heartland of which UP is the very heart.
The ruling Congress has also just started providing food grains at highly subsidized rates to much of the the country’s poor, who comprise almost 70 percent of the population. While the program may not propel it back to power, it promises to be a game changer. The BJP has typically appealed to the Hindu middle classes; the Congress to the poor. The Congress hopes that the food program will re-energize its base, allowing it to win between 130 and 150 seats, whereupon it can scupper the BJP’s chances.
Modi’s polarizing personality makes it difficult for the BJP to attract allies. Aligned currently with it are only two small parties, which can deliver but a small number of seats. Even if the BJP wins 200 seats on its own, it still needs 73 more for parliamentary majority.
The only other outside leader to have shown open affinity for Modi is J. Jayalalithaa, chief minister of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. But she has serious pretensions of her own of becoming prime minister. She did not make any public comment to felicitate Modi on his recent elevation, indicating that she is no mood to play second fiddle.
Jayalalithaa won a resounding victory in her state two years ago, and has retained her popularity through populist schemes. Her opposition remains in shambles, so she can hope to garner 30 out of the nearly 40 seats from her state. While she consorts with Modi, she has been careful not to get tainted by his anti-Muslim image. And more than three decades in politics has made her an opportunist. She would not hesitate to jettison Modi and the BJP for the Congress were that to fructify her chances of becoming prime minister.
The other regional leader with burgeoning potential is Mayawati, a woman from the untouchable caste, who led UP until she badly lost local elections a year ago. But major missteps by her victorious adversaries have rekindled a longing for her. With both the BJP and the Congress weak in UP, Mayawati can easily aspire to about half of UP’s 80 seats.
India lacks no shortage of regional chieftains who would like to become prime minister, but no one else seems to be in a position to win between 30 and 40 seats. Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of the large state of Bihar, seemed to have been one such but his dramatic divorce with the BJP over Modi’s promotion promises to cost him Hindu votes. Other local leaders such as Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee shone briefly, but their star appears to have waned.
Assuming that Modi gets 180 seats, he will need about a hundred more seats to form the government. If both Jayalalithaa and Mayawati win 30 seats each, and both decide to support Modi, he still lacks 40 seats. Some minor parties may come to his side, but he remains anathema to most major ones, so he will find it difficult to bridge the deficit.
The BJP could, of course, ask Modi to step aside as its prime ministerial candidate, and nominate in his stead someone more agreeable to allies, but after leading the BJP to its near all-time high of seats, Modi will not take the affront lightly. Compromise has never been his strong suit.
In any case, with the BJP at 180, Jayalalithaa and Mayawati will start fancying their own chances. Why support Modi when they can themselves have the crown? But if both win 30 seats, each would want to lead the coalition, and exclude the other from the mix. With 30 seats from one of them, and 180 from Modi, 60-odd seats would still be required from the same parties who do not want to be associated with Modi.
The Congress then becomes the party of choice for Jayalalithaa and Mayawati. Cobbling together an alliance would be so much easier. Were the Congress to pick up 140 seats, another 30 seats (from Jayalalithaa or Mayawati) leaves a gap of around 100-odd seats, a number that may appear daunting, but one that can be made up with a number of big regional parties. Additionally, the Congress knows that its own house is in bad order, and would to want to lick its wounds for some time, so it might be more accommodating to a small party than a resurgent Modi would be.
One can thus arrive at three conclusions. First, unless the BJP wins 200-odd seats, it could find it well nigh impossible to lead a government. Second, the Congress seems happy to play spoiler to Modi by actively seeking to prop up a smaller party. Third, the Congress’s abdication and Modi’s unpalatability will incline any regional leader with 30 seats to lean on the former to make a play for the prime minister’s job. With just about half a year to go for national elections, Jayalalithaa and Mayawati lead the pack of regional contenders for premiership. India could well have a woman prime minister after decades.
Posted on: September 17, 2013
In a cold-blooded murder, a 17-year-old girl was hanged to death by her brothers in Tirunelveli on Friday for eloping with a dalit youth.
Police have arrested the two brothers—M Murugan (24) and M Sodalaimuthu (20)—who allegedly hanged her to death at their house. “The two have admitted to have committed the murder,’’ a police officer said.
Police said that Gomathi, daughter of Mayandi, a farmer from Seevalaperi in Tirunelveli district, was working in a seafood company in Tuticorin where she fell in love with a dalit youth named Murugan. When Gomathi’s family members learnt about the affair, they warned her to snap the relationship with Murugan. The girl belonged to an intermediate caste and her family’s grouse was that the Murugan is a dalit. However, Gomathi continued her relationship with Murugan, a resident of Tuticorin. Irked by her attitude, Mayandi started making arrangements for her marriage with another person.
“Learning about the marriage plans of her family, Gomathi eloped with Murugan two days back. However, Mayandi and his sons, Murugan and Sodalaimuthu, traced the girl and convinced her to return home, promising to get her married with her lover,’’ police said.
But once the girl was brought home, they started beating her and urged her to forget Murugan. “Around 3pm on Friday, Murugan and Sodalaimuthu tied a rope around her neck and hanged her inside the house. They attempted to project it as a suicide. But some of the villagers informed us about the incident. When we visited the spot and conducted inquiries, it was evident that the death of Gomathi was a clear case of murder,’’ police said.
Police immediately secured the two brothers and brought them to the police station. After initial denial, the two admitted to have committed the murder, police claimed.
Police suspect that the girl might have been poisoned before she was hung. The body has been sent for post mortem and the results are awaited to ascertain if she was poisoned.
Posted on: September 16, 2013
The rural police have registered cases against dalit leaders for not complying with the orders issued by the police department on the occasion of Immanuel Sekaran’s Memorial Day which was held in Paramakudi on Wednesday.
Madurai district police registered two cases against John Pandian, president of Thamizhaga Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, a party floated by All India Devendra Kula Velalar Sangam. As many as 20 supporters of John Pandian have also been booked by Vadipatti police on Wednesday. Another dalit leader, Dr Krishnaswamy, founder president of Puthiya Thamilagam party has also been booked for violating the police orders enforced on the day for the smooth passage of the even. The case against Dr Krishnaswamy was registered by Silaiman police while he along with his supporters was on the way to Paramakudi. They were booked while they passed Madurai district police limits.
Both the leaders have been booked under Sections IPC 143-unlawful assembly and IPC 188 – disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant. Police said that John Pandian and his supporters were travelling to Paramakudi via Madurai from Dindigul and they protested when the police conducted a vehicular check-up as per the orders from the district administration and police officials. tnn
Briefing about the cases V Balakrishnan, superintendent of police, Madurai district, said that cases against John Pandian and his supporters have been booked at Vadipatti station as they did not cooperate with the police during the vehicular check-up.
Dr Krishnaswamy too has been booked as he violated police orders of not using more three cars in a convoy.
Posted on: September 13, 2013
State president of the Kerala Dalit Federation (KDF) P. Ramabhadran has said that the coming Lok Sabha elections will prove that the Dalits are a force to reckon with.
Mainstream political parties were under the impression that the Dalits were not capable of deciding the victor in an election. This would be proved wrong in the coming Lok Sabha elections, he said inaugurating a State-level leadership conference of the KDF here on Monday.
Mr. Ramabhadran said that each Member of Parliament was given Rs.5 crore annually for carrying out development work in their respective constituencies.
It was mandatory that 22 per cent of that be utilised for the welfare and development of the Dalit sections. But the reality was that a majority of MPs did not utilise even 2 per cent of the amount for the Dalits.
He alleged that some of the MPs from the State who had solicited the support of the KDF during the last Lok Sabha election were now totally ignoring the Dalits.
Mr. Ramabhadran was particularly critical of Wayanad MP M.I. Shanavas in this connection.
He said that it would be better for the United Democratic Front to hand over the Wayanad seat to a Socialist Janata Party candidate in the coming Lok Sabha elections. All political parties conveniently forgot the promises made in the election manifestoes.
If at least some of the promises had become a reality, the living conditions of the Dalits would have been much better, he said.
KDF State general secretary K.P.C. Kuttan presided.
Posted on: September 12, 2013
Haryana police have suspended three cops for “molesting” a dalit woman in Kaithal district on Monday, when a group of women was returning after attending a state government employees’ rally in Panchkula.
The cops allegedly misbehaved with two other women also. All of them work in Haryana women and child development department. According to a complaint, when the brother of a woman tried to help the women, the cops took him to police station and put him behind bars. He was released after the women informed the police helpline.
The employees of several departments on Tuesday staged a demonstration at Kalayat town where the incident took place. Deputy superintendent of police, Kaithal, Surender Singh Bhoria told TOI that ASI Ishwar Singh, head constable Vijender and another cop Karambir were suspended in connection with the incident.
The three women had reached Kalayat town at 11pm on Monday from Panchkula. According to the complaint, when they were walking towards their houses, one of the cops deployed sitting in a Gypsy used abusive language. When the women tried to run away from the spot, the cops followed them and put them in the police vehicle.
The cops allegedly snatched a gold chain and Rs 3,350 from a woman before molesting her. On being informed, husband and brother of a woman reached the spot. The cops then pushed the women from the vehicle and took the men to the police station and threatened them.
Later, the three women and brother of one of them were admitted in a hospital who were discharged on Tuesday.
The DSP said that a two member team including a lady police officer would probe the matter. The accused cops were medically examined on Tuesday.
Posted on: September 11, 2013
A family tried to force abortion on a woman just because her husband suspected her of having an illicit relationship with someone. The woman was forcefully taken to Chaksu hospital of Jaipur district but she fought for her right and she later gave birth to the baby but lost her family. The semi-literate woman is now fighting for her rights in the court and she is worried about the future of her baby.
There were eighteen such cases of dalit women who came out with their woeful tales during the state level public hearing on Sunday at Pastoral Social Centre, Naka Madar, organized by the Dalit Mahila Manch of Rajasthan and the Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti.
Narrating her story at the hearing, the 20-year-old woman came from Jaipur district stated how she was harassed by her in-laws just because her husband suspected an illicit relationship. “Now my condition is that I have a two-year-old child and no place to live. No money to eat or to give my advocate’s fees. My family also went to the community panchayat but no one came to help,” she said.
In another case, 65-year-old Anguri of Bharatpur was beaten up and thrown out from her house by her own son and his wife on allegations of witchcraft. “I have to beg for bread on the roadside despite the fact that my husband left me a big house and a land. My son and his wife took everything. When I went to police, the asked my son to keep me but after sometime they again throw me out. My son’s wife alleged me to be a witch,” said Anguri, who shared her story at the public hearing.
Similarly, a woman from Bharatpur said she was harassed just because her father had not given a buffalo as dowry. She alleged that she was thrown out from the house and her in-laws kept the children and do not allow her to meet them. She went to police but nothing happened.
In another interesting case, a woman from Ajmer not only filed a case of harassment against her in-laws but also against her parents. The woman alleged that her husband beat her up with a helmet and forced her to live with him in a graveyard. “I refused to live in the graveyard and returned to my parents but my parents started harassing me so much so that I have to seek police help,” the victim said.
In another case, a 19-year-old girl said she was harassed by her husband. She now wanted a divorce and to pursue studies so as to be able to stand on her feet. “From the first day of my marriage, my husband wanted me to talk to his friend on phone at night. He was mentally sick and tortured me. When I realized the problem, I left my house. Now I want a divorce and study,” she said. Her father also supported her to be independent and continue with her studies.
“The major problem these women had were that they married early and they are not educated,” said Ruth Manorma, national coordinator of NFDW. She asked these women to get back their confidence and continue their her fight through education.
“It is not easy to break a family on small issues. Besides, we suggested them to get legal aid from the legal cell of every district court,” said D L Thripathi, vice president of PUCL . “The motive is to provide legal and social help to these women on issue of domestic violence,” said P L Mimroth of Dalit Right Centre. He added that these cases were referred to proper government bodies for disposal and “we also requesting the state government to make the police department sensitive on such issues”.
Posted on: September 10, 2013
More than a year after actor Aamir Khan highlighted the age-old discriminatory practice of manual scavenging, the Parliament on Saturday passed a bill which provides for a jail term of upto five years to those employing such labour.
Already illegal under a largely ineffective 1993 law, the new bill seeks to put an end to the practice of manual removal of human excreta from dry latrines.
“This dehumanising practice is inconsistent with the right to live with dignity,” Social Justice Minister Kumari Selja said after passage of the bill.
Once the President gives his assent to convert the bill into law, it will be illegal to employ labour for hazardous cleaning (manual cleaning without protective gear and other safety precautions) of a sewer or a septic tank. All insanitary toilets will also have to be dismantled.
The bill seeks to make manual scavenging a non-bailable offence and the cases will be tried in fast track courts.
Safai Karamachari Andolan, the national body for protection of manual scavengers, termed the passage of the bill as “an effort to rectify the historical injustice and indignity” suffered by them.
There are serious shortcomings in the bill, but we welcome it and hope it will make India manual scavenging free,” said the organisation’s national convenor, Wilson Bezwada.
Participating in the debate on the bill, CPI leader D Raja said “the nation owed an apology to those forced to work as manual scavengers despite it having been banned since 1993.”
Though no official figures on the number of manual scavengers are available, in his TV show Satyamev Jayte, Khan had put the estimated number at around a million.
Posted on: September 9, 2013
School children will motivate their parents to vote by taking their signature on affidavits as promise to cast vote in the upcoming polls in the state.
The school education department is going to start a campaign for students of classes 1 to 12 under which students will ask their parents to sign on forms which will be their oath to exercise the right to adult suffrage in the legislative assembly polls due in November and the general elections which will follow next year.
“There is no official order on this, but yes there is going to be an awareness campaign wherein parents will be persuaded by their children by signing on the forms and pledging to cast vote,” said district education officer Sanjay Goyal.
The district education officer will be the nodal officer for this awareness campaign.
Goyal said that the forms will be submitted in schools after parents sign on it. However, it will not be mandatory for all students to be a part of the campaign.
“Voting is not a mandatory procedure and thus no student will be bound to be a part of this campaign” Goyal said.
Students of both private and government schools will be a part of this campaign. The school education department has also recommended schools to conduct more of such awareness campaigns amongst students who are the future voters of our country.
“Students of class 12 and collegiate are being enlisted as they will soon be potential voters as well as schools are conducting activities to make children understand the importance of voting,” said Goyal.
Posted on: September 6, 2013
President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said there was a time India had renowned seats of learning which attracted scholars from far and wide and the country has to regain its leadership position in education.
Speaking on the occasion of Teachers’ Day, Mukherjee said: “There was a time when we had renowned seats of learning like Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramshila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri.”
“They attracted scholars from far and wide. The powerful minds who taught at such universities created an exalted position for our ancient education system. We have to regain our leadership position. We look towards teachers to guide the way,” he said.
Mukherjee honoured 378 teachers from across the country on Teachers’ Day, which is celebrated on September 5, the birth anniversary of India’s second president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
Mukherjee emphasised the need to create systems for continuous assessment of the quality of education and the outcome of country’s educational inputs.
“Since we won our independence, we, in India, have done very well in the fields of science, technology, innovation and economic development. Yet, we find that despite our accomplishments, we cannot claim to have evolved into a truly developed society,” he said.
Mukherjee said development is not only about factories, dams and roads but about people, their values and their faithfulness to their spiritual and cultural heritage.
“An inclusive approach is critical for achieving our developmental goals. We have to empower our children, their parents and communities in every part of India,” he said.
Expressing “sadness” over the male-female gap in literacy, Mukherjee said: “Nothing is more saddening than the sight of a girl child being denied education.”
Posted on: September 5, 2013
It was just another Saturday morning, recalls Murti Devi. As usual, her 20-year-old daughter woke up around 8.30am, helped her with household chores, tucked in two chapattis for breakfast, got ready and left for Jind, 22 km away from her village Baniya Khera, to take a junior teachers’ exam. She never returned home.
Around 4 pm, her father Surat Singh, a dalit who worked as a daily wager, got an anonymous phone call saying his daughter’s identity papers were found in Ambredi village near a bus stand. Her body was found by a canal the next day. Her dupatta, purse and sandals were missing.
“Her eyes were still wide open with fear. Nobody bothered to straighten her curled fingers. And nobody tried to close her mouth. It was as if her last scream was still inside her throat,” says Singh, his eyes fixed to the ground, fingers trembling.
Now, nine days and three post-mortems later, including one at AIIMS, nobody knows who snuffed out her life. Her murder has been the focus of media in these parts of Jat-dominated Haryana. Scores of demonstrations by enraged Dalits and activists have rocked Jind. But when her body was finally cremated on August 31, after National Commission for Schedule Caste chairman P L Punia and local police assured protesters that the culprits will be caught, there were plenty of unanswered questions.
“We can’t pinpoint any particular community’s members responsible. Investigation is on,” said Rajiv Rattan, deputy commissioner, Jind. The protests continue. On Sunday, a crowd of 800 agitated in Rohtak.
By all accounts, the young dalit girl, whose name is being held back, was special. “Of the 20-odd Dalit families in the village, she was perhaps the only girl who was a graduate. Her younger and elder sisters are married. Some neighbours said this was unusual,” says her mother.
Post-mortem reports said the girl wasn’t sexually assaulted. However, the family’s lawyer Rajat Kansal claimed she was tortured. “People who saw the body near the canal said her salwar was bloodstained and there were cigarette burns on her body. But cops want to avoid communal tension and are playing down atrocities on dalits. They are trying to pass it off suicide,” Kansal alleged.
Life is tough for dalit women in Haryana. As per police records, 22 dalit women were raped in the past 45 days in the state. Activists claim the real figure is higher. “Of 10 rapes, only one gets registered. There are cases where a family member was murdered for speaking up against the rape of a woman in his family,” says Beena Pallical, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. In October 2012, the abysmal condition of women, particularly dalit, made Congress president Sonia Gandhi visit Jind.
It’s heart-rending when Surat Singh and his sons relive the moments they first realised that something had gone horribly wrong. “When I checked with the school authorities after that phone call, I found that she had never reached there,” he recalls. He then called his son who lives in Jind. On the way back home, Singh filed a complaint at Pillukhera police station.
“We stopped at various places and asked if someone had seen my daughter. But I was beginning to feel she was no more,” says Singh. After the body was found, cops took it to the civil hospital. While doctors were tardy with post-mortem, public anger rose. Enraged villagers took the girl’s body out of the mortuary and protested.
“I didn’t know what was happening. I remember from being very angry to losing hope to going numb. I could hear people screaming but the voice I longed to hear was gone,” says Singh.
After the first post-mortem was hushed up at a civil hospital leading to mobs going on rampage, cops ordered another post-mortem. “There’s a reason why the mob was angry. The doctors’ and police attitude towards dalit victims and rape survivors is uncaring,” says Asha Kowtal, general secretary, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch.
By Maria Akram
Times of India
Posted on: September 4, 2013
Child-rights activists say the rape last week of a five-year-old girl is just the latest case in which Indian police failed to take urgent action on a report of a missing child. Three days after the attack, the girl was found alone in locked room in the same New Delhi building where her family lives.
More than 90,000 children go missing in India each year; more than 34,000 are never found. Some parents say they lost crucial time because police wrongly dismissed their missing children as runaways, refused to file reports or treated the cases as nuisances.
The parents of the five-year-old said that after their daughter disappeared, they repeatedly begged police to register a complaint and begin a search but they were rejected. They also said police offered them a bribe after the girl was found to keep quiet.
Other poor parents of missing children said they also have found police reluctant to help them.
In 2010, police took 15 days to register a missing-persons case for 14-year-old Pankaj Singh. His mother is still waiting for him to come home.
“Every day my husband and my father would wait at the police station but they would shoo them away,” Pravesh Singh said as she sat on her son’s bed, surrounded by his pictures and books.
One morning in March 2010, she fed her son a breakfast of fried pancakes and spicy potatoes, then left for a community health training programme.
“He told me he would have a bath and settle down to study for his exams,” said Ms Singh, clutching the boy’s photograph to her heart.
When she returned, he was gone. “The neighbours said some boys had called him out. We searched everywhere, went to the police, but they refused to believe that something had happened to our son.”
The police insisted he had run off with friends and would return, she said.
“They said we must have scolded him or beaten him, which is why he had run away from home.”
Formal police complaints were registered in only one-sixth of missing-child cases in 2011, said Bhuwan Ribhu, a lawyer with Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or the Save the Childhood Movement. He said police resist registering cases because they want to keep crime figures low, and that parents are often too poor to bribe them to reconsider.
“It’s easy enough to blame the police for not finding the children. Some of the parents do not even possess a photograph of the child. Or they will come up with a years-old picture. It becomes difficult when there’s not even a photograph to work with,” the Delhi police spokesman, Rajan Bhagat, said last month when asked about complaints on police inaction in investigating case of missing children.
Many cases involved poor migrant construction workers who move from site to site around the city, Mr Bhagat said.
“The children are unfamiliar with the place and once they lose their way, they wouldn’t know how to return,” he said.
Krishna Tirath, India’s women and child development minister, told parliament last month that the problem of missing children had assumed “alarming” proportions. The National Crime Records Bureau reported that 34,406 missing children were never found in 2011, up from 18,166 in 2009.
Activists said some children were trafficked and forced to beg on the streets. Some work on farms or factories as forced labour and others have their organs harvested and sold. The activists said young girls are pushed into the sex trade or sold for marriage.
In 2006, the Central Bureau of Investigation said at least 815 criminal gangs were kidnapping children for begging, prostitution or ransom. The Save the Childhood Movement said police have not cracked a single one of those syndicates.
“Despite our providing the police with all the details of where a child was picked up from, where he was taken, the police are simply not willing to act,” said Mr Ribhu.
Shantha Sinha, who heads the government’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, acknowledged that much remained to be done to make police take seriously cases of missing children.
“There has to be a strong message that in every incident of a missing child, a criminal case has to be registered and the case is properly investigated,” Ms Sinha said.
Kunwar Pal, a construction worker, fears police indifference crushed his efforts to find his son Ravi Kumar.
Since the 12-year-old disappeared three years ago, he has cycled across the sprawling capital, visiting police and railway stations, children’s homes and hospitals, handing out posters and photographs of his missing son. Every time he hears of a child found anywhere in the city, he cycles to the police station, hoping it’s Ravi.
Mr Pal, 45, refuses to think the worst. He believes Ravi was taken by a childless couple who wanted a child of their own.
“If they were to let me know somehow that my son is alive, I would be happy,” said Pal. “They can keep him. Just let me see his shadow. Just let me know he’s safe.”
Posted on: September 3, 2013
August 29, 2013
On the morning of July 23, Shakuntala Kirkire, a housewife in Bandrachiwadi village in the western state of Maharashtra, carried her 10-month-old daughter in her arms and walked in rain down the slope of a hill on which her village stands. Her husband, Ajay Kirkire, walked close to her, holding up an umbrella to protect their sick child as they tried to reach the government-run clinic in a neighboring village.
A few minutes later, Mr. and Mrs. Kirkire stopped midway. Priya, their child, had died. She had been born healthy but had lost weight rapidly over the months. At the time of her death, Priya weighed 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds), four kilograms less than what is considered normal for her age. Doctors listed pneumonia as the cause of her death in government records.
Bandrichiwadi is a picturesque and poor village in the mountainous Jawhar area in the district of Thane. Jawhar, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the megacity of Mumbai, is home to various tribes, who are among the most marginalized sections of Indian society. About 8.7 percent of Maharashtra’s 112.4 million people are tribals, according to the 2011 central government census. Intense public attention was focused on the area in the early 1990s, when hundreds of children died of malnutrition in 1992-93 in Jawhar and the adjoining Mokhada and Vikramgarh subdistricts.
Little has changed in the past 20 years. In July this year, 12 children under the age of 6, apart from Priya, died there. In June, it was 11 children. In May, another nine. Between July 2012 and July 2013, 80 children died in the Jawhar subdistrict. The official causes of death, listed in the medical records of the children who died in June, include pneumonia, aphasia and febrile convulsions, which are usually not fatal. But the government records also show that the deceased children were malnourished, and more than half were severely malnourished, like Priya.
“Malnutrition is a precipitating cause, so we speak of deaths that are attributable to malnutrition,” Victor Aguayo, chief of child nutrition and development at Unicef India, explained in a recent interview in New Delhi.
In 2011, the infant mortality rate, expressed as the number of children younger than 1 who died per 1,000 live births, was 44 in India, which translates into 1.19 million infant deaths, according to data collected by the Registrar General of India. In 2010 the under-5 mortality rate stood at 59, one of the highest in the world.
A study published by the British charity Save the Children in 2012 estimated that 1.83 million Indian children die every year before the age of 5. “Most of the deaths occur from treatable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and complications at birth,” the study noted.
“The child may eventually die of a disease, but that disease was lethal because the child was unable to fight back because of malnutrition,” Mr. Aguayo said.
The Indian government has not updated its national statistics on nutrition, known as the National Family Health Survey, since 2005-2006. Even its smaller and poorer neighbor, Bangladesh, has conducted three such surveys in the past decade. India’s data from 2005-2006 showed that 42.5 percentage of children under the age of 5 were underweight, a measure of acute and chronic malnutrition.
Half a decade after the last National Family Health Survey, the levels of malnutrition remained startlingly high. A 2011 Hungama survey, carried out through a collaboration between several independent organizations, showed that among the children under 5 in 100 districts of the country that have historically fared poorly on child nutrition indicators, 42 percent are underweight. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responded to the findings of the Hungama survey by describing malnutrition as a “national shame.”
According to the official records at the Bandrichiwadi village council office, 25 out of the 42 children under 6 in the village are malnourished. A wave of malnutrition-related deaths in the village is also exacerbated by the lack of pediatricians in rural hospitals.
“We are not pediatricians,” said Vijay Sangle, a doctor at the public hospital where the Kirkires had once sought treatment for their child. “We are not even equipped to diagnose a respiratory infection as pneumonia.” Dr. Sangle and his colleagues refer most patients to a bigger hospital at Jawhar, about 5 kilometers away.
A farmer working in a field in Jawhar sub-district in Thane district of Maharashtra, on Aug. 17.Malavika Vyawahare A farmer working in a field in Jawhar sub-district in Thane district of Maharashtra, on Aug. 17.
Bandrichiwadi sits atop one of the many hills that rise up on the lush green landscape of Jawhar, dotted by small seasonal streams and muddy pathways seeping through. The frequent rainfall lends a perpetual mistiness to the upper reaches of hills. Along the only road that runs from Jawhar to the villages, a sturdy surfaced road gives way to a mushy rocky track leading up to Bandrichiwadi, on which hardly any motorized vehicles ply. Passing through are laborers on their way to work and women, some with water-filled pots on their heads, others with children clinging to them.
There is no public transport after dusk. The night before Priya died, the doctors at the village hospital had told the Kirkires to take her to the Jawhar hospital. “It was evening, there was no way for us to get there,” Mrs. Kirkire recalled. “No one told us that we could get an ambulance to go there.”
The Kirkires are from the Varli tribe, which is listed in the Indian Constitution as a scheduled tribe, groups recognized as historically disadvantaged, isolated from the Indian mainstream, which qualifies them for affirmative action policies. Scheduled tribes make up 8.6 percent of India’s population of 1.2 billion, according to the 2011 census.
Among tribal populations spread across 10 states in the country, 52 percent of preschool children (between 1-5 years) were underweight, a National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau survey noted. In the tribal districts of Maharashtra, 64 percent of preschool children were found to be underweight, with 28.8 percent considered severely underweight.
The Varlis, who are known for their folk art, wall paintings made from rice paste, are mostly either daily wage agricultural laborers or subsistence farmers. “The root cause of malnutrition is the loss of control over food production and food security,” said Milind Bokil, a sociologist and writer.
Although the Kirkires grow rice, millet and finger millet on their 2.5 hectares of land, the produce is not enough to sustain them throughout the year. Mr. Kirkire, like most men in his village, supplements their meager income by working as laborer in the sand-mining industry in neighboring districts for most of the year. Mrs. Kirkire, like most village women, has to walk three kilometers to get drinking water from a well.
The house of Ajay and Shakuntala Kirkire in Bandrichiwadi village of Maharashtra, on Aug. 17.Malavika Vyawahare The house of Ajay and Shakuntala Kirkire in Bandrichiwadi village of Maharashtra, on Aug. 17.
A photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Kirkire hung from a wooden pole supporting the roof of their single-room mud house. A broken clock hung by a bamboo pole next to the photograph. Since their child’s death, Mr. Kirkire has been spending his days by roaming aimlessly in the village fields. Mrs. Kirkire moved out and has been living in her parents’ home, about an hour away.
“I cannot bear to be in that house,” said Mrs. Kirkire. “I can still hear the cries of my child.”
Mrs. Kirkire’s pain is compounded by the awareness that breast milk was crucial for the health of her child, but she suffered from a condition known as inverted nipples, in which a mother’s nipples retract inwards and make it difficult for the baby to suckle. Mrs. Kirkire had to feed powdered milk to her child, which cost 300 rupees ($5) for two tins. But because they couldn’t afford any more tins, the Kirkires switched to rice starch. “Our family hardly makes enough to sustain ourselves,” said Yashwanti Kirkire, Mr. Kirkire’s mother.
Workers with the government-sponsored Integrated Child Development Scheme place part of the blame on parents in these impoverished tribal areas being inattentive to the needs of their children, but crushing poverty forces most women to leave their young children at home and work in the fields during the agricultural seasons. “None of the women here sit at home and feed their children for the first six months,” said Surekha Patekar, the program caseworker at Bandrichiwadi.
The common practice is for 5- to 6-year-old children to start working with the parents in the fields or stay home to take care of the younger children. “Parents have to go to the fields leaving their child behind — there is no other way,” Ms. Patekar said “They will have nothing to eat otherwise.”
A few meters from the Kirkire house, a path led to a grove of trees. A small metallic bowl, empty bottles of medicine, and a plastic bag full of baby clothes lie beside Priya’s unmarked grave. The frequency of malnutrition-related deaths has given birth to a new superstition. “Every monsoon five people die in this village,” said Mrs. Kirkire. “It is a curse.”
By MALAVIKA VYAWAHARE
New York Times
Posted on: August 29, 2013
August 27, 2013
Wooing Dalits, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said his party would be their backbone in the time to come and attacked BSP supremo Mayawati for not grooming leaders among the community.
He said he would stand by them to ensure their progress irrespective of the amount of time it takes. “You ask in UP for five Dalit leaders and the answer you will hear is Mayawati, Mayawati, Mayawati, Mayawati and Mayawati… I want that there should be a queue of leaders at all levels, in UP, Delhi, at block levels, in villages…,” he said.
Rahul was addressing a meet—National Dialogue on Social Disparity—organised by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes in New Delhi. He said his party would be backbone of Dalits in the time to come.i
Rahul has been making concerted attempts to win back Dalit support base from BSP in Uttar Pradesh, which would be an important factor in its electoral fortune in the polls scheduled for early next year, but without much success.
He mentioned Food Security Bill, passed by Lok Sabha on Monday and is being seen by the ruling party as a game-changer before elections, and Right to Information Act to stress his party’s commitment to people’s welfare.
“You will have to keep faith in Congress,” he said. He said it is necessary to empower people so that they could throw up grass-roots leadership instead of a few people in all parties deciding who would be there leaders. Rahul also spoke on his travel through Uttar Pradesh and said Dalits were discriminated.
“In schools, when I asked teachers who were the most intelligent students in their classes, they pointed to some sitting in the front bench while those in the back-benches were least bright.” “They would be Dalits,” he said, terming it discrimination.
Posted on: August 27, 2013
August 21, 2013
The north coastal Andhra, home to four out of five malaria-prone districts in the state, should ideally have observed World Mosquito Day and National Malaria Day on Tuesday, August 20 to mark scientist Dr Ronald Ross’s discovery of the malaria causing female Anopheles mosquito in 1897. Marking the event would have at least drawn the spotlight on the health concerns of the region that is still fighting the monsoon disease. But in the present unsettling political scenario, malaria patients in the rural and tribal areas have been left neglected with not a single mosquito net being distributed here, despite requisitions being sent for lakhs of nets by the district administration to the state government.
The Samaikyandhra agitation, APNGOA’s strike and dearth of male health assistants in the rural and tribal areas have also posed a major challenge to the malaria control programme. The five malaria-prone districts include Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, Khammam and East Godavari. Except Khammam, all the others are located in north coastal Andhra.
According to the statistics provided by the State Epidemic Cell (SEC) and Vizag district malaria control office, there has been around 25% decrease in the incidence of malaria in the state from January to mid August 2013 as compared to the January-mid August 2012 period.
In Vizag district alone, malaria instances are down by 20.1% thanks to low rainfall. However, the decreased statistics need not necessarily mean that malaria control has been completely effectiveeven though the district administration might have been alert. Sample collection and detection have been relatively less than last year and due to less rainfall in coastal AP, vectors have also been less active, say experts.
District malaria control officer Dr K V S Prasad Rao attributed the decrease in cases to inactive vectors and less mosquito breeding due to low rainfall. “Our district medical and health office has been doing the best by implementing monitoring programmes. Due to less rain, vector-borne diseases may be less this time. However, sample (blood smear) collection has also come down compared to last year, especially in Agency and rural areas because many posts of male health assistants are lying vacant.”
“The district collector had also given a requisition for two lakh mosquito nets for Vizag, especially for the Agency and foothill areas but we haven’t received them till date. Last year, around 3.8 lakh mosquito nets were distributed to tribal and rural households in Vizag. The requisition and indent have been given from the state but since it’s being procured and supplied at the central level, we can’t do anything about it. Filling up the posts is also at the discretion of the government,” said Dr Rao.
Though the malaria season would be over next month, mosquito nets have not been supplied this year in the vulnerable areas throughout the state even though the peak malaria season falls between July and September despite a requisition for around 8 lakh nets being sent and Rs 11 crore being sanctioned by the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) for state vector borne disease control programme this year.
Dr Champa Naik, additional director (malaria and filaria), state epidemic cell, said, “The mosquito nets are being procured. It’s in the process. The Centre is supposed to supply to all the states and districts.
As for the sample collection, dearth of manpower won’t be a problem as rapid diagnostic kits are being used for diagnosis. There’s an around 25% decrease in malaria cases this year compared to 2012,” he said.
However, with more than 50% of the manpower, including clerks and administrative staff belonging to APNGOs on strike to demand for Samaikyandhra, there’s no denying that work and healthcare is hampered. “Of course the absence of hundreds of healthcare staff is being felt and we are managing with contract workers. Suspected malaria or fever patients are being referred by hospitals from rural and tribal areas but due to the transport strike even they are unable to come to the city for treatment,” stated a district health official requesting anonymity.
This is evident as the Tribal Welfare Cell in King George Hospital is also getting fewer patients.
“Usually 150-200 cases per month are referred to us from the Agency areas, including malaria cases. But in the last three weeks, the number of patients has come down to 70-80 due to the ongoing agitation and transport strike,” said Dr P Lakshman Rao of the ITDA (Integrated Tribal Development Agency), who is chief coordinator of the tribal cell at KGH.
By: Sulogna Mehta
Times of India
Posted on: August 21, 2013
August 20, 2013
Meenu Vadera is the founder of New Delhi’s only all-female taxi company. The service, which launched in 2008, has 11 women drivers who ferry female customers around the Indian capital. Another 49 women work as full-time personal drivers.
Sakha Consulting Wings, the for-profit social enterprise set up by Ms. Vadera, runs the service.
For this week’s “Women at Work” series, The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time spoke with Ms. Vadera, 48, who is also the founder and executive director of Azad Foundation, a non-profit organization working to improve women’s rights.
The Wall Street Journal: Why did you decide to launch an all-female cab service in New Delhi?
Meenu Vadera: In 2001, the census showed the sex ratio in India and the gap was shocking to me. Delhi, Punjab and Haryana were the red states. I began wondering why there’s no cab service for women in Delhi, having seen it operational in some other parts of the world. I read at the time that some five star hotels had floors allocated for women travellers, so all of these different ideas came together in my mind.
Also, of course, violence against women has been and continues to be so widespread across all classes in our country. So we were meeting two objectives with one intervention. On the one hand, we were able to ensure livelihoods with dignity for resource-poor women who become drivers, and on the other hand, to offer safe mobility for female passengers.
Another reason we set up the cab service is because the entire public transport system, including the taxi system, is so male-dominated and chauvinistic in its ways. You cannot have women working 15 hours a day, not because they don’t want to, but because that’s what men tell women as they are meant to have other responsibilities within the family. So we had to create a working environment to let them do this.
WSJ: What have been some of the barriers you faced?
Ms. Vadera: Of course the world is full of jokes about women drivers. There’s such a bias against women drivers. When I first told people about my idea, the response was, first teach them how to park a car. People were sarcastic.
It’s been very difficult to get all types of licenses for our drivers. The transport department says it follows the same policies with men and women but it doesn’t work like that in practice. For many of our drivers, it’s been very difficult to get address proof. There have been cases even when they have the relevant documents but they are sent away or forced to make several visits to get things done. We’ve helped around 250 women get different licenses and I can say 95% couldn’t have got them on their own. Is this not an example of a clear gender bias?
WSJ: What are your growth plans?
Ms. Vadera: We aren’t hung up about having a large fleet of cars. For us, what is more important is to establish the role of women in public transport. So definitely we would like to see women as bus drivers, for example. We would like to have a large enough presence that breaks the perception forever, opens these doors for women so that tomorrow there could be a girl growing up in any slum or area who would not need us to get a license. We have to grow to an extent where this can be achieved. In that sense, we’re not a typical enterprise that wants 500 cars. That’s not what gives us a kick.
We will, of course, increase our fleet size and the number of drivers. We definitely want to break-even first and then make profits. We would like the women drivers to at one stage become shareholders in the company. We’re also expanding to different cities. We now have a presence in Gurgaon, we’ve started in Jaipur and are probably going to start in Kolkata, so four cities in total over the next three years.
WSJ: As a social entrepreneur you’re also a businesswoman? Do you enjoy this aspect of your job?
Ms. Vadera: Yes, part of me is a businesswoman. I’m still learning to be a businesswoman and getting familiar with business plans, talking about things like sweat equity. My background is development, but I like both sides to my current role. Being a businesswoman gives me the thrill and challenge of learning something new, and breaking new ground within myself. A lot of times, our auditors and lawyers confront me and ask which hat I’m wearing. It’s good to be held accountable and pushed to think about the profit side as well. But of course a large part of me is development and as a feminist, women’s rights are very, very core to me, so that is definitely my identity.
WSJ: How do you measure success?
Ms. Vadera: For us, success is really the kind of transformation the women we work with are able to achieve. We’re talking about empowerment. The women who are today working with us as drivers, I can say that none will accept violence from men in their lives anymore. That’s very important for us. We’re talking about building change agents. That’s the most important measure of success. Other things like breaking even and bringing down costs are definitely important but secondary.
WSJ: Do you think women make better social entrepreneurs?
Ms. Vadera: I don’t know. I don’t think there is anything to prove that. There’s nothing to suggest that. But definitely women are better drivers.
By Atish Patel
Wall Street Journal-India
Posted on: August 20, 2013
August 17, 2013
The process of admission of post-graduate students at University of Mysore was affected on Saturday following a protest by Dalit students, who accused UoM authorities of neglecting the directives. However, following intervention by senior officials, the process resumed after 90 minutes.
The students, under the banner of SC, ST Vidyarthi Balaga, staged a protest in front of the office of the administrative officer at Senate Bhavan in Manasa Gangotri, complaining that Dalit students are being harassed by the officials. According to them, the varsity has directed the officials not to collect fees from Dalit students whose family’s annual income is below Rs 2 lakh. However during admission, the officials were insisting them to pay the fees, which will be reimbursed to them later.
Armed with a circular issued by the varsity registrar dated June 14, which has specified that Dalit students should not be asked to pay admission fees during admission (given that the fees will be borne by the government), the students sat on a dharna at Senate Bhavan.
In the June circular, the registrar has pointed to a directive from the higher education department that the government will reimburse the fees for Dalit students whose family income is Rs 2 lakh per annum. “When this is the case, the authorities should admit them. Instead, they are harassing the students,” they stated.
Senior official from the varsity rushed to the spot and discussed the issue with the students and authorities. They later clarified that the directive will be implemented when the agitation was withdrawn, police added.
Posted on: August 19, 2013
August 16, 2013
“We are considering a new and effective law to put an end to the repulsive practice of manual scavenging,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had informed the nation last year in his Independence Day address.
Exactly a year has gone by since the PM made the promise of eradicating the inhuman and caste based practice but no law has been formed as yet.
Reminding the Prime Minister and the UPA Government of the promise and to push things forward, liberated women scavengers under the banner of Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan have been knocking the doors of Parliamentarians since August 12 and urging them to support an early passage for the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012.
The Parliament is in session till the 30th of this month and the campaigners plan to meet and lobby with as many as 150 MPs in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar by then. They have visited close to 50 Parliamentarians at their homes till the eve of I-Day.
“When I was working as a manual scavenger in my village, I could not enter the house of our Sarpanch or the temple. Today, after leaving the occupation, I am meeting so many Members of Parliament at their home and their wives are serving me water,” said Chhoti Bai from Rajasthan’s Chittor.
While there were a few who refused to meet, the overwhelming response was positive with some MPs sitting down with their entire families to find out more about the issue.
Ali Anwar Ansari of Janata Dal (United) from Bihar, for instance, had a detailed discussion for over two-three hours with the women and said that the issue of Dalit Muslims was an important one to be taken up.
Some MPs refused to believe that such a practice still existed but when the women who were victims themselves told them that she had worked for 22 years and gave examples of scavengers from the MP’s own constituency, the Parliamentarian came around to the view and wanted to hear more about the issue, said Ashif of Jansahas, a voluntary organisation.
A document highlighting suggestions and issues with the draft Bill in its current form is being handed over to the MPs they meet face-to-face and being sent to those that they cannot meet.
There are close to 17,000 women who have given up the practice but their fate has been completely left out of the Bill.
“The silence that surrounds the fate of these women is making them ask whether they have committed a mistake by giving up the practice for the sake of their dignity before the law gets formalised,” said Ashif. By not addressing the rehabilitation issues of women who have voluntarily given up the inhuman practice in the Bill indicates that only continued degradation can help one achieve rehabilitation, while giving up the practice, an act of bravery, goes unheeded, he added.
Meanwhile, even as the Bill mentions ‘rehabilitation’ in its title, details of who is going to rehabilitate, what amount is going to be paid, in how many days it will be paid, is not clear in the Bill at all.
“When this was pointed out, we were told that these things would be clear in the ‘Rules’ portion of the Bill once it is ready. But we would like to point out that in other laws, for example, MGNREGA, everything is stated quite clearly in the Act itself and one can go to court if it is not implemented. So why not the same treatment be given to the Manual Scavenging Bill?” asked Ashif.
The Indian Railways is the largest institution in the country that uses dry latrines. “If there are a lakh manual scavengers working for the Railways, how are they to be rehabilitated is not very clear in the Bill. They are employed as daily wage labourers,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on September 3, 2012, by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Mukul Wasnik. The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment. The Committee presented the recommendation report to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in March this year.
The Bill prohibits employing a person as a manual scavenger who is engaged for manually cleaning or disposing off human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or on a railway track. Also, it prohibits any person, local authority or agency to construct an insanitary latrine or engage a person for manual scavenging.
If anyone employs a manual scavenger or constructs an insanitary latrine, he shall be penalised with imprisonment up to one year or a fine of up to Rs 50,000 or both. The penalty for subsequent offences is higher.
Posted on: August 16, 2013
August 14, 2013
Although the caste system in Nepal was outlawed in 1962, it is still very much active throughout the country. It is firmly embedded in Nepali culture in a complex structure that is difficult to untangle. It combines many different elements which maintain a level of inequality and difference between ethnicities and groups based on birthright, ethnicity, occupation, power and financial assets.
Although it’s easy for the so-called ‘global west’ to criticize the caste system in Asia, in reality the West has a caste system of its own. It is usually referred to as “class” which is also based on birth right, ethnicity, occupation, power, and financial assets. Arguably, it appears easier in the West to climb the social class ladder, whereas in Nepal it is determined by birth.
One such group that struggles to shed the stigma cast upon it are Dalits, the so-called ‘untouchable caste’ that is the primary victim of caste-based discrimination. In the Far-West hilly District of Doti, where the overall adult literacy rate is 42 percent, some Dalit women suffer three-fold discrimination; first because of their Dalit status, second because they are women, and third because their families are infected with HIV/AIDS.
Sashi Sob resides in Doti and is District Chairperson of the Feminist Dalit Organisation, a national organisation set up in 1994 to “fight against caste and gender discrimination and to construct a just and equitable society”. The Feminist Dalit Organisation is a member of Sankalpa Women’s Alliance for Peace, Justice and Democracy. It has defined itself as “Mission 50/50”, meaning proportionate and representative participation of women at all levels of the peace process and all state structures.
Sashi has noticed a trend in men seeking work outside Doti in the neighbouring India. Local men migrate to India for seasonal and long-term work as laborers and security guards. Whilst working in the major cities of India, they visit brothels where they are exposed to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) such as HIV. As they are not educated, they are clueless about the dangers they expose themselves to.
Consequently, on their return to Doti they risk infecting their wives as well. When the men fall sick, they believe their ancestors are mad at them for visiting brothels and are punishing them by making them sick. They are oblivious to their HIV status. It is not common practice in Doti for people to seek medical help from health posts and hospitals. Consequently, by the time they seek medical help, HIV will usually have developed into AIDS.
Sashi recalled the story of one man from Doti, a Dalit who went to Kerala, India and found another wife who he brought back to Doti. He had contracted HIV whilst working in India and had transmitted the disease to his new wife. It was not known if he had passed HIV on to his first wife, though the likelihood was high.
His adoption of a new wife is an example of how men in the area regard their wife with little respect. In another story, Sashi spoke of a wife who, after her husband had died of AIDS, was accused of ‘gulping down’ her husband. I
t was not until community mediators became involved that they were able to convince the family of the truth.
The majority of men from Doti who migrate to India are Dalits, as they are less likely to own land through which they can earn a living. They have limited employment opportunities due to their ‘low’ caste. Out of approximately 800 people that are infected by HIV and AIDS in Doti, approximately two thirds are Dalit. For Dalit women whose husbands die from AIDS, this adds a new layer of discrimination against them, i.e. being a widow.
Sashi Sob stated that if there were more employment opportunities for men in Doti, they would not have to migrate to India for work. Also, if there was more awareness on safe sex and medical treatment for HIV, it would reduce the risk of infection. She didn’t mention that the problem existed because men were committing adultery with prostitutes in brothels. Maybe this has been accepted as normal behaviour in Nepal, though it would be a different story if women were committing adultery. That would be another opportunity for discrimination.
By Lula Belinfante
Posted on: August 14, 2013
August 13, 2013
Twice a day, every day, Gauri Parmar picks up her broom and goes out to sweep for gold. She cannot actually see the tiny particles of gold dust settled in the gutters and streets around Ahmedabad’s goldsmiths’ district, but she knows they are there.
She sweeps first thing in morning, and then again at 10pm when the crowds have cleared. By collecting the dust, treating it with acid and selling the gold back to the jewellers, she has been able to scrape enough money to raise her two children alone.
“I have been doing this for 25 years,” Mrs Parmar, 49, said proudly, sitting on a bed in her pink-painted home. “My son just completed his chartered accountancy examinations.”
She is part of an enterprising community of dhul dhoyas, or dust-washers, who survive from the leftovers of the thousands of jewellers in Gujarat’s largest city. The work is dirty and sometimes perilous, and sweepers often face discrimination over their low caste, but it provides a livelihood to an unknown number of families.
For centuries, Indians have been beguiled by gold, hoarding it as insurance against difficult times. Today, the country is the world’s largest importer of the metal. Earlier this year, the federal government raised import duty to curb purchases because they were adding to a widening trade deficit.
Industry estimates suggest there may be up to 500,000 people employed in the goldsmiths’ trade in Gujarat. Many are migrant workers originally from poor districts in West Bengal. Their light-fingered dexterity and, more importantly, their willingness to work long hours for low pay, supposedly makes them more desirable than local workers.
Sapan Dey, 38, employs 10 young Bengalis in a small, second-floor workshop in the Ratanpole area of Ahmedabad.
A large leather apron surrounds the table on which the men work to collect larger scraps of gold which Mr Dey recycles by melting them in a furnace. But once a month, a man called Syed Aslam comes and sweeps and swabs the rest of the workshop and takes away the straw mats. Mr Aslam pays Mr Dey for the privilege of doing so. “We take the mats and burn them and collect any gold or copper or silver,” said Mr Aslam, who has contracts with goldsmiths’ shops across India.
He said the price he pays to Mr Dey depends on the amount of work he perceives the shop is doing, whether it is festival time, when more jewellery was being made, or the wholesale price of gold. But sometimes his estimates are off: “Sometimes we get it wrong.”
A few streets away in the Sahjanand market, a dark, grimy Dickensian block that is home to an alleged 6,000 workers, Jitu Patni also pays for the right to sweep for gold. He and members of his extended family hold the contract for the second, third and fourth floors of the complex. Another family cleans the first floor. “We have to pay money to the factory because we are sure there will be gold in the rubbish,” he explained.
In a sweltering warehouse on the roof, Mr Patni, his two sisters and his in-laws revealed how they separated the various types of rubbish and then gathered the dust in tubs. They also collected the water they used to wash the factory’s corridors, allowing it to settle overnight and then further straining it through pieces of cloth to retain the sediment. They did not separate the gold themselves but sold on the sediment to someone else who performed the process.
For all the basic nature of the job, Mr Patni had a sophisticated knowledge of the shifting price of gold, how much he should pay for his contract and, how much he should expect to be paid by the man who collected the sediment.
“During the monsoon season the rates go down because the amount of gold you can recover is less,” he said. “But in December, January and February the rates go up because that is the wedding season and the sales of gold [and the amount of jewellery being made in the factory] go up.”
Mr Patni’s sister, Gawri, wearing a pair of gold earrings, said it was only on very rare occasions that they spotted gold in the dirt. Yet they all knew it was there. “Some gold has to be worn by everyone,” she said. “Every woman loves gold. Not just Indian women.”
While those who work inside the factory are obliged to pay a fee to the owners, those such as Mr Parmar, who sweep in the clogged streets and alleyways outside, can work for free.
Daya Patni, who shares the same name as Jitu Patni, is 69 and has been sweeping the streets near the Manek roundabout for years. He sells dust he collects to other people or else carries it home in sacks and uses water to create sediment that he can later sieve.
Mr Patni said he left for work at 5.30am but that there were about 30 or 40 other sweepers who competed for the best spots. Among them is an 80-year-old woman, Ganga Gohel, who has become something of a celebrity in the area. “There is an unwritten rule that whoever gets there first gets to sweep that spot,” he said. “If I cannot get there on time, and find that somebody else is already there, then I have to go to a different spot.” Mr Patni, who has a son and a daughter, said he rarely spotted pieces of gold while he works. But one day, 15 years ago, he found a piece of gold on the pavement that he sold for 1,200 rupees (about £13). He used the money to purchase a rickshaw permit.
Mrs Parmar, who has been widowed for more than two decades and who lives a short walk away from Mr Patni’s small home, is among those sweepers who actually process the dust themselves. The method is complicated and dangerous and involves mixing the collected sediment with acid, adding mercury, mixing in baking soda and then finally placing it inside a furnace.
The gold she produces and sells back to the goldsmiths’ market is not 100 per cent pure, but she estimates she is still able to average between 10,000 and 15,000 rupees a month. Sometimes she makes as much as 20,000 rupees (£212). That she was able to send her son, Rohit, to college, and to help her daughter, Manisa, establish her own business, is a source of intense pride. “My husband died 22 years ago. He also used to do this job,” said Mrs Parmar. “I needed to keep working to educate my son.”
Indian gold: In numbers
$2.9bn Estimated value of gold imports in July, up from $2.45bn in June. Demand is rising despite government attempts to curb purchases, which have helped to push the current account deficit to a record high
9% July’s gold price rise, ahead of this month’s festival season
20m The number of people employed in the gold trade across India
20% India’s proportion of the world’s gold consumption in 2012, according to the World Gold Council
By Andrew Buncombe
Posted on: August 13, 2013
August 12, 2013
The caste system in South Asia — which rigidly separates people into high, middle and lower classes — may have been firmly entrenched by about 2,000 years ago, a new genetic analysis suggests.
Researchers found that people from different genetic populations in India began mixing about 4,200 years ago, but the mingling stopped around 1,900 years ago, according to the analysis published Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
Combining this new genetic information with ancient texts, the results suggest that class distinctions emerged 3,000 to 3,500 years ago, and caste divisions became strict roughly two millennia ago.
Though relationships between people of different social groups was once common, there was a “transformation where most groups now practice endogamy,” or marry within their group, said study co-author Priya Moorjani, a geneticist at Harvard University.
Hindus in India have historically been born into one of four major castes, with myriad subdivisions within each caste. Even today, in some parts of the country, marriage outside of one’s caste is forbidden and those in the outcast, or “untouchable” group are discriminated against and prohibited from participating in religious rituals. (The Indian government has outlawed certain types of discrimination against the lowest classes.)
But when and why this system evolved has always been a bit murky, said Michael Witzel, a South Asian studies researcher at Harvard University, who was not involved in the work.
Moorjani’s past research revealed that all people in India trace their heritage to two genetic groups: An ancestral North Indian group originally from the Near East and the Caucasus region, and another South Indian group that was more closely related to people on the Andaman Islands.
Today, everyone in India has DNA from both groups. “It’s just the proportion of ancestry that you have that varies across India,” Moorjani told LiveScience.
To determine exactly when these ancient groups mixed, the team analyzed DNA from 371 people who were members of 73 groups throughout the subcontinent.
Aside from finding when the mixing started and stopped, the researchers also found the mixing was thorough, with even the most isolated tribes showing ancestry from both groups.
Period of transition
Researchers aren’t sure which groups of ancient people lived in India prior to 4,200 years ago, but Moorjani suspects the two groups lived side by side for centuries without intermarrying.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the groups began intermarrying during a time of great upheaval. The Indus Valley civilization, which spanned much of modern-day North India and Pakistan, was waning, and huge migrations were occurring across North India.
Ancient texts also reveal clues about the period.
The Rigveda, a nearly 3,500-year-old collection of hymns written in Sanskrit, a North Indian language, mentions chieftains with South Indian names.
“So there is some sort of mixture or intermarriage,” Witzel told LiveScience.
Early on, there were distinct classes of people — the priests, the nobility and the common people — but no mention of segregation or occupational restrictions. By about 3,000 years ago, the texts mention a fourth, lowest class: the Sudras. But it wasn’t until about 100 B.C. that a holy text called the Manusmruti explicitly forbade intermarriage across castes.
The study doesn’t suggest that either the ancestral North or South Indian group formed the bulk of the upper or lower castes, Witzel said.
Rather, when caste divisions hardened, any type of intermarriage was sharply curtailed, leading to much less mixing overall.
By Tia Ghose
Posted on: August 12, 2013
August 6, 2013
Tuberculosis has emerged as the number one killer in Mumbai among a host of ailments over the past year (2012-13), according to the ‘cause of death’ report accessed under right to information (RTI) Act from the city’s municipal corporation.
Of 85,802 Mumbaikars who died last year, up to 6,921 persons (8.1%) succumbed to tuberculosis. Following closely were non-communicable diseases like blood pressure (4.6%) and diabetes (2.9%).
While cases of malaria have seen a dip in 2012–13 after reaching a peak in 2010–11, a white paper on Mumbai’s health released by Praja Foundation, a city-based non-profit organisation, indicates that the number of malaria cases has reduced. Praja accessed the ‘cause of death’ reports from the municipal corporation through the Right To Information Act.
However, there is little reason for complacency with tuberculosis, dengue and cholera having raised their ugly head and wreaking havoc on the health of Mumbaikars. Even as malaria is not much of a worry for the city, dengue is posing a deadly problem.
In the year 2011-12, 30,675 cases of tuberculosis had been detected in Mumbai. This number rose to 36,417 cases last year (2012-13).
Similarly, over the last year, the number of dengue cases has gone up by over four times as compared to figures of the previous year. In 2011-12, the city saw 1,879 cases of dengue being reported in dispensaries and hospitals run by the municipality and state, this figure rose to 4,867 in 2012-13. That’s more than a two-fold rise in the number of dengue cases on two consecutive years.
Cholera deaths in the city too have become a bone of contention between the non-profit organisation which accessed the municipal corporation’s death reports and the health department.
From 2012 till March this year, nine persons in Mumbai died of cholera. However municipal health officials maintained that no cholera deaths occurred in civic-run hospitals last year.
Praja Foundation’s, founding trustee Nitai Mehta said, “The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation relies only on figures that it receives in its surveillance reports and not on figures from death certificates that it issues.”
A survey of 24, 694 citizens was conducted which revealed that 70% of Mumbaikars visit private and charitable dispensaries for treatment of diseases.
“It is appalling that the civic body has not devised any mechanism to gather data from private hospitals when a majority of the population throngs the doors of private hospitals. In such a case, the study of public health in the city will be skewed,” said Mehta.
Posted on: August 6, 2013
August 2, 2013
The question is uppermost in the minds of observers as the Centre gets down to dividing Andhra Pradesh, with Congress having last put a dalit in the top post over three decades ago – Jagannath Pahadia in Rajasthan.
The new state has a strong presence of dalits along with OBCs and Reddys in a diverse social mix favourable for Congress. With the likelihood of Telangana becoming a reality by the year-end, Congress may find it alluring to hoist a dalit CM to send a signal to the community nationally ahead of the 2014 elections.
The choice of a dalit from Telangana as deputy CM in Andhra Pradesh has long held out the possibility, first raised by Telangana Rashtra Samithi after it became a political force in 2004. Congress made another dalit from Telangana deputy speaker of the assembly.
SCs/STs comprise 24.7% of Telangana’s population while the share goes up to 26.9% outside Hyderabad.
Congress leaders believe the choice of CM would depend on the combination the party opts for after division. If Andhra continues to have a Reddy at the helm, the chances of Reddy claimants would be bleak in Telangana.
But if the party plumps for a non-Reddy (like Kapu) in Andhra, thinking the Reddys would anyway side with YSR Congress, then a Reddy would be in contention in Telangana.
Significance is attached to Congress recently passing a law on SC/ST sub-plan, making it mandatory for state ministries to spend on dalit welfare in proportion to their population. The stress on dalit agenda is seen as dictated by the exodus of the community to Jaganmohan Reddy, largely because they identify the welfare schemes with his late father YS Rajasekhara Reddy.
A dalit CM from Congress ranks has become a near impossibility, contrasting poorly with Mayawati who is the product of a bahujan movement dedicated to weakening the grand old party’s hold over the community.
Congress insiders and observers believe that Telangana presents the best chance to end the barren patch that keeps coming up for sniggers and which questions the party’s commitment to political empowerment of the weaker caste.
The recent Karnataka elections came tantalizingly close to giving a dalit CM, with PCC chief G Parameshwara seen as a strong claimant for the top post. But Parameshwara failed to win his assembly seat.
By Subedh Ghildiyal
Times of India
Posted on: August 2, 2013
August 1, 2013
North India has the highest number of doctors in the country while the eastern region has the least, highlighting disparity in access to healthcare, according to a survey by market research firm IMS Health.
According to IMS Health Physician and Chemist Census, while North India accounts for 31% of doctors in the country, South and West India have a similar 28% and East has only 13%.
The census covered 120 cities (metro and non-metro) and includes insights into over 3.73 lakh doctors and 99,000 chemists across multiple parameters, IMS Health said.
“This census helps close important information gaps in the healthcare value chain in India,” IMS Health South Asia Managing Director Amit Backliwal said in a statement.
The census aims to provide critical insights for government policymakers to develop better policies and a stronger healthcare infrastructure in India, he added.
Underlining how skewed the distribution of healthcare professionals across the country’s population is, the report said, “Cities of North India account for 31% of doctors in the country, but only 28% of the country’s population resides there.”
There is a high disparity even in the distribution of chemists across the country.
“Around 42% of chemists in India are concentrated in the top nine most populated cities and 29% of chemist sales are performed without any prescription,” the report said.
Significantly, according to the census 37% of chemist outlets are attached to doctor clinics, polyclinics, hospital facilities, and nursing homes.
“Ultimately, this census will help identify over-and- under-served regions and enable the healthcare system in India to run much more intelligently,” MS Health India Strategic Planning Senior Director Kumar Hinduja said.
IMS Health is a worldwide provider of information, technology, and services dedicated to making healthcare perform better.
Posted on: August 1, 2013
July 30, 2013
The influential Indian American doctor’s community today announced to hold their “Global Healthcare Summit” in Ahmedabad next January for bringing affordable world class healthcare for Indians.
“The Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) would like to make a positive and meaningful impact on the healthcare in India,” said the AAPI president, Dr Jayesh Shah, on his return from India along with other members of the organisation.
Shah said Global Healthcare Summit 2014 which will be held in Ahmedabad from January 3-5 next year and is aimed at advancing the accessibility, affordability and quality of world-class healthcare to the Indian people.
Among other areas, the Summit will focus on prevention, diagnosis, treatment options and share ways to truly improve healthcare transcending global boundaries, he said.
Noting that healthcare in India is one of the largest sectors in terms of revenue and employment, Shah said “AAPI has been engaged in harnessing the power of Indian diaspora to bring the most innovative, efficient, cost effective healthcare solutions to India.”
So far AAPI has organised seven Indo-US Global Healthcare Summits and has developed strategic alliances with various organisations.
The Hindu Business Line
Posted on: July 30, 2013
July 29, 2013
For a state infamous for caste-based crime, Haryana has a lot a of catching up to do so far as getting perpetrators of such atrocities, especially against the Dalit community, are concerned.
Sample this: Out of every 100 people accused of or arrested on chargs of committing crimes against the Dalits, more than 92 walk free after the court trials. This translates into a conviction rate of merely 7.9 per cent.
The Supreme Court reprimand to Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government while hearing a matter relating to rehabilitation of the members of the Dalit community who had to leave Mirchpur village in Hisar doesn’t come as a surprise then.
Violence had broken out in the village following the killing of 70-year-old Dalit Tara Chand and his teenaged daughter Suman on April 21, 2010. The apex court asked the Haryana to inform it about the status of implementation of laws relating to prevention of atrocities against the Dalits in the state.
According to the figures available with the National Crime Records Bureau for the year 2012, Haryana figures in the last seven states with the poor conviction rate in crimes against Dalits. The highest conviction rate in such crimes was recorded by Sikkim (66.7 per cent), followed by 54.5 per cent in Uttarakhand.
Even Uttar Pradesh, also infamous for caste and community related crime incidents, recorded 51.4 per cent conviction rate in crimes against Dalits. It is followed by Rajasthan (41 per cent), Delhi (35.7 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (35.3 pert cent) and Chhattisgarh (31.1 per cent). The country’s overall average conviction rate in crimes against Dalits is 23.9 per cent.
Last year, 782 cases (including those pending from previous years) pertaining to crimes against Dalits were listed for hearing in Haryana courts. Of the total accused in cases, only 24 were convicted, while 278 were acquitted or discharged from the cases registered against them.
Haryana Police officers, however, maintain that despite their best efforts, the witnesses refuse to support the prosecution’s case leading to acquittal of many of the accused. “The accused walk free as the complainants and witnesses backtrack from their original statements. The out of the court settlements take place and both the sides call it a truce leading to most of the acquittals. The police has been doing its job by arresting all those allegedly involved”, one of the senior police officers said.
Incidentally, like Haryana, there are some other states too, which have registered a shoddy conviction rate. These include Gujarat (7.8 per cent), Assam (5.4 per cent), Karnataka (4.8 per cent), Kerala (4.1 per cent), Maharashtra (5.4 per cent), Odisha (6.3 per cent) and West Bengal (6.3 per cent). The Union Territory of Puducherry is having the worst conviction rate in crimes against Dalits at 3.1 per cent.
In the last one year, there had been a spate of crimes against Dalits in Haryana, including gangrapes of minor girls, murders and attacks on colonies forcing the community members to migrate out of their villages.
Even the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had taken cognisance of several such cases and took the state government to task.
By: VARINDER BHATIA :
The Indian Express
Posted on: July 29, 2013
July 24, 2013
The ministry of social justice and empowerment has got a reluctant railways on board for its ambitious bill seeking a blanket ban on manual scavenging.
The Prohibition of Empowerment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012, which was cleared last week by the cabinet, had been pending for over a year because the railways did not want to be part of it. The largest public carrier had sought exemption on the grounds that it was not its job to construct community toilets along railway tracks — the country’s largest open toilet.
Railway board chairperson Vinay Mittal had written to the law ministry: “Railways have the responsibility for public carriage of passengers or goods and have the mandate to execute necessary works for the purpose of operating and maintaining a railway only.” The letter also added that building community toilets was the job of civic bodies.
However, social justice and empowerment minister Kumari Selja refused to budge and said India’s largest public carrier could not be left out of a law in which it is a major “stakeholder”.
Sources indicated that the ministry redefined “community” for this particular bill to include any place that is being used for open defecation, thus bringing the railways into the scheme.
Sources said the railways were concerned about expenses and in a dilemma over the humongous task of keeping India’s 1.15 lakh km of tracks clean.
The railways had told a standing committee formed to deliberate on the bill that it used scrubbers, high-pressure jet cleaners and mops to clean the tracks and its toilets in trains and on platforms. Washable aprons were provided to its cleaners, it said. The railways have also started a trial project of aircraft-type vacuum toilets in Shatabdi Express.
The railways had cited these measures when seeking exemption. It had also said community toilets along tracks would increase trespass and would impinge upon the safety of trains.
However, the arguments convinced neither the ministry nor the groups campaigning for total eradication of manual scavenging.
“The railways have always found ways to skirt the issue. Now they are saying that they use high-pressure jet cleaners to clean the excreta, but they basically drain them into the drains and sewers where the manual scavenger has to clean it. It was wrong of them to seek exemption as the railway tracks in the country are the most popular place for open defecation,” said Kamlaben Gurjar, chairperson, National Commission for Safai Karmacharis, which will monitor the implementation of the act once it is passed.
The standing committee in its report in March recommended that the railways seek more funds for the 12th Five Year Plan for the conversion of all toilets into bio-toilets, elimination of direct discharge toilets and construction of more toilets.
The bill, which will become a law once it’s passed by both the Houses, has strict provisions for penalties for those defying the law. The maximum penalty is five years of imprisonment and/or a fine up to Rs 5 lakh.
The Telegraph India
Posted on: July 25, 2013
July 24, 2013
A RECENTLY released United Nations’ report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has recognised the remarkable progress made by South Asian countries, including India, in reducing poverty, and improving access to education and health. Though the report praises them for their achievements, it does not take up adequately factors such as caste and other forms of political and social marginalisation in evaluating the success of the MDGs. Civil society groups in India working on Dalit rights, women’s rights and minority rights have been demanding the inclusion of more specific goals in the MDG framework so as to address issues of caste, social justice and inequality. The present report, released by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 5, does not place emphasis on disaggregated data on the basis of social indicators as a means to get a more holistic picture about the state of MDGs in India.
The report notes that though poverty remains widespread in India, the reduction of poverty has been substantial. In India, the poverty rate fell from 49 per cent in 1994 to 42 per cent in 2005 and to 33 per cent in 2010. The report is optimistic about India attaining its poverty reduction target by 2015.
However, the analysis of the strides made by India does not take into consideration other forms of discrimination. Speaking to Frontline, Paul Divakar, general secretary of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, said: “The status report does not address issues of discrimination on the basis of caste and the consequent social and political marginalisation of groups. These factors need to be taken into consideration in evaluating reduction of poverty, access to education, health and other opportunities. In evaluating the status with respect to education, the issue of substantive equality among different social groups so as to ensure access to education needs to be addressed. The report recognises gender-based inequalities, but not the intersectionality of caste and gender.”
The report points out areas where India and other South Asian countries are lagging behind. South Asia has the highest maternal mortality ratios of all regions, with 220 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2011. It also notes the need to accelerate government action on sanitation. Speaking at the launch of the report, Lise Grande, U.N. Resident Coordinator, said: “Although close to two billion people have gained access to latrines in recent years, we’re still going to miss the target of halving the population without access to toilets. The report shows that one of the best ways to address this is to stop open defecation.”
Posted on: July 24, 2013
July 23, 2013
ON JULY 16th at least 23 children in the Indian state of Bihar died after eating a midday meal that was provided for free by their school. Nearly as many are in critical condition in a local hospital. Tests have revealed that adulterated cooking oil, perhaps containing pesticides, is likely to blame. A government inquiry has determined that the principal of the school, who is in hiding, must be held responsible for the bad ingredients or unsafe methods used in preparing these meals.
This event is horrific, without a doubt. Yet its damage could be even worse, if it raises too many doubts about the value of a largely successful programme. The midday-meal scheme, which began on a small scale decades earlier, received the support of India’s Supreme Court in 2001. Since then most Indian states have adopted it, offering free meals to children in state-run or state-assisted schools. More than 120m children, including many who would otherwise go hungry, receive these meals every school day.
According to a recent analysis by Farzana Afridi of Syracuse University and the Delhi School of Economics, at a cost of three cents per child per school day, the scheme “reduced the daily protein deficiency of a primary-school student by 100%, the calorie deficiency by almost 30% and the daily iron deficiency by nearly 10%.” Ms Afridi also found that, after controlling for all other factors, the meals scheme has boosted the school attendance of girls by 12%. Abhijeet Singh of Oxford University found that, in some parts of India where children were born during a drought, the health of those who had been brought into the meals scheme before the age of six was compensated for earlier nutritional deficits.
What the disaster in Bihar has done, at the very least, is to highlight some of the pitfalls of the scheme. As with any programme of this size in a country rife with corruption, the meals scheme is riddled with problems. The corruptible state is not alone in funding the programme; it is joined by private companies and NGOs. Corruption exists not just among state entities but among the supporting agencies too, as was demonstrated in 2006 when a Delhi NGO was caught dipping into rice that was meant for midday meals. In the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where the levels of malnutrition are among the highest in the country, it was found that only three-fourths of the food meant for children reached them. Food is often stolen by the administrators’ faking their students’ attendance. Beyond that, reports of adulteration—not only with shoddy or unsafe foodstuffs, but including finding worms, lizards and snakes—are common.
Next month, the Indian government will be voting on a food security bill which aims to provide food to 60% of the entire population, by means of a public distribution system. This one school’s tragedy comes at an especially crucial moment, when officials ought to be forced to inspect the leaky pipeline of distribution. At the same time it will be important to bear in mind: This scheme has done a lot more good than harm.
Posted on: July 23, 2013
July 22, 2013
AHMEDABAD: The practice of manual scavenging persists in the city, with the authorities refusing to recognize its existence or work towards removing it. This lack of sensitivity on the authorities’ part has been revealed by a survey conducted by an NGO, Manav Garima.
A survey by Manav Garima, a CBO ( Community-Based Organization) has found that there are 126 spots where manual scavenging is practiced under the aegis of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). Moreover, the survey claims that 188 dry latrines continue to operate in the city. Manual scavenging is the manual removal of excreta (night soil) from ‘dry toilets,’ that is, toilets without a modern flush system or adequate water supply.
The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, prohibits the construction of dry latrines in any form. But, even after 20 years of the enactment of the Act, dry latrines are still present under the jurisdiction of the AMC. The survery found that safai karmacharis are forced to remove night soil manually everyday from those dry latrines.
The district magistrate is responsible for the implementation of the Act. According to the NGO, so far, the Ahmedabad district magistrate has not taken any concrete action to prohibit manual scavenging or demolish the existing dry latrines in the city. Instead of demolishing existing dry latrines, the AMC has recently constructed 30 dry latrines for children in the Nagorivad area in violation of the 1993 Act. In the AMC areas, one manual scavenger collects and removes the night soil of at least 100 persons. It is found mostly around the public toilets and footpaths in slums and highly populated areas.
The survey suggests that most of the safai karmacharis are not aware of the fact that the practice of manual scavenging is prohibited by the law since 1993. When they are told that it is illegal, they express helplessness. In fact, they fear that the AMC or private contractors would harass them or remove them from their job if they refuse to manually clean night soil.
Top 5 places where manual scavenging is practiced-
Area No. of places where practiced
Number of dry latrines in the city-
Gulbai tekra 20
Times of India
Posted on: July 22, 2013
July 19, 2013
NEW DELHI, India – India’s school lunch program killed 22 children and sent more than two dozen others to the hospital this week in the northern state of Bihar, after a deadly pesticide made its way into free lunches provided to children attending a government-run school.
But analysts here argue that it was poverty, not poison, that killed these kids.
The deprivation of their families made them desperate for the school’s free food. Their low rank in society made it impossible for them to demand that it be prepared under safe and hygienic conditions, and ensured they went unheard when complaining of the food’s foul taste.
The alleged criminal negligence of the school’s headmistress — who police say sourced the contaminated cooking oil from a shop owned by her husband — was only the murder weapon.
“[The midday meals program] is seen as some charity we’re giving to these poor people,” right to food activist Dipu Sinha told GlobalPost.
“Only 30 percent of the schools in Bihar had any inspection visits over the last year. Obviously, nobody cares if these children get good food.”
According to state education department officials and local doctors, students at Dharmashati-Gandaman Primary School in Bihar’s Saran district were poisoned with organophosphorus, a pesticide frequently used by farmers here to commit suicide.
How could enough insecticide get into school lunches?
Some local news reports have claimed that the cooking oil used to prepare the meal was stored or transported in a recycled pesticide bottle. Others that the meal was cooked in an old pesticide container.
However, an expert on poisoning at the New Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said that initial reports were not wholly consistent with organophosphorus poisoning, and local doctors themselves may have contributed to the children’s deaths by administering a potentially dangerous antidote.
“Atropine is an excellent antidote for organophosphorus poisons, but even a few ampules given to a child can be deadly if it is not indicated,” Dr. V.V. Pillay, head of the toxicology and poison control center at India’s most prestigious hospital, told GlobalPost.
Under an ambitious scheme to fight hunger and raise school attendance, India spends nearly $2 billion a year to provide free lunches to more than 100 million children attending government-run and government-aided schools. But countless rural schools still lack the infrastructure and know-how needed to provide safe, healthy food.
With malnutrition affecting as many as half of Indian children in some states and 1.67 million children not attending school, the program is sorely needed. And though it is plagued with problems, the midday meals scheme is one of India’s most popular government programs — which in itself speaks volumes.
But in India, corruption is a common scourge, and stealing food from hungry people is far from rare. Government employees skim from supplies meant for school lunches. Or politicians grant contracts to provide school meals to fraudulent NGOs owned by their relatives or cronies, who do the same.
The reaction of Bihar’s political class illustrates the root cause of the problem.
Instead of launching a serious inquiry into the case or reaching out to the families of the dead children after this week’s tragedy, local politicians sought to score points against their rivals before the bodies were even cold.
One went so far as to insinuate that the children had been poisoned purposefully to sully his party’s reputation.
That attitude spells disaster for the people who depend on welfare schemes like the school lunch program. Because they are mired in poverty, their complaints are too often ignored — like the kids in Bihar who were told to eat up when they said the poisoned food smelled funny and tasted bitter, according to the Times of India.
“It’s a combination of social and economic inequality,” Sinha said. “Children who access government schools now increasingly come from the poorest sections and from the lower castes. You see this kind of apathy in every government program now.”
Indeed, the saddest part of the Bihar school lunch tragedy is that — although it made front pages here — it’s not really news.
Over the past six months, more than 350 children have been poisoned by school lunch programs around the country, though until this week there had been only one fatality.
And even as this week’s tragedy occupied the nation’s news anchors, other poisoning cases confirmed that, at least for the poor, life in India is nasty and dangerous.
In one case from Thursday’s papers, 34 children at a residential school in Maharashtra fell ill from drinking contaminated water. In another, an eight-year-old boy dropped dead in another district of Bihar after being given what was thought to be a dose of Vitamin A at a local health center.
“The extent and the magnitude [of the tragedy in Bihar] was shocking,” said Radha Krishna Das, managing program director at the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation, an NGO that provides free lunches to 1.2 million schoolchildren a day under the government scheme..
“At the same time, we can say that there are so many circumstances which could lead to things like this [that it was an accident waiting to happen].”
By: Jason Overdorf
Posted on: July 19, 2013
July 18, 2013
The Union Cabinet is likely to consider on Wednesday certain amendments to the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012, which seeks to abolish manual scavenging. The bill was introduced in Parliament on September 3, 2012 and referred to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment.
Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Selja had recently said manual scavenging remained in practice in many parts of the country despite being banned and termed it as a “blot” on country. She had said the bill, when turned into a law after it is passed in Parliament, would put in place an effective mechanism for the abolition of this shameful practice.
The Cabinet had in its meeting on May 1 approved certain amendments to the bill, including making mandatory inclusion of women in vigilance committees at district, state and national levels and a survey to identify manual scavengers.
Posted on: July 18, 2013
July 17, 2013
The stench of death enveloped the heart of Lutyens Delhi on Sunday evening. Three manual scavengers died inside a sewer at the prestigious Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. It was not just asphyxia from inhaling poisonous gases after entering a manhole that ended their lives. Their deaths were caused by the state. To be more precise, the utter, and contemptuous, failure of the state and central government to heed High Court (HC) and Supreme Court (SC) orders and its own laws outlawing the inhuman practice.
In July 2011, an SC bench directed governments to provided safety gear including gas masks to people who enter manholes. Before that, in November 2008, the Madras HC banned sewage manhole and septic-tank cleaning. The Delhi and Gujarat HCs too advocated the safety of sanitary workers. In 1993, Parliament passed the Employment of Manual Scavengers Act outlawing manual scavenging. But this toothless Act left out modern practices like entering manholes. In February 2013, the Delhi government banned manual scavenging.
How are people dying despite such bans and acts? Since February 2011, at least 25 men died in sewer lines in Tamil Nadu alone. Sunday’s deaths in Delhi would indicate that hundreds of manual scavengers, traditionally Valmiki dalits, have perished across India in the same period. Deaths from illnesses and infections do not even count but would probably be in the thousands. Laws divorced from contemporary reality are bound to fail. But this lesson continues unheeded in a new draft legislation the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment has now tabled.
Despite flaws, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Bill is better than its 1993 avatar. Investment in science and technology to plug failures in urban sewage management, and thereby end manual scavenging, failed to attract the committee’s attention. But to improve it Parliament has to first meet, and then find time to discuss, lest we are burdened with another toothless law.
When non-degradable solid wastes from homes, offices and roads find their way into a sewer and block them, it is to manual scavengers that cities turn to, again and again, to ensure that modern life can proceed without obstruction. We the people are thus equally at fault when a man has to descend into a sewer through a manhole. With the government let us all hold our heads down in shame. But let us also act and give them a break. A better life.
Posted on: July 17, 2013
July 16, 2013
Women’s employment has taken an alarming dip in rural areas in the past two years, a government survey has revealed. In jobs that are done for ‘the major part of the year’, a staggering 9.1 million jobs were lost by rural women. In urban areas, the situation was quite the reverse, with over 3.5 million women added to the workforce.
This emerges from comparing employment data of two consecutive surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) in 2009-10 and 2011-12. Key results of the later survery were released last month. Both rounds had a large sample size of nearly 4.5 lakh people.
“The survey shows that in the continuing employment crunch in rural areas, the most vulnerable sections â€” like the women â€” are getting eliminated,” says Amitabh Kundu, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
If subsidiary work, that is short term, supplementary work, is also counted, women’s employment numbers improve, but they still show a huge decline of 2.7 million in two years. This is a reflection of the fact that women are no longer getting longer term and better paying jobs, and so are forced to take up short term transient work.
Declining women’s employment in rural areas is a long term trend in India despite high economic “growth”, says Neetha N of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies.
“Three decades ago, in 1983, about 34% of women in rural areas were working. This has steadily declined and now stands at just short of 25%. But the decline in the past two years is shocking – it is the most drastic decline we have ever seen,” she says.
Many argue that decline in women’s work is taking place because more women are now either studying or just staying home because the men of the family are earning enough. However, this is not supported by the data, according to Neetha.
“Urban areas have more girls’ enrollment in schools and colleges, and better household incomes than rural areas. Yet women’s employment is increasing in urban areas and declining in rural areas,” she points out.
But what is the reason behind this jobs crisis in rural India? “A decline in public investment in agriculture, and in extension work for dissemination of knowledge coupled with increasing mechanization are the main causes of this crisis of jobs,” says V K Ramachandran, professor of economic analysis at the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore. He also blames the severe slowdown in expansion of irrigation and supply of electricity to rural areas for causing jobs to dry up.
Satya Narain Singh, deputy director general of NSSO, told TOI that there were no issues of measurement or sample size in the surveys. He pointed out that the population for 2010 was based on Census projections while that for 2012 was based on actual Census 2011 data. This could introduce a small over-estimation of the 2010 population. But the “decline in female workforce is in line with the trend of decline observed in recent decades”, Singh said.
By Subedh Varma, Times of India
Posted on: July 16, 2013
July 12, 2013
Bangalore: Today, India is one of the most popular destinations for clinical trials on human being as the country is filled with poverty stricken and illiterate masses. Most of them voluntarily register themselves unwittingly for a trial in untested drugs without having adequate knowledge of the drugs and its after effect, reported the AFP.
The poor and illiterate are the most targeted ones by the pharmaceutical companies as the trials can be carried out with less expenditure. If not, it would cost them hugely just for the trials.
Niranjan Lal Pathak- a factory watchman is one such victim who was unaware of the fact initially and felt lucky that he was offered a free heart treatment by a doctor in Madhya Pradesh.
One of Pathak’s family members said that the doctors told them that Pathak was being treated for a special project for free of cost and were given a condition that the family members should only approach the doctor for medicine and not the local chemists if they ran out of it. But later on, they found out that he was used as a guinea pig for untested clinical trials, as reported by AFP.
So, the family is fighting a legal battle by filing a petition in Supreme Court charging against a Japan-based pharmaceutical company for a drug that was tested upon Pathak unknowingly. As such, Pathak is left affected permanently with dementia.
Since 2004, Madhya Pradesh has been at the centre of the trial scandal where doctors were charged of using even the victims of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy without their permission for clinical trials. Out of which, 14 people were believed to lose their lives because of the trials.
This illegal task of testing drugs on man is mostly conducted by Indian and multinational pharmaceutical companies who outsource the work to unregulated research organizations.
Conducting clinical trials of drugs is a compulsory step for the pharma companies to launch the drugs in the market. It also must prove to the concerned authorities that the trials do not show any ill effects or after effects.
According to the estimate given by the Confederation of Indian Industry, clinical trials is a booming business in India as the companies save almost 60 percent by taking up various new drugs testing in India as compared to other developed nations.
This illegal trade which risk human lives has come to light because of the legal case which began in February last year and it involved doctors and the pharmaceutical companies.
Amulya Nidhi one of the health campaigners of Swasthya Adhikaar Manch group is of the opinion that the lack of rules and regulations has instigated all these companies to pick India and other developing nations for such acts.
She further stated “In Europe and the United States the laws are pretty strict. India, on the other hand, makes for a less restrictive destination for drug trials because the regulator lacks teeth.”
The government after facing outpoured criticisms from all corners of the country is all set to amend the old Drugs and Cosmetics Act with an aim to instill greater responsibility on companies and ethics committees which are supposed to look into the trials.
Silicon India News
Posted on: July 12, 2013
July 1, 2013
The dalit women who faced atrocities at the hands of higher castes urged the centre to draft a special bill to protect them. At a state-level review meeting on ‘Atrocities againsts Dalit Women – Legal & Rehabilitation Measures’ they passed a resolution seeking for the special bill with stringent punishment for offenders, long-term rehabilitation measures for victims and action against officials who failed to act on the complaints filed by affected dalit women.
The meet organised by Evidence – a Madurai-based NGO—here on Saturday, also sought the National Human Rights Commission to establish counselling and rehabilitation centres to help the victimised women and protect the witnesses in such cases. All sexually assaulted dalit women should be given a compensation of Rs 10 lakh under Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The other resolutions included the statistics on dalit women and children, report on their status once in two years and reservation in government and private jobs as well as representation in parliament, assembly and panchayats.
Advocate Nirmala Rani who presided over one of the technical session pointed out the failure of legal system in ensuring conviction of accused in cases against Dalit women. She also pointed out how SC/ST Act is not invoked in many of the cases and the legal technicalities prevented the talented lawyers from representing the victims.
A Kathir, executive director of Evidence, said the purpose of the meeting is to brainstorm on policies that will ensure coordination among various government bodies in delivering justice. The meeting was also to discuss the participation of civil groups in the process of getting justice for women.
During the meeting, children of women who suffered atrocities were provided educational aids sponsored by P Manikandan, a hotelier in Coimbatore.
Dalit women, who faced attacks from the caste hindus, shared their experiences during the meeting. “I was attacked by caste hindus for walking down the street with slippers,” said Iruli from Trichy district. Divya from Dindigul district shared how she was cheated by a higher caste boy who refused to marry her after she became pregnant. She was rejected by the family and now living alone with her daughter in poverty, she said. She is yet to get justice as not even a charge sheet was filed in the case. P Vasanthi of Theni narrated police atrocities in Kadamalaikundu station and how after a long struggle, CBCID took up the case to prove the offence, but the offenders – the police inspector and sub-inspector – are yet to be arrested.
Times of India
Posted on: July 1, 2013
June 28, 2013
The New Barackpore police has finally swung into action and started a probe into the alleged trafficking of the 23-year old daughter of a widow at Bilkanda in North 24-Parganas who ran from the pillar to post for nearly two months in search of her only daughter, after a report was published in TOI on Thursday.
Police went to the widow’s residence on Thursday twice and spoke to her after giving the acknowledgement of the FIR which she had lodged more than two weeks ago. A raid was also conducted to nab the accused named in the FIR.
Tania Das, the married daughter of the widow Bibha Haldar, went missing from her New Barrackpore residence on May 6. She was allegedly trafficked to Mumbai by a local hooch trader, who lured her with a job offer in Mumbai. Bibha had approached the local police, police commissioner and CID several times to lodge a complaint, but she was reportedly accusing the hooch seller of trafficking her daughter and she was allegedly
refused every time. She alleged that the local police had even made filthy comments against her daughter.
On Thursday, police went to the widow’s residence at Paschim Masunda in Bilkanda and gave the acknowledgement of her complaint which she was reportedly refused to register by the cops earlier several times
. Though on June 12 the duty officer of New Barrackpore outpost had only received her written complaint without giving her any acknowledgement, no action was taken against the accused officer and to trace the woman.
“On that day, the officer only took my complaint and I am sure it had not been registered as I was not given any acknowledgement which they just handed me on Thursday even after coming to my house.
Around 1.30pm on Thursday, two officers from New Barrackpore outpost came to my house to give the same. The duo also came to my place at around 11.30am but I was not present in the house. They also told me to go the police station on Friday with related documents including the photographs of my daughter,” the widow said adding that such initiative could have been taken in time. if the police had taken such an initiative in time then I could get back my daughter earlier and now I don’t know whether I would get back my daughter. “Police should arrest the hooch seller immediately who trafficked my daughter to Mumbai and he has all information about my daughter’s present whereabouts.
Biswajit Mondal, the officer-in-charge of New Barrackpore outpost, could not be contacted. as his cell phone was switched off several times.
Police, however, claimed that the complaint lodged by Haldar had been registered earlier. “I am sure that the complaint was officially registered on June 12 and a case(no 274/13) was already started under sections of 365(Kidnapping), 366(inducing woman to compel her marriage) and 368(keeping in confinement). But I can’t say why she was not given an acknowledgement after lodging complaint on that day. The raid is also on to nab the accused,” said an officer of the New Barrackpore police station.
Meanwhile, on reading the report on TOI on Thursday some rights activists also wanted to stand by the poor widow to support her desperate search of her trafficked daughter. “We will visit the offices of West Bengal Human Rights Commission in Kolkata and National Human Rights Commission in Delhi seeking their involvement as the commission would intervene into matter seriously as the poor widow will get back her daughter. We are really worried very much about such crime of trafficking of the women which is on rise in entire North 24 Parganas district and there is flourishing smuggling and trafficking business in Swarupnagar, Haroa, Basithat, Bongaon, Bagda and Gopalnagar,” said Vijay Singh, all India general secretary of Asian Front Of Human Rights.
Singh also added that the racketeers are involved with the making syndicates which are run rampantly in the Indo-Bangladesh border areas in the district and they also lure the Bangladeshi girls offering them job.
According to a survey report made by a non government organisaton, around 1750 women were trafficked from the North 24 Parganas district in the year of 2010-2011. The members of several NGOs and the police rescued the girls from the several pros quarters in Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow.
Few months back the 11 girls of Basirhat areas were also allegedly trafficked to elsewhere following which the former SP, North 24 Parganas, Champak Bhattacharya was summoned by the Kolkata High Court after they could not be traced. Bhatacharya reportedly told the court that it was being investigated by the detective department, but the girls were not rescued yet. During investigation in this case police came to know the name of a placement agency, ‘Orient’ involved in offering the job to the missing girls.
On December,10, 2012 the Justice Sanjib Khanna, and SP Garg of delhi High Court ordered to CBI to conduct an enquiry over the missing of five girls from Haroa in North 24 Parganas. The case had been filed by Ajit Mahali, a resident of Tentulti village in Haroa whose 19-year-old daughter was also among the missing girls who were reportedly trafficked to Delhi. During investigation in this case police also came to know of a placement agency, ‘Maa Durga Placement’ and some employees of this agency reportedly had taken the girls to Delhi offering jobs in 2009. Later the manager of the agency identified as Joydeb Das, a resident of Haroa had also gone into hiding after an FIR lodged against him.
Times of India
Posted on: June 28, 2013
June 27, 2013
A venture capital fund, registered with the SEBI, has been floated to help promote entrepreneurship among Scheduled Castes and to facilitate establishment of units by such underprivileged entrepreneurs, according to Ravi Kumar Narra, president, Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, AP chapter.
He was speaking at one-day industrial motivation campaign organised here on Wednesday by the Confederation of Indian Industry, the DICCI, the AP Industries Department and the AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC). He said the venture fund would have a corpus of Rs 500 crore and so far Rs 22 crore had been collected, with the SIDBI contributing Rs 10 crore.
“We will get contributions from various Government agencies and others and finance units by SC entrepreneurs. Till now, for various reasons, SCs have lagged behind in entrepreneurship and they could not overcome the disadvantages imposed on them. They have been content with only with getting Government jobs. The time has arrived for affirmative action to empower them to set up businesses. As in the USA, where a movement for black capitalism was launched in the 1960s, we should launch a movement for Dalit capitalism,” he said.
He said the AP Government was in the forefront in extending incentives to SC entrepreneurs through various schemes but there was little awareness among the SCs and therefore such industrial motivational campaigns were being organised. He said applications would be taken from prospective Dalit entrepreneurs from different places in the State and finally the selected candidates would be given training in Hyderabad and they would be taken on field visits. Consultancy services would be provided to them to set up units. On a turnkey basis, finance and other things would be arranged.
Ravi Kumar said that, as suggested by Union Finance Minister Chidambaram, each branch of every nationalised bank should at least finance one unit set up by a SC entrepreneur and in that way at least there would be 5 lakh units.
T.K Chand, the Director (Commercial) of the Visakhapatnam steel plant, said his company would do everything possible for inclusive growth and to extend equitable opportunities to SC entrepreneurs. “We are setting up a network of rural dealers and we will give preference to SC applicants,” he promised.
G. Sambasiva Rao, the chairman of the Visakhapatnam zone of the CII, joint collector Pravin Kumar and several others spoke on the same lines, stressing the need for affirmative action to help promote Dalit entrepreneurship.
The Hindu Business Line
Posted on: June 27, 2013
June 26, 2013
Even as the government of Karnataka is trying to put an end to manual scavenging in the state through tough laws, it’s still prevalent in KIMS hospital here.
For the past two days, hospital authorities employed labourers to clean the sewage treatment plant (STP) set up last year to recycle waste water discharged from operation theatres, laboratory and other departments and staff quarters. But machines are not deployed to clean the tank. A few men without protective footwear have been cleaning it by hand. When contacted, KIMS officers declined to comment about it.
According to sources, the STP was set up last August to recycle used water. Since installation, it was not cleaned regularly, and authorities commenced cleaning it two days back using a few of its sanitary workers.
“A Bangalore-based company which set up the STP didn’t finish the work completely within its stipulated period. Besides, the filtering unit had technical problems for two days which affected water filtering. As it was an emergency, we started cleaning it,” said a KIMS officer, who didn’t want to be named.
It was indeed shocking to see sanitary workers working in the 12-foot deep open septic tank without any safety measures.
There should be more awareness created about manual scavenging in urban areas. It’s not good on the part of authorities to ill-treat human beings by forcing them to do manual scavenging.
Times of India
Posted on: June 26, 2013
June 25, 2013
By Tripti Lahiri
In a report released last week, the U.S. State Department criticized officials in India for at times turning a blind eye to, or even aiding alleged cases of human trafficking in the country. The report highlighted allegations of abuse leveled against the management of a shelter in the northern Indian state of Haryana called “Apna Ghar,” or Our Home, in Hindi.
Last May, three girls ran away from the shelter, run by a nonprofit. They alerted a child protection group about alleged human rights abuses at the home, after which representatives from India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights made an unannounced visit to the shelter, according to the commission’s subsequent report. The home, located in the town of Rohtak, was meant to be a haven for victims of trafficking, the destitute, and others.
The child commission reported a wide range of alleged abuses against the shelter’s residents, including beatings by the home’s female director, Jaswanti, who goes by only one name, and sexual abuse by her son-in-law, Jai Bhagwan. Residents of the home, many of them minors, were also allegedly forced to work on local farms, and in the home of the director, the report said.
At the shelter, even the most basic amenities weren’t provided, according to the report by the child commission. For instance, there was no bedding and on most days, the residents didn’t get three meals, the commission said. It added that the home’s approximately 100 residents shared a single towel. Sometimes, as a form of punishment, the children would not be fed for two or three days, the report said.
India’s federal investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, took over the responsibility of investigating the allegations from state police last July. CBI spokeswoman Dharini Mishra confirmed in an e-mail that in August the investigating agency had brought formal charges against seven people, including Ms. Jaswanti and Mr. Bhagwan. They will face trial for criminally conspiring to commit rape, assault and forced abortions, among other charges.
Ms. Jaswanti, who is also the founder of the nonprofit that was running the Apna Ghar home, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. S.P.S. Parmar, a lawyer for Mr. Bhagwan, said Mr. Bhagwan would plead not guilty at trial, which is yet to begin. Mr. Parmar, who said he was also familiar with Ms. Jaswanti’s situation although he does not represent her, said she would also be pleading not guilty.
The shelter is no longer in operation, and, according to a report submitted in June last year to the Punjab and Haryana High Court by a court-appointed team, the home’s residents had by then been sent to different homes. The report to the court said that some of the girls told the team members they had been forced to have sex with police officers on different occasions.
According to Indian law, each district in the country is supposed to have a police officer assigned to child welfare. The officers are meant to be actively involved in monitoring shelters in their area.
“The monitoring system had completely failed,” the commission’s report said. The report also noted that even though the child commission’s members only notified senior local government officials of their visit 20 minutes before they were to reach the home, the children said they had already been warned not to disclose anything to the visitors.
A senior Haryana police official said that no state police officer had been involved with or covered up crimes. Inspector General of Police Muhammad Akil also said that the state police force has taken steps to improve policing with respect to children in the care of the state.
“Whenever such a case happens, we at the police headquarters or at other field levels go through all the facts and circumstances,” said Mr. Akil, who deals with law and order for the state. “We try to establish whether there is any negligency on the part of the system or on the part of the individual, or any complicity on the part of the individual or the system as a whole. Then we issue corrective measures.”
Mr. Akil said that in the wake of the reports and continuing into this year, he has been personally training police officers about the Juvenile Justice Act.
“We tried to sensitize our police force and particularly the child welfare officers who are posted in each and every police station of the district,” said Mr. Akil. “We prepared a text in simplified language and then we circulated it to all of them and we told them about the important directions, the important provisions of the act.”
In addition, Mr. Akil said that when the allegations were being investigated by the state of Haryana last year, state police had pursued proceedings against one police officer, Bhim Singh Ranga.
The child commission had noted in its report that Mr. Ranga was present in the home when it made its surprise visit last May. Mr. Ranga, then the head of a local police station, told them he was there to help track the three missing girls. The report said residents of the home told the commission members that Mr. Ranga was a frequent visitor to the home and on good terms with its director.
Mr. Akil said that Mr. Ranga was arrested for lapses in his investigation of the shelter.
“We found that his role was not up to the mark in investigating the case,” said Mr. Akil.“He was arrested.”
Mr. Akil, who said that Mr. Ranga was later released on bail, didn’t provide further details. Satish Kadian, a lawyer for Mr. Ranga, said that his client maintains that all allegations against him are false. He also said that his client had been in police custody last year while being investigated on charges that included conspiring to commit gang rape and committing sexual assault, but was later released. He also said that no formal charges had been brought against his client.
Ms. Mishra confirmed that Mr. Ranga had not been charged with any crimes. “The matter is still under further investigation and role of some persons are being probed,” said the statement.
Ms. Mishra declined to confirm or deny a news report that said DNA tests showed Mr. Bhagwan to be the father of a child born to a girl who became pregnant while at the shelter. “Forensic reports are confidential,” she said via e-mail.
But Mr. Parmar, the lawyer for Mr. Bhagwan, confirmed that he had received a copy of the DNA test results linking his client to the pregnancy. He said that he could not disclose details of the defense he was planning pertaining to these results, but said he intended to ask questions at trial about how the tests were conducted.
India Real Time
Posted on: June 25, 2013
June 24, 2013
“Emancipation of my family itself was a social movement,” said writer YB Satyanarayana, who authored My Father Balaiah. The Telugu version of the book, Maa Nayana Baliah, was released here on Saturday.The book was about how a Dalit family progressed after three generations with the help of proper education and a government job. The English version was first released in December, 2001, Soon, the Hindi translation will be available.
Satyanaryana said three persons got doctorates in his family. “My father joined the Railways and moved to Secunderabad from a village in NIzamabad district. That is how we are able to pursue higher studies and came up in our lives,” he said.
He attributed the development of Dalits to Muslims and the British. “The colonial rule led to the emancipation of Dalits,” he said and added that untouchability was not practised by Christians.
Former vice-chancellor of SV University Prof Kolakaluri Enoch released the Telugu version of the book, which was translated by Vijayawada-based writer P Satyavathi.
Enoch said it was a misnomer that autobiographies could be penned only by great people, or biographies of only famous people could be written. Only 20 percent of Dalits in the country were emancipated like Baliah’s family, he said.
Andhra Jyothi editor K Srinivas stressed the need for more research on Dalit movements. He recalled that the Dalit movement in Telangana was started way back in 1906 by Bhagya Reddy, a Mala by caste.
Eflu associate professor K Satyanarayana and film director Sankar spoke. Geetha Ramaswamy of Hyderabad Book Trust (HBT) and Anjaneyulu of Centre for Dalit Studies (CDS) were present. HBT published the Telugu version. CDS founder-president Mallepalli Lakshmaiah presided.
The New Indian Express
Posted on: June 24, 2013
June 21, 2013
Various factions of KarnatakaDalitSangharshSamiti (DSS) have demanded justice for those who died in the compound wall collapse at Thottilaguri at Bajpe here on Tuesday. They have promised to support the cause taken up by DSS (BhimaVaada) which has demanded a hike in compensation to the next of kin of victims and a probe into the incident.
M Chandappa, district convener of DSS (BhimaVaada), told reporters here 18 dalit families have been residing on around three acres of government land for the past 20 years there. The government based on applications received from the families has sanctioned title deeds to six families and efforts are on to secure title deeds for the rest, Chandappa said, adding the families received limited basic minimum facilities after protracted agitation.
Claiming that locals and outsiders have encroached on rest of the land, Chandappa said the tragedy took place due to permission given by Bajpe gram panchayath to allow commercial complex come up illegally in the elevated land above the houses of dalits. The waste from the complex is let out in the land occupied by the dalits, he said adding repeated complaints to the gram panchayath and authorities concerned did not yield any desired results.
Stating that he had forewarned authorities about the impending disaster at Thottilaguri, Chandappa said the state government and chief minister should intervene to provide justice to the victims. Compensation should be hiked from Rs 1.5 lakh announced by the DC to Rs 5 lakh, he said, adding the government must give a written assurance on rehabilitating the victims permanently.
The state government must consider this fit case to be booked under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, take care of the medical expenses of the five injured persons, and provide a government job on humanitarian grounds to dependents of victims. Stating that the state government has not met assurances given to dalits in the past, he said dalit organizations will jointly launch an agitation if justice is denied to the families at Thottilaguri.
Posted on: June 21, 2013
Dear Girls of the World,
First of all I have to say: Congratulations! We have all come a long way from once being mistakenly called the inferior sex. I remember the first time I read Aristotle’s view that a female is an incomplete male, “or as it were, a deformity.” I was really offended and furious. The first thing that popped in my mind was, “We have to prove all our detractors wrong.” But we definitely can’t do that with 60 million of our girls out of school! So yes, we have come a long way, but we are still not there yet.
A wise friend recently told me: No child in the developing world has died directly due to the lack of education. They die due to illness, during childbirth, due to violence, poverty, etc.—which is probably why the world hasn’t yet understood the gravity of having more than 100 million children not in primary school, of which 60 million are girls.
If you really think hard, you will realize that the way to end the cycle of poverty, reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and early marriage and many other ills that befall our girls is through education. An educated girl will marry later, will have fewer and healthier children, will educate her daughters and without a doubt her sons, will be self-sufficient and, most importantly, will have a voice. She will not only dream but also realize her dreams of becoming whoever she wants to be.
I am writing this letter to all of you girls, but especially appealing to those who have had the privilege of going to school. We need to use our educated voices to raise awareness in our families, communities, countries and the world and say we cannot and will not ignore our sisters anymore. They have the same rights as we do, and there can be no discrimination. We can and must hold our governments accountable and ask them to give us the answers and results we deserve.
I am also writing this letter to all the boys—fathers, brothers and husbands, friends who have supported us. I am grateful that you see us as just as important to the human race as our male counterparts. Your support and belief in us keeps us encouraged to keep powering on. Please keep it coming and please spread the word.
Finally, I write to those we want to affect with our voices positively: You have the right to an education. You have the right to grow up healthy, in safety, and with equal access to opportunity. I, and millions of your supporters across the globe, stand with you in the pursuit of equality. Change is coming; the world is listening.
I know that this movement—your movement—will grow in influence and scope. My promise to you: I will continue to use my voice as your voice. Together, we can ensure that girls everywhere can go to school and stay in school.
You hold our future in your hands. I believe in you.
With love and hope,
June 17, 2013
Posted on: June 20, 2013
SAN JOSE, June 19, 2013 ― Juneteenth, is also known as Emancipation Day, or Freedom Day, is a day to celebrate freedom, not just for black Americans, but for all Americans.
Juneteenth was originally created to commemorate the days of June 18 and 19 in 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, first learned that the American Civil War was over and the Union had prevailed, which meant that they had received their long awaited liberation. At that time, it was a day of celebration for the emancipation of the slaves. It is highly unlikely that in 1865, white Texans would have joined in the festivities of singing, dancing, and feasting with the former slaves.
As could have easily been expected, the majority of former Confederates after the war hated the simple spectacle of former slaves dancing in the streets, let alone the more radical changes in their lifestyles and social status. Yet on June 18, 1865, over two months after Lee’s surrender at Appomatox, U.S. Army General Gordon Granger marched 2,000 Union soldiers into Galveston, Texas to secure the state and oversee emancipation procedures. Then, on June 19, 1865, while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Union Army General Granger read the basic contents of “General Order No. 3” that represented the practical implementation of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
This decree had to be backed up by the 2,000 federal troops due to the staunch resistance from the former Confederates in Texas. In reality, the enforcement of the emancipation of the slaves by federal troops was necessary throughout the South. Ultimately the Union Army established martial law in all of the former Confederate states. As the words of “General Order No. 3” sunk in, both local blacks and whites may have been stunned in disbelief.
For the former slaves, the disbelief faded as genuine expressions of joy and jubilation overwhelmed those who were present. The freshness of freedom demanded immediate response. The blacks in Galveston did not need a political discourse to instruct them on the significance of that moment in history as they sang and danced with joy. They did not need a history lesson to instruct them on the fundamental change that had just occurred in the United States of America. On that day, for those former slaves in Galveston, for the people who had been in bondage for their entire lives, all of their previous suffering became history as people who were once owned as property were told they were free by the U.S. Army’s General Order number 3.
The reality of celebration suspended the practical considerations of worrying about the legal fine points and logistical implications. However, just as emancipation created radical changes in the previous stranglehold of white dominion in the South, the former slaves had to deal with such radical changes as well. Unfortunately, the overriding change was massive destruction; all other changes that occurred were the outcome of the most destructive and deadliest war in the history of the United States. Emancipation came at an extraordinarily high cost, and it needed the U.S. Army to enforce it.
It’s been said that in the American south, history isn’t dead, and it is hardly even history. This part of American history is difficult to come to grips with. It still has the power to stiru up strong emotions, even 150 years later. The bitter fruit of our slave history makes it harder to see the triumphs over oppression and forget the incredible moments of success and joy on the path to freedom. We hear Jeremiah Wright shouting “God damn America,” and forget this incredible moment in time, when white and black soldiers from the Army of the Republic defeated the Confederate Army to end the brutality of slavery.
The victory over slavery was as powerful and significant to who we are as Americans as the institution of slavery had ever been. The freed slaves in Galveston needed no permission from their former masters as they danced and sang in this precious moment of realized liberation and genuine freedom.
Complete equality was still more than a century away, and we still harvest the bitter fruit of inequality and hatred that were sowed by our ancestors. But freedom was so precious that those former slaves began to sing and dance in a way they had never been able to dance before. Those who have never known bondage or real enslavement can hardly comprehend the feelings of those who had just been freed. These people must have been overwhelmed with emotions on one hand, and on the other hand, the concept of freedom may have been unbelievable. However, Mr. Lincoln and the Union Army had accomplished what certainly had seemed almost impossible at the outset of the Civil War.
Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, or Freedom Day deserves a more substantial place in the nation’s history. It should be a day in which all Americans should celebrate their freedom. It should be a day in which all Americans could reflect on the nation’s true origins once again. Definitely, the war was the most devastating war America engaged in, but as Lincoln could comprehend it, the United States was either the either the Land of the Free or it was not. The Civil War, when all the smoke had cleared and the dust had settled, America became just a bit closer to the dream of many of the founding fathers. Mr. Lincoln saw that and he also saw that the very survival of a government intent on such a dream, could ensure eventual freedom for all people. So be it!
By: Dennis Jameson
Posted on: June 19, 2013
Thirty-five Dalit families of Martadi, Bajura, are about to get back their land ownership certificates held by the local branch of Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) as collateral for the past 25 years.
“My father, like many others, trusted a trader named Dil Bahadur Karki with the papers. The NFC took in the documents and allowed Karki to transport rice from Achham to Bajura in 1988. Karki, however, ran away with the goods and the NFC retained our papers,” said Binod Bishwokarma of the village.
With the whereabouts of Karki unknown, the Dalit families then fought a court battle with the NFC and lost, added 27-year-old Bishwokarma. The NFC refused to hand the papers back until it received the payment of the rice, which amounted to Rs 537,736 with interest.
“The Dalit families could not collect that amount. Consequently, they were barred from carrying out land transactions. They could not even sell any agricultural produce. Because land is the only source of food for the Dalit s, we decided to take up their cause,” said Suman Piya, an official at the Food-first Information and Action Network (FIAN) Nepal, an organisation which works to ensure right to food.
According to a press statement issued by the FIAN Nepal, discussions between the Dalit families and the concerned stakeholders began in late 2011. The Ministry of Local Development was the first government body to design a construction project worth Rs 300,000.
The villagers participated in the project and handed the sum they earned to the NFC. In late 2012, the NFC itself agreed to write off 50 percent of the interest. Then in May this year, the District Development Committee agreed to design a project worth Rs 150,000 to help the Dalit families pay the remaining amount.
“In a few days, we are holding a big ceremony to mark the return of our land documents,” said Bishwokarma.
Despite repeated attempts, the Bajura-based NFC officials could not be reached.
eKantipur.com, June 18, 2013
Posted on: June 18, 2013
The brave Dalit women of Uthapuram are the real heroes who have fought a valiant battle. They have showed the world that if the oppressed and exploited along with the Left and pro-democratic forces stood up, they could beat any form of discrimination, said Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Buro member Brinda Karat.
She was delivering a special address at a function held here on Saturday to honour the advocates and social activists who fought for social justice in Uthapuram village near Madurai where portion of a long wall that separated Dalits from caste Hindu locality was razed to enable access to the common pathway of Dalits.
Ms. Karat said that radical social change would happen only when annihilation of deep-rooted caste prejudices and discriminatory practices against Dalits was undertaken.
The National Crime Records Bureau shows that in 2012, there were 33,655 cases of atrocities perpetrated on Dalits. This gives us an idea that on an average, every day 93 members of the Dalit community were victims of one form of atrocity or the other. It is a shame that even after 66 years of Independence such a situation exists in the country, she remarked.
The NCRB data suggests that 1,10,000 cases of atrocities are pending in courts, but only 3.6 per cent have ended in conviction. Among the 35,655 cases sent to court, conviction in cases of atrocities on Dalits was a mere 23 per cent and in 77 per cent of the cases, the perpetrators go scot-free. “It is a shame on the judiciary system and on the process of legal justice,” she said.
“When the wall was demolished in Uthapuram, it was not just brick and mortar. The wall represented the edifice of discrimination and denial of minimal human dignity.” Earlier denied rights like worshipping rights and access to common property resources have been won after a long struggle.
Still there were unfinished tasks like proper access to the common pathway that was created after the demolition of the wall. The Madras High Court ordered that full compensation be given to each and every family that was affected in the police excesses. The order further said that district monitoring committees should be vigilant in maintaining peace and it is our duty to mount pressure on the monitoring committee to implement the court order fully, Ms. Karat pointed out.
The 92- year-old veteran Marxist leader, R. Umanath, was present at the function in which a lot of Dalit women participated.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the event, Ms. Karat said the Left parties did not see the emergence of a Third Front before the elections. Each party has its own agenda and in the case of Left, alternative policies are important as the current policies are disastrous to people.
She said that the Left parties were in good coordination with each other and were working for alternative policies.
Answering a question whether they would support the DMK for Rajya Sabha seat, she replied, “There is absolutely no question of such support.”
The Hindu, June 16, 2013
Posted on: June 17, 2013
Every 12 June, Education International (EI) and its member organisations worldwide celebrate the World Day against Child Labour.
It is an occasion to highlight the global extent of child labour and raise awareness on the situation of millions of children, girls and boys, working across the globe. For EI and its member organisations, World Day against Child Labour is also a good time to reiterate that every child has the right to a free quality public education.
EI encourages teacher unions to also contribute with public activities in their country to end child labour and promote education opportunities for all children.
The ILO launched the first World Day in 2002 as a way to highlight the plight of working children and to serve as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labour.
In 2013, the World Day will provide a spotlight on child labour in domestic work.
Teacher unions have been pioneers in the movement to prevent and eliminate child labour. In the past years, many EI member organisations have carried out successful campaigns in their country. They consider the fight against child labour to be a core component of the right to education advocacy.
Education International, June 12, 2013
Posted on: June 12, 2013
An estimated 10.5 million children worldwide – most of them under age – are working as domestic workers in people’s homes, in hazardous and sometimes slavery-like conditions, says the ILO.
Six and a half million of these child labourers are aged between five and 14 years-old. More than 71 per cent are girls.
According to the latest figures in a new ILO report, Ending Child labour in domestic work, they work in the homes of a third party or employer, carrying out tasks such as cleaning, ironing, cooking, gardening, collecting water, looking after other children and caring for the elderly.
Vulnerable to physical, psychological and sexual violence and abusive working conditions, they are often isolated from their families, hidden from the public eye and become highly dependent on their employers. Many might end up being commercially sexually exploited.
“The situation of many child domestic workers not only constitutes a serious violation of child rights, but remains an obstacle to the achievement of many national and international development objectives,” said Constance Thomas, Director of the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).
Hidden From View
Child domestic work is not recognized as a form of child labour in many countries because of the blurred relationship with the employing family, the report says. The child is “working, but is not considered as a worker and although the child lives in a family setting, she or he is not treated like a family member.”
This familial and legal “care vacuum” disguises an “exploitative arrangement”, often characterized by long working hours, lack of personal freedom and sometimes hazardous working conditions. The hidden nature of their situation makes them difficult to protect.
The report calls for improved data collection and statistical tools so that the true extent of the problem can be ascertained. It also presses for governments to ratify and implement ILO Convention 138, concerning the minimum age for admission to employment and ILO Convention 182, on the worst forms of child labour.
However, it stresses that domestic work is an important source of employment, especially for millions of women. This has been recognized in the landmark ILO Convention 189 concerning decent work for domestic workers which, the report says, should also be promoted as part of the strategy to eliminate child labour in domestic work.
“Domestic workers of all ages are increasingly performing a vital task in many economies. We need to ensure a new respect for their rights and to empower domestic workers and their representative organisations. An essential aspect of this new approach involves tackling child labour.” said Thomas.
International Labour Organization, June 12, 2013
Posted on: June 12, 2013
Every bank branch should hand-hold a Dalit enterprise, as such a step can have a ripple effect not only on the economy but also on the society in general says, Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Launching the first-ever Dalit industries-focused social impact fund, DICCI SME Fund, the minister rued that even after 66 years of Independence, the country still reeks of casteism and social segregation.
The government is committed to improve the lot of the MSME sector in general and those promoted by the Dalit community in particular, he said, adding the MSMEs* contribute to eight per cent of the GDP, 45 percent of manufacturing, and 36 per cent of exports of the country.
“If all the bank branches, running into a little over one lakh, and each one of them support a Dalit enterprise, it can have large impact on the economy and the society in general. And I want each bank branch to handhold a Dalit entrepreneur each, and then we will have one lakh flowers blooming in the country,” Chidambaram told the meeting.
Calling for more affirmative action to rid the society of the caste evil, he said socially and financially affirmative and inclusive actions like reservations for the under-privileged are the way forward. The venture capital fund, initiated by the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DICCI), aims to raise Rs 500 crore* which would be deployed over the next 10 years to finance Dalit entrepreneurs.
The fund, approved by SEBI, was launched with an initial contribution of Rs 10 crore* by the Small Industries Development Bank of India.
“It is a modest beginning, all path-breaking projects begin on a modest scale, I am sure, one day this will grow into a massive tree,” said Chidambaram, highlighting that the first Dalit fund will go a long way in creating social equity.
“The fact that the first Dalit fund is being launched at the iconic ball room of the historic Taj Mahal hotel in the nation’s financial capital is very significant,” he said, and regretted that the country has for centuries masked the fact that discrimination took place.
The Constitution provides for equality as also affirmative action, he said, adding “Reservation may be a blunt instrument, but it is an useful instrument in the absence of a better alternative.”
**Rs 500 crore = $$10 billionRs 10 crore = $2.2 million MSME = micro, small, and medium enterprises
SiliconIndia, June 11, 2013
Posted on: June 11, 2013
By: Divya Trivedi
In a first, Dalit women from four South Asian countries made a representation at the United Nations in Geneva on their struggles and movements earlier this month.
Following a side event at the UN Human Rights Council on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women and women from similarly affected communities, non-government organisations—IMADR, Human Rights Watch, Minority Rights Group International and the International Dalit Solidarity Network called on UN member states to support efforts to eliminate gender and caste based discrimination.
The multiple forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women have mostly been neglected until now, but some UN human rights bodies, including Special Rapporteurs and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have begun to pay attention to this serious human rights issue.
Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences said, “The reality of Dalit women and girls is one of exclusion and marginalisation in geographic contexts within which they live. They are often victims of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights violations, including sexual abuse and violence. They are often displaced; pushed into forced and/or bonded labour, prostitution and trafficking; and also experience inter and intra-community violations of rights.”
The ambassador from the German UN Mission, Hanns Heinrich Schumacher, said he had been “shocked” when gathering information about the situation of Dalit women and came to realise the “urgency, the dimension of the problem.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on UN member states to “take on the challenge of addressing caste-based discrimination and the human rights violations flowing from this seriously and by mobilising all of their relevant institutions to this end.”
The group consisted of women from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Whether lobbying at the UN makes a difference on the ground is another question but the Dalit activists visiting Geneva have already travelled very far – in more than one sense of the word.
“It is my first experience with such high level meetings. I am watching what is happening and learning how to lobby, how to put forward different themes and key points to the international community,” said Bagwhani Rathore of Pakistan in a statement.
The Hindu, June 11, 2013
Posted on: June 11, 2013
United Nations member states should focus urgent attention and decisive action to improve conditions for Dalit women, four international nongovernmental organizations said today. The combination of caste and gender makes millions of Dalit women extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence, including rape, forced prostitution, and modern forms of slavery.
“Many [Dalit women] experience some of the worst forms of discrimination,” said Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, in a written statement. “The reality of Dalit women and girls is one of exclusion and marginalization, which perpetuates their subordinate position in society and increases their vulnerability, throughout generations.”
Following a side event on June 4, 2013, at the UN Human Rights Council on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women and women from similarly affected communities, IMADR, Human Rights Watch, Minority Rights Group International, and the International Dalit Solidarity Network called on UN member states to support efforts to eliminate gender and caste-based discrimination. The multiple forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women have mostly been neglected until now, but some UN human rights bodies, including Special Rapporteurs and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have begun to pay attention to this serious human rights issue.
Dalit women leaders from four caste-affected countries in South Asia took part in the side event and made strong appeals to the international community as well as their own governments to address discrimination. This was the first time that a UN event focused exclusively on the situation of Dalit women, whose courageous struggle for human rights has come a long way over the past decade.
Addressing the event in a written statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, reiterated her “fullest commitment in contributing to the eradication of caste discrimination and untouchability and the correlated deeply rooted exclusion, exploitation and marginalization of Dalit women and other affected groups” through the work of her office.
Pillay, who has spoken out strongly against caste discrimination on a number of occasions, also called on UN member states to “take on the challenge of addressing caste-based discrimination and the human rights violations flowing from this seriously and by mobilizing all of their relevant institutions to this end.”
The ambassador from the German UN Mission, Hanns Heinrich Schumacher, said he had been “shocked” when gathering information about the situation of Dalit women and came to realize the “urgency, the dimension of the problem.”
The fact that numerous states co-sponsored the event demonstrates the increased international attention to the situation of Dalit women – an interest that now needs to be transformed into concrete action by the international community as well as caste-affected countries.
One such country is India, home to almost 100 million Dalit women. Although there are laws in place to protect them, implementation remains an obstacle.
“New laws are useless unless they are implemented, as we have seen with previous efforts to ensure protection of Dalit rights,” said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
Many of the speakers noted that the lack of implementation of legislation that is meant to protect Dalits is a key problem. Manjula Pradeep, director of the Indian Dalit rights NGO, Navsarjan Trust, stressed the importance of more data about the situation of Dalits and said that, “It is time to look at the intersection of caste and gender.”
Many victims of the combination of caste and gender-based discrimination live in South Asia where they are known as Dalits. Similar forms of discrimination occur elsewhere as testified by Mariem Salem, a parliamentarian from Mauritania and herself a member of a group targeted for discrimination, the Haratines, who are descendants of former slaves.
Salem noted that the pervading social attitudes and perceptions which stigmatize Haratine in general are “a key challenge for Haratine women.” She added that “specific types of work continue to be assigned to them on the basis of their hierarchical status,” a description that could also have been applied to Dalit women in South Asia.
Human Rights Watch, June 7, 2013
Posted on: June 10, 2013